TIME Netflix

How You Use Netflix Is About to Change

US Online Streaming Giant Netflix : Illustration
Pascal Le Segretain—Getty Images In this photo illustration the Netflix logo is seen on September 19, 2014 in Paris, France.

Get ready for a new Netflix

There’s a change coming for those Netflix customers who stream their favorite flicks on the web.

The Netflix website is undergoing a design upgrade this June, TechCrunch reports. The change will bring its interface more in line with what you see when you use the service on a mobile device or gaming console. (It seems the company has been testing the upgrade with a number of customers already.)

The new design does away with Netflix’s scrolling carousel, the plodding selection tool that some users found bothersome enough to create a workaround for earlier this year. (See Netflix’s “god mode” hack.)

In terms of display, the update will show fewer titles and larger thumbnail images that can be expanded to show more information, rather than having to click a link that redirects to a different screen. Navigating Netflix’s hordes of content will presumably become quicker.

The update is Netflix’s first big desktop overhaul since 2011, TechCrunch notes. For those who stream their shows on, say, a Sony Playstation, Xbox 360, or Roku, there won’t be a meaningful variation. For those who watch Parks & Recreation or Daredevil on their web browsers, however, there will be a difference.

Earlier this year, Netflix also announced that it will begin encrypting all of its internet traffic over the course of the next couple of years. There’s speculation that the company is attempting to entering the market in China, too, possibly through a deal with a media company backed by Alibaba founder Jack Ma—a rumor that greatly boosted Netflix’s share price.

TIME apps

This Is the Coolest Feature Spotify Added Today

This is a far cry from the days of hoping your Discman didn't skip

Runners of the world, Spotify has got the update for you. The popular music streaming app is adding a special mode for running that plays music that syncs up to the pace of your run, along with a slew of other new features.

The feature works like this: you start the running mode, and then you start running. Using the technology already in your phone, Spotify figures out how fast you’re going and picks music where the beats-per-minute matches up. You can choose to either have music selected based on what you’ve listened to before, use a multi-genre playlist or hear new tracks made by DJs specifically for running.

So if you’re just going for a pleasant jog, we’d imagine you might get something mid-tempo, like Mumford and Sons. Run a little faster and maybe some Jay-Z will hit you. If you’re really going all out, it would make sense that Spotify would play some gnarly fast, double-bass driven thrash metal, like Slayer.

TIME streaming media

Everything You Need to Know About the New Spotify

The new Spotify goes way beyond music

In a press event on Wednesday, streaming service Spotify made one thing clear: it’s no longer just for music.

CEO Daniel Ek said the firm’s mission is to find the perfect content—whether audio or video—for every moment of its users’ days. Ek and Spotify executives unveiled a new version of the service that tailors playlists for individual users. The new version also incorporates podcasts into its app. A so-called “video capsule” will make videos from partners such as Comedy Central, Vice News, and The Nerdist available as well.

Highlights from the announcement included:

— Media partners include: ABC, BBC, ESPN, NBC, TED, MTV, Maker, Slate, Fusion and E!

— A new running menu changes the way people use the app. The company says it can detect a runner’s tempo and immediately start playing songs that match.

— The new Spotify is rolling out US, UK, Germany, and Sweden beginning May 20.

— Ek said the focus on custom playlists will allow it to better target ads.

— Spotify is also partnering with fitness brands like Nike and RunKeeper to better integrate apps.

— D’Angelo and Questlove performed to play Ek out.

Spotify is retooling as it faces more competition in the streaming market. Though Spotify says it accounts for more than 50% of the streaming market, new services have recently launched or are preparing to launch to take on its dominance. Jay Z’s Tidal is trying to attract customers with exclusive music videos and live concerts. Later this summer, Apple is widely expected to unveil a new streaming service based on Beats Music which it acquired as part of $3 billion buy of the headphone-maker.

