Apple Makes Additional Changes to App Store Commissions

To help businesses hold paid digital events during the COVID-19 pandemic, Apple stated that companies offering virtual events or digital classes via iPhone apps won’t have to pay the 30 percent commission fee ordinarily applied to App Store in-app purchases. This concession will extend through the end of June 2021. Apple will also reduce its commission for smaller developers. Meanwhile, Epic Games, which with other developers has been fighting Apple over its in-app commission fee, now has an ally in Nvidia. The GPU and gaming company is testing its GeForce NOW gaming platform on Apple’s iOS mobile operating system. Continue reading Apple Makes Additional Changes to App Store Commissions

Biden Reiterates Commitment to Create Universal Broadband

President-elect Joe Biden and top Democratic allies in Congress, including James Clyburn (D-South Carolina), are focused on significantly increasing federal spending on broadband to improve Internet access and affordability, especially in rural areas. The effort is more urgent as the pandemic continues, and the first step towards this goal is part of the new coronavirus stimulus package. Biden already endorsed the relief bill, passed by the House, that includes $4 billion for Internet access to low-income Americans. Continue reading Biden Reiterates Commitment to Create Universal Broadband

Universal, Cinemark Sign Deal for Shorter Exclusivity Window

Comcast’s Universal Pictures teamed with Cinemark Holdings, the third largest theater chain in the U.S., to permit online distribution of movies after three weekends (or 17 days) in theaters. The exception is movies that gross $50+ million domestically during their first weekend, lengthening the exclusivity window to five weekends or 31 days. Universal inked a similar deal with AMC Entertainment in July. Pre-pandemic, the exclusivity window was 2-1/2 months from a film’s premiere in theaters until it could be distributed to homes. Continue reading Universal, Cinemark Sign Deal for Shorter Exclusivity Window

REMINDER: Virtual Production Webinar Slated for This Week

The next ETC Digital Town Square — Breaking Down “Ripple Effect”: A Case Study on COVID-19 Safety Protocols, Advanced Workflows and Virtual Production — will be hosted by Equinix and the Entertainment Technology Center@USC on November 19, 1:00-3:30 pm PST. Free and open to the public, the webinar will dive into “Ripple Effect,” a recent live-action short produced by ETC that leveraged Safetyviz as well as remote and virtual production to improve safety in the return to media production. Register today for your virtual front row seat to this important webinar. Continue reading REMINDER: Virtual Production Webinar Slated for This Week

Game Publishers Launch a Plan to Raise Game Prices to $70

Game publishers have discussed raising the cost of video games, set at $60 in the 1990s, for decades, and are finally moving ahead with a plan to raise the standard price to $70, despite the doubling of U.S. unemployment due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Take-Two Interactive Software was one of the first to offer a $70 game with “NBA 2K1.” Meanwhile, Microsoft promotes its Xbox Game Pass, a subscription service with 100+ titles for $10 per month. Sony plans to offer a subscription service with fewer titles. Continue reading Game Publishers Launch a Plan to Raise Game Prices to $70

Ripple Effect: Webinar Covers Virtual Production Case Study

The next ETC Digital Town Square — Breaking Down “Ripple Effect”: A Case Study on COVID-19 Safety Protocols, Advanced Workflows and Virtual Production — will be hosted by Equinix and the Entertainment Technology Center@USC on November 19, 1:00-3:30 pm PST. Free and open to the public, the webinar will dive into “Ripple Effect,” a recent live-action short produced by ETC that leveraged Safetyviz as well as remote and virtual production to improve safety in the return to media production. Register today for your virtual front row seat to this important webinar. Continue reading Ripple Effect: Webinar Covers Virtual Production Case Study

TikTok Popularity Surge Continues as U.S. Ultimatum Looms

ByteDance, the Chinese parent company of TikTok, asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit for more time to work out the preliminary deal to sell its U.S. operations to Oracle and Walmart. November 12 is the deadline for the deal to be completed. The company also stated it had been in discussions with the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States (CFIUS), but “feedback had stopped” in recent weeks despite the approaching deadline. App Annie reports that TikTok’s substantial growth is expected to continue throughout 2021. Continue reading TikTok Popularity Surge Continues as U.S. Ultimatum Looms

Pandemic Could Have Long-Term Impact on Gaming Industry

The COVID-19 pandemic is boosting the multi-billion-dollar video-game industry into the stratosphere, and Big Tech companies predict the trend will endure past the pandemic. Microsoft, for example, plans to acquire the company behind the “Doom” game franchise for $7.5 billion. NPD Group reported that about 244 million people in the U.S. play video games, up 15 percent from a 2018 study. The report added that, “Americans spend an average of 14 hours a week playing video games … compared with 12 hours weekly in 2018.” Continue reading Pandemic Could Have Long-Term Impact on Gaming Industry

