Presidential Race Gets Streaming Treatment Across Platforms

Election coverage focused on presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will get a major boost from social media, streaming technology and even virtual reality. Facebook plans to live-stream the upcoming debates with help from ABC News, while a Twitter-Bloomberg partnership will bring live streams of the debates to Twitter. YouTube, meanwhile, is slated to live-stream the debates from PBS, Telemundo and The Washington Post. And starting last night, NBC with AltspaceVR began streaming election coverage in virtual reality. Continue reading Presidential Race Gets Streaming Treatment Across Platforms

Pandora Plus Makes Debut, Record Labels Experience Uptick

Pandora unveiled Pandora Plus, replacing the 16-year old company’s original ad-free service. What’s different is that the company now licenses music from the major record labels, rather than using compulsory licenses from the government, with rates determined by federal judges. With the new version, users can replay or skip songs and listen offline. The monthly price remains $4.99. Out of Pandora’s nearly 80 million users, only 4 million are paying subscribers. An on-demand tier for $10/month will also debut by end of 2016. Continue reading Pandora Plus Makes Debut, Record Labels Experience Uptick

Netflix CFO Explains Plans to Ramp Up Original Programming

Speaking at Goldman Sachs’ Communacopia conference yesterday, Netflix CFO David Wells explained that the streaming service’s goal over the next few years is to offer more original programming. The company is aiming for half of its content to be represented by original productions and the other half licensed movies and TV shows. According to Wells, original programming will continue to be content produced by Netflix in addition to a range of co-productions and acquisitions. Netflix is “one-third to halfway” toward reaching its goal, he said. Continue reading Netflix CFO Explains Plans to Ramp Up Original Programming

Netflix Debuts Open Source Tools for IMF and Image Testing

Netflix has long collaborated with rivals, most notably on cloud computing open source projects. Now, it’s released “Meridian,” a 12-minute movie that acts as test footage to allow hardware manufacturers, codec developers and engineers to evaluate imagery. The company is also releasing open source tools to encourage the use of the Interoperable Master Format (IMF), developed as a standard by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers for exchanging master files between studios, distributors and services such as Netflix. Continue reading Netflix Debuts Open Source Tools for IMF and Image Testing

Spotify Focuses on Major Record Label Deals to Boost Profits

In its efforts to move more free-tier users to its $10/month subscription service, Spotify has redoubled its efforts to ink long-term licenses with major record labels. One potential option is that the labels would limit new releases to Spotify’s subscription tier in exchange for a lower percentage of subscription revenue. Another possibility is that Spotify will provide artists data and promotion in exchange for reduced royalty payments. Spotify is trying to settle the deals by end of 2016, say sources. Continue reading Spotify Focuses on Major Record Label Deals to Boost Profits

EU to Propose Stricter Regulations Impacting Digital Services

The European Union has unveiled proposed regulations designed to help protect its consumers. The goal is to create a single market out of Europe’s many regions, enabling its 500 million consumers to access the same services. But the EU proposals also create stricter demands for privacy and against copyright infringement, including reforms that would hold streaming services responsible for instituting better anti-piracy methods. From the perspective of Silicon Valley and much of Hollywood, the EU’s efforts are a form of protectionism. Continue reading EU to Propose Stricter Regulations Impacting Digital Services

Twitter Comes to Apple TV, Fire TV, Xbox in Time for Football

Twitter has introduced a new video-centric app available for Apple TV, Amazon’s Fire TV and Microsoft’s Xbox One as the social platform readies its live-streaming debut of “Thursday Night Football.” The new app “will contain only video, photos and tweets curated by the company,” explains The Wall Street Journal. Live streaming is now a major component of the company’s latest business strategy as evidenced by deals with “the NFL, MLB, the National Basketball Association, National Hockey League and Pac-12 Networks for sports, and Bloomberg News and Cheddar for financial news.” Continue reading Twitter Comes to Apple TV, Fire TV, Xbox in Time for Football

Sony, Universal Ink Deals with Pandora for Streaming Services

Sony Music, Universal Music and Merlin Network, which represents 20,000 independents, have agreed to license songs to Pandora for its two new music services. Pandora plans to offer the advertising-free Pandora Plus and an on-demand service similar to Spotify. The company is also still in talks with Warner Music in an attempt to ink a deal with this third-largest music rights holder. Pandora hopes to launch both of its new services by the end of 2016. As of June 30, Pandora says it has 78.1 million active listeners. Continue reading Sony, Universal Ink Deals with Pandora for Streaming Services

