TIME Media

Netflix Has a Plan to Take Over the World

ABC's "Good Morning America" - 2014
Kevin Spacey talks about the new season of "House of Cards" on Good Morning America, 2/18/14, airing on the ABC Television Network. Ida Mae Astute—ABC via Getty Images

But it'll likely lose money abroad long before it ever makes it there

Like the conniving Frank Underwood, Netflix’s ambitions only continue to grow.

The streaming service is rolling out in six new European countries this week, including France and Germany, two of the region’s largest markets. The expansion, Netflix’s biggest ever, will expose the company to hundreds of millions of potential new customers who have high-speed Internet access. But the challenges and costs of adapting a U.S.-based service for six different cultures won’t be easy—or profitable—for quite a while.

At home, Netflix is still growing at a healthy clip. The company added 2.82 million streaming subscribers in the first half of 2014, up from 2.66 million additions during the same period last year. But the growth rate abroad is even faster as Netflix continues to come online in more regions. The company added 2.87 million international customers in the first half of the year, compared to 1.63 million last year. It’s projecting that it will add 2.36 million international subscribers in the third quarter alone thanks to the new markets where the service is launching.

While opening in new markets will certainly boost Netflix’s subscriber base, there’s no guarantee the service will perform as well as it has in the United States or the United Kingdom. In Germany, TV is less popular than in other Western nations. Germans watch 230 minutes of TV and video content per person per day, compared to 286 minutes per person in the U.S., according to research firm IHS. And the TV they do watch isn’t necessarily the same as what succeeds elsewhere. Seinfeld was famously a bust in Germany because it was “too American.” More worryingly for Netflix, its own high-budget original show House of Cards failed to net even a million viewers when it debuted on the German network Sat. 1, according to Bloomberg. Episodes from season two averaged less than 100,000 viewers.

“The Germans notoriously have different tastes from the rest of the West,” says Michael Pachter, an equity analyst for Wedbush Secutiries. “All of us . . . make the mistake of thinking that ‘international’ is a place. International is 180 independent, different nations.”

While there are similar cultural concerns in France, there Netflix must also deal with entrenched competitors who want to squash the streaming service before it can gain traction. Canal Plus, France’s largest pay-TV provider, actually owns the broadcast rights to House of Cards and recently announced a deal to stream HBO shows through its own Netflix-like service, Canalplay. Another provider, Numbericable, launched an online service with access to 3,000 episodes of TV shows on the same day Netflix launched in France. Meanwhile, content creators and regulators worry Netflix will try to further Americanize French culture while avoiding paying large taxes because it’s headquartered outside the country.

“People are concerned the emergence of Netflix will damage the local content industry,” says Richard Broughton, an IHS analyst. “They really have to make some partnerships in order to make better headway into the French market.”

Netflix has plans to address these issues. A new House of Cards-like drama called Marseille is set in the south of France and will be helmed by French directors. It should help cast Netflix as a collaborator in the country rather than an invader. The company will also try to buy up streaming rights to locally produced shows in the new countries where it launches, Broughton says. The strategy has been effective in the United Kingdom, where Netflix has the rights for many BBC shows. The company has 3 million customers there, according to one estimate.

But building a curated library for each individual market is expensive, and Netflix often has to negotiate individual rights agreements for each different country where it operates. “They have to replicate the wheel every place they go,” Pachter says.

That’s why Netflix’s international business has been unprofitable since it began. The division lost $15 million in the most recent quarter, and Netflix projects that loss will balloon to $42 million in the third quarter due to marketing and licensing costs in new territories. The price to compete will only grow, especially when other U.S. competitors show up in Europe (Amazon Prime Instant Video is already available in Germany).

Early impressions indicate that Netflix’s library of titles in France is not as robust as in the U.S. But analysts expect the company will eventually work out the kinks. IHS projects that Netflix will have 18 million subscribers across Europe by 2018, up from 5.8 million today. That would be a boon for the world’s most popular streaming service, but it’s hardly guaranteed.

