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Roku Prepares For Initial Public Offering

September 5, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Roku is gearing up to go public.

The streaming device maker is seeking $100 million in its initial public offering, according to a filing Friday with the US Securities and Exchange Commission. The company will be listed on NASDAQ under the ticker ROKU.

Roku, which makes popular streaming devices like the Roku PremiereRoku Express+ and Roku Streaming Stick, said it’s seizing on the cord-cutting trend. “TV streaming’s disruptive content distribution model is shifting billions of dollars of economic value. Roku is capitalizing on this large economic opportunity,” reads the filing.

Roku may not be as recognizable a name as some of its streaming box competitors, which are all monolithic tech companies like Apple, Google and Amazon, but its products routinely slay in CNET reviews and in sales.

In the filing, Roku said it had more than 15 million active accounts, and that its users streamed over 6.7 billion hours of content on its platform in the first half of this year, a 62 percent increase from the first half of 2016. Earlier reports hinted that Roku planned to go public this year.

Roku declined to comment beyond the filing.

Apple TV New Set-top Box Said To Be 4K Capable

August 28, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Apple is rumored to be planning a renewed push for a place in your entertainment system with an upgraded set-top box that will stream 4K video.

The new Apple TV box will feature a faster processor capable of streaming higher-resolution 4K content and highlighting live television content, Bloomberg reported Thursday. The update box is expected to debut at an event in September, along with a new iPhone and Apple Watch models, sources told the news outlet.

The move would underscore Apple’s ambitions to improve its standing in the streaming market. Apple commands only 15 percent of the set-top market as of the end of March, according to a survey by Parks Associates, trailing Roku, Amazon and Google.

It’s been two years since Apple’s TV box got a hardware upgrade. In 2015, the company added a new remote control, an App Store and support from its Siri voice assistant. Apple also took a page from its own iPhone playbook, introducing a new operating system that supports a world of apps. Called tvOS, the software allows Apple TV to now run new kinds of media, including games and fitness programs.

At its developers conference in June, Apple CEO Tim Cook promised “you’ll be hearing a lot more about tvOS later this year.” The company also announced that an official app for the popular Amazon Video service will be available later this year on Apple TV.

Apple didn’t immediate respond to a request for comment.

Netflix Acquires Comics Publisher Millarworld

August 9, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Netflix Inc has announced that it has purchased comics publisher Millarworld, bringing on board renowned comic book writer Mark Millar and a host of character franchises it can mine for TV shows and movies.

It is the first acquisition by Netflix, the 20-year-old streaming-video pioneer that is building a library of original series and films in a bid to hook new customers around the world.

Two of Millarworld’s best-known comics, “Kick-Ass” and “Kingsman,” are not part of the deal, whose terms Netflix did not disclose.

The purchase of a character stable mimics the strategy of Walt Disney Co. Disney bought Marvel Studios in 2009 and has churned out blockbuster movies, TV series and toys based on its superheroes. Some Marvel shows run on Netflix.

Mark Millar, a Scottish writer and former Marvel employee, runs Millarworld with his wife, Lucy.

Three of Millarworld’s franchises – “Wanted,” “Kick-Ass” and “Kingsman” — have been adapted into films that have taken in nearly $913 million combined at global box offices.

Although “Kick-Ass” and “Kingsman” are not part of the deal, it does bring Netflix a range of other franchises across genres from science fiction to fantasy, plus superheroes and real-world characters.

“Mark is as close as you can get to a modern-day Stan Lee,” Netflix’s chief content officer, Ted Sarandos, said in a statement, referring to the 94-year-old creator of comic book franchises such as “Spider-Man,” “Avengers” and “X-Men.”

Password Sharing A Revenue Nuisance For TV Streaming Services

July 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Streaming TV services grapple with password sharing. More than one-fifth of young adults who stream shows like “Game of Thrones” or “Stranger Things” borrow passwords from people who do not live with them, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll, a finding that suggests media companies are missing out on significant revenue as digital viewership explodes.

Twenty-one percent of streaming viewers ages 18 to 24 said they had accessed at least one digital video service such as Netflix Inc, HBO Now or Hulu by using log-in credentials from someone outside their household at some time. Overall, 12 percent of adults said they did the same thing.

 Subscription revenue is likely to come under scrutiny starting next week when TV industry players begin reporting quarterly earnings. Netflix, the dominant streaming service, releases its results on Monday.

