Flexible expressions could lift 3D-generated faces out of the uncanny valley

3D-rendered faces are a big part of any major movie or game now, but the task of capturing and animated them in a natural way can be a tough one. Disney Research is working on ways to smooth out this process, among them a machine learning tool that makes it much easier to generate and manipulate 3D faces without dipping into the uncanny valley.

Of course this technology has come a long way from the wooden expressions and limited details of earlier days. High resolution, convincing 3D faces can be animated quickly and well, but the subtleties of human expression are not just limitless in variety, they’re very easy to get wrong.

Think of how someone’s entire face changes when they smile — it’s different for everyone, but there are enough similarities that we fancy we can tell when someone is “really” smiling or just faking it. How can you achieve that level of detail in an artificial face?

Existing “linear” models simplify the subtlety of expression, making “happiness” or “anger” minutely adjustable, but at the cost of accuracy — they can’t express every possible face, but can easily result in impossible faces. Newer neural models learn complexity from watching the interconnectedness of expressions, but like other such models their workings are obscure and difficult to control, and perhaps not generalizable beyond the faces they learned from. They don’t enable the level of control an artist working on a movie or game needs, or result in faces that (humans are remarkably good at detecting this) are just off somehow.

A team at Disney Research proposes a new model with the best of both worlds — what it calls a “semantic deep face model.” Without getting into the exact technical execution, the basic improvement is that it’s a neural model that learns how a facial expression affects the whole face, but is not specific to a single face — and moreover is nonlinear, allowing flexibility in how expressions interact with a face’s geometry and each other.

Think of it this way: A linear model lets you take an expression (a smile, or kiss, say) from 0-100 on any 3D face, but the results may be unrealistic. A neural model lets you take a learned expression from 0-100 realistically, but only on the face it learned it from. This model can take an expression from 0-100 smoothly on any 3D face. That’s something of an over-simplification, but you get the idea.

Computer generated faces all assume similar expressions in a row.

Image Credits: Disney Research

The results are powerful: You could generate a thousand faces with different shapes and tones, and then animate all of them with the same expressions without any extra work. Think how that could result in diverse CG crowds you can summon with a couple clicks, or characters in games that have realistic facial expressions regardless of whether they were hand-crafted or not.

It’s not a silver bullet, and it’s only part of a huge set of improvements artists and engineers are making in the various industries where this technology is employed — markerless face tracking, better skin deformation, realistic eye movements, and dozens more areas of interest are also important parts of this process.

The Disney Research paper was presented at the International Conference on 3D Vision; you can read the full thing here.

#artificial-intelligence, #disney, #disney-research, #science

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Google brings ‘The Mandalorian’ to AR in its new app

Google has teamed up with Disney and Lucasfilm to bring the Star Wars streaming series “The Mandalorian” to augmented reality. The company announced this morning the launch of a new Android AR app,  “The Mandalorian” AR Experience, which will display iconic moments from the first season of the show in AR, allowing fans to retrace the Mandalorian’s steps, find the Child, harness the Force, and more, according to the app’s Play Store description.

In the app, users will be able to follow the trail of Mando, Din Djarin and the Child, interact with the characters, and create scenes that can be shared with friends.

New AR content will be released for the app on Mondays, starting today Nov. 23 and continuing for nearly a year to wrap on Oct. 31, 2021. That makes this a longer-term promotion than some of the other Star Wars experiences Google has offered in the past.

Image Credits: Google/Lucasfilm

Meanwhile, the app itself takes advantage of Google’s developer platform for building augmented reality experiences, ARCore, in order to create scenes that interact with the user’s surroundings. This more immersive design means fans will be able to unlock additional effects based on their actions. The app also leverages Google’s new ARCore Depth API, which allows the app to enable occlusion. This makes the AR scenes blend more naturally with the environment that’s seen through the smartphone’s camera.

However, because the app is a showcase for Google’s latest AR technologies, it won’t work with all Android devices.

Google says the app will only support “compatible 5G Android devices,” which includes its 5G Google Pixel smartphones and other select 5G Android phones that have the Google Play Services for AR updated. You can check to see if your Android phone is supported on a list provided on the Google Developers website. Other phones may be supported in the future, the company also notes.

Image Credits:

While the experience requires a 5G-capable Android device, Google says that you don’t have to be on an active 5G connection to use the app. Instead, the requirement is more about the technologies these devices include and not the signal itself.

Google has teamed up with Lucasfilm many times over the past several years for promotional marketing campaigns. These are not typically considered ads, because they give both companies the opportunity to showcase their services or technologies. For example, Google allowed users to give its apps a Star Wars-themed makeover back in 2015, which benefited its own services like Gmail, Maps, YouTube, Chrome and others. It has also introduced both AR and VR experiences featuring Star Wars content over the past several years.

The  “The Mandalorian” AR Experience” is a free download on the Play Store.

#android, #android-apps, #apps, #arcore, #augmented-reality, #computing, #disney, #google, #google-play, #lucasfilm, #mobile, #play-store, #smartphone, #smartphones, #the-child, #the-mandalorian

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Disney+ has more than 73M subscribers

Disney+, the streaming service that launched one year ago today, grew to 73.7 million paid subscribers as of early October.

That’s according to The Walt Disney Company’s fourth quarter earnings report, which covers the company’s finances through October 3. The company previously said Disney+ had 60.5 million subscribers as of August 3.

The release also includes subscriber numbers for Disney’s other streaming services — Hulu had 36.6 million (including 4.1 million subscribers to Hulu + Live TV), while ESPN had 10.3 million (more than doubling from 3.5 million a year earlier).

Overall, Disney’s direct-to-consumer segment saw revenue grow 41% year-over-year to $4.9 billion, while its operating loss fell from $751 million in Q4 2019 to $580 million this year. Disney attributed the shrinking losses to “improved results at Hulu and ESPN+, partially offset by higher costs at Disney+, driven by the ongoing rollout.”

It was a tough quarter for Disney overall, with the pandemic forcing the company to keep some parks closed and the rest operating at reduced capacity. Disney’s revenue fell to $14.7 billion (compared to $19.1 billion during Q4 2019), with a loss of $0.39 per share.

“The real bright spot has been our direct-to-consumer business, which is key to the future of our company, and on this anniversary of the launch of Disney+ we’re pleased to report that, as of the end of the fourth quarter, the service had more than 73 million paid subscribers – far surpassing our expectations in just its first year,” said CEO Bob Chapek in a statement.

During the investor call, Chapek also noted that Disney+ is currently available in more than 20 countries worldwide, with plans to launch in Latin America on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, earlier today, Disney+ pushed the premiere date of its first Marvel series, “Wandavision,” from December until January 15.

#disney, #media, #the-walt-disney-co

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Are subscription services the future of fintech?

Subscription services are on the rise. During the pandemic, Americans have been spending more time at home and more money on the digital products that make navigating our new normal easier.

More than ever, Americans’ lives are aided by companies like Netflix, Instacart and, of course, Amazon, which reported record-setting earnings from its 2020 Prime Day savings event.

A recent survey even found that spending on subscription services had more than tripled since March, with one in three respondents saying they’d purchased a new online subscription while quarantining.

Now, a new concern lingers: Is the market getting oversaturated? The question doesn’t just apply to streaming services and food delivery companies — it’s an issue financial technology businesses can’t afford to ignore.

As subscriptions become an increasingly alluring business model, fintechs will be forced to consider whether this proven strategy is worth the risk.

Fintechs should take note of subscription services

In the CompareCards survey, two-thirds of respondents said they purchased a new streaming service mainly for entertainment. Still, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for fintechs to carve out their own space.

Bradley Leimer, co-founder of the financial consulting firm Unconventional Ventures, said he’s certainly seen more fintechs exploring subscription models. As Leimer explained, the financial services industry may have not fully embraced the idea, but it’s “starting to take notice.” Leimer, who has more than 25 years of experience in the industry, believes fintechs can learn a lot from subscription services — provided they’re willing to look in the right place.

One major lesson? Transparency. Subscription services give companies an opportunity to be upfront about their fees, as well as their benefits.

“When we talk about subscriptions, the more clear and more transparent we are, the better,” Leimer said.

Acorns is an easy case study. The microinvesting app offers three subscription levels — lite, personal and family — each with a clearly explained list of features. For what it’s worth, the company added more than 2 million users between March 2019 and March 2020, according to Forbes.

Leimer said fintechs should also take note of the way subscription services collaborate. For example, he pointed out how Amazon users can add an HBO subscription to their Prime Video account, essentially “bundling” two subscriptions into one. Fintechs, Leimer said, could stand to take a page out of that playbook.

“There are a lot of ways to sort of skin that cat — for a fintech company to generate income and for a customer to get value on top of that,” Leimer said.

#column, #disney, #ecommerce, #finance, #financial-services, #financial-technology, #fintech, #patents, #startups, #subscription-services, #tc

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The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special looks as wacky as it sounds

During the summer, we got news of a new Star Wars Holiday Special that was going to air later this year. Well, a Lego Star Wars Holiday Special, to be more accurate. And on Thursday morning, Disney+ released a trailer, giving us our first actual glimpse at the planned Life Day extravaganza.

The original Star Wars Holiday Special aired on American TV in 1978 and was a confusing mix of live action and animation that saw Han and Chewie visit Kashyyyk (the Wookie homeworld, obviously) to celebrate Life Day. By most accounts, it was not a particularly positive experience for the cast and crew, not to mention the audience, who were greeted with the sight of Bea Arthur tending bar in the Mos Eisley Cantina, where she pours someone a drink through a hole in their wig.

