Cable Providers Update Boxes to Retain Fleeing Customers

With its Xfinity X1, Comcast has remade the traditional cable box, with a voice-enabled remote that allows search across live TV, on-demand and sources such as Netflix. It combines the multiple apps, passwords and monthly fees of streaming services into one place, with one bill. Perhaps we don’t need to get rid of cable, but rather to improve it. With the advent of ever-more choices from Apple, Amazon, Roku to Verizon and T-Mobile, the major cablecasters have the chance to bring their services into the modern TV age. Continue reading Cable Providers Update Boxes to Retain Fleeing Customers

Amazon and Google Offering Ad-Supported Music Services

Spotify has new competition. Amazon just introduced an ad-supported version of Amazon Music available in the U.S. via Alexa devices. To jumpstart the service, Amazon has reportedly offered to pay some record labels per stream for music licenses, separate from ad sales. The catalog is limited, but listeners can access some of Amazon Music’s “top playlists.” Google also announced that YouTube Music will be free on Google Home smart speakers and Google Assistant devices in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and parts of Europe. Continue reading Amazon and Google Offering Ad-Supported Music Services

Hulu Positioned to Become Most Serious Netflix Competitor

Amazon, Apple, AT&T and Disney aim to compete against Netflix, the current giant in streaming video. The one contender that rises above is Hulu, which has gone through several owners (Disney, 21st Century Fox, Comcast and Time Warner). AT&T sold Time Warner’s stake, and with the purchase of Fox, Disney is now Hulu’s majority owner. Hulu originally streamed shows from other networks, but its profile changed with “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which became the first “streaming-native” show to win an Emmy for best drama series. Continue reading Hulu Positioned to Become Most Serious Netflix Competitor

Top 25 Game Companies Generated $107 Billion Last Year

The top 25 public game companies, which represent almost 80 percent of the $134.9 billion worldwide gaming market, generated $107.3 billion in revenue in 2018. According to researcher Newzoo’s Global Games Market Report, this marks the first time that the top 25 companies have surpassed $100 billion in a single year. China’s Tencent ($19.7 billion) took the No. 1 spot for the sixth consecutive year, followed by Sony ($14.2 billion), Microsoft ($9.8 billion), and Apple ($9.5 billion). Collectively, the top 10 companies experienced 19 percent growth last year. Continue reading Top 25 Game Companies Generated $107 Billion Last Year

EU Votes For Copyright Rules Opposed by Nativist Groups

In a vote of 348 to 274, nineteen out of the European Union’s 28 member countries voted in favor of reformed laws to protect content creators. Critics of the reform — including large tech companies — argue that the rules will reduce free speech online, with Articles 11 and 13 of particular concern. European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker declared that the new copyright rules are “fit for the digital age.” In the lead-up to the vote, nativist groups in many countries worked to defeat the new rules. Continue reading EU Votes For Copyright Rules Opposed by Nativist Groups

AT&T Selling Back Its Share of Hulu to Disney and Comcast

AT&T is selling back its 9.5 percent minority share in Hulu LLC, in a deal worth $1.43 billion. The $15 billion online-streaming venture is now entirely owned by The Walt Disney Company and NBCUniversal parent Comcast Corporation (it was formerly co-owned by Disney, 21st Century Fox, Comcast and AT&T). “We thank AT&T for their support and investment over the past two years and look forward to collaboration in the future,” said Hulu CEO Randy Freer. “WarnerMedia will remain a valued partner to Hulu for years to come as we offer customers the best of TV, live and on demand, all in one place.” Continue reading AT&T Selling Back Its Share of Hulu to Disney and Comcast

YouTube Taps Ben Relles to Lead Programming Innovation

Google’s YouTube is planning new original programming with a focus on live specials and interactive content. Ben Relles, former head of unscripted for YouTube Originals, will assume his new role as head of innovation to lead the initiative. Reporting to Susanne Daniels, global head of original content, Relles will be responsible for the development of new scripted and unscripted original programming intended to foster interaction and engagement with viewers. Interactive content has been getting more attention since the success of Netflix’s “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.” Continue reading YouTube Taps Ben Relles to Lead Programming Innovation

Apple Music Now Has More Subscribers Than Spotify in U.S.

