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YouTube Rumored To Unveil Paid Music Streaming Service

December 11, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

YouTube is gearing up to launch a new music subscription service in March, according to Bloomberg, a move that would be Google-parent Alphabet’s third attempt to challenge rivals Apple and Spotify.

The new streaming service, tentatively called Remix, will feature on-demand streaming and incorporate video clips from YouTube, sources described as familiar with the company’s plans told the news outlet. Major recording label Warner Music Group has already signed on, but YouTube is still in talks with Sony Music Entertainment and Universal Music Group, Bloomberg reported.

YouTube didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

YouTube would be taking its third swing at the music-streaming business. Google introduced an audio-only streaming service called Google Play Music in 2011. Three years later, Google launched YouTube Music Key, a subscription service that offered music videos and ad-free songs on YouTube for $10 a month. Google changed the name to YouTube Red in 2015 and expanded it to all kinds of YouTube videos.

YouTube has a long way to catch up with Apple and Spotify, though. Spotify has more than 60 million paying users as of July, while Apples Music has about 27 million subscribers.

Amazon Prime Video Makes It Apple TV

December 8, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Amazon.com Inc and Apple Inc teamed up to offer the Amazon Prime Video app to Apple TV in more than 100 countries, the companies announced.

The news came a day after Alphabet Inc’s Google said it would block its YouTube video streaming application from two of Amazon’s devices and criticized the online retailer for not selling Google hardware.

Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook had said in June that Amazon’s streaming service would be available on Apple devices later this year.

Apple TV, a device for watching movies and television over the internet, will also start featuring live sports from its own Apple TV app this week, Apple said in a blog post on Wednesday.

While live sports were previously available on Apple TV in apps from ESPN and the National Basketball Association, the new additions to Apple’s own app enable features like sending alerts to connected iPhones and iPads when a big game is about to start or when a user’s favorite teams are locked in a close game.

Wednesday’s announcement followed a negotiation stretching back at least to 2015 when Amazon stopped selling Apple TVs on its retail site.

Google Blocks YouTube On Amazon Devices

December 7, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

A growing public spat in the technology industry escalated even further when Google said it would block its video streaming application YouTube from two Amazon.com Inc devices and criticized the online retailer for not selling Google hardware.

The feud is the latest in Silicon Valley to put customers in the crossfire of major competitors. Amazon and Google, which is owned by Alphabet Inc, square off in many areas, from cloud computing and online search to selling voice-controlled gadgets like the Google Home and Amazon Echo Show.

 The stakes are high: many in the technology industry expect that interacting with computers by voice will become widespread, and it is unclear if Amazon, Google or another company will dominate the space. Amazon’s suite of voice-controlled devices has outsold Google’s so far, according to a study by research firm eMarketer from earlier this year.

“Given this lack of reciprocity, we are no longer supporting YouTube on Echo Show and Fire TV,” Google said. “We hope we can reach an agreement to resolve these issues soon.”

Amazon said in a statement, “Google is setting a disappointing precedent by selectively blocking customer access to an open website.”

It said it hoped to resolve the issue with Google as soon as possible but customers could access YouTube through the internet – not an app – on the devices in the meantime.

The break has been a long time coming. Amazon kicked the Chromecast, Google’s television player, off its retail website in 2015, along with Apple Inc’s TV player. Amazon had explained the move by saying it wanted to avoid confusing customers who might expect its Prime Video service to be available on devices sold by Amazon.

Amazon and Apple mended ties earlier this year when it was announced Prime Video would come to Apple TV. Not so with Google.

 In September, Google cut off YouTube from the Amazon Echo Show, which had displayed videos on its touchscreen without video recommendations, channel subscriptions and other features. Amazon later reintroduced YouTube to the device, but the voice commands it added violated the use terms and on Tuesday Google again removed the service.

The Fire TV loses access to its YouTube app on Jan. 1, Google said. Amazon has sold that device for longer than the Echo Show, meaning more customers may now be affected.

Microsoft Warning Customers Free Office Viewer Going Away

November 29, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft is alerting customers that it will retire several Office application viewers in little more than four months, shutting off the spigot to the free document readers used by those without the productivity suite.

“The Excel Viewer, PowerPoint Viewer, PowerPoint 2007 Viewer and the Office Compatibility Pack, will be retired in April 2018,” said a post to a company blog. “At that time, they will no longer be available for download and will no longer receive security updates.”

The announcement followed one a year ago, when the firm said it would put the Word Viewer to pasture in November 2017. That hasn’t happened yet; the Word Viewer was still available as of Monday.

Along with the also-free Office Compatibility Pack – which will be chopped next April, too – the viewers let people not equipped with an actual Office bundle to open, view and read, and print Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint decks and Word documents. The idea was to allow collaboration with as large a workplace population as possible.

Microsoft launched the viewer concept at the end of the 20th century, but essentially halted development with the versions matching Office 2007. They have been patched against security vulnerabilities since then, however. The viewers were made unnecessary for many by the introduction in 2010 of Office Online, and the mobile versions of Office’s applications, which superseded that initial effort.