The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special looks a little more coherent but no less wacky. It seems that Rey and BB-8 find a Sith holocron, or some other kind of magic crystal, and begin a journey through time, meeting characters from throughout the timeline. But because this is Lego Star Wars, it’s all done firmly tongue in cheek—if that’s possible with an injection-molded plastic head where the features are painted on. So there are jokes about Kylo Ren always being topless, about Han shooting Greedo first, and one of the posters Disney+ made features a new hand, wrapped in a bow, with a note from Darth Vader to Luke Skywalker.

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#disney, #disney-plus, #gaming-culture, #lego-star-wars, #lego-star-wars-holiday-special

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App management startup AppFollow raises $5M Series A round led by Nauta Capital

AppFollow, an app management startup, has raised a $5 million Series A round led by Barcelona’s Nauta Capital, alongside existing investors Vendep Capital and RTP Global participating.

The Helsinki-headquartered company says benefitted during the pandemic and even in April 2020 as the desire for automation and apps exploded. It says it now has 70,000 clients on its platform globally including McDonald’s, Disney, Expedia, PicsArt, Flo, Jam City and Discord.

CEO Anatoly Sharifulin said in a statement: “AppFollow helps teams understand sentiment, both for your users and competitor’s, figure out how your potential customers search for apps and use this knowledge to make your app more visible and, of course, follow on your KPIs like downloads and revenues to be sure that all is under control.”

Eugene Kruglov of Nauta Capital said: “We are extremely delighted to partner with Nauta Capital on this round. And having both of current investors and as well some of our customers to participate in the round proves that we are on the right direction to become the market standard for effective app management.”

The company, which employs 65 people across 9 countries, all working remotely, will use the investment to strengthen its presence in the US and Europe, hire VP-level executives in sales, marketing and diversify their platform.

#ceo, #disney, #europe, #expedia, #flo, #helsinki, #mcdonalds, #mobile-applications, #nauta-capital, #partner, #picsart, #rtp-global, #software, #tc, #united-states, #vend, #vendep-capital

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Disney+ UX teardown: Wins, fails and fixes

Disney announced earlier this month that it’s going all-in on streaming media.

As part of this new strategy, the company is undergoing a major reorganisation of its media and entertainment business that will focus on developing productions that will debut on its streaming and broadcast services.

This will include merging the company’s media businesses, ads and distribution, and Disney+ divisions so that they’ll now operate under the same business unit.

As TechCrunch’s Jonathan Shieber reports, Disney’s announcement follows a significant change to its release schedule to address new realities, including a collapsing theatrical release business; production issues; and the runaway success of its Disney+ streaming service — all caused or accelerated by the national failure to effectively address the COVID-19 pandemic.

So what better time than now to give Disney+ the Extra Crunch user experience teardown treatment. With the help of Built for Mars founder and UX expert Peter Ramsey, we highlight some of the things Disney+ gets right and things that should be fixed. They include zero distractions while signing up, “the power of percentages,” and the importance of designing for trackpad, mouse and touch outside of native applications.

Zero distractions while signing up

If the user is trying to complete a very specific task — such as making a payment — don’t distract them. They’re experiencing event-driven behaviour.

The win: Disney have almost entirely removed any kind of distractions when signing up. This includes the header and footer. They want you to stay on-task.

Image Credits: Disney+

Steve O’Hear: This seems like a very easy win but one we don’t see as often as perhaps we should. Am I right that most sign-up flows aren’t this distraction-free and why do you think that is?

Peter Ramsey: Yeah, it’s such an easy win. Sometimes you see sign-up screens that have Google Adwords on it, and I think, “You’re risking the user getting distracted and leaving for what, half a penny?” If I had to guess why more companies don’t utilise this technique, it’s probably just because they don’t want to deal with the technical hassle of hiding a bunch of elements.

The power of percentages

Only use percentages when it makes sense. 80% off sounds like a lot, but 3% doesn’t. Percentages can be a great way of making a discount seem larger than it actually is, but sometimes it can have the reverse effect. This is because people are generally bad at accurately estimating discounts. “What’s 13% off £78?”

The fail: If you sign up to a year of Disney+, then you’re offered 16% free. But 16% of a £60 bundle isn’t easy to calculate in your head — so people guess. And sometimes, their guesses may be less than the actual value of the discount.

The fix: In this instance, it would be far more compelling (and require less mental arithmetic), if it was marketed as “60 days free.” Sixty days is both easy to understand and easy to assign value to.

Image Credits: Disney+

Percentages may be harder to process or evaluate in isolation as an end user but they are easy to compare with each other i.e., we all know 25% off is better than 10% off. Aren’t you advocating obscuring the actual saving in favour of what sounds better on a case-by-case basis and therefore actually working against the end user? Of course I’m playing devils advocate a little here.

So, it’s actually a really complex dilemma, and there’s no “easy” answer — this would probably make a great dinner time conversation. Yes, if you’re offering two discounts, then a percentage may be the easiest way for people to compare them.

#apps, #disney, #entertainment, #media, #netflix, #peter-ramsey, #streaming-media, #tc, #the-walt-disney-company, #ui, #user-experience, #user-interface, #ux

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Disney, Marvel, and Pixar movies now available in 4K HDR on Apple TV and iTunes

Apple TV pages for films like <em>Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker</em> now claim 4K, Dolby Vision, and Dolby Atmos support.

Enlarge / Apple TV pages for films like Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker now claim 4K, Dolby Vision, and Dolby Atmos support. (credit: Samuel Axon)

When Apple launched the Apple TV 4K streaming box and first announced support for 4K and HDR in the iTunes movie store back in 2017, it had managed to sign up most major studios. But there was one holdout in terms of offering its catalog in UltraHD: Disney.

For three years, users in Apple’s ecosystem had to settle for 1080p HD to watch, say, the Marvel movies or Pixar animated films. Today, it looks like that’s changing in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. A plethora of Disney-made films inclusive of numerous Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, and Walt Disney Studios animated films are available in Apple’s storefront in both 4K and Dolby Vision HDR. They also support Dolby Atmos audio.

Examples include Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker and Thor Ragnarok.

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#4k, #apple-tv, #apple-tv-4k, #disney, #hdr, #itunes, #marvel, #movies, #star-wars, #streaming, #tech, #ultrahd

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Trailer: Disney’s Marvel’s 616 docu-series explores lesser-known Marvel stories

The Marvel’s 616 trailer

Disney+ has a broad variety of content at this point—family shows, animated films, The Mandalorian, and so on. But there’s a distinct, Disney-specific formula that has emerged for the streaming network’s original series: documentaries talking up the cultural importance of Disney’s own brands and the creative contributions of the filmmakers, artists, and so on behind those works.

That continues with a new series titled Marvel’s 616; Disney just released a trailer for the show today.

616 will span eight episodes, each directed by a filmmaker of some prominence (some of them more widely known as actors, actually), and each focused on a different aspect of the world of Marvel comics and films and the fandom thereof. In some ways, it sounds a bit like the Marvel version of other self-promotional series like Disney InsiderDisney Gallery / Star Wars: The MandalorianOne Day at Disney, and The Imagineering Story.

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#comic-books, #comics, #disney, #earth-616, #gaming-culture, #marvel, #marvels-616, #streaming, #trailer

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Disney+ adds a co-watching feature called GroupWatch

Disney+ is the latest streaming service to introduce a way for friends and family to watch movies and TV together while in different locations.

With the pandemic closing movie theaters and making any kind of indoor socializing pretty risky, the Netflix Party Chrome extension has become the main way I watch TV with friends. Netflix Party doesn’t have any official connection to Netflix, but other streaming services, like Amazon Prime Video and Disney-owned Hulu, have been adding similar features of their own.

Disney has already been testing the new GroupWatch feature in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and today it’s launching for viewers in the United States.

Jerrell Jimerson, the chief product officer for Disney’s streaming services, told me that GroupWatch was already in development before the pandemic, but that the company “worked to accelerate it given the realities of COVID.”

The Disney+ experience has some key advantages over most other co-watching technology, because it doesn’t require users to install a browser extension and it will work on any device, not just laptop and desktop computers. Jimerson explained that the goal was to create something that was “super easy for consumers to use” and that “didn’t take away from the content and didn’t take away from the viewing experience.”

Disney+ GroupWatch

Image Credits: Disney

Once you’ve selected GroupWatch from the Details menu of a movie or TV show, you can invite up to six other people to participate — of course, they’ll need a Disney+ subscription of their own. And while the invitation has to be created via the Disney+ website or mobile app, people can also participate in a GroupWatch from their internet-connected TVs.

Besides synchronizing video playback (which any participant can control), GroupWatch allows viewers to respond to what’s happening on-screen by sharing emojis. But it lacks one of the hallmarks of co-watching, namely a chat that runs alongside the video.

Granted, a chat window could have been a bit distracting when blown up onto a big TV, but it’s arguably the centerpiece of social viewing. Jimerson said that if viewers want to chat, they can continue talking on whatever channel they used to send the invite (presumably a chat app on their phones).

“There are other opportunities to integrate communication capabilities, but we haven’t shared any timing on those things,” he added.

