Messaging Service WhatsApp Temporarily Shut Down in Brazil

As the result of a court order, Facebook-owned WhatsApp was shut down in Brazil yesterday. In an effort to obtain user data for a criminal investigation involving drug trafficking, Judge Marcel Maia Montalvão ordered telecoms to suspend the popular messaging service for 72 hours throughout Brazil. In March, Judge Montalvão ordered the arrest of Facebook exec Diego Dzodan, who was briefly taken into custody for refusing to turn over WhatsApp data (a higher court ordered the release of Dzodan after one night). WhatsApp says it has cooperated to the “full extent of [its] ability with local courts.” Continue reading Messaging Service WhatsApp Temporarily Shut Down in Brazil

Battery Material Could Hold Charge for Years, Even Decades

Researchers from the University of California at Irvine have found a new battery material that could possibly hold a charge for decades. While studying fragile nanowires, a PhD candidate on the research team decided on a whim “to switch the liquid electrolyte surrounding the nanowire assembly with a gel version,” reports Smithsonian. To the team’s surprise, the gel capacitor initially ran for 30,000 cycles and kept going for a month. Although still experimenting, the team believes the thick gel reduces the nanowire’s fragility, a solution that could prove revolutionary for commercial batteries. Continue reading Battery Material Could Hold Charge for Years, Even Decades

Popular Payment Service Venmo Under Federal Investigation

According to an SEC filing, PayPal-owned peer-to-peer payment service Venmo is under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission to determine whether the company “engaged in deceptive or unfair practices in violation of the Federal Trade Commission Act.” PayPal received a Civil Investigative Demand (CID) from the FTC on March 28. “The CID could lead to an enforcement action and/or one or more consent orders,” explains PayPal, “which may result in substantial costs, including legal fees, fines, penalties, and remediation expenses and actions, and could require us to change aspects of the manner in which we operate Venmo.” Continue reading Popular Payment Service Venmo Under Federal Investigation

Millennials Prefer Netflix Programs Over Broadcast TV Series

Symphony Advanced Media reports that Netflix is becoming more popular than broadcast networks among millennials. According to the firm’s latest multiplatform data, the top four series between September 21 and January 31 for viewers 18-24 were all from Netflix: “Making a Murderer,” “Master of None,” “F Is for Family” and “Marvel’s Jessica Jones” (followed by Fox animated comedies “Bob’s Burgers” and “Family Guy”). The research “is a telling indicator of just how popular programming from the streaming world can be relative to that on the broadcast networks,” suggests Variety, “a comparison not easy to make in an era of limited visibility for audience measurement of OTT content.” Continue reading Millennials Prefer Netflix Programs Over Broadcast TV Series

Comcast to Purchase DreamWorks Animation for $3.8 Billion

The rumors are true. Comcast announced yesterday that it would acquire DreamWorks Animation SKG in a deal valued at $3.8 billion. The move reflects a significant change in entertainment media as companies seek new ways to address the impact of evolving trends such as streaming video and cord-cutting. Since animation performs well in foreign markets and helps drive consumer product sales, DreamWorks could serve as a vital resource for NBCUniversal. The animation studio could also become a launch pad for the Universal theme parks unit, which is currently planning a new park in Beijing. Continue reading Comcast to Purchase DreamWorks Animation for $3.8 Billion

Rovi Agrees to Acquire DVR Pioneer TiVo in $1.1 Billion Deal

Rovi Corporation has agreed to purchase TiVo Inc. for $1.1 billion, in a deal that merges two TV tech patent holders as companies including Apple, Comcast and Google are looking to control the set-top box. The FCC is proposing to allow customers who rent STBs from cable companies to “buy their own boxes or alternatives, which would open up what is now a largely closed market,” reports Bloomberg. “This deal was driven by an increasingly competitive set-top box market,” said analyst Paul Sweeney of Bloomberg Intelligence. “Cable operators such as Comcast are investing serious capital to develop next-generation boxes that are threatening the TiVo and Rovi platforms.” Continue reading Rovi Agrees to Acquire DVR Pioneer TiVo in $1.1 Billion Deal

Amazon Stock Jumps After Q1 Earnings Surpass Expectations

Amazon’s stock jumped more than 12 percent yesterday after the company announced Q1 earnings of $29.1 billion (a 29 percent increase over last year’s revenue for the same period). The company’s $1.07 per share profit easily beat Wall Street expectations of 58 cents per share. AWS cloud computing increased 64 percent over last year, posting revenue of about $2.6 billion. According to Re/code, “The quarterly results mark the first time since 2012 that Amazon has turned a profit in four straight quarters — a scary proposition for competitors who can no longer say that Amazon is completely sacrificing profitability for growth.” Continue reading Amazon Stock Jumps After Q1 Earnings Surpass Expectations

