TIME Media

Pandora Is Going Ad-Free for One Day Only

Pandora
Bloomberg/Getty Images

It's a 10th birthday celebration for the company

For one glorious day Pandora users will be able to listen to as many tunes as they want without being interrupted by ads. The Internet radio platform is celebrating its 10th anniversary with “Listener Love Day,” which will remove commercials from the service for 24 hours starting at midnight EDT on Wednesday, Sept. 9.

Despite an onslaught of competition from streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, and iTunes Radio, Pandora has managed to steadily increase its user base and now boasts close to 80 million monthly listeners. The company is encouraging people to check out its “10×10” playlist as well, which features the 10 songs that have received the most thumbs-up over the last decade.

Listeners who decide they prefer the ad-free Pandora can sign up for Pandora One, which costs $4.99 per month to excise ads from the service.

TIME Apple TV

Apple Could Double the Cost of the Next Apple TV

Apple Launches Upgraded iPod
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

New product could include a number of new features, report says

The next Apple TV could take a bigger chunk of your paycheck.

According to 9to5Mac, the fourth-generation Apple TV could be priced as high as $149 or $199, almost double the current sale price of $69 for a third generation device. Apple TV was originally priced at $99 after its launch in 2012, and the price was reduced in March. 9to5Mac reports that Apple plans to continue to sell the third generation product as an entry-level model alongside the more powerful new Apple TV.

Much has been leaked about the new Apple TV, although the device won’t officially be revealed until an Apple event on Sept. 9, according to the report. There are hints that the new product could include a number of new features, including Siri support, a new remote control, an App Store, plus a Software Development Kit and a fresh new interface.

Apple has also reportedly been working on a “skinny bundle” where users could pay a set monthly fee to access a range of must-have programming.

TIME Media

This Is the Next Battleground for Netflix and Amazon

Gaby Hoffmann, Jeffrey Tambor, Jill Soloway
Richard Shotwell—Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP From left, Gaby Hoffmann, Jeffrey Tambor, and Jill Soloway speak onstage during the "Transparent" panel at the Amazon 2014 Summer TCA on Saturday, July 12, 2014, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

The streaming wars continue to go global

Amazon and Netflix will soon be squaring off in a new Asian battleground. On Wednesday Amazon announced that it will bring its Prime Instant Video service to Japan in September. Netflix has had long-announced plans to roll out its own streaming service in the country on Sept. 2.

Amazon’s Japanese offering will include dramas, anime and variety shows popular in both the U.S. and Japan. Original shows like “Transparent” will also be available.

Amazon, which already offers Prime subscriptions in Japan, will have a significant price advantage. Amazon Prime costs ¥3900 (about $32) per year, or about $2.71 per month. Netflix will have multiple tiers starting at ¥650, or about $5.40 per month.

It reminans to be seen whether either service will find substantial success in the country. Hulu launched in the country in 2011 but ended up selling off its Japanese streaming business to the Nippon TV television network in 2014.

TIME Video Games

YouTube’s New Video Game Feature Is Finally Launching

YouTube Gaming will take on Amazon's Twitch

Google’s answer to the Amazon-owned live-streaming juggernaut Twitch is about to launch. YouTube Gaming, a new video game-focused vertical announced earlier this summer, is expected to launch sometime Wednesday, according to the BBC.

The new website and app will better organize the massive amount of gaming content that already resides on YouTube. More than 25,000 titles will have dedicated pages that gather the best live streams and videos related to each individual game in one place. The site will also have its own dedicated search results, making it easier to find gaming-related content.

The main attraction, though, is likely to be the livestreams, which YouTube says will be front and center in the new app. The Google-owned video site has been beefing up its livestreaming capabilities this year by boosting streams to 60 frames per second and enabling smoother fast-forwarding.

Gaming has become a key part of the online video scene in recent years. YouTube’s most-followed star is PewDiePie, a twentysomething Swedish gamer who commentates over popular games as he plays them in a format known as “Let’s Play.” Meanwhile, Twitch has become the go-to among gaming fans looking to watch live action or recordings of particular matches. Google was reportedly interested in snapping up Twitch last year to fulfill its live-streaming needs, but Amazon bought the company for $970 million last August instead.

YouTube Gaming will be available in the U.S. and the U.K. when it launches.

TIME Apple music

This Is How Many Times Dr. Dre’s New Album Was Streamed in its First Week On Apple Music

2012 Coachella Music Festival - Day 3
Christopher Polk—2012 Getty Images Rapper Dr. Dre.

Can the tech giant’s new service compete with others on the market?

