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

Walmart in Talks to Buy Into Indian E-Commerce Site Flipkart

Walmart is negotiating to acquire a majority stake in Flipkart, India’s leading e-retailer; sources say the deal could “be announced soon” although “exact terms are not yet final and the talks are fluid.” Flipkart would be valued at $20 billion, according to two of the sources, and Walmart hopes to purchase at least a 60 percent stake in the company. Although buying a majority stake in Flipkart would open up a vast new market for Walmart, which is in heated competition with Amazon, some analysts say the move is risky. Continue reading Walmart in Talks to Buy Into Indian E-Commerce Site Flipkart

Apple Reportedly Prepping a Subscription-Based News Product

According to sources, Apple, which acquired the magazine app Texture, now plans to integrate it into Apple News and launch it as a premium subscription product. Texture let users subscribe to more than 200 magazines for $9.99 per month. Apple cut 20 Texture employees, and brought the rest onto the Apple News team. The premium subscription version of Apple News, which will reportedly debut in the next year, will give publishers a cut of the subscription revenue. Apple did not comment on the story. Continue reading Apple Reportedly Prepping a Subscription-Based News Product

Audible and Amazon Continue to Dominate Audiobook Market

Audiobook sellers like Amazon-owned Audible are competing for the ears, not eyes, of book lovers. And they’re showing promise. In 2016, audiobook sales climbed to $2.1 billion, representing an 18 percent jump from the previous year (the format experienced a 26.2 percent sales increase during the first three quarters of 2017). Audible represents about 41 percent of all audiobook sales, and when paired with Amazon, which sells audiobooks directly through its website, the two make up more than half of the market. Audible’s library includes 400,000 titles and its annual subscriber growth is in the double digits.

Continue reading Audible and Amazon Continue to Dominate Audiobook Market

Amazon and Apple Turn Up the Heat in the Audiobook Market

According to the Association of American Publishers, in the first eight months of 2017, based on data from 1,200 publishers, revenue from audiobooks grew 20 percent, compared to print books sales increasing a mere 1.5 percent and e-books losing 5.4 percent. Amazon, which bought Audible in 2008, has been the dominant player, with Audible carving out a unique and profitable portion of the market. But Apple is now attempting to take on its rival with a redesigned iBooks e-book reading application for iPhones and iPads. Continue reading Amazon and Apple Turn Up the Heat in the Audiobook Market

Sony Products Focus on Artist Intent and Customer Experience

Sony Corporation president and CEO Kaz Hirai began his solo CES media briefing with the Alpha 9, a mirrorless and completely silent camera ideally suited to shoot at the top of a golf swing or on a quiet soundstage, and continued to celebrate accomplishments across every division, including Sony Pictures, Sony Music, and PlayStation. “If you see the name Sony on any product, content, or service, it symbolizes our promise to move you emotionally,” he said. “Our products are designed to have a personal and individualized place in all of your lives.” Continue reading Sony Products Focus on Artist Intent and Customer Experience

Amazon FreeTime Rolls Out New Feature for Offline Viewing

Amazon is introducing a new feature to its subscription children’s service this week that enables users to download and watch FreeTime Unlimited content without an Internet connection. The new Offline Mode will roll out for free as an over-the-air software update for Fire and Fire Kids Edition tablets. Parents can create Kindle Fire profiles for their kids through FreeTime and specify age, gender, time limits, filters and appropriate content. FreeTime Unlimited features a range of children’s offerings from the likes of Amazon Originals for Kids, DC Comics, Disney, Nickelodeon and PBS. Continue reading Amazon FreeTime Rolls Out New Feature for Offline Viewing

Paid Subs for Streaming Music Services Top 30 Million in U.S.

The music business is experiencing significant growth, thanks in large part to the increasing popularity of streaming services. According to RIAA’s midyear report, leading services such as Spotify and Apple Music currently have 30.4 million paid subscribers in the U.S. (up from 20.2 million the previous year). Streaming services are now responsible for 62 percent of total industry revenue, followed by 19 percent for digital downloads, 16 percent for physical sales, and 3 percent for synch rights. Continue reading Paid Subs for Streaming Music Services Top 30 Million in U.S.