#co-watching, #disney, #entertainment, #media, #tc, #the-walt-disney-co

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Watch the first official trailer for The Mandalorian Season 2, premiering October 30 on Disney+

Disney has released the first trailer for the second season of The Mandalorian, and it actually provides a lot of plot detail via voice over of a conversation behind main character Mando and someone directing him as to what he should do with The Child (aka Baby Yoda). It sounds like the main action will focus on Mando trying to reunite Baby Yoda with the rest of his species – not without difficulty, of course.

The trailer features a lot of brief glimpses of action, at least one funny child moment, and quick looks at side characters from the first season who are also returning, including Gina Carano’s Cara Dune and Carl Weathers’ Greef Karga. It also brings up some deep Star Wars universe lore, including the longstanding rivalry between Mandalorians and self-style galactic protectors the Jedi.

It looks plenty entertaining, and there are X-Wings. I can’t wait for this to arrive starting October 30 on Disney’s streaming service, Disney+.

#baby-yoda, #disney, #fiction, #mandalorian, #star-wars, #tc, #the-child, #the-mandalorian, #yoda

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Original Content podcast: Disney’s ‘Mulan’ remake is fun, if you can forget the controversy

Disney’s live-action remake of “Mulan” comes with some serious baggage.

First, the film has drawn political controversy for its star’s statements in support of the action Hong Kong police  against protestors, as well as the fact that “Mulan” was filmed, in part, in the Xinjiang region, where the Chinese government has held Muslim ethnic minorities in detention camps.

And although it’s less weighty, it’s also hard to escape the business context: “Mulan” is one of the first big Hollywood blockbusters (along with “Tenet”) to be released after the pandemic shuttered movie theaters around the world. Warner Bros. opted to release “Tenet” in theaters, while Disney is bringing “Mulan” to Disney+ with a hefty price tag of $29.99. (There’s still a theatrical release in some markets, including China.)

On the latest episode of the Original Content podcast, we acknowledge all of that context while also doing our best to discuss the merits of the film itself. It’s arguably the best of Disney’s live-action remakes, and it’s certainly gorgeous to watch, with some thrilling action scenes and beautiful landscape shots.

At the same time, Jordan argued that it doesn’t live up to the animated original, and we both agreed that the script can feel sleight and forgettable — particularly in the shadow of those real-world controversies. Plus, it’s hard to justify the current price, unless you’ve got kids who are eager to see it. Otherwise, you can probably wait until December 4, when “Mulan” becomes available to regular Disney+ subscribers.

Before we jump into our review, we also talk about this coming week’s virtual Disrupt conference.

You can listen to our review in the player below, subscribe using Apple Podcasts or find us in your podcast player of choice. If you like the show, please let us know by leaving a review on Apple. You can also follow us on Twitter or send us feedback directly. (Or suggest shows and movies for us to review!)

If you’d like to skip ahead, here’s how the episode breaks down:
0:00 Intro
0:31 Disrupt preview
6:33 “Mulan” review
35:10 “Mulan” spoiler discussion

#disney, #entertainment, #media, #mulan, #original-content-podcast, #podcasts, #the-walt-disney-co

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Media Roundup: Patreon joins unicorn club, Facebook could ban news in Australia, more

Welcome to the very first edition of Extra Crunch’s Media Roundup. Over the past few months, we’ve launched features like Decrypted, Deep Science and The Exchange, which aggregate and analyze the latest news in a given sector, so it seemed overdue to do something similar for media.

The goal is to provide a regular update on what entrepreneurs in the content or advertising business should be thinking about. That doesn’t just mean startup funding — we’ll track the broader landscape, including platform policies that could affect everyone — which is just as important as knowing who’s getting checks.

If you have any thoughts on what you’d like to see included in future roundups, please let me know in the comments below.

Let’s get started.

Facebook may ban news sharing in Australia

This is part of an ongoing dispute between Facebook and the Australian government, which has created a plan that would require Facebook and Google to share revenue with Australian news publishers whose content appears on their services. Both companies have a complicated relationship with the news business, with many publishers both relying on large platforms for traffic while also resenting the fact that those platforms take the vast majority of digital ad revenue.

In an attempt to improve that relationship, Google and Facebook have committed in recent years to investing hundreds of millions of dollars in journalism — and while those efforts are commendable, it’s worth asking whether publishers should be entitled to more by law, not just as a gift.

#advertising-tech, #andrew-sullivan, #disney, #entertainment, #facebook, #media, #media-startups, #patreon, #talent, #tc

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“This is the day”: Disney+ announces The Mandalorian season 2 premiere date

Characters walk in an extraterrestrial sunset outlined by the word Mandalorian.

Enlarge / Disney’s new key art for The Mandalorian season two. (credit: The Walt Disney Company)

Disney took to its Disney+ and The Mandalorian Twitter accounts this morning to announce the premiere date for the second season of the live-action Star Wars TV series: October 30.

The show was a huge part of Disney+’s early success in driving subscriptions, as it gained a large following, a lot of buzz, and generally positive critical response. However, when or if a second season would be coming was not clear, given the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The previous season ended its run on December 27 of last year. The final episode of season one resolved most of that season’s story arcs but laid the groundwork for a new story for season two. That said, it’s not yet clear exactly what form the new season will take.

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#disney, #disney-plus, #gaming-culture, #star-wars, #streaming, #the-mandalorian, #tv

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‘The Mandalorian’ launches its second season on Oct. 30

“The Mandalorian” is returning to Disney+ with new episodes starting on October 30.

The Star Wars spinoff series (created by Jon Favreau) was the biggest original offering when Disney+ launched in November of last year. With its story of a mysterious bounty hunter (played by Pedro Pascal) and his adorable alien ward, the first season turned “Baby Yoda” into a pop culture phenomenon and is currently nominated for 15 Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Drama Series.

Disney+ even released a whole separate series. “Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian,” documenting the show’s production. (The show employed a new “virtual production” style that displayed live images behind actors, rather than relying on green screens.)

Since “The Mandalorian”‘s release, Disney+ has been relatively light on original shows. Nonetheless, the company said the service has grown to more than 60.5 million subscribers, and it’s benefited from from the exclusive release of a filmed version of “Hamilton.” Plus, on Friday, “Mulan” will be available to subscribers for an additional $29.99.

And luckily for Disney, “The Mandalorian” finished shooting its second season right before the pandemic shut down film production everywhere (it’s slowly begun to resume in recent months). Disney and Lucasfilm have yet to release a trailer, or any real details about the new season’s plot.

#disney, #entertainment, #lucasfilm, #media, #star-wars, #the-mandalorian, #the-walt-disney-co

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Unity’s IPO numbers look pretty … unreal?

Unity, the company founded in a Copenhagen apartment in 2004, is poised for an initial public offering with numbers that look pretty strong.

Even as its main competitor, Epic Games, is in the throes of a very public fight with Apple over the fees the computer giant charges developers who sell applications (including games) on its platform (which has seen Epic’s games get the boot from the App Store), Unity has plowed ahead narrowing its losses and maintaining its hold on over half of the game development market.

For the first six months of 2020, the company lost $54.2 million on $351.3 million in revenue. The company narrowed its losses compared to 2019, when the company lost $163.2 million on $541.8 million in revenue, and 2018 when the company lost $131.6 million on $380.8 million in revenue. As of June 30, 2020 the company had total assets of $1.29 billion and $453.2 million in cash.

Increasing revenue and narrowing losses are things that investors like to see in companies that they’re potentially going to invest in, as they point to a path to profitability. Another sign of the company’s success is the number of customers that contribute more than $100,000 in annual revenue. In the first six month of the year, Unity had 716 such customers, pointing to the health of its platform.

The company will trade on the NYSE under the single-letter ticker ‘U’. The NYSE only has a few single letters left to offer, although Pandora gave up the letter P when it was bought by Liberty Media back in 2018.

Unlike Epic Games, Unity has long worked with the major platforms and gaming companies to get their engine in front of as many developers and gamers as possible. In fact, the company estimates that 53 percent of the top 1,000 mobile games on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store and over 50 percent of mobile, personal computer and console games were made with Unity.

Some of the top titles that the platform claims include Nintendo’s Mario Kart: Tour, Super Mario Run and Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp; Niantic’s Pokémon Go and Activision’s recent Call of Duty: Mobile are also Unity games.

The knock against Unity is that it’s not as powerful as Epic’s Unreal rendering engine, but that hasn’t stopped the company from making forays into industries beyond gaming – something that it will need to continue doing if it’s to be successful.

Unity already has a toehold in Hollywood, where it was used to recreate the jungle environment used in Disney’s Lion King remake (meanwhile, much of The Mandalorian was created using Epic’s Unreal engine).

Of course, Unity’s numbers also reveal that the size of its business is currently a bit smaller than its biggest rival. In 2019, Epic said it had earnings of $730 million on revenue of $4.2 billion, according to VentureBeat . And the North Carolina-based game developer is now worth $17.3 billion.

Still, the games market is likely big enough for both companies to thrive. “Historically there has been substantial industry convergence in the games developer tools business, but over the past decade the number of developers has increased so much, I believe the market can support two major players,” Piers Harding-Rolls, games analyst at Ampere Analysis, told the Financial Times.

Venture investors in the Unity platform have waited a long time for this moment, and they’re certainly confident in the company’s prospects.

The last investment round valued the company at $6 billion with the secondary sale of $525 million worth of the company’s shares.

