Facebook Creating Companion Messaging App to Instagram

Facebook is looking to take on Snapchat with a new messaging app the social giant is developing as a companion to Instagram. The Threads app reportedly intends to encourage constant sharing between “close friends” by automatically sharing data such as location, speed and battery life in addition to the usual messages comprised of video, images and text. Instagram previously had a standalone messaging app called Direct, but users were frustrated when they had to move between the two apps to send messages. A new messaging app built around a user’s close friends list could provide a viable alternative.  Continue reading Facebook Creating Companion Messaging App to Instagram

Disney Announces Project Updates During D23 Expo 2019

During the star-studded D23 Expo in Anaheim the last several days, Disney announced plans for an Epcot transformation, the new Avenger Campus theme park attractions, a retail collaboration that will bring Disney stores to select Target locations, a first-of-its-kind Cirque du Soleil show coming to Disney Springs, a summer 2020 reopening of Disney’s Hotel New York in Disneyland Paris featuring a design based on the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a new port of call for Disney Cruise Lines on Eleuthera, and a new docu-series on the people behind Disney movies and parks. The company also revealed more details of its upcoming streaming video service. Continue reading Disney Announces Project Updates During D23 Expo 2019

Phone Companies Adopt New Plan to Combat Robocallers

A dozen major phone companies — including mobile and broadband service providers such as AT&T, Comcast, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon — are teaming with 51 attorneys general from across the U.S. to introduce call-blocking tech and additional measures designed to help regulators take on scammers by preventing robocalls. According to Irvine, CA-based call-blocking service YouMail, robocalls reached 4.7 billion consumers in July alone. “Robocalls are a scourge — at best, annoying, at worst, scamming people out of their hard-earned money,” said North Carolina attorney general Josh Stein. Continue reading Phone Companies Adopt New Plan to Combat Robocallers

SuperGLUE Is Benchmark For Language-Understanding AI

Researchers recently introduced a series of rigorous benchmark tasks that measure the performance of sophisticated language-understanding AI. Facebook AI Research with Google’s DeepMind, University of Washington and New York University introduced SuperGLUE last week, based on the idea that deep learning models for today’s conversational AI require greater challenges. SuperGLUE, which uses Google’s BERT representational model as a performance baseline, follows the 2018 introduction of GLUE (General Language Understanding Evaluation), and encourages the creation of models that can understand more nuanced, complex language. Continue reading SuperGLUE Is Benchmark For Language-Understanding AI

Facebook Plans Section in Its Mobile App Called News Tab

Facebook is working on a publishing initiative called News Tab that will deliver news content partly curated by a team of editors to the social platform’s mobile app. The Silicon Valley company, which has primarily relied on algorithms to select news stories, plans to hire a team of experienced journalists to serve as editors and launch a test version of News Tab by the end of this year. “Our goal with the News Tab is to provide a personalized, highly relevant experience for people,” said Campbell Brown, head of global news partnerships at Facebook. Continue reading Facebook Plans Section in Its Mobile App Called News Tab

Google Open-Sources Technology For Real-Time Captions

Google is looking to help developers create real-time captioning for long-form conversations in multiple languages. The company recently open-sourced the speech engine used for Live Transcribe, its Android speech-to-text transcription app designed for those who are deaf or hard of hearing, and posted the source code on GitHub. Live Transcribe, launched in February, is a tool that uses machine learning algorithms to convert audio into captions. Live Transcribe can transcribe speech in more than 70 languages and dialects into captions in real-time. Continue reading Google Open-Sources Technology For Real-Time Captions

Ad-Supported YouTube Originals to Be Free For Everyone

YouTube has released new details regarding its previously announced transition to ad-supported free content to be made available via YouTube Originals. According to a statement from the YouTube team: “New YouTube Originals series, movies, and live events released after September 24, 2019 will be made available to non-members to watch for free, with ads. For series, members will get immediate access to every episode of a new season, while non-members will have to wait for each new episode to be released.” Continue reading Ad-Supported YouTube Originals to Be Free For Everyone

Cable Provider Altice Plans Fall Launch For Smart Speaker

New York-based cable provider Altice USA, parent company to Optimum and Suddenlink, plans to launch a high-fidelity smart speaker this fall that features audio tech from French company Devialet. The $400 Altice Amplify will come with Alexa built-in for hands-free control of TV functions. The speaker, to be available through Altice’s cable stores and Amazon.com, will feature access to streaming apps on the Altice One cable system such as Netflix, Pandora and YouTube. Altice Amplify will work with additional TV systems and streaming devices and support apps including Amazon Music, Apple Music, Audible, iHeartRadio, Spotify, Tidal and TuneIn. Continue reading Cable Provider Altice Plans Fall Launch For Smart Speaker

