NBA Digital Begins Testing 99-Cent Streaming of 4th Quarters

Fans of the NBA have game streaming options ranging from league-wide packages, team-specific packages, and single game options (with certain blackouts applicable to all). Now, NBA Digital, a combined effort between the NBA and Turner, is testing an even more affordable option — streaming the 4th quarter of live games for just 99 cents, according to social media reports from fans who are receiving notifications via the NBA app to test the service. NBA Digital has yet to respond to requests for more information.

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Spotify Promotes Potential Growth as It Prepares to Go Public

As Spotify Technology SA prepares to go public, co-founder and chief executive officer Daniel Ek has some convincing to do. Not necessarily about the company’s numbers, which are impressive (70 million paying subscribers, for starters), but about the potential for growth and revenue. On the one hand, with Spotify’s help, the music business has seen three years of global growth after 15 years of decline — but on the other hand, Spotify isn’t making money, having to contend with music-rights holders collecting over 75 cents per dollar.

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Google’s New Shopping Actions Aid Competition with Amazon

Google recently launched Shopping Actions, a new program to help retailers compete with Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer. The program allows companies to list “products across Google Search, in its Google Express shopping service, and in the Google Assistant app for smartphones and on smart speakers, like the Google Home,” reports TechCrunch. It offers a universal cart no matter what device shoppers are using and Google earns money via a pay-per-sale model. The program is now open to any retailer in the U.S.

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Mozilla and Others Pull Facebook Ads Over Privacy Concerns

Following the now widespread reports of Cambridge Analytica’s use of Facebook user data, some companies are pulling ads from the social media giant, in large part due to “consumer backlash and questions from lawmakers” over the company’s privacy policy, reports Engadget. Mozilla has pulled its ads, claiming to have taken a closer look at Facebook’s current privacy settings, particularly related to third-party apps. Many other companies around the world are considering a similar ad-related move, according to the article.

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CNET Review: Oculus Go, Facebook’s New $199 VR Headset

Facebook is getting ready to release Oculus Go, a new phone-free VR headset at a price point of $199. According to CNET, the standalone Oculus Go represents “entry-level accessibility” to virtual reality, an area of technology innovation they hope to see grow at a consumer level. While the games and apps available on Oculus Go seem similar to what’s already available via Samsung’s Gear VR, the design is “less clunky, and the integrated, cleaner, softer and smaller construction here is better,” writes CNET.

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Amazon’s Vision: Whole Foods as Urban Distribution Centers

After acquiring Whole Foods in 2017 for $13.7 billion, Amazon.com Inc. has been working to more deeply integrate its new physical grocery stores into its online retail business. Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, has a vision that ties together the physical and the digital. Currently, the company is searching for larger Whole Foods locations to serve as grocery stores that double as urban distribution centers to enhance the efficiency of online order deliveries, according to a source close to the project.

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Google Is Developing Its Own Blockchain-Related Technology

Google is one of the largest information holders in the world, and while it’s security is strong, there is still room for improvement. To that end, Google is working on its own “blockchain-related technology,” according to Bloomberg. Sources close to the project say that Google is working to develop its own “distributed digital ledger that third parties can use to post and verify transactions.” Essentially, it would project consumer information stored on its cloud services. No release date has yet to be announced.

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Access Android Games Immediately With Google Play Instant

The age of instant gratification just got even more addictive thanks to Google’s new Google Play Instant, which comprises Android apps and games that do not need to be installed before people can try them out. The tech giant announced the upgrade at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. Available games include Supercell’s “Clash Royale,” Zynga’s “Words with Friends 2,” King’s “Bubble Witch 3 Saga” and Hothead’s “Mighty Battles.” These and more are already available on over 1 billion Android devices.

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Sprint Working On AI Software to Assist Its Call Center Reps

Sprint is currently developing AI-powered software to help call center representatives better handle customer service. Sprint plans to use data related to customer calls to create “interaction assistants” that provide employees with best next steps. This effort is part of the company’s digital transformation project, which involves a partnership with Adobe Systems Inc. “Our focus has been about evolving and really becoming a digital company across all facets,” said Sprint CIO Scott Rice. Data has “become core across all our infrastructure and we really are changing our mindset.”

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Americans Now Spend $2 Billion Monthly on Streaming Video

According to Deloitte’s 2018 Digital Media Trends Survey, U.S. consumers are now spending about $2 billion per month to watch their favorite TV shows and movies via streaming video services such as Netflix, Amazon and Hulu. The survey notes that 55 percent of U.S. households subscribe to at least one such service — a significant increase from 2009, when it was just 10 percent — and the average customer pays for three. Conversely, the survey found that pay-TV subscriptions like cable and satellite are down to 63 percent from 74 percent in 2016.

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Google Pledges $300 Million in Effort to Clean Up Fake News

Google has set its sights on combating fake news on the Internet, pledging to spend $300 million over the next three years in support of what The New York Times calls “authoritative journalism.” The Google News Initiative’s goals include making it easier for Googlers to subscribe to news and providing publishers with tools for fast-loading mobile pages. In partnership with Harvard Kennedy School’s First Draft initiative, Google will also create a “Disinfo Lab” to identify fake news, particularly during moments when it’s breaking.

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IBM’s New Watson Assistant Helps Develop Virtual Assistants

With the launch of Watson Assistant, IBM is offering a new service that helps companies build their own voice-activated virtual assistants (like Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri). The new service aims to help companies that want to build these for their own products, using their own datasets. IBM’s pitch includes a belief that companies should want Watson Assistant rather than a competitor because it allows for heightened personalization and privacy. According to IBM, Watson Assistant keeps the data to itself, differentiating it from other virtual assistants.

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Facebook Plans to Be Next Home to Online Content Creators

Facebook wants to be the next home for online content creators, aiming to displace YouTube, Patreon and others with additions to its Creator app, which launched in November on iOS and will be available on Android soon. The social media giant is currently testing ways Creator users can make more money and connect with their fans. One such way would allow monthly subscribers to gain access to exclusive content from their favorite creators and allow them to earn fan badges similar to those used on Patreon.

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Amazon Debuts Cross-Platform Competitive Gaming Platform

Amazon has launched an AWS-powered competitive gaming platform called Amazon GameOn, which allows third-party developers to add eSports-like competitive elements such as tournaments and leaderboards to mobile, PC and console games. Gamers can also win Amazon prizes (perhaps an Echo Dot, for example) in real-time, which effectively adds another layer of competitive gaming between professional eSports players and amateur gamers. According to market research from Newzoo, eSports could grow into a $1.5 billion business by the year 2020.

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NBCUniversal, Intel, Microsoft, Unity Launch Gaming Contest

NBCUniversal is inviting developers to create games leveraging its popular television and film properties such as “Battlestar Galactica,” “Back to the Future” and “Jaws.” Through the Universal GameDev Challenge — co-sponsored by Universal, Unity Technologies, Intel, and Microsoft — Unity game engine developers can submit pitches to be selected to build out their full vision in PC game form. Winner and runner-up win a consulting contract with Universal, Microsoft and Unity, along with a combined $250,000.

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