“You’ve got to spend an awful lot up front,” Broughton says. “You’re gambling on, over the next few years, being able to accrue sufficient subscribers to offset those costs.”

TIME How-To

How to Double Check Your Google Account Security Settings

Google Account Settings
Google's account settings page shows which sites, services and devices have access to your account Google

The unofficial Google Operating System site writes about a little gem found under the security section of everyone’s Google account settings page.

Head over to your account’s security section, and click the “Get started” button located under the “Secure your Account” heading.

It’ll step you through the various lock-downs available for your Google account, including setting a recovery phone number, a recovery email address and the ability to revoke access for apps, websites and gadgets you no longer use. You’ll also be able to check out your recent activity to make sure nobody’s been using your account without your knowledge.

It’s a good idea to run through a security audit such as this every once in a while, especially after a high-profile data breach.

[Google Operating System]

TIME Gadgets

iPhone 6 Wireless Plans Compared

Over at Yahoo Tech, Rob Pegoraro has taken up the unenviable task of comparing iPhone 6 wireless plans from major carriers AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon.

This was all a somewhat simpler endeavor back when a phone cost $200, you picked a minutes/data/text messages plan, and signed a two-year contract. But newly-added pricing plans have saddled up alongside traditional pricing plans, resulting in a far murkier melange of minutes and megabytes.

The assumption with this exercise is that you’ll be buying a base-model iPhone 6 and will need two gigabytes of monthly data. All of these plans include unlimited minutes and text messages and, aside from network quality, your biggest decision is whether or not you want to be able to use tethering. Tethering lets you share your phone’s data connection with another device such as a tablet or laptop. It’s good for road trips and other instances where you’d get a cellular signal but wouldn’t have access to an open Wi-Fi network.

If you don’t care about tethering:

  • Verizon can be had for $1,640 over two years
  • Sprint can be had for $1,680 over two years
  • T-Mobile can be had for $1,730 over two years
  • AT&T can be had for $2,120 over two years

If you want to tether:

  • T-Mobile can be had for $1,730 over two years
  • Sprint can be had for $1,920 over two years
  • AT&T can be had for $2,120 over two years
  • Verizon can be had for $2,360 over two years

These figures don’t take into account network quality in your area, family plans, equipment trade-in bonuses, taxes or other stuff like that. Each carrier offers a trial period, though, so make sure to exercise your right to return your phone if you’re not happy with it.

Check out Pegoraro’s post for more info on the various plans and pricing schemes.

[Yahoo Tech]

TIME Video Games

Conan Shows Us What the Minecraft Creator’s Really Doing with Newfound Billions

Hint: It involves Minecraft

There’s a lot of nonsense masquerading as analysis out there about Microsoft’s $2.5 billion Mojang game studio purchase (and by proxy, Minecraft). So here’s some nonsense by design: Conan’s take on the multi-billion dollar deal.

Microsoft shoveled out a mountain range’s worth of cash for the formerly independent Swedish studio: $2.5 billion. An exorbitant amount, you might say, and half a billion higher than the sum pegged by all the (erroneous) reports that surfaced in the lead-up to the official announcement.

Redmond confirmed the deal in an Xbox Wire video and press release, while Mojang co-founder Markus “Notch” Persson, wrote separately that he was leaving the company along with the studio’s two other founders, Jakob Porsér and Carl Manneh.

In June, Persson wrote (joked?) about selling his 70% stake in the company on Twitter.

And in his Pastebin note, Persson explained his desire to disembark from the Minecraft train: “I’ve become a symbol. I don’t want to be a symbol, responsible for something huge that I don’t understand, that I don’t want to work on, that keeps coming back to me. I’m not an entrepreneur. I’m not a CEO. I’m a nerdy computer programmer who likes to have opinions on Twitter.”

Which is all well and good, but that’s why you need a guy like Conan to come along to give you the real story.

