Viewers Turn to Xumo and Other Ad-Supported VOD Services

Despite the focus on successful subscription streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+, free ad-supported TV services have actually been growing at a faster clip. AVOD (ad-supported video on demand) or FAST (free ad-supported TV) is flourishing largely via large media companies. Fox’s Tubi, ViacomCBS’ Pluto TV and Xumo, now owned by Comcast, are all performing well. Xumo has skyrocketed 2.5 times, reaching 24 million U.S. monthly active users. Comcast acquired Xumo in February 2020 from Panasonic and Meredith Corp. Continue reading Viewers Turn to Xumo and Other Ad-Supported VOD Services

Google Will Pay News Publishers $1 Billion to License Stories

Google is debuting Google News Showcase and vowed to pay publishers $1+ billion over the next three years to license news content for the new product. Publishers will be able to select images and summaries for story panels, which are teasers for full articles. Clicking on a story panel will bring the user directly to the news publisher’s website to read the entire story. According to sources, Google is in talks with publishers in the U.S. and other countries and has already signed deals with almost 200 publications. Continue reading Google Will Pay News Publishers $1 Billion to License Stories

Roku Announces Its New Ultra With Support for Dolby Vision

Roku is debuting a new Ultra with, for the first time, Dolby Vision, which plays back HDR (high-dynamic range) content. This new $100 Ultra also features a speedier quad-core processor, more RAM and around 50 percent better Wi-Fi range, although the company has not released full specs on the device. The form factor is now somewhat rounder, to house its revamped wireless antennas, and still features an Ethernet port, an HDMI cable and earbuds. Also new, the Roku Channel is available as a standalone Android and iOS app. Continue reading Roku Announces Its New Ultra With Support for Dolby Vision

Quibi Misses Paid Subscriber Goal, Looks at Funding Options

Quibi, the OTT streaming service focused on short-form mobile video founded by Jeffrey Katzenberg and launched in April 2020, is struggling to gain subscribers in a crowded marketplace. According to sources, the company is considering its options, including raising more money, going public via a merger with a special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC) that helps fund deals, or a sale. Sources added that the company has enough cash for several months and is not expected to shut down in the near future. Continue reading Quibi Misses Paid Subscriber Goal, Looks at Funding Options

Facebook Rolls Out New Messenger Feature, Watch Together

Facebook launched Watch Together, a feature for Messenger and videoconferencing platform Messenger Rooms, to allow users to watch videos in real time with family and friends on Apple and Android mobile devices. Users choose videos to view through Facebook’s video hub, Facebook Watch. The push to promote yet more video comes at a time when, due largely to COVID-19, more people than ever are at home watching content. Facebook Messenger allows up to eight people on a video call, and Messenger Rooms tops out at 50 people. Continue reading Facebook Rolls Out New Messenger Feature, Watch Together

Epic Games and Apple Continue Heated Feud Over App Fees

The battle between Apple and Epic Games over the former’s commission fees for games sold in its App Store has heated up. Apple and Google both tossed Epic Games’ “Fortnite” from their app stores after Epic debuted an in-app payment system that prevented both companies from reaping 30 percent of customers’ spending. Epic Games filed a lawsuit, and Apple just filed a countersuit, accusing the software developer of “duplicity and greed” and asking a judge for punitive damages. Epic Games has seen its iOS- and Mac-based usership plunge. Continue reading Epic Games and Apple Continue Heated Feud Over App Fees

Google Brings Personalization Features to Your News Update

Google is adding new features to Your News Update, its news aggregation service, to personalize 90-minute news feeds from each user’s preferred sources. The goal is to create a seamless listening experience akin to a customized song playlist. Each news playlist, similar to those on public radio, will begin with short clips about the major headlines moving into longer stories. The end product, available only in the U.S., will compile radio, podcast clips and text-to-speech translations tailored to the individual user. Continue reading Google Brings Personalization Features to Your News Update

Epic Requests Stay of Its Ban From Apple Developer Program

The dispute between Apple and Epic Games over in-app payments has heated up, with the “Fortnite” game developer accusing Apple of threatening to remove it from the Apple Developer Program, thus blocking its access to iOS and macOS developer tools. Apple said it would do so by August 28 if Epic Games does not comply with its App Store rules. Epic has asked a federal judge to issue a stay, claiming the ban would cause “unquantifiable and irreparable” damage to the company and its 350 million registered players. Continue reading Epic Requests Stay of Its Ban From Apple Developer Program