Up to now, Netflix and other streaming networks have accepted some password-sharing, but they may face pressure from investors to change course if new sign-ups slow substantially, Wall Street analysts said. Revenue growth at Netflix is projected to drop from 31 percent in this year’s second quarter to 19 percent in the second quarter of next year, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

“If Netflix goes from a 30 percent revenue growth story to a 10 percent story, there is absolutely going to be more focus on their leaving money on the table,” said Justin Patterson, an analyst with Raymond James.

Roku Device Sales Halted In Mexico

June 30, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

A cable service provider belonging to Mexico’s largest television network has won a legal case to halt the sale of Roku video streaming devices in the country on the grounds that the gadgets are often hacked to let users view pirated channels.

Cablevision, a cable TV provider owned by Televisa, said a Mexico City tribunal on Wednesday upheld a previous order to suspend the importation and distribution of the devices.

“Cablevision cannot allow the content that it licenses from domestic and foreign companies to be illegally used,” Cablevision spokeswoman Maria Eugenia Zurita told Reuters via email. “We would also like Roku Inc to better supervise the use of its software so that it’s not used inappropriately.”

Connected to televisions, Roku devices provide access to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Starz and other services over the Internet. They and similar products are a major part of a consumer trend away from cable television in recent years.

Los Gatos, California-based Roku disagrees with Wednesday’s court ruling and will continue legal efforts to ensure it is able to distribute its products in Mexico, General Counsel Steve Kay said in a statement.

“Today’s decision is not the final word in this complex legal matter, and it is not expected to prevent consumers from purchasing Roku products in Mexico at this time,” Kay said.

Hackers in Mexico use messaging app WhatsApp to offer Roku owners illegal access to monthly packages of hundreds of television channels, including Televisa’s, HBO, ESPN and others.

In some cases, customers make cash transfers at convenience stores and then send the hackers photos of their receipts.

A judge last week issued a court order requested by Cablevision to stop the importation and sale of the Roku devices, but Roku then won a suspension. Wednesday’s decision overturned that suspension.

Following the latest ruling, Roku devices on Thursday were available for purchase on the Mexican websites of Amazon.com, Best Buy and Wal Mart de Mexico.

Roku accounted for nearly half of all over-the-top streaming devices in the United States last year, according to market research firm comScore.

Facebook Looks To Enter Original Content TV Market

June 27, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook Inc is holding discussions with Hollywood studios about producing scripted, TV-quality shows, with an aim of launching original programming by late summer, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The social networking giant has indicated that it was willing to commit to production budgets as high as $3 million per episode, in meetings with Hollywood talent agencies, the Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

Facebook is hoping to target audiences from ages 13 to 34, with a focus on the 17 to 30 range. The company has already lined up “Strangers”, a relationship drama, and a game show, “Last State Standing”, the report said.

Facebook could not be immediately reached for comment.

The company is expected to release episodes in a traditional manner, instead of dropping an entire season in one go like Netflix Inc and Amazon.com Inc, WSJ reported.

The company is also willing to share its viewership data with Hollywood, the report said.

Apple Inc hired co-presidents of Sony Pictures Television, Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg, earlier this month, to lead its video-programming efforts.

Apple began its long-awaited move into original television series last week, with a reality show called “Planet of the Apps”, an unscripted show about developers trying to interest celebrity mentors with a 60-second pitch on an escalator.

The company’s future programming plans include an adaptation of comedian James Corden’s “Carpool Karaoke” segment from his CBS Corp  show that will begin airing in August.

 

Apple Says Developers Have Earned $70B Since App Store Created

June 8, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Apple is no stranger to impressive statistics, such as the news that developers on its platforms have earned over $70 billion since the App Store launched in 2008.

We know other mobile platforms are growing too, but surely Apple’s fading iOS empire has reached its zenith? Not so, Apple states, confirming that App Store downloads have “grown over 70 percent”.

The range of apps driving good business for Apple’s developer community continues to expand. Games and entertainment remain the top-grossing apps categories, but education, training, and a range of other apps are growing in importance. The company revealed a few interesting stats to reflect this:

Lifestyle apps, as well as Health and Fitness, have experienced over 70 percent growth in the past year.

The Photo and Video category is also among the fastest growing at nearly 90 percent growth.

“People everywhere love apps and our customers are downloading them in record numbers,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “Seventy billion dollars earned by developers is simply mind-blowing.”

