Forget the piggy bank, Till Financial’s kids’ spend management app gets Gates’ backing

Today’s children and teens want more power and control over their spending.

And while there are a number of financial services and apps out there aimed at helping this demographic save and invest money (Greenlight being among the most popular and well-known), one startup is coming at the space from another angle: helping younger people also better manage their spend.

Till Financial describes itself as a collaborative family financial tool that aims to empower kids to become smarter spenders. The New York-based company’s banking platform is designed to encourage “open and honest” discussions between parents and their kids. And it has just raised $5 million to help it advance on that goal.

A slew of investors put money in the round, including Elysian Park Ventures, Melinda Gates’ venture fund Pivotal Ventures with Magnify Ventures, Afore Capital, Luge Capital, Alpine Meridian Ventures, The Gramercy Fund, SM Ventures (the family office of the founders/CEOs of Stadium Goods) and Lightspeed Venture Partners’ Scout Fund. Also participating were angel investors such as the founders of fintech Petal, the founders of alcohol marketplace Drizly, the president of Transactis, and the president of 1800Flowers.

Part of Till’s goal is to help kids “learn by doing” and gain confidence in spending decisions. It arms them with a bank account, digital and physical debit card and goal-based savings. For example, say a teen wants to buy an iPad, they can set up an account that they can save toward that iPad and give family members (such as grandparents, for example) the opportunity to pitch in the same amount, or more. They can also set up recurring payments for things like Netflix or Spotify subscriptions so they can get a taste of what it’s like to pay regular bills.

“Parents and the current banking options miss the point when they just focus on savings. We need to first prepare kids to be Smarter Spenders, supported by savings and investing,” said Taylor Burton, who founded the company with Tom Pincince. “On Till, kids learn to spend with intention and purpose, while parents gain confidence and trust based on transparency and accountability.”

To Pincince, the market is clearly underserved.

“The legacy banks really don’t care about this young person and the early digital players are really missing the mark,” he said. 

And despite the plethora of apps targeting the demographic, Pincince believes there’s plenty of room for the right players.

“The reality is you’re talking about a swath of kids under the age of 18 and over the age of eight that is the single largest unbanked population,” he said. “We’re not fighting to be the top of your son’s wallet. We’re fighting to be the first product into that wallet.”

Indeed, it’s a big market — the average middle-class family in the U.S. spends $284,570 per child by the time they turn 18.

The platform is free to all families and, early on, attracted the attention of Peggy Mangot, operating partner/COO of PayPal Ventures. She invested personally in Till in its pre-seed rounds. Prior to PayPal, Mangot ran development of Greenhouse, Well Fargo’s fee-free mobile banking app that aimed to help younger users build responsible spending habits.

Mangot has three kids and recalls that when they were shopping online, she’d give them her credit card. Or, if they were going to the corner store or meeting with friends, she’d give them cash.

“But that way, the money is meaningless to them. They didn’t really know how to understand what things cost and there was no sense of ownership,” she said. “It was just me handing over cash or a card.”

What attracted her the most about Till, Mangot said, was the team’s approach to treat younger people “with respect and agency.”

She also believes that by helping children and teens understand important financial lessons at a younger age, the world will ultimately be full of more responsible adults.

“By putting these tools in the hands of these young people early, they’ll have years and years of experience before they’re more independent and have to manage their paycheck and bills,” Mangot told TechCrunch. “Once you have mass adoption, it’s going to create a much more financially literate, confident and in control set of young adults than we’ve ever had.”

Besides making money on interchange fees, Till aims to earn revenue by partnering with merchants to offer rewards to users. It also plans to earn referral fees by referring the teens to other financial institutions when they get older and have different needs.

“It’s not our intention to be your son or daughter’s forever bank. It’s our intention to be the first bank,” Pincince said. “So, they hit the age of maturity, we’re actually giving them a high-five off of our platform and introducing them to maybe their first college loan or their first credit card.”

#afore-capital, #bank, #banking, #debit-card, #drizly, #ebay, #finance, #financial-services, #fintech, #funding, #fundings-exits, #ipad, #lightspeed-venture-partners, #luge-capital, #melinda-gates, #mobile-banking, #mobile-payments, #netflix, #new-york, #online-payments, #paypal, #pivotal-ventures, #recent-funding, #spotify, #stadium-goods, #startup, #startups, #tc, #till-financial, #tom-pincince, #united-states, #up, #venture-capital

0

Apple and Google pressed in antitrust hearing on whether app stores share data with product development teams

In today’s antitrust hearing in the U.S. Senate, Apple and Google representatives were questioned on whether they have a “strict firewall” or other internal policies in place that prevent them from leveraging the data from third-party businesses operating on their app stores to inform the development of their own competitive products. Apple, in particular, was called out for the practice of copying other apps by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), who said the practice had become so common that it earned a nickname with Apple’s developer community: “sherlocking.”

Sherlock, which has its own Wikipedia entry under software, comes from Apple’s search tool in the early 2000s called Sherlock. A third-party developer, Karelia Software, created an alternative tool called Watson. Following the success of Karelia’s product, Apple added Watson’s same functionality into its own search tool, and Watson was effectively put out of business. The nickname “Sherlock” later became shorthand for any time Apple copies an idea from a third-party developer that threatens to or even destroys their business.

Over the years, developers claimed Apple has “sherlocked” a number of apps, including Konfabulator (desktop widgets), iPodderX (podcast manager), Sandvox (app for building websites) and Growl (a notification system for Mac OS X) and, in more recent years, F.lux (blue light reduction tool for screens) Duet and Luna (apps that makes iPad a secondary display), as well as various screen-time-management tools. Now Tile claims Apple has also unfairly entered its market with AirTag.

During his questioning, Blumenthal asked Apple and Google’s representatives at the hearing — Kyle Andeer, Apple’s
chief compliance officer and Wilson White, Google’s senior director of Public Policy & Government Relations, respectively — if they employed any sort of “firewall” in between their app stores and their business strategy.

Andeer somewhat dodged the question, saying, “Senator, if I understand the question correctly, we have separate teams that manage the App Store and that are engaged in product development strategy here at Apple.”

Blumenthal then clarified what he meant by “firewall.” He explained that it doesn’t mean whether or not there are separate teams in place, but whether there’s an internal prohibition on sharing data between the App Store and the people who run Apple’s other businesses.

Andeer then answered, “Senator, we have controls in place.”

He went on to note that over the past 12 years, Apple has only introduced “a handful of applications and services,” and in every instance, there are “dozens of alternatives” on the App Store. And, sometimes, the alternatives are more popular than Apple’s own product, he noted.

“We don’t copy. We don’t kill. What we do is offer up a new choice and a new innovation,” Andeer stated.

His argument may hold true when there are strong rivalries, like Spotify versus Apple Music, or Netflix versus Apple TV+, or Kindle versus Apple Books. But it’s harder to stretch it to areas where Apple makes smaller enhancements — like when Apple introduced Sidecar, a feature that allowed users to make their iPad a secondary display. Sidecar ended the need for a third-party app, after apps like Duet and Luna first proved the market.

Another example was when Apple built screen-time controls into its iOS software, but didn’t provide the makers of third-party screen-time apps with an API so consumers could use their preferred apps to configure Apple’s Screen Time settings via the third-party’s specialized interface or take advantage of other unique features.

Blumenthal said he interpreted Andeer’s response as to whether Apple has a “data firewall” as a “no.”

Posed the same question, Google’s representative, White, said his understanding was that Google had “data access controls in place that govern how data from our third-party services are used.”

Blumenthal pressed him to clarify if this was a “firewall,” meaning, he clarified again, “do you have a prohibition against access?”

“We have a prohibition against using our third-party services to compete directly with our first-party services,” White said, adding that Google has “internal policies that govern that.”

The senator said he would follow up on this matter with written questions, as his time expired.

#airtag, #api, #app-store, #apple, #apple-books, #apple-inc, #apple-tv, #apps, #computing, #firewall, #google, #ios, #ipad, #itunes, #kindle, #luna, #mac-os-x, #netflix, #richard-blumenthal, #senator, #sherlock, #sidecar, #smartphones, #spotify, #u-s-senate, #watson

0

Netflix blames ‘lighter content slate’ for slowing subscriber growth

Netflix added 4.0 million net new subscribers in the first quarter of 2021, bringing its total subscriber base to 207.6 million, according to its latest earnings report.

Any year-over-year comparison was inevitably going to make this latest quarter seem disappointing, since Netflix grew by an unprecedented rate (15.77 million net new subscribers) during same period last year, when the pandemic first trapped global audiences at home. But these new numbers also fall short of the 210 million subscribers that Netflix had been predicting.

And while the streaming market has certainly become more competitive (with Disney+ recently passing 100 million subscribers), Netflix suggested that its lackluster growth had less to do with “competitive intensity” and more with the simple fact that it released fewer original shows and movies, thanks to pandemic-related production delays.

“We believe paid membership growth slowed due to the big Covid-19 pull forward in 2020 and a lighter content slate in the first half of this year, due to Covid-19 production delays,” the company said. “We continue to anticipate a strong second half with the return of new seasons of some of our biggest hits and an exciting film lineup. In the short-term, there is some uncertainty from Covid-19; in the long-term, the rise of streaming to replace linear TV around the world is the clear trend in entertainment.”

Netflix noted that retention was “in line with our expectations,” and that the main issue was new user acquisition. It also said that “in early Q1, with the benefit of Bridgerton, Lupin and Cobra Kai, we were following a growth trajectory similar to recent years,” before growth dipped in March.

