TIME How-To

8 Netflix Tricks You Just Can’t Live Without

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

Find out how to hide the embarrassing stuff you've been streaming

One of the main reasons Netflix is so popular is because of its simplicity. It’s painfully easy to queue up a movie on your laptop, video game console or mobile device and start watching in mere seconds. But that simplicity means there are a lot of features to Netflix that the average customer may not be using.

Here, we’ve rounded up some useful tips to help you get the most out of Netflix:

See What Movies Are Coming and Going

Netflix’s lineup of movies and TV shows is constantly changing as the company gains and loses licensing rights for different content. It’s difficult to get a full picture of the Netflix library from within the app itself, but a variety of third-party websites can help. Sites like Instant Watcher and What’s New On Netflix offer a daily rundown of new releases on the streaming service. Finding out when movies are going to be removed is a little trickier, because Netflix has purposefully obscured that information. However, the site Now Streaming updates regularly with lists of movies that will soon be going offline.

Get Better Search Options

Search options on Netflix are fairly limited, which can make it hard to ferret out quality movies from the service’s vast amount of content. Sites like Instant Watcher let you filter options by parameters such as year released as well as rating on Netflix and Rotten Tomatoes. And if your favorite movie isn’t on Netflix right now, you can use Can I Stream It or WhereToWatch to find out where else a film might be available to stream legally online.

Use Your Phone As a Remote

On the PlayStation 3, customers can use their phone or tablet to control Netflix instead of a video game controller. First, make sure your mobile device and your PS3 are connected to the same Wi-Fi network. Then boot up the Netflix app on both devices, and your phone or tablet can be used to control the movie playing on the big screen — this also works if you’re watching Netflix via a Google Chromecast.

Get Smarter Recommendations

Netflix prides itself on its algorithms that are supposed to serve up content you’ll love that you didn’t even know you wanted. But the process only works if you feed the company a lot of info about what you enjoy. Rate movies regularly to get more precise recommendations, and don’t forget to fill out your taste preferences in your account settings. You can access the taste preferences list by selecting the “Your Account” option on the Web-based version of Netflix.

Change Subtitles

Tired of Netflix’s signature yellow subtitles? You can choose among eight different text colors as well as a background color to place behind the text. The font and text size can also be adjusted. The options are available in the “Your Account” settings on the Web version of Netflix.

Eliminate Buffering

There’s no bigger buzzkill during a riveting movie than being hit with a buffering screen. Netflix has a hidden menu to help you banish buffering. Press Shift + Alt + Left Click (or Shift + Option + Click on a Mac) while streaming a show to bring up a diagnostic screen. Click “Screen Manager,” then select the “Manual” checkbox to alter the stream’s bit rate. A lower number will lower the image quality of the program but will also allow you to watch on a slower connection without constant hiccups. When the buffering screen hits video game consoles and other living room streaming devices, try inputing the code Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, Up, Up, Up, Up on the controller or remote to deactivate Netflix, then reboot it.

Make Profiles for Multiple Users

When you’re sharing your Netflix account with multiple friends and family members, the service’s recommendation algorithm can get pretty muddled. Separate the Law and Order fans from the documentary junkies by setting up separate profiles. You can have five in total and each will get its own viewing history and tailored recommendations. Create new profiles using the “Manage Profiles” option in the settings menu on Netflix.com.

Erase Your Viewing History

You gave into your base desires and binged on Bridezillas for five hours one rainy Sunday afternoon. It’s OK—no one ever has to know. Netflix will let you see a log of your vieiwng history and wipe specific items from the record books across all devices. Simply go to the “Your Account” option in the settings menu, click “Viewing Activity” and click the X on any shows you want to erase. Then you can go on watching trashy reality TV with impunity.

Read next: How to Stop Accidentally Closing Your Browser All the Time

TIME Companies

Netflix Is Now a Whopping One-Third of Peak Internet Traffic

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

But YouTube leads on mobile

Netflix now accounts for more than a third of all downstream Internet traffic during peak evening hours in North America, according to research firm Sandvine.