App Store Battle: Epic Sues Apple, Google for Pulling ‘Fortnite’

In an ongoing dispute over Apple’s 30 percent commissions in its App Store, Epic Games, maker of “Fortnite,” threw down the gauntlet by openly encouraging players to pay the company directly, rather than through Apple and Google’s app stores. But within hours of the announcement, Apple removed “Fortnite” from its App Store, noting Epic’s “express intent of violating App Store guidelines.” Google also pulled the game from its Play Store. Epic Games responded by suing the two tech giants in federal court, claiming antitrust violations. Continue reading App Store Battle: Epic Sues Apple, Google for Pulling ‘Fortnite’

Apple Stands Firm in Its App Store Rules for Cloud Gaming

After Apple repeatedly rejected the Facebook Gaming app for iOS devices, it finally approved it for the App Store — with the proviso that Facebook strip out all the playable games. Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg slammed the decision, saying that “iOS users [will] have an inferior experience to those using Android.” Apple’s App Store also won’t permit Microsoft’s xCloud gaming service as, in the past, it also gave the cold shoulder to Google’s Stadia. Late last week, Facebook announced a new version of its Gaming app for iPhone and iPad users. Continue reading Apple Stands Firm in Its App Store Rules for Cloud Gaming

Justice Department Probes Requirements of Apple App Store

The Justice Department is scrutinizing Apple’s App Store rules, specifically the requirement that app developers use Apple Pay, which takes up to a 30 percent cut. Since mid-2019, lawyers have been interviewing app developers about their experiences with Apple. Developers have pushed back by blocking subscriptions and payments on their apps or charging higher rates on iPhone apps. The DOJ’s antitrust resources are focused on Google’s dominance in digital advertising, which may result in a case as early as this summer. Continue reading Justice Department Probes Requirements of Apple App Store

Apple Plans to Unveil Its New Chips at Developer Conference

As early as June 22, at its annual developer conference WWDC, Apple may reveal its plan to replace Intel chipsets with its own internally developed ones, code-named Kalamata. Sources indicate that announcing Kalamata this time of year will give third-party developers time to shift gears before the new Macs debut in 2021. Apple’s new chips will be based on the same technology as those in iPhones and iPads, although Macs will continue to run the macOS operating system rather than iOS software of the mobile devices. Continue reading Apple Plans to Unveil Its New Chips at Developer Conference

Anthill’s Whatifi Offers Interactive Storytelling via Mobile App

Anthill’s latest version of interactive storytelling app Whatifi is now available in the Apple App Store. Founded by Jaanus Juss and Hardi Meybaum, who have been exploring interactive storytelling in their native Estonia via live theater, the startup enables users to “choose their own adventure” in two stories: “As Dead as it Gets” and “Anatomy of a Decision.” The first is a “drunken night with a few bros” that turns into a supernatural fantasy. A character on the verge of death, the viewer must follow the advice of ghosts to return to the land of the living. Whatifi is now based out of Los Angeles and Estonia. Continue reading Anthill’s Whatifi Offers Interactive Storytelling via Mobile App

Microsoft Planning for Teams to Become Ubiquitous Platform

Microsoft 365 corporate vice president Jeff Teper wants Microsoft Teams — the company’s fastest growing business app — to overtake Windows, currently on 1+ billion active devices. With the COVID-19 pandemic, Microsoft Teams is experiencing significant growth, with 75 million daily active users as of April 29, a 70 percent leap in six weeks. In April, 200+ million participants used Teams in a single day. Meanwhile, Microsoft is still promoting Skype, which in March passed 40 million daily active users (up 70 percent from the previous year), but for a different customer base. Continue reading Microsoft Planning for Teams to Become Ubiquitous Platform

E-Commerce: Facebook Reveals AI-Powered Shops Feature

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg announced updates to Shops, a new version of an existing Facebook feature that lets retailers upload product catalogs to their Facebook page or Instagram profile. Users can access Shops on the retailer’s page or, by clicking on an ad, will land on the retailer’s Facebook-located Shop. Zuckerberg stated that Shops will eventually be available on Messenger and WhatsApp as well. The company relies on several AI systems, including GrokNet, which can “segment, detect and classify images.” Continue reading E-Commerce: Facebook Reveals AI-Powered Shops Feature

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