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

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

Executive Spotlight: A Talk with Lance Podell of Iron Mountain Entertainment Services

For the latest installment in ETC’s Executive Spotlight series, we had a fascinating conversation with Lance Podell, senior vice president and general manager of Iron Mountain Entertainment Services (IMES), a leader in media archiving for the entertainment industry. IMES steers its film, music, broadcast and sports clients in media preservation, restoration and distribution. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Podell’s group has focused on safety and remote productivity while developing innovative methods for protecting assets and serving as an extension of its clients’ businesses. Iron Mountain has also created a “digital studio in a box” so that projects can stay on track during this challenging time. Continue reading Executive Spotlight: A Talk with Lance Podell of Iron Mountain Entertainment Services

Hulu Launches Watch Party Feature to Enable Social Viewing

Hulu is the first major streaming platform to launch a built-in Watch Party feature that allows its subscribers to watch a show in a group chat room. During COVID-19 shutdowns, watch parties have become increasingly popular, although most are enabled by third-party apps and services rather than built-in social viewing features. The Hulu Watch Party feature is now available to web users who subscribe to the platform’s ad-free plan. Plex also launched a Watch Together feature that works with the user’s own media and the company’s on-demand content. Continue reading Hulu Launches Watch Party Feature to Enable Social Viewing

Streamer HBO Max Offers Wide Range of Movies, TV Shows

AT&T launched HBO Max this week, with a plan to spend $4.5+ billion on the streaming platform over the next few years. AT&T, which hopes to sign up 50 million HBO Max subscribers by 2025, bought Time Warner for $85.4 billion in 2018 with the idea of creating a significant streaming platform. HBO Max, which costs $15 per month, offers 10,000 hours of programming, including HBO series “Game of Thrones” and “Succession” as well as Warner Bros. hit TV shows such as “Friends” and “The Big Bang Theory.” Continue reading Streamer HBO Max Offers Wide Range of Movies, TV Shows

Filmmakers Return to Production During COVID-19 Pandemic

After months of shutdown, film and television production is reviving in two countries that have successfully flattened the curve. Producer Lucas Foster isolated his cast and crew in a small Australia town to shoot Stephen King’s “Children of the Corn.” Icelandic director Baltasar Kormakur used color-coded armbands to shoot Netflix sci-fi series “Katla” in Reykjavik. Going back to production in the time of coronavirus isn’t easy, and requires security guards to monitor social distancing, medical staff and other strict protocols. Continue reading Filmmakers Return to Production During COVID-19 Pandemic

EU Commissioner Holds Facebook Liable For Disinformation

European commissioner for internal market Thierry Breton advised Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg that, if he and his company do not redouble efforts to rid the platform of disinformation, they will be subject to tougher rules. “When you are the [chief executive], at the end of the day, you are the only one to be responsible, no one else,” said Breton at an online event organized by the Centre on Regulation in Europe (CERRE).  The two had a face-to-face meeting two months ago in Brussels. Continue reading EU Commissioner Holds Facebook Liable For Disinformation

Scener Offers Virtual Theater and Video Chat for HBO, Netflix

WarnerMedia’s HBO has partnered with Seattle-based Scener to allow HBO Now and HBO GO subscribers to create a private virtual theater, including video chat, for up to 20 people. Scener already allows co-viewing for Netflix accounts. This is HBO’s first significant partnership with an online co-viewing platform. Scener co-founder Joe Braidwood said the company saw a “crazy surge in demand” for the product with the COVID-19 pandemic. The partnership, which began in March, includes a new design for the site and update for Google Chrome browsers. Continue reading Scener Offers Virtual Theater and Video Chat for HBO, Netflix

