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Roku Signs Licensing Deal For Inclusion On Philips TVs

November 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Roku Inc’s shares skyrocketed by 43 percent to a record high earlier this week after the streaming device maker said it signed a licensing deal that would put its technology on Philips-branded televisions in the United States this year.

The company said the licensing partnership with Japan’s Funai Electric Co Ltd, which manufactures Philips N.V. televisions for North American, would place its operating system on Philips’ smart TVs.

 Roku also said that it would give a $20 discount on its $69.99-priced streaming stick for the Black Friday weekend, and separately said its customer would get a free one-month trial of AT&T Inc’s streaming service DirecTV Now.

The barrage of news was well received by investors, who sent Roku’s shares jumping 28.5 percent to close at $42.71 on Monday. The stock hit a high of $47.49 earlier in the session.

“The price move was solely due to long shareholders bidding up ROKU’s stock price” and not due to investors covering their short positions in the stock, financial analytics firm S3 Partners said in a note.

S3 Partners said while the short interest in Roku has risen since its initial public offering (IPO) in late September, it has stayed relatively flat in November and isn’t likely to go up further due to the limited number of shares available to borrow.

Investors who sell securities short first borrow shares and then sell them, expecting the price to fall so they can then buy the shares back at the lower price, return them to the lender and pocket the difference.

Roku, one of the first to make a device to stream content such as from Netflix Inc onto TVs, is now combating deeper-pocketed entrants such as Apple Inc, Alphabet Inc’s Google and Amazon.com Inc among others.

Still, up to Monday’s close, Roku’s stock has now more than tripled from its IPO price of $14 on Sept. 27. The stock debuted at $15.78 on the Nasdaq on Sept. 28.

 Los Gatos, California-based Roku’s success in the stock market is in stark contrast to the fortunes of other technology companies to make their market debuts this year.

Snap Inc’s shares have fallen 26 percent since its February IPO, while Blue Apron Holdings Inc has lost about 70 percent since its IPO in June.

Disney Plans To Take On Netflix With Streaming Service

November 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Disney’s future streaming service will face off with Netflix, the reigning streaming champ, with lower prices, CEO Bob Iger said in an earnings call earlier this week.

In August, Disney announced its plans to pull movies like “Moana” from Netflix and instead stream them along with future films like the sequel to “Frozen” on its own service, which will launch in 2019.

Iger said:”I can say that our plan on the Disney side is to price this substantially below where Netflix is. That is in part reflective of the fact that it will have substantially less volume. It’ll have a lot of high quality because of the brands and the franchises that will be on it that we’ve talked about. But it’ll simply launch with less volume, and the price will reflect that.”

Iger went on to say that the company’s main goal starting out will be to attract as many subscribers as possible, diverting at least some of the wind out of Netflix’s sales.

Disney-owned brands include Pixar, Lucasfilm (of Star Wars), Marvel Studios (think of all those “Thor” and “Avengers”-themed shows and films) and the ABC television network. While Marvel shows developed for Netflix are expected to stay on that service, such as “Daredevil” and “Jessica Jones,” features like “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” will likely move to Disney’s service.

Disney first signed a deal to stream content through Netflix in 2012.

 

T-Mobile Subsciber Base Grows, Merger With Sprint Still On Radar

October 24, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

T-Mobile the “Un-carrier” posted third-quarter results — usually a chance for John Legere to jump on a conference call to boast about the company’s performance or bash its competitors. But aside from a video Q&A segment and a quote in a press release, Legere is remaining mum.

“With all the rumors and speculation out there, we decided that we wanted to make sure you all saw and focused the Q3 results, and not just on the rumors and speculation that seem fill the news everyday,” Legere said in the video blog.

That’s because T-Mobile is that close to a deal to merge with Sprint, and Legere and Co. would probably like to skip out on questions that they wouldn’t be able to answer.

T-Mobile and Sprint, and their respective parents, German carrier Deutsche Telekom and Japanese carrier SoftBank, all still expect to announce a deal, according to a person familiar with the talks. Bloomberg reported on Thursday that the merger would be delayed for a few weeks.

So for now, T-Mobile is focusing on its quarterly results, which saw the nation’s third-largest carrier add 595,000 post-paid phone subscribers, or customers who pay at the end of the month, and typically boast higher bills and credit scores. It added a total of 817,000 post-paid customers when factoring other connected devices like tablets and wearables.

The results mark the seventh quarter in which the company has led the rest of the industry in growth, a product of aggressive marketing and a continued rollout of perks. The company has continued to turn heads with freebies like its T-Mobile Tuesday giveaway program, free international data and its all-in, tax-free pricing. Its latest deal gives Netflix away to family customers on its unlimited data plan.

The moves have benefited consumers even if they aren’t with T-Mobile. Verizon has reintroduced an unlimited data plan, and AT&T bundles HBO with its unlimited data offering. Sprint offers a year of service for free.

That competitive spirit has had an impact on T-Mobile’s results, which marked a decline from a year ago. T-Mobile blamed rival promotions, a split in the release of the iPhones (the iPhone X is due to hit markets next month) and the impact from the hurricanes.