TIME Minecraft

Dear Microsoft: Please Don’t Screw Up Minecraft. Sincerely, Parents

Microsoft To Acquire Maker Of Popular Minecraft Game For 2.5 Billion
MIAMI, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 15: Daniel Llevara checks out the XBox 360 Minecraft game at a GameStop store on Sept. 15, 2014 in Miami. Joe Raedle—Getty Images

Children of all ages love it, parents love it, and Microsoft should leave it well enough alone. But will they?

Yesterday, news broke that Microsoft was acquiring Mojang, the creator of the “sandbox” game Minecraft for $2.5 billion. The move will bolster Microsoft’s gaming ambitions and further integrate Microsoft’s gaming system, Xbox, with the incredibly popular game.

While the business world was ogling the massive deal for the open-world game, which has an estimated 100 million downloads on PCs alone and brought in $100 million in profit last year, parents were wondering what this means for their Minecraft-addicted children.

Minecraft is the go-to game for parents and children alike, because it’s incredibly easy to learn and fun to play, involving nothing more than clicking and building anything from roller coasters to castles to tree forts. It’s impossible to win or lose and no one dies — it’s just building. There are no rules and no instructions, it’s intuitive and straightforward. Younger children, say, 6 and up, may prefer to play in “creative mode,” which let’s users simply wander the landscape and build whatever they can imagine and the game’s blocky graphics can allow. For older players, there’s the more challenging “survival mode,” filled with zombies, pigs, zombie pig men and a dragon lurking somewhere in the distance. Still, you can’t die in survival mode, you simply “respawn” and go back to what you were doing. It’s gaming lite, which is where the appeal lies for the next generation of gaming fans (just ask my 7-year-old son) and their parents who don’t want to hear cries of frustration over levels and character deaths.

Minecraft’s simplicity is the key to its inter-generational success and for any parent who has done battle with a Microsoft operating system — and with the specters of Windows Vista and Windows 8 and all their software and hardware compatibility issues floating in the air— it’s hard for parents whose children love Minecraft not to be slightly wary about news of the acquisition. Some parents (me) may have groaned loudly thinking about trying to explain the sudden addition of Microsoft Bob to the ranks of Minecraft characters like Herobrine and Steve. Then other questions started percolating: Would Minecraft only be accessible via a Zune? Would you need a Hotmail account to sign up? Would you have to download Internet Explorer? Would Microsoft Word’s ever-present helper Clippy become a creeper? (That’s a local Minecraft hostile, if you don’t play the game.)

The main concern for parents though, is that Microsoft will somehow change the game, making it more complex, allow in-app purchases, or require parental supervision (the horror!). While the game has only been around since 2009, it has grown to become one of the most popular computer games of all time, with over 16 million copies sold for computer use. Parents trust it to be safe, fun and ostensibly educational, operating both as a gateway to the world of computer science and helping to develop spatial recognition skills. Children of all ages love it, parents love it, and Microsoft should leave it well enough alone. But will they?

One likely possibility is that Microsoft may push more unique features towards its own Xbox platform. Currently, Minecraft can be played on several platforms, including desktop computers, tablets and smartphones, with PCs having the most functionality and advanced controls. Xbox has long been a popular way for kids to access the cubist landscape of Minecraft and it has the same functions as playing on a desktop. According to a Microsoft press release, Minecraft is the top online game on Xbox Live, with over two billion hours played on Xbox 360 in the last two years. Minecraft on Xbox also gained popularity thanks in no small part to YouTube users like Stampy Longhead, whose wildly popular videos feature the player touring through Minecraft worlds, narrating his findings in his excited British accent and feeding bones to digital dogs. (While parents may find the allure of these videos elusive, calling Stampy “wildly popular” is perhaps an understatement. Stampy was the fourth biggest YouTube channel in July with 199.6 million video views, the majority of which were undoubtedly racked up by my kid watching during lulls in summer activities while I tried to work.)

