Weeks after Amazon introduced an updated Fire TV lineup that included, for the first time, its own TVs, Roku today is announcing its own competitive products in a race to capture consumers’ attention before the holiday shopping season. Its updates include a new Roku Streaming Stick 4K and Roku Streaming Stick 4K+ — the latter which ships with Roku’s newer hands-free voice remote. The company is also refreshing the Roku Ultra LT, a Walmart-exclusive version of its high-end player. And it announced the latest software update, Roku OS 10.5, which adds updated voice features, a new Live TV channel for home screens, and other minor changes.
The new Streaming Stick 4K builds on Roku’s four-year-old product, the Streaming Stick+, as it offers the same type of stick form factor designed to be hidden behind the TV set. This version, however, has a faster processor which allows the device to boot up to 30% faster and load channels more quickly, Roku claims. The Wi-Fi is also improved, offering faster speeds and smart algorithms that help make sure users get on the right band for the best performance in their homes where network congestion is an increasingly common problem — especially with the pandemic-induced remote work lifestyle. The new Stick adds support for Dolby Vision and HDR 10+, giving it the “4K” moniker.
This version ships with Roku’s standard voice remote for the same price of $49.99. For comparison, Amazon’s new Fire TV Stick Max with a faster processor and speedier Wi-Fi is $54.99. However, Amazon is touting the addition of Wi-Fi 6 and support for its game streaming service, Luna, as reasons to upgrade.
Roku’s new Streaming Stick 4K+ adds the Roku Voice Remote Pro to the bundle instead. This is Roku’s new remote, launched in the spring, that offers rechargeability, a lost remote finder, and hands-free voice support via its mid-field microphone, so you can just say things like “hey Roku, turn on the TV,” or “launch Netflix,” instead of pressing buttons. Bought separately, this remote is $29.99. The bundle sells for $69.99, which translates to a $10 discount over buying the stick and remote by themselves.
Image Credits: Roku
Both versions of the Streaming Stick will be sold online and in stores starting in October.
The Roku Ultra LT ($79.99), built for Walmart exclusively, has also been refreshed with a faster processor, more storage, a new Wi-Fi radio with up to 50% longer range, support for Dolby Vision, Bluetooth audio streaming, and a built-in ethernet port.
Plus, Roku notes that TCL will become the first device partner to use the reference designs it introduced at CES for wireless soundbars, with its upcoming Roku TV wireless soundbar. This device connects over Wi-Fi to the TV and works with the Roku remote, and will arrive at major retailers in October where it will sell for $179.99.
The other big news is Roku’s OS 10.5 software release. The update isn’t making any dramatic changes this time around, but is instead focused largely on voice and mobile improvements.
The most noticeable consumer-facing change is the ability to add a new Live TV channel to your home screen which lets you more easily launch The Roku Channel’s 200+ free live TV channels, instead of having to first visit Roku’s free streaming hub directly, then navigate to the Live TV section. This could make the Roku feel more like traditional TV for cord-cutters abandoning their TV guide for the first time.
Other tweaks include expanded support for launching channels using voice commands, with most now supported; new voice search and podcast playback with a more visual “music and podcast” row and Spotify as a launch partner; the ability to control sound settings in the mobile app; an added Voice Help guide in settings; and additional sound configuration options for Roku speakers and soundbars (e.g. using the speaker pairs and soundbar in a left/center/right) or in full 5.1 surround sound system).
A handy feature for entering in email and passwords in set-up screens using voice commands is new, too. Roku says it sends the voice data off-device to its speech-to-text partner, and the audio is anonymized. Roku doesn’t get the password or store it, as it goes directly to the channel partner. While there are always privacy concerns with voice data, the addition is a big perk from an accessibility standpoint.
Image Credits: Roku
One of the more under-the-radar, but potentially useful changes coming in OS 10.5 is an advanced A/V sync feature that lets you use the smartphone camera to help Roku make further refinements to the audio delay when using wireless headphones to listen to the TV. This feature is offered through the mobile app.
The Roku mobile app in the U.S. is also gaining another feature with the OS 10.5 update with the addition of a new Home tab for browsing collections of movies and shows across genres, and a “Save List, which functions as a way to bookmark shows or movies you might hear about — like when chatting with friends — and want to remember to watch later when you’re back home in front of the TV.