TIME Media

Hulu Is Suddenly Assembling a Pretty Killer Lineup

The cast of The Mindy Project
NBC/Getty Images The cast of The Mindy Project

Nabbing The Mindy Project shows the streaming service is serious about competing with bigger rivals

In the online video streaming wars, Hulu has felt like a perennial also-ran for years. The company introduced a generation to the concept of legally streaming television shows online when it debuted in 2007, but its premium video offering, called Hulu Plus, has never received the critical or commercial attention of competitors like Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video.

Suddenly, that’s all changing. Hulu announced Friday that it secured the rights to season four of The Mindy Project, the recently cancelled Fox sitcom helmed by former The Office star Mindy Kaling. It’s just the latest in a string of recent announcements that could give Hulu the library it needs to be appeal to the growing legion of cord-cutters looking for cheaper ways to watch TV.

Hulu scored big in April by tying up the rights to stream the entire run of Seinfeld, marking the first time the show would appear on an online service. The deal, which reportedly cost Hulu more than $150 million, takes the last of the ‘90s most iconic sitcoms off the market from competitors — Friends was snapped up by Netflix last year and The Simpsons now has its own dedicated streaming app. Hulu also has exclusive streaming rights to South Park and the original CSI, as well non-exclusive rights to popular shows from NBC, ABC, Fox and Comedy Central, among others. All told, the service has developed into a more-than-viable option for the binge watchers of the world.

In terms of current shows, Hulu beats its rivals for keeping up with what’s on TV right now. The service is jointly owned by NBC, Fox and Disney, meaning it boasts a large selection of shows from their networks available one day after they air on television. Empire, Fox’s spring breakout hit, for example, streams exclusively on Hulu. On Netflix, the latest seasons of exclusive shows like Mad Men typically don’t appear until months after they aired on TV. For people who want to dump cable but still be able to watch broadcast shows on-demand, Hulu is a solid alternative (though current CBS shows typically aren’t available).

Hulu’s library of past and current hits has proven attractive with customers. The service now has almost 9 million paying subscribers in the U.S., up from 6 million a year ago. That’s far from Netflix’s 40 million, though it has grown into a sizable userbase. But to reach Netflix levels, Hulu needs strong original programming to define its brand. So far, the service’s original shows have mostly been low-budget fare that failed to garner attention—Hulu is still waiting for its House of Cards. That could come with 11/22/63, a new JFK assassination thriller starring James Franco that’s slated to premiere next year. And, of course, exclusive episodes of The Mindy Project will certainly help.

There are big flaws in Hulu’s service, though. The ads, even for paying customers, feel like a frustrating byprodcut of the service’s network ownership, and its movie selection is abysmal compared to Netflix and Amazon. However, it’s become clear that Hulu doesn’t want to be seen as an afterthought behind its more well-known competitors — the fact that it’s the cheapest of the bunch at $7.99 per month also helps. As more big exclusives hit the service, the former runt of the streaming litter will be harder to ignore.

TIME Media

TiVo Wants to Totally Change TV — Again

TiVo
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images A TiVo Inc. remote control is displayed at Pepcom DigitalFocus in New York, U.S., on Thursday, April 11, 2013.

It wants to bring the Aereo model back from the dead

TiVo—remember them?—has plans to imitate Aereo, the live-TV streaming service whose business model was ruled illegal by the Supreme Court. TiVo CEO Tom Rogers told Multichannel News that his company, mostly known for its DVRs, is planning to launch a service that is “kind of the Aero model, done legally and better.”

Aereo allowed customers to live-stream content from broadcast television networks over the Internet for a monthly fee and save programming to watch later using a cloud-based DVR service. The company used tiny, remotely-located antennae to pick up the broadcast signals of networks like CBS, then streamed the content to users on their phones and tablets. However, Aereo didn’t pay the broadcasters for their content, leading to a fatal Supreme Court decision that resulted in Aereo’s end last summer.

It’s not clear which parts of Aereo’s model TiVo wants to mimic, or how the company would do so without running afoul of the law. According to Multichannel News, the play could be to bundle over-the-air networks delivered via the Internet with subscription services like Netflix or Hulu. However, if TiVo is forced to pay the networks retransmission fees to carry their content, it could be tough to make such an offering cheaper than the basic TV packages that cable operators already offer.

