Snapchat Plans to Offer Scripted Content by End of the Year

Speaking at the Edinburgh International Television Festival yesterday, Snapchat’s head of content Nick Bell said the social platform will likely offer scripted content via Snapchat Shows by the end of the year. However, Bell does not see Snapchat as a broadcast TV killer. “Mobile is the most complementary thing to TV that has been around,” Bell said. “We’re really capturing the audience who are not probably consuming TV at the same rate and pace of engagement that they once were.” He noted that NBC’s “The Voice” and ABC’s “The Bachelor” both experienced a boost in viewer numbers after launching Snapchat offshoots. Continue reading Snapchat Plans to Offer Scripted Content by End of the Year

Electronic Arts, NFL Create Tournament for Casual Gamers

Electronic Arts and the National Football League now offer an eSports tournament aimed at the casual user in the living room. Dubbed the Madden NFL Club Championship, the competition is open to players of all skill levels aged 16 or older in North America, the U.K. and Germany, and is based on a pilot program held last spring. It’s also linked to the debut of “Madden NFL 18,” Electronic Art’s newest installment of the annual football game franchise, which has sold more than 100 million units around the world since its 1980s debut. Continue reading Electronic Arts, NFL Create Tournament for Casual Gamers

Amazon Promotes Alexa With SDK, Revenue for Developers

Amazon is going full bore promoting its virtual assistant Alexa. In an effort to make it available on more devices, the company has debuted the Alexa Voice Service Device SDK toolset, which lets developers integrate a fully functional version to their devices, offering speech recognition and all the other Alexa capabilities such as notifications, weather reports, streaming media and thousands of voice apps. Amazon is providing additional incentive to developers by paying those whose voice apps demonstrate customer engagement. Continue reading Amazon Promotes Alexa With SDK, Revenue for Developers

Report Lists 29 Governments That Manipulate Social Media

The University of Oxford just released a disturbing report documenting increasing evidence that 29 governments around the world are exploiting Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms to influence — both domestically and internationally — public opinion, distribute false news and sabotage those perceived as foes. As might be expected, autocratic rulers use these strategies, but so do governments that have been elected democratically. The tactics employed vary from country to country. Continue reading Report Lists 29 Governments That Manipulate Social Media

Stream-Ripping: Fastest Growing Form of Music Piracy in UK

According to new research by the Intellectual Property Office and PRS for Music, “stream-ripping” technology is the fastest-growing approach to music piracy in the United Kingdom. The research indicates a 141.3 percent increase in this type of illegal activity between 2014 and 2016. Stream-ripping apps and websites allow consumers to convert streaming content such as Spotify songs and YouTube videos into digital files that can be stored on mobile devices and computers. In September of 2016, such sites were accessed 498,681 times in the U.K., while BitTorrent was only used 23,567 times. Continue reading Stream-Ripping: Fastest Growing Form of Music Piracy in UK

Facebook, Fox Sports Partner to Live Stream UEFA Soccer

Facebook will begin to live-stream more than a dozen UEFA Champions League soccer matches in September via a partnership with Fox Sports. The deal includes double-headers during the group stage, four round of 16 games and four quarterfinal matches. With the Champions League, Facebook adds a high-profile event to its growing lineup of live sports. The social giant is betting that live sports, which draw viewers to comment on social media platforms, will also be appealing to advertisers. Twitter, for example, has already committed to all-day live video programming. Continue reading Facebook, Fox Sports Partner to Live Stream UEFA Soccer

Twitter and BBC Team to Live-Stream U.K. Election Specials

Twitter has announced its latest live streaming partnership. Marking the first time the company has teamed up with the BBC for streaming video, the deal will focus on the BBC’s U.K. election coverage. “The deal specifically involves five BBC election specials, including debates and election night results, among others,” reports TechCrunch. “The video coverage will be available in the Twitter application on both mobile and web, and will include live tweets that reference related hashtags.” Twitter previously “partnered with Bloomberg to live stream the [U.S.] presidential debates ahead of the November 2016 election.” Twitter already has live streaming deals with BuzzFeed, Live Nation, Viacom, sports leagues and others. Continue reading Twitter and BBC Team to Live-Stream U.K. Election Specials

Following U.S. Success, Amazon Brings Channels to Europe

For a year-and-a-half, Amazon has been promoting subscriptions to HBO, Starz and other streaming services. Now, it plans to expand Amazon Channels to Austria, Germany and the U.K. with between 25 to 42 live and on-demand channels from its content partners, thus offering the kind of a la carte TV that many viewers want. Apparently, the success of Channels took Amazon by surprise, and it has created two new channels — Anime Strike and Heera for Bollywood fans — while postponing plans for its own live service. Continue reading Following U.S. Success, Amazon Brings Channels to Europe