Stampy plays exclusively on Xbox and only visits worlds connected to the Xbox network, at least according to my son. The kid has been making a hard sell for weeks trying to convince me that he needs an Xbox for Minecraft use. If Microsoft expands its Xbox Minecraft network to its tablets or smartphones, it could transform millions of children around the world into walking, whining Microsoft acolytes (which may be part of Microsoft’s business plan), begging mom, dad and Santa to fill their stocking with Microsoft products. It’s probably not something that happens very often aside from the Xbox, as the company is still best-known for making corporate hardware and software bundles.

While parents may have fears of Microsoft corrupting Minecraft — or at least being bullied into buying Microsoft products for their clamoring underage Minecraft fans — some young players are concerned, as well. “I am worried that they might change Minecraft in a bad way,” said tech savvy 11-year old Zoel Boublil, who is an expert in all things Minecraft. “For example, what if they fire Notch, the CEO of Mojang? Notch, Jeb [Bergensten, the lead developer of Minecraft] and Dinnerbone [a game developer on Minecraft] all put in a lot of creativity and I hope Microsoft doesn’t just make it into some ‘normal’ game and what if they put Microsoft advertising on everything? That would not be cool.” This fear of rendering something once cool, corporate, is often fans’ biggest fear; adults who used to use MySpace or Flickr are familiar with this kind of thing. That said, Yahoo! hasn’t managed to change Tumblr culture too much yet, and it probably doesn’t want to.

The reality is that no one knows what will happen in the deal that Microsoft claims will close by the end of the year. Hopefully, Microsoft is business savvy enough to know not to mess with something that has universal, inter-generational appeal. And if they do? Well, there’s a zombie pigman that could take out Clippy, if necessary.

 

TIME technology

Uber Is Now Legal in Germany Once Again

German Court Bans Uber Service Nationwide
In this photo illustration, a woman uses the Uber app on an Samsung smartphone on September 2, 2014 in Berlin, Germany. Adam Berry—Getty Images

Wunderbar

Updated 1:15 p.m.

Germany’s ban on Uber’s ride-sharing service has been lifted by a local court.

The Franklin Regional Court ruled Tuesday that UberPop, Uber’s cheaper alternative to its well-known black car service, could resume operating freely throughout the country. The ruling comes after Taxi Deutschland, a German taxi union, had successfully sought a nationwide injunction against Uber’s service last month.

The taxi union vowed that it would continue to fight Uber in Germany. “The taxi industry accepts competitors who comply with the law,” the organization said in a statement. “Uber doesn’t do that. Therefore we today announce that we will be appealing without delay.”

UberPop connects drivers and riders via a smartphone app. Critics say drivers are not subject to the same regulations and requirements as licensed German taxi drivers, a common complaint against Uber drivers around the world. The judge who lifted the injunction said that there was likely a legal basis to the taxi union’s complaint, but the organization could not have the issue tried as an expedited case. Therefore, the temporary inunction had to be lifted.

Uber, of course, is happy about the ruling. “We welcome today’s decision by the German court to lift the injunction placed on UberPOP by the incumbents,” Uber Germany spokesman Fabien Nestmann said in an emailed statement. “Demand is so great all across the country that we expect to double in size by the end of the year and plan to bring Uber to more and more cities across Germany.”

[WSJ]

 

TIME social

How Facebook Uses Ad Feedback to Alter Your Timeline

A few years ago, Facebook rolled out functionality to all users that lets us hide advertisements we find objectionable. Many ignore this “I don’t want to see this” feature, hiding in the down arrow at the top right corner of the ad, because hidden advertisements are quickly replaced with new ones.

Some do click and give their reasons for reporting ads, however, giving Facebook a wealth of data about which ones users find objectionable. Facebook has taken to its official Newsroom blog to explain how the site now uses that feedback to making your experience on the social network better.

According to Facebook Product Manager Max Eulenstein, when people start reporting an ad, the site’s algorithm takes note and adjusts our News Feeds accordingly:

When testing this update, we looked at when people told us that ads were offensive or inappropriate and stopped showing those ads. As a result, we saw a significant decrease in the number of ads people reported as offensive or inappropriate. This means we were able to take signals from a small number of people on a small number of particularly bad ads to improve the ads everyone sees on Facebook.