Amazon to Acquire Whole Foods Market in $13.7 Billion Deal

Online retail giant Amazon.com announced it plans to acquire Whole Foods Market in a deal valued at $13.7 billion. Organic grocer Whole Foods, founded in 1978, has more than 460 locations, but has been facing increased competition from large chains such as Walmart that have introduced more natural and organic products. The Austin, Texas-based company built its brand on premium service and generally higher prices. This approach may mark a change for Amazon, which has built much of its business on lower prices. Whole Foods will continue operating under its existing brand and CEO John Mackey will remain in his position. Continue reading Amazon to Acquire Whole Foods Market in $13.7 Billion Deal

Amazon Opens Bookstore in NYC, Plans Six More This Year

Amazon just opened its seventh bookstore, a 4,000 square foot space, in the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle in midtown Manhattan at the heart of the publishing industry. Nearby is the site of a bygone Borders bookstore in addition to publishers such as Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster and Hachette Book Group. Amazon has committed to opening a chain of brick-and-mortar bookstores around the country, an irony given that the company’s online sale of books is often cited as a major factor in the demise of many bookstores nationwide. Continue reading Amazon Opens Bookstore in NYC, Plans Six More This Year

Amazon Bows Android App for Kid-Friendly FreeTime Service

Amazon rolled out a new Android app for its FreeTime service, which provides curated children’s content and parental controls similar to those found on Amazon’s Fire tablets. The FreeTime Web browser has vetted over 40,000 YouTube videos and websites as kid-friendly. FreeTime Unlimited offers more kid-centric content, including 10,000 books and videos from Disney, Nickelodoen, Amazon Studios, PBS Kids, Harper Collins, Sesame Street, Simon & Schuster and others, priced at $2.99 per month for Prime members and $4.99 for others. Continue reading Amazon Bows Android App for Kid-Friendly FreeTime Service

Starbucks Unveils ‘Upstanders’ Original Video, Podcast Series

Starbucks launched “Upstanders,” an original multi-platform 10-episode series that tells “stories of compassion, citizenship and civility” through video, podcasts, and text. The content will be distributed in the company’s in-store digital network, online and via its mobile app. Starbucks chairman/chief executive Howard Schultz wrote and produced the series with Starbucks executive producer Rajiv Chandrasekaran, who left his post as senior editor at The Washington Post to establish the production company in Seattle. Continue reading Starbucks Unveils ‘Upstanders’ Original Video, Podcast Series

Amazon Plans to Open Additional Brick-and-Mortar Bookstores

Although not on the scale originally reported, online retailer Amazon is expanding its business to more physical storefronts. Amazon opened its first brick-and-mortar store last year in Seattle. The store features thousands of books alongside Amazon’s electronic devices, including the Kindle tablet, the Fire TV set-top box, and the Echo Internet-connected speaker. The expansion of the brick-and-mortar side of the business suggests that the appeal of browsing shelves, particularly for book aficionados, isn’t quite yet lost. Continue reading Amazon Plans to Open Additional Brick-and-Mortar Bookstores

Amazon Doubles Market Value, Plans to Launch Music Service

Amazon’s growth is impressive — but it still, apparently, does not meet investors’ high expectations. With profits in Prime and Amazon Web Services, the company just delivered the largest quarterly profit in its 20-year history, but its shares plummeted 15 percent in after-hours trading, erasing more than $30 billion in market value. Shareholders were perhaps spooked by a 20.5 percent jump in operating costs, to $34.6 billion. Yet Amazon still out-performed other tech titans, including Alphabet, Apple and Facebook. Continue reading Amazon Doubles Market Value, Plans to Launch Music Service

Court Win for Google Books Could Impact Film, TV and Music

In the latest page of Google’s decade-long saga to scan the world’s books and make them searchable, the company won a case that decided in its favor and against the Authors Guild, on whose behalf the Motion Picture Association of America and the music licensing organization ASCAP filed amicus briefs. The October 16 ruling by the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit means that writers cannot stop Google from adding their books to Google’s 20-million book library, which the Court calls “non-infringing fair uses.” Continue reading Court Win for Google Books Could Impact Film, TV and Music

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