#activision, #app-store, #apple, #computing, #copenhagen, #disney, #epic-games, #fundings-exits, #gaming, #google-play-store, #liberty-media, #mario-kart, #niantic, #nintendo, #north-carolina, #startups, #tc, #tencent, #the-financial-times, #unity, #unreal, #unreal-engine, #venturebeat, #video-gaming

0

TikTok’s big UnitedMasters deal is the way forward for creators looking to secure their bag

TikTok is right in the jaws of a thorny situation with the U.S. Government regarding its ownership, but it’s sending a clear message today that it is not sitting on its heels with big deals. Yesterday, it announced a deal with UnitedMasters to allow artists on TikTok to distribute their songs directly to streaming services and other partners directly.

UnitedMasters is the un-record-label label — in fact a direct distribution company founded by former president of Interscope Records, Steve Stoute. The firm allows musicians (especially budding ones) to pay a competitive distribution rate to get access to Spotify, YouTube, SoundCloud, Apple Music and other services. It also gets them access to analytics, retargeting, CRM tools and individual deals that UM makes with brands like ESPN and the NBA.

Normally, the path between an artist being able to go viral on TikTok and be included in the next NBA 2k or before an official game on the air would be a long one involving a lot of knives out for pieces of the pie. UnitedMasters shortcuts all of this.

The simple scenario is this:

  • An aspiring artist or songwriter puts out a song or riff on TikTok (likely one of many).
  • This one has something and it catches on the algorithm and generates numbers.
  • The creator opts in to participating in UnitedMasters’ program.
  • They give up a cut of 10% but get direct distribution into the major streaming buckets and potential A-grade partners. (There’s also a $5/mo subscription option.)
  • They can also market things like tickets, merch and more directly to fans using UM’s customer tools.
  • The artist keeps 100% of their royalties.

Which is why a tie up with TikTok makes a hell of a lot of sense. One of the biggest issues with viral social platforms has been the way that they reward creators. Twitter’s Vine, of course, squandered their opportunity there. Even YouTube has had major problems providing consistent revenue to many of its top creators, with a long trend towards big hitters monetizing off platform in order to earn consistent, durable money.

TikTok has already announced a creators fund with a significant purse, but it needs to go beyond that. We’ve seen over and over how young creators on the platform create viral waves of attention for TikTok and millions of re-enactments and remixes. Often, though, those creators are offered little recourse to monetize or benefit from their creations. Dance creators and musical talents, often young Black women, are literally crafting culture in real-time on TikTok and the pathways for them to benefit materially are very rare. Sure, it’s great when an originator gets called out by a Times reporter willing to do the work to trace the source, but what about the thousands of others being minted as a real voice on the platform every month?

It’s beyond time for the creators of The Culture to benefit from that culture. That’s why I find this UnitedMasters deal so interesting. Offering a direct pipeline to audiences without the attendant vulture-ism of the recording industry apparatus is really well aligned with a platform like TikTok, which encourages and enables ‘viral sounds’ with collaborative performances. Traditional deal structures are not well suited to capturing viral hype, which can rise and fall within weeks without additional fuel.

In terms of overall platforms, TikTok clearly has the highest concentration of incredible and un-tapped musical talent on the market. It’s just wild how many creators I see on there that are just flat out as good if not better than what you hear on the radio. Opera, rap, soul, folk, comedy, songwriting, it runs the gamut.

TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer came to the company after a long stint at Disney ending with a very successful Disney+ launch. Almost immediately, he was dropped into a political firestorm between China and the U.S. government. Parent company ByteDance must sell within 90 days, says Trump, or get shut down. Microsoft might buy them. Other tech companies are circling. This deal is a pretty crisp forward-looking signal that TikTok sees a way through this and is not waiting to innovate on one of the trickier components of this era of user generated businesses.

And on top of that, it charts a course for how user generated platforms should look to service creators and keep them in their universe. All UGC plays garner significant value from the creative energies of their users, but few have found a way to make that relationship reciprocal in a way that feels sustainable.

This UnitedMasters deal feels different, and the start of a larger trend that could pay big dividends to platforms and, finally, creators.

#apple-music, #artist, #byte, #bytedance, #ceo, #china, #computing, #crm, #disney, #espn, #kevin-mayer, #microsoft, #national-basketball-association, #nba, #president, #software, #soundcloud, #spotify, #steve-stoute, #tc, #tiktok, #trump, #u-s-government, #united-states, #unitedmasters, #video-hosting, #vine

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Cities sue Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, claim they owe cable “franchise fees”

A person's hand holding a remote control in front of a TV screen with a Netflix logo.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | NurPhoto )

Four cities in Indiana are suing Netflix and other video companies, claiming that online video providers and satellite-TV operators should have to pay the same franchise fees that cable companies pay for using local rights of way.

The lawsuit was filed against Netflix, Disney, Hulu, DirecTV, and Dish Network on August 4 in Indiana Commercial Court in Marion County. The cities of Indianapolis, Evansville, Valparaiso, and Fishers want the companies to pay the cable-franchise fees established in Indiana’s Video Service Franchises (VSF) Act, which requires payments of 5 percent of gross revenue in each city.

The lawsuit is based on an unusual legal argument and doesn’t seem likely to succeed. Essentially, the cities are claiming that Netflix and similar providers use the public rights of way simply by offering video streaming services over the Internet:

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#cable-franchise-fees, #directv, #dish, #disney, #hulu, #netflix, #policy

0

Verizon adds free Hulu and ESPN+ to some unlimited wireless plans

Verizon and Disney announced this morning that they’re extending and expanding a partnership that gives some Verizon Wireless subscribers access to Disney’s streaming services at no addition charge.

The companies announced last fall that Verizon (which owns TechCrunch) would be offering free Disney+ to unlimited wireless customers, and on an earnings call in February, Disney’s then-CEO Bob Iger said that around 20% of Disney+ subscribers came from Verizon.

More recently, the entertainment giant said that Disney+ had more than 60.5 million subscribers as of August 3. In comparison, Hulu had 35.5 million subscribers at the end of its most recent quarter (June 26), while ESPN+ had 8.5 million subscribers.

With today’s announcement, subscribers to Verizon’s Play More and Get More Unlimited wireless plans will get free access to not just Disney+, but also Hulu and ESPN+. (Plus, Apple Music.) Disney normally charges $12.99 when these three streaming services are purchased together as The Disney Bundle.

“The addition of The Disney Bundle to our agreement with Verizon reinforces our commitment to providing their subscribers with access to high-quality entertainment from Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+,” said Disney’s executive vice president of platform distribution Sean Breen in a statement. “We are always looking for the most advantageous ways for consumers to experience our content and we are pleased to work with Verizon so that they can provide their customers with these appealing new offers.”

 

#disney, #entertainment, #espn, #hulu, #media, #tc, #the-walt-disney-company, #verizon

0

Disney+ will show a Lego Star Wars Holiday Special on Wookie Life Day

Disney+ will show a Lego Star Wars Holiday Special on Wookie Life Day

Enlarge (credit: Kristina Alexanderson)

Do you have celebration plans for Wookie Life Day? According to Disney, it’s the galaxy’s “most cheerful and magical holiday,” so on November 17, the company will celebrate the event on Disney+ with a Lego Star Wars Holiday Special. Set immediately after Rise of the Skywalker, Rey and BB-8 go on a journey through the nine-film timeline that promises to give screen time to goodies and baddies current and past. Except it’s all done in Lego, so painted tongues will be firmly in plastic cheeks.

I’ve been a huge fan of the more irreverent take that Lego brings to the Star Wars universe since the cut scenes in Lego Star Wars II—whose heart wouldn’t melt when Darth Vader whips out a Polaroid to prove to Luke that he’s really his dad? And the more recent Lego Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures stands head and shoulders above Star Wars Resistance, at least to this middle-aged nerd.

All of this gives me faith that this new special won’t suck. The original Star Wars Holiday Special is widely reviled by fans as the single worst thing to have come from that far, far away galaxy. It was a TV special aired in 1978, long before George Lucas’ swashbuckling in space had become the cultural behemoth we know today. The plot involves Han and Chewie visiting Kashyyyk to celebrate Life Day, where apparently they meet his dad (called Itchy) and his son (called Lumpy). I say “apparently” because it never aired in the UK where I grew up, so I was mercifully spared as a child and I’ve never quite had a big enough masochistic streak to track down a copy in the decades that have followed.

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#disney, #gaming-culture, #lego, #lego-star-wars, #lego-star-wars-holiday-special, #star-wars, #star-wars-holiday-special

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Why movie theaters are in trouble after DOJ nixes 70-year-old case

Disney logo adorns a container of movie theater popcorn.

Enlarge / The House of Mouse is the shadow lurking in the future of movie theaters. (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty Images)

If you went to the movies in 2019, you probably saw a Disney movie. Seven of the top 10 highest-grossing films released in the United States last year were distributed by the House of Mouse, and hundreds of millions of people went to see them on thousands of screens. Some weeks it felt like the entire film industry was Disney: Captain Marvel and the rest of the Avengers (Endgame) competed for your attention for a while, as Aladdin, The Lion King, and Toy Story 4 kept up a steady drumbeat of animation until Elsa dropped back onto hapless households in Frozen II. In amongst that morass, though, there were still other movies shown, many of them popular with audiences and critics alike.

But now, the rule that prevented a studio from buying up a major theater chain is now gone—opening up the possibility that your local cinema could go whole hog and become a true Disneyplex before you know it.