The software update will roll out to Roku devices over the weeks ahead. It typically comes to Roku players first, then rolls out to TVs.
Netflix has nabbed the most Emmys ever for a single platform with 44 including 11 for The Crown, more than double its nearest rival, HBO/HBO Max. The 2021 edition of the awards was also a watershed year for Apple TV+, which took home 10 Emmys including seven for its comedy series Ted Lasso.
To be sure, a huge chunk of Netflix’s Emmy harvest came from the 34 Creative Arts Emmys it won last week. However, it still took a further 10 primetime Emmys including acting awards for Olivia Colman, Gillian Anderson and Josh O’Connor in The Crown, along with Ewan McGregor in Halston. The Crown also won for writing and directing, while taking the prestigious best drama series prize. Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit, starring Anya Taylor-Joy, won for best limited series.
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 19: (L-R) Phil Dunster, Brett Goldstein, Hannah Waddingham, Jason Sudeikis, Juno Temple, Nick Mohammed, and Brendan Hunt, winners of Outstanding Comedy Series for ‘Ted Lasso,’ as well as Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series (Goldstein), Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series (Waddingham), and Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series (Sudeikis), pose in the press room during the 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards at L.A. LIVE on September 19, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images)
Meanwhile, Apple TV+ had its best Emmys yet with 10 total, including seven in primetime. It dominated the comedy series category with seven wins for Ted Lasso, including three in the acting category for Brett Goldstein and Hannah Waddingham (best supporting actors) along with Jason Sudeikis (best actor). Ted Lasso also took the award for best comedy series.
Thanks in large part to that series, Apple TV+ fared much better than its rivals. Disney+ did beat it with 14 awards total, up from eight in 2020, but only one of those was a primetime Emmy (Hamilton for best pre-recorded variety special). Amazon and Hulu were completely shut out in 2021, after both won Emmys in 2020.
HBO and HBO Max led all rivals with 130 nominations and took 19 Emmys, including 9 in primetime. The biggest winners last night were Jean Smart for Hacks (best actress in a comedy series) and Kate Winslet for Mare of Easstown(best actress in a limited series). After she was controversially shut out of the Golden Globes nominations, Michaela Coel took the prize for best writing in a limited series for I May Destroy You.
It was notable in 2018 when Netflix managed to tie a cable network, HBO (pre-HBO Max), for the most Emmy wins. This year, it beat all rivals by a long way, and streaming platforms overall took the top four spots. Whether that can continue when the pandemic starts to wane — and subscription growth declines — remains to be seen.
Editor’s note:This article originally appeared on Engadget.
As companies process ever-increasing amounts of data, moving it in real time is a huge challenge for organizations. Confluent is a streaming data platform built on top of the open source Apache Kafka project that’s been designed to process massive numbers of events. To discuss this, and more, Confluent CEO and co-founder Jay Kreps will be joining us at TC Sessions: SaaS on Oct 27th for a fireside chat.
Data is a big part of the story we are telling at the SaaS event, as it has such a critical role in every business. Kreps has said in the past the data streams are at the core of every business, from sales to orders to customer experiences. As he wrote in a company blog post announcing the company’s $250 million Series E in April 2020, Confluent is working to process all of this data in real time — and that was a big reason why investors were willing to pour so much money into the company.
“The reason is simple: though new data technologies come and go, event streaming is emerging as a major new category that is on a path to be as important and foundational in the architecture of a modern digital company as databases have been,” Kreps wrote at the time.
The company’s streaming data platform takes a multi-faceted approach to streaming and builds on the open source Kafka project. While anyone can download and use Kafka, as with many open source projects, companies may lack the resources or expertise to deal with the raw open source code. Many a startup have been built on open source to help simplify whatever the project does, and Confluent and Kafka are no different.
Kreps told us in 2017 that companies using Kafka as a core technology include Netflix, Uber, Cisco and Goldman Sachs. But those companies have the resources to manage complex software like this. Mere mortal companies can pay Confluent to access a managed cloud version or they can manage it themselves and install it in the cloud infrastructure provider of choice.
