Watch-Party Startup Scener Gets $2.1 Million in New Funding

Two-year startup Scener, which has been offering co-viewing watch parties, just brought in $2.1 million in new funding. Its usage spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic, even as Disney+, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video and other services also debuted watch-together features. Scener, which unveiled with a web-browser overlay for Netflix, now supports 10 streaming platforms, including, in addition to Netflix, HBO Max, Disney+, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Funimation, Vimeo, YouTube, Alamo On Demand and Disney’s Hotstar. Continue reading Watch-Party Startup Scener Gets $2.1 Million in New Funding

Twitch Inks Live-Streaming Deal With Indie Music Companies

Amazon-owned Twitch, which now has 17.5 million average daily visitors, responded to the escalating problem of its users being hit with music copyright takedowns. Under pressure by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and National Music Publishers Association (NMPA), Twitch debuted a beta version of Soundtrack by Twitch, an in-platform music streaming service featuring 1+ million copyright-cleared songs by independent artists that can be used legally and free of charge as background music. Continue reading Twitch Inks Live-Streaming Deal With Indie Music Companies

Amazon Music Offers Free Podcasts, Develops New Programs

Amazon Music now offers 70,000+ free podcasts and is also developing new podcast programming, making it the latest streaming music service to dive into the genre. Although the field is dominated by Apple Podcasts and Spotify, Amazon executives believe its offering will be competitive because it will be able to bring in new podcast listeners, especially via its Echo home speakers. Amazon’s free podcasts are available for all of its Music tiers and debuted first in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany and Japan. Continue reading Amazon Music Offers Free Podcasts, Develops New Programs

Amazon Rebrands Twitch Prime in Shift to Gaming Strategy

Amazon debuted Prime Gaming this week, a rebranding of its first foray into the video game industry, Twitch Prime, which offers exclusive game content and free subscriptions to Twitch, the live-streaming site. There, users could enjoy free games from small studios, discounts for bigger titles like “Grand Theft Auto” and in-game gear. Prime Gaming will include those features and offer more titles and exclusive content, accessible without a Twitch account. Meanwhile, a group of artists has demanded that Amazon pay to license music streaming on Twitch. Continue reading Amazon Rebrands Twitch Prime in Shift to Gaming Strategy

Facebook at a Crossroads as More Advertisers Join Boycott

As the advertiser boycott of Facebook grows over its policy to allow hate speech, Facebook is showing the first signs of concern. Last week, its top advertisers — including Coca-Cola, Pfizer and Unilever — paused advertising to signal their displeasure over the social media platform’s stance. In a virtual meeting, said sources, chief executive Mark Zuckerberg doubled down, telling these advertisers that he won’t back down. Now communications chief Nick Clegg stresses the company is trying to curb hate speech. Continue reading Facebook at a Crossroads as More Advertisers Join Boycott

Microsoft Closes Mixer and Partners With Facebook Gaming

Less than a year ago, Microsoft’s Xbox unit signed two very popular streamers to its Mixer video game streaming platform: Ninja (Tyler Blevins) and Michael “Shroud” Grzesiek. But their presence didn’t build the huge global fan base for Mixer that Microsoft hoped for. It’s therefore no surprise that Microsoft is shuttering Mixer, but more surprising, perhaps, that it will partner with Facebook on its xCloud mobile game service. From July 22, visitors to Mixer will be diverted to Facebook Gaming. Continue reading Microsoft Closes Mixer and Partners With Facebook Gaming

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

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

Amazon Games’ Relentless Studios to Roll Out First AAA Title

Amazon Game Studios will release “Crucible” — its first big budget original game — on May 20. In the free-to-play PC hero-shooter developed by Amazon’s Relentless Studios, the user plays as one of ten hunters, each with his or her own weapons and abilities, all of them battling for Essence, a resource that enhances those abilities. Amazon has game studios in Seattle, San Diego, Orange County (Southern California) and San Francisco, with such home-grown executives as vice president of games Mike Frazzini, who has been with Amazon for 16 years. Continue reading Amazon Games’ Relentless Studios to Roll Out First AAA Title

Facebook Bumps Up Release of Mobile App for Live Gaming

Facebook will release its free Facebook Gaming mobile app, moving up the original June launch as people are sheltering in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The app, tested in Southeast Asia and Latin America for 18 months, is designed for creating and watching live game play, a burgeoning sector of the $160 billion global games industry. Having invested in gaming to shed a once-drab reputation, Facebook stated that now 700+ million of its 2.5 billion monthly users engage in gaming. Its rivals in live gaming include Amazon’s Twitch, Google’s YouTube and Microsoft’s Mixer. Continue reading Facebook Bumps Up Release of Mobile App for Live Gaming

Founders of eSports and Gaming Network Speed Up Launch

Ariel Horn and Ben Kusin, co-founders of VENN (Video Game Entertainment & News Network), plan to launch their eSports, gaming and pop culture network in July, three months ahead of schedule. To do so, they are raising $40 million, building a Los Angeles studio, hiring, and setting up creators to program from home. The 24/7 linear network is aimed at the streaming generation, including hardcore eSports fans and casual gamers. VENN already raised $17 million from Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, Riot Games co-chair Marc Merrill and Blizzard Entertainment co-founder Mike Morhaime. Continue reading Founders of eSports and Gaming Network Speed Up Launch

Google Offers Free Access to Stadia, Limited Pro Tier Games

Google is offering free gaming on Stadia, which ordinarily costs $130 for a game controller, Chromecast streaming device and game access, opening access to millions of people in 14 countries. With most people now confined to their homes, gaming has shot up, and even the World Health Organization has gotten into it, supporting a game industry initiative dubbed #PlayApartTogether. By making Stadia free, Google may also gain ground in cloud gaming against its competitors Amazon, Microsoft and Nvidia. Continue reading Google Offers Free Access to Stadia, Limited Pro Tier Games

Amazon Takes Steps to Become the Next Major Game Player

Amazon is readying the launch of Relentless Studios, the company’s video-gaming division. In May, it will introduce its first original game “Crucible,” a big-budget sci-fi shooter. It is also in development on its new cloud gaming platform, code-named Project Tempo and developing more casual games for its Twitch streaming service. With these new efforts, Amazon is competing on another front with Google and Microsoft, which have increased their gaming offerings. Video-gaming has skyrocketed during the coronavirus pandemic. Continue reading Amazon Takes Steps to Become the Next Major Game Player

With NASCAR, Formula One, Racing Becomes Virtual eSport

With the absence of live sports on TV during restrictions due to the coronavirus, FOX Sports and NASCAR together came up with the idea of virtual races. On March 22, the first ever eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series race was a huge hit, drawing 903,000 viewers on FS1, making it the highest-rated eSports TV program to date as well as the most-watched broadcast on FS1 since the cancelation of live sports events and broadcasting. As a result, FOX Sports plans to simulcast the remainder of the NASCAR iRacing series on FOX, FS1 and the FOX Sports app. Continue reading With NASCAR, Formula One, Racing Becomes Virtual eSport

Coronavirus Leads to an Increase in TV Viewing and Streaming

Nielsen revealed that, as coronavirus cases rose in South Korea, TV viewership increased 17 percent. In Italy, it rose 6.5 percent, with a 12 percent spike in Lombardy, particularly hit hard by the virus. That trend has arrived in the U.S. where, said Nielsen, in the Seattle area total television use (which includes live TV, on-demand viewing, streaming and gaming) rose 22 percent on March 11 from the week before. Streaming also increased 20 percent globally. Still, it may be a short-lived panacea for many media companies. Continue reading Coronavirus Leads to an Increase in TV Viewing and Streaming

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