Facebook Credits Mobile Ad Growth for Major Revenue Jump

Following last week’s reports that online advertising revenue in the U.S. reached a record $59.6 billion in 2015, and that Google and Facebook claimed the largest share of the digital advertising pie, social giant Facebook announced yesterday that its ad revenue increased 57 percent in the first quarter to $5.2 billion. Notably, mobile ads represented about four-fifths of the network’s revenue. Facebook’s news countered announcements from other tech companies — including Alphabet, Apple and Twitter — all of which released disappointing first quarter figures. Continue reading Facebook Credits Mobile Ad Growth for Major Revenue Jump

Samsung Teases Standalone VR Headset at Developer Event

During Samsung’s developer conference in San Francisco yesterday, the company’s head of R&D for software and services Injong Rhee announced that plans are underway to go beyond the Gear VR headset. “The company is working on a standalone virtual reality headset that will incorporate positional tracking similar to the technologies now available on higher-end headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive,” reports Variety. While Samsung explores wireless VR devices and hand and gesture tracking, the company officially announced its VR Upload SDK, and plans to release its Gear 360 camera this week. Continue reading Samsung Teases Standalone VR Headset at Developer Event

Applications Being Accepted for HTC VR Accelerator Program

HTC has allocated $100 million to fund a ‘Vive X’ accelerator program with the goal to “help cultivate, and grow the global VR ecosystem by supporting startups and providing them with expertise, special access to advanced VR technology, financial investment, mentorship and unmatched go-to-market support.” The fund will support a wide range of startups. This differentiates it from the Oculus fund, which is one-tenth the amount and has an emphasis on the game industry, explains Road to VR. The program is open to companies that are creating content and tools that enrich the VR ecosystem and end-user experience. The global accelerator will initially open offices in Beijing, Taipei and San Francisco. Continue reading Applications Being Accepted for HTC VR Accelerator Program

Comcast is Reportedly in Early Discussions to Purchase DWA

Reports have surfaced that Comcast is in talks to purchase DreamWorks Animation SKG for more than $3 billion. The unconfirmed deal would make the cable giant a major player in the family entertainment business, and possibly provide additional leverage for building out theme park and consumer product businesses. According to The Wall Street Journal, “One person with knowledge of the talks said that DreamWorks and Illumination Entertainment, Universal’s animation studio, would remain separate brands.” However, a deal could provide Universal with a greater presence in China, where DreamWorks chief exec Jeffrey Katzenberg has focused much of his attention. Continue reading Comcast is Reportedly in Early Discussions to Purchase DWA

Following DirecTV Purchase, AT&T Experiences Solid Quarter

In the wake of last year’s $49 billion acquisition of DirecTV, AT&T’s quarterly profit jumped 17 percent. The telecom lost some wireless and video subscribers, but reports that 3 million subscribers have signed up for its new unlimited wireless data plan. “AT&T has been pushing its nationwide DirecTV satellite service and de-emphasizing its old U-verse service that operates in a 21-state footprint,” notes The Wall Street Journal. “In the fourth quarter, more people left U-verse than joined DirecTV. That pattern continued in the first quarter.” However, chief financial officer John Stephens explained that the company expects to increase its number of video customers for the year. Continue reading Following DirecTV Purchase, AT&T Experiences Solid Quarter

Regulators Set Conditions for Approval of Charter-TWC Deal

While federal regulators are closer to approving the Charter Communications acquisitions of both Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, the FCC and Justice Department have introduced conditions designed to protect streaming video companies and help provide affordable broadband services for low income households. The $71+ billion deal would make Charter the second-largest broadband service provider in the U.S. with about 19.4 million subscribers, and the nation’s third-largest cable TV provider with 17.4 million customers. Continue reading Regulators Set Conditions for Approval of Charter-TWC Deal

Turner to Offer Indies and Cult Classics via Web Video Service

Time Warner’s Turner plans to launch a standalone on-demand service called FilmStruck by next fall. While official launch date, pricing information or additional details have yet to be announced, Re/code reports that many titles will come from the Criterion Collection. Managed by the team behind Turner Classic Movies, the service will offer an “eclectic mix of contemporary and classic art house, indie, foreign and cult films.” Turner will join a growing collection of programmers — including CBS, ESPN, HBO, NBCUniversal, Showtime and Starz — that now offers content directly to consumers via the Internet. Continue reading Turner to Offer Indies and Cult Classics via Web Video Service

ETC Panel to Examine AI Revolution and Impact on Hollywood

ETC@USC has rescheduled its panel discussion — “Audience Intelligence at the Frontier: The AI Revolution & What it Means for Hollywood” — originally slated for April 27. We will post additional details once the new date has been confirmed. Yves Bergquist, co-founder & CEO of Novamente, and director of ETC’s new Data & Analytics project will moderate the panel. Industry insiders will discuss the impact of artificial intelligence and cognitive computing on Hollywood. The free event is sponsored by Cloudera. Continue reading ETC Panel to Examine AI Revolution and Impact on Hollywood

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