Pandemic-related delays will also affect the release schedule in Q2, so Netflix is only projecting 1 million net new subscribers. The release of high-profile titles should pick up again in the second half of the year, the company said, with production having resumed “in every major market, with the exception of Brazil and India.”

As for the company’s finances, revenue grew 24% year-over-year to $7.2 billion (in line with the forecast), with diluted earnings per share of $3.75. (Analysts had been predicting EPS of $2.97.) Netflix shares were down more than 11% in after-hours trading, as of 4:33pm Eastern.

#earnings, #entertainment, #media, #netflix

0

Mercenaries take on heist in zombie-ridden Vegas in Army of the Dead trailer

Dave Bautista stars in the zombie heist film, Army of the Dead, directed by Zack Snyder.

Fresh off the successful release of Zack Snyder’s Justice League, we’ll soon be getting the director’s latest project: Army of the Dead, about a group of mercenaries that attempts a heist in a zombie-ridden Las Vegas. In a sense, Snyder has come full circle. His directorial debut was 2008’s Dawn of the Dead, an entertaining reboot of the original George Romero classic from 1978.

Army of the Dead started out as a joint project between Universal Studios and Warner Bros. back in 2007. But like so many films, it got stuck in development hell, until Zack Snyder signed on as director in 2019. Netflix picked up the distribution rights from Warner Bros. soon after.

Per the official premise:

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#army-of-the-dead, #entertainment, #film, #film-trailers, #gaming-culture, #netflix, #zack-snyder

0

Netflix gives its Kids’ profiles a visual upgrade

Netflix is giving its Kids’ profiles a revamp, the company announced today. While adults’ profiles are personalized with horizontal rows of recommendations that appear as they scroll down, the Kids profiles’ redesign is more visual in nature. When kids now log in to their account on a TV, they’ll be greeted with their favorite titles and characters right at the top of the screen, Netflix says.

Previously, the layout for the Kids profile was similar to an adult’s, with rows that showed Trending shows and other suggestions from Netflix’s library (See below). Now, the top row will feature the kid’s most-watched content — and for early readers, the characters will help direct kids to the show they want to watch.

Image Credits: Netflix old Kids profile

Image Credits: Netflix new Kids profile

To customize this row for each user, Netflix uses information about what was watched to improve its recommendations. It notes that the favorite shows featured at the top of the screen will come from the full Netflix catalog, not just its original programming. For the title to appear in their row, a child must watch a show at least once, Netflix says. When selected, the background updates to reflect the chosen show, as well.

Younger kids often navigate Netflix visually. Even toddlers can be found using iPads or TV remotes, moving through Netflix like a pro, at times. And during the COVID era where parents were stuck at home trying to both entertain their little kids while homeschooling older ones and somehow also finding time to work, it makes sense to update one of the most popular “TV babysitter” apps to make it something that younger children could use on their own without parental assistance. The need to serve the overwhelmed parent was part of the thinking behind the upgrade, pitching how the update would give parents who “need 30 minutes of uninterrupted time to knock out some work” time to do so. (Uninterrupted time during the pandemic? What’s that?)

Netflix says the new profiles are rolling out now to TV devices globally, but will be tested on tablets and mobile devices in the coming months.

#family, #kids, #media, #netflix, #parents, #streaming-service, #tv

0

Creator economy’s slow burn

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

Natasha and Danny and  and Grace were all here to chat through the week’s rigamarole of news. Alex took some well-deserved time off, but that meant we got to poke a little fun at him and create a Special Edition segment to start off the show.

Jokes aside, this week was yet another spree of creator economy, edtech, and new fund announcements, with fresh and unexpected news hailing from Natasha’s home state, New Jersey.

Here’s what we got into:

What a show! We’ll be back with the full trio next week, and until then, stay safe and thank you for listening.

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:00 AM PST, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts!

#clubhouse, #early-stage, #edtech, #equity, #equity-pod, #health-tech, #healthcare, #index, #masterclass, #mental-health, #netflix, #new-jersey, #patreon, #podcast, #tc, #telehealth, #walnut

0

Consumers spent $32B on apps in Q1 2021, the biggest quarter on record

The pandemic’s remarkable impact on the app industry has not slowed down in 2021. In fact, consumer spending in apps has hit a new record in the first quarter of this year, a new report from App Annie indicates. The firm says consumers in Q1 2021 spent $32 billion on apps across both iOS and Google Play, up 40% year-over-year from Q1 2020. It’s the largest-ever quarter on record, App Annie also notes.

Last year saw both app downloads and consumer spend increase, as people rapidly adopted apps under coronavirus lockdowns — including apps for work, school, shopping, fitness, entertainment, gaming and more. App Annie previously reported a record 218 billion in global downloads and record consumer spend of $143 billion for the year.

Image Credits: App Annie

These trends have continued into 2021, it seems, with mobile consumers spending roughly $9 billion more in Q1 2021 compared with Q1 2020. Although iOS saw larger consumer spend than Android in the quarter — $21 billion vs. $11 billion, respectively — both stores grew by the same percentage, 40%.

But the types of apps driving spending were slightly different from store to store.

On Google Play, Games, Social and Entertainment apps saw the strongest quarter-over-quarter growth in terms of consumer spending, while Games, Photo & Video, and Entertainment apps accounted for the strongest growth on iOS.

By downloads, the categories were different between the stores, as well.

On Google Play, Social, Tools, and Fiance saw the biggest download growth in Q1, while Games, Finance and Social Networking drove download growth for iOS. Also on Google Play, other top categories included Weather (40%) and Dating (35%), while iOS saw Health and Fitness app downloads grow by a notable 25% — likely a perfect storm as New Year’s Resolutions combined with continued stay-at-measures that encouraged users to find new ways to stay fit without going to a gym.

Image Credits: App Annie

The top apps in the quarter remained fairly consistent, however. TikTok beat Facebook, in terms of downloads, and was followed by Instagram, Telegram, WhatsApp and Zoom. But the short-form video app only made it to No. 2 in terms of consumer spend, with YouTube snagging the top spot. Tinder, Disney+, Tencent Video, and others followed. (Netflix has dropped off this chart as it now directs new users to sign up directly, rather than through in-app purchases).

Image Credits: App Annie

Though Facebook’s apps have fallen behind TikTok by downloads, its apps — including Facebook, WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram — still led the market in terms monthly active users (MAUs) in the quarter. TikTok, meanwhile, ranked No. 8 by this metric.

Up-and-comers in the quarter included privacy-focused messaging app Signal, which saw the strongest growth in the quarter by both downloads and MAUs — a calculation that App Annie calls “breakout apps.”  Telegram closely followed, as users bailed from mainstream social after the Capitol riot. Another “breakout” app was MX TakaTak, which is filling the hole in the market for short-form video that resulted from India’s ban  of TikTok.

Image Credits: App Annie

Gaming, meanwhile, drove a majority of the quarter’s spending, as usual, accounting for $22 billion of the spend — $13 billion on iOS (up 30% year-over-year) and $9 billion on Android (up 35%). Gamers downloaded about a billion titles per week, up 15% year-over-year from 2020.

Among Us! dropped to No. 2 in the quarter by downloads, replaced by Join Clash 3D, while DOP 2: Delete One Part jumped 308 places to reach No. 3.

Image Credits: App Annie

Roblox led by consumer spend, followed by Genshin Impact, Coin Master, Pokemon Go and others. And although Among Us! dropped on the charts by downloads, it remained No. 1 by monthly active users in the quarter, followed by PUBG Mobile, Candy Crush Saga, Roblox and others.

App Annie notes that the pandemic also accelerated the mobile gaming market, with game downloads outpacing overall downloads by 2.5x in 2020. It predicts that mobile gaming will reach  $120 billion in consumer spending this year, or 1.5x all other gaming formats combined.

#android, #app-annie, #apps, #computing, #disney, #facebook, #google-play, #india, #messenger, #mobile-applications, #netflix, #roblox, #tiktok, #whatsapp

0

European branded payments startup Recharge raises $11.8M debt round led by Kreos Capital

Online branded payments now run the gamut of anything from Spotify vouchers, Netflix vouchers, Neosurf, PaySafe cards, and everything in between. Consumers use them to pay for a variety of things. In Europe, they are an increasingly big business. Now, European branded payments company Recharge.com has raised €10m ($11.8m) in a debt funding round led by London-based Kreos Capital, a growth debt provider for high-growth companies. In 2019 the Dutch fintech Creative Group, which owns the Recharge.com and Rapido.com brands, took investment of €22m from Prime Ventures.

Recharge has also appointed Michael Kent – who previously founded payments companies Small World and Azimo, along with UK neobank Tandem – as its non-executive chairman.

Recharge.com says it plans to use the funding to extend its mobile offering, product range, and expand in regions such as North America, Latin America and the GCC. It’s also aiming for sales of €450m in 2021.

Günther Vogelpoel CEO of Recharge.com said in a statement: “We live in a world of instant wish fulfillment, from taxis that appear on demand to same-day delivery of consumer goods. Recharge.com gives customers a fast, safe and simple way to fulfill their wishes, whether that’s an essential remittance or access to digital goods and services.”

Commenting, Kent said: “The era of supermarket gift cards and mobile top-ups is drawing to a close. Branded payments have exploded during the global lockdown as consumers seek digital alternatives to the high street. People are now aware that online branded payments are safe, fast, and convenient.”

Through a range of digital vouchers from brands including Apple, Google, Spotify, Xbox and PlayStation as well as cross-border remittances of call, data credits etc Recharge is attacking the market from the consumer angle.

