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

In Landmark Deal, 76ers Acquire Stake in Two eSports Teams

Competitive videogaming just got a boost when the National Basketball Association’s Philadelphia 76ers acquired a controlling interest in two so-called eSports squads, Dignitas and Apex. The move marks the first time an organization in any of the four major U.S. sports leagues invested in eSports. Prior to this landmark purchase, professional athletes have invested in eSports and both Time Warner’s TBS and Disney’s ESPN have live-broadcast the competitions. Specifics of the 76ers deal were not disclosed. Continue reading In Landmark Deal, 76ers Acquire Stake in Two eSports Teams

Disney Said to Be Considering Possible Bid for Twitter Merger

Following the CNBC report that Google and Salesforce.com were among those being considered for a Twitter takeover, TechCrunch added that Microsoft and Verizon have also expressed interest. Today, headlines indicate that Disney is considering a possible bid. Bloomberg reports that Disney is working with an adviser on a potential deal, in what would be the company’s latest investment in a string of tech-related media businesses including Hulu, Vice and MLB’s BAMTech. The Wall Street Journal suggests that “a Twitter acquisition would be Disney’s biggest technology deal yet” and “could benefit ESPN as cord-cutting becomes more widespread.” Continue reading Disney Said to Be Considering Possible Bid for Twitter Merger

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

Turner Tests New Ad Countdown Clock with ‘Animal Kingdom’

Turner Broadcasting is experimenting with a way to keep viewers from skipping ads: a countdown clock showing how much time is left in each ad break. The idea was first tested this season on TNT’s new crime drama “Animal Kingdom,” via a timer at the bottom of the screen for both live TV and pay TV affiliates’ VOD systems. The timer appears when there is 60 seconds left in a break. NBC’s “Today” and ABC’s “Good Morning America” have also used countdown clocks, but “Animal Kingdom” may be the first primetime show to do so. Continue reading Turner Tests New Ad Countdown Clock with ‘Animal Kingdom’

Disney, Major League Baseball Partner for Streaming Sports

The Walt Disney Company just invested $1 billion for a 33 percent stake in BAMTech, Major League Baseball’s streaming division, with an option to buy “a controlling interest” in the future. BAMTech, which also handles streaming for HBO among other media entities, will be Disney’s partner in creating an ESPN subscription streaming service that will most likely debut by the end of the year, according to Disney chief executive Bob Iger, and offer baseball, hockey, tennis, cricket and college sports. Continue reading Disney, Major League Baseball Partner for Streaming Sports

Apple’s New Plan for TV Ecosystem Influence is Digital Guide

Apple is now working on a digital TV guide that shows what’s playing on video apps from HBO, Netflix, ESPN and others, so consumers don’t have to open individual apps to discover content. The TV guide will work on a range of Apple devices, including Apple TV and iPhones. Last year, Apple’s goal was to sell TV programs to consumers, with an interface to make it easy to find content. By focusing on the interface, Apple leaves the financial arrangement to programmers, distributors and consumers. Continue reading Apple’s New Plan for TV Ecosystem Influence is Digital Guide

Disney Accelerator’s New Startups Address Robotics, AI, VR

The Walt Disney Company has invited nine new companies into its 2016 Accelerator program. Disney Accelerator, now in its third season, has gained a desirable profile as several alumni have inked partnership deals with Disney. Among them are Sphero, creator of the BB-8 droid “Star Wars” toy and sports data platform StatMuse, which now works with Disney’s ESPN. One of this year’s invited startups, says The Walt Disney Company’s senior vice president of innovation Michael Abrams, is an internal project team. Continue reading Disney Accelerator’s New Startups Address Robotics, AI, VR

Unplugged: YouTube’s Online TV Service Expected Next Year

YouTube has been developing an online TV service for today’s cord cutters, expected to launch early in 2017, and has reportedly been working on deals with ABC, CBS, ESPN and other major broadcasters. However, the video platform may pass on smaller cable networks, in hopes of creating YouTube channels with related video content. In May, Bloomberg reported that the $35-per-month service would be called Unplugged and could include smaller bundles of add-on channels. “Online TV services are still young, and there’s plenty of market for YouTube to go after,” suggests The Verge, noting that current obstacles include the availability of networks on services such as Sling, and the emergence of standalone services from CBS and soon, ESPN. Continue reading Unplugged: YouTube’s Online TV Service Expected Next Year

