NBCUniversal to Launch Peacock Streaming Service in April

In April, NBCUniversal will introduce its streaming service, dubbed Peacock, and join the ranks of other streaming services to debut in the next few months. Apple TV+ will unveil November 1; Disney+ on November 12, and HBO Max from WarnerMedia, also in April. Peacock will have 15,000 hours of content on both its ad-supported and subscription-based services, including complete seasons of some of its most popular shows. In June, said a source, the company paid $500 million to regain rights to “The Office.” Continue reading NBCUniversal to Launch Peacock Streaming Service in April

Streaming Video Competition Heats Up, Threatens Price War

Major entertainment entities entering the streaming video market have collectively spent $2+ billion on classic TV shows as they jockey for position ahead of a looming battle for dominance. The services, which include Apple TV+, Disney+, WarnerMedia’s HBO Max and, newcomer NBCUniversal’s Peacock, are also busy spending money to sign talent for new original programs. All these services are scheduled to launch between November and April; the activity also points to the potential for a price war. Continue reading Streaming Video Competition Heats Up, Threatens Price War

Google Updates Algorithm, Guidelines to Aid Original Stories

Publishers complain that their news scoops, when posted online, are quickly nabbed and recycled by other publications, leading to a loss in traffic. To stem the flow, Google made changes to its algorithm and its guidelines to favor original reporting. Google vice president of news Richard Gingras said that the company would make it easier for readers to “find the story that started it all.” He later added that the shift also benefited Google Search and Google News in its efforts to “retain the trust of [its] users.”

Continue reading Google Updates Algorithm, Guidelines to Aid Original Stories

Vudu to Release Family Viewing Controls, “Mr. Mom” Reboot

Walmart’s video streaming service Vudu is introducing both a suite of tools to help parents better control what their children watch and its first original series, the family-oriented 11-episode “Mr. Mom,” a reboot of MGM’s 1983 comedy written by John Hughes. The first two episodes of “Mr. Mom” debuted September 12. The new tools include Family Play, which allows viewers to automatically skip or mute profanity, sex, nudity, violence and substance abuse. Also on tap are reviews and ratings from Common Sense Media. Continue reading Vudu to Release Family Viewing Controls, “Mr. Mom” Reboot

Amazon, Apple Research How to Improve Digital Assistants

Apple researchers investigated what people really want in a digital assistant, finding that people deem an assistant “likeable” and “trustworthy” when it mirrored their own degree of chattiness. It also found that the features that make up mirroring can be extracted from the user’s speech patterns. Amazon researchers conducted a project that found Alexa can figure out what a user wants via so-called dialogue state tracking, in which it estimates and keeps tabs on a person’s goals throughout a conversation. Continue reading Amazon, Apple Research How to Improve Digital Assistants

Tension Over Algorithm Roils Amazon Retail, Search Teams

Amazon’s search algorithm can make or break a product. Sources are now saying that the tech behemoth adjusted its system late in 2018 so that products that bring it bigger profits get the most visibility. That could include Amazon’s own brands over products that might be more relevant and popular. The tweak in the algorithm took place against the backdrop of ongoing tensions between the executives running Amazon’s retail businesses, who wanted the switch, and those at A9, the company’s search team, who did not. Continue reading Tension Over Algorithm Roils Amazon Retail, Search Teams

Disney, Microsoft Team Up to Shift Moviemaking to the Cloud

Walt Disney Studios and Microsoft inked a five-year deal to start transitioning filmmaking to Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform, with the goal of complete “scene to screen.” The effort is led by Disney’s StudioLAB. Walt Disney Studios chief technology officer Jamie Voris said the first step will be to move Avid editing tools into the cloud, to facilitate collaboration across locations. Microsoft U.S. president Kate Johnson noted that “we are at the tipping point for cloud in media and entertainment.” Continue reading Disney, Microsoft Team Up to Shift Moviemaking to the Cloud

Apple, Microsoft Latest to Join Academy Software Foundation

Apple and Microsoft signed on as premier members of the Academy Software Foundation (ASWF), founded in 2018 to promote the use of open source software in the movie industry. By joining ASWF, Apple and Microsoft pushed annual funding for the organization over $1 million. Microsoft also joined ASWF’s governing board and technical advisory council. ASWF is a joint project of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Linux Foundation. ASWF executive director David Morin welcomed both companies into the fold. Continue reading Apple, Microsoft Latest to Join Academy Software Foundation