The biggest company in this space is Blackhawk networks which is owned by private equity group Silverlake. It’s considered a large player in Europe which has a direct-to-consumer model.

As Kent told me over a Zoom call: “Nobody actually owns the consumer side of this business globally so that’s the big opportunity.”

#apple, #articles, #azimo, #ceo, #corporate-finance, #digital-currencies, #europe, #finance, #google, #kreos-capital, #latin-america, #london, #netflix, #north-america, #prime-ventures, #private-equity, #silverlake, #spotify, #tc

0

Hardcore F1 fans might feel short-changed by Drive to Survive season 3

Drive to Survive, the fly-on-the-wall documentary about Formula 1 racing, started streaming its third season on Netflix last Friday. Once again, the camera crews were in the right place to capture some spectacular footage, and it’s a beautiful thing to watch, particularly in 4K. Fans of the previous two seasons will be treated to more effing and blinding, particularly from Gunther Steiner, team principal for Haas F1. But the devoted F1 follower may well feel short-changed from the 10-episode run that leaves out some of the 2020 season’s biggest storylines.

When F1 changed hands in 2017, one major job for the new owners at Liberty Media was to start growing the sport. In years past, F1 repeatedly claimed it was the most-watched sport on the planet after the Olympic Games. But the sport’s audience has shrunk precipitously over the past couple of decades, mostly because of pay-per-view TV deals in its key markets like the UK and Germany that took the races off free-to-air channels.

Among the moves that Liberty made was inviting a Netflix documentary crew into the paddock throughout 2018, giving the media company’s cameras unprecedented access on race weekends. Most of the teams and drivers were similarly accommodating, although not all—neither Mercedes nor Ferrari agreed to participate, and both teams and their four drivers were virtually absent from season 1. That first season definitely got F1 in front of a lot of new eyeballs, and the absence of megastars like Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel allowed some of the drivers to shine.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#cars, #documentary, #drive-to-survive, #f1, #formula-1, #gaming-culture, #netflix

0

Sherlock Holmes takes a back seat to street kids in The Irregulars trailer

Sherlock Holmes takes a back seat to a ragtag group of street kids in the new Netflix supernatural drama The Irregulars.

The public’s appetite for all things Sherlock Holmes—Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famed fictional detective—appears to be limitless, with film, TV adaptations, and/or reinventions being released almost every year. The latest offering is The Irregulars, a new supernatural drama from Netflix, that focuses on the the ragtag group of street urchins the Baker Street sleuth often relied upon to gather useful information.

Netflix also ventured into Holmesian lore last year with the film Enola Holmes, starring Millie Bobby Brown as the young (and equally brilliant) teenaged sister of Sherlock Holmes (Henry Cavill). It garnered generally positive reviews, and vague plans are circulating for a sequel, despite a lawsuit filed by the Conan Doyle estate over the portrayal of an overly “emotional” Holmes. (The lawsuit was dismissed last December.)

Netflix greenlighted The Irregulars in 2018, created by Tom Bidwell (who also produced an adaptation of Watership Down for the streaming platform). Bidwell had long had the idea for a series centered on the Baker Street Irregulars, led in the original fiction by a boy named Wiggins. The group is first mentioned in the 1887 story “A Study in Scarlet,” in which Holmes pays them each a shilling to track down a particular cabbie. They also feature in a chapter of the 1890 novel The Sign of the Four, and one member of the group briefly pops up in the 1893 short story “The Adventure of the Crooked Man.” Holmes described the Irregulars as being “sharp as needles… all they want is organization.”

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#entertainment, #gaming-culture, #netflix, #sherlock-holmes, #streaming-television, #the-irregulars, #trailers

0

Netflix gets 35 Oscar nominations, including 10 for ‘Mank’

Netflix’s original films received 35 Oscar nominations this year, once again putting the streaming service ahead of ahead of any other Hollywood studios.

“Mank” led the pack with 10 nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director (David Fincher), Best Actor in a Leading Role (Gary Oldman) and Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Amanda Seyfried). That doesn’t necessarily make it a shoo-in to be Netflix’s first Best Picture winner, however — it’s worth remembering that in 2019, the streamer’s film “Roma” received 10 nominations as well, ultimately winning three awards but not Best Picture. And last year, “The Irishman” went empty-handed despite its 10 noms.

Besides “Mank,” Netflix’s “The Trial of the Chicago 7” received six nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Sacha Baron Cohen). And “Crip Camp,” a film from the Obamas’ production company Higher Ground, is nominated for Best Documentary Feature, as is “My Octopus Teacher.”

Amazon, meanwhile, received 12 nominations, with six for “Sound of Metal” (including Best Picture). “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan,” “One Night in Miami” and “Time” were nominated as well. And Apple received its first two nominations ever, for “Wolfwalkers” (Best Animated Feature) and “Greyhound” (Best Sound).

Of course, this is a streaming-centric year for movies overall. With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing theaters to close across the world, the Oscars temporarily abandoned their requirement that films screen commercially in theaters in order to qualify for wards.

And it’s probably safe to assume that most viewers (Academy members and otherwise) watched these movies via streaming. For example, Best Picture nominee and Golden Globe winner for Best Drama Film winner “Nomadland” was released by Fox Searchlight simultaneously in theaters and on Hulu.

The Academy Awards will air on April 25 at 5pm Pacific on ABC.

#academy-awards, #entertainment, #mank, #media, #netflix, #oscars

0

Why Disney+ only needed 16 months to crack 100 million subscribers

Why Disney+ only needed 16 months to crack 100 million subscribers

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Disney)

In the Walt Disney Company’s latest shareholder call, we expected to hear good news about its popular Disney+ service—especially as a highlight for a company otherwise besieged by the realities of a pandemic. Sure enough, the news was incredibly good for the company’s upstart streaming service, with CEO Bob Chapek confirming a tidy threshold: over 100 million subscribers.

Thanks to Disney’s recent fiscal announcements, the number isn’t entirely surprising, considering we saw counts of 86.8 million this past December and 95 million in February. But in two other respects, the number is gargantuan. First, Disney originally projected a four-year plan to get to 90 million subscribers, and that estimate has clearly been blown past.

Second, the other megaton streamer in the conversation, Netflix, needed much longer to cross that alluring 100 million mark: a whopping 10 years. Disney+ only needed 16 months.

Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#disney, #disney-plus, #gaming-culture, #netflix, #video-streaming

0

Review: Separated siblings struggle to survive a brutal world in Tribes of Europa

The same people who brought us Dark are back with the dystopian sci-fi drama Tribes of Europa.

The folks who brought us three captivating seasons of the existential time travel thriller, Dark, are back with a new science fiction series for Netflix: the dystopian drama Tribes of Europa, featuring warring factions battling over what is left of the European continent late in the 21st century. Brutal and compelling, it’s like a German version of The Hunger Games, with bits of Game of Thrones and The 100 thrown in for good measure. In other words, we’re on familiar, well-trodden territory here, but the series is still one heck of an entertaining ride.

(Some spoilers below but no major reveals.)

The production company is Wiedemann & Berg, whose credits also include the Oscar-winning film The Lives of Others, in addition to Dark. The six-episode Tribes of Europa series was created by showrunner Philip Koch, who reportedly was inspired by the Brexit vote of 2016.  Per the official premise:

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#entertainment, #gaming-culture, #netflix, #science-fiction-television, #tribes-of-europa, #tv-review

0

Netflix to release 41 original Indian shows and movies this year

Netflix said on Wednesday it will roll out 41 Indian films and shows this year, its biggest annual roster of Indian content to date, as the American giant makes further push to win subscribers in the world’s second largest internet market.

The streaming giant, which committed to spending about $420 million on locally produced Indian content in 2019 and 2020, is this year spending significantly more on the new Indian catalog, which is three times larger than the past two years combined.

The new titles feature high-profile Indian actors and directors including Madhuri Dixit, Karan Johar, Manoj Bajpayee, R. Madhavan, Raveena Tandon, Neena Gupta, and Dhanush.

The new roster includes “Bombay Begums,” which follows stories of five women across generations wrestling with desire, ethics, and personal crises, “Decoupled,” a comedy by writer Manu Joseph on India and marriage, and a second season of Emmy-winning drama “Delhi Crime.”

Also in the list are comedy specials that have become immensely popular on streaming services in India. Netflix said comedians including Sumukhi Suresh, Aakaash Gupta, Rahul Dua, and Prashasti Singh — all of whom have participated in comedy shows by Amazon Prime Video — will have shows on the streaming service this year.

Kota Factory, a show that debuted on YouTube about a group of students preparing to compete to get into the prestigious engineering colleges, will premier its second season on Netflix. The Viral Fever, the producer of the show, had collaborated with Indian edtech startup Unacademy, for the first season of the show.

Dice Media’s “Little Things”, which also began its life as native advertisement for a few firms but has since grown into its own show, is getting a fourth season this year.

“Our upcoming lineup features more variety and diversity than we have seen before. From the biggest films and series, to gripping documentaries and reality, and bold comedy formats. We are taking our next big leap in India to bring you more than 40 powerful and irresistible stories from all corners of the country,” said Monika Shergill, Vice President of Content at Netflix India.

“This is just a taste of the films and series to come. We are so excited to share these rich and diverse stories from the best and brightest creators and talent from India to the world,” said Shergill.

R. Madhavan and Surveen Chawla in a still from Netflix’s upcoming show “Decoupled.” (Netflix)

Netflix’s growing catalog in India comes as Bollywood, which churns out more movies than any other film industry, struggles to deliver big hits as theatres across the country report low footfall amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Last year, the Indian film industry began releasing several movies directly on streaming services after some pushback from several key players.