On Friday, a federal judge agreed to the Department of Justice’s petition to vacate the Paramount Consent Decrees, a landmark 1948 ruling that forbade vertical integration in the film sector and ended the Hollywood studio system. In isolation, the decision could raise some concerns. In a world where theaters are decimated thanks to a pandemic and consolidation among media firms is already rampant, the future for independent theaters looks grim.

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#antitrust, #biz-it, #competition, #department-of-justice, #disney, #gaming-culture, #justice-department, #paramount, #policy

0

Netflix’s latest effort to make inroads in India: Support for Hindi

Only about 10% of India’s 1.3 billion people know English. Yet, scores of firms operating in the country offer their services only in English. Netflix, one such company, said on Friday it’s aiming to break through the language barrier.

The American on-demand video streaming giant today rolled out support for Hindi, a language spoken by nearly half a billion people in India, across its platform. From the sign up page to search rows, to collections, synopsis and payment, Hindi language is now baked in across the platform, the company said.

“Delivering a great Netflix experience is as important to us as creating great content. We believe the new user interface will make Netflix even more accessible and better suit members who prefer Hindi,” said Monika Shergill, VP-Content at Netflix India, in a statement.

Netflix’s global competitors, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ Hotstar also support Hindi language, though the latter has deployed Hindi in limited capacity (not for a movie or show’s synopsis, for instance).

The focus on Hindi illustrates the level of traction Netflix believes it has received in India. Most international firms tend to localize their services in India after they have fully tapped the population in urban cities across the country where English is a common language.

More to follow…

#amazon, #amazon-prime-video, #apps, #asia, #disney, #entertainment, #hotstar, #india, #netflix

0

Mulan skips US theaters, will debut on Disney+ Sept 4—for an extra $30

After delisting Mulan from a potential theatrical run in June, Disney has firmed up its plans for its newest live-action remake. Starting September 4, Mulan will premiere exclusively on Disney+ in various territories, including the United States, Canada, and New Zealand, according to Disney CEO Bob Chapek.

Unlike other Disney+ streaming premieres, however, Mulan will launch with an extra price point on top of the service’s $7/mo subscription rate. Paying Disney+ users in the US will have to fork over an additional $30 for what Chapek described as “premiere access,” which likely equates to a temporary rental of the film instead of full-blown ownership a la platforms like iTunes and Amazon Video. Other territories’ rates have not yet been confirmed. (Chapek took the opportunity to confirm that Disney+’s worldwide subscriber numbers are somewhere near 60.5 million.)

In certain territories that have not yet seen a Disney+ rollout, particularly China, Disney will move forward with a theatrical run of Mulan, which has yet to be given a release date.

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#disney, #disney-plus, #gaming-culture, #mulan

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‘Mulan’ is coming to Disney+ on September 4, for an additional price of $29.99

Those wondering whether The Walt Disney Company would eventually give up on a traditional theatrical release for “Mulan” now have their answer.

Until now, Disney had repeatedly delayed “Mulan”‘s release due to theatrical closures in the U.S. and around the world, with “Mulan and Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” expected to be the first big movie releases whenever theaters reopened.

However, with the pandemic showing no real signs of subsiding in the United States, and no clear date for theatrical reopenings in markets like New York and California, Warner Bros. recently announced that “Tenet” will not follow a traditional theatrical release schedule, and instead will open internationally this month before coming to select North American cities on September 3.

And during today’s earnings call, Disney CEO Bob Chapek said that “Mulan” will launch on Disney+ on September 4 as a “premiere access” release in “most Disney+ markets” including the United States and Canada, while also being released theatrically in “certain markets.” It sounds like subscribers will have to pay an additional $29.99 for the film, although Chapek didn’t offer any details about how this will work.

During the call, Chapek also said that as of yesterday, Disney+ has grown to more than 60.5 million paid subscribers.

#disney, #entertainment, #media, #the-walt-disney-company

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Disney+ grows to more than 60.5M subscribers

Disney+ had more than 60.5 million paying subscribers as of yesterday, according to The Walt Disney Company’s CEO Bob Chapek.

Chapek shared the number during a call to discuss the company’s latest earnings report, which covered the company’s most recent quarter ending on June 27. He was essentially offering an update on the 57.5 million paid subscriber figure included in the report, and he said the growth is “far exceeding our initial projections for the service.”

Disney+ launched in November of last year. The company previously announced in April that the service had passed 50 million subscribers. (Those numbers include subscribers acquired through bundling with Hotstar in India, as well as free subscribers through a promotion with TechCrunch’s parent company Verizon.)

The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated growth for some streaming services. Most notably, Netflix added more than 10 million new subscribers in its most recent quarter, bringing its global total to nearly 193 million. As for Disney’s other streaming services, ESPN+ has grown more than 100% year-over-year to 8.5 million subscribers (as of June 26), while Hulu grew 27% to 35.5 million subscribers (3.4 million of them are paying for both video on demand and live TV).

And Disney+ may have gotten an additional bump, thanks to the release of “Hamilton” over the July 4 weekend.

Overall, Disney said revenue for its direct-to-consumer and international division increased 2% year-over-year, to $4.0 billion, while the unit’s operating loss grew from $562 million to $706 million.

Still, streaming likely counts as a relative bright spot compared to many of Disney’s other businesses that have either slowed or paused entirely due to the pandemic. (Parks are gradually reopening, for example.) The company’s total revenue fell 42% YOY to $11.8 billion, and earnings per share for the quarter showed a loss of $2.61.

Update: During the call, Chapek also announced that “Mulan” will be released on Disney+ on September 4, as a “premiere access” title that costs an additional $29.99.

#disney, #disney-plus, #entertainment, #espn, #hulu, #media, #the-walt-disney-company

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Original Content podcast: Yep, ‘Hamilton’ is still very good

With the release of “Hamilton” on Disney+, Jordan and Darrell finally got to watch the musical biography of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton — albeit in recorded form, rather than live on-stage.

And as we discuss on the latest episode of the Original Content podcast, they were pretty delighted by what they found. Not that a Broadway hit that’s won virtually every award really needs defenders at this point — but the Disney+ version is beautifully filmed, and it’s nice to see that five years later, “Hamilton” still works for new viewers.

Anthony, meanwhile, saw the show back in 2015 and has listened to the soundtrack many, many times. But after years of reading about “Hamilton” rather than experiencing it directly, Disney+ gave him a chance to rediscover how virtuosic and entertaining the show is from beginning to end, with one memorable song after another.

We did have a few reservations, about composer Lin-Manuel Miranda’s decision to cast himself as Hamilton, and about the show’s politics — we certainly appreciated its attempt to reclaim the founding story of the United States as a story for immigrants and people of color, but as others have pointed out, downplaying slavery and uncritically celebrating the creation of America’s financial institutions feels a bit strange, at least in 2020.

You can listen to our review in the player below, subscribe using Apple Podcasts or find us in your podcast player of choice. If you like the show, please let us know by leaving a review on Apple. You can also follow us on Twitter or send us feedback directly. (Or suggest shows and movies for us to review!)

If you’d like to skip ahead, here’s how the episode breaks down:
0:00 Introduction
0:21 “Hamilton” review
30:52 “Hamilton” spoiler discussion

#disney, #entertainment, #media, #podcasts, #the-walt-disney-co

0

‘Hamilton’ gives Disney+ a holiday weekend bump in US, with app downloads up 72%

The much-anticipated addition of “Hamilton” seems to have paid off for Disney+. According to new data from app store analytics firm Apptopia, Disney’s streaming service saw a big jump in downloads over the July 4 holiday weekend in the U.S., following the worldwide debut of “Hamilton” on Friday, July 3rd. Between Friday and Sunday, that translated to over half a million new global downloads (513,000+) for the Disney+ mobile app, excluding India and Japan. Some 266,084 of those downloads were in the U.S, the firm estimated.

These figures represent a 46.6% increase over the average seen during the previous four weekends in June (Friday through Sunday), Apptopia noted. But the numbers don’t include India or Japan as Disney+ is streamed via Hotstar in the former; and in the latter via a partnership with NTT Docomo through an existing service that later transitioned to Disney+.

Image Credits: Apptopia

The download figures also represented a 72.4% increase over the four prior weekends in June, in the U.S, indicating that a significant amount of interest in “Hamilton,” not surprisingly — given its “founding fathers” subject matter — comes from U.S. subscribers.

Notably, these downloads represent paid subscribers, not free trial users, as Disney+ ended its free week-long trial offering back in June. 

Rival firm Sensor Tower estimates a slightly different “Hamilton”-related bump for Disney+. During the week of June 29 to July 5, downloads spiked 64% over the week prior, Yahoo reported. Its preliminary estimates for July 3-5 put installs at 1 million across all available markets.

Image Credits: Apptopia

Apptopia also found that “Hamilton” represented the biggest content launch of all of 2020, so far, in terms of downloads. That means it also outpaced the streaming launch of “Frozen 2,” which arrived while consumers were under coronavirus lockdowns. It was also bigger than “Onward,” “Artemis Fowl,” and others, the firm found.

Image Credits: Disney

Of course, mobile download numbers don’t provide a full picture of how many signed up just for “Hamilton.” Many of the new Disney+ subscribers likely only signed up via a TV app and have yet to download the mobile companion.

