Consortium Unveils Blockchain Platform for Financial Services

More than 70 of the world’s biggest financial institutions publicly released Corda, a blockchain platform that may become an industry standard. R3, a New York-based financial tech company, created a consortium that is behind Corda. Blockchain, which evolved from the digital currency Bitcoin, is similarly a digital means of replacing the use of hard currency with a Web-based transaction system. Via a “shared record” of data in a secure network, Blockchain avoids the need for third-party verification. Continue reading Consortium Unveils Blockchain Platform for Financial Services

AT&T Set to Launch DirecTV Now 100-Channel OTT Service

On the heels of acquiring DirecTV for almost $50 billion, AT&T plans to roll out DirecTV Now, an Internet video service, by the end of 2016. This new over-the-top service challenges the pay-TV industry with its ability to stream a 100-channel line-up to TVs and mobile devices without a satellite dish, cable set-top box or annual contract. Sources say that AT&T is likely to charge about $50 a month for the service. Currently 25.3 million subscribers pay an average of $117 a month for AT&T’s pay-TV business. Continue reading AT&T Set to Launch DirecTV Now 100-Channel OTT Service

Disney Accelerator Supports Nine Startups for Mutual Benefit

Disney founded its own accelerator a few years ago, providing financial and logistical support to a range of startups from Hanson Robotics, which makes lifelike robots, to Jaunt and its VR cameras. Disney chooses the startups it supports wisely, selecting companies that are creating things that could potentially align with Disney’s media and business pursuits. Take virtual reality for example; Disney isn’t likely to build its own camera, but it can certainly benefit from supporting a company with the expertise to do so. Continue reading Disney Accelerator Supports Nine Startups for Mutual Benefit

Facebook Integrates Social and Utilitarian with New Features

Facebook has a strategy to become more useful in everyday life, combining and improving on the services similar to those from Yelp, Foursquare and others. The added value, says Facebook, would be its network of social connections and businesses. That idea is behind the updates the company is now unveiling, which will allow users to order food from a restaurant’s Facebook page or make an appointment at the beauty salon. Retailers must use third-party services such as Delivery.com, Slice, HomeAdvisory or MyTime for it to work. Continue reading Facebook Integrates Social and Utilitarian with New Features

Vimeo Refreshes Creator Pages and Launches New TV Store

In partnership with Lionsgate and Starz, Vimeo has opened a TV storefront in the model of iTunes, meaning viewers can purchase shows rather than stream them. Available series include “Orange Is the New Black,” “Casual,” “The Royals,” “Mad Men,” and “Weeds” as well as the entire Lionsgate catalog, which adds “Nurse Jackie,” “Boss,” “Blue Mountain State,” and “Manhattan.” Vimeo has been focused on improving its video-on-demand business, including buying VHX, a video distribution platform, and making its own original content. Continue reading Vimeo Refreshes Creator Pages and Launches New TV Store

Snapchat Swaps Shared Ad Dollars with New Licensing Deals

Snapchat just changed how it compensates the companies that supply content for its Discover section. Rather than share ad revenue, Snapchat plans to pay content partners a flat licensing fee — similar to what traditional TV networks do. When Discover launched in 2015, Snapchat shared ad revenue, with the terms varying depending on the specifics of the partnership and sales team. The new plan is a win-win: Snapchat will fully control its ad inventory and publishers will have a guaranteed and reliable compensation for content. Continue reading Snapchat Swaps Shared Ad Dollars with New Licensing Deals

Facebook Adds Its Ethernet Switch to Open Compute Project

Facebook is sharing more technology, announcing that the Open Compute Project (OCP) — formed by the Silicon Valley company — has accepted its contribution of the Wedge 100 top-of-rack Ethernet switch that transmits data at 100 gigabits per second (Gbps). The company has already utilized many such switches in production inside its data centers, and the announcement signals that Facebook is committed to sharing the infrastructure that lets it handle large-scale data-heavy applications at an economic price point. Continue reading Facebook Adds Its Ethernet Switch to Open Compute Project

Sony Doubles Down on VR with ‘Billy Lynn’ and PlayStation VR

At his MIPCOM TV keynote, Sony president/chief executive Kazuo Hirai talked about the importance of virtual reality to the company, singling out its PlayStation VR headset; director Ang Lee’s “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” which was shot in 3D 4K at 120 frames per second; and VR experiences tied to its movies, including “Ghostbusters,” “The Walk” and “Goosebumps.” Kando, the Japanese concept of stimulating emotional response in people, says Hirai, is at the center of what Sony wants to create in all its work. Continue reading Sony Doubles Down on VR with ‘Billy Lynn’ and PlayStation VR

