Snap Launches an Accelerator Program With Focus on Mobile

Snap Inc. is launching an accelerator named “Yellow” with hopes of finding the next big media business. This fall, the accelerator will invest $150,000 in 10 startups or creators looking to develop media projects for mobile devices. Snap plans to take a small equity stake in those selected to receive the funding. The startups will also get mentorship from Snap execs, access to professional networking events, the opportunity to distribute content on Snapchat, and office space in Venice, California where Snap is based. CEO Evan Spiegel is expected to be involved in mentorship and the selection process. Continue reading Snap Launches an Accelerator Program With Focus on Mobile

Viewers Not Warming to Recommendations by Video Services

According to research from UserTesting, the personalized viewing recommendations offered by video streaming services are failing to gain traction with most consumers. While results varied across services, only 29 percent of participants indicated that they watch content recommended to them. In addition to relevant recommendations, the study rated services based on metrics such as speed, availability of content, episode scanning, and overall ease-of-use. With a total score of 89.5, Netflix led the field, followed by Hulu (86.8), Amazon Prime (85) and YouTube TV (80.7). Continue reading Viewers Not Warming to Recommendations by Video Services

The Obamas Are the Latest to Sign Production Deal with Netflix

Netflix yesterday announced a multi-year partnership with former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama to produce original content for the streaming service. The Obamas created production company Higher Ground Productions for the Netflix deal, which is reportedly valued in the high eight figures. According to Netflix, the partnership may include scripted, unscripted and docu-series, in addition to documentary and feature films. Two months ago, the Obamas signed a joint book deal with Penguin Random House worth a reported $65 million for their respective memoirs. Continue reading The Obamas Are the Latest to Sign Production Deal with Netflix

Amazon Channels Making a Splash in Subscription Video Sales

According to The Diffusion Group (TDG), Amazon is now responsible for 55 percent of a la carte direct-to-consumer video subs. Amazon Channels is “the company’s platform for reselling subscription services like HBO and Showtime,” explains Variety. TDG’s new research indicates that “53 percent of all consumers who don’t get HBO through their pay TV provider are purchasing it via Amazon Channels,” notes the article, adding that “72 percent of Showtime subscribers get the network’s direct-to-consumer offering via Amazon Channels, and 70 percent of Starz a la carte subscribers receive it from Amazon.” Continue reading Amazon Channels Making a Splash in Subscription Video Sales

CBS and Nielsen to Serve Dynamic Ads for Live TV Broadcasts

CBS and Nielsen are joining forces to deliver dynamic ad insertion (DAI) into linear national television programming that is viewed via connected devices. This will enable advertisers to better target individual viewers with more relevant commercials. The collaboration will use Gracenote’s Automatic Content Recognition software, which is already installed in millions of smart TVs. “Nielsen, through its acquisition of Gracenote, will leverage patented technology to replace linear ad spots on individual smart TV sets to offer more advanced advertising capabilities to brands,” said Nielsen exec Peter Bradbury. Continue reading CBS and Nielsen to Serve Dynamic Ads for Live TV Broadcasts

Senate Votes to Block the Repeal of FCC’s Net Neutrality Rules

The Senate voted 52-47 yesterday to block the Trump administration’s repeal of net neutrality rules. Three Republicans and all members of the Democratic caucus voted in favor of the resolution; however, a tougher battle is expected in the House, where Republicans have a 236-193 majority. The effort to repeal Obama-era rules last year was led by FCC chair Ajit Pai. The net neutrality rules are designed to guarantee unobstructed access to the Internet by preventing broadband providers from blocking access or throttling speeds based on fees. Opponents claim the rules stifle competition and innovation.  Continue reading Senate Votes to Block the Repeal of FCC’s Net Neutrality Rules

TiVo DVRs Add Support for Amazon’s Virtual Assistant Alexa

TiVo is introducing voice control to its DVRs with support for Amazon’s digital assistant Alexa. Consumers who have TiVo devices including the Premiere, Roamio and Bolt boxes will be able to interact with Alexa for basic remote control commands such as skipping commercials with SkipMode, changing channels, and launching video apps like Netflix. TiVo joins companies including DirecTV, Dish and Verizon in adding hands-free, voice control features. At CES in January, TiVo announced its plans to add support for Alexa and Google Assistant. Continue reading TiVo DVRs Add Support for Amazon’s Virtual Assistant Alexa

Facebook Suspends 200 Apps Due to Possible Misuse of Data

Since the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook has suspended about 200 apps based on the possible misuse of user data. The social giant will conduct a thorough investigation of each app, and promises that any guilty of misuse of Facebook user data will be permanently banned from the platform. So far, Facebook has reviewed thousands of apps from outside developers that have access to Facebook user data, but some question whether such an ongoing audit is worthwhile. While bad actors can be banned, there isn’t much that can be done once the data leaves Facebook’s servers. Continue reading Facebook Suspends 200 Apps Due to Possible Misuse of Data