Karan Johar said at Netflix’s virtual press conference that streaming services are increasingly reaching the level of scale in India that the next “Kuch Kuch Hota Hai” — one of the biggest blockbuster films in India, and also one directed by Johar — can release directly on Netflix.

Thanks to the availability of some of the world’s cheapest mobile data and proliferation of low-cost Android smartphones, more than half a billion Indians came online in the past decade, much of it in the last five years.

YouTube reaches more than 450 million internet users in India, TechCrunch reported in January. (India’s IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad corroborated the figure at a press conference last month.) Disney’s Hotstar has amassed over 30 million paying subscribers in India. Media consulting firm MPA estimates that Netflix has about 5 million subscribers in India, a figure that has grown in recent years as the streaming service inked a deal with India’s largest telecom operator Jio Platforms.

Netflix’s growing focus on India also comes at a time when New Delhi is getting more involved with the nature of content on on-demand streaming services. Until now Amazon Prime Video and other streaming services have operated in India without having to worry too much about the nature of their content. But that’s changing, according to new rules announced by India last week.

“The category classification of a content will take into account the potentially offensive impact of a film on matters such as caste, race, gender, religion, disability or sexuality that may arise in a wide range of works, and the classification decision will take account of the strength or impact of their inclusion,” the new rules state.

Amazon issued a rare apology to viewers in India on Tuesday after some people — including lawmakers with governing Bhartiya Janata Party — objected to some scenes from its political mini-series “Tandav.” Netflix, itself, has faced some heat, too. A police case was filed against two top executives of Netflix, including Shergill, after some people objected to scenes of the show “A Suitable Boy.”

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

0

Amazon issues rare apology in India over drama series

Amazon on Tuesday issued a rare apology to users in India for an original political drama series over allegations that a few scenes in the nine-part mini series hurt religious sentiments of some people in the key overseas market.

The series, called “Tandav,” has faced criticism from some people in India — including a few members of the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party — over its depiction of Hindu gods and goddesses.

In a message titled, “Amazon Prime Video Apologizes,” the American e-commerce group said it “deeply regrets that viewers considered certain scenes to be objectionable” and that it had either edited those scenes or removed them altogether from the show after hearing concerns from viewers.

“We respect our viewers’ diverse beliefs and apologize unconditionally to anyone who felt hurt by these scenes. Our teams follow company content evaluation processes, which we acknowledge need to be constantly updated to better serve our audiences. We will continue to develop entertaining content with partners, while complying with the laws of India and respecting the diversity of culture and beliefs of our audiences.”

The show, which stars several top Bollywood actors including Saif Ali Khan, premiered in mid-January and immediately prompted controversy and criminal complaints. Things have escalated in recent weeks as several high-profile executives of Amazon Prime Video have been questioned by the authority.

Prime Video has amassed millions of subscribers in India, where it competes with Disney’s Hotstar, Netflix, Times Internet’s MX Player, and dozens more streaming services. Amazon has grown more aggressive with Prime Video in India in recent months. It recently introduced an even cheaper subscription tier and secured rights for streaming some cricket matches.

Amazon’s rare apology today comes days after New Delhi announced new rules for on-demand video streaming services and social media firms.

Until now Amazon Prime Video and other streaming services have operated in India without having to worry too much about the nature of their content. But that’s changing, according to the new rules.

“The category classification of a content will take into account the potentially offensive impact of a film on matters such as caste, race, gender, religion, disability or sexuality that may arise in a wide range of works, and the classification decision will take account of the strength or impact of their inclusion,” the new rules state.

As we wrote recently, the controversy surrounding the political drama and the new rules from India for streaming services are only few of the challenges that Amazon is facing in India, where it has committed to deploy over $6.5 billion.

Last month, an influential India trader group that represents tens of millions of brick-and-mortar retailers called New Delhi to ban Amazon in the country after an investigation by Reuters claimed that the American e-commerce group had given preferential treatment to a small group of sellers in India, publicly misrepresented its ties with those sellers and used them to circumvent foreign investment rules in the country.

#amazon, #amazon-prime-video, #asia, #ecommerce, #india, #media, #netflix, #prime-video

0

Microsoft Azure expands its NoSQL portfolio with Managed Instances for Apache Cassandra

At its Ignite conference today, Microsoft announced the launch of Azure Managed Instance for Apache Cassandra, its latest NoSQL database offering and a competitor to Cassandra-centric companies like Datastax. Microsoft describes the new service as a ‘semi-managed offering that will help companies bring more of their Cassandra-based workloads into its cloud.

“Customers can easily take on-prem Cassandra workloads and add limitless cloud scale while maintaining full compatibility with the latest version of Apache Cassandra,” Microsoft explains in its press materials. “Their deployments gain improved performance and availability, while benefiting from Azure’s security and compliance capabilities.”

Like its counterpart, Azure SQL Manages Instance, the idea here is to give users access to a scalable, cloud-based database service. To use Cassandra in Azure before, businesses had to either move to Cosmos DB, its highly scalable database service which supports the Cassandra, MongoDB, SQL and Gremlin APIs, or manage their own fleet of virtual machines or on-premises infrastructure.

Cassandra was originally developed at Facebook and then open-sourced in 2008. A year later, it joined the Apache Foundation and today it’s used widely across the industry, with companies like Apple and Netflix betting on it for some of their core services, for example. AWS launched a managed Cassandra-compatible service at its re:Invent conference in 2019 (it’s called Amazon Keyspaces today), Microsoft only launched the Cassandra API for Cosmos DB last November. With today’s announcement, though, the company can now offer a full range of Cassandra-based servicer for enterprises that want to move these workloads to its cloud.

#amazon, #apache-cassandra, #api, #apple, #aws, #cloud, #computing, #data, #data-management, #datastax, #developer, #enterprise, #facebook, #microsoft, #microsoft-ignite-2021, #microsoft-azure, #mongodb, #netflix, #nosql, #sql, #tc

0

Netflix drops extended Shadow and Bone teaser, announces release date

Jessie Mei Li stars as Alina Starkov in Shadow and Bone, a new Netflix fantasy series adapted from Leigh Bardugo’s worldwide bestselling “Grishaverse” novels, premiering April 23.

Netflix unexpectedly dropped an extended teaser trailer for its forthcoming fantasy series Shadow and Bone during a panel at IGN Fan Fest. The hotly anticipated series is adapted from Leigh Bardugo’s bestselling “Grishaverse” novels and will premiere on April 23.

(Mild spoilers for the books below.)

Bardugo published Shadow and Bone, the first of a trilogy, in June 2012, followed by Siege and Storm in 2013 and Ruin and Rising in 2014. She told Entertainment Weekly in 2012 that she deliberately avoided the usual medieval fantasy motifs and drew inspiration instead from the Russian Empire in the early 1800s. “As much as I love broadswords and flagons of ale—and believe me, I do—I wanted to take readers someplace a little different,” she said. “Tsarist Russia gave me a different point of departure.”

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#entertainment, #gaming-culture, #netflix, #shadow-and-bone, #streaming-television, #trailers

0

India sets more stringent rules for social media, streaming services

India announced sweeping changes to its guidelines for social media, on-demand video streaming services, and digital news outlets on Thursday, joining several other nations in posing new challenges for giants such as Facebook and Google that count the nation as its biggest market by users.

Ravi Shankar Prasad, India’s IT, Law, and Justice minister, said in a press conference that social media companies will be required to acknowledge takedown requests of unlawful content within 24 hours and deliver a complete redressal in within 15 days. In sensitive cases that surround rape or other similar criminal cases, firms will be required to take down the objectionable content within 24 hours.

These firms will also be required to appoint a chief compliance officer, a nodal contact officer, who shall be reachable round the clock, and a resident grievance officer. They will also have to set up a local office in India.

Prasad said social media firms will have to disclose the originator of objectionable content. “We don’t want to know the content, but firms need to be able to tell who was the first person who began spreading misinformation and other objectionable content,” he said. WhatsApp has previously said that it can’t comply with such traceability requests without compromising end-to-end encryption security for every user.

Firms will also be required to publish a monthly compliance report to disclose the number of requests they received and what actions they took. They will also be required to offer a voluntary option to users who wish to verify their accounts.

The guidelines, which replace the law from 2011, go into effect for small firms effective immediately, but bigger services will be provided three months to comply, said Prasad.

New Delhi has put together these guidelines because citizens in India have long requested a “mechanism to address grievances,” said Prasad. India has been working on a law aimed at intermediaries since 2018. You can read the final version of the draft here, courtesy of New Delhi-based advocacy group Internet Freedom Foundation.

“India is the world’s largest open Internet society and the Government welcomes social media companies to operate in India, do business and also earn profits. However, they will have to be accountable to the Constitution and laws of India,” he said, adding that WhatsApp had amassed 530 million users, YouTube, 448 million users, Facebook’s marquee service 410 million users, Instagram 210 million users, and Twitter, 175 million users in the country.

Full guidelines for social media firms and other intermediaries. (Source: Indian government.)

For streaming platforms, the rules have outlined a three-tier structure for “observance and adherence to the code.” Until now, on-demand services such as Netflix, Disney+ Hotstar, and MX Player have operated in India with little to no censorship.

New Delhi last year said India’s broadcasting ministry, which regulates content on TV, will also be overseeing digital streaming platforms. 17 popular streaming firms including international giants had banded together to devise a self-regulation code. Prakash Javedkar, Minister of Information and Broadcasting, said in the conference that the proposed solution from the industry wasn’t adequate and there will be an oversight mechanism from the government to ensure full compliance with the code.