Twitter in Talks with NBA, MLS and Turner for Live Streaming

With the goal of being a player in live-streaming sports, Twitter is now in conversations with the NBA, Major League Soccer and cable network Turner, say sources. The company already has the rights to stream some of the NFL’s Thursday Night Football games in the fall. And although Twitter couldn’t stream live Wimbledon matches (ESPN holds those rights), it has streamed pre- and post-game material as well as live interviews and analysis. New deals could resemble either of these arrangements. Continue reading Twitter in Talks with NBA, MLS and Turner for Live Streaming

ESPN Planning to Offer Select Content via Streaming Package

ESPN is reportedly planning to offer a streaming package of live niche programming and select college sports directly to consumers via the Internet. The OTT offering is not expected to feature big league content, and ESPN does not have any immediate plans to make its core product available for standalone streaming. “Despite the growing selection of so-called ‘skinny bundles,’ earlier this year ESPN president John Skipper said that this isn’t the time to move away from the lucrative business of selling to TV providers like Comcast and Time Warner Cable,” reports The Verge. Last year, ESPN experimented with offering direct access to its Cricket World Cup coverage without the need for a pay TV subscription. Continue reading ESPN Planning to Offer Select Content via Streaming Package

Twitter Tests Live-Streaming Sports with Wimbledon Coverage

Twitter is live-streaming tennis tournament Wimbledon, finally giving viewers the chance to see what live-streamed sports look like on the platform. The company earlier this year paid NFL $10 million for the rights to stream some Thursday Night Football games but, up until now, no one had any idea what that would actually look like. Beginning on Wednesday, Wimbledon’s official Twitter account began tweeting the live feed, with the video stream at the top of a “Live” page, with scrollable tweets listed below. Continue reading Twitter Tests Live-Streaming Sports with Wimbledon Coverage

Disney to Buy Stake in BAM Tech, MLB Streaming Video Unit

Disney is acquiring a 33 percent stake in the streaming video unit of Major League Baseball’s MLB Advanced Media tech arm. The deal values the unit, dubbed BAM Tech, at $3.5 billion. Terms of the deal also reportedly include a four-year option for Disney to purchase an additional 33 percent stake. The deal raises the prospect that Disney “is poised to expand its range of online-video services,” reports Variety. “The league formed MLBAM in 2000 to launch MLB.tv, one of the earliest Internet-delivered video subscription services. Since then, it has grown the division to operate streaming services of several other companies — including Disney’s WatchESPN.” Continue reading Disney to Buy Stake in BAM Tech, MLB Streaming Video Unit

PlayStation Vue on Roku Devices Offers Alternative to Cable

Sony’s PlayStation Vue streaming TV service is now available on Roku’s set-top boxes, media sticks and television sets. The Vue service enables users to stream dozens of cable channels such as CNN, Comedy Central, ESPN, Fox News and MTV over the Internet. Vue can be accessed as a Roku app in addition to apps for iPhones, iPads and Amazon’s Fire TV. Next week Vue will be offered for Android users. “Now that Vue is available nationwide and on many streaming-video devices, it’s truly a viable alternative to a traditional cable-TV service,” suggests The Wall Street Journal. Continue reading PlayStation Vue on Roku Devices Offers Alternative to Cable

WWDC: Apple Unveils OS Enhancements, Opens Siri to World

Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference kicked off yesterday in San Francisco with a two-hour keynote that introduced new enhancements coming to iOS, watchOS, tvOS and Mac OS X (now called macOS). Developer previews of the operating systems are being made available now, with public betas to follow next month, and integration with Apple devices by fall. Among the highlights: live channels and YouTube search are coming to Apple TV, Siri is coming to the desktop, a new SDK invites developers to create Siri apps, iPhone users can dump unwanted apps, Apple Pay is expanded to Safari, Apple Music gets a new interface, and watchOS 3 loads apps seven times faster. Continue reading WWDC: Apple Unveils OS Enhancements, Opens Siri to World