IBM Looks to Commercialize Artificial Intelligence with Watson

IBM is launching commercialization of its artificial intelligence technology Watson with the hope of growing it into a multibillion-dollar enterprise. Big Blue has already invested billions of dollars and, currently, a staff of 10,000 employees to evolve Watson, which was launched as a business unit in 2014. The effort is beginning to pay off, as Watson is now assisting in diagnosing cancer. IBM is also marketing its AI in TV ads featuring Watson bantering with Nobel laureate Bob Dylan and tennis celebrity Serena Williams. Continue reading IBM Looks to Commercialize Artificial Intelligence with Watson

Amazon’s New ‘Breakaway’ Integrates Twitch and AWS Cloud

Amazon Game Studios recently unveiled its first big-budget video game, the multiplayer online battle game “Breakaway,” described as street basketball played in a mythological world where athletes are armed. With the game, Amazon integrates live streaming app Twitch, which it bought for nearly $1 billion, and also incorporates Lumberyard, its cross-platform, 3D game engine. Lumberyard, free to game developers, connects to its Amazon Web Services cloud storage. The game is available for free, indefinitely, as Amazon works out the bugs. Continue reading Amazon’s New ‘Breakaway’ Integrates Twitch and AWS Cloud

Netflix, Amazon Spending More on Original Series Production

According to World TV Production Report 2016, over-the-top services including Amazon and Netflix now rank with traditional media sources as TV titans. The report notes that, combined, Netflix and Amazon spent $7.3 billion in 2015 on programming, as much as the country of Germany. The only media outlets to best Amazon and Netflix in terms of production investments are Disney (at $11.84 billion) and NBC (at $10.27 billion). The new status reflects a boost in online series production, from 13 in 2013 to 20 in 2014 and then 41 in 2015. Continue reading Netflix, Amazon Spending More on Original Series Production

Salesforce Passes on Twitter, SoftBank Could Be Next in Line

Salesforce has been rumored for some time to be contemplating the purchase of Twitter. But now, Salesforce — like Google and Disney before it — has decided not to buy the digital platform, leading to a 5 percent drop in the value of the company’s stock. With Salesforce no longer interested, some have reported Twitter’s “suitor pool has apparently winnowed to zero.” Now, some believe that Japan’s SoftBank — which has previously expressed interest — could be next in line to make an offer to the social media platform. Continue reading Salesforce Passes on Twitter, SoftBank Could Be Next in Line

Uber and MasterCard Moving to Selfies for Identity Verification

Uber Technologies, MasterCard and the Alabama Department of Revenue are among the handful of companies and government agencies beginning to use selfies, rather than passwords, as proof of identity. Smartphone cameras take better quality photos than before and facial recognition software is more accessible and affordable, which makes this a new option. But some experts in cybercrime aren’t as sanguine, worried that this way of proving identity is riddled with both security and privacy issues. Continue reading Uber and MasterCard Moving to Selfies for Identity Verification

Amazon, VMware Ink Landmark Deal to Take VMs to the Cloud

After years of starkly different strategies in computing, Amazon and VMware have inked an agreement marking a new stage in the development of cloud computing. The partnership, which takes effect in 2017, will allow VMware customers to use their familiar toolset to manage virtual machines in Amazon’s cloud. VMware virtual machines can already run on Amazon’s cloud, but the service, which VMware will sell, is a new version of Amazon’s cloud and also integrates nicely with Amazon cloud services for databases and storage. Continue reading Amazon, VMware Ink Landmark Deal to Take VMs to the Cloud

Discovery Invests $100 Million in Digital Content Conglomerate

To expand its social media presence, Discovery Communications invested $100 million in Group Nine Media, a new holding company composed of NowThis, The DoDo, Thrillist, Discovery’s digital network Seeker and digital production company SourceFed Studios. In two years, Discovery will be able to buy a controlling stake in Group Nine. German media company Axel Springer will continue to be the second-largest shareholder. NowThis, The DoDo and Thrillist are said to be valued at $400 million, for a total deal value of $550 million. Continue reading Discovery Invests $100 Million in Digital Content Conglomerate