Streaming services will also have to attach a content ratings to their titles. “The OTT platforms, called as the publishers of online curated content in the rules, would self-classify the content into five age based categories- U (Universal), U/A 7+, U/A 13+, U/A 16+, and A (Adult). Platforms would be required to implement parental locks for content classified as U/A 13+ or higher, and reliable age verification mechanisms for content classified as “A”,” the Indian government said.

“The publisher of online curated content shall prominently display the classification rating specific to each content or programme together with a content descriptor informing the user about the nature of the content, and advising on viewer description (if applicable) at the beginning of every programme enabling the user to make an informed decision, prior to watching the programme.”

The new rules will also force digital news outlets to disclose the size of their reach and structure of their ownership.

Industry executives have expressed concerns over the new proposed regulation, saying New Delhi hasn’t consulted them for these changes. IAMAI, a powerful industry body that represents nearly all on-demand streaming services, said it was “dismayed” by the guidelines, and hoped to have a dialogue with the government.

Javedkar and Prasad were asked if there will be any consultation with the industry before these guidelines become law. The ministers said that they had already received enough inputs from the industry.

This is a developing story. Check back for more information…

#apps, #asia, #disney, #facebook, #google, #government, #hotstar, #iamai, #india, #instagram, #mx-player, #netflix, #social, #twitter, #whatsapp

0

Original Content podcast: Netflix’s ‘Lupin’ is a twisty delight

The new Netflix series “Lupin” is a loose adaptation of the Arséne Lupin stories by Maurice Leblanc, but it’s set in the present day, with a hero who’s inspired by the exploits of Leblanc’s fictional “gentleman thief.”

Through flashbacks, we meet Assane Diop (played by Omar Sy) as a young Senegalese immigrant who has recently arrived in Paris with his father. As an adult, he’s transformed himself into an impossible-to-catch thief and master of disguise.

While some of Assane’s schemes have a satisfying clockwork intricacy, others rely more on his willingness to walk into any room and act as if he belongs there. As the series’ five episodes continue (with more to come), Assane is pulled into a mystery around the crime that put his father in prison.

As we explain on the latest episode of the Original Content podcast, enjoying “Lupin” requires some suspension of disbelief — Assane’s success depends on both an astonishingly incompetent police force and his ability to disappear in a way that’s hard to imagine in contemporary society. But if you can go that far, the show is a joy to watch, thanks in large part to Sy’s charismatic performance, as well as the character’s delightful confidence and ingenuity.

We open the episode by discussing a very different show with the same setting, “Emily in Paris,” which was recently (and controversially) nominated for two Golden Globes.

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 Lupin review
0:34 Golden Globe discussion
18:08 Lupin review
34:57 Lupin spoiler discussion

#entertainment, #lupin, #media, #netflix, #original-content-podcast, #podcasts

0

Netflix acquires the rights to all 22 Redwall books, plans film and series

An anthropomorphized mouse holds up a sword and a shield.

Enlarge / The book cover for the first book in the series, Redwall. (credit: Penguin Random House)

Netflix has acquired the rights to all 22 books in Brian Jacques’ fantasy series Redwall, marking the first time that rights to the entire series have been purchased by one film or television company. Netflix made a deal for the rights with book publisher Penguin Random House Children, according to Deadline.

This is a major franchise move even for Netflix, as the books are considered classics by many and have sold more than 30 million copies. The series follows the fantasy adventures of noble and heroic talking animals. Every book in the series was written by author Brian Jacques, who passed away in 2011 shortly before the publication of the 22nd book.

The streaming network plans to create both a feature film and an event TV series. The film will be based on the series’ first book, which is simply titled Redwall. The screenplay will be written by Patrick McHale, who is best known as the creator of Cartoon Network’s critically acclaimed animated miniseries Over the Garden Wall.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#animation, #brian-jacques, #gaming-culture, #netflix, #penguin-random-house, #redwall, #streaming, #tv

0

Review: The Dig brings a famous archaeological find to vivid life

Carey Mulligan and Ralph Fiennes star in the new Netflix film The Dig.

Just before the outbreak of World War II, a widow and a local archaeologist team up to excavate large burial mounds in Suffolk, England, and discover priceless treasure, in the new Netflix film, The Dig.  It’s based on the 2007 novel of the same name by John Preston, and brings to vivid life the famous 1939 excavation at Sutton Hoo. It’s a quiet, thoughtful film with gorgeous cinematography and fine performances from the cast, although ultimately it feels rather lacking in depth and emotional heft.

(Some spoilers below.)

Sutton Hoo is the site of two early medieval cemeteries, incorporating a group of 20 or so earthen mounds. In 1937, a British widow named Edith Pretty inherited the land from her late husband, and hired a local archaeologist named Basil Brown to excavate the mounds, paying him 30 shillings a week. She was particularly interested in Mound 1. But after conferring with colleagues at the Ipswich Museum, Brown opted to excavate three smaller mounds (designated 2, 3, and 4) first, over the summer of 1938.

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#archaeology, #entertainment, #film, #gaming-culture, #netflix, #science, #sutton-hoo, #the-dig

0

Facebook Messenger lands on Oculus Quest

Facebook spent more time than usual talking about their success with VR in their quarterly earnings call, taking time to note developer success and their own wins peddling their latest Quest 2 VR headset.

One of the VR platform’s remaining quirks is a general lack of third-party support for apps that go beyond gaming. The headset is a powerful piece of hardware with few VR ports of mobile apps available, even available streaming apps from Hulu and Netflix have seen scant updates due to the relatively small number of headsets out there.

Facebook, a major app maker itself, has seemed to be playing a fairly delicate balancing act in bringing some of the mothership’s utility to the headset without alienating consumers who might be less interested in a clearly Facebook-branded piece of hardware. After mandating Facebook-login last fall it seems like most bets should be off there. Today, the company announced that Quest and Quest 2 users will now gain access to Messenger chats inside the app, enabling users to fire off a quick canned message to friends, use the in-VR keyboard to pound out a quick message, or use the headset’s voice-to-text feature.

For those upset about Facebook’s increasingly heavy-handed software presence on their VR platform, this will likely be another reason to avoid the Quest 2, but for those eager to make their VR gameplay a more social experience or avoid the total isolation that comes from strapping a headset on and ignoring your phone, it will be much more welcome.

Alongside, the Messenger update, Facebook also shared that with the new update, they will be rolling out what they call App Lab, essentially a TestFlight-like feature to allow Quest users to download content outside of the curated Oculus Store. It’s a feature meant to address develop complaints that Facebook has boxed fledgling game designers out from bringing content to the Quest. Users can search for the title by name in App Lab or click a link to be directed to the title. The new feature competed directly with SideQuest, a startup that has been building a hub for more experimental Quest content.

Facebook says that the new update is rolling out “gradually” to users so not all users may see the update immediately.

#app-maker, #computing, #facebook, #google-daydream, #messenger, #mixed-reality, #netflix, #oculus, #samsung-gear-vr, #sidequest, #social-media, #software, #technology, #virtual-reality, #vr, #wearable-devices

0

Former Asana employees want to take on Discord with a positive platform for creator communities

In a creator-economy world, if you’re only as good as your last YouTube video, then your next YouTube video had better be bigger and louder than the last.

Vibely, a new startup co-founded by Asana alumni Teri Yu and Theresa Lee, wants to turn the constant, and often exhausting, beast of content creation on its head. The startup has created a premium, creator-controlled community platform that allows fans to gather and be monetized in new ways, beyond what is possible on YouTube or TikTok.

The core of Vibely, and what the co-founders hope will keep users coming back, is the ability to let any creator make a challenge for their fans to enjoy. For example, a creator whose brand evokes thoughtfulness could ask fans to sketch out their personal growth goals or take action around a new year’s resolution everyday. Or a fitness influencer could motivate fans to work out for a sprint of days.

“Most people in the creator economy are thinking about how to immediately monetize and get that instant gratification of like money here,” Yu said, which is why creators sell merchandise or hop on Cameo. “We’re focusing on long-term strategic communities.” Yu describes her startup’s shift as a mindset change, from a linear relationship between creators and fans to a multi-directional relationship between fans, superfans, new fans and creators.

Image Credits: Vibely

Vibely’s pitch is two-fold. For fans, the platform gives them a chance to chat with other fans from around the world. It also lets fans participate in community challenges and have a place to plan virtual hangouts over shared love for makeup or dance. The startup helps creators simultaneously, by giving them a one-stop shop to announce plans, do call to actions and create an ambassador program. It lets the “creator scale their time and have a multi-directional relationship with the community under or beneath them.”

Notably, Vibely is trying to be different from Patreon or OnlyFans, which is basically paywalled content for fans. Vibely doesn’t need creators to post more content, it just needs them to pop into a premium community and interact with fans in a meaningful way.

The startup is formalizing a sporadic daily occurrence: When a creator posts content, their comment sections in YouTube, Instagram and TikTok light up with fans discussing every detail you can imagine, from a suggestive hair flip to if that background poster has a hidden message. Creators often pop in to respond to a spicy thread or a random compliment, which incentivizes fans to keep swarming the content section.

The startup has spent little on customer acquisition cost and relied heavily on word of mouth. In December, Vibely launched a part-in-person, part-virtual creator house to pair top TikTok creators with their followers, generating some buzz. In 2020, Vibely had more than 600 communities with 392,000 messages sent and 37,000 challenges completed. Creators include Lavendaire, with 1.3 million YouTube subscribers and Rowena Tsai, who has 520,000 subscribers.