Dr. Dre’s new album, “Compton: A Soundtrack,” was streamed 25 million times during its first week out on Apple Music and was downloaded nearly half a million times on iTunes, the New York Times reports. The album was heavily promoted through Apple Music and iTunes and is exclusively available through those two media.

These numbers weren’t enough to get the album to the No. 1 spot in the U.S., where it received 11 million streams. This seems low compared to other hits this year, like Drake’s “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late,” which was streamed 48 million times in just one week. While 11 million isn’t bad, “it’s not a spectacular number if you take in the number of Apple users that exist worldwide,” Russ Crupnick, analyst at MusicWatch, told the Times.

Other successful albums from this year greatly benefitted from the popularity of Spotify, which has about 75 million users. Apple Music, since being released on June 30, has had 11 million people sign up for its 90-day free trial.

Reactions to Apple Music have been mixed, and its impact on the music charts insignificant. There are already “really established services out there, like Pandora, Spotify, and Deezer, that people really like. It’s hard to penetrate the market as the second, third, fourth brand in, even if that brand is Apple,” Crupnick said.

We can expect to spot more marketing for Apple’s new service this month as they try to put the pressure on other music streaming services in their search for new subscribers.

TIME Video Games

How to Stream Crazy-High Xbox One Graphics to Windows 10

Microsoft

The visual improvements are significant, but is it smooth enough for primetime?

If you own an Xbox One and Windows 10, you can stream Xbox One games to your Windows 10 PC, this much we knew. But an intrepid Reddit user just discovered there’s something Microsoft’s not showing us: namely, a sequestered “very high” quality streaming option, for those with fast enough home networks. I just verified this works myself, and it’s a snap to implement, but fair warning your mileage is going to vary.

Before we get to any of that, here’s how to enable the setting:

  1. Ensure you’ve connected your Xbox One to your Windows 10 machine and test-driven a streaming session (if you haven’t, the file you’ll need to modify won’t exist)
  2. Close the Xbox App on Windows 10
  3. Navigate to the following directory (copy/paste the following in File Explorer): C:\Users\%USERNAME%\AppData\Local\Packages\
  4. Open the long name folder that begins “Microsoft.XboxApp”
  5. Open the folder “LocalState”
  6. Use Notepad to open the file “userconsoledata” (right-click, choose “Open With”)
  7. Find the tag “IsInternalPreview” and change it from “false” to “true”
  8. Save the file
  9. Open the Xbox App on Windows 10, and once you have a streaming session going, click the upper right broadcast settings button and select “Very High”

Back to performance. By default, Microsoft sets Xbox-to-Windows-10 streaming quality at “Medium.” They also include a “Total Bandwidth” view that puts streaming metrics at your fingertips (you can enable it by clicking the icon left of the broadcast settings button).

On my system, just sitting at the Xbox One’s menu screen doing nothing on “Medium,” I can zip left or right through Metro’s tiles with virtually no audio or visual stuttering. My average bandwidth at this setting clocks 1-2 mbps, and quick shifting bumps my max up to 14 mbps, though we’re talking quick, manageable spikes.

Hopping into a Destiny session, visiting the tower hub, knocks my average bandwidth up to 6 mbps (though the max stays at 14 mbps). The visual quality at “Medium,” needless to say, is pretty much as advertised: middling quality, with distant details visibly blurry and a refocusing effect that kicks in each time you twist the camera. Even with your network performing optimally, the visuals look like they’re being upscaled from a significantly lower resolution.

Upshifting to “Very High,” by contrast, appears to offer native 1080p streaming. The Xbox One menu looks pristine at this level, and feels nearly as responsive as in “Medium” mode. My average bandwidth at this setting was slightly higher, about 2-3 mbps, with quick shifting bumping the max up to over 20 mbps, but still completely usable.

On “Very High,” Destiny appears to be visually near-flawless when stationary, though the average bandwidth leapt to 10-11 mbps (I still saw no spikes above 14 mbps during my brief test in the tower). That said, at those speeds, on my otherwise quiet 802.11n home network, once you start moving around you get into trouble. The audio cuts in and out frequently, and the visual feed drops too many frames—the curse of every game streaming service I’ve used, ever, from OnLive to Gaikai to PlayStation Now (it’s why, being enough of a visual snob to care about native graphics and smooth frame rates, I won’t stream games).

In summary then, it’s probably not worth the effort, save as a kind of visual curio—something to fiddle with while we wait for Microsoft to confirm and deliver what everyone’s really after: streaming PC games to the Xbox One.

TIME Media

Radio Fans Will Love Rdio’s Newest Feature

An old-school feature for a new-age platform

Rdio, one of the smaller competitors in the crowded music streaming space, is trying to stand out with a very old-school feature: hundreds of local radio stations featuring live DJs.