TiVo Stream 4K Offers Cord-Cutters Live TV, Streaming Apps

TiVo launched Stream 4K, its first device that focuses on streaming video. The Stream 4K dongle, which plugs into HDMI and hangs from the bank of the TV set, was announced at CES 2020 and is shipping today for $50. It uses Google’s Android TV system to access Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube and other familiar apps and provides 4K resolution, Dolby Atmos sound and Dolby Vision HDR if available from the app. Stream 4K will compete with Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K and Roku Streaming Stick+. Continue reading TiVo Stream 4K Offers Cord-Cutters Live TV, Streaming Apps

Cloud Services Experience Record Revenue, Slowing Growth

According to Canalys, by the end of Q1 2020, companies spent a record $31 billion on cloud infrastructure, 34.5 percent growth from $23.1 billion for Q1 2019. Despite increased spending, however, the growth trajectory is slowing: Q1 2019 showed a 39.3 percent year-on-year (YoY) increase and Q4 2019 a 37.2 percent year-on-year increase. Cloud spending therefore grew only 2.6 percent or $800 million quarter-on-quarter by end of March 2020. Canalys attributes growth to the shift to remote working during the pandemic. Continue reading Cloud Services Experience Record Revenue, Slowing Growth

Some Drive-Ins Experience New Life as Movie Theaters Close

Drive-in theaters have been in decline since the 1970s, with only 300 such theaters still open in the U.S. Now, with movie theaters closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, some of those remaining drive-ins are experiencing a bit of a renaissance. In Virginia, one 54-year old theater is open for business, with at least three of that state’s other drive-ins ready to reopen. According to United Drive-In Theatre Owners Association president John Vincent, about 150 drive-ins will reopen in the next three weeks as the shutdowns are lifted. Continue reading Some Drive-Ins Experience New Life as Movie Theaters Close

Chip Sales Surge as Screen Time Increases During Pandemic

As a result of the global shutdown, personal and business Internet usage is way up. SimilarWeb reported that users spent an additional 5 billion hours of screen time in March — a 13 percent leap over February — on the 100 most popular sites, including Facebook and Google. Likewise, Amazon, Netflix and YouTube are thriving. That’s led to a surge in demand for chipsets. Micron Technology chief executive Sanjay Mehrotra said his company is shifting production of its chips away from smartphones and towards data-center products. Continue reading Chip Sales Surge as Screen Time Increases During Pandemic

‘Trolls’ Sequel Tests PVOD Model While Theaters Are Closed

“Trolls World Tour,” produced by DreamWorks Animation and distributed by Universal Pictures, was due to release in movie theaters on April 10. But when the coronavirus pandemic closed theaters, Universal decided to release it as a $19.99 digital rental on platforms including Apple TV, Amazon and Comcast’s Xfinity. Three weeks later, “Trolls” has generated almost $100 million, more than the original 2016 movie. That has encouraged Universal execs to consider digital release as a real alternative to postponing a theatrical release. Continue reading ‘Trolls’ Sequel Tests PVOD Model While Theaters Are Closed

TV, Streaming and E-Commerce Skyrocket During Pandemic

According to a poll by Los Angeles-based E-Poll Market Research, Americans have doubled their TV viewing in the last month-and-a-half and expect to continue watching TV and streaming more after the coronavirus pandemic is over. E-Poll also found that people are wary of going into spaces such as theaters, concert venues, sports stadiums and theme parks where social distancing is problematic. Polling lowest was “taking a cruise.” E-commerce is also booming in the current crisis, with Amazon seen as the biggest winner. Continue reading TV, Streaming and E-Commerce Skyrocket During Pandemic

Netflix Adds About 16 Million New Subscribers, New Content

At the end of Q1 2020, Netflix added 15.8 million new subscribers, more than double the company forecast. The growth spiked in March when people began to be confined due to the coronavirus pandemic, and Netflix stated that viewing and membership growth will decline when those circumstances end. As chief executive Reed Hastings put it, “We, too, are really unsure of what the future brings.” The company is still adding to its stock of original programs, buying the rights to a period piece set in the world of Sherlock Holmes. Continue reading Netflix Adds About 16 Million New Subscribers, New Content

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