SoftBank, Saudi Arabia Announce World’s Largest Tech Fund

Over the weekend, during President Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia, Japan’s SoftBank Group and Saudi Arabia’s sovereign-wealth Public Investment Fund (PIF) announced the launch of a new tech fund that has so far secured $93 billion of capital. The “SoftBank Vision Fund is targeting a total of $100 billion within six months,” reports The Wall Street Journal, and plans to “steer capital to cutting-edge technologies in U.S. startups and other global firms.” SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son already promised to invest $50 billion of the new fund in American startups. Continue reading SoftBank, Saudi Arabia Announce World’s Largest Tech Fund

Major Cyberattack Hits 150 Countries, Could Keep Spreading

A cyberattack impacted computer systems in more than 150 countries over the weekend. The weapon used to initiate the attack is believed to be based on recently published vulnerabilities stolen from the National Security Agency. The attack, one of the largest ever, took over computers, encrypted their files and demanded payment in Bitcoin of $300 or more. Among the major institutions and government agencies impacted were FedEx in the U.S., the Russian Interior Ministry and Britain’s National Health Service. The attack also hit smaller venues, such as a car manufacturing factory in Romania owned by Renault. Continue reading Major Cyberattack Hits 150 Countries, Could Keep Spreading

SoftBank Bets on Virtual Worlds, Invests in U.K.’s Improbable

Japanese telecommunications/Internet titan SoftBank Group just led a $502 million investment round in Improbable, a London-based startup that makes virtual worlds for video games and real-world simulations. In exchange, SoftBank will take a board seat and a non-controlling interest in Improbable, although details of the deal were not released. SoftBank founder/chief executive Masayoshi Son’s growing interest in artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things has been a driver in the company’s recent deals. Continue reading SoftBank Bets on Virtual Worlds, Invests in U.K.’s Improbable

Google Plans to Simplify Advertiser Controls for YouTube Video

In response to pressure from advertisers unhappy with placement of their commercials before extremist group videos on YouTube, Google apologized and explained it would simplify the tools that help advertisers control where online ads appear. The British unit of French advertising firm Havas, the U.K. government, and Marks & Spencer Group are among those that suspended their ads on YouTube and the Google Display Network. Matt Brittin, Google’s president for Europe, Middle East and Africa, “said he would step up enforcement and review policies to make sure ads don’t inadvertently appear near inappropriate videos,” according to The Wall Street Journal. “He said Google wanted to be careful with how it did so because some advertisers, such as news organizations, might want to place ads alongside controversial content.” Continue reading Google Plans to Simplify Advertiser Controls for YouTube Video

Netflix Foreign Sales Catching Up to North American Revenue

At the opening of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona yesterday, Netflix chief executive Reed Hastings gave a keynote address, indicative of the importance of his company’s many international partnerships with cellphone and cable operators. As a result of those relationships, Netflix is able to build out its subscriber base without much advertising and more readily enter new markets. Hastings’ appearance in Barcelona jibes with the company’s stated goal of focusing on subscribers outside the U.S. Continue reading Netflix Foreign Sales Catching Up to North American Revenue

HPA Tech Retreat: Impact of OTT Video on TV/Film Production

The Digital Production Partnership (DPP), formed and funded by UK broadcasters BBC, ITV and Channel 4 to help broadcast companies maximize the potential benefits of digital TV production, conducted in-depth research into how OTT video is produced. It reports that more audiovisual content is now commissioned for uses other than broadcast distribution, with many production companies now producing entirely for the non-broadcast market. At the HPA Tech Retreat in Indian Wells, DPP managing director Mark Harrison addressed how this is impacting the film/TV production industry. Continue reading HPA Tech Retreat: Impact of OTT Video on TV/Film Production

Facebook’s New Mission Statement Emphasizes Global Issues

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg just released a 6,000 word document outlining the company’s new role in “social infrastructure,” to address terrorism, disease, climate change and other global woes. He suggested ways that the 13-year old company can work with governments, nonprofit organizations and other companies. Zuckerberg revealed that the company is building products and developing tools to fight the spread of fake news, and use AI to detect terrorism propaganda as well as promote global political engagement. Continue reading Facebook’s New Mission Statement Emphasizes Global Issues

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