On Wednesday, the company announced it’s adding 500 live terrestrial radio stations to its service, giving users the ability to stream programming on their computer or mobile device. Rdio is partnering with Cumulus, the second-largest radio station owner in the U.S., to deliver the content, which will be available on both Rdio’s free and paid tiers starting immediately. iHeartRadio, the country’s largest station owner, already has its own streaming app.

When opening the Rdio app, users will see live radio stations that match their listening habits, mixed with album and song suggestions picked by Rdio’s recommendation algorithms. Once a radio station is selected, the live broadcast will play, ads and all, directly through Rdio. Users can save any songs they’re hearing to listen to on-demand at a later time.

The new feature is primarily aimed at users who haven’t yet dived into the world of music streaming services. About 41 million people currently pay for a music subscription service, while 245 million people aged 12 or older in the U.S. alone listen to traditional radio stations every week, according to Nielsen. Rdio doesn’t break out its user numbers, but CEO Anthony Bay told CNET last year that “our numbers aren’t as big as we’d like them to be.”

“There [are] still tons of people out there that are listening to music every week that haven’t used any streaming service,” says Chris Becherer, Rdio’s senior vice president for product. “Our goal is to try to bridge that audience.”

Rdio’s new feature comes shortly after Apple launched its own streaming service with a live radio station called Beats 1 as a central element. There’s been a broader shift among consumer tech companies over the last year in acknowledging the value of curatorial experts instead of relying overwhelmingly on algorithms.

“There’s a group of people that have been doing curation in this country for over 100 years quite effectively,” Becherer says, “and that’s local broadcast radio DJs.”

TIME Apple music

Apple Music Has Snagged 11 Million Trial Users

Streaming-Service Apple Music
Sebastian Kahnert—Sebastian Kahnert/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

But it's not yet clear whether they'll stick around

Apple Music is off to a fast start.

The new music streaming service from the world’s most valuable company has amassed 11 million trial subscribers so far, Apple executive Eddy Cue told USA Today. Of that 11 million, 2 million subscriptions are for the family plan, which lets 6 users set up Apple Music accounts for $14.99 per month.

The figures aren’t yet indicative of Apple Music’s long-term success because the service launched with a three-month free trial for all users. Come October, users will have to pay $9.99 per month to continue streaming songs (or $14.99 per month for the family plan). If Apple Music manages to maintain its user base, it will already have about half the number of paying subscribers of Spotify, which has 20 million. Spotify also has 55 million users on an ad-supported free tier.

Apple Music’s success wouldn’t necessarily come at the expense of Spotify or other streaming services, though. Only about 41 million people globally currently pay for a music subscription service. With digital download sales on a steep decline, Apple may be able to push music fans who’ve never streamed before into using Apple Music.

MONEY cord cutting

7 Streaming TV Packages That Will Let You Cut the Cord For Good

illustration of people on sofa watching sports on TV
Ben Mounsey

Cutting the cord could save you $75 per month. Here's how to do it without missing your favorite shows.

With services like Showtime, HBO, Hulu, and many others now streaming their programming online, cord cutting has firmly entered the mainstream. But that doesn’t mean it’s always easy to get all your favorite shows over the internet. In order to make the transition away from cable as simple as possible, we’ve put together six streaming “packages” that should meet the needs of the most common types of TV viewers.

Along with each package, we’ve also included the amount of money the typical television viewer would save by cutting cable and switching to streaming. Greg Ireland, research director for multiscreen video at market-analysis firm IDC, estimates that the average cable subscriber pays $85 a month for video while receiving an effective $10 per month discount on internet service. That means for people with a “double play” bundle—cable TV and Internet in the same bill—canceling cable would save an average of $75 a month, or $900 per year.

So what are you waiting for? Here are six packages to help you make the switch.

THE BASIC-CABLE JUNKIE

SAVE: $492 A YEAR

THE PLAN: Hulu, CBS All Access, Sling TV

This option is for you if you like to follow the latest network and non-premium cable shows, like NCIS, The Walking Dead, and Modern Family. Hulu and CBS All Access will give you the networks, and Sling TV will bring in the most popular cable content.

That said, if you’re not going to watch at least eight different shows a year on cable channels, it’s cheapest to get your cable fix by buying individual seasons on iTunes or Amazon Instant Video.

PRICE: $408 a year ($34 per month)

THE NEWSHOUND

SAVE: $660 A YEAR

THE PLAN: Sling TV

For viewers who just have to keep up with current events and watch breaking news when it happens, a combination of Sling TV and a TV antenna should have you covered. Sling has CNN and Bloomberg TV, and for $5 extra a month you can get international news channels such as Euronews, France24, and News18 India. Add an indoor TV antenna, and you’ve got network and local news as well.

