Netflix Remains No. 1, But Faces Increasing OTT Competition

A comScore study conducted in December 2016 revealed that streaming services have exploded, with a total of 11 reaching one million or more homes in any given month. Put another way, of the 49 million U.S. households connected to Wi-Fi, at least 53 percent use at least one OTT service. Netflix still dominates, found in 75 percent of these Wi-Fi homes, but the real news is that it’s got stronger competition than ever before. YouTube now reaches 53 percent of homes, Amazon is in 33 percent and Hulu is at 17 percent. Continue reading Netflix Remains No. 1, But Faces Increasing OTT Competition

Roku Hires Lobbyists, Prepping for Changes to Net Neutrality

Roku seems to be gearing up for a battle regarding net neutrality, as the FCC is expected to repeal or change regulations that require ISPs to treat all Internet traffic equally. Such changes could make it more challenging and potentially more expensive for Roku and others to provide services at top download speeds. In a first for the company, Roku has hired two DC lobbyists to focus on net neutrality issues. The President Obama-era net neutrality rules treat telecoms similarly to utilities. Those who support the regulations believe they are necessary to prevent service providers from throttling speeds or charging media companies more for content delivery. Continue reading Roku Hires Lobbyists, Prepping for Changes to Net Neutrality

NFL and Amazon Sign Deal to Stream Thursday Night Games

The National Football League has signed a one-year agreement to stream 10 Thursday night games via Amazon in a deal insiders say is valued in the $50 million range (about five times the value of last season’s deal with Twitter). The games streamed for free on Twitter, but the Amazon deal will stream only to Prime members. Globally, more than 60 million consumers pay the annual $99 fee for Amazon Prime with perks including two-day shipping and access to movies, TV shows and music. The NFL deal is not exclusive; Thursday night games are split between CBS and NBC for television broadcasts, and are also made available on the NFL Network. Continue reading NFL and Amazon Sign Deal to Stream Thursday Night Games

HTC Unveils Subscription Service for Vive VR Headset Users

Taiwanese phone manufacturer HTC has rolled out its anticipated monthly subscription service for virtual reality content, including video games and short interactive films. For a $7 per month fee, users can download up to five VR titles a month from the online Viveport store. HTC is positioning the new service as a way for customers to try out an app before they decide to purchase it. The service is only available to owners of the HTC Vive VR headset. Among the titles initially available are “Everest VR” and “Mars Odyssey.” Continue reading HTC Unveils Subscription Service for Vive VR Headset Users

Apple Pursues Premium Bundle to Sell HBO, Showtime, Starz

In its latest pay TV proposal, Apple wants to offer a premium bundle that combines HBO, Showtime and Starz, three channels it already sells individually (sources say Apple does not yet have a deal with any of the networks for a package deal). The bundle would be different than a traditional subscription level offered by a conventional pay TV operator, since Apple could offer its proposed premium bundle as a “standalone product, delivered via its iOS devices and its Apple TV set-top box,” reports Recode. “Sony, AT&T and Dish all sell Web TV packages, and Google and Hulu have announced plans to sell their own.” Continue reading Apple Pursues Premium Bundle to Sell HBO, Showtime, Starz

Spotify Purchases Content Recommendation Startup MightyTV

Streaming music service Spotify has acquired New York-based startup MightyTV, which created an app that uses artificial intelligence to provide video recommendations based on individual personal preferences and aggregated user ratings. The acquisition will provide Spotify with technology that could be used to target ads. The company is looking to ramp up ad revenue, since most of its millions of users opt for the free ad-supported version of its service. MightyTV has already shuttered its video app, and plans to integrate the technology into Spotify. The deal will also bring MightyTV founder and CEO Brian Adams to Spotify as VP of technology. Continue reading Spotify Purchases Content Recommendation Startup MightyTV

Netflix Dominance Pushing Studios to Earlier Release Window

Big spending digital players Netflix and Amazon are shaking up traditional TV stalwarts. Netflix is expected to spend $6 billion on original and acquired programming this year, up $1 billion from last year. That figure is five times more than what cable outlets FX (owned by 21st Century Fox) and Showtime (owned by CBS Corp.) spend and more than twice that spent by Time Warner’s premium channel HBO. TV actors are demanding $250,000 an episode, twice their previous rate, and there’s a feeding frenzy for A-list below-the-line crews. Continue reading Netflix Dominance Pushing Studios to Earlier Release Window

Vudu’s Mobile App Converts DVDs, Blu-rays into Digital Copies

Vudu will now let people convert their DVD and Blu-ray Disc content into digital copies for use on various Internet-connected devices by simply scanning the UPC barcode via their smartphones. One caveat, however, is that the Vudu Mobile Disc-to-Digital feature requires the user to be physically located at their home billing address. That requirement is an anti-fraud measure put in place by Walmart, which bought the premium video-streaming service in 2010. The feature is also limited to transfer 100 titles per year per account. Continue reading Vudu’s Mobile App Converts DVDs, Blu-rays into Digital Copies