If Roku’s online channel store offered a “top charts” section with rankings, we would have another window into Disney+ popularity given its status as a top streaming device and TV maker in the U.S. But it’s worth pointing out that Roku’s user base has given the Disney+ app a 4.3-star rating across 1,55,006 total reviews. For comparison, Netflix has 3,675,383 reviews — which shows how quickly the still relatively new service Disney+ is gaining on the market leader.

In May, Disney announced its streaming service had grown from 33.5 million subscribers as of March 28 to 54.4 million Disney+ subscribers as of May 4.

The service appeals to those who follow Disney’s top brands like Star Wars and Marvel, for example, but it’s also found a lot of growth among families who now more than ever need content to keep kids entertained amid the coronavirus outbreak, which has limited families’ usual activities and kept kids indoors.  At the $6.99 per month price point (or $69.99/yr), it’s one of the more affordable streaming services available.

 

 

#apps, #apptopia, #cord-cutting, #disney, #disney-plus, #mobile, #streaming, #streaming-service

0

Jedi Temple Challenge brings out your inner pint-sized Padawan wannabe

A young contestant swings across a padded foam chasm in an attempt to be the first team to obtain and assemble four lightsaber pieces.

Enlarge / A young contestant swings across a padded foam chasm in an attempt to be the first team to obtain and assemble four lightsaber pieces. (credit: StarWars.com (Disney))

This week a new kid-friendly game show, Star Wars: Jedi Temple Challenge, made its debut on YouTube. The premise is simple: what if we make something like all those Nickelodeon game shows ’80s and ’90s kids grew up on but high-budget and Star Wars themed? To which I thought: yes, please!

Decades ago, Nickelodeon owned the kids’ game show space. The popularity of Double Dare (1986-1993) begat Guts (1992-1995) and, one year later, my personal favorite, Legends of the Hidden Temple, which has more than a little bit in common with the Jedi Temple Challenge.

The similarities are not accidental. The official Star Wars website itself describes Jedi Temple Challenge as “an homage to the kids’ cable game shows that dominated the air waves in the 1990s.”

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#disney, #game-shows, #gaming-culture, #jedi-temple-challenge, #kid-review, #parenting, #star-wars, #star-wars-jedi-temple-challenge

0

Tech talent is flocking to smaller cities, but investors aren’t

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines. This week’s show took a break from regularly scheduled programming. Our co-host Alex Wilhelm, who usually leads us through the show, was on some deserved vacation, so Danny Crichton and Natasha Mascarenhas took the reigns and invited Floodgate Capital’s Iris Choi to join in on the fun. It’s Choi’s fourth time being on the podcast, which officially makes her our most tenured guest yet (in case the accomplished investor needs another bullet point on her bio page).

This week’s docket features scrappiness, a seed round, and a Startup battlefield alumnus.

Here’s what we chewed through:

  • LeverEdge raised seed funding to get you and your friends a volume discount on student loans. Fintech has been booming for years now, and startups often crop up around the painful wolrd of student loans. Yet this startup still caught our eye, and it has a little something to do with its choice to use collective bargaining power as its modus operandi.
  • Stackin’ raises $12.6M Series B for a text-messaging service that connects millennials to money tips, and eventually other fintech apps. According to CEO Scott Grimes, Stackin’ wants to be the “pipes that port people around fintech.” We get into if the world needs a fintech app marketplace and how it targets younger users.
  • D-ID, a Startup Battlefield alumnus, digitally de-identifies faces in videos and still images and just raised $13.5 million. We’re all worried about our privacy concerns, so the funding news was a refreshing change of pace from the usual headlines we see around surveillance. Now the company just needs to find a successful use case beyond the goodness in people’s hearts.
  • ByteDance, the Chinese parent company that owns TikTok, hit $3 Billion in net profit last year, reports Bloomberg. TikTok also recently snagged former Disney executive Kevin Mayer for its CEO. This one, as you can expect, made for an interesting conversation around privacy and bandwidth. We even asked Choi to weigh in on Donald J. Trump’s recent tweet threatening to regulate social media companies, since Floodgate was an early angel investor in Twitter.
  • We ended with a round table of sorts on how the future of work will look and feel in our new world, from college campuses to offices. We get into the vulnerability that comes with being on Zoom, the ever-increasing stupidity of “manels”, and how tech talent might be flocking to smaller cities but investors aren’t just yet.

And that was the show! Thanks to our producer Chris Gates for helping us put to this together, thanks to you all for listening in on this quirky episode, and thanks to Iris Choi for always bringing a fresh, candid perspective. Talk next week.

#bytedance, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #disney, #equity, #fintech, #floodgate, #future-of-work, #iris-choi, #kevin-mayer, #leveredge, #stackin, #tc, #tiktok

0

The Simpsons can now be watched in 4:3 aspect ratio on Disney+, as nature intended

The greatest comedy in television history became a part of the Disney family when the mega-corporation gobbled up Fox last year, like so many forbidden donuts. Beyond having to make nice with the cartoon mouse American’s family had so openly antagonized over the decades, the deal meant that The Simpsons would have a permanent home on the new Disney+ streaming service.

That meant all 30 seasons of the longest running primetime series would be available in one place — albeit with one major catch. Disney went ahead and “remastered” the series, an act that largely involved stretching older episodes from their native 4:3 aspect ratio to 16:9.

It was, understandably, enough to raise the ire of fans paying $7 a month to watch the beloved series. The resulting episodes looked distorted and important sight gags were lost to cropping. And The Simpsons without sight gags might as well be The Thompsons. There were annoyed grunts amid the fanbase, and Disney backed slowly into the hedge.

The long promised fix is finally here. Turns out it was easier said than done. Episodes will still pop up in the remastered aspect ratio by default, but clicking into the show description and “Details” from the main menu will let you toggle that off. The move will return the shows to 4:3 up to Season 20, when the show began to be natively produced in 16:9.

#disney, #entertainment, #the-simpsons

0

Netflix, Disney+ or HBO Max? The best streaming service for your watching habits

Gone are the days of not having enough time to catch up on all of those movies and TV shows you’ve been meaning to get around to. For the foreseeable future, at least, many of us have nowhere to go and nothing but time on our hands.

We’ve already offered a few suggestions for ways to spend your newfound downtime, but there’s a more pragmatic question at hand. With this week’s arrival of HBO Max, an overcrowded streaming market becomes even more competitive, particularly here in the United States.  Gone are the days of Netflix’s streaming supremacy (at least from a content perspective). There’s a streaming service for virtually every need and nearly every one is best at something (with the possible exception of Apple TV+, with its fairly sparse selection, and whatever is going on with Quibi).

In a perfect world, we would all be able to subscribe to every service and never have to leave the house again. But those $5-$15/month fees add up pretty quickly when you’re not looking. For most of us, choosing the right service or service requires a bit of strategic spending. As such, we’re going to make life a bit easier on you and your wallet by designating the top services across 10 key categories.

Again, this is a U.S.-focused list, since that’s where we’re based. But many of these services are available outside the States, or will be in the next year or two.

The best service for … Prestige TV

Winner: HBO Max

The debate about the best TV show of all time always seems to wind up on HBO. The premium cable network has transformed expectations around what television can and should do, with shows like “The Sopranos” and “The Wire” regularly cited at the top of the list of all-time greats. And then there’s “Westworld,” “Game of Thrones,” newcomers like “Succession” and top-tier comedy like “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Eastbound and Down” and “The Larry Sanders Show.” Not every series has been a slam-dunk, but as far as prestige episodic television is concerned, you’re not going to do any better than HBO. (B.H.)

The best service for … Blockbusters

Winner: Disney+

Disney has dominated the theatrical box office for the past decade, thanks to its acquisitions of Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm/Star Wars — not to mention the continued popularity of its animated films and live-action remakes. Disney+ is where you can catch up with almost all those big-budget hits, and it will be the streaming home for future Marvel blockbusters. (A.H.)

The best service for … Classics

Winner: Criterion Channel/HBO Max

While Criterion’s reputation can seem forbiddingly arty (see below) — of course, some art films are stone cold movie classics — the service also offers plenty of classic Hollywood titles, like a recent retrospective showcasing Columbia noir. If you’re a kaiju fan, it also has nearly every old-schoool Godzilla movie in its library. That said, it isn’t the only place you can find classic titles. HBO Max, in particular, is the streaming home to Turner Classic Movies, with some of the best films of all time, including “Casablanca” and “Citizen Kane.” It also has a deal to offer some Criterion titles, too. (A.H.)

The best service for … Documentaries

Winner: HBO Max/CuriosityStream

As with its drama and comedy series, there’s really no one out there who can touch HBO’s documentary output. The network has consistently racked up Emmy wins since the late ’90s. It’s had some added competition from Netflix in recent years, but HBO continues to deliver, including last year’s heart-wrenching ‘Leaving Neverland.’ If you like your documentaries served with a side of more documentaries, however, there’s always CuriosityStream. $20/year will get you a boatload of original docs, broken down by category. (B.H.)

The best service for … Kids

Winner: Disney+

All the big streaming services have a selection of movies and shows for kids, but it’s hard to beat the titles in Disney’s library — all their animated classics, plus Pixar, plus Disney Channel hits like “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody,” “Hannah Montana” and “High School Musical.” HBO Max is a strong runner-up with Sesame Street and the full Studio Ghibli library, but if your kid wants to sing along to “Frozen” over and over again, this is where they can do it. (A.H.)