Apple Music now has more paid subscriptions in the U.S. than popular music streamer Spotify, as the global competition ramps up between the two rivals. According to those familiar with the matter, Apple Music surpassed 28 million U.S. subscribers by February, compared to Spotify’s 26 million subscribers (the figures only include paid subscriptions, not trial users). When including nonpaying music fans of its ad-supported offering, Spotify still holds the lead in the number of overall users in the U.S. To slow Apple’s progress, Spotify recently introduced new promotions, such as a discounted subscription bundle with Hulu. Continue reading Apple Music Now Has More Subscribers Than Spotify in U.S.

Snapchat Now Competing in the Multiplayer Gaming Arena

Snap Inc. announced yesterday that its popular Snapchat app now features multiplayer games, starting with “Bitmoji Party” and five other titles. The move is an effort to compete in a new social space dominated by “Fortnite” in which real-time, multiplayer games also serve as online communities. Snap plans to work with game developers such as Zynga and ZeptoLab. The combination of gaming and social networking is on the rise. According to Epic Games, its “Fortnite” had 250 million players as of March, while Netflix recently suggested that it competes with “Fortnite” more than HBO. Continue reading Snapchat Now Competing in the Multiplayer Gaming Arena

Facebook to Launch a Dedicated News Tab With Publishers

Facebook wants to team with the news industry to create a tab in its app devoted to publishers’ content. In a conversation with Axel Springer SE chief executive Mathias Döpfner, Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg explained the plan is in its early stages, and that he doesn’t want to build it without input from publishers. He compared the proposed news tab to the Watch tab that aggregates video from publishers, some of which do so exclusively for the platform. He also suggested that Facebook would pay publishers to ensure high-quality content. Continue reading Facebook to Launch a Dedicated News Tab With Publishers

Facebook CEO Calls For Increased Government Regulation

Mark Zuckerberg thinks tech companies, including Facebook, have “immense responsibilities.” Acknowledging the problems related to social media, he stressed that tech companies can’t solve all those problems on their own. Instead, he opined, the government and regulators need to play a stronger role. “By updating the rules for the Internet,” he said, “We can preserve what’s best about it.” He focused on four areas that he said should be regulated: harmful content, election integrity, privacy and data portability. Continue reading Facebook CEO Calls For Increased Government Regulation

Pandora Believes Listeners Will Interact With its Voice Ads

Pandora plans to test new interactive advertising technology that would allow listeners to engage directly with its “voice ads” by speaking aloud. Pandora listeners could request additional information about a product or service being promoted, for example, or request skipping the ad altogether. The beta test, powered by ad-tech firm Instreamatic, is expected to launch later this year. Instreamatic provides an interactive ad platform built on its Voice AI Core to help brands and marketers “manage, measure and monetize voice-enabled audio advertising.” Continue reading Pandora Believes Listeners Will Interact With its Voice Ads

Federal Agencies Investigate Facebook for Legal Violations

Facebook is under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Justice Department and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for numerous potential civil and criminal violations. The Silicon Valley company, which denies the charges, said it is cooperating with law enforcement. The HUD investigation, the most recent, states that Facebook allowed advertisers to restrict who they target, based on race, religion and national origin. Continue reading Federal Agencies Investigate Facebook for Legal Violations

FTC Orders Broadband Firms to Reveal Data Collection Info

The Federal Trade Commission ordered Comcast, Verizon, AT&T and other broadband providers to file reports within 45 days on why and how they collect consumer data and if they allow consumers to block such collection. The federal agency’s chair Joseph Simons said the move was “the first shot out of the box” in an investigation into the collection and use of personal data, with the potential aim of creating enforcement rules and helping Congress develop legislation on data privacy. Simons also promised more action. Continue reading FTC Orders Broadband Firms to Reveal Data Collection Info

Former MoviePass Exec Kickstarts Service for Free Movies

Stacy Spikes, a co-founder and former CEO of MoviePass, just launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund PreShow, an app that lets users receive free movie tickets in exchange for watching 15 to 20 minutes of advertising. But there’s a catch: PreShow is based on facial recognition; Spikes said it is to prevent users from gaming the system. While the user watches ads, her smartphone’s camera keeps track of her level of attention. The ad pauses after five seconds should the user walk away or even hide part of her face. Continue reading Former MoviePass Exec Kickstarts Service for Free Movies

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