‘Stranger Things’ Game Update and Snapchat AR Experience Mark Season 2 Debut on Netflix

Stranger Things: The Game received a feature update on Friday, coinciding with the hit TV series' season two debut on Netflix. Version 1.0.252 of the free retro-style sci-fi adventure game brings a new playable character to the Arcade and a brand new Hawkins High School dungeon.


Elsewhere, there are new quests to be gained from the Florist and the Hawk Theater Attendant, while players have another opportunity to get a 100 percent score thanks to a slew of new collectibles. In the words of the game's official blurb:
Things are stranger than ever in the town of Hawkins. Mike and the gang have new neighbors. Visit the Arcade to meet the new kid. Explore the Upside Down Gates that have opened around town. Solve the all-new throwback adventure in Hawkins High School.
Continuing the Stranger Things 2 theme, Snapchat today launched a new World Lens portal that takes users into an Upside Down version of Joyce Bryers' living room through an augmented reality doorway.

The room features several nods to the first season of Stranger Things, including fairy lights, alphabet graffiti, and a gaping hole in the living room wall. Interactive easter eggs and surprises scattered around the AR environment can also be discovered by tapping on objects.


To open the Upside Down lens in Snapchat, activate rear camera mode, tap the screen, and select the first sponsored effect in the list at the bottom of the interface. The lens can also be unlocked using Shazam in the Snapchat app when the Stranger Things them tune plays.

Two additional Stranger Things lenses are set to debut later in the day. To get the full augmented reality effect of the World Lenses, Snapchat users need to be using an iPhone 6s or later with iOS 11 installed.


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Netflix Prices Set to Increase for U.K. Subscribers From November

Following yesterday's announcement of price hikes in the U.S., Netflix has now confirmed that some U.K. subscribers can also expect to pay more for the video streaming service going forward.


Those on the Basic tier, costing £6 a month, won't see a price increase. However, that's where the good news ends, because anyone on the Standard tier, which includes shows in HD and the ability to watch on two screens simultaneously, will see their monthly bill rise from £7.50 per month to £8.

Meanwhile, users who pay for 4K HDR privileges and the ability to watch on four screens at once are set to pay £10, up from £9. The cost increases will come into effect beginning November. Netflix said it will inform existing subscribers of the price hikes on October 19.

Netflix is set to debut the second series of its hit original series Stranger Things on October 27. This week, the company also released an official Stranger Things mobile game, which iPhone and iPad users can download from the App Store for free.

(Via What Hi-Fi.)


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Netflix Increasing Standard $9.99/Month Plan to $10.99/Month for U.S. Users This November

Over a year after grandfathered subscribers on Netflix's original $7.99/month plan were introduced to the new $9.99/month pricing, Mashable reports that the standard streaming plan will be increasing by $1 starting for U.S. subscribers in November. This means that those who now pay $9.99/month to stream on two screens at once (the standard tier) will be paying $10.99/month soon.


The top tier option, which provides streaming on four screens at once and allows access to Ultra HD videos, is also increasing from $11.99/month to $13.99/month. The service's basic plan is staying at $7.99/month, letting users stream only in standard definition on one screen at a time.

The exact time that the new prices will show up will vary depending on each subscriber's billing cycle, but starting on October 19 Netflix will send out emails with "at least" 30 days of notice ahead of the bump in price. Regarding the changes, Netflix provided the following statement:
"From time to time, Netflix plans and pricing are adjusted as we add more exclusive TV shows and movies, introduce new product features and improve the overall Netflix experience to help members find something great to watch even faster."
For the last price change, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings wrote a letter to company investors about an "unexpected" loss of subscribers following the price hike from $7.99 to $9.99. At the time, Hastings said that, "Whatever the price is for something, people don’t like for it to go up," while still claiming that the new price tiers were "working great" for new members who were not grandfathered into the $7.99/month model.

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Netflix’s ‘Stranger Things: The Game’ Just Debuted on the App Store for Free

The second season of Stranger Things doesn't hit TV screens for another few weeks yet, but fans of the Netflix original can stoke their excitement in the meantime by downloading the official new iOS game, released today on the App Store.


Like the popular TV series, Stranger Things: The Game not only evokes authentic 80s nostalgia in its thematics, but also with its use of retro sounds, graphics, and gameplay, all mixed into a classic top-down shooter style.

The action adventure includes seven playable characters each with unique abilities to help players solve puzzles, while locations from the hit show that appear in the game include Mirkwood Forest, Hawkins Lab, and Jim Hopper's home.


There are Eggos and Gnomes to find, two unforgiving difficulty modes, a never-before-seen TV trailer to unlock, and a content update for the game that's expected to drop on October 27, to coincide with the Stranger Things season two debut on Netflix. 

According to TouchArcade, the game offers over 10 hours of gameplay, with six dungeons to explore and over 30 quests, and there are no in-app purchases to speak of, so this is no quick money grab.


Stranger Things: The Game is a free download for iPhone and iPad available now on the App Store.

