New iPad Mini and iPad Air Feature True Tone, Faster Wi-Fi

One week ahead of its March 25th special event expected to feature its media and entertainment bundle, Apple has introduced a new iPad Air and refreshed iPad mini. The latter hasn’t seen any changes since the 2015 launch of the iPad mini 4. Both iPads, available in stores next month, feature new processors and updated displays as well as support for Apple’s $99 Pencil, a stylus. Although the above features are brand new, both the names and construction of the devices are retro, including a Lightning port and Home button. The iPad Air features a 10.5-inch Retina screen, while the iPad mini has a 7.9-inch Retina display. Continue reading New iPad Mini and iPad Air Feature True Tone, Faster Wi-Fi

Spotify Brings Beef Against Apple to European Commission

Spotify filed a complaint with European regulators accusing Apple of violating antitrust laws by crushing companies that compete with its services, including Apple Music. Apple charges a fee of up to 30 percent on anything sold in its App Store. Spotify reported to the European Commission that Apple’s policies are a “tax” that violate competition laws, and chief executive Daniel Ek complained that Apple gives itself “an unfair advantage at every turn.” It is uncertain if the complaint will lead to a formal EC investigation. Continue reading Spotify Brings Beef Against Apple to European Commission

Netflix VP Says Viewers Can Expect More Interactive Series

Following the global success of its choose-your-own-adventure style “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch,” Netflix plans to produce more such interactive content. During his keynote at the FICCI-Frames conference in Mumbai, VP of content Todd Yellin explained that new interactive approaches could include, for example, a romantic comedy in which viewers determine whether characters get together. Yellin told the crowd that “Bandersnatch” is “a huge hit” in India and “around the world, and we realized, wow, interactive storytelling is something we want to bet more on.” Continue reading Netflix VP Says Viewers Can Expect More Interactive Series

Disney to Move Its Classic Movies to New Streaming Service

At Disney’s annual meeting, chair/chief executive Bob Iger made several upbeat announcements to shareholders. First, he assured them that regulatory approval of the 21st Century Fox acquisition will close “soon” and that the expanded company will “hit the ground running.” He also revealed that Disney will debut its immersive Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge experience earlier than expected: May 31 at in Disneyland, and August 29 at Disney World. Other big news was that Disney Plus (also known as Disney+) will carry the company’s entire “Vault” program. Continue reading Disney to Move Its Classic Movies to New Streaming Service

Luminary Launches With Plan to Be the Netflix of Podcasts

Luminary is a podcast startup that has debuted with more than 40 exclusive shows and no ads. The company also has almost $100 million in funding and, for $8 per month, subscribers will get full access to the content lineup, which includes a new show from Lena Dunham and series from Conan O’Brien, Malcolm Gladwell and Trevor Noah. Co-founder/chief executive Matt Sacks stated that Luminary aims to be “synonymous with podcasting in the same way Netflix has become synonymous with streaming.” Continue reading Luminary Launches With Plan to Be the Netflix of Podcasts

Steven Spielberg Criticizes Oscar Noms for Streaming Films

As the Academy Governor representing directors, filmmaker Steven Spielberg is intent on changing the rules so that movies made by streaming content creators won’t be eligible for Oscars but would only be considered for Emmys, along with other TV fare. Spielberg — and the studios — were motivated most recently by how close Netflix-produced “Roma” came to winning Best Picture. As it was, “Roma” director Alfonso Cuarón won Academy Awards for best director and best cinematographer. One complaint is the lopsided spending for Oscar competition. Continue reading Steven Spielberg Criticizes Oscar Noms for Streaming Films

Study Indicates Streaming Services Losing Revenue to Piracy

A study by CordCutting.com suggests that up to 20 percent of consumers are using another person’s account information to stream video from Netflix, Hulu or Amazon. “Netflix tends to be pirated for the longest period — 26 months, compared with 16 months for Amazon Prime Video or 11 months for Hulu,” reports TechCrunch. “That could be because Netflix freeloaders often mooch off their family instead of a friend — 48 percent use their parents’ login, while another 14 percent use their sister or brother’s credentials.” The reports estimates monthly revenue losses at $192 million for Netflix, $45 million for Amazon, and $40 million for Hulu. Continue reading Study Indicates Streaming Services Losing Revenue to Piracy