A TiVo spokesperson told Multichannel that the company has a product announcement planned for July. Meanwhile, TiVo acquired Aereo’s customer list and other assets for $1 million back in March. So it’s fair to expect something unusual this summer from the the company that already changed the way we watch TV once.

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From cellphones to internet to streaming services, your monthly tech bill can add up fast. How much does it bite into your budget each month?

TIME Media

How Spotify Is Getting Ready For Apple’s Musical Onslaught

US-IT-MUSIC-SPOTIFY
Emmanuel Dunand—AFP/Getty Images A Spotify logo is seen as founder and CEO Daniel Ek addresses a press conference in New York, December 11, 2013.

The music streaming service could use original video to ensure its future

Spotify is the undisputed king of on-demand music services, but that crown alone may no longer be enough.

The Swedish streaming company is planning to host original videos on its service, according to the Wall Street Journal. Spotify has been in talks with YouTube programmers such as Maker Studios as well as traditional media companies for a move that would vastly expand the scope of what the music service offers. A Spotify spokesperson declined to comment, but the company is holding a media event in New York on May 20 where the video offering could be unveiled.

If Spotify steps into the video arena, it will be entering a crowded market dominated on one end by YouTube, which has 1 billion monthly users watching mostly short-form videos, and on the other end by Netflix, which has more than 60 million paying subscribers binge-watching television shows and movies. But video may be just what Spotify needs to ensure its long-term viability, music industry analysts say.

Though Spotify easily eclipses other streaming services in size with its 15 million paying subscribers, the pool in which the company is playing is shallow. The music industry generated about $15 billion in revenue for recorded music globally in 2014, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry. Meanwhile, online video services made about $19 billion, according to the firm Digital TV Research, while they’re expected to generate more than $40 billion by 2020. It makes sense that Spotify wants a piece of that fast-growing pie.

“The music business is nice because people use it every day, but the problem is you don’t make a lot of money per minute of music listened to,” says James McQuivey, a media analyst at research firm Forrester. “Video has the ability to command more revenue.”

Original video would also help differentiate Spotify from its competitors at a key juncture. The company’s feature set and song library are extremely similar to services such as Tidal and the Apple-owned Beats Music, which makes Spotify highly susceptible to being knocked off its perch if a larger foe emerges. That could happen next month, when Apple may unveil an on-demand streaming service tied to the iTunes brand. Truly original video content will give customers a better reason to hang onto their Spotify subscription even after the arrival of an Apple service.

“I really do view this as being pre-emptive strike in what has become an increasingly competitive space,” says Larry Miller, a music business professor at New York University.

Spotify’s big-picture strategy could be similar to Netflix’s playbook, Miller says. Netflix was a digital warehouse for old TV shows and movies, facing escalating costs to license the rights for other studios’ content. Through orignal shows, the company has retooled its branding to make programs like House of Cards its primary draw. A Spotify with its own original content would feel less heat if some artists removed their music from the service, as Taylor Swift did last fall.

Still, there are drawbacks to the video plan. McQuivey says streaming video could dilute Spotify’s brand and confuse consumers who simply enjoy using the service as an online jukebox. And the costs for premium video would be considerably more than for music. Spotify is already losing money every year, but a recent funding round means it may have cash to throw at content makers.

“They’d have to go pretty big,” says McQuivey, who believes Spotify should pursue premium TV-like content rather than short-form videos found on YouTube. “You can’t just dabble in content. It’s not all or nothing, but it’s pretty close.”

More than anything, a shift to video would signal to fans and investors that Spotify has no intention of simply ceding its control of the streaming space to Apple or other big-name competitors. The startup made on-demand music streaming viable, and it wants to be around when the financial rewards are finally reaped.

“Strategically, this represents a significant risk that could end up paying enormous long-term dividends for Spotify if they are successful,” Miller says.

TIME Web

The 5 Best Music Streaming Services

woman-listening-music-smartphone
Getty Images

Spotify isn't your only option

Correction appended, May 15

Owning a library of music on physical media is rapidly becoming an anachronism. Physical album sales have been plummeting since we first plugged our earbuds into iPods, and digital downloads are now on the decline, too.