In view of the impending retirements, customers should seek alternatives. Microsoft suggested the appropriate mobile apps from the Windows Store for Windows 10 devices; the iOS and Android mobile apps for those with iPhones and iPads, and Android or ChromeOS hardware, respectively; an Office 365 subscription for Windows PCs and/or Macs; and OneDrive and its built-in viewer for Windows 7- and 8.1- personal computers.

At their retirement, the viewers and the Compatibility Pack will be removed from Microsoft’s download website, and updates will cease. Existing copies of will continue to work normally.

Until they’re scrubbed from Microsoft’s site, the Excel Viewer, PowerPoint Viewer, PowerPoint Viewer 2007 and Compatibility Pack can be downloaded free of charge.

There are, of course, other ways to wrangle older Office file formats, or view – or even work with – Office documents without the Microsoft suite itself.

For example, Google Docs lets users open Excel, PowerPoint and Word files in an Office Compatibility Mode (OCM), then save the results as Sheets, Slides or Docs files, respectively, and Office files can be converted to Google’s formats from Google Drive.

A Chrome add-on, Office Editing for Docs, Sheets & Slides, simplifies this further by opening dragged-to-the-browser Office files in the pertinent Google online application.

The open-source OpenOffice and LibreOffice can also open Microsoft Office-formatted files.

CBS Channels Go Dark On Dish Network

November 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

CBS Corp’s TV stations no longer broadcasting for Dish Network Corp’s customers over a network carriage deal dispute, the companies said early Tuesday.

Dish said in a statement that CBS rejected its offer to extend their contract while negotiations continued.

“This particular dispute is yet another example of the company punishing its subscribers instead of negotiating a fair carriage deal that reflects the current marketplace,” CBS said in a separate statement.

CBS and 28 other CBS-owned local television stations were blacked out across 26 states.

The Smithsonian Channel, Pop, and CBS Sports Network would also be unavailable on Dish networks in cities including New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, CBS said.

Verizon Wireless To Sign A Streaming Deal With NFL

November 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Verizon Communications Inc, no. 1 U.S. wireless carrier, is closing in on a deal  with the National Football League for digital streaming rights, Bloomberg reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

With the new agreement, Verizon will be able to give subscribers access to games on all devices, including big-screen TVs, and not just phones, according to the people, Bloomberg said.

Verizon will lose exclusive rights to air games on mobile devices, Bloomberg quoted two people as saying. Verizon’s rights will include the NFL’s Thursday night games, among others, one of the people said, according to Bloomberg.

Financial details and the duration of Verizon’s contract with the NFL could not immediately be learned, Bloomberg said.

Neither NFL nor Verizon could immediately be reached for a comment by Reuters.

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.

SportsCenter Show Comes To Snapchat

November 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

U.S. sports broadcaster ESPN rolled out its flagship SportsCenter program on messaging app Snapchat on Monday, reimagining the show that provides sports highlights and commentary into a short-form series.

The new show deepens the relationship between ESPN parent Walt Disney Co and Snapchat parent Snap Inc.

The sports network, which has made Snapchat content since 2015, is trying to reach a younger audience, while the social media app, whose messages disappear after viewing, is adding more content in an effort to grow its user base beyond its core youth demographic.

The partnership is a two-year deal and Snap and ESPN will share revenues, Snap said, though it declined to give specifics.

SportsCenter will air twice a day on Snapchat during weekdays, and once a day on weekends. A roster of six hosts will give commentary and perspectives, including ESPN anchors Katie Nolan and Elle Duncan, and ESPN Radio host Jason Fitz, Snap said.

Sean Mills, Snap’s head of content programming, said SportsCenter helps round out the app’s stable of daily shows, which already includes news shows from CNN and NBC News, as well as an entertainment show called “The Rundown” from E! Network.

Along with daily shows, Snap launched a joint venture studio with NBCUniversal last month to produce scripted shows to air on the app.

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.

Can UbiSoft’s Latest Move Successfully Fend Off Vivendi

October 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

Ubisoft will repurchase up to 4m of its own shares in order to delay a potential takeover from French media conglomerate Vivendi.

In an short statement to investors, the Assassin’s Creed publisher said it had mandated an unnamed investment services provider to handle the share buyback program – something that was authorised at the firm’s general meeting for shareholders last month.

The aforementioned meeting saw shareholders supporting Yves Guillemot and his current strategy, highlighting the backing the CEO has in his ongoing fight against Vivendi’s impending takeover bid. Vivendi currently holds 27% of Ubisoft’s capital share and will be required by French law to make an offer it it gains 30%.

The share repurchasing program should stall this somewhat. Ubisoft is aiming to buy back up to 4m shares, equating to 10% of the firm’s capital. These repurchased shares will then be cancelled – in this way, the stock is retired and cannot be purchased later by Vivendi or any other interested party.