Netflix’s share of traffic during the second half of 2014 rose to 34.89%, up from 34.21% in the first half of the year, Sandvine found in its biannual report. The figure is the highest for Netflix in Sandvine’s publicly available data since 2011. The streaming service has long dominated downstream Internet usage — a point that’s sparked battles between it and Internet Service Providers like Comcast and Verizon, which have argued Netflix should pay up for the bandwidth it uses.

While Netflix’s share inched up slightly, other tech companies also made gains. Facebook, which has been pushing video heavily this year, saw its traffic share increase from 1.99% to 2.98%. Amazon Video, Netflix’s most direct competitor, rose from a share of 1.9% to 2.58%. YouTube’s share also increased, rising from 13.19% to 14.09%. These gains in traffic came at the expense of iTunes and bitTorrent, which both had their shares dip below 3%.

These figures don’t account for Internet connections made via cellular data networks on mobile devices. On that front, YouTube is the leader with a 19.75% share, and Facebook is right behind it with a 19.05% share.

TIME Television

REVIEW: An Amazon Kids’ Show Far Better Than Normal

Justice, Siegel and Boettcher in Gortimer Gibbon's Life on Normal Street. Amazon

Gortimer Gibbon's Life on Normal Street brings back the magic to older-kids' TV.

The rise of streaming TV has been a gift for fans of ambitious scripted shows like Transparent and Orange Is the New Black. Still, it’s odd that this new video medium has got the most attention for giving us more of what we already have a lot of–comedies, dramas and dramedies for adults.

TV, of course, is a lot more than that–and, in fact, people who use streaming services use them for a lot more. Families, for instance, use the archives of classic TV shows and movies to fill in the gaps of new entertainment. (In my house, we’ve been having a mini film festival of ’70s and ’80s flicks like Breaking Away, which are simultaneously adult and kid-accessible, without being saccharine, in a way that doesn’t exist as much now.) And kids, who’ve grown up accustomed to a grazer’s buffet bar of media, are naturals for streaming: they watch what they want on their schedule, while their parents don’t need to worry what they’ll come across flipping channels. “Flipping channels,” really, is one of those experiences–like searching for a pay phone–that my children only encounter now when watching the aforementioned ’70s and ’80s movies.

Amazon Prime Video has been the streamer that’s most focused on original kids’ shows, including the delightful, science-and-tech focused Annedroids, which premiered this summer and was quietly radical for advancing the idea that girls could get excited about robots. It also earlier this year debuted the preschool-focused Creative Galaxy and Tumble Leaf. Each of those shows was winsome in its own way, but they didn’t fill a dire need; there’s a surfeit of sharp TV for younger kids both on commercial and public TV. It’s when kids get a little older that the quality choices dry up, the Disney Channel sitcoms multiply, and you find yourself searching for reruns of Malcolm in the Middle.

But Amazon’s newest debut finally aims at that niche of original, non-obnoxious TV for tweens that used to be filled by series like Nickelodeon’s Adventures of Pete and Pete, back in my younger days when nickels used to have bumblebees on them.

Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street, premiering its first season Nov. 21, is a kind of off-kilter, magic-realist hangout comedy. Amazon says it’s aimed at children 6 to 11–which, in kids’ aspirational math, means the lead characters are around 13–but this adult found himself gobbling the four episodes Amazon sent as if I were raiding my kids’ Halloween candy.

The title character (Sloane Morgan Siegel) and his two best friends, Mel (Ashley Boettcher) and Ranger (Drew Justice) live in a neighborhood that is both totally boring and unpredictably enchanted. The summer days drag slowly, the fall days are a string of school projects–and then they’re interrupted by the discovery of a mysterious pencil that has the power to erase memories or a menacing toad that has apparently placed a curse on an elderly neighbor (Fionnula Flanagan). Well-meaning Gortimer, brainy Mel and overenthusiastic Ranger throw themselves into the mysteries thrust upon them with the spirit of early teenagers, for whom the discovery that the world is profoundly weird is entirely unsurprising.