Instead, Americans are streaming their music online via a growing crop of music services that offer infinite choices for listening to and discovering new music.

Pioneer streaming services Pandora and Spotify remain the heavyweights of the industry with 80 million and 60 million listeners respectively. But internet radio services such as Slacker have gained traction thanks to their music discovery features, while curated streaming sites such as Songza offer what may be the killer app of streaming 2.0: songs and channels hand-picked by humans and based on themes and moods.

On the flip side is YouTube, the top destination for music streaming with over 1 billion unique monthly users. YouTube is great for hunting down that super obscure B-side song with the banned video, but it pales in comparison to other services when it comes to playlists and music discovery.

So what should you look for in a streaming service? We dug into the Internet to find the best music streaming services based on these factors:

Song library Most of the major streaming services clock in with similarly sized song catalogs — 20 million or more, covering a good range of genres, hits and rarities.

How can you find new music? A radio feature that lets you build customized channels based on songs or genres you like is handy for discovering new music, as are playlists curated by real people, whose skills outstrip machine algorithms in building particular vibes or themes.

Offline access If you can’t get online, you may still want to be able to access your music library.

Sound quality A 320 kbps bitrate offers excellent sound quality for most listeners when played from a computer on speakers. Audiophiles may prefer higher bitrates.

Best Curated Music: Songza

The killer feature of this music recommendation site is its human-curated playlists based on mood, activity, genre, era and “situations” from breaking up to waking up and themes as specific as barbecues or pregame. In fact, Songza’s strictly about its playlists; you can’t search for particular songs or artists, although you can browse from a mind-boggling selection of soundtracks and musical vibes.

Songza Daily’s Tumblr-esque design showcases the editors’ playlists of the day, quirkily titled (“The ultimate songs from Piscean musicians”) or chosen for timeliness (“The best original songs from the Oscars 2015”). You’ll also find clips of interviews and single songs interspersed with retro photos.

You can star favorite playlists or click through to similar playlists. Rating particular songs with a thumbs up or thumbs down improves its Concierge feature, which recommends particular songs and styles based on time of day and your liked and disliked songs. Our personal favorite that just kept giving? “Your Personal Indie Rom-Com,” which ran through dozens of grungy, riff-laden, highly nostalgic hits.

Sound quality: 256 kbps — very good quality on desktop and mobile

How can you find new music? Pick your mood, activity, genre or era, and Songza suggests the rest.

Is it available offline? No

You’ll love: The curated playlists and soundtracks for times and moods as particular as “Kitchen Dance Party.”

But: There’s no search function to find particular tracks or artists, nor the ability to build your own playlists. You’ll have to trust that the humans behind this digital music service will post songs that will suit your day.

Can you listen to it on your phone? Yes: Android, iOS, BlackBerry 10, Windows 9

Price: Free with ads and max of six song skips per week; $0.99 per week ad-free, 12 song skips per week

Site: songza.com

Best Radio: Slacker

There’s no shortage of internet radio with stations personalized around your personal music tastes, but Slacker is our favorite for its minimal, discovery-centric home page. Hit the search box with an artist, song, genre or activity; entering “writing” (while writing this article, self-referentially enough) turned up an eponymous song by Woody Allen as well as an eclectic selection of stations including an ambient electronic station called Mensa Mix and Going Steady, a collection of love songs.

Like Songza, Slacker’s channels are curated by real people with a goal, as the site says, of forging those unexpected connections between songs that are the foundation of great radio. We love Slacker’s non-music channels, including live radio, news, sports and weather.

Sound quality: 320 kbps on web and Sonos, 128 kbps on mobile with 320 on the way

How can you find new music? Create radio stations from familiar artists, or browse 200+ stations of pop, rock, electronic and more.

Is it available offline? Yes, paying subscribers can download songs, stations or playlists.

You’ll love: Being able to stream particular artists and songs on demand and listen to curated stations, news and sports.

But: Finding songs by activity, such as working or cooking, didn’t always turn up soundtracks as pleasing as those Songza provided.

