House of Cards season 3 debut causes traffic and Twitter spikes

Netflix still isn’t releasing any ratings for season 3 of House of Cards, which premiered on the service last Friday, but there are some indicators suggesting that the show is doing pretty well: Traffic management specialist Sandvine reported this week that the Netflix traffic of one unnamed U.S. ISP grew substantially over the past weekend (hat tip to DSL Reports).

On Friday and Saturday night, that ISP saw 10 to 15 percent more [company]Netflix[/company] traffic than on the preceding weekend. And on Sunday night, traffic was even up 30 to 35 percent, compared to a week ago.

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Sandvine Media and Industry Relations Manager Dan Deeth is quick to point out that this doesn’t translate into ratings. The company only sees what kind of traffic goes over a network, not which shows or movies Netflix subscribers are watching. But it’s very likely that the premiere of House of Cards had something to do with the spike.

Netflix itself has never released ratings for any of its shows, with executives arguing that ratings simply don’t matter much to a subscription business. But the company did send over some data this week that suggests that the new season of House of Cards did generate some buzz: People tweeted 648,374 times about the show during its premiere weekend, according to Netflix. And that buzz was almost global, as the top ten cities tweeting about the show included five from outside of the U.S.

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Vimeo finally adds Chromecast support to its iOS app

Better late than never: Vimeo added Chromecast support to its iOS app Friday, allowing users to cast videos straight from an iPad or iPhone to Google’s streaming stick or any Android TV device.

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Chromecast support for Vimeo has been a frequently-requested feature ever since Chromecast launched in summer of 2013. Vimeo acknowledged the delayed response in a blog post Friday, cheekily calling the cast feature “the one you’ve been waiting for.”

A Vimeo spokesperson told me that the company doesn’t have a firm date for bringing casting to its Android app, but added: “It’s a priority for us and coming soon.”

Netflix releases, then removes, House of Cards season 3 two weeks early

Frank Underwood wouldn’t have wanted it any other way: Netflix briefly got its subscribers excited Wednesday afternoon by making the entire season three of House of Cards available on its service two weeks ahead of its official release date — only to remove all of the videos again minutes later.

hoc leak

Season three of the political drama was supposed to become available on February 27. I have asked [company]Netflix[/company] for comment, but have yet to hear back. However, the company told CNBC that the early showing was due to “a technical glitch.” And on Twitter, Netflix indicated that it will stick to its original release schedule and make the show available on February 27:

Target closes down its Target Ticket digital movie store

Target Ticket, we hardly knew ye: Less than 18 months after launching it, Target is closing down its digital video store. Target Ticket will be shuttered in March, according to a note on the service’s website:

[blockquote person=”” attribution=””]”Target has made the decision to end the services offered on Target Ticket and will be focusing efforts on other entertainment offerings. Effective March 7th, 2015, Target Ticket will no longer be accessible on your device applications, gaming consoles, tablets, smartphones or on the web. We value you as a Target guest and apologize for the inconvenience this causes.”[/blockquote]

Target Ticket discontinued new rentals on Tuesday, and users will be able to access their paid movies through Cinemanow starting on March 7th — if rights holders agree, that is. These services often have different agreements with rights holders, and not all titles available through Target Ticket will necessarily also be available through Cinemanow. However, Target is promising that customers will get Cinemanow coupons for any movies that can’t be transferred.

Target Ticket is one of a number of online video services launched and then discontinued by major brands. Last year, Verizon and Redbox decided to shutter their Redbox Instant service, and months before that, Samsung pulled the plug on its own movie download store.

Sling TV opens the floodgates, accepts sign-ups without invites

Sling TV, the online TV streaming service from Dish Networks, is now available to everyone: The service ended its invitation-only soft launch late Sunday night and began to accept sign-ups from everyone on its website.

Sling offers consumers live access to a total of 15 channels, including ESPN, ESPN2, TNT, TBS, CNN, HGTV, Cartoon Network and others for $20 a month. New to this basic package are Galavision, El Rey Network and a channel for Maker Studios content, which had been previously announced but initially wasn’t part of the invite-only beta test. AMC is going to be added to the base package soon, according to a Sling TV press release. There’s no word yet on whether Sling will also add other channels that are part of the AMC Networks family, including IFC, Sundance TV and WE TV.