Yu says that there is one day where Kim Kardashian might have a community on the platform, but the main “bread and butter” of Vibely is searching for creators who represent a true interest, value or belief system. This can be a book influencer or a religious creator, for example.

“[Creators] are controlling their own destiny,” Yu said. “On Instagram or Facebook, you might create content but the algorithm decides at the end of the day whether or not your audience sees it. With Vibely, they have 100% control since this is their community.” The startup is planning to make money through membership dues and in-app mechanics like social currencies and rewards.

Vibely’s moonshot goal is to be a more positive, and supportive, Discord, a platform used by gamer communities across the world. So far, Yu says that less than .1% of Vibely users have been flagged by other users, although notably would not share total user numbers. There is also an ambassador program that appoints a user to oversee a community, as well as a global community manager on the team.

“The ceiling of where [Discord] can support is really only going to be gamers,” she said. “But creators want to protect their brand right now and make sure people have a positive experience,” so they are looking for another place to set up.

Image Credits: Vibely

While moderation is apparently going well so far, Vibely will most certainly encounter problems as more and more users join its platform. In the world of challenges, craze and hype led by fanatics could potentially become harmful if someone takes it too far. While Vibely aims to be a judgement-free zone for people to connect around the world, scale has a uniquely pessimistic way of forking that from time to time. Some consumer apps have responded to this truth by aggressively hiring on-staff moderators, but that too can become grueling work.

To hit the ground running, Vibely announced today that it has raised $2 million in seed financing from backers including Steve Chen, the co-founder of YouTube; Justin Rosenstein, the co-founder of Asana and co-creator of Netflix’s “Social Dilemma” documentary; Scott Heiferman, the co-founder of Meetup; Turner Novak, formerly an investor at Gelt, and more.

 

#consumer, #early-stage-startups, #influencer, #justin-rosenstein, #monetization, #netflix, #recent-funding, #seed, #social, #startups, #steve-chen, #tc, #teri-yu, #theresa-lee, #turner-novak, #vibely

0

Multi-layered Outside the Wire is part action thriller, part intimate drama

Anthony Mackie and Damson Idris must foil a a warlord's plan to launch a network of dormant nuclear weapons in <em>Outside the Wire.</em>

Enlarge / Anthony Mackie and Damson Idris must foil a a warlord’s plan to launch a network of dormant nuclear weapons in Outside the Wire. (credit: Netflix )

To say that Netflix is leaning into its recent forays into feature film-making is an understatement. The streaming giant announced earlier this month that it will be releasing a new feature film on its platform every week in 2021. Among the streamer’s January releases was Outside the Wire, in which Anthony Mackie (Sam Wilson/Falcon in the MCU, Synchronic) stars as an android military officer who teams up with a disgraced drone pilot to ward off a nuclear attack.

(Some spoilers below, but no major reveals.)

Director Mikael Håfström is a Swedish director best known for the Oscar-nominated 2003 film Evil, and 1408, a solidly spooky, haunted hotel/psychological horror film starring John Cusack and based on a short story by Stephen King. So Outside the Wire is something of a departure for him: partly a military action thriller, and partly a psychological study of its two central characters. It’s the latter aspect that most strongly bears the hallmark of Håfström’s artistic sensibility. Per the official synopsis:

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#anthony-mackie, #entertainment, #film, #gaming-culture, #netflix

0

Original Content podcast: Netflix’s ‘White Tiger’ tells a bloody capitalist fable

The new Netflix film “The White Tiger” tells the story of Balram, who is born to a poor family in the Indian village of Laxmangarh and escapes by using his intelligence and determination, ultimately becoming a successful entrepreneur in Bangalore.

The viewers knows this from the start, as Balram (played by Adarsh Gourav) narrates his life story in an email, apparently written to explain his success to China’s visiting head of state. That narration is one of the best things about the movie, providing plenty of black comedy while also allowing Balram to justify his choices in what — by his own admission — is an increasingly disturbing story.

As we explain in the latest episode of the Original Content podcast, “The White Tiger” makes a convincing case for the ruthlessness needed to escape from poverty, while also painting a damning portrait of Balram’s employers, the American-educated Ashok (Rajkummar Rao) and Pinky (Priyanka Chopra Jonas), whose ostensible warmth and compassion only go so far.

If “The White Tiger” falls short at all, it’s in comparison to “Parasite,” a film that deals with similar themes in even more ambitious and virtuosic ways. But a movie can fail to reach the heights of “Parasite” while still being quite good.

In addition to our review, we also discuss The Mother Box, a $130 meal kit tied to the March release of Zack Snyder’s cut of “Justice League” on HBO Max.

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
0:27 Snyder Cut discussion
9:16 “The White Tiger” review
29:20 “The White Tiger” spoiler discussion

#entertainment, #media, #netflix, #original-content-podcast, #podcasts

0

GoT alums among announced cast for Netflix Sandman adaptation

Tom Sturridge has snagged the coveted role of Dream, aka Morpheus, in the Netflix adaptation of <em>The Sandman</em>.

Enlarge / Tom Sturridge has snagged the coveted role of Dream, aka Morpheus, in the Netflix adaptation of The Sandman. (credit: DC Comics)

At long last, Netflix has announced several cast members for its hotly anticipated adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s award-winning graphic novel series Sandman. As Deadline Hollywood reports, Tom Sturridge (Being Julia, Pirate Radio) snagged the coveted role of Morpheus, Lord of the Dreaming, while Game of Thrones alums Gwendoline Christie and Charles Dance will play a gender-swapped Lucifer and the charlatan magician Roderick Burgess, respectively.

(Mild spoilers for the graphic novel series below.)

As we’ve reported previously, the titular “sandman” is Dream, aka Morpheus, among other names. He is one of seven entities known as the Endless, and he is seeking to set right his past mistakes. The other Endless are Destiny, Destruction, Despair, Desire, Delirium, and Death, portrayed as a perky punk/goth young woman. They became almost as popular as Dream himself (especially Death) and were featured in several spinoff comics. The series opens when Morpheus, the King of Dreams, escapes from a 70-year imprisonment by an occultist (who actually wanted to capture Dream’s sibling Death but trapped the Sandman by mistake).

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#entertainment, #gaming-culture, #neil-gaiman, #netflix, #sandman, #streaming-television, #television

0

Voice recognition features return to TiVo through a partnership with Atlanta-based Pindrop

TiVo devices are getting new voice recognition capabilities thanks to a partnership with the Atlanta-based startup Pindrop, which is now offering its voice recognition and personalization technologies for consumer devices.

The new voice recognition capabilities replace TiVo’s discontinued use of the Alexa voice recognition service, which happened with little fanfare last year.

TiVo made a big push with its Alexa integration a little over two years ago, but the switch to Pindrop’s services shows that there’s a robust market for voice-enabled services and providers are moving from different markets to compete on Amazon and Google’s home turf.

Through the integration with Pindrop’s services, TiVo homeowners will now be able to search for shows and control their devices using their voice. But Pindrop’s tech, which was developed initially as an anti-fraud technology for financial services firms and big business customers, goes beyond basic voice recognition.

Pindrop’s tech can tell the difference between different speakers, setting up opportunities for the personalization of programming with each user being able to call up their individual account for Netflix, Amazon or other services with simple voice commands.

“Beyond just understanding what was said, we want to understand the context of the situation to drive intelligent system behavior in the moment,” said Jon Heim, Senior Director of Product & Conversation Services at TiVo. “The ability to distinguish between different members of a household based on their voice is an example of this contextual awareness, enabling us to provide an unprecedented level of personalization through an experience tailored to that specific person.”

It’s cool.

When different users say the “What should I watch?” prompt, TiVo devices can now pull up personalized content they are most likely to want to watch. If another member of the household says the same command, the device will display different results.

The technology requires user opt-in, and while Pindrop’s tech can differentiate between speakers, the identity of the speaker is anonymized. 

It’s a service that Pindrop has already rolled out to eight of the ten largest banks in the U.S., according to Pindrop co-founder and chief executive Vijay Balasubramanian. And the foray into consumer devices through the TiVo partnership is just the beginning.

The company has also integrated with SEI Robotics devices, the white label manufacturer of Android devices.

Pindrop has plenty of cash in the bank to finance its push into the world of consumer devices. The company’s profitable and is looking at an annual run rate just shy of $100 million, according to Balasubramanian.

For its next trick, the company intends to roll out its voice recognition service in cars and other networked consumer devices, according to Balasubramanian.

“[We’re] working with OEMS for auto… they’re in the proof of concept phase,” he said. 

#amazon, #android, #atlanta, #bank, #computing, #digital-video-recorders, #director, #netflix, #operating-systems, #personalization, #pindrop, #pindrop-security, #speaker, #tc, #tivo, #united-states, #voice-recognition

0

Review: Lupin updates classic French gentleman thief for the 21st century

Omar Sy stars as Assane Diop, looking every bit the contemporary version of Arsène Lupin, famed French fictional gentleman thief.

Enlarge / Omar Sy stars as Assane Diop, looking every bit the contemporary version of Arsène Lupin, famed French fictional gentleman thief. (credit: Netflix)

Netflix has kicked off 2021 with a bang, thanks to its new series, Lupin, starring French actor and comedian Omar Sy. This delightful contemporary reimagining of a classic character in French detective fiction, Arsène Lupin—a gentleman thief and master of disguise who was essentially the French equivalent of Sherlock Holmes—is a massive hit. According to Deadline Hollywood, Lupin is on track to top 70 million households in its first 28 days of release, beating out two other recent Netflix smash hits, Bridgerton (63 million households) and The Queen’s Gambit (62 million households).