Facebook Ad Campaigns to Carry Movie Reminders, Times

Facebook is introducing two new features in the U.S. and U.K. that will allow entertainment studios to post movie reminders and showtimes as standard components for ad buys on the platform’s News Feed. There will be no additional cost to include the new information. Since interest in many films is generated early when trailers and ads first appear, Facebook believes movie fans would be greatly served with reminders when those films hit theaters. Users tap the “Interested” button on the movie’s Facebook ad to register for the reminder. The notification arrives when the film launches, and includes a link for showtimes and purchasing tickets. Continue reading Facebook Ad Campaigns to Carry Movie Reminders, Times

CBS and Viacom Reunite With a Focus on Streaming Video

After a split of more than 10 years, CBS and Viacom finalized a deal yesterday to recombine. The new company, to be called ViacomCBS Inc. with a market value of about $30 billion, will bring Viacom brands such as BET, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon and Paramount Pictures together with CBS, Showtime and the new CBS All Access streaming service. The merger follows several high-profile media deals, including Disney’s purchase of Fox’s movie and TV assets in March and AT&T’s 2018 acquisition of Time Warner, as media companies face significant changes involving pay TV and streaming services. Continue reading CBS and Viacom Reunite With a Focus on Streaming Video

Verizon to Sell Tumblr to WordPress Owner Automattic Inc.

Verizon announced that it is selling New York-based Tumblr to WordPress parent company Automattic Inc. Terms of the deal have not been formally announced, although some reports suggest that Automattic paid less than $3 million. Verizon purchased Tumblr in 2017 following its Yahoo acquisition; Yahoo paid $1.1 billion for the blogging platform four years earlier. Today, Tumblr is an active social networking hub and home to 475 million blogs. While it has a dedicated community, it does not share the same cultural impact as platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube. Continue reading Verizon to Sell Tumblr to WordPress Owner Automattic Inc.

ETC’s Spring/Summer Newsletter Is Now Available Online

The Entertainment Technology Center’s latest newsletter is currently posted online with updates to new and ongoing projects. Among the key announcements: ETC recently held its Studio Technology Leaders Dinner at USC’s Town & Gown. During the event, Ken Williams announced that Michael Wise of Universal has been named the new ETC Executive Board chairman. Additionally, ETC presented Leon Silverman of Netflix with the Bob Lambert Technology Leadership award. ETC selected four projects to continue with the development phase of its inaugural Immersive Media Challenge, and during a recent All Members Meeting, USC students discussed their opinions about media consumption. Visit the newsletter to read more about these topics and updates to ETC projects involving 5G, AI, adaptive production, quantum computing, archiving and preservation, production in the cloud, and more. Continue reading ETC’s Spring/Summer Newsletter Is Now Available Online

Facebook Plans to Test Selling VOD Subs Directly to Users

Facebook will launch a small-scale test in the U.S. over the coming weeks to sell video subscriptions directly to its users for BritBox from BBC Studios and ITV, Dropout by CollegeHumor, Motor Trend On Demand and Tastemade Plus. Facebook will initially test the waters with these four smaller services. While no major streaming video services are scheduled to be part of the test, Facebook has contacted networks such as HBO and Showtime about selling their OTT services on the social platform and has reportedly talked with Disney, Hulu and Netflix about offering their streaming services via a new TV chat device rumored to be launching this fall. Continue reading Facebook Plans to Test Selling VOD Subs Directly to Users

ETC Virtual Conference: Call for Speakers Deadline Aug. 9

The Entertainment Technology Center at The University of Southern California (ETC) will produce “vETC | The Grand Convergence 2019: Innovation and Integration,” its 5th annual virtual conference, August 27-28, 2019, in Los Angeles, highlighting significant presentations of emerging technologies and their impact on the M&E industry. The presentations will be recorded and posted to our YouTube channel. The Initial Expression of Interest seeking speakers and topics is open through Friday, August 9. Specific areas of concentration include 5G, AI, machine learning, adaptive production, blockchain, immersive media, virtual beings, and streaming. We welcome additional topics. Speakers will present concepts, workflows, business models, case studies, etc. Please no sales pitches! If you are interested in consideration, click here for more information. Continue reading ETC Virtual Conference: Call for Speakers Deadline Aug. 9

Streaming Bundle to Feature Disney Plus, ESPN Plus, Hulu

Starting November 12, Disney plans to offer consumers a $12.99-per-month streaming bundle that includes Disney Plus, ESPN Plus and Hulu’s ad-supported tier. November 12 will mark the U.S. debut of the anticipated Disney Plus service. Disney CEO Bob Iger announced the bundle during the company’s most recent earnings call with Wall Street. According to Iger, Disney is in discussions with Amazon, Apple and Google to offer Disney Plus via additional platforms. “We think it’s important to achieve scale relatively quickly and they’ll be an important part of that,” he said. Continue reading Streaming Bundle to Feature Disney Plus, ESPN Plus, Hulu

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