Sling subscribers can elect to add more channels through three different add-on packages that cost $5 each. These include a news and information package, a kids and family package and a sports add-on package that offers access to additional ESPN channels and a few other sports networks. As of Monday, subscribers will also be able to use ESPN’s WatchESPN apps, but the content available to them will depend on their individual subscription: Sling TV’s base package unlocks ESPN1, ESPN2 and ESPN3 streams, whereas the added sports package will provide access to more content.

Sling TV is catering to cord cutters and what the company calls “cord haters,” meaning people who would love to get rid of cable but haven’t been able to in the past, primarily because of sports. Sling wants to win over this audience by offering them a lower-priced package without some of the strings that are usually attached with a traditional pay TV service. For example, Sling TV customers will be able to cancel any time, and don’t need commit to year-long contracts.

However, Sling TV couldn’t completely do away with the limitations of its industry. Some of the most advanced features of the service, which include the ability to rewind and fast forward in a current show or go back to any show that has aired within the last 72 hours, aren’t available on most networks due to contractual restrictions. In addition, Sling TV is only available on one single device at a time.

Check this video for a first look at Sling TV:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=od3yR0D-c68]

This post was updated at 9:33am with information about AMC coming to Sling TV.

Sling TV strikes deal with Univision for its online TV service

Online TV streaming service Sling TV is about to get bilingual: Sling TV has struck an agreement with Univision to carry its Spanish-language broadcast and cable networks, both companies announced Monday. The deal could help Sling, which is currently in an invite-only beta test, with an audience that is most likely to cut the cord.

Under the agreement, Sling will be able to carry Univision, UniMás, Univision Deportes, Galavisión, El Rey Network, Bandamax, De Película, De Película Clásico, Telehit, Tlnovelas and FOROtv.

There’s no word yet on how Sling, which is owned and operated by Dish, is going to integrate the networks into its service. The company introduced a $20 base plan with 12 networks, including ESPN and TNT, at CES last month. In addition, it is offering a $5 kids and family bundle and a $5 news and information bundle as add-on packages. Company executives said at CES that they will launch a sports add-on package as well, and Sling TV CEO Roger Lynch actually hinted at a Spanish-language plan as well.

It’s possible that Sling could build a completely separate base package for Spanish-language viewers, or offer some of Univision’s content as an add-on package. It’s also likely that it will offer Univision Desportes as part of its sports package. I asked a Sling TV spokesperson for details, but have yet to hear back.

Regardless, adding Univision is a smart move for Sling TV. Latinos are a growing and very tech-savvy audience that is more likely to stream video online than other parts of the U.S. population. In addition, Univision viewers are extremely loyal to the network, with an executive telling the Wall Street Journal last fall that 76 percent of its viewers between the ages of 18 and 49 only watch Univision and no other network. Those viewers are least likely to pay $100 a month for an expensive, over-sized cable bundle, which is why Sling TV could succeed with a more targeted and much more affordable plan.

Here’s a first look at Sling TV:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=od3yR0D-c68]

A sneak peek at Sony’s PlayStation Vue internet TV service

Sony may have just shuttered its music service, but it’s getting ready to launch another media venture: PlayStation Vue, the company’s upcoming live TV service, is supposed to launch before the end of the quarter. Sony has been testing the service with a limited number of users in New York since late last year, but in recent days, the company has been inviting a number of new users to this beta test, suggesting that a launch may be coming soon.

Sony announced its intentions to start an internet TV service at CES 2014, and then officially unveiled its name and launch plans last November. At the time, the company also shared some highly polished screen shots to show off how Vue will look like. With new users getting added to the service, those pictures are being augmented by much-needed real-world experiences.

One user, who declined to be identified for this story, shared a few snapshots and first impressions with me that give us a better picture of Vue, and how it differs from the recently soft-launched Sling TV service. I asked Sony for comment, but haven’t heard back yet.

PlayStation Vue

The programming: Sony announced in recent months that it has struck agreements with CBS, NBC and Fox as well as Viacom, Scripps and Discovery for Vue. Asked which channels this has brought to the service, my source told me the following:

“Spike, CBS, NBC, Fox, My9, Telemundo, American Heroes, Animal Planet, BET, BET Gospel, Big Ten network, Bravo, CBS Plus, Centric, Chiller, Cloo, CMT Pure Country, CNBC, CNBC World, Comedy Central, Cooking Channel, Cozi TV, Destination America, Discovery Channel, Discovery Family, Discovery Life, DIY, E!, Esquire, Exits, Food Network, Fox College Sports (3), Fox Sports 1,2,3, FX, FXM, FXX, Golf Channel, HGTV, Investigation Discovery, LOGO, Movies TV, MSNBC, MTV (Hits, Jam, 2, U), Nat Geo, all the Nickelodeons, OWN, Oxygen, Palladia, Science, Sprout, SYFY, Teen Nick, Travel, TV Land, Universal, USA, Velocity, VH1, Vh1 Classic, Soul, YES Network.