Only last week we learned its platforms are creating developer millionaires.

Apple is working to expand the opportunity it provides developers.

In 2016, the company introduced APIs that let developers introduce payments via Apple Pay (as seen in Starbucks gift cards), and its Messages apps platform continues to drive a range of other opportunities.

Developers in 25 app categories can also provide apps sold on a subscription basis. This appears to be shaping up as quite a good way for developers to make money, as well as making a good recurring income for Apple. “App Store’s active paid subscriptions are up 58 percent year over year,” the company said.

Apps offering subscription sales come in a slew of forms, from conventional media apps such as Netflix and Hulu all the way through to cooking network, Tastemade and a range of image editors, including Over and Enlight.

In future, the company plans to extend virtual and augmented reality tools developers can use to create next-generation VR/AR experiences.

These engaging experiences will make a lot of money in the games space, but have big implications in training, healthcare, and enterprise productivity.

Apple’s plans will also put it among peers like Unity and Steam in offering tools to develop these experiences. And that’s money for developers and opportunity for enterprise investors.

Netflix Suddenly Not So Supportive Of Net Neutrality

June 2, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Netflix is willing to concede defeat when it comes to the war over net neutrality.

The Federal Communications Commission want to end the rules governing an open internet that were put in place under the Obama administration. While Netflix has been a vocal proponent of the rules in the past, CEO Reed Hastings said it isn’t his company’s fight anymore.

“We’re big enough to get the deals we want,” he said during Recode’s Code Conference.

Netflix once stood alongside internet giants like Google, consumer advocates and Democrats in pushing for harder rules that ensured internet providers treated traffic equally. Republicans, pro-business advocates and companies like Comcast and Verizon argue the rules are too onerous and stifle innovation and investment.

One concern over prioritizing traffic was the idea that smaller players wouldn’t be able to compete against larger companies who could afford priority access. That’s no longer the case with Netflix, which is one of the largest drivers of video traffic on the internet.

It’s an issue that would have been more important to “the Netflix of 10 years ago,” he said.

Netflix, which was founded in 1997, now has about 93 million subscribers across 190 countries, watching about 1 billion hours of video a week. Whereas Netflix once focused on mailing DVDs to subscribers, the company’s branched out over the years, getting into streaming and producing original content through Netflix Originals. The price tag for creating new content in 2017 is about $6 billion, according to the company’s first quarter earnings report.

Hastings said Netflix is still supportive of other companies fighting against the net neutrality rollback— and that in a sense, it’s their turn to do so.

Plus, all that battling might be for naught.

“I think Trump’s FCC is going to unwind the rules no matter what happens,” Hastings said. He also expressed some optimism that perhaps internet providers will continue to play fair, even if there are no longer regulations in place.

Netflix Signs New Streaming Deal With Israel’s Partner Communications

May 30, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Partner Communications, Israel’s second-largest mobile phone operator, has announced that streaming giant Netflix will be available on Partner’s new television service.

The two sides formed a partnership in which Netflix will be directly accessible from Partner’s TV service that is expected to be launched in the coming weeks and will be based on the Android TV operating system.

Terms were not disclosed. Partner will be the first Israeli telecoms provider to offer Netflix on its set-top box, it noted.

“Israeli customers have shown strong enthusiasm for Netflix content since we launched here just over a year ago,” said Maria Ferreras, Netflix’s vice president of business development for Europe, Middle East and Africa.

Partner and Netflix said they will announce additional details of the partnership later this summer.

 

Is Netflix On The Verge Of Another Price Hike?

May 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Would you be willing to shell out more money to get your Netflix fix?

A price hike could may well be coming as the streaming giant quietly testing out changes to the cost of plans in Australia.

The Australian reports that Netflix has tested upping Australian prices by as much as AU$3 over weekends, increasing its Basic plan from AU$8.99 to AU$9.99 a month, its Standard plan from AU$11.99 to AU$13.99 a month, and its Premium plan from AU$14.99 to AU$17.99 a month.

Netflix confirmed that it has tested price changes, but was quick to emphasise that it has not made any announcement to change prices, either locally or globally.

“We continuously test new things at Netflix and these tests typically vary in length of time,” the company said in a statement. “In this case, we are testing slightly different price points to better understand how consumers value Netflix. Not everyone will see this test and we may not ever offer it generally.”

Regardless of the tests, Australians could well be up for a Netflix price increase within a matter of weeks.