Normal Street‘s like a pleasant throwback, both in its attitude and its style. The stories, many of which involve eccentric but sympathetic adults, call back to a time when kid and adult culture wasn’t so strictly segregated (as in Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, recently re-released on home video). The humor is sophisticated, but with kid’s-eye detail; describing a favorite luridly colored frozen treat, Gortimer remarks in a voiceover: “It’s said that the peculiar sounds that the machine makes when birthing an Arctic Sludgie are the laws of physics screaming in protest.” There’s also a kind of indie-film gestalt to the show, down to the soundtrack music, which recalls Mark Mothersbaugh’s for Wes Anderson’s Rushmore.

The dream of the ’90s is truly alive on Normal Street, and yes, that does make me wonder a little if this is a series designed to appeal more to nostalgic former kids like me than actual kids of the moment. But I have to believe there’s a cross-generational appeal to the quirky stories from creator (and preschool teacher) David Anaxagoras as well as the instantly appealing characters.

The first episode, available on Amazon before the series premiere, is charming but a little sluggishly paced, but the following episodes only get better. A particular standout centers on Mel, the high-strung daughter of successful parents, who builds an artificially intelligent robot for a school science contest and finds her high-strung competitive attitude transferring to the machine. The story is far-fetched; the theme of early-onset stress is real. But above all it’s inventive and funny, as when the robot shows up for the science fair dressed in a T-shirt that reads Wiñata: “A person or thing,” the machine explains with deadpan cockiness, “that is stuffed so full of win that if hit with a stick it would spill win all over the floor.”

Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street is exploding with treasures like that line. And regardless of your age, I defy you to take a crack at it and not end up getting win all over yourself.

TIME Media

Spotify Streams Will Soon Be Included on the Billboard Charts

SWEDEN-MUSIC-COMPANY-SPOTIFY
This photo illustration shows the Swedish music streaming service Spotify on March 7, 2013 in Stockholm, Sweden. Jonathan Nackstrand—AFP/Getty Images

1,500 streams will count as a sale

Streams from music streaming services like Spotify will soon be included on the charts that rank music album sales.

Billboard and Nielsen SoundScan will begin including streams in the rankings of the Billboard 200, the album charts that are the weekly benchmark for success in the music industry, The New York Times reported Wednesday. The new ranking formula will equate 1,500 streams from an album on services like Spotify, Beats Music and Rhapsody as a sale. Online downloads of ten or more individual tracks by consumers will also be counted as an album sale.

The inclusion of more digital services will likely help move acts that appeal to younger audiences further up the charts. Legacy acts whose audiences mostly buy CDs, however, could be negatively affected.

The music charts are increasingly being influenced by online music services. Last year, Billboard announced that it would begin including music streams in its Hot 100 ranking of the most popular singles.

[New York Times]

TIME Media

Nielsen Ratings Could Become a Major Headache for Netflix

Danielle Brooks, Uzo Aduba, Samira Wiley, Vicky Jeudy, Adrienne C. Moore
(L-R) Danielle Brooks, Vicky Jeudy, Uzo Aduba, Adrienne C. Moore, and Samira Wiley in a scene from Netflix's Orange is the New Black Season 2. Jessica Miglio—Netflix

Streaming service may lose leverage if viewership data is widely known

House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black are wildly popular hits that prove Netflix can make shows that compete with the best of cable programming…right? That’s been the narrative around the streaming service over the last year, but hard proof has been harder to come by. Netflix has never provided concrete data validating that its shows are watched by large numbers of viewers.

Soon Nielsen, the standard-bearer for TV ratings, may change that. The TV ratings company revealed to the Wall Street Journal that it’s planning to begin tracking viewership of online video services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video in December by analyzing the audio of shows that are being streamed. The new ratings will come with a lot of caveats—they won’t track mobile devices and won’t take into account Netflix’s large global reach—but they will provide a sense for the first time which Netflix shows are the most popular. And if the rest of the media world latches onto these new ratings as a standard, Netflix won’t be able to ignore them.

Ratings are important on traditional television because they help networks attract advertising. Netflix doesn’t sell ads and has argued that it therefore shouldn’t have to disclose its ratings. “It creates a benchmark that is irrelevant to the business but sexy and exciting to write about and puts a lot of performance pressure on shows that otherwise will be great shows over time,” chief content officer Ted Sarandos said at a conference in 2012. A Netflix spokesperson declined to comment.