(Some spoilers below, but no major reveals.)

As I’ve written previously, Arsène Lupin is the creation of Maurice Leblanc, who based the character partly on a French burglar/anarchist. Leblanc was also familiar with the gentleman thief featured in the work of Octave Mirbeau as well as E.W. Hornung’s famed gentleman thief, A.J. Raffles, and he also knew about Rocambole, a character whose adventures were recounted in a series of stories published between 1857 and 1870 by Pierre Alexis Ponson du Terrail.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#entertainment, #gaming-culture, #lupin, #netflix, #tv-review

0

Original Content podcast: ‘Bridgerton’ is an addictive reimagining of Jane Austen-style romance

“Bridgerton,” the Shondaland drama that launched last month on Netflix, offers a few key updates to the standard formula of Regency-era  romance.

For one thing, there’s a racially diverse cast, with Black actors taking on the role of early 19th-century English nobility and royalty. (At one point, one of the characters offers an unconvincing explanation for why this is the case, but we — and the show — mostly ignored it.) For another, there’s a healthy dose of sex; “Bridgerton” emphatically does not shy away from showing viewers what its unbelievably attractive cast gets up to in the bedroom.

On the latest episode of the Original Content podcast, we have our quibbles — some of the character motivations can be a bit frustrating, and while we enjoyed the whole season, the first few episodes were by far the most addictive and compelling.

Overall, though, we loved it, comparing “Bridgerton” to seemingly dissimilar shows like “Emily in Paris” and “You” — all offering clever revamps of familiar soap opera and romance formulas. The show also benefits from breathless plotting, with each of its eight episodes packed with twists. And did we mention that the cast is insanely good-looking?

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
0:20 “Bridgerton” review
22:49 “Bridgerton” spoiler discussion

#entertainment, #media, #netflix, #original-content-podcast, #podcasts, #shondaland

0

This Week in Apps: TikTok viral hit breaks Spotify records, inauguration boosts news app installs, judge rules against Parler

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch series that recaps the latest in mobile OS news, mobile applications and the overall app economy.

The app industry is as hot as ever, with a record 218 billion downloads and $143 billion in global consumer spend in 2020.

Consumers last year also spent 3.5 trillion minutes using apps on Android devices alone. And in the U.S., app usage surged ahead of the time spent watching live TV. Currently, the average American watches 3.7 hours of live TV per day, but now spends four hours per day on their mobile devices.

Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re also a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus. In 2020, investors poured $73 billion in capital into mobile companies — a figure that’s up 27% year-over-year.

This week, we’re looking into how President Biden’s inauguration impacted news apps, the latest in the Parler lawsuit, and how TikTok’s app continues to shape culture, among other things.

Top Stories

Judge says Amazon doesn’t have to host Parler on AWS

logos for AWS (Amazon Web Services) and Parler

Logos for AWS (Amazon Web Services) and Parler. Image Credits: TechCrunch

U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein in Seattle this week ruled that Amazon won’t be required to restore access to web services to Parler. As you may recall, Parler sued Amazon for booting it from AWS’ infrastructure, effectively forcing it offline. Like Apple and Google before it, Amazon had decided that the calls for violence that were being spread on Parler violated its terms of service. It also said that Parler showed an “unwillingness and inability” to remove dangerous posts that called for the rape, torture and assassination of politicians, tech executives and many others, the AP reported.

Amazon’s decision shouldn’t have been a surprise for Parler. Amazon had reported 98 examples of Parler posts that incited violence over the past several weeks before its decision. It told Parler these were clear violations of the terms of service.

Parler’s lawsuit against Amazon, however, went on to claim breach of contract and even made antitrust allegations.

The judge shot down Parler’s claims that Amazon and Twitter were colluding over the decision to kick the app off AWS. Parler’s claims over breach of contract were denied, too, as the contract had never said Amazon had to give Parler 30 days to fix things. (Not to mention the fact that Parler breached the contract on its side, too.) It also said Parler had fallen short in demonstrating the need for an injunction to restore access to Amazon’s web services.

The ruling only blocks Parler from forcing Amazon to again host it as the lawsuit proceeds, but is not the final ruling in the overall case, which is continuing.

TikTok drives another pop song to No. 1 on Billboard charts, breaks Spotify’s record

@livbedumb♬ drivers license – Olivia Rodrigo

We already knew TikTok was playing a large role in influencing music charts and listening behavior. For example, Billboard last year noted how TikTok drove hits from Sony artists like Doja Cat (“Say So”) and 24kGoldn (“Mood”), and helped Sony discover new talent. Columbia also signed viral TikTok artists like Lil Nas X, Powfu, StaySolidRocky, Jawsh 685, Arizona Zervas and 24kGoldn. Meanwhile, Nielsen has said that no other app had helped break more songs in 2020 than TikTok.

This month, we’ve witnessed yet another example of this phenomenon. Olivia Rodrigo, the 17-year-old star of Disney+’s “High School Musical: The Musical: the Series” released her latest song, “Drivers License” on January 8. The pop ballad and breakup anthem is believed to be referencing the actress’ relationship with co-star Joshua Bassett, which gave the song even more appeal to fans.

Upon its release the song was heavily streamed by TikTok users, which helped make it an overnight sensation of sorts. According to a report by The WSJ, Billboard counted 76.1 million streams and 38,000 downloads in the U.S. during the week of its release. It also made a historic debut at No. 1 on the Hot 100, becoming the first smash hit of 2021.

On January 11, “Drivers License” broke Spotify’s record for most streams per day (for a non-holiday song) with 15.17 million global streams. On TikTok, meanwhile, the number of videos featuring the song and the views they received doubled every day, The WSJ said.

Charli D’Amelio’s dance to it on the app has now generated 5 million “Likes” across nearly 33 million views, as of the time of writing.

@charlidamelio♬ drivers license – Olivia Rodrigo

Of course, other TikTok hits have broken out in the past, too — even reaching No. 1 like “Blinding Lights” (The Weeknd) and “Mood” (24kGoldn). But the success of “Drivers License” may be in part due to the way it focuses on a subject that’s more relevant to TikTok’s young, teenage user base. It talks about first loves and being dumped for the other girl. And its title and opening refer to a time many adults have forgotten: the momentous day when you get your driver’s license. It’s highly relatable to the TikTok crowd who fully embraced it and made it a hit.

Weekly News

Platforms: Apple

  • Apple stops signing iOS 12.5, making iOS 12.5.1 the only versions of iOS available to older devices.
  • A report claims Apple’s iOS 15 update will cut support for devices with an A9 chip, like the iPhone 6, iPhone 6s Plus and the original iPhone SE.
  • New analysis estimates Apple’s upcoming iOS privacy changes will cause a roughly 7% revenue hit for Facebook in Q2. The revenue hit will continue in following quarters and will be “material.”

Platforms: Google

  • Google adds “trending” icons to the Play Store. New arrow icons appeared in the Top Charts tab, which indicate whether an app’s downloads are trending up or down, in terms of popularity. This could provide an early signal about those that may still be rising in the charts or beginning to fall out of favor, despite their current high position.
  • Google appears to be working on a Restricted Networking mode for Android 12. The mode, discovered by XDA Developers digging in the Android Open Source Project, would disable network access for all third-party apps.

Gaming

  • Goama (or Go Games) introduced a way for developers to integrate social games into their apps, which was showcased at CES. The company focuses on Asia and Latin America and has more than 15 partners, including GCash and Rappi, for digital payments and communications.
  • Fortnite maker Epic Games is getting into movies. The animated feature film Gilgamesh will use Epic’s Unreal Engine technology to tell the story of the king-turned-deity. The movie is not an in-house project, but rather is financed through Epic’s $100M MegaGrants fund.

Augmented Reality

  • Patents around Apple’s AR and VR efforts describe how a system could be identified in a way that’s similar to FaceID, then either permitted or denied the ability to change their appearance in the game.
  • Pinterest launches AR try-on for eyeshadow in its mobile app using Lens technology and ModiFace data. The app already offered AR try-on for lipsticks.

Entertainment

  • The CW app became the No. 1 app on the App Store this week, topping TikTok, Instagram and YouTube, thanks to CW’s season premieres of Batwoman, All American, Riverdale and Nancy Drew.
  • Users of podcasting app Anchor, owned by Spotify, say the app isn’t bringing them any sponsorship opportunities, as promised, beyond those from Spotify and Anchor itself.
  • YouTube launches hashtag landing pages on the web and in its mobile app. The pages are accessible when you click hashtags on YouTube, not via search, and weirdly rank the “best” videos through some inscrutable algorithm.
  • Apple’s Podcasts app adds a new editorial feature, Apple Podcasts Spotlight, meant to increase podcast listening by showcasing the best podcasts as selected by Apple editors.

E-commerce

  • WeChat facilitated 1.6 trillion yuan (close to $250 billion) in annual transactions through its “mini programs” in 2020. The figure is more than double that of 2019.

Fintech

  • Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, launched an e-wallet, Douyin Pay. The wallet will supplement the existing payment options, Alipay and WeChat Pay, and will help to support the Douyin app’s growing e-commerce business.
  • Neobank Monzo founder Tom Blomfield left the startup, saying he struggled during the pandemic. “I think [for] a lot of people in the world…going through a pandemic, going through lockdown and the isolation involved in that has an impact on people’s mental health,” he told TechCrunch.
  • New estimates indicate about 50% of the iPhone user base (or 507 million users) now use Apple Pay. 
  • Samsung’s newest phones drop support for MST, which emulates a mag stripe at terminals that don’t support NFC.