The federal government is set to extend Australia’s 10 percent goods and services tax to “intangible supplies” (such as digital content, games and software), effecting online streaming companies such as Netflix.

The change — which has been widely dubbed the “Netflix Tax,” including by the Australian government itself — comes into force on July 1. Netflix has not commented on whether it plans to pass the 10 percent tax onto customers.

“We collect and remit tax wherever we are legally obligated to do so,” the company said.

Netflix Gains Entry Into China With iQiyi.com Deal

April 26, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Netflix will finally be able to introduce original content in China in a licensing deal with local video streaming service iQiyi.com, the U.S. company said on Tuesday.

Netflix has struggled to break into the Chinese market, where streaming services are subject to strict data storage regulations and foreign films and television are routinely censored.

Content air times will parallel other regions, a spokeswoman said, who declined to say comment further on the tie-up.

Netflix has played down the possibility of its entry into China in the past year despite its otherwise rapid global expansion.

In October co-founder and Chief Executive Reed Hastings said that prospects for a direct streaming service in the country were slim, and the firm had made no progress in obtaining government approvals.

iQiyi.com is one of China’s largest streaming services and is backed by search giant Baidu Inc. In February it raised 1.53 billion to take on local rivals in a hotly contested market.

This month Netflix forecast a global increase of 3.2 million subscribers in the second quarter, far outpacing analysts’ estimates of nearly 2.4 million.

Netflix Expansion Talks Include Indonesian Telecom Giant

April 18, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

U.S. video streaming service provider Netflix is engaged in negotiations with Indonesia’s top telecom firm PT Telekomunikasi Indonesia Tbk (Telkom) to offer its service in the country, a spokesman at the Indonesian company said.

The U.S. company has made an aggressive push globally, but faced problems such as tough local competition and regulatory hurdles in several major Asian markets. In Indonesia, a country of 250 million people, Netflix ran afoul of the film censorship board last year for carrying content deemed inappropriately violent or sexual.

The communications ministry of Indonesia, home to the world’s largest Muslim population, had also demanded that Netflix set up a office in the country and pay local taxes.

While state-controlled Telkom had blocked Netflix, the service was still available in Indonesia via WiFi connections and other carriers.

Telkom is now negotiating a partnership agreement with Netflix and hopes to complete the process next month, Arif Prabowo, vice president for corporate communication at Telkom, said in a text message.

Telkom was previously concerned that Netflix carried “content that has a negative element”, Prabowo said.

“If we work together, that means we would know and can be responsible for the content broadcast by Netflix.”

Teaming up with Netflix would expand Telkom’s content offering, Prabowo added. “The choices for our customers will be more varied.”

A Netflix spokeswoman declined to comment.

Is The Xbox Game Pass A Good Move For Microsoft?

March 2, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

Microsoft has just made the Xbox One console a bit more interesting by announcing a new subscription service called the Xbox Game Pass, which will give access to over 100 games for US $9.99 a month, when it launches later this spring.

The Microsoft Xbox Game Pass will include over 100 games, like Halo 5: Guardians, Payday 2, NBA 2K16, and SoulCalibur 2. Unlike other similar subscription based services, Xbox Game Pass will allow users to download available games and buy them with a 20 percent discount if they decide to keep the game. This also means that users won’t have to worry about streaming, bandwidth or other connectivity problems.

Add-ons for those games will be available for purchase with the same exclusive discount for Xbox Game Pass members as well.

While it was initially announced as a service that will only be available on Xbox One and Windows 10 devices, the Windows 10 part was later removed from the official Xbox Game Pass site, but it is still possible that it will be coming to the PC later this spring.

Microsoft announced that some big game publishers have already signed on including 2K, 505 Games, Bandai Namco Entertainment, Capcom, Codemasters, Deep Silver, Focus Home Interactive, Sega, SNK Corporation, THQ Nordic GmbH, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and Microsoft Studios.

Currently, the Xbox Game Pass is available in an alpha preview stage with a limited number of games so we are certainly looking forward to what it will look like when it launches this spring.

Courtesy-Fud

Amazon Video Launches Worldwide, Challenges Netflix

December 15, 2016 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

amazon-prime-video-150x150Amazon.com Inc has officially rolled out its video-on-demand service, Prime Video, in nearly every country except China, coming into direct competition with video-streaming pioneer Netflix Inc .