But TV ratings are about a lot more than selling ads. Netflix viewership data would give traditional TV networks a better sense of how popular their shows are on the platform and, perhaps more importantly, how essential they are to the overall Netflix experience. This could affect negotiations for licensing programming, especially as more content companies such as CBS and Comcast launch their own streaming services. Networks already regularly leverage the popularity of their programming to extract higher fees from cable operators in very public spats, so they’d likely have no problem pulling Netflix into a similar scrum.

Ratings also help attract talent in the traditional TV world. HBO has risen to the top of the premium cable heap by continually serving up shows that are both critically acclaimed and extremely popular. If Netflix’s original shows are revealed to be watched less than those on TV, it might be harder to attract a David Fincher or a Kevin Spacey to the streaming service (even Fincher and Orange Is the New Black creator Jenji Kohan don’t know how popular their Netflix shows are).

Finally, regular ratings could introduce further volatility to Netflix’s already bumpy stock. The company’s share price tumbled more than 25% after it missed its own subscriber growth forecast in October. Investors might be further scared scared off if there were signs that the company’s growing stable of expensive original shows were not as popular as they believed.

Of course, there are ways Nielsen ratings could work in Netflix’s favor. If the company’s shows really are huge hits, that just lends more credence to its narrative as a television disruptor and could help convince more Hollywood stars to work with the streaming service. It’s also possible that Nielsen’s methodology, which is rather vague at the moment, won’t be considered accurate enough to be taken seriously. The company just recently acknowledged that it was reporting inaccurate ratings for the broadcast networks for seven months this year. And Viacom’s CEO has said he wants to adopt different ratings standards because he thinks Nielsen has been too slow to adapt to shifting consumer habits.

Either way, Netflix will probably have to contend with questions about the Nielsen figures from media executives, analysts, and reporters for a quite a while. It’s an unknown variable in their growth story that they’d likely rather not deal with. As the calculating Frank Underwood once said, “There’s a value in having secrets.”

TIME Companies

Amazon Will Stream in Ultra-High Def 4K by January

The Amazon logo is seen on a podium duri
The Amazon logo is seen on a podium during a press conference in New York, September 28, 2011. Emmanuel Dunand—AFP/Getty Images

Amazon is planning to launch 4K streaming on its Prime Instant Video service before the end of the year, the company said Wednesday. 4K is an extremely high-definition video resolution that is only compatible with certain top-of-the-line computer displays and televisions, often called “Ultra HD TVs.”

Competitors like Netflix already offer 4K streaming for select titles, but Netflix charges $3 more per month for the highest-quality stream. Amazon says Prime subscribers will be able to access 4K content at no additional cost.

Shows available in 4K on Amazon will include a concert by Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett called “Cheek to Cheek” as well as some Amazon originals like Transparent and Alpha House, The Wall Street Journal reports.

[WSJ]

MONEY Tech

Why Cable Companies Don’t Have to Fear Streaming Services—Yet

141113_EM_Streaming
Ian G. Dagnall—Alamy

Right now, the business model is heavily tilted toward pay-TV providers. However, as more individuals choose to cut the cord those conditions will be reversed.

Following the lead of Time Warner’s TIME WARNER INC. TWX 1.7043% HBO and CBS’ CBS CORP. CBS -0.7868% All Access, the latter decided to offer its own premium network, Showtime, as a streaming Internet service in 2015. And while this continues the trend of programmers looking outside of traditional satellite and cable providers in order to reach cord cutters, should Time Warner Cable TIME WARNER CABLE INC. TWC -0.0267% and Comcast COMCAST CORP. CMCSA 0.3356% fear these new moves?

One thing is for sure, cable is quickly changing. Once considered a near-necessity, the rise of streaming-based services like Netflix and Hulu Plus has given rise to those without pay-TV service; a recent Experian Marketing survey found that nearly 6.5% of all U.S. households are without pay TV, up from 4.5% in 2010. Buoyed by the success of those two, HBO and CBS are now looking to take advantage of this trend.

One big problem …

The elephant in the room is cost. While we don’t know the exact cost of Showtime’s new subscription, and HBO’s $15 a month price tag hasn’t been confirmed by the company, the overtures appear to not signal the death of cable … yet. Adding up the host of streaming-based services lies an inconvenient fact: Cable appears to be a better deal. The FCC estimated the average basic cable bill at $64.41 per month in 2013. With CBS All Access pricing its service at $6, one could only purchase 10 channels for the average cable bill at this price.

