Hulu Introduces Ad-Free Option to Streaming for Additional $4

For an additional $4 ($11.99 per month), Hulu is offering an ad-free option to streaming movies and TV shows. Those who prefer to pay $7.99 will still have to sit through ads. The move could help Hulu better compete with popular streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon that do not include advertising. It could also present the company with an opportunity to increase its revenue in order to invest in more content. This could prove vital since premium cable networks such as HBO and Showtime are making their programming available outside traditional cable bundles. Continue reading Hulu Introduces Ad-Free Option to Streaming for Additional $4

Panasonic Joins LG in OLED Market with Curved 4K Offering

During the IFA trade show in Berlin yesterday, Panasonic unveiled its 65CZ950, a curved 4K OLED TV featuring the company’s Studio Master Drive processor. Panasonic claims the 65-inch OLED, slated for an October release in Europe, is the most color-accurate display it has ever produced. It is also the first to achieve THX certification. Panasonic says the CZ950 series brings home entertainment closer to a cinema experience since it is fully HDR compatible and covers more than 90 percent of the DCI color space. Continue reading Panasonic Joins LG in OLED Market with Curved 4K Offering

Apple to Launch News App with iOS 9, Adds More Publishers

Apple plans to include its Flipboard-like newsreader app, simply named News, in the upcoming iOS 9 this fall. First announced at WWDC in June with 18 publishers on board, News now touts more than 50 publishers. Conde Nast, Hearst and Vox Media are among the initial launch partners hoping that iPhone and iPad users will consume more of their content. While some publishers have expressed concerns about ad-blocking capabilities made possible by iOS 9, launch partners are pleased with Apple’s advertising terms. Continue reading Apple to Launch News App with iOS 9, Adds More Publishers

Verizon to Launch Early Version of Go90 Video Service Soon

Verizon plans to make its Go90 mobile video service — currently in the testing stage — more widely available in the coming days. The Internet-based service will initially offer free shows targeting younger viewers, with content from select media partners including AOL, Awesomeness TV, Vice Media and Viacom. It will also include features to easily share content via social media. “The service, which will show ads, is a pared-down version of what the carrier envisioned earlier this year,” explains Bloomberg. Verizon had originally considered a subscription-based service with live programming and on-demand content from the four major networks. The service will add new content as it progresses, says Verizon.

Amazon Prime Members Can Download Videos, Watch Offline

To better compete with Netflix, Amazon announced it is now offering its Prime members the option to download TV shows and movies to iOS and Android devices for viewing offline. “Previously on those two platforms, the download feature was available only for titles Amazon customers owned outright; the subscription title offline viewing benefit was limited to Kindle Fire tablets,” reports Wired. The obvious advantage to offline viewing is that you are not reliant upon a strong Internet connection. The downside involves the size of most video files, especially if you want to store an entire series. Amazon is also changing the service’s name from Prime Instant Video to Amazon Instant Video.

New 4DX Cinema to Open in the Chicago Area This November

According to The Hollywood Reporter, CJ 4DPLEX has signed with Marcus Theatres to open a 4D cinema this November at the Gurnee Mills Cinema in the Chicago metropolitan area. 4D technology includes theatrical effects such as motion, wind, fog and rain. “Since debuting in 2010, 4DX now operates in 187 theaters in 34 countries including Brazil, China, Korea, Russia, UAE and the UK,” notes THR. “After having its U.S. debut in Los Angeles last year, and announcing plans to be available in two New York theaters later this year, this deal will put 4DX into the top three U.S. markets.” Marcus is currently the fifth-largest theater chain in the U.S.

Samsung to Unveil Gear S2 Smartwatches Tomorrow in Berlin

Samsung plans to introduce a new smartwatch this week to compete with the popular Apple Watch and others entering the emerging market. The South Korean company is expected to unveil its new round-faced Gear S2 at the IFA trade show in Berlin tomorrow. According to The Wall Street Journal, the watch will “come in two styles: a sporty flagship version and a more understated version dubbed the Gear S2 Classic,” both featuring “3G connectivity, which means they can also work as a standalone phone — something most current smartwatches can’t do.” Samsung also says its models will tout battery life of 2-3 days, more than most other current smartwatches.