The best service for … Indies

Winner: Hulu/Criterion Channel

Most streaming services (save for Apple TV+ and Disney+) have a pretty sizable selection of indies. The quality of the films varies greatly from service to service and film to film, but nearly all of them have some hidden gems for when you’re looking to spend a bit of time outside of the studio system. As far as the mainstream ones go, I was surprised to discover during this quarantine that Hulu has the best selections of the bunch, courtesy of deals with top notch indie distributors. If you want a straight shot of the stuff, however, the Criterion Channel is your best bet — and the supplementary content is unmatched by other services. (B.H.)

The best service for … Free stuff

Winner: Tubi/Vudu

To be honest, I had no idea Tubi existed until recently. I was searching for a Korean movie about a baseball playing gorilla (it’s real, seriously), and landed on the site, where it was streaming for free with ad breaks. You would probably end up banging your head against the wall if you relied on Tubi as your sole streaming service, but its selection is surprisingly solid. There are genuinely good films in there, in amongst the dregs. There are also plenty of dregs there, if that’s your thing. Also check out Walmart’s Vudu. In addition to your standard rentals, the service also has a decent selection of free films. (B.H.)

The best service for … Star Trek

Winner: CBS All Access

It might seem silly to build an entire streaming service around a single entertainment franchise, but a) Have you met Star Trek fans? And b) That was clearly the strategy behind CBS All Access, which has already released two Trek spinoffs, “Discovery” and “Picard.” Although the newly remerged ViacomCBS seems to have broader streaming plans, Star Trek still seems like a centerpiece of that strategy, with a whole bunch of new Trek content being developed under the supervision of Alex Kurtzman. (That said, Netflix, Hulu and Amazon are sufficient if you just want to rewatch The Original Series or The Next Generation.) (A.H.)

The best service for … Arthouse

Winner: Criterion Channel

Been missing trips to the local arthouse theater? With places like the Anthology Film Archives, Museum of the Moving Image and Angelika temporarily shut down here in New York, I’ve been finding some respite in the Criterion Collection’s truly excellent curated selection of films. While it’s true that sometimes the best thing for the pandemic is a little mindless movie watching, if you want to take in some culture without leaving the house, Criterion’s got you covered. (B.H.)

The best service for … a lot of everything

Winner: Netflix

You may be wondering why we’ve barely mentioned the streaming world’s biggest player. That’s because Netflix isn’t actually the best in any one category — at least in our view. Instead, it’s pretty good in a whole bunch of categories, whether that’s older TV shows, classic films, original series like “The Crown” and “Stranger Things,” reality hits like “Tiger King” and original movies like “The Irishman.” So if you want a single service that scratches a whole bunch of different itches, Netflix is still your best bet. (A.H.)

#amazon-video, #apple-tv, #cbs-all-access, #disney, #entertainment, #hbo-max, #hulu, #media, #netflix, #tc

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Hulu’s biggest redesign in years offers a more standardized experience, improved navigation and discovery

Hulu today will begin rolling out its largest redesign in years. The company is moving towards a more standardized, even Netflix-like user interface featuring collections laid out vertically within the Home screen, while tiles within the collections are laid out horizontally, in scrollable rows. However, the end result is not a Netflix clone, as Hulu continues to make use of its editorial imagery to highlight select titles and now uses a variety of tile sizes to communicate information about the content it recommends.

Hulu will also simplify its top-level navigation, moving categories like “TV,” “Movies,” and “Sports” to the top of the screen, to make it easier for users to drill down into the type of content they watch.

These changes follow Hulu’s first big redesign in 2017 which arrived alongside the launch of Hulu’s Live TV experience. Though that update did help to differentiate Hulu from other streaming services, it also overcomplicated the user interface. Hulu’s customer feedback forums were filled with complaints about the interface being too difficult to navigate and the confusing layout.

To some extent, today’s changes are an acknowledgment on Hulu’s part that its interface had room for improvement. They’re also meant to make it easier for viewers who move between other Disney-owned services, like Disney+ or ESPN+, the company says.

“When we launched the current experience three years or so ago, it was a pretty radical change,” admits Jason Wong, Hulu’s Director of Product Management. “I think a standard has emerged as people have adopted streaming — it’s evident, and not just within the Disney family,” he continues. “We know that the majority of users have between three to five different services, and I think all of them employ this orientation on the living rooms devices.”

Though a desire for more uniformity with the other Disney streaming service was part of the consideration for the changes, Hulu says the overall redesign has been in the works for a year and a half — well before Disney acquired Fox and took operational control of Hulu.

The redesigned user interface combines what works on other streaming services with Hulu’s own unique features.

For instance, Hulu now organizes content into familiar, scrollable horizontal rows, but it continues to showcase its standout titles with bold, cinematic imagery, along with title art, color sampling, and a gradient in larger tiles — much as it did before. However, in the new interface, not all of Hulu’s content gets thrown into this large template. (Seen below).

Instead, the large templates will be used to pull in users to start watching new content — like Hulu’s originals or other shows that are popular on the service. Meanwhile, more familiar content — like shows you’re currently watching or those in your “My Stuff” — may not be displayed in the same way.

As you scroll down through the revamped Hulu Home screen, you’ll notice the content is broken up by a variety of differently-sized tiles. In addition to the large, masthead template, there are other larger templates appearing throughout the experience as well as medium and smaller, standard templates. This design encourages users to pause their scroll and consider the highlighted titles, as opposed to getting lost in a sea of titles.

In addition, Hulu is turning its recommendation engine on the selection of the collections and tiles. Every module on the screen can be powered by either editorial curation or algorithms, or some combination of both.

At the top of the Home screen, collections like “Movies for You” or “TV for You” will appear for all users, but as you continue to scroll down, suggested collections will become more personalized to people’s unique interests. While Hulu isn’t being as explicit as Netflix with its “Because You Watched X” collections, it is powering its suggestions based on what content the user has been engaging with.

For example, in a row of Sci-Fi Movie recommendations for someone who regularly watched that genre, it may remove the movies you had already watched or gave a thumbs down to from its row of suggestions. It may also remove those from a subgenre you never watched, like Sci-Fi/Horror, while promoting those from another subgenre you watch more often.

Hulu’s editors will also have the ability to rank certain titles first (or within a range), for those times when they want to better highlight a title — like a new release that serves as a tentpole to a genre.

The end result is a row of suggestions personalized and ranked based on your individual tastes, but one that also benefits from human curation.

According to Jim Denney, Hulu VP and Head of Product Management, the user interface redesign will not only help users to better navigate the streaming service, it will also improve discovery.

“One of the things [we wanted to improve on] is around density — giving people enough of a view into Hulu’s catalog. We’ve got one of the largest catalogs of any service available,” Denney explains. Plus, he noted, “When we look at our current [user interface], there are several ways to achieve the same thing. We want to close some of those gaps so it becomes more obvious which path to follow so users don’t get lost.”

These changes speak directly to the user complaints from years’ past, and lay the groundwork for more improvements over time.

Further down the road, Hulu plans to turn its recommendation engine not only on the titles it suggests but on the presentation of those titles to the individual user, too. That means choosing which titles appear in larger or smaller modules, for example, or how and when those modules appear. A new user, for example, might see more of the larger tiles highlighting top Hulu shows compared with how may an existing user would see. Hulu expects to roll this out sometime in 2021.

The new Hulu interface will roll out this week, initially on tvOS and Roku first. In July, it will expand to other platforms and a larger group of users.

#design, #disney, #hulu, #media, #streaming, #streaming-service

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Despite the economy, LA’s Maple Media is hunting for app acquisitions

Over the past three years the Los Angeles-based startup Maple Media has amassed a portfolio of roughly thirty companies and one hundred apps in its quest to become the IAC of app store businesses. And now, even with the economy continuing to collapse, the company is on the prowl for new acquisitions and expects to spend tens of millions of dollars on new deals.

“We look at three pillars of our types of apps… casual games, mobile games, and personal tools,” said Maple Media chief executive, Michael Ritter. 

The company recently acquired PlayerFM, a podcast discovery service, for an undisclosed amount to expand its footprint in the podcast space. Other apps in the company’s portfolio include Pic Stitch, the photo collage editor and the calendar app, WeCal. 

The PlayerFM deal stands out as an example of what the company looks for in an acquisition target, said Ritter. “It’s an app that’s been in the market for eight years — and it’s feature complete, which is what you would expect in the podcast category.”

What Maple Media provides, said Ritter, is an ability to use its marketing muscle and internal development shop to update products more regularly, add new features, and make sure that those features are marketed effectively to potential new users.

“We actually push a lot of product… we’re working on five to six different apps at a time pushing updates weekly to our apps… we work on very short two-week sprints and doing a lot of different development,” said Ritter.

Typically production cycles are driven by the rhythms of Google Play and Apple’s app stores. If an app store reaches out to feature one of the company’s portfolio of apps then that app gets an upgrade. As new features come online or stores switch out APIs those thirty apps will all get the attention they need to remain up to speed, says Ritter.

One of the benefits of having such a broad stable is that the company can update a single codebase in its library and push that update to several different apps. “We have one codebase that we manage things from,” Ritter said.

Maple Media raised its original capital from Shamrock Capital, the investment firm managing money for the Disney family.

“We see ourselves as a media company,” said Ritter. “Our strategy is to build as large a user base over mobile and distribute advertising across that platform.”