Can you listen to it on your phone? Yes: Android, iOS, BlackBerry, Windows

Price: Free version with ads and max of six song skips per hour; $3.99 for ad-free and unlimited skips; $9.99 for offline playlists, on-demand streaming and the ability to create radio stations based on artists

Site: slacker.com

Best All-Rounder: Spotify

The juggernaut of music streaming counts personalized radio, on-demand music, people-curated playlists and a social feed among its feature set. Of all the services, Spotify probably apes the sensation of using your own music collection the best. You can easily save artists or albums to your library from a one-click Save tab, while Spotify’s clean, comprehensive interface always shows your playlists for easy scrolling. Drag and drop songs to create playlists, or browse and save other user-created playlists.

If you’re stuck for listening inspiration, Spotify updates its home page daily with human-curated playlists for various moods such as “Weekend Hangout” or driving-friendly tunes.

With a song catalog clocking in at over 30 million and licensing deals in dozens of countries, Spotify covers an excellent range of independent artists and electronic music as well as major pop and rock stars. Its catalog includes an exclusive for Metallica, although a few other major artists have removed their music from the service in high-profile fallouts over royalties.

If you’re the proud owner of a large digital music collection, Spotify supports uploads of up to 10,000 of your tracks into your Spotify library.

Sound quality: 96 kbps — standard quality for mobile; 160 kbps — standard quality on desktop; 320 kbps for premium subscribers — high quality on desktop

How can you find new music? Create a radio station based on an artist or song, or browse the curated playlists.

Is it available offline? Only for premium subscribers

You’ll love: Saving artists by playlists, which means you can browse your collection much as you would a library you owned.

But: Notable omissions from its catalog include Taylor Swift, The xx and Radiohead’s post-2011 albums.

Can you listen to it on your phone? Only premium subscribers: Android, iOS, BlackBerry, Windows

Price: Free for ad-supported version; $9.99 for premium version with offline playlists and smartphone listening

Site: spotify.com

Best Online Music Locker: Google Play Music

If you’re as attached to your digital music collection as you are to the infinite amount you could store in the cloud, a streaming service that offers online backup for the tunes on your hard drive could be your best bet.

Once you upload your tracks to Google Play Music, they’re accessible on any device from anywhere in the world — a neat way to bring your music collection wherever you are without having to fuss around with USB sticks.

Like Spotify, Google’s 30-million-track catalog covers a great range of rarities and hits, including artists who’ve snubbed Spotify such as Thom Yorke’s band Atoms for Peace. If you can’t decide what to listen to, the service offers a Concierge feature (like Songza, which Google purchased last year), where Google’s algorithms try to predict what tracks constitute, say, a “Chardonnay soiree.” As seems de rigeur for any self-respecting on-demand music service, there’s also a radio customizable by artist and your own taste.

Along with this lineup of Spotify-esque powers, Google Play Music currently offers one final arrow in its bow. Signing up now gives access to the invite-only beta of YouTube Music Key, a paid add-on that lets you stream music ad-free from YouTube’s gargantuan collection of classic tracks, rare mixes, hit singles, bootlegs and other unofficial takes. (Nonsubscribers can sign up for a YouTube Music Key invitation at YouTube).

Sound quality: 320 kbps — excellent sound quality on desktop and mobile

How can you find new music? Try the Concierge recommendation feature or the customizable radio.

Is it available offline? Yes

You’ll love: The ability to upload 20,000 tracks you can access anywhere, along with your streaming library.

But: There are no social features, so it’s not as easy to share music with friends or followers.

Can you listen to it on your phone? Yes: Android, iOS

Price: $9.99 per month (no free option)

Site: play.google.com

Best Sound Quality: Tidal

If you’re a serious music listener with the speakers to match, this celebrity-owned service launched by Jay-Z could be the high-fidelity streaming service you’ve been searching for.

Along with streaming music at a CD-quality, loss-less 1,411 kbps—all the better to hear the shades of percussion and detail of the high notes—Tidal claims it will have first dibs on music videos from stars like Rihanna and Beyonce.