The big question is whether things change with a T-Mobile-Sprint merger. Critics warn the industry may get less competitive, resulting in fewer perks and discounts for consumers. Integrating two national carriers may also prove to be a distraction for the combined company. Sprint itself is the product of a disastrous merger between the original Sprint and Nextel.

T-Mobile has the benefit of a strong track record of execution.

In total, T-Mobile added a net 1.3 million new customers in the period, its 18th straight quarter where it exceeded the 1 million mark.

The company posted a third-quarter profit of $550 million, or 63 cents a share.

Revenue rose 8 percent to $10 billion.

DirecTV Now Streaming Service Showing Signs Of Live

October 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

AT&T’s entrance into the online streaming video business is finally gaining ground.

The Dallas telecommunications giant disclosed in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing that it had added a net 300,000 customers to its DirecTV Nowstreaming service in the third quarter. That’s compared to the 491,000 customers it added in the first half of the year.

Overall, the company warned that it had lost 90,000 US video subscribers, blaming a combination of the impact from several hurricanes, higher credit standards and competition from both traditional pay TV players and online alternatives.

AT&T is in the midst of transforming itself beyond providing you with basic phone, internet and wireless service. It also wants to be an entertainment powerhouse, as evidenced by its acquisition of satellite TV provider DirecTV and its pending deal to buy Time Warner, the home of “Superman” and “Game of Thrones.” The results were likely helped by a promotion that offered DirecTV Now at a discount when budgeted with its wireless plans.

AT&T warned that it had 900,000 fewer handset equipment upgrades than a year ago, although it said the decline didn’t affect its customer growth and that turnover levels were still low.

The company blamed the hurricanes and an earthquake in Mexico, where it owns several wireless assets, on revenue falling $90 million and its pre-tax earnings to decline by $210 million. It expects further reductions in the fourth quarter.

The company, however, also maintained its 2017 forecast of mid-single digit adjusted earnings growth.

Apple Close To Deal With Steven Spielberg For ‘Amazing Stories’

October 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Apple Inc is putting the final touches on a deal to make 10 new episodes of Steven Spielberg’s 1980s science fiction anthology series “Amazing Stories,” landing a premiere Hollywood talent for its plunge into original TV programming, a source with knowledge of the discussions said.

The series would be produced for Apple by Spielberg’s Amblin Television and Comcast Corp’s NBCUniversal television production unit. “Amazing Stories” originally ran on the NBC broadcast network.

“We love being at the forefront of Apple’s investment in scripted programming,” NBC Entertainment President Jennifer Salke said in a statement about the show’s planned revival.

An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment. Amblin did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The deal is the first to be made public since Apple hired veteran Sony executives Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg in June to expand the iPhone maker’s push into original programming, a field crowded with streaming services and traditional networks.

It is unclear how people will be able to watch “Amazing Stories” or when it will debut. Apple has not divulged if it will put its own TV series in the iTunes Store, where it sells shows made by other companies, or on another platform.

The deal with Spielberg fits with a strategy Apple executives have outlined in meetings with Hollywood executives. Apple has emphasized in the discussions that it wants prestigious programming and to work with A-list actors, producers and writers, according to sources with knowledge of Apple’s plans.

The company already has placed bids on other projects, including for a comedy series about morning television starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, sources said.

“They are looking for really high-end premium stuff they feel is creatively in line with the Apple brand,” one source said of Apple’s strategy.

The technology company is competing with several established players that have hooked big name stars, such as Netflix Inc and Time Warner Inc’s HBO, plus newer entrants like Facebook Inc FB.N.

 Apple has committed $1 billion to start its programming push, the sources said. Netflix, by comparison, says it will spend up to $7 billion on content next year.

The budget for “Amazing Stories” will be more than $5 million per episode, according to The Wall Street Journal, which first reported that Apple had reached a deal for the series.

Vimeo Acquires Livestream

September 28, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Video-sharing website Vimeo announced intentions to acquire live video-streaming service Livestream and launch a new streaming service called Vimeo Live.

IAC-owned Vimeo didn’t disclose financial details for the acquisition of the Brooklyn-based company, which says it serves up live videos to 50 million viewers from customers such as Spotify and Dow Jones. Once the deal closes, Livestream’s technology will be integrated with Vimeo, allowing users to capture and stream live events.

“With the launch of Vimeo Live and the addition of Livestream’s impressive team and innovative product suite, we can empower a diverse range of creators to produce beautiful live experiences with professionalism and ease,” Vimeo CEO Anjali Sud said in a statement.

The acquisition makes possible a dramatic expansion for Vimeo, often known as a highbrow YouTube.

Like Google’s video site, Vimeo lets people upload clips. But its early dedication to high picture quality and its ban on video ads meant it was more likely to host film-festival fodder than cat clips.

The new direction comes on the heels of Vimeo shelving plans to launch its own video subscription site with original content. The site said in November it would help its creator community develop original content, and supplement it with licensed programming. Vimeo said in June it had abandoned those plans.

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.

 

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