The project was actually born at LinkedIn in 2011 when their engineers were tasked with building a tool to process the enormous number of events flowing through the platform. The company eventually open sourced the technology it had created and Apache Kafka was born.
Confluent launched in 2014 and raised over $450 million along the way. In its last private round in April 2020, the company scored a $4.5 billion valuation on a $250 million investment. As of today, it has a market cap of over $17 billion.
In addition to our discussion with Kreps, the conference will also include Google’s Javier Soltero, Amplitude’s Olivia Rose, as well as investors Kobie Fuller and Casey Aylward, among others. We hope you’ll join us. It’s going to be a thought-provoking lineup.
When 13 Reasons Why debuted on Netflix on March 31, 2017, it was initially met with mostly rave reviews from critics and viewers alike. Viewers appreciated the show’s frank and sensitive handling of such complex topics as suicide, bullying, rape, and depression. Within weeks, however, mental health professionals began voicing strong objections to the YA-targeted show’s treatment of suicide in particular—these professionals believed the depiction could trigger suicidal thoughts or actions in vulnerable teens. It’s well known that high-profile suicides can sometimes influence copycats, but the issue is less clear when it comes to fictional stories. Throughout the last four years, multiple, often contradictory studies on that very topic have since appeared. Some of the studies show negative impacts, while others show beneficial effects in young people who watched 13 Reasons Why.
The series aired its fourth and final season last year, but 13 Reasons Why continues to inspire research on the potential impact (positive or negative) of fictional stories on teen mental health. A new study available today from researchers affiliated with UCLA’s Center for Scholars and Storytellers focuses specifically on the show’s third season, and it shows that series like 13 Reasons Why can have a positive impact on teen mental health as long as the issues are depicted accurately and with empathy.
The report also recommends that appropriate supplementary resources be provided to viewers—which is a major challenge, since most viewers don’t engage with such resources even when they are available. But whether it’s a streaming series or accompanying readings, the researchers at UCLA’s Center for Scholars and Storytellers strongly believe that the media tweens and teens consume plays a crucial role in their development, as it does with any other young demographic.
Fortnite maker Epic Games is appealing last week’s ruling in its court battle with Apple, where a federal judge said Apple would no longer be allowed to block developers from adding links to alternative payment mechanisms, but stopped short of dubbing Apple a monopolist. The latter would have allowed Epic Games to argue for alternative means of serving its iOS user base, including perhaps, through third-party app stores or even sideloading capabilities built into Apple’s mobile operating system, similar to those on Google’s Android OS.
Apple immediately declared the court battle a victory, as the judge had agreed with its position that the company was “not in violation of antitrust law” and had also deemed Apple’s success in the app and gaming ecosystem as “not illegal.” Epic Games founder and CEO Tim Sweeney, meanwhile, said the ruling was not a win for either developers or consumers. On Twitter, he hinted that the company may appeal the decision when he said, “We will fight on.”
In a court filing published on Sunday (see below), Epic Games officially stated its attention to appeal U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers’ final judgment and “all orders leading to or producing that judgment.”
As part of the judge’s decision, Epic Games had been ordered to pay Apple the 30% of the $12 million it earned when it introduced its alternative payment system in Fortnite on iOS, which was then in breach of its legal contract with Apple.
The appellate court will revisit how Judge Gonzalez Rogers defined the market where Epic Games had argued Apple was acting as a monopolist. Contrary to both parties’ wishes, Gonzalez Rogers defined it as the market for “digital mobile gaming transactions” specifically. Though an appeal may or may not see the court shifting its opinion in Epic Games’ favor, a new ruling could potentially help to clarify the vague language used in the injunction to describe how Apple must now accommodate developers who want to point their customers to other payment mechanisms.
So far, the expectation floating around the developer community is that Apple will simply extend the “reader app” category exception to all non-reader apps (apps that provide access to purchased content). Apple recently settled with a Japanese regulator by agreeing to allow reader apps to point users to their own website where users could sign up and manage their accounts, which could include customers paying for subscriptions — like Netflix or Spotify subscriptions, for instance. Apple said this change would be global.