Prime Video, home to popular shows such as “The Grand Tour”, “Transparent” and “The Man in the High Castle”, will now be bundled with Prime subscriptions in 19 countries including India, Canada and France.

In other new regions, Prime Video customers will have to pay $2.99 or 2.99 euros per month for the first six months, after which the price will be doubled to $5.99 or 5.99 euros.

Amazon has been spending heavily, sometimes at the cost of profits, on the creation and marketing of movies and TV shows.

The company hopes that people will sign up for its Prime service to watch these videos – and in turn buy more goods from its online store to make the annual subscription worth it.

The Prime Video launch comes almost a year after Netflix Inc went global with its video-streaming service – rolling it out in more than 130 countries with the notable exception of China.

Subscriptions for Netflix, known for shows such as “Stranger Things”, “Daredevil” and “Narcos”, start at $8.99.

Amazon Prime Video members can also access videos offline on mobile devices, a feature Netflix introduced late last month.

Is There A Need For A Mobile Netflix?

December 2, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

hatchA former Rovio exec has formed a new firm that hopes to revolutionize the way mobile games are played with Hatch, a new cloud-based streaming platform for smartphones.

Unveiled during this week’s Slush Festival in Finland, the venture is headed up by CEO Juhani Honkala, previously SVP of Rovio Entertainment, and centers around an instant game collection that players will be able to access without the need for downloads, installations or updates.

The service is planned for soft launch on Android in 2017, with iOS and other platforms to follow. There will be around 100 games available at launch, with Honkala promising Slush attendees that users can “start playing any game as easily as watching a movie on Netflix”. The cloud-based server technology has been run in partnership with Huawei Technologies.

Major partners already on board range from Bandai Namco, Taito and Ubisoft to notable independent developers such as Ustwo Games and Double Fine Productions. Titles already on the way will include Badland, Broken Age, Cut The Rope 2, Leo’s Fortune, Monument Valley, Pac-Man CE DX, Rayman Fiesta Run, République, Space Invaders Infinity Gene and more.

“I’d like to invite you all to be part of this journey,” Honkala said, addressing the developers in the audience, before giving an overview of Hatch’s new business model.

Honkala’s firm will handle the monetization of games on Hatch so developers can focus on the creation process without having to think about how to get users spending. Games will be monetized with “integrated, unobtrusive advertising and brand storytelling, as well as optional paid subscription that unlocks additional features and content”, according to the official release. There will be no in-app purchases, with Hatch’s library focusing on “full-featured, premium experiences”.

The service will also eventually feature exclusive games known as Hatch Originals, for which Honkala and his team are currently seeking investors.

The CEO pointed to how Spotify and Netflix has changed how people enjoy music and movies respectively, as well as how the rise of YouTube, Instagram and easily-shared content has “created a completely new generation of superstars”.

“There hasn’t been that kind of disruption in the mobile gaming industry,” he said. “We are playing mobile games exactly the same way as we used to play them five years ago. There has been no real innovation.”

In addition to its role as a games-streaming platform, Hatch’s built-in social functionality is designed to get more players connecting. Users will be able to rewind their gameplay and select video clips that can instantly be shared via Hatch or more established social media platforms.

There will also be multiplayer capabilities, and not just in the way you might expect. Recalling his childhood of playing single-player games together with friends and family, Honkala said Hatch will allow users to work together on titles such as Cut The Rope – even if they’re in different locations. Connected players will be able to share the game’s controls and chat about their next move or strategy.

“It’s not only about gaming,” he said. “It’s a new way to spend quality time with the people you love.”

He added: “The mobile has become the major gaming platform on the planet and mobile games bring joy to millions and millions of people around the world. But somehow I feel something very important got lost in the process.

“The numbers show that yes, we are playing more than ever but we are not really communicating, we are not sharing and we are not really playing together any more. When was the last time you really played together with your friends and family?”

The introduction of Netflix-style subscriptions is one experts have been predicting, with App Annie’s CMO Al Campa recently telling GamesIndustry.biz he expects to see the model break into the mobile games space soon. While game-streaming has previously been tried – most notably in the form of troubled service OnLive and Sony’s PlayStation Now – the complexities and high production of console-style titles has made it difficult for this concept to take off. The relative simplicity, at least in terms of file size and so on, of mobile games means Hatch could stand a good chance of delivering the cloud-based service the industry has been striving for over the past five years.

Courtesy-GI.biz

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