Going forward, Maple Media could spend as much as $50 million this year alone, according to Ritter. The key for the company is to make acquisitions in areas that have lasting resonance with a certain audience, whether that’s a broadly useful service like a calendar, or a digital document scanner — or a game like Sudoku or Mah Jongg.

“What we’re looking for,” says Ritter, “are classic and evergreen games and apps.”

#app-store, #apple, #apple-inc, #disney, #google-play, #itunes, #los-angeles, #maple-media, #media, #operating-systems, #shamrock-capital, #software, #tc

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Streaming service Hooq shuts down, ends partnerships with Disney’s Hotstar, Grab and others

Hooq, a five-year-old on-demand video streaming service that aimed to become “Netflix for Southeast Asia,” has shut down weeks after filing for liquidation and terminated its partnerships with Disney’s Hotstar, ride-hailing giant Grab, and Indonesia’s VideoMax.

Hooq Digital, a joint venture among Singapore telecom group Singtel (majority owner), Sony Pictures, and Warner Bros Entertainment, discontinued the service on Thursday. It had amassed over 80 million subscribers in nearly half of the dozen markets in Asia.

“For the past 5 years, we gave you unbelievable thrills, heartrending drama, roaring laughs, awesome action, and more. Our goal was to bring you the best entertainment from here to Hollywood. Our hearts are full of gratitude for all of you who shared the journey with us,” it says on its website.

Hooq publicly disclosed that it had raised about $95 million, but the sum was likely higher. News outlet The Ken analyzed the regulatory filings last month to report that Hooq had raised $127.2 million, and its losses in the financial year 2019 had ballooned to $220, suggesting that it had received more capital.

The streaming service said last month that it could not receive new funds from new or existing investors.

Homepage of Hooq

The service counted India, where it entered into a partnership with Disney’s Hotstar in 2018 and telecom operators Airtel and Vodafone, as its biggest market. The company also maintained a partnership with ride-hailing giant Grab to supply content in its cab, and VideoMAX in Indonesia.

Hooq brought dozens of D.C. universe titles including “Arrow,” “The Flash,” “Wonder Woman” and other popular TV series such as “The Big Bang Theory” to its partners. In India, users began noticing last week that those titles were disappearing from Hotstar.

A spokesperson of Hooq told TechCrunch today that its tie-ups with all its partners including Hotstar have closed. A Hotstar spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

Mobile operator Singtel first unveiled Hooq’s liquidation in an exchange filing last month. The Ken reported that the filing left hundreds of employees at Hooq stunned who thought the firm was doing fine financially. Nearly every employee at Hooq has been let go, with select few offered a job at Singtel, according to The Ken.

In an interview with Slator earlier this year, Yvan Hennecart, Head of Localization at HOOQ, said that the company was working to expand its catalog with local content and add 100 original titles in 2020.

“Our focus is mostly on localization of entertainment content; whether it is subtitling or dubbing, we are constantly looking to bring more content to our viewers faster. My role also expands to localization of our platform and any type of collateral information that helps create a unique experience for our users,” he told the outlet.

#airtel, #apps, #asia, #disney, #entertainment, #grab, #hooq, #hotstar, #media, #mobile, #netflix, #singtel, #southeast-asia, #vodafone, #warner-bros

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Coronavirus could push consumers away from influencers and toward streaming TV

As the nation struggles with a pandemic and economic uncertainty, fundamental shifts in consumer habits are leading marketers to rethink existing strategies and budgets allocated to influencers and streaming TV.

These significant shifts are nothing new; just as the dot-com bubble reduced landline penetration and boosted mobile phone adoption, the last recession pushed traditional ad spend to digital. It was an option before, but the recession accelerated the trend to targeting select audiences on social media platforms, giving rise to influencers.

Today, social media influencers are so ubiquitous, they risk becoming meaningless.

Prior to the onset of coronavirus, we saw the influencer trend diminishing while the streaming TV trend became more prominent. Today, streaming is still trending up and influencers have actually seen increased levels of engagement, but they face credibility issues, which could lead to a reduction in perceived value to brands.

Streaming has similar, if not more, targeting capabilities as social media, but now it has the eyeballs — the captive audience of quarantined Americans — up 20% this March, according to Nielsen. Marketers on a tight budget will be forced to reevaluate their relationships with influencers as they seek to increase ad spend on streaming TV services.

The evolving realms of influencers

#column, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #disney, #extra-crunch, #hbo, #influencer-marketing, #instagram, #market-analysis, #marketing, #media, #opinion, #snapchat, #social, #social-media, #social-media-influencers, #social-media-platforms, #streaming-services

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Disney+ is giving us a peek behind the curtain of Mandalorian’s first season

Trailer for Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian, debuting on Disney+ on May 4, 2020.

There’s still several more months until season two of The Mandalorian hits Disney+ in October (assuming everything stays on schedule), but to tide us over, the Mouse House has released a trailer for Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian. The eight-episode documentary series will explore multiple facets of the production of this first live-action Star Wars television show.

Disney+ announced the documentary series earlier this month. “Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian is an opportunity for fans of the show to take a look inside and get to see a different perspective, and perhaps a greater understanding, of how The Mandalorian came together and some of the incredibly talented contributors throughout Season 1,” executive producer Jon Favreau said in a statement at the time. “We had a great experience making the show, and we’re looking forward to sharing it with you.”

Per the official synopsis: “The Mandalorian is set after the fall of the Empire and before the emergence of the First Order. We follow the travails of a lone gunfighter in the outer reaches of the galaxy far from the authority of the New Republic.” The premise is that after the defeat of the Empire in Return of the Jedi, there was a period of chaos and lawlessness as a new government struggled to emerge from the wreckage.

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#baby-yoda, #disney, #disney-gallery-the-mandalorian, #entertainment, #gaming-culture, #the-mandalorian, #trailers

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Verizon is buying b2b videoconferencing firm BlueJeans

US carrier Verizon* has splashed out to buy veteran b2b videoconferencing platform, BlueJeans Network — shelling out less than $500 million on the acquisition, according to the Wall Street Journal which first reported the news.

A Verizon spokeswoman confirmed to TechCrunch that the price-tag is sub-$500M but did not provide a more exact figure. Videoconferencing platform BlueJeans has raised ~$175M since being founded around a decade ago, per Crunchbase, with US investor NEA leading a Series E round back in 2015.

In a press release announcing the deal, Verizon said it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire the enterprise-grade videoconferencing and event platform in order to expand its “immersive unified communications portfolio”.

“Customers will benefit from a BlueJeans enterprise-grade video experience on Verizon’s high-performance global networks. In addition, the platform will be deeply integrated into Verizon’s 5G product roadmap, providing secure and real-time engagement solutions for high growth areas such as telemedicine, distance learning and field service work,” it wrote.

“As the way we work continues to change, it is absolutely critical for businesses and public sector customers to have access to a comprehensive suite of offerings that are enterprise ready, secure, frictionless and that integrate with existing tools,” added Tami Erwin, CEO of Verizon Business, in a supporting statement. “Collaboration and communications have become top of the agenda for businesses of all sizes and in all sectors in recent months. We are excited to combine the power of BlueJeans’ video platform with Verizon Business’ connectivity networks, platforms and solutions to meet our customers’ needs.”

The acquisition comes at a time when videoconferencing has been seeing a massive uptick in usage as white collar workers around the world log on to meetings from home during the coronavirus pandemic.

Although it’s BlueJeans’ rival, Zoom, that’s been the most high profile name linked to the viral videoconferencing boom in recent weeks. The latter recently revealed that daily meeting participants on its platform jumped from a modest 10M in December to 200M in March.

However such booming growth and consumer usage has brought increased scrutiny for Zoom — leading to a spate of warnings (and even some bans), related to security and privacy concerns. And earlier this month the company said it would freeze product dev to focus on the laundry list of issues that have surfaced as users have piled in and kicked its tires, taking off a little of the shine off surging growth. 

On the sheer usage front BlueJeans is certainly small fish in comparison to Zoom — having remained b2b focused. A BlueJeans spokeswoman told us it has more than $100M ARR and over 15,000 customers at this point. (Some notable users include Facebook and Disney.)

But it’s paying users that are likely of most interest to Verizon. Carriers generally haven’t been able to translate increased usage during the pandemic into a revenue growth story — as a result of a combination of fixed costs, debt and market disruption that’s been hitting their shares during the coronavirus crisis, per Reuters.

“The combination of BlueJeans’ world class enterprise video collaboration platform and trusted brand with Verizon Business’ next generation edge computing innovation will deliver highly differentiated and compelling solutions to our joint customers,” said Quentin Gallivan, BlueJeans CEO, in a statement. “We are very excited about joining the Verizon team and we truly believe the future of business communications starts today!”

BlueJeans co-founder Krish Ramakrishnan has a history of exits, selling a couple of his previous startups to networking giant Cisco — where he has also worked, in between spinning out his own companies.

Verizon said today that said BlueJeans founders and “key management” will join the company as part of the acquisition, with BlueJeans employees set to become Verizon employees immediately following the close of the deal — which is expected in the second quarter, pending customary closing conditions.

*Disclosure: Verizon is also TechCrunch’s parent company

#cisco, #disney, #enterprise, #fundings-exits, #nea, #quentin-gallivan, #telecommunications, #teleconferencing, #telemedicine, #united-states, #verizon-communications, #video-conferencing, #web-conferencing, #zoom

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