Walmart Opens Test Stores to Advance E-Commerce Goals

Walmart is transforming four of its stores into test labs to find the best ways to transition them into online fulfillment centers for e-commerce. Two of the stores are near its Bentonville, Arkansas headquarters, and the locations of the second two will be announced at a later date. Employees at these so-called laboratories will rely on digital tools and try out different strategies to integrate the company’s e-commerce and brick-and-mortar sides. The company’s online sales almost doubled during Q2, which ended July 31. Continue reading Walmart Opens Test Stores to Advance E-Commerce Goals

Big Tech Companies Report Strong Third Quarter Revenues

In an otherwise glum economic picture, Big Tech companies have boomed. The general economy is improving, while Alphabet, Amazon, Apple and Facebook are reporting profits that suggest they may be capable of generating the kind of wealth that a single industry hasn’t seen in generations. In fact, those four companies had a quarterly net profit of $38 billion, despite regulator scrutiny and other obstacles. Amazon saw an almost 200 percent rise in profits, and Facebook had a stupendous quarter, despite the advertiser boycott. Continue reading Big Tech Companies Report Strong Third Quarter Revenues

Comcast Posts Strong Q3 with Peacock, High-Speed Internet

In July, Comcast reported that its NBCUniversal Peacock streaming service had 10 million subscribers. Now, the company announced, Peacock has 22 million subscribers, adding that it is “a differentiating factor for customers considering Xfinity broadband and is also improving churn.” In the same quarter, Comcast added 633,000 high-speed Internet customers, for its best quarterly results in its history. Comcast stated that, in the first nine months of 2020, cable added more broadband sign-ups than in all of 2019. Continue reading Comcast Posts Strong Q3 with Peacock, High-Speed Internet

Netflix Raises Monthly Prices of Its Standard, Premium Plans

As Netflix faces a growing collection of competing video services, the company is raising the monthly subscription cost of its most popular standard plan from $12.99 per month to $13.99, its first increase since January of last year. While the entry-level basic plan will remain $8.99 per month, the premium plan will increase from $15.99 to $17.99 per month. Yesterday, the company announced that price changes will go into effect immediately for new subscribers, while current subscribers should expect a fee adjustment within the next two months. Subscribers will receive a warning of the increase 30 days prior to the change. Continue reading Netflix Raises Monthly Prices of Its Standard, Premium Plans

Microsoft Q1 Revenues Rise in Part Due to Azure Cloud Unit

Microsoft’s sales rose 12 percent to $37.2 billion, with a net profit of $13.9 billion for Q1 of its fiscal year, exceeding Wall Street expectations. Its cloud unit Azure’s revenue jumped 48 percent from the same quarter last year, driving the quarter’s results, said chief financial officer Amy Hood. Much of the dramatic leap in Azure’s use can be attributed to online demands created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Likewise, the company’s gaming content business showed a 30 percent increase in sales from last year. Continue reading Microsoft Q1 Revenues Rise in Part Due to Azure Cloud Unit

Quibi Shutters Video Platform That Targeted Mobile Viewers

After launching only six months ago, Quibi is shuttering its doors. According to sources, Quibi founder Jeffrey Katzenberg called investors to give them the news. As a startup, Quibi raised $1.75 billion but, since its debut, failed to sign up subscribers, garnered low download numbers and faced a well-funded lawsuit from interactive video company Eko, which claimed credit for its video streaming technology. Quibi also contended with the coronavirus pandemic while promoting a mobile platform. Katzenberg envisioned Quibi as “quick bites” of 5- to 10-minute videos formatted for the mobile screen. Continue reading Quibi Shutters Video Platform That Targeted Mobile Viewers

Alibaba Buys Majority Stake in Big-Box Grocery Store Chain

Alibaba Group, China’s most valuable company with a market capitalization of $800+ billion, is paying $3.6 billion to gain more control of Sun Art Retail Group, which operates 480+ large supermarket stores. As in the U.S. and elsewhere, COVID-19 has seen many consumers shift to online shopping for food and other essentials. In 2017, Alibaba acquired a 36 percent stake in Sun Art for about $2.9 billion. With the latest purchase, Alibaba will own about 72 percent of the company and is positioned to compete with Walmart. Continue reading Alibaba Buys Majority Stake in Big-Box Grocery Store Chain

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