Amazon’s New Fire TV Stick Includes Alexa Digital Assistant

Amazon’s newly debuted $40 Fire TV Stick is the cheapest way to access Alexa, the company’s digital assistant which enables users to find TV programs, purchase products on Amazon’s online store, hear news updates, play a song on Spotify or check the weather. According to Amazon, Alexa is currently capable of understanding 3,000 different commands and can also offer shows from 90 apps and channels. Fire TV Stick’s more than 4,000 apps include Netflix, Hulu, HBO, ESPN and Major League Baseball. Continue reading Amazon’s New Fire TV Stick Includes Alexa Digital Assistant

Drone Industry Is Under Rapid Change in Southern California

Drone operators are beginning to realize the commercial potential of UAVs. In Southern California, for example, drones are being used for film production, sports coverage, wedding photography, map-making and more. According to Los Angeles Daily News, drone operators are also making money with applications such as: “examining the health of agricultural crops,” “monitoring the progress of construction projects,” “documenting the installation of rooftop solar panels in order to claim federal tax credits,” “selling commercial, industrial and residential real estate” and “surveying electric wires, pipelines, railroad tracks, dams and canals for damage.” Meanwhile, companies including Amazon and Google are experimenting with drone delivery services. Continue reading Drone Industry Is Under Rapid Change in Southern California

Federal Regulators Need More Time to Vote on Set-Top Boxes

The FCC delayed its vote yesterday on the proposal to unlock cable set-top boxes. FCC members “could not agree on a set-top box proposal that requires cable operators to provide their shows and movies on alternative devices rather than just on a cable box,” reports The New York Times. “The plan was intended to bring more competition to the television industry and liberate consumers from an average of $231 in annual cable box fees.” While the proposal will be considered for a future vote, FCC chair Tom Wheeler said commissioners needed additional discussions. However, with an upcoming change of administration, Wheeler’s window to adopt the regulation may be dwindling. Continue reading Federal Regulators Need More Time to Vote on Set-Top Boxes

Sony PS Vue Offers HBO, Cinemax as Standalones or Bundle

Following Sony’s recent announcement that the company’s PlayStation Vue streaming service would offer HBO and Cinemax, both premium cable channels are now available as standalones for $15 per month or as part of a new bundle. In addition, the HBO Now app launched yesterday on PS3 and PS4 consoles. According to The Verge, “the new Ultra bundle will include all of Vue’s current offerings, including HBO and Showtime, for $64.99 per month in most locations, and $74.99 per month in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas, San Francisco, and Miami. PlayStation says Vue is the first streaming service to offer live programming from HBO and Cinemax without a bundle subscription.” Continue reading Sony PS Vue Offers HBO, Cinemax as Standalones or Bundle

Cord Cutting Could Lead to $1 Billion Loss for Pay TV Industry

According to a new study, pay-TV providers stand to lose almost $1 billion as an estimated 800,000 customers are projected to cut the cord over the next year. The results are based on an online survey of U.S. customers by management consulting firm cg42. While some analysts believe that consumers could pay more in the end for standalone Internet and streaming services if they drop cable, the study suggests otherwise, since most people typically do not spend more than about $15 on streaming services. Continue reading Cord Cutting Could Lead to $1 Billion Loss for Pay TV Industry

Plex, Amazon Launch Beta Test of Cloud-Based Media Center

Digital media center manufacturer Plex is debuting Plex Cloud, which runs its server on Amazon Drive without a local computer or network-attached storage drive. A select group of beta testers will get their hands on Plex Cloud, enabling them to set up a Plex server in one minute and use Amazon’s consumer cloud storage service, including the ability to stream media to any device. This change removes one of the biggest obstacles to adoption of Plex’s solution for personal media: the need for a dedicated server. Continue reading Plex, Amazon Launch Beta Test of Cloud-Based Media Center

AT&T to Roll Out Streaming TV Service Aimed at Cord-Nevers

By the end of 2016, AT&T plans to debut DirecTV Now, a streaming service targeting cord-nevers, the 20 million households with no cable or satellite service. Sources say that AT&T intends DirecTV Now, which will deliver multiple live-feeds via broadband to the home, to become its primary video platform within five years. The platform will offer more than 100 channels and the ability to stream to two devices simultaneously, all without the need for cable or satellite service. AT&T bought DirecTV for $48.5 billion last year. Continue reading AT&T to Roll Out Streaming TV Service Aimed at Cord-Nevers

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

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

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

Amazon Said to Be Looking Beyond Video to Streaming Sports

According to unnamed sources, Amazon is actively pursuing the rights to numerous sports, including the French Open tennis championship and professional rugby as well as golf, soccer, auto racing and U.S. sports such as basketball and baseball. Capturing rights in the U.S. will be challenging since CBS, NBCUniversal, Fox, Turner Sports and ESPN have inked long-term contracts for most major sporting events. In talks, Amazon points to the popularity of Amazon Prime, which reaches an estimated 63 million U.S. subscribers. Continue reading Amazon Said to Be Looking Beyond Video to Streaming Sports

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

ETC, Google and Equinix Present Next-Gen Cloud Workflows

The Entertainment Technology Center at USC (ETC), Equinix and Google are coming together to raise awareness of new cloud-based workflow technologies for creative companies. On September 19th at Google’s Venice, CA headquarters, the companies will host an event for industry professionals to learn how cloud-based workflows are changing media and entertainment. The event will feature presentations and an engaging panel discussion to illustrate how facilities large and small can leverage the cloud to decrease workflow latency while increasing security and productivity. Continue reading ETC, Google and Equinix Present Next-Gen Cloud Workflows

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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