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T-Mobile ONE Family Plans Will Include Free Netflix Subscriptions Starting September 12

T-Mobile today announced that its T-Mobile ONE family plans will come with free Netflix subscriptions beginning September 12, allowing plan members to stream Netflix content at no additional monthly charge. To qualify, users will need two or more paid voice lines on a T-Mobile ONE family plan, and if customers already pay for a Netflix subscription, the un-carrier will cover the cost of the standard price: "meaning you’ll save nearly $120 every year."


This means that users who take advantage of the offer will get Netflix's $9.99/month, 2-screen subscription plan at no additional cost.

The company is calling the new addition "Netflix On Us," and described it as a way for T-Mobile to tackle "one of the biggest customer pain points" in mobile networking contracts, which is bigger bundles at increased prices. T-Mobile said that while other carrier bundles are about including some features users want and some they don't, with the end goal of increased monthly prices, Netflix On Us adds a service that most T-Mobile customers already use at no extra cost.
“The future of mobile entertainment is not about bolting a satellite dish to the side of your house or resuscitating faded 90s dotcoms. The future is mobile, over-the-top and unlimited,” said John Legere, president and CEO of T-Mobile. “While the carriers spend billions on their franken-strategies to cobble together carrier–cable–content mashups, the Un-carrier just leapfrogged them all by partnering with the best and giving it to customers at no extra charge. Because that’s what we always do. Give more to you without asking more from you.”

“This is the right move at the right time — for all the right reasons,” said Reed Hastings, co-founder and CEO of Netflix. “More and more fans are bingeing on mobile, so we’re bringing together Netflix’s award-winning TV shows and movies with T-Mobile’s award-winning, unlimited network.”
T-Mobile ONE customers with unlimited everything can also now add Netflix On Us, as well as customers with free lines from T-Mobile's recent "line-on-us" deals. To celebrate the new partnership, T-Mobile is launching a Twitter "meme-a-thon" tomorrow, September 7, where users will be able to enter to win smartphones, Netflix and T-Mobile swag, and BingeBoxes filled with "bingeing essentials" by responding to the company's Twitter account with Netflix show quotes, GIFs, and memes.


For more information about Netflix On Us, visit T-Mobile's website right here.


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Netflix to Spend $7 Billion on Original Programming Next Year

Hot on the heels of news that Apple has set aside $1 billion for original TV programming over the next year, Netflix revealed on Wednesday that it will spend seven times that amount in 2018.

In a new interview with Variety, Netflix's chief content officer Ted Sarandos quoted the number of $7 billion, which is up from more than $6 billion in 2017 and $5 billion in 2016. The vast majority of Netflix's budget is spent on licensed content, but the company is working towards balancing that out with more in-house content over the next couple of years, Sarandos said.

Some analysts and industry insiders are skeptical of the company's spending habits, arguing its stock is overinflated (it's soared to more than $170 a share, up from around $50 in early 2014, adjusted for a 2015 stock split). "We're not spending money we don't have," Sarandos counters. "We're spending revenue." The company reports its debt load is $4.8 billion, with an additional $15.7 billion in long-term content commitments with studios. "We have one of the low debt levels in the industry," insists Sarandos.
Using its budget, Netflix has produced some successful regional TV series such as the German show "Dark". The company hopes to increase that number to up to 100 series in the next couple of years. Netflix is also continuing to push into reality TV programming, with 50 unscripted shows coming to the streaming service next year. Feature films are already on the company's radar, with movies such as War Machine and Sandy Wexler having already debuted, and Bright starring Will Smith set for release in December.

For its part, Apple is said to be planning to procure and produce up to 10 original TV shows over the next year as it seeks to make up ground on services such as Netflix and Amazon. The $1 billion budget figure is about half of what Time Warner's HBO spent on content last year and around the same amount as Amazon spent in 2013, after it announced its own move into original programming. Apple has already kicked off its original programming schedule with "Planet of the Apps" and "Carpool Karaoke", although both shows have come in for criticism from reviewers.

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Disney to Pull Movies From Netflix, Launch New Streaming Services

Disney plans to pull all of its movies from Netflix as it prepares to launch its own streaming services, the company said in its latest earnings report (via CNBC.)

Starting in early 2018, Disney will launch an ESPN video streaming service that will feature approximately 10,000 MLB, NHL, MLS, collegiate, and tennis sporting events every year.

Then, in 2019, Disney will launch a Disney-branded direct-to-consumer streaming service that offers Disney content.


It's not clear when Disney plans to remove its content from Netflix, but in 2012, the two companies inked a deal that saw Netflix getting exclusive access to Disney, Marvel, Lucasfilm, and Pixar films. Currently, there are dozens of Disney movies available on Netflix, like The Chronicles of Narnia, Moana, Zootopia, Finding Dory, The Jungle Book, Pirates of the Caribbean, and more.

The deal, though initiated in 2012, didn't fully go into effect until 2016, so Netflix has only had access to a wide range of Disney content for under a year.

With its huge range of content, Disney stands to become a major competitor to existing streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, and for Apple, this essentially means that if the company ever does manage to launch a streaming service, it may not be able to include any Disney content.