And while we don’t know the pricing for the premium channels yet, numerous outlets point toward $15 per month for HBO’s streaming service. If so, that’s what pay-TV subscribers pay for the service. And considering CBS All Access is already priced so high, one assumes Showtime will have a rather high price tag as well.

In the end, this pricing appears to be a play for those without pay TV rather than encouragement for users to cut the cord. And if so, pay-TV providers are still negotiating programming costs – even when they are not involved in the billing process. In what’s quickly taking on a smoky backroom deal feel, programmers are still giving deference to pay-TV providers with consumers getting cut out of the negotiation process.

Even so, Time Warner Cable and Comcast aren’t taking anything for granted

The pay-TV industry is rapidly consolidating among fears of a mature and declining market. AT&T is in the process of acquiring DirecTV and Comcast seeks to acquire Time Warner Cable. Both acquisitions are under FCC and DOJ review, mostly due to these the market power this industry has once these approvals go through. Many fear cable bills will be jacked up as a result of near-monopolistic conditions.

However, due to earlier negotiations, Time Warner Cable and Comcast really don’t compete in the same geographies, making the monopoly power argument moot. However, the newly combined entity has the power to more effectively control programming cost increases that are quickly rising. Instead of competing with each other when CBS and other stations want higher affiliate fees, the combined entity will be better prepared to fight them.

And those fees are increasing quickly: SNL Kagan estimates those costs to rise 36% by 2018. And considering your cable company is essentially a toll road of sorts, it must take those price increases, add their profit margin, and pass along the higher bill to you the consumer. If the combined entity can negotiate those fees downward, it has the potential to slow cable increases.

Interesting development, but cable still wins for now …

Unfortunately, it appears streaming, stand-alone programming pricing still shows deference toward pay-TV providers. And that makes sense; right now, the business model is heavily tilted toward pay-TV providers. However, as more individuals choose to cut the cord those conditions will be reversed. Although these moves won’t topple pay-TV companies overnight, the industry is slowing moving to cut pay-TV providers out of the process.

TIME streaming

REVIEW: High Maintenance Deserves Its Buzz

Blichfeld and Sinclair, creators of High Maintenance. Janky Clown Productions

This gemlike anthology, about a Brooklyn pot dealer and his clients, is one of the best things you can watch online.

When you tell people the subject of High Maintenance–the stories of a Brooklyn pot dealer and his clients–they can get the wrong impression. This fantastic online series, debuting three new episodes on Vimeo Nov. 11, is a comedy involving pot, but it’s not a pot comedy. It’s not stoner humor, like Harold and Kumar or even its closer analog, the choom-heavy Broad City. The stories tangentially involve marijuana, but marijuana is rarely the story itself.

Instead, the gemlike little tales anthologized in High Maintenance are about the reasons a character might smoke pot, which are myriad. Stress. Boredom. Illness. A date. Sadness. Celebration. Loneliness. Too much togetherness.

Or, let’s say, the end of the world. In the first episode of the new season–is “batch” the better word? “stash”? “crop”?–a young couple are going through the typical motions of white-collar urban life (work, barbecues with friends, lots of web surfing in their Fort Greene apartment) when one of them develops an obsession with survivalism. Maybe it’s the aftermath of Sandy, maybe it’s the zeitgeist, maybe it’s a way of feeling in control in his life. But one way or another, meal rations are purchased, survivalism lessons are taken, nerves are eventually frayed, and the couple decide to place a call to The Guy.

The Guy–the small-time pot dealer played by Ben Sinclair–is the one constant between High Maintenance episodes. Sinclair plays him with deceptively chill goofiness, but he also has a sneaky emotional intelligence that allows him to serve as kind of low-key confidante/bartender/therapist to his clients. (Sinclair writes, directs and edits each episode together with his wife, Katja Blichfeld, in an appropriately small-batch DIY artisanal enterprise. About which: the new videos are on demand for $1.99 each, or $7.99 for a bundle that will include three more earlier next year. Like The Guy, High Maintenance prefers to distribute in small quantities.)