The service also offers on-demand access to 25 million tracks, playlists curated by music journos and 75,000 music videos. It’s all accessed via a Spotify-esque web-based player, allowing similar playlist creation and the ability to build your own music library by starring artists and albums you like.

While Tidal hasn’t received the warmest reception, audiophiles with high-end speakers may find it compelling enough to offset the cost, double that of Spotify.

After all, when Neil Young launched high-fidelity streaming service Pono last year, uptake was low, and the service still only has 2 million tracks — peanuts in today’s crop of streaming services. But as ultra-fast internet begins to creep across the United States, funneling super-high-bandwidth music down the fibers just might become a more popular — and affordable — business model.

Sound quality: 1,141 kbps for $19.99 per month — extremely high quality; 320 kbps for $9.99 per month — very good quality on desktop and mobile

How can you find new music? Browse the playlists and recommendations curated by its panel of music experts.

Is it available offline? Yes

You’ll love: The high-fidelity, CD-quality sound or exclusive content such as music videos from pop stars (even if thus far, they’ve been promptly pirated and posted on YouTube).

But: For the average customer, Tidal’s uber-high sound quality may not be worth its price, especially compared with similar competitors.

Can you listen to it on your phone? Yes: Android, iOS

Price: $9.99 per month for 320 kbps; $19.99 per month for CD quality

Site: tidal.com

Streaming Music Services Compared

Songza Slacker Spotify Google Play Music Tidal
Song catalog 20 million 13 million 30 million 30 million 25 million
Radio? Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Playlist creation? No Yes, for Premium users Yes Yes Yes
Offline listening? No Yes, unlimited tracks Yes, for Premium subscribers: 10,000 tracks Yes Yes, unlimited tracks
Sound Quality 256 kpbs 320 kpbs 320 kpbs 320 kpbs 1411 kpbs
Platforms Android, iOS, BlackBerry 10, Windows, desktop Android, iOS, Windows, desktop Android, iOS, BlackBerry 10, desktop Android, iOS, desktop Android, iOS, desktop
Price Free with ads; $0.99/week ad-free Free with ads; $3.99/month ad-free; $9.99/month for Premium with offline listening options Free with ads; $9.99/month ad-free $9.99/month $9.99/month for 320kpbs; $19.99/month for CD-quality

This article originally appeared on Techlicious.

More from Techlicious:

Correction: A previous version of this post misstated Slacker users’ ability to create playlists. Premium users can create them.

TIME Media

This Free Music Site Is Shutting Down Forever

Grooveshark folds following legal pressure from record labels

In the heyday of too-good-to-be-true free music streaming services, Grooveshark was one of the most popular. But on Thursday, the company said it was shutting down completely.

In a post on Grooveshark’s website, the streaming platform’s leaders apologized “without reservation” for offering free access to songs without securing licenses for the music from rights holders. The company is shuttering its site and deleting all music from its servers as part of a settlement reached with the major record labels.

Grooveshark users uploaded millions of songs to the website over the years and were able to stream them on-demand. The company’s business model drew the immediate ire of the music industry. A group of major record labels sued Grooveshark for copyright infringement back in 2011, and last week a New York federal judge ruled that the streaming service could be liable for more than $700 million in damages.

Grooveshark had tried to argue that its service mimicked YouTube, a platform where users upload unlicensed songs constantly. But YouTube has protocols in place to flag copyright-infringing content. Meanwhile, courts found Grooveshark was compelling its employees to upload popular songs to fill out the service’s catalog.

The death of Grooveshark illustrates how much the digital music landscape has changed this decade. Piracy has been tamped down considerably, while the most popular on-demand streaming service, Spotify, is owned in part by the record labels themselves. But with megastars like Taylor Swift and record label executives questioning the value of Spotify’s free, ad-supported tier, the days of easily accessible (and legal) free music could be numbered.

TIME Television

NBC Wants to Be Netflix. Netflix Wants to Be NBC.

Aquarius - Season 1
Vivian Zink/NBC Duchovny, right, in NBC's Aquarius

As the broadcaster embraces binge-watching, the streaming giant is pitching a big tent.