Adobe’s AI-Enabled System Could Replace Greenscreen Tech

The traditional bluescreen/greenscreen method of extracting foreground content from the background for film and video production may be on its way out. That’s due to research that Adobe is doing in collaboration with the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, to develop a new system that relies on deep convolutional neural networks. A recent paper, “Deep Image Matting,” reports that the new method uses a dataset of 49,300 training images to teach the algorithm how to distinguish and eliminate backgrounds. Continue reading Adobe’s AI-Enabled System Could Replace Greenscreen Tech

Netflix Continues Push to Become the First Global TV Network

Journalists were recently invited to the Silicon Valley offices of Netflix for a behind-the-scenes look at the company’s distribution efforts for its latest Marvel series, “Iron Fist.” Through a series of talks that emphasized how the streaming service is essentially becoming a global Internet-based television network for more than 93 million subscribers, the “Netflix Lab Days” event addressed the tech and business considerations involved with programming for an international audience, creating “taste communities” for recommendations and personalization, initiating deals with TV operators and ISPs around the world, language translations for original content, and translating the Netflix apps and catalog into multiple languages. Continue reading Netflix Continues Push to Become the First Global TV Network

South by Southwest Festival Highlights Latest VR Productions

Virtual reality productions are making a splash at SXSW in Austin, Texas. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the festival is featuring shooter game “Archangel,” Skydance Interactive’s first original; a trailer for the interactive, sci-fi experience “Trinity” directed by Patrick Boivin, the first VR series from UNLTD; and alternative reality project “Wonder Buffalo,” made possible by ETC’s “2016 Innovative Technology Award granted to filmmaker Christine Berg and writing partner Simon Shterenberg.” THR also notes that Skydance Interactive is “developing ‘Life VR’ in conjunction with Skydance’s sci-fi thriller ‘Life,’ which is opening March 24 through Columbia Pictures” and “Sony Pictures VR released its first virtual reality project, ‘Passengers VR,’ on Tuesday, timed with the digital and Blu-ray release of the motion picture.” Continue reading South by Southwest Festival Highlights Latest VR Productions

Brands Experiment with 360-Degree Video Tech on Snapchat

After making a splash on Facebook and YouTube, 360-degree videos have made their way to Snapchat. Major brands such as Chick-fil-A, Netflix and Universal Pictures have been experimenting with virtual experiences on the social platform. Universal took users on a tour of a masquerade ball from “Fifty Shades Darker,” while Netflix rolled out a 360-degree trailer for “Ultimate Beastmaster.” Michael Rucker, co-founder and COO of VR firm OmniVirt, notes that clients are seeing two to three times higher swipe-up rates when using the format. Engagement is also on an upswing, with the average user spending more than a minute with these experiences. Continue reading Brands Experiment with 360-Degree Video Tech on Snapchat

Amazon Is Open to Streaming Content Through Cable STBs

Amazon, which recently won its first Oscars for “Manchester by the Sea” and “The Salesman,” is taking on pay-TV providers and game developers as it expands beyond e-commerce into various media initiatives. Now, the company suggests it would be open to discussing deals that would enable it to stream content through the set-top boxes of cable operators, similar to Netflix’s approach. “Amazon is definitely open to those partnerships,” explained Amazon Video managing director Alex Green at Cable Congress 2017 in Brussels. Continue reading Amazon Is Open to Streaming Content Through Cable STBs

Media Player Software Company Plex Debuts Online Service

Online service Plex Cloud, which has been in private beta since September, is now open to all paying Plex users. The new service “eliminates the need for an always-on PC or other network-attached piece of hardware in order to use the Plex media player software for watching your saved TV shows and movies, viewing photos or streaming from your music collection,” explains TechCrunch. Plex Cloud, which initially used Amazon Cloud Drive to host files, experienced a number of technical challenges that Plex says have been resolved. Plex supports Google Drive, OneDrive and Dropbox. Plex Cloud is now “an option for anyone who subscribes to Plex Pass, the company’s $5 per month, subscription-based service offering a variety of premium features.” Continue reading Media Player Software Company Plex Debuts Online Service

Sony Smartphones Tout Premium Cameras and 4K Displays

Sony’s Xperia series smartphones — the flagship XZ Premium, the smaller XZ, and the large XA1 Ultra — now feature impressive imaging capabilities, including an option to shoot video at 960 frames per second to enhance the phones’ slow motion capture feature. The lens improvements adjust the lighting to better illuminate nighttime scenes and all images are displayed in ultra-high definition 4K. Beyond the camera, Sony struck a deal to stream Amazon content on Xperia phones without the need for clunky third-party apps. Continue reading Sony Smartphones Tout Premium Cameras and 4K Displays

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