Beyond that setup, every episode of High Maintenance can be what it needs to: there’s a new story each episode, which vary from six or seven minutes to around nineteen. (You can find older episodes, made before the show’s on-demand deal, for free on Vimeo.) A few characters recur, others disappear, but there is always The Guy, summoned on speed-dial, to help them maintain their high–or simply to help them maintain.

You’re probably sick of hearing about how a new show is “unlike anything else,” but the only close comparison to High Maintenance in series TV is Louie–whose “Fat Girl” monologue gets an on-point shoutout in the second episode–at least, in Louie’s self-contained, short-film-like segments. Like Louie, this is a series in sardonic love with New York City, but a different one: brownstone Brooklyn, which it shoots in vibrant color, and the freelancers and thought-industry workers who fill it, like Portlandia characters taken more seriously.

Despite the brief running time, each episode has a leisurely, languorous feel, which echoes the unhurried lives of its characters. They’re young and relatively unburdened, or older and unattached, working odd hours, adults with time to adopt intense hobbies (magic, birdwatching), watch TV online and nurse neuroses. (Emphasis on the latter; these people are, adjectivally, high-maintenance.) If High Maintenance were a person, it would be hanging out at Gorilla Coffee on a weekday afternoon, and if its characters were real people, they would watch High Maintenance. Their conversation topics are demographically GPS-precise–arguments about Vice News and Scandal, comparing vacation notes on Tulum, Mexico.

I don’t want to spoil too much story in the new episodes, partly because there’s less than an hour’s worth of them, partly because (again like Louie) their pleasure derives from how they amble along flâneur-like, taking side trips and conversational detours, until a plot develops almost without your noticing it. And yet each episode is tightly, often ingeniously plotted; they range from sweet romance to urban satire to comedies of manners, and each delivers more depth of character than TV episodes three times as long.

To blow one tiny detail, the third episode opens with a woman in a self-defense class, fighting off an “attacker” in a padded armor suit. She’s foregrounded, you can see the potential for a story developing about security and the city–why is she taking the class?–until the scene changes and you realize the episode is, in fact, not about her but about the guy in the padded suit.

It could have gone either way, I’m sure. (Indeed, some of the new episodes involve peripheral characters from previous seasons.) Part of the beauty of High Maintenance’s richness of detail and its specific sense of even the smallest character is that it makes you believe that any character in any scene could be the star of the story.

After all, as far as each of us is concerned, we’re all protagonists. Each of us has something we’re trying to escape, which ultimately is what The Guy sells. The genius of this show is how it uses its high-concept–so to speak–premise to get at something universal. If High Maintenance is aware of one thing, it’s this: The high is easy. It’s maintaining that’s tough.

TIME Media

HBO Thinks It Can Grab 5 Million Cord-Cutters With New Service

The logo of Home Box Office Inc. (HBO) is seen on the exhibit floor during the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA) Cable Show in Washington on June 11, 2013.
The logo of Home Box Office Inc. (HBO) is seen on the exhibit floor during the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA) Cable Show in Washington on June 11, 2013. Bloomberg/Getty Images

But the company doesn't think it will upset pay-TV model

HBO has made its expectations for its upcoming streaming service a bit more clear. In a quarterly earnings call for parent company Time Warner, HBO CEO Richard Plepler said that the premium cable network is looking to pull in between 4 and 5 million new customers who don’t currently subscribe to cable with its new online-only offering. In October Plepler estimated that there are 10 million broadband-only households in the U.S., a cohort he called “low-hanging fruit” that could easily be persuaded to buy HBO.

By allowing people who don’t pay for cable to access its content, HBO is engaging in a high wire act that has never been attempted before in the pay-TV industry. The company wants cord-cutters to buy its service, but it doesn’t want the people who already pay for cable to dump their subscriptions in favor of an HBO-only product. That would upset the pay-TV distributors, who currently handle customer service for HBO and often lower the subscription cost to entice new subscribers.