The buyback begins today and should be concluded by December 29th.

Vivendi has spent the past few years gradually increasing its grasp on Ubisoft, seemingly in order to purchase the publisher. It has already taken over another Guillemot family business: mobile games giant Gameloft.

Oddly, Bloomberg reports that in a recent AGM, the company claims it has not decided whether to make a bid for Ubisoft or simply sell the stock it has accrued.

We spoke to Yves Guillemot earlier this year about Vivendi’s aggressive tactics.

“We live in a dangerous world,” he told us. “There are challenges, and the best will remain. We are under attack, we are trying to fight against it. We think we are ready to fight against those problems.”

Courtesy-GI.biz

Gannett Acquires Stake In Online Media Company, Grateful Ventures

October 5, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Gannett Co Inc, publisher of USA Today, confirmed that it has made its first major investment outside of news with a majority investment in Grateful Ventures, an online media company that focuses on lifestyle content including videos about food and cooking.

Gannett, which also owns local newspapers and websites across the United States, is looking to expand its audience as the print media industry struggles with declining advertising and circulation revenue, and younger audiences increasingly read news and watch TV online.

The investment is less than $10 million, Gannett said, declining to provide specifics.

 Grateful Ventures will initially produce videos and content about food and cooking that will appear on Gannett websites and other social media, said Maribel Perez Wadsworth, Gannett’s chief transformation officer.

There is potential to expand to beauty and health and wellness, she said.

The categories will help Gannett increase its female audience, Wadsworth added, which is a coveted demographic for some advertisers.

“Our aim is to become a daily destination for our audience, so tapping into lifestyle will help that,” she said.

The companies plan to use a variety of advertising strategies to make money from the videos. Those include working with internet cooks who have a wide following and producing branded content, Grateful Ventures chief executive Kyle Cox said in an interview.

Other newspaper companies have also ramped up content outside of news, such as The New York Times Co, which introduced a separate digital subscription for its NYT Cooking website in June.

Because Gannett owns papers and websites in 34 states across the country, the partnership is unique in that it can closely reach a millennial audience in a variety of markets, Cox said.

“We have an opportunity to tap into the millennials across the country, versus hearing only what the media companies on the coast are saying,” he said.

Roku’s New Feature Expands On How We Can Watch TV

October 3, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Ever been browsing the guide on your TV, see something you like airing in the future, and say to yourself: “I wish I could watch that right now.”

With a new feature on Roku TVs, you can.

Smart TVs from brands like TCL, Hisense, RCA and others that run Roku’s Smart TV system have long held an advantage. One big reason is that, unlike competing Smart TV systems, Roku is always rolling out updates that add new functions, like the ability to pause live TV, no DVR required and suggest streams based on what you’re watching live.

The latest free update, Roku OS 8, brings a slew of new additions. The coolest is integrated into the all new grid-style program guide for live TV, which Roku calls Smart Guide. It takes the form of innocuous purple asterisks next to show names.

When you see an asterisked a title, like “Night Court” or “Jack and the Beanstalk” from the image above, you can hit the asterisk key on the remote and up comes a page labeled “More Ways to Watch.” It shows which streaming services carry that show and episode, and another click launches it.

The feature builds on the original implementation of More Ways to Watch, which used automatic content recognition to pop up windows and suggest streams based on what you’re watching regardless of source. The new Smart Guide only works with over-the-air antenna shows, but has the advantage of including future airings in a familiar grid format. And since it doesn’t use ACR, it doesn’t have that technology’s privacy concerns.

Amazon’s Streaming Of NFL Game Logged Nearly 2M Viewers

October 2, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Nearly 2 million people logged onto Amazon.com  for the online retailer’s first livestream of Thursday Night Football, the U.S. National Football League said on Friday.

Some 1.9 million people tuned in to Amazon’s kickoff show and game between the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers, according to the NFL. That compares to 2.3 million for the first digitally streamed game last year on Twitter Inc,  which had the online rights at the time.

But viewers watched the broadcast for longer on average on Amazon. Its average worldwide audience for at least 30 seconds was 372,000 people, compared with 243,000 on Twitter for the first game last year, the NFL said.

Streaming live sports is a new, integral part of Amazon’s strategy to encourage more people to sign up to its Prime shopping club and spend more on retail goods.

Roku Gears Up For IPO, Sets Shares At $14

September 29, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Roku, the video streaming platform, set its initial public offering price at $14 per share, giving the company a value of $1.3 billion, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The maker of set-top streaming boxes and software priced at the high end of its expected range, raising roughly $219 million Wednesday night ahead of its debut on the Nasdaq stock market Thursday, The Journal reported.

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 Roku is the most pervasive box in US households and tends to be one of the main ways people stream long-form TV from services like Netflix and Hulu, according to research firm Nielsen.

Roku, which announced its intention to go public earlier this month, said in June it has 15 million monthly active accounts, a 61 percent increase in the previous 12 months. The company had $400 million in revenue in 2016.

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.

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