Serial killer, meet serial viewers.

Wednesday, NBC announced that it will make the entire 13-episode season of Aquarius, starring David Duchovny as a police detective on the trail of Charles Manson, available for streaming on May 28 immediately after its premiere on what we apparently now call “linear television.”

It’s the kind of news that’s both not so big and yet huge. On the one hand, Aquarius is a summer series, premiering just after the end of May sweeps, so the network is taking a relatively small chance in exchange for more attention than the show might otherwise have gotten.

On the other hand, that the network feels the need to test this at all shows that, not unlike an L.A. flatfoot in the Summer of Love, the world is changing whether it likes it or not. Binge-ers wanna binge, and if networks don’t give them that option, someday someone else will.

The announcement was especially striking after some recent news about Netflix. (When isn’t Netflix making news these days?) After its first-quarter earnings report, CEO Reed Hastings made the point of stressing the company’s big aim: not to replace companies like HBO, but eventually to replace the network system of TV generally. In Netflix’s view of the future, cable bundles will be replaced by baskets of Internet services (like itself) and streaming will supersede turning on a channel and watching what’s on.

The media covering Netflix (me included) have tended to cover it as a competitor to cable. It’s natural: like HBO, say, it’s a subscription service, not dependent on advertising, investing in original programming on top of its library of acquisitions so that people will feel they need to have it.

But there’s one thing that doesn’t match up in that analogy. Cable channels tend to have what you call “brands”–types of content or aesthetic philosophies that distinguish them from other channels. They may be literal: History channel is history, Comedy Central does comedy. They may be more amorphous: Bravo does aspirational lifestyle programming, FX does middle-aged male angst, HBO and AMC do the TV equivalent of movies or literature. (Not every show a channel makes will fit a brand, and brands can drift: USA, e.g., is moving from cheery “blue skies” programming to darker drama.)

Look at Netflix’s programming and its recent announcements, though, and try to tell me what Netflix’s brand is. It made House of Cards, a drama about a villain roughly, if superficially, in the HBO mold. But it also made Bloodline, a Damages-style potboiler, and Orange Is the New Black, a Showtime-esque drama/comedy from the creator of Weeds. It revived Arrested Development–but it’s also going to revive Full House. It dropped millions on Marco Polo, a lavish international historical production, and picked up Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, a castoff comedy from NBC. It made Daredevil, a superhero drama one notch darker and smaller-bore than the superhero dramas on broadcast TV. It’s adapting Green Eggs and Hamas a series. (I guess you can devote an entire episode to “eating them on a train”?)

Look at those titles, and the other series in the pipeline, and tell me if you can discern a common thread, an ethos, an aesthetic. I can’t–except for this. The shows that Netflix creates and makes available to stream tend to carry DNA–subject or cast members or creators–from other, past TV series that its voluminous viewer data tells it that people are streaming. (Netflix, given the cost and difficulty of licensing movies, is mainly a TV-watching service now, though it’s also getting into the movie-making business.)

In other words, Netflix doesn’t have a brand, except: things that people have proven they like to stream on Netflix.

In TV, in this niche-targeted, specialized era, who has a brand of “Lotsa different kinds of stuff that different kinds of people like”? Not any cable channels–broadcast networks. NBC, ABC, CBS. That whole vast-tent approach was supposed to be fading in the cable-TV era.

Except that the way Netflix views the streaming business is as the most capacious virtual tent ever. In its view, there is a future for a TV-maker that is simultaneously broad and niche: selling a service to all kind of people and demographics, but appealing to them with very specific programs. It sees itself as a broadcaster of narrowcasting.

In a strange way, this vision would use a radically different way of structuring and watching TV to recreate one of the oldest paradigms in TV: something for everyone! Netflix sees itself as the next NBC or CBS, but for an era where everyone in the family looks at their own screen instead of gathering around a single hearth.

In different ways, in other words, NBC and Netflix seem agreed that eventually they will be in the same business. But Netflix is getting to NBC’s territory a lot faster than NBC is getting to Netflix’s.

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