This change means Facebook is collecting more data on you, but in this case, it may be a good thing. Each time you report an ad, Facebook also learns about the type of ads you, specifically, dislike. Once your ad profile is built, Facebook will intentionally avoid showing you ads it thinks “there is even a small chance” you might hide. The company says this change has already reduced the rate at which people hide ads by 30%.

Of course, this is only the latest “advertising innovation” to hit the social network. Last year, Techlicious revealed how Facebook algorithms stretch well beyond the boundaries of the site itself, collecting data on you even as you shop in supermarkets. And the site landed in hot water last year when it asserted the right to feature everyday users of the site, including minors and their photos, as unpaid endorsers in ads on the site.

This article was written by Fox Van Allen and originally appeared on Techlicious.

More from Techlicious:

TIME Video Games

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Dev ‘Not Worried’ About Titanfall ‘Ripoff’ Claims

Advanced Warfare will "speak for itself" when people play it, says Sledgehammer cofounder Michael Condrey.

“Ripoff.” You’ve seen it said of gazillions of books, films, songs and video games. You’ve probably said it yourself about something at one point or another.

So what about Activision’s upcoming Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare? Is it just a Titanfall clone?

Don’t laugh: some people think so. Enough people that outlets like GameSpot and Game Informer made space, crazily, to write about it.

And check out what Advanced Warfare developer (and studio Sledgehammer cofounder) Michael Condrey just said about the matter on Twitter.

(It’s a wonder Condrey bothered to respond at all.)

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is a military-minded first-person shooter about exoskeletal augmented soldiers set in the near future. Titanfall is a first-person shooter set somewhere outside our solar system on the bleeding perimeter of space exploration. Titanfall has you running around in multiplayer arenas occasionally piloting robots of the sort FASA popularized decades ago. Advanced Warfare has you running around in both solo or multiplayer modes wearing a form-fitting contraption a bit like the thingamajig Matt Damon claps around his body in Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium.

Here’s Advanced Warfare‘s multiplayer trailer again. It looks like any other multiplayer first-person shooter trailer: a little nuttier, a little more vertical, sure, but we’re talking FPS principles here. If futuristic run-and-gunning’s a crime, string all the copycat perps up — but you’re going to need a pretty long rope.

Put a squirt gun to my head, and I’d admit I do see several crude similarities between some of Advanced Warfare‘s gameplay principles and those pioneered by a certain other game. Military-inspired combat body suits? Predator-style camouflage? Strength augmentation and the ability to make crazy-high jumps? Titanfall schmitenfall, that sounds like Crytek’s Crysis to me.

TIME Gadgets

SanDisk 512GB Memory Card: Big Storage, Big Price

sd-sdextremePRO-512g
SanDisk

SanDisk has announced a memory card with roughly half a terabyte of storage. If you’re reading this on a laptop, that might be as large or larger than your entire hard drive. If you’re reading this on a phone, it’s definitely larger than your phone’s entire storage — probably at least 10x as much. SanDisk touts the card as “the world’s highest-capacity SD card on the market.”

The “SanDisk Extreme PRO SDXC UHS-I Memory Card 512GB” — just rolls right off the tongue, no? — carries a retail price of $800 and is targeted at professional photographers and videographers. If you’ve got $800 to burn and need a significant storage bump for your computer, though, this could do the trick. (It won’t work in smartphones: this is a full-size card, not a microSD card.)

Adorama has it for $729 with an estimated late-September ship date. B&H also has it for $729 but the ship date isn’t until mid-October.

[SanDisk]

TIME Innovation

New Robot Cheetah Can Run (And Jump) Without a Tether

'Our robot can be silent and as efficient as animals. The only things you hear are the feet hitting the ground,' says researcher.

(via MIT News)

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser