The deal would mirror a first-of-its kind agreement that Disney and satellite rival Dish Network Corp announced earlier this week.
The Internet rights being discussed are part of a large-scale programming agreement that would replace a deal between the companies that expires in late December. Disney and Dish are in negotiations but the timing of the new deal could be not be learned.
“The deal and terms are not unexpected as the Dish contract was the most recent in the Disney timeline to expire,” DirecTV spokesman Darris Gringeri said on Wednesday. “The DirecTV contract is up next and we’re in the process of working with Disney on a similar long-term agreement of our own.”
A Disney spokesman declined to comment.
A new pact could give both Disney and DirecTV, the No. 1 satellite operator, an additional revenue source as consumers gravitate toward online video services such as Netflix Inc and watch more television online.
The agreement between Dish and Disney marked the first time that a U.S. pay TV operator has been given the flexibility to offer its content over the Web through smartphones, tablets and computers outside of a pay TV subscription.
In that agreement, Disney allows for Dish to stream linear and on-demand content from ABC broadcast stations as well as cable channels, ABC Family, Disney Channel, ESPN and ESPN2. Dish has not revealed plans for its streaming service.
DirecTV, which has 20.3 million subscribers, is expected to secure better rates on programming than Dish, which has 14.1 million subscribers, because of its size. Both companies have complained about the rising cost of programming and have been involved in high-profile blackouts over the past few years.
DirecTV Chief Executive Mike White has previously said the company is working on an “over-the-top” video package to suit niche audiences featuring Hispanic or kids programming, but has not yet given details on that offering.
Verizon Communications is engaged in discussions with content providers to deliver web-based TV services to mobile platforms, chief executive Lowell McAdam, said at an investor conference earlier in the week.
Just recently, Dish Network Corp and Walt Disney Co announced a landmark deal that will allow the No. 2 satellite TV provider to deliver Disney-owned network content online, outside of a traditional TV subscription.
Verizon’s goal “is to work with the content providers,” said
McAdam at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference.
“I have personally had discussions with the CEOs of the large content companies, and we would love to partner with them to see how we can take FiOS contact mobilely across the country.” he said.
McAdam said the company could also look at providing a service delivered over wireless airwaves and not just broadband.
According to PwC’s annual entertainment and media forecast, North American consumers will spend $6 billion in 2014 on entertainment from services such as Netflix that are offered over the top, meaning they are utilized over a network but not offered by the network operator.
“I think you can actually get a virtuous cycle where broadcast viewing goes up and over-the-top viewing goes up, if you time this properly,” McAdam said.
In January, Verizon acquired Intel Corp’s OnCue service for an undisclosed sum to accelerate its push into next-generation video services, including integrating it with Verizon’s FiOS fiber-based Internet and TV service that has more than 5 million video subscribers, about 5 percent of pay TV households. The company said it was open to providing over-the-top content to any device.
McAdam also stressed that Verizon expects Netflix to pay for faster video delivery as part of a so-called interconnect deal, in an arrangement similar to the one the video provider has made with Comcast Corp.
“I have spoken live and via email with (Netflix CEO) Reed Hastings, and I believe that we will get some sort of an arrangement with them as well,” said McAdam.
Still, Verizon has had its own interconnection discussions with Netflix related to increasing the video provider’s traffic speeds on the broadband carrier’s networks, Verizon Chairman and CEO Lowell McAdam said. Following a Sunday announcement that Comcast and Netflix had reached an interconnection deal, McAdam said his company has had similar discussions with the video provider.
The Comcast and Netflix deal shows “the commercial markets can come to agreement on these to make sure the investments keep flowing,” McAdam said.
McAdam addressed the U.S. Federal Communications Commission’s proposed net neutrality rules during a conference call about the company’s acquisition of Vodafone’s 45 percent stake in Verizon Wireless. The FCC’s move this month to resurrect net neutrality rules should provide “clarity” for the broadband industry, said McAdam, whose company successfully challenged an old version of the regulations in court.
McAdam dismissed concerns that his company would selectively block or slow some Web content. “We make our money by carrying traffic,” he said. “That’s how we make dollars. So to view that we’re going to be advantaging one over the other really is a lot of histrionics, I think, at this point.”
But McAdam suggested that broadband power users should pay extra. “It’s only natural that the heavy users help contribute to the investment to keep the Web healthy,” he said. “That is the most important concept of net neutrality.”
The FCC needs to look at the broad Internet industry, not just broadband providers, when it considers new net neutrality rules, McAdam said. Companies like Netflix, Apple, Microsoft and Google have a role, and “any rules will have to include all of these players,” he said.
McAdam called for the FCC to create “light touch” rules on net neutrality. The FCC needs to consider growing uses of broadband in medicine and other fields, he said. “Everything from health care to telematics to the energy grid need to be balanced with someone who’s trying to watch last year’s episode of [TV show] NCIS,” he said.
McAdam said he’s “encouraged” that the latest FCC effort may bring clarity on net neutrality rules.
The company is investing in original content to attract customers to its $79-a-year Amazon Prime service, which competes for online viewers with services such as Netflix and Hulu.com. Prime also includes free two-day shipping for Amazon products.
The new pilots include three comedies and two dramas for adults, plus five children’s shows. Amazon will make a decision on how many to put into development after customers have their say by leaving online comments and ratings.
Malcolm McDowell stars in the comedy “Mozart in the Jungle,” a story about “sex, drugs — and classical music,” an Amazon statement said.
A science-fiction show, “The After,” was written and directed by “The X-Files” creator Chris Carter.
Amazon chose the pilots after looking at the genres that are popular with its customers, said Roy Price, director of Amazon Studios.
“Customers have responded really well in the past to sci-fi,” Price said in an interview. “We start with some areas that customers are responding to and try to develop shows that fit in there.”
Other pilots include “Transparent,” a dark comedy about a dysfunctional family that stars Jeffrey Tambor and Judith Light, and “Bosch,” based on best-selling novels about a Los Angeles homicide detective.
The new pilots are available for a month in the United States on Amazon.com and through the Amazon Instant Video app, and in Britain through Amazon’s Lovefilm streaming service.
Last year, Amazon released two comedy series, “Alpha House,” starring John Goodman as a senator, and “Betas,” about a tech start-up, after considering customer input on 14 pilots.
Three children’s series also were selected during that process, which brought in thousands of customer reviews within a few days, Price said.
Netflix Inc gained more than 2.3 million U.S. subscribers in the fourth quarter, sending its shares up 17 percent in after-hours trading, and said it was testing different pricing plans for its monthly TV and movie streaming service.
The world’s largest video streaming company on Wednesday reported net income of $48 million for the quarter, up from $8 million a year ago. Earnings-per-share were 79 cents, Netflix said in a statement, beating the 66 cents average forecast of analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
The strong U.S. subscriber growth, a closely watched barometer of company performance, came in at the top end of Netflix’s forecast range. Netflix also signed up 1.74 million new customers in foreign markets, bringing its worldwide total to 44.4 million.
Answering critics who question how big Netflix could grow, the company said it expected to add more U.S. subscribers in the first quarter of 2014 than in the year-ago period.
“We expect this momentum to continue in Q1 with net additions of 2.25 million to exceed the prior year by about 11 percent,” the company said in its quarterly letter to shareholders.
Netflix shares, one of the highest-flying stocks of 2013, jumped more than 17 percent in after-hours trading to $391.77, eclipsing the all-time intraday trading high of $389.16 the stock hit in October.
In its shareholder letter, Netflix noted it had been testing variations of its $8 monthly charge “at various price points.” The company also said it “eventually” hopes to offer three pricing options “to fit everyone’s taste.”
Existing members would receive “generous grandfathering of their existing plans and prices,” the letter added.
In an interview, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said it “could take longer than a year” for the company to set new prices.
“It just depends on when we feel comfortable we’ve got something that feels really fair and appropriate to consumers,” he said.
Netflix suffered from a consumer backlash and stock plunge after it announced an unpopular price increase in July 2011.
Hastings discounted a recent U.S. court ruling on “net neutrality” that some analysts said might lead broadband providers to charge the company for quick delivery of its video content, possibly inflating costs for the company.
“Our economic interests are pretty aligned,” he said. Broadband providers want to sell higher-priced service with faster speeds and need content for it from services like Netflix that work well with faster speeds, Hastings explained.
The CEO said he would like to reach a deal with a U.S. cable operator to have Netflix accessed from their set-top boxes.
“People will use Netflix anyway and I’d think (cable operators) would rather have them use it on their boxes rather than on Roku or some other box,” Hastings said.
Netflix is investing in original programming, such as the “House of Cards,” and “Orange is the New Black” series to attract and keep subscribers. If faces competition from online video players like Amazon.com Inc and Hulu, as well as on-demand content from cable operators.
But the company reported shrinking losses in international markets.
“The international losses are going to subside and therefore show the strength of the overall streaming business,” said FBN Securities analyst Shebly Seyrafi, who rates Netflix an “outperform.”
The company projected it will add 1.6 million customers in foreign markets from January through March.
It said it plans a “substantial European expansion” later this year, but did not disclose the markets it is looking at. The company currently operates in Canada, Latin America and seven European countries.
The idea is still at a very early stage, and it might not go ahead, the newspaper said, without disclosing its source.
Amazon is one of several companies that already offers on-demand movies and TV shows, but live TV would put it squarely in competition with existing cable and satellite TV providers.
Some of those providers already offer live TV over the Internet, but only as an extension of an existing pay TV subscription.
After news, music and video rentals, live TV is seen by many as the next big area that will be disrupted by the Internet. Amazon’s moves could be part of industrywide posturing in preparation for that.
The report came on the same day Verizon Communications, a major broadband Internet provider, said it is buying OnCue, a cloud TV service developed by Intel.
Sony recently said it would begin offering live television through a video service to be delivered through Sony PlayStation and connected TVs later this year, although offered no other details.
Over-the-air broadcasters are also moving toward the Internet. But in a twist on services offered in other countries, some local TV stations require a cable or satellite TV subscription in order to access live streaming programming over the Internet, despite it being broadcast free of charge over local airwaves.
One company that is attempting to break up this model, Aereo, has found itself targeted by lawsuits. Aereo receives and relays local TV broadcasts to subscribers over the Internet without the approval of the broadcasters. Aereo says it doesn’t need their approval, but TV stations disagree. That battle is heading to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Wall Street Journal report noted the difficulty Amazon might face in getting access to content, especially if media conglomerates want to avoid upsetting major cable and satellite providers.
For all of the different brands familiar to consumers, today’s pay TV market is dominated by a handful of large companies that own many of the channels.
General Electric, for example, owns the NBC and Telemundo over-the-air networks, cable channels including CNBC, NBC Sports Network, USA Network and SyFy, cable TV and Internet operator Comcast, and a third of online streaming service Hulu.
Amazon did not immediately comment on the Wall Street Journal report. In a statement late Tuesday to the newspaper, it said it was not planning to license television channels or offer a pay-TV service. The company said it continued to build selection for Prime Instant Video and create original shows at Amazon Studios.
Dell’s $699.99 28-inch Ultra HD Monitor is the cheapest of the bunch, while Lenovo and Asustek announced similar-size monitors at $799. The monitors are being previewed at the International CES trade show in Las Vegas, and are expected to ship as early as later this month.
This sub-$800 4K monitors could be good news for gamers and creative engineers looking to make 4K content. Some games like Crysis 3, Battlefield 4 and Assassin’s Creed Black Flag are 4K-ready, and new graphics chips from Nvidia and Advanced Micro Devices are capable of rendering 4K video.
The 4K monitors will display more vivid and dense images with a resolution of 3840 by 2160 pixels, which is four times the current 1920 x 1080-pixel HD resolution. TVs with 4K resolution are already on sale, and an early 4K monitor was shown by Sharp at last year’s CES. Apple is now selling a Sharp 32-inch PN-K321 4K monitor, but for $3,595.
PC companies want to push 4K monitors to the masses. The new monitors have a range of ports, and could also connect to gaming consoles.
Dell’s $699 Ultra HD Monitor P2815Q will ship worldwide later this month and provides the “best possible screen resolution” for photos and videos, Dell said in a blog entry. It offers depth of 1 billion colors, and has USB 3.0, HDMI, DisplayPort and mini-DisplayPort ports. The monitor has a response time of 5 milliseconds. It also has a speaker bar.
Lenovo’s $799 ThinkVision Pro2840m monitor will ship in April. It has a DisplayPort, mini-DisplayPort, USB 3.0 and HDMI ports. A stand allows the monitor to be adjusted in multiple orientations. It supports MHL (mobile high-definition link) for display of content from mobile devices and has speakers.
Asus’ $699 PB278Q has a response time of 1 millisecond for 4K images at 60Hz, which could make it more responsive than Dell’s $699 4K monitor. Asus did not provide information on when the monitor would become available.
Many new 4K TVs from Sony, Samsung and LG are also on display at CES. Netflix at CES said it will start streaming video in 4K, and streaming video from YouTube based on Google’s VP9 video codec was shown on 4K TVs.
The latest entries are led by the flagship XBR-X950B series, which was unveiled at a press conference at the Las Vegas Convention Center. The TV sets are expected to be available in spring this year in 85 and 65 inches and will feature direct LED local dimming.
The 4K Ultra HD TV has four times the resolution and clarity of Full HD 1080p, Triluminos display technology for enhanced color and detail, and HDMI 2.0.
“Its unique backlighting algorithm can achieve a much wider dynamic range of brightness with higher peaks and deeper blacks,” said Mike Fasulo, president and chief operating officer of Sony Electronics. “These televisions are eye-catching no matter what you are viewing.”
The flagship offering is followed by the X900B series in 79, 65, and 55 inches, and the X850B series in 70, 65, 55, and 49 inches. Sony is also adding a new line of five Bravia LED HD TV series to accompany the 4K entries. They will be mostly available this spring and some feature a wedge-shaped design with triangular sides and enhanced performance speakers.
The 4K push by Sony includes a new $2,000 prosumer 4K camcorder, the FDR-AX100, a tie-up on 4K content with Netflix, whose CEO Reed Hastings appeared on stage with Sony officials, and the manufacturer’s continued promotion of the Sony Video Unlimited 4K Service, announced last September with dozens of native 4K feature films.
The court’s decision may prove key to deciding under what circumstances companies can be sued for using certain software in their products.
The court said in a one-line order that it would hear a case brought by Alice Corporation Pty Ltd, which holds a patent for a computer system that facilitates financial transactions. The patent is challenged by CLS Bank International.
The court took no action on another case raising the same issue involving a patent dispute between WildTangent Inc and Ultramercial Inc.
The deep interest that the software industry and patent experts have in what is a threshold issue in patent litigation was underscored by the number of companies and industry groups that asked the court to decide the issue.
Companies including Google Inc, Hewlett-Packard Co, Facebook Inc and Netflix Inc had already signaled their interest in the issue by asking the court to hear the WildTangent case. Many also filed briefs in lower courts.
With the rise of computer-based products in recent years, courts have struggled to apply patent law. Some legal experts, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital civil liberties group, say that courts are too keen to uphold patents on ideas that are too vague to deserve protection.
Such vague patents can be used against big tech companies, which say they are forced to spend money defending lawsuits instead of investing in research and development. Technology companies are particularly concerned about litigation brought by so-called “patent trolls,” defined as companies that hold patents only for the purpose of suing other companies seeking to develop new products.
Spotify has had its knuckles rapped by the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) for an email that contained an uncensored “f” word.
The promotional email had the subject line, “Have you heard this song by Lily Allen? Give it a try. F-ck You”.
Contextually, the phrase refers to the song “Fuck You” on Lily Allen’s album “It’s Not Me, It’s You”, and the suggestion was genuine, generated automatically based on the listener’s previous selections.
Unfortunately, this particular Spotify customer chose to take it the wrong way and made a complaint to the ASA, which announced it would uphold the complaint on Wednesday.
Defending against the claim, Spotify said it “believed there was a clear difference between deliberate language use such as that and the context in which it was used in the ad” and that “…around 36 million recommendations were sent to users by e-mail every month and therefore over the years a significant proportion of its users would have had the same song recommended to them”.
However, the ASA had not received any other complaints, Spotify said. Upholding the complaint, the ASA ruled that it “considered the use of ‘Fuck’ was likely to cause serious offence to some recipients of such e-mails and therefore concluded that the ad breached the Code”.
Although no action is taken in isolated instances like this, the ASA chose to uphold the complaint “to ensure [Spotify's] future advertising contained nothing that was likely to cause serious or widespread offence”.
But what songs had this customer been listening to that would trigger this recommendation? Perhaps he or she is a fan of Cee Lo Green or the Dead Kennedys?
Spotify has responded to criticism of the royalty amounts it pays to music artists.
Music industry figures including Radiohead lead singer Thom Yorke have long called for fellow artists to boycott the Swedish music streaming service, which Yorke described as “the last desperate fart of a dying corpse”.
In launching the new Spotify For Artists website, Spotify has been proud to boast that it has paid out more than $1bn, over half of which it has paid in the past year. However, digging deeper the truth emerges that this equates to between $0.006 and $0.008 per play.
That’s fine if you’re Lady Gaga or Beyonce, but for musicians at the grassroots level this represents a massive hole in their finances. Or to put it in perspective, it would require a five piece band to be played 5,477 times just to be able to buy themselves a round of drinks. For a new, untested and undiscovered artist, that simply isn’t enough to get by.
A play on Great Britain’s BBC alternative radio station 6 Music nets an artist approximately five cents. Not a king’s ransom, but a huge amount compared to Spotify’s rates. In contrast, Bandcamp, the service designed to allow artists to self release their music, lets artists set their own prices for music, or even leaves it up to consumers to pay what they believe the work is worth.
This is the way that the internet is supposed to empower artists. The internet has made it possible for anyone to be a star, or at least make a living from their music, if they are good enough.
But accepting the payment of these tiny amounts of money is actually far worse for the industry than so-called ‘piracy’, because copyright infringement will always be considered wrong, while streaming for fractions of pennies normalises the practice of underpaying for creative talent and creates the kinds of gatekeepers that have made the giant music industry companies such a cartel. A cartel that is starting to implode.
Netflix Inc is having preliminary discussions with several U.S. cable television companies including Comcast Corp and Suddenlink Communications to make its streaming video service available through their set-top boxes, according to a Wall Street Journal report, citing people familiar with the matter.
According to the Journal, the negotiations are in the early stages, with no deal expected soon. The report said that one sticking point in the negotiations is that Netflix wants cable companies to adopt special technology designed to improve the quality of its streaming video.
Last month, two European cable companies — Sweden’s Com Hem and Virgin Media in Britain — struck deals to allow their customers to access Netflix through Tivo set-top boxes.
Netflix Chief Financial Officer David Wells, speaking at a Goldman Sachs investor conference last month, said that the company was willing to strike similar deals with U.S. cable companies.
“We would love to reduce the friction to the end consumer, and to be available via the existing device in the home which is the set-top box,” Wells said. “But it’s up to the (pay TV provider) to decide how much a competitor they view us as, or a complement.”
Netflix, Comcast and Suddenlink could not be immediately reached for comment.
Flutter makes an application for Mac and Windows machines that lets people control programs like iTunes and Quicktime by capturing gestures using the computer’s webcam.
“We will be continuing our research at Google,” Flutter CEO Navneet Dalal announced Wednesday on the company’s website.
A Google spokeswoman said the company would be supporting Flutter’s research. The deal has already closed and terms were not disclosed.
Flutter’s team will be joining Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., to continue their research efforts.
The Flutter app, however, will remain operational. Through an extension to the Chrome browser, it also works with Google’s YouTube service, Netflix, Grooveshark and Pandora.
Flutter describes its mission as being “to arm you with the superpower of Flutter so that you too can join the fight against unnatural user interfaces.”
The images captured by the webcam don’t leave the person’s computer and are not saved permanently, Flutter says.
Its technology could potentially be incorporated into any number of Google products, such as its Chromebooks or head-mounted Google Glass system.
Flutter launched in 2010, on a day when the keyboard and mouse were discovered to be “the greatest threat to human-computer interaction since carpal tunnel syndrome,” the company said on its site.
The UK’s Ministry of Sound is suing streaming music service Spotify over its playlists.
The firm is concerned that Spotify is letting users create playlists that ape its paid-for compilation albums and not taking them down when requested.
Ministry of Sound CEO Lohan Presencer told the Guardian that the disco business has had enough. “It’s been incredibly frustrating: we think it’s been very clear what we’re arguing, but there has been a brick wall from Spotify,” he said.
“What we do is a lot more than putting playlists together: a lot of research goes into creating our compilation albums, and the intellectual property involved in that. It’s not appropriate for someone to just cut and paste them.”
Presencer was given more room to complain about compilations in a Guardian blog post. He said that now, after months of correspondence, it is time that the streamer is “held to account”.
“The money Spotify pays labels is not necessarily flowing through to artists. Also Spotify isn’t paying all labels,” he added. “You won’t find our compilation albums on Spotify. Why not? Because its business model does not recognise that our products (compilations) have any material value.”
The music retailing chief said that his firm noticed playlists that copied its compilations and their titles last year and began contacting Spotify about them.
“We assumed it was an oversight on Spotify’s part and contacted the company to request it remove the offending playlists. It declined, claiming there was no infringement and it wasn’t its responsibility to police its users,” he said.
“Several rounds of legal letters later, this dispute will now be settled in court. We believe we have a clear cut case. After 20 years and more than 50 million album sales, the value and creativity in our compilations are self evident. Until now, we’ve watched Spotify’s progress from a distance. But we can no longer remain silent. This so-called saviour of the industry and enemy of the pirates is allowing our compilations to be used without permission and refusing to take action when told about the problem.”
Presencer described this as a “David vs Goliath battle”.
Ophelia looks much like a USB stick and it can turn any screen or display with an HDMI port into a PC, gaming machine or streaming media player. The thumb PC runs on the Android OS and once it is plugged into an HDMI port, users can run applications, play games, watch streaming movies or access files stored in the cloud.
The final product will ship during the next fiscal quarter, which runs from August through October, a Dell spokesman said in an e-mail. The device has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless connectivity options.
Priced at about $100, Dell hopes Ophelia will be an inexpensive alternative to PCs, whose shipments are falling with the growing adoption of tablets and smartphones. With more data now being stored in the cloud, Dell hopes the idea of a keychain PC will catch on, especially for those who do most of their computing on the Web.
The device will also compete with Google’s recently announced Chromecast media streaming device, which is priced at $35 and also the size of a thumb drive. With Ophelia, users will be able to run Android games or stream movies from Hulu or Netflix, and even download apps, movies and TV shows from the Google Play store.
One of the value propositions of Ophelia is that it is a lightweight PC alternative, said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.