TiVo Introduces Bolt+ DVR with Six 4K Tuners and 3TB Drive

Following Rovi’s $1.1 billion acquisition of TiVo and the unveiling of TiVo’s new UX on-screen user experience, the company has now rolled out its latest DVR, the Bolt+ with six 4K tuners and 3TB of storage. While last fall’s 4K-ready Bolt debuted a white chassis and curved form factor, the Bolt+ returns to TiVo’s standard black body. The newest addition to the Bolt family can record 450 hours of HD content and allows users to simultaneously record and stream more shows. The Bolt+ will be available for $499.99 (not including the monthly service fee) starting tomorrow. Continue reading TiVo Introduces Bolt+ DVR with Six 4K Tuners and 3TB Drive

Stream-Ripping, the New Music Piracy, Becoming Problematic

The recording industry is concerned about a burgeoning trend: stream-ripping. Numerous mobile apps and sites now allow users to download MP3 files from songs on YouTube, thus circumventing both advertising and paid streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music. The music industry has had reasonable success in fighting the kind of peer-to-peer file sharing that hurt CD sales, but this new kind of piracy is proving much harder to combat because it sources legitimate streaming services. Continue reading Stream-Ripping, the New Music Piracy, Becoming Problematic

Time Debuts People/Entertainment Weekly Streaming Network

Time is launching its People/Entertainment Weekly Network (PEN) today — a streaming, ad-supported video service also available as an app, on numerous Web-connected devices and People’s website. The venture, Time’s latest effort to leverage digital advertising, is free and available to watch live and on-demand, with a focus on celebrities, coverage of popular entertainment franchises (such as “Star Wars” and “Game of Thrones”), live events (such as the Emmy Awards) and human interest stories. Continue reading Time Debuts People/Entertainment Weekly Streaming Network

Rovi Renames Itself TiVo After Buyout, Launches UX Interface

Rovi has completed its $1.1 billion cash and stock deal to acquire DVR pioneer TiVo and, in an unusual move, announced that it would rename itself after the company it just purchased. The company also unveiled TiVo UX, its new on-screen user experience that integrates programming options from multiple platforms for a seamless search and recommendation interface. The new UI — featuring TiVo’s innovative Prediction tech — is designed to access content from TV and mobile sources quicker and easier, in an effort to “allow every device to become a primary screen for video consumption.” Continue reading Rovi Renames Itself TiVo After Buyout, Launches UX Interface

Google Builds Cast Functionality Directly into Chrome Browser

Google recently integrated full Google Cast capability directly into its Chrome browser, a significant upgrade to its previous Cast extension that allowed streaming from Chrome to supported devices like the company’s popular Chromecast. The Cast icon will appear on all sites that support it, enabling Cast functionality from the Chrome menu, no software download required. Cast is also now available on third party hardware such as TV sets and speakers. More than 38 million casts were sent from Chrome in August alone, representing over 50 million hours of consuming media content. Continue reading Google Builds Cast Functionality Directly into Chrome Browser

FCC Chair Pushes Compromise Plan to Open Set-Top Boxes

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler hasn’t given up on his goal to open up the TV set-top box market, thus breaking the cable industry’s dominance in this arena. Sources say he is preparing a “compromise version” of his proposal by which cable companies would be required to make their feeds available, via apps, to competitive device manufacturers. In today’s market, the set-top box, which once simply translated cable signals for TV sets, can now be used to offer access to cable TV and video-streaming services such as Hulu or Netflix. Continue reading FCC Chair Pushes Compromise Plan to Open Set-Top Boxes

Netflix Video Codec Study Finds x265 More Efficient Than VP9

After comparing 5,000 streaming clips from 500 titles using x264, x265, and libvpx codecs, Netflix found x265′s implementation of HEVC to be the most efficient while offering the highest quality. However, “whether that matters in light of compatibility and licensing issues isn’t so obvious,” notes Streaming Media. The study, which focused on VOD rather than live, compared codecs and not specifications (instead of comparing encoding specs, Netflix compared implementation of the specs). “Netflix’s tests clearly show that x265 is 20 percent more efficient than libvpx when encoding premium content using the most stringent settings, and measuring quality with VMAF.” Continue reading Netflix Video Codec Study Finds x265 More Efficient Than VP9

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