No real big surprises on that list. Sports fans will appreciate the number of sports channels, but the one most sports fans really want to have — ESPN — is obviously missing. Also, it looks like Sony signed really big bundles with all of the programmers, forcing it to carry numerous channels with very small audiences. Seriously, I had to google a number of them to even figure out what they were.

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The UI: Sony has been previewing a very polished UI that combines content galleries with large cover art wallpaper. That’s definitely part of the UI, but Sony is also offering a much more traditional channel guide, with a twist: Instead of listing all channels in a left column, Vue is grouping them in a header row, and then listing shows by time in columns underneath. Kind of like a cable guide turned on its side, if you will.

Other than that, I’ve been told that the interface is “very snappy,” very easy to use and “very PlayStation 4 store-esque.”

The rights: One of the big issues that came up with the launch of Sling TV were the varying rights assigned to each channel. Some networks let users rewind and watch shows from the past 72 hours, but most didn’t. That doesn’t seem to be an issue with PlayStation Vue, at least from what I’m hearing so far. The service allows users to catch up on shows for up to three days, and also “record” episodes on its cloud DVR for up to 28 days. Users can add any show to their list of “my shows” and then access past episodes quickly, making them much less dependent on the channel grid, or schedule in general for that matter.

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The price: Sony hasn’t said how much Vue will cost, and it hasn’t given current beta testers any additional information about this either. Reports in the past have indicated that the company could charge between $60 and $80 for the bundle, at which point it wouldn’t be a whole lot cheaper than traditional cable. That’s largely due to those big bundles Sony is buying from programmers in order to get crown jewels like those broadcast channels and cable networks like Comedy Central.

The big question is whether that will fly with users, many of whom are looking for an alternative to cable exactly because it is a big, expensive bundle, forcing them to pay for many channels they don’t actually watch. Asked whether he’d pay for Vue, a beta tester told me: “I would pay for this service if they let you pick channels al a carte.”

My guess is that’s not the answer Sony was hoping for.

WWE Network now has over one million streaming subscribers

It looks like the WWE’s online video venture is starting to pay off: More than one million people have now subscribed to WWE Network, the online-only subscription streaming service that provides access to the league’s 12 key events per year, plus access to reality shows and past matches, for around $10 a month. WWE originally tried to hit that milestone by the end of 2014, but is now expected to sign up even more users before the WWE’s signature WrestleMania event in March.

Cord Cutters: A first look at Sling TV

Dish is starting to invite some first users to its new Sling TV online streaming service this week. Here’s how the service looks like on a Roku 3.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=od3yR0D-c68]

Show notes for this episode:

  • Sling TV’s base package is going to cost $20, for which you’ll get access to live feeds from ESPN, ESPN2, TNT, TBS, Food Network, HGTV, Travel Channel, Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, Disney Channel, ABC Family and CNN. Additional kids and news packages will cost $5 each.
  • Check out all you need to know about Sling TV.
  • Sling TV is currently in an invite-only phase. You can apply for an invite on Sling’s website.
  • Sling TV is expected to go live for everyone within the next two weeks.

Will you subscribe to Sling TV, or is something crucial missing from the service? Let us know in the comments below!

Rakuten’s Wuaki TV wants to expand to 10 more countries

European video streaming service Wuaki TV is getting ready to expand to 10 additional countries this year. Wuaki, which was acquired by Japan’s e-commerce giant Rakuten in 2012, plans to launch in Austria and Ireland first, according to Broadband TV News, and then later expand to the Netherlands, Belgium, and Portugal as well as the Nordics.

[company]Wuaki TV[/company] is currently available in Spain, the U.K., Italy, France and Germany, which means that it could be live in a total of 15 countries by the end of 2015. The company said late last year that it was closing in on two million users, with about 400,000 registered users in the U.K. alone.

Wuaki TV is at its core a premium video-on-demand service, meaning that consumers pay to rent or buy individual titles. As such, it faces competition from Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant, whose all-you-can-eat proposition seems to be catching on quickly with consumers. Earlier this week, Netflix revealed as part of its Q4 earnings that it now has more than 18 million subscribers outside of the U.S., and that it wants to be in 200 countries within the next two years.