Facebook Set to Launch Portal TV Streamer With Video Chat

For the holidays, Facebook plans to unveil a Portal TV streaming device that will feature a camera and far-field microphones and offer video chat with TV viewing and augmented reality. Rather than competing directly with Fire TV or Roku, the device focuses more on video chatting. It is also likely to run Android, as does most Facebook hardware including Oculus Go and Oculus Quest VR headsets. By being based on the Android operating system, the Portal device will synch seamlessly with Android-based TV apps. Continue reading Facebook Set to Launch Portal TV Streamer With Video Chat

New NFL-Facebook Contract Will Run Through 2020 Season

The NFL and Facebook renewed their video deal through the 2020 season. In the original deal, inked in 2017, the NFL provided recaps from all 256 regular season games plus other content for Facebook Watch. The NFL will continue to supply the season recaps, along with original content, content related to the NFL’s 100th anniversary and material from the NFL Films archive featured on “NFL Throwback.” Facebook says that, in 2017 and 2018, over 22 million people watched at least a minute of an NFL recap. Continue reading New NFL-Facebook Contract Will Run Through 2020 Season

Apple’s iOS 13 Reveals Path Forward for Augmented Reality

Apple signaled its steps toward augmented reality with a feature found in both iOS 13 and Xcode 11. Developers Steve Troughton-Smith and Guilherme Rambo discovered StarBoard, a stereo AR feature that appears to be similar to iOS’s CarPlay feature, which relies on an iPhone to generate graphics for a vehicle’s external touchscreen. But whereas CarPlay outputs a single image for a 2D display, StarBoard can apparently output two images for a 3D stereo headset, paired with a touch-based AR navigation controller. Continue reading Apple’s iOS 13 Reveals Path Forward for Augmented Reality

Apple Arcade Introduces New Model for Subscription Games

Apple’s video game subscription service Arcade, due to unveil September 19, is based on an established model for casual mobile games — with a twist. Ordinarily, the games are free to download and play, but the companies make money with ads and sales of in-game purchases. Apple is charging $5 per month for those free games, but shedding the ads and digital add-ons. The question is if Apple can change an industry’s typical business model. Microsoft and Google have tried the subscription model, but for higher end games. Continue reading Apple Arcade Introduces New Model for Subscription Games

FTC Begins Amazon Probe by Talking to Third-Party Vendors

The Federal Trade Commission has begun its investigation of Amazon by trying to determine if small businesses do in fact have alternative marketplaces. Several attorneys and “at least one economist” have been conducting 90-minute interviews with some of Amazon’s third-party vendors, to see if they do earn revenue from eBay, Walmart or other shopping sites. According to former FTC staffer Michael Kades, the length of the interviews and number of staff dedicated to the task indicates the agency is doing a “serious job.” Continue reading FTC Begins Amazon Probe by Talking to Third-Party Vendors

California Law Limiting Gig Economy to Take Effect January 1

The California State Assembly gave its final approval, in a 56-to-15 vote, for AB-5, a bill that strikes a blow against the gig economy, forcing companies such as Lyft and Uber to treat contract workers as employees. The bill originally passed in the State Senate in a 29-to-11 vote and applies to all app-based companies. Governor Gavin Newsom, who endorsed the bill, is expected to sign it; the law will go into effect January 1. Uber has stated it will do “whatever it takes” to keep their drivers independent contractors. Continue reading California Law Limiting Gig Economy to Take Effect January 1

Streaming Options Impact Bandwidth Consumption Rankings

With the dramatic increase in the amount of video streaming from Internet-based apps, Netflix has ceded its position as the No. 1 consumer of bandwidth. That’s according to Sandvine’s 2019 Global Internet Phenomena Report, which added that HTTP media streaming accounted for 12.8 percent of downstream Internet traffic globally in the first six months of 2019, whereas Netflix accounted for 12.6 percent. In the Americas, Netflix’s downstream traffic in the same period dropped to 12.9 percent from last year’s 19.1 percent. Continue reading Streaming Options Impact Bandwidth Consumption Rankings

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