Plepler believes the doomsday scenario where HBO inadvertently hastens the collapse of the cable bundle won’t happen. In fact, he said the company actually sees greater potential upside in convincing more cable subscribers to add HBO to their current plans. HBO wants to add 10 to 15 million such subscribers in the coming years. “This is not binary. It’s not one or the other,” he said. “I see nothing but upside for us, nothing but upside for the consumer, nothing but upside for the distributor.”

Others in the industry are not so sure. After HBO announced its intention to launch a stand-alone service, NBCUniversal Chief Executive Steve Burke said, “It’s going to be a challenge for them to not cannibalize what is already a really, really good business.” (NBC is a division of Comcast, the country’s largest cable provider.) Plepler said HBO continues to have a strong relationship with Comcast and intends to work closely with broadband providers to launch the new service.

Even without the cord-cutters, HBO is bringing in a lot of money. The network generated $1.3 billion in revenue during the third quarter, a 10% increase over the same period a year ago. Operating income declined 4% to $380 million. Time Warner as a whole saw revenue rise 3% to $6.2 billion for the quarter, beating Wall Street analysts’ expectations. Adjusted earnings were $1.22 per share, also beating projections.

MONEY deals

Hells Bells! $6.99 AC/DC Deal Was a Pricing Glitch

AC/DC in concert, 2009.
AC/DC in concert, 2009. Marka—Alamy

For a little while on Tuesday, deal-tracking sites went nuts promoting a download of 290 AC/DC songs for just $6.99. Alas, the offer was too good to be true.

[UPDATE: Apparently, the AC/DC deal at Amazon was a pricing glitch that was never supposed to exist. It’s enough to make you bang your head … in frustration.]

For a long time, AC/DC was a holdout in terms of joining the digital age of music. The Aussie hard-rock band reluctantly joined iTunes only in 2012—with individual song downloads selling for $1.29 apiece and a complete set of albums and box sets available for $150. Today on iTunes, downloads of classic AC/DC albums like “Back in Black” sell for $6.99 each.

Amazingly, $6.99 just so happens to be the price of a special deal just made available at Amazon.com. A download of “AC/DC: The Complete Collection,” which includes nearly 300 versions of songs from 27 of the band’s albums, including “Highway to Hell,” “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap,” “Who Made Who,” and yes, “Back in Black” (among the top 5 best-selling albums of all time) can be purchased right now for only $6.99. “Dirt cheap” indeed!

This special deal popped up surprisingly on Halloween, then disappeared, and now it has resurfaced again. It’s unclear how long the monumental download will be available at the $6.99 price.

If it wasn’t already clear that the music business has changed dramatically in recent years, the new AC/DC deal should hammer that point home like an epic drum solo. We live in an era when it makes sense for U2 to give an album away for “free” (and get grief for it), and when it’s big news when a major artist like Taylor Swift decides that she no longer wants to (more or less) give her music away for free via streaming services such as Spotify.

If Swift and AC/DC have something in common—besides, you know, their mutual affection for wearing short shorts—it’s their steadfast belief in the importance of the album rather than the single song. One reason that AC/DC was reluctant to start selling music digitally (and why it still doesn’t make its music available for streaming services) is that the band believes the best way fans can enjoy its music is to listen to albums in their entirety, rather than hearing one song here and there.

“For us [the album is] the best way,” AC/DC guitarist Angus Young told Sky News in 2010, soon after the Beatles finally allowed their music to be downloaded on iTunes. “We are a band who started off with albums and that’s how we’ve always been. We always were a band that if you heard something [by AC/DC] on the radio, well, that’s only three minutes. Usually the best tracks were on the albums.”

Likewise, in a widely read Wall Street Journal op-ed last summer, Taylor Swift voiced strong opinions on the importance of the album in terms of musicians as both artists and businesspeople:

In my opinion, the value of an album is, and will continue to be, based on the amount of heart and soul an artist has bled into a body of work, and the financial value that artists (and their labels) place on their music when it goes out into the marketplace. Piracy, file sharing and streaming have shrunk the numbers of paid album sales drastically, and every artist has handled this blow differently.

How will fans react in turn to the decisions by some major artists to not allow their music to be streamed? Will it help sell more albums? We’ll have to wait and see. If selling 27 albums for $6.99 doesn’t help boost a band’s music sales in a big way, probably nothing will.

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