Xerox Sides With Investors, Cancels Planned Fujifilm Merger

Xerox is scrapping the proposed $6.1 billion takeover by Fujifilm Holdings Corp. in a settlement with activist investors Carl Icahn and Darwin Deason that also removes Xerox CEO Jeff Jacobson from his position, along with five company directors. According to Xerox, Icahn Enterprises chief Keith Cozza will become chairman, while John Visentin — a former senior exec at Hewlett-Packard and IBM — will take over as CEO. Fujifilm disputes Xerox’s right to terminate the planned merger. Continue reading Xerox Sides With Investors, Cancels Planned Fujifilm Merger

Google I/O Reveals Long List of Product Upgrades and News

At the Google I/O developers conference, Google announced compelling updates including: Google Duplex brings new AI tech to Google Assistant; six new voices are coming to Google Assistant (including a version from John Legend); mobile operating system Android P gets an interface refresh, gesture controls, and expanded dashboard features; the new Android TV dongle supports 4K streaming and touts 8GB of storage; AI-powered Smart Compose comes to Gmail; Google Maps adds a new social layer and AR directions functionality by teaming AI with Street View; Google News curates online content via AI; and Google Lens is closer to delivering its text copy and style match features. Continue reading Google I/O Reveals Long List of Product Upgrades and News

Facebook Restructures With Executive Shuffle, New Divisions

Facebook is undergoing the biggest reorganization in the company’s history. Messenger, WhatsApp, and Facebook’s core app will get new leaders, while the company’s product and engineering organizations will be reorganized into three main divisions: the “Family of Apps” group, run by chief product officer Chris Cox, will include social apps Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp; the “New Platforms and Infrastructure” group, managed by CTO Mike Schroepfer, will cover AI, AR, VR, and blockchain tech; and the “Central Product Services” group, headed by VP of growth Javier Olivan, will handle shared features across products and apps, including advertising, analytics, and security. Continue reading Facebook Restructures With Executive Shuffle, New Divisions

Microsoft Reaches Out to Developers at its Build Conference

Microsoft revealed interesting news during this week’s Build developer conference in Seattle, Washington. Among the key announcements: a pair of mixed reality enterprise apps for the HoloLens; a partnership with DJI to bring Microsoft’s AI and machine learning tech to commercial drones; a preview launch of deep learning acceleration platform Project Brainwave; prototype hardware designed for the meeting room of the future; and Project Kinect for Azure, which provides developers with the opportunity to experiment with a package of sensors and Microsoft’s next-generation depth camera. Continue reading Microsoft Reaches Out to Developers at its Build Conference

Payments Feature Could Make Instagram a Commerce Player

Instagram has quietly introduced a native payments feature that allows users to make purchases without having to leave the photo- and video-sharing app. Once the user registers a debit or credit card and creates a security PIN, native payments are possible through a select number of partners. Facebook-owned Instagram is testing the waters with the ability to book appointments and reservations via businesses such as salons or restaurants, but also envisions the ability for users to purchase movie tickets directly through the app in the future. Continue reading Payments Feature Could Make Instagram a Commerce Player

ETC’s Virtual Conference: Call for Speakers Deadline May 18

The Entertainment Technology Center at The University of Southern California (ETC) will produce “vETC 2018 | The Grand Convergence,” its 4th annual virtual conference (formerly vNAB), June 27-28, 2018, in Los Angeles, highlighting significant presentations of emerging technologies and their impact on the M&E industry. The presentations will be recorded and posted to our YouTube channel. The Initial Expression of Interest seeking speakers and topics is open through Friday, May 18. Specific areas of concentration include AI, machine learning, adaptive production, blockchain, AR/MR/XR (immersive media). We welcome additional topics. Speakers will present concepts, workflows, business models, case studies, etc. Please no sales pitches! If you are interested in consideration, click here for more information. Continue reading ETC’s Virtual Conference: Call for Speakers Deadline May 18

Creative Storage Conference Comes to Culver City Next Month

For those interested in the latest in digital storage for media and entertainment, the 2018 Creative Storage Conference is scheduled for June 7th at the DoubleTree Hotel in Culver City, California. Coughlin Associates is conducting a survey of digital storage requirements and practices for M&E professionals with results to be presented at the event. M&E professionals who complete the online survey and indicate their contact information at the end of the survey will receive a free full pass to the Creative Storage Conference. Coughlin Associates is also offering a $100 discount off full conference registration. Continue reading Creative Storage Conference Comes to Culver City Next Month

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