Americans Now Spend $2 Billion Monthly on Streaming Video

According to Deloitte’s 2018 Digital Media Trends Survey, U.S. consumers are now spending about $2 billion per month to watch their favorite TV shows and movies via streaming video services such as Netflix, Amazon and Hulu. The survey notes that 55 percent of U.S. households subscribe to at least one such service — a significant increase from 2009, when it was just 10 percent — and the average customer pays for three. Conversely, the survey found that pay-TV subscriptions like cable and satellite are down to 63 percent from 74 percent in 2016.

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Google Pledges $300 Million in Effort to Clean Up Fake News

Google has set its sights on combating fake news on the Internet, pledging to spend $300 million over the next three years in support of what The New York Times calls “authoritative journalism.” The Google News Initiative’s goals include making it easier for Googlers to subscribe to news and providing publishers with tools for fast-loading mobile pages. In partnership with Harvard Kennedy School’s First Draft initiative, Google will also create a “Disinfo Lab” to identify fake news, particularly during moments when it’s breaking.

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IBM’s New Watson Assistant Helps Develop Virtual Assistants

With the launch of Watson Assistant, IBM is offering a new service that helps companies build their own voice-activated virtual assistants (like Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri). The new service aims to help companies that want to build these for their own products, using their own datasets. IBM’s pitch includes a belief that companies should want Watson Assistant rather than a competitor because it allows for heightened personalization and privacy. According to IBM, Watson Assistant keeps the data to itself, differentiating it from other virtual assistants.

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Facebook Plans to Be Next Home to Online Content Creators

Facebook wants to be the next home for online content creators, aiming to displace YouTube, Patreon and others with additions to its Creator app, which launched in November on iOS and will be available on Android soon. The social media giant is currently testing ways Creator users can make more money and connect with their fans. One such way would allow monthly subscribers to gain access to exclusive content from their favorite creators and allow them to earn fan badges similar to those used on Patreon.

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Amazon Debuts Cross-Platform Competitive Gaming Platform

Amazon has launched an AWS-powered competitive gaming platform called Amazon GameOn, which allows third-party developers to add eSports-like competitive elements such as tournaments and leaderboards to mobile, PC and console games. Gamers can also win Amazon prizes (perhaps an Echo Dot, for example) in real-time, which effectively adds another layer of competitive gaming between professional eSports players and amateur gamers. According to market research from Newzoo, eSports could grow into a $1.5 billion business by the year 2020.

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NBCUniversal, Intel, Microsoft, Unity Launch Gaming Contest

NBCUniversal is inviting developers to create games leveraging its popular television and film properties such as “Battlestar Galactica,” “Back to the Future” and “Jaws.” Through the Universal GameDev Challenge — co-sponsored by Universal, Unity Technologies, Intel, and Microsoft — Unity game engine developers can submit pitches to be selected to build out their full vision in PC game form. Winner and runner-up win a consulting contract with Universal, Microsoft and Unity, along with a combined $250,000.

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Revealed: For First Time, Apple Developing Its Own Screens

With the promise of making devices brighter, thinner and less demanding of battery power, MicroLED displays use different compounds than today’s widely used OLED displays. According to sources familiar with the situation, Apple is currently developing its own MicroLED displays, in secret, at a manufacturing facility near its headquarters in California. The company is producing only small numbers of the displays for testing, and it marks the first time Apple has developed its own screens.

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Wall Street Responds to Backlash Over Snapchat’s Redesign

It remains to be seen if recent outcry over the new version of Snapchat will negatively affect Snap Inc.’s numbers in the long term. The company is in the middle of contending with backlash from its users, of whom 1.2 million signed a petition to revert the social media app to its former version. Snap Inc. launched the new version last month with the intention of expanding its business beyond the teen and young adult audience — its current core audience. While many are concerned, specific negative effects are not yet evident.

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FAA: Number of Commercial Drones Will Quadruple by 2022

In positive news for the drone industry, recently updated Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) numbers project significant growth in commercial drone use by 2022, at which point the current numbers are expected to quadruple. By that year, 450,000 unmanned drones will operate within domestic airspace. Today, there are roughly 110,000 in use. These increases are projected even if federal restrictions are loosened more slowly than expected or desired by advocates and others.

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Internal Numbers Reveal the Success of Amazon Prime Video

For the first time, numbers are available to demonstrate how Amazon’s original video strategy is paying off. Thanks to internal documents read by Reuters, the general public can see evidence that Amazon’s top shows enticed over 5 million people to sign up for its Prime shopping membership by 2017. Using video to create shoppers is a key to Amazon’s strategy, and chief executive Jeff Bezos has been open about that approach. In total, Amazon’s U.S. audience for video (original and licensed) is about 26 million. Continue reading Internal Numbers Reveal the Success of Amazon Prime Video

Streaming Helps Indie Record Labels Rock Overseas Markets

Thanks to streaming services like Spotify, which works with more than 20,000 independent labels in 53 countries, independent record labels are experiencing an international revenue surge that would have been unimaginable years ago. Whereas foreign music markets used to be assessable only via local companies or major labels with global marketing capacities and strategies, worldwide digital streaming services have changed the music business landscape in a short period of time, changing the way independent labels make money.

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Machine Learning Used in Detection of Harmful Android Apps

The Google Play Protect detection service, which scans Android apps for malicious activity, is enabled on more than 2 billion devices and detected 60.3 percent of Potentially Harmful Apps (PHAs) in 2017 using machine learning, according to Google’s Android Security 2017 Year in Review report. Google removed over 700,000 apps for violating its policies last year. While Play Protect uses a variety of tactics, machine learning is highly effective for catching PHAs, detecting things like inappropriate content, impersonation, and malware.

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New Camera-First Twitter Feature Could Threaten Snap’s Ads

After its first profitable quarter on record, Twitter is focusing on new business and advertising opportunities. For example, sources say the social media company is currently working on a camera-first feature that could compete with Snap and potentially threaten its advertising opportunities. The new feature would combine videos and photos with the Twitter Moments feature, creating more real-time content around events and enabling companies to sponsor events or place ads between tweeted content.

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Google, Ubisoft Partner on Open-Source Game Server Project

Multiplayer game servers are notoriously difficult to build and maintain, but as the popularity of multiplayer games increases, Google Cloud aims to tackle the issue with the advent of Agones (Greek for “contest” or “gathering”), its new open source project developed through a partnership with French gaming company Ubisoft. Dedicated servers are important for multiplayer games to reduce delays, stop cheating in its tracks, and provide a better overall experience for those connecting to play. Google is currently seeking more partners for Agones.

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Google Maps Helps Develop Real-World Gaming Experiences

Google is enabling game developers to create “Pokémon Go”-like experiences in which game elements are embedded into real-world maps using the new Google Maps API and the Unity game engine. Over 200 games are already in development. Next Games is developing a game based on the popular TV series “The Walking Dead,” and NBCUniversal and Ludia will release a “Jurassic World Alive” location-based game for mobile. Because Google Maps updates in real time, developers can create gaming experiences with a sharp eye on reality.

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