PRICE: $240 a year ($20 per month)

THE PRESTIGE AFICIONADO

SAVE: $381 A YEAR

THE PLAN: Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO Now, Showtime

First, the most buzzed-about TV moved from networks to premium cable and then to basic cable. Now a similar transition is moving top programming from cable to the streaming world. Netflix has House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black, while Amazon isn’t too far behind with crime drama Bosch and the Golden Globe–winning Transparent. Close the loop with HBO and Showtime subscriptions—for your Game of Thrones and Homeland fixes—and you’ve got access to some of the best TV content around.

PRICE: $519 a year ($43 per month)

THE OMNIVORE

SAVE $205 A YEAR

THE PLAN: HBO Now, Netflix, Hulu, CBS All Access, Sling TV

This is the option for TV fanatics who want everything and the kitchen sink. That means network TV, cable shows, streaming shows, HBO, movies, all on demand whenever you want.

Believe it or not, you can still have all this for less than the price of cable. Even after subscribing to HBO Now, Netflix, Hulu, CBS All Access, and Sling TV, you’ll still be more than $200 ahead. Don’t care for Girls or Game of Thrones? You can replace the HBO option and subscribe to Showtime through Hulu and save another $72. Or you can drop Sling TV for Showtime and save an extra $108.

PRICE: $695 a year ($132 per month)

THE SPORTS FAN

SAVE: $340 A YEAR

THE PLAN: Sling TV with sports package, two sports-league services

If you want to see a significant number of local games, stop here. This is one area where streaming services can’t fully deliver. Local games are generally exclusive to regional sports networks.

There’s also the issue of some online services being a little more unstable than diehard fans might like. Dish’s Sling TV failed for many customers during this year’s NCAA Final Four, forcing the company to issue an apology.

Sling TV will give you ESPN and ESPN 2, and for another $5 you can get even more sports options, including ESPN U, ESPNews, and the SEC Network. Add an indoor TV antenna, and you’ll also have access to network sports broadcasts.

For supporters of teams outside your local area, some sport-specific streaming options might also be attractive. Each major sports league offers some sort of online viewing option for around $130 a year, with the caveat that local games are blacked out. (NFL fans can pay $70 to watch any team they like, but they can only tune in to an on-demand rebroadcast once the game is over.)

PRICE: $560 a year ($47 per month)

THE SERIAL BINGER

SAVE: $540 A YEAR

THE PLAN: 12 seasons of shows

If you have unpredictable tastes but focus on only one show at a time, it might make the most sense to buy your television à la carte. For the amount you’d save by switching from cable to just Internet service (about $900 a year), you can pick up 30 seasons of TV for $30 each. Assuming these are all 45-minute shows with 22 episodes, that’s almost 500 hours of content. If you can’t imagine yourself ever watching more than that, then this plan is for you. (Don’t forget to grab a TV antenna for major live events like the Oscars and the Super Bowl, or if you just want the option of kicking back and watching primetime now and then.)

PRICE: $360 a year ($30 per month)

THE MOVIE LOVER

SAVE: $352 A YEAR

THE PLAN: Netflix, HBO Now, 52 movie rentals

If your favorite part of cable is watching movies, cutting the cord might just maximize your bliss. Much like cable on-demand services, you can rent many of the latest releases on iTunes or Amazon for about $5 apiece. HBO also carries a wide selection of recent movies, and Netflix has a large back catalogue of films (though titles will appear and disappear somewhat randomly).

PRICE: $548 a year ($46 per month)

Read next: The Cord-Cutter’s Guide to Streaming TV Services

TIME Media

Spotify Will Send You a Personalized Mixtape Every Week

New feature will compete with curated playlists on Apple and Google's music services

With curation becoming an ever-more-important aspect of the music streaming wars, Spotify is adding a new feature to help its users find interesting, personalized playlists.

The company on Monday announced a new feature called “Discover Weekly,” which will serve users a two-hour-long playlist once a week based on their musical tastes. The list is populated based on a user’s listening habits, as well as the songs other users with similar taste are listening to or adding to their own playlists.

Spotify likens the selection of songs to “having your best friend make you a personalized mixtape every single week.” The first playlists should be available Monday.

The new feature is another maneuver to keep Spotify users from decamping for Apple Music, which is currently offering a three-month free trial to curious music listeners. One of Apple Music’s big pitches is a “For You” section that shows users playlists curated by experts based on their past listening habits. Spotify already has its own music discovery features, but they’re not as front-and-center as they are on Apple Music.

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