Social

  • Indian messaging app, StickerChat, owned by Hike, is shutting down. Founder Kavin Bharti Mittal said India will never have a homegrown messenger unless it bars Western companies from its market. Hike pivoted this month to virtual social apps, Vibe and Rush, which it believes have more potential.
  • Instagram head Adam Mosseri, in a Verge podcast, said he’s not happy with Reels so far, and how he feels most people probably don’t understand the difference between Instagram video and IGTV. He says the social network needs to simplify and consolidate ideas.
  • Facebook and Instagram improve their accessibility features. The apps’ AI-generated image captions now offer far more details about who or what is in the photos, thanks to improvements in image recognition systems.
  • TikTok launches a Q&A feature that lets creators respond to fan questions using text or videos. The feature, rolled out to select creators with more than 10,000 followers, makes it easier to see all the questions in one place.

Health & Fitness

  • Health and fitness app spending jumped 70% last year in Europe to record $544 million, a Sensor Tower report says. The year-over-year increase is far larger than 2019, when growth was just 37.2%. COVID-19 played a large role in this shift as people turned to fitness apps instead of gyms to stay in shape.

Government & Policy

  • Biden’s inauguration boosted installs of U.S. news apps up to 170%, Sensor Tower reported. CNN was the biggest mover, climbing 530 positions to reach No. 41 on the App Store, and up 170% in terms of downloads. News Break was the second highest, climbing 13 positions to No. 65. Right-wing outlet Newsmax climbed 43 spots to reach No. 108. In 2020, the top news apps were: News Break (23.7 million installs); SmartNews (9 million); CNN (5 million); and Fox News (4 million). This month, however, News Break saw 1.2 million installs, followed by Newsmax with about 863,000 installs, the report said.
  • Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC) sent a draft decision to fellow EU Data Protection Authorities over the WhatsApp-Facebook data sharing policy. This means a decision on the matter is coming closer to a resolution in terms of what standards of transparency is required by WhatsApp.
  • German app developer Florian Mueller of FOSS Patents filed a complaint with the EU, U.S. DOJ and other antitrust watchdogs around the world over Apple and Google’s rejection of his COVID-related mobile game. Both stores had policies to only approve official COVID-19 apps from health authorities. Mueller renamed the game Viral Days and removed references to the novel coronavirus to get the app approved. However, he still feels the stores’ rules are holding back innovation.

Productivity

  • Basecamp’s Hey, which famously fought back against Apple’s App Store rules over IAP last year, has launched a business-focused platform, Hey for Work, expected to be public in Q1. The app has more App Store ratings than rival Superhuman, a report found. Currently, Hey has a 4.7-star rating across 3.3K reviews; Superhuman has 3.9 rating across only 274 reviews.

Trends

  • Baby boomers are increasingly using apps. Baby boomers/Gen Xers in the U.S. spent 30% more time year-over-year in their most used apps, App Annie reports. That’s a larger increase than either Millennials or Gen Z, at 18% and 16%, respectively.

Funding and M&A

  • Curtsy, a clothing resale app for Gen Z women, raised an $11 million Series A led by Index Ventures. The app tackles some of the problems with online resale by sending shipping supplies and labels to sellers, and by making the marketplace accessible to new and casual sellers.
  • Storytelling platform Wattpad acquired by South Korea’s Naver for $600 million. The reading apps whose stories have turned into book and Netflix hits will be incorporated into Naver’s publishing platform Webtoon.
  • On-demand delivery app Glovo partnered with Swiss-based real estate firm, Stoneweg, which is investing €100 million in building and refurbishing real estate in key markets to build out Glovo’s network of “dark stores.”
  • Pocket Casts app is up for sale. The podcast app was acquired nearly three years ago by a public radio consortium of top podcast producers (NPR, WNYC Studios, WBEZ Chicago and This American Life). The owners have now agreed to sell the app, which posted a net loss in 2020. (NPR’s share of the loss was over $800,000.)
  • Travel app Maps.me raised $50 million in a round led by Alameda Research. The funding will go toward the launch of a multi-currency wallet. Cryptocurrency lender Genesis Capital and institutional cryptocurrency firm CMS Holdings also participated in the round, Coindesk reported.
  • Bangalore-based hyperlocal delivery app Dunzo raised $40 million in a round that included investment from Google, Lightbox, Evolvence, Hana Financial Investment, LGT Lightstone Aspada and Alteria.
  • London-based food delivery app Deliveroo raised $180 million in new funding from existing investors, led by Durable Capital Partners and Fidelity Management, valuing the business at more than $7 billion.
  • Dating Group acquired Swiss startup Once, a dating app that sends one match per day, for $18 million.

Downloads

Bodyguard

Image Credits: Bodyguard

A French content moderation app called Bodyguard, detailed here by TechCrunch, has brought its service to the English-speaking market. The app allows you to choose the level of content moderation you want to see on top social networks, like Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Twitch. You can choose to hide toxic content across a range of categories, like insults, body shaming, moral harassment, sexual harassment, racism and homophobia and indicate whether the content is a low or high priority to block.

Beeper

Image Credits: Beeper

Pebble’s founder and current YC Partner Eric Migicovsky has launched a new app, Beeper, that aims to centralize in one interface 15 different chat apps, including iMessage. The app relies on an open-source federated, encrypted messaging protocol called Matrix that uses “bridges” to connect to the various networks to move the messages. However, iMessage support is more wonky, as the company actually ships you an old iPhone to make the connection to the network. But this system allows you to access Beeper on non-Apple devices, the company says. The app is slowly onboarding new users due to initial demand. The app works across MacOS, Windows, Linux‍, iOS and Android and charges $10/mo for the service.

 

#actress, #adam-mosseri, #alipay, #alteria, #amazon, #amazon-web-services, #android, #app-developer, #app-store, #apple, #apps, #arkansas, #asia, #bangalore, #biden, #bodyguard, #columbia, #computing, #data-protection-commission, #dating-group, #disney, #doj, #driver, #durable-capital-partners, #e-commerce, #epic-games, #eric-migicovsky, #europe, #european-union, #fidelity-management, #food, #fox-news, #glovo, #google, #hana-financial-investment, #india, #instagram, #iphone, #ireland, #itunes, #judge, #latin-america, #linux, #london, #macos, #microsoft-windows, #mobile, #mobile-app, #mobile-applications, #mobile-devices, #netflix, #operating-systems, #parler, #pinterest, #play-store, #president, #real-estate, #seattle, #sensor-tower, #social-network, #social-networks, #software, #sony, #south-korea, #spotify, #stoneweg, #superhuman, #this-american-life, #tiktok, #tom-blomfield, #twitch, #twitter, #united-states, #wattpad, #web-services, #wnyc

0

Netflix’s ‘Shuffle Play’ feature will roll out to all users worldwide this year

Netflix is always in search of a better way to instantly connect users to something to watch, instead of having them waste time unsuccessfully scrolling through all the available programming options. Now, the company says a recent test focused on solving this problem, Shuffle Play, has proven popular enough to roll out to all users worldwide.

In the streamer’s Q4 2020 earnings, announced today, Netflix noted the product development only briefly. It referred broadly to a test of a new feature that “gives members the ability to choose to instantly watch a title chosen just for them versus browse.” It also noted the feature would reach all users worldwide sometime in the first half of 2021.

Netflix confirmed to TechCrunch the test in question is Shuffle Play, which we first covered back in August 2020. However, the company tells us the actual name of the feature is something that’s still being tested.

Shuffle Play puts a big button right on the Netflix home screen, beneath your profile icon. When clicked, Netflix randomly plays content its personalization algorithms think you’ll like. This could include a movie you’re currently watching, something you’ve saved to your watch list, or a title that’s similar to something you’ve already watched, for example.

A variation has also been spotted in the TV app’s sidebar navigation. More recently, we’ve found this sidebar option relabeled as “Shuffle Play,” instead of “Play Something” as before.

In addition, as you start scrolling down through the Netflix home screen on the TV, you’ll eventually come across a screen that explains what the option is for and points to the new button with a red arrow.

“Not sure what to watch?,” this page asks, before explaining how Shuffle Play works.

Image Credits: TechCrunch

The button has already appeared on some users’ Netflix app for TV devices, due to the ongoing tests.

In its letter to shareholders, Netflix said the user response to Shuffle Play has been positive — which is funny because the original responses to the feature on social media were decidedly mixed. However, the company doesn’t make its decisions based on what a handful of tweets once said, but rather in how Netflix members actually used the product, of course.

Netflix also tells us the feature is still being tested only on TV devices, not other platforms like web or mobile. It declined to say how many users or what percentage had been opted into the test to date.

Shuffle Play is the latest in a long series of tests where Netflix has tried to make it easier to find something to watch right away.

In 2019, for example, Netflix tried out a shuffle mode that let you click on a popular show to start playing a random episode. This may have worked well when users wanted to play a random episode of their default pick, like the “The Office” or “Friends,” but Netflix has lost both.

It has also promoted its shows on the login screen and as screensavers, and notoriously autoplayed previews until last year, when it finally caved in to user demand for a way to turn this off.

Overall, the goal is to make the Netflix experience closer to that of traditional TV, where you could switch the set on and content just started playing.

Netflix says Shuffle Play will roll out globally in the first half of 2021, but didn’t share more specifics.

#media, #netflix, #streaming, #streaming-service, #television, #tv

0