HTC Unveils Its First 5G-Ready Smart Device in Barcelona

At this week’s MWC Barcelona (formerly Mobile World Congress), HTC is showcasing its new 5G Hub — a smart device with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor that acts as a smart display, Android entertainment device and 5G hotspot for up to 20 users. It connects to 5G networks and enables low-latency gaming, 4K video streaming, and more. Pricing has yet to be revealed, but the company says it will be available Q2 2019. Currently compatible with the Sprint network, the device will likely run on other networks in the future. Continue reading HTC Unveils Its First 5G-Ready Smart Device in Barcelona

Amazon Aims for Quality Not Quantity With 30 Films Per Year

Amazon hasn’t had a good year in the film business since 2017 when it moved away from its Hollywood distribution partners into self-distribution. Since then, the company released six flops in a row, including director Woody Allen’s “Wonder Wheel,” which cost $25 million and only earned $14 million in North America, and “Beautiful Boy,” which cost $23 million and made a mere $7.6 million. Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke surmised that the company put “too much focus on a narrow prestige lane.” Continue reading Amazon Aims for Quality Not Quantity With 30 Films Per Year

Diller and Spielberg on the Growing Dominance of Streaming

On Kara Swisher’s podcast Recode Decode, Barry Diller declared that Hollywood is “now irrelevant,” adding that those executives who used to hold a lot of power now have much less and that the six movie companies that once dominated everything no longer do. “For the first time, they ain’t buying anything,” he said. “Meaning they’re not buying Netflix. They are not buying Amazon.” Meanwhile, at the Cinema Audio Society Awards, Steven Spielberg declared his affinity for the movie theater experience. Continue reading Diller and Spielberg on the Growing Dominance of Streaming

HPA Tech Retreat: Managing Images for Consumer Displays

In August last year, Sony debuted a brand new line-up of Bravia Master Series 4K TVs, featuring the Netflix Calibration Mode, a setting that would match streaming Ultra HD 4K HDR content produced by Netflix to the TV’s display characteristics. At the HPA Tech Retreat, International Cinematographers Guild technologist Michael Chambliss moderated a discussion on this proprietary feature — only available on Sony TVs for Netflix content — with participants from Netflix, the UHD Alliance and ICG. Continue reading HPA Tech Retreat: Managing Images for Consumer Displays

Apple Readies TV Service With CBS, Starz, Viacom Content

Apple is reportedly aiming for a March or April event to announce its new streaming TV service that is expected to include original content plus subscription services from CBS, Viacom and Starz among others. Apple has been hinting at such a service for quite a while, has spent about $2 billion on original programming, and has signed major players such as Oprah Winfrey. Apple’s service is expected to take on competitors Netflix and Amazon Prime Video by launching globally, possibly distributed via the App Store since it is already available in more than 100 countries. Continue reading Apple Readies TV Service With CBS, Starz, Viacom Content

HPA Tech Retreat: In Pursuit of AI-Powered Film Restoration

What if you could restore a film — at 12 million frames per second — in two weeks? That’s a case study that Video Gorillas chief executive Jason Brahms described in detail at the HPA Tech Retreat, capping off how his company has spent the last ten years developing tools enabled by artificial intelligence. In 2007, Brahms, who was with Sony Pictures Imageworks, first met a developer pitching his facial recognition software. “I asked him if he had software that could compare different movie cuts and find differences between them,” he recalled. Continue reading HPA Tech Retreat: In Pursuit of AI-Powered Film Restoration

HPA Tech Retreat: Take a Tour of the Netflix Media Database

In a Wednesday morning session at the HPA Tech Retreat in Palm Desert, Netflix’s Rohit Puri, engineering manager of the Cloud Media Systems team took attendees on a tour of the Netflix Media Database. The Netflix service experience, he explained, is made up of a seamless user interface, personalized content recommendation, efficient media streaming and curated content catalog. Other assets that “go a long way in helping users find content,” added Puri, include promotional artwork and video. Continue reading HPA Tech Retreat: Take a Tour of the Netflix Media Database

Electronic Dance DJ Marshmello Performs ‘Fortnite’ Concert

On February 2, electronic dance producer Marshmello performed a 10-minute concert — as a digital avatar — to gamers playing the popular game “Fortnite.” The runaway success of this unusual mix highlights how games can not only gather millions of players, but also become a stage for a variety of entertainment. Marshmello’s representatives stated that the concert “attracted millions of viewers.” In June, Marshmello participated in an Epic Games’ “Fortnite” tournament, teamed with Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, a celebrity gamer. Continue reading Electronic Dance DJ Marshmello Performs ‘Fortnite’ Concert

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