Apple Considers Move into Producing Original Video Content

Sources indicate that Apple has recently been meeting with Hollywood executives to discuss the possibility of the tech giant taking a more active role in the entertainment business by producing original programming. The group exploring the possibility reports to Eddy Cue, who handles content-related issues for Apple. According to one high-level exec who met with Apple, the goal is to launch development and production units by next year that would produce streaming content to take on Netflix and similar services. Continue reading Apple Considers Move into Producing Original Video Content

Apple-Cisco Partnership to Bring iOS to Business Customers

Apple is teaming with Cisco Systems in a strategic partnership to sell more iPhones and iPads to business customers. “Under terms of the agreement, negotiated directly between Apple CEO Tim Cook and Cisco Chairman John Chambers, Cisco said it will optimize how its networking gear runs with iOS devices, and the two companies will collaborate on products and services,” according to Re/code. The deal could help steer Apple devices toward becoming “the preferred mobile platform with enterprise customers” (iPads could use the boost in sales). Apple struck a similar deal last summer with IBM to develop mobile software and devices.

Rabbit TV Offers Cord Cutters Streaming Option on Facebook

FreeCast’s streaming video service Rabbit TV, which aggregates a wide range of video from around the Web, is introducing a new way to browse and access content. The service is leveraging the growing popularity of Facebook video by offering its free Rabbit TV Lite app on the social network. The app provides access to more than 400 live and on-demand channels via an interactive programming grid. Beyond the free app, Rabbit TV Plus subscribers get access “to tens of thousands more TV episodes and movies, as well as radio stations, online games and other content, including additional rental, pay and subscription services,” notes USA Today.

U.S. Forms Sanction Plan in Response to Chinese Cybertheft

Working with multiple federal agencies, the White House is reportedly readying sanctions against Chinese state-owned companies that have benefited from U.S. corporate secrets obtained by cybertheft. “If sanctions are ultimately imposed, it could affect the ability of those firms to access U.S. financial markets and trade with American companies, and could even hamper the ability of their executives to travel to the United States,” reports The Wall Street Journal. While posing a diplomatic challenge (Beijing has denied any involvement), sanctions would likely be a significant step toward quelling criticism that the government has failed to adequately respond to cyberattacks against American companies.

Streamed 4K Video from Netflix Being Leaked to Torrent Sites

Pirates have reportedly found a workaround for 4K copy protection on Netflix, as an Ultra HD copy of the first episode of “Breaking Bad” is making the rounds on torrent sites. While 4K content for television and PCs may still be in its early stages, some analysts anticipate increased leaks in the future. Netflix and Amazon are among the first streaming services to offer 4K content, although most consumers do not own 4K TVs yet. Streaming has strong protection, and until the recent leak, High-Bandwidth Digital Copy Protection (HDCP) was generally believed to be unbreakable. Continue reading Streamed 4K Video from Netflix Being Leaked to Torrent Sites

YouTube to Roll Out Anticipated Subscription Services in 2015

Google is getting serious about generating revenue from online videos, and could significantly change the YouTube experience in the process. According to multiple sources, and as previously suggested by tech analysts, YouTube is readying two separate subscription services to launch before the end of the year. The services will include “Music Key, which has been in beta since last November, and another unnamed service targeting YouTube’s premium content creators, which will come with a paywall,” reports The Verge. “Taken together, YouTube will be a mix of free, ad-supported content and premium videos that sit behind a paywall.”

PBS and BBC Go Digital with “Nature’s Ultimate Reality Show”

PBS debuts “Big Blue Live” tonight, the first live nature program featuring the migratory patterns of marine life that take place at the Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary in California. The co-production with the BBC plans to integrate expanded digital and social content, including a live stream with multiple camera feeds, social media contests, and behind-the-scenes Periscope footage. “Over three straight nights,” explains San Jose Mercury News, “producers hope to deliver extraordinary, real-time images of whales, dolphins, great white sharks, elephant seals and other sea creatures to millions of viewers across the nation.”

YouTube Rolls Out Dedicated Gaming Hub to Take on Twitch

YouTube launched its centralized hub for gaming this week, a new competitor to Amazon’s Twitch that features live and recorded video content about popular games. YouTube Gaming is available for game fans on mobile (Android, iOS) and the Web and offers more than 25,000 dedicated pages. The service automatically populates all gaming content from YouTube’s community, and Google is appealing to video creators by promising to make it simpler to livestream their games. Gaming-related video content has exploded in popularity, and is now second only to music. Continue reading YouTube Rolls Out Dedicated Gaming Hub to Take on Twitch

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