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China to Get Netflix Originals in Content Deal With Local Streaming Service

Netflix has signed a licensing deal with a Beijing-based video platform in order to avoid regulatory restrictions and get its content into China's huge entertainment market (via The Hollywood Reporter).

The streaming giant announced the news of its content agreement with iQiyi on Tuesday at the APOS industry conference in Bali, Indonesia.

"China is an important market for obvious reasons; it's also a challenging market for obvious reasons," said Robert Roy, Netflix's vice president of content acquisition. "Right now what we will do is look to license content into China. We closed a deal with iQiyi, which is exciting." 

"For us, it does a couple of things," Roy added. "It gets our content distribution into the territory and builds awareness of the Netflix brand and Netflix content."
A subsidiary of Chinese giant Baidu, iQiyi is currently switching from an advertising-supported streaming service to a subscription model in the same vein as Netflix. The subsidiary reportedly commands the largest customer base and content portfolio in China, however it has been looking to broaden its appeal as rivals like Tencent Video and Youku Tudou compete for viewers in the country's market.

It is understood that Netflix will make some of its upcoming original content available on iQiyi at the same time as it appears in other Netflix-serving countries, but further details on which shows would be included in the deal were not forthcoming.

Both Amazon and Netflix have been unable to enter China's market because of regulatory hurdles, although Netflix's House of Cards briefly achieved viral status in China thanks to a deal with local service Sohu. The show was apparently even known to Chinese president Xi Jinping, but it was later withdrawn from local streaming services by regulators.

Last year, Apple faced its own issues with Chinese state regulators regarding a controversial independent movie which led to the shut down of iTunes and iBooks in the country.

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Netflix Apps Will Today Begin Ditching Star-Based Rating System for Thumbs

Netflix has announced that users will today begin noticing its new thumbs-up and thumbs-down rating system as it appears across various apps and on desktop computers, following a reveal earlier in March that the streaming company was planning to ditch its 5-star rating system.

In the previous system, users had to choose between 1 and 5 stars to determine how much they liked a show, and using that data Netflix displayed the same information back at them for titles they have yet to watch. So for a new TV show, Netflix might suggest it as a 4-star title, meaning it's something the user should enjoy. This system confused many users over the years, who believed that the stars were a community aggregate of a show's overall quality, not a personal recommendation system tailored for each user.


That'll begin changing today with thumbs, which will ask each user to decide simply whether they want to give a TV show or movie they've watched a thumbs-up or thumbs-down, which Netflix compares to dating apps like Tinder in a new promotional video also debuting today.
We are retiring our five-star rating system and replacing it with a simpler and more intuitive thumbs-up and thumbs-down. A thumbs-up tells Netflix that you like something and want to see similar suggestions. A thumbs-down lets us know you aren’t interested in watching that title and we should stop suggesting it to you. You can still search for it, but we’ve heard what you were trying to tell us -- you aren’t a fan -- and it will no longer show up on your homepage.

In either case, using thumbs helps us learn even more about your unique tastes so we can do a better job suggesting stories we think you’ll love.
With this data, users will also begin seeing far simpler percentage numbers accompanying unseen titles they might be interested in. Called a "% Match score," Netflix said that this is a prediction of what its algorithm thinks each user might enjoy watching based on what they've previously given a thumbs-up or thumbs-down. So a show they might be particularly interested in would have a "95% Match," for example.


Netflix wasn't clear on when the new rating system would begin appearing across its devices, like iOS and tvOS, but it's likely to debut on Netflix.com ahead of the company's suite of companion apps.

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Netflix to Replace Star Ratings With Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down

Netflix announced yesterday that it will replace star-based user reviews in its content library with binary thumbs up and thumbs down ratings over the coming weeks.

Previous star ratings given by users will be used to personalize their Netflix profiles, but the ability to rate a TV series or movie by awarding stars is set to disappear altogether, according to Variety.

Image via Variety
Netflix VP of Product Todd Yellin told journalists on Thursday during a press briefing at the company’s headquarters in Los Gatos, Calif., that the company had tested the new thumbs up and down ratings with hundred of thousands of members in 2016. "We are addicted to the methodology of A/B testing," Yellin said. The result was that thumbs got 200% more ratings than the traditional star-rating feature.
According to Netflix, at one point subscribers had awarded over 10 billion 5-star ratings and more than half of all members had rated more than 50 titles. However, the company eventually concluded that star ratings had become less relevant, with some users giving documentaries 5 stars and silly movies just 3 stars, even though they would watch the silly movies more often than the highly rated documentaries.

"We made ratings less important because the implicit signal of your behavior is more important," Yellin told journalists.

In addition to the binary rating scheme, Netflix is also bringing a new percent-match feature to its interface that shows how good a match any given show or movie is for an individual subscriber. If a movie or TV show fits very closely with a user's taste, it may get a high percentage match, although shows with less than a 50 percent match won't show a match rating.

Netflix said the changes will roll out globally within the next month or so.

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