In briefings with reporters, Apple said the details of the injunction issued with the Epic Games ruling, however, would still need to be worked out. Given the recency of the decision, the company has not yet communicated with developers on how this change will impact them directly nor has it updated its App Store guidelines with new language.
Reached for comment, Epic Games said it does not have any further statements on its decision to appeal at this time.
Payments made a huge shift to digital platforms during the Covid-19 pandemic — purchasing moved online for many consumers and businesses; and a large proportion of those continuing to buy and sell in-person went cash-free. Today a startup that has been focusing on one specific aspect of payments — recurring billing — is announcing a round of funding to capitalize on that growth with expansion of its own. Billogram, which has built a platform for third parties to build and handle any kind of recurring payments (not one-off purchases), has closed a round of $45 million.
The funding is coming from a single investor, Partech, and will be used to help the Stockholm-based startup expand from its current base in Sweden to six more markets, Jonas Suijkerbuijk, Billogram’s CEO and founder, said in an interview, to cover more of Germany (where it’s already active now), Norway, Finland, Ireland, France, Spain, and Italy.
The company got its start working with SMBs in 2011 but pivoted some years later to working with larger enterprises, which make up the majority of its business today. Suijkerbuijk said that in 2020, signed deals went up by 300%, and the first half of 2021 grew 50% more on top of that. Its users include utilities like Skanska Energi and broadband company Ownit, and others like remote healthcare company Kry, businesses that take invoice and take monthly payments from their customers.
While there has been a lot of attention around how companies like Apple and Google are handling subscriptions and payments in apps, what Billogram focuses on is a different beast, and much more complex: it’s more integrated into the business providing services, and it may involve different services, and the fees can vary over every billing period. It’s for this reason that, in fact, even big companies in the realm of digital payments, like Stripe, which might even already have products that can help manage subscriptions on their platforms, partner with companies like Billogram to build the experiences to manage their more involved kinds of payment services.
I should point out here that Suijkerbuijk told me that Stripe recently became a partner of Billograms, which is very interesting… but he also added that a number of the big payments companies have talked to Billogram. He also confirmed that currently Stripe is not an investor in the company. “We have a very good relationship,” he said.
It’s not surprising to see Stripe and others wanting to more in the area of more complex, recurring billing services. Researchers estimate that the market size (revenues and services) for subscription and recurring billing will be close to $6 billion this year, with that number ballooning to well over $10 billion by 2025. And indeed, the effort to make a payment or any kind of transaction will continue to be a point of friction in the world of commerce, so any kinds of systems that bring technology to bear to make that easier and something that consumers or businesses will do without thinking about it, will be valuable, and will likely grow in dominance. (It’s why the more basic subscription services, such as Prime membership or a Netflix subscription, or a cloud storage account, are such winners.)
Within that very big pie, Suijkerbuijk noted that rather than the Apples and Googles of the world, the kinds of businesses that Billogram currently competes against are those that are addressing the same thornier end of the payments spectrum that Billogram is. These include a wide swathe of incumbent companies that do a lot of their business in areas like debt collection, and other specialists like Scaleworks-backed Chargify — which itself got a big investment injection earlier this year from Battery Ventures, which put $150 million into both it and another billing provider, SaaSOptics, in April.
The former group of competitors are not currently a threat to Billogram, he added.
“Debt collecting agencies are big on invoicing, but no one — not their customers, nor their customers’ customers — loves them, so they are great competitors to have,” Suijkerbuijk joked.
This also means that Billogram is not likely to move into debt collection itself as it continues to expand. Instead, he said, the focus will be on building out more tools to make the invoicing and payments experience better and less painful to customers. That will likely include more moves into customer service and generally improving the overall billing experience — something we have seen become a bigger area also during the pandemic, as companies realized that they needed to address non-payments in a different way from how their used to, given world events and the impact they were having on individuals.
“We are excited to partner with Jonas and the team at Billogram.” says Omri Benayoun, General Partner at Partech, in a statement. “Having spotted a gap in the market, they have quietly built the most advanced platform for large B2C enterprises looking to integrate billing, payment, and collection in one single solution. In our discussion with leading utilities, telecom, e-health, and all other clients across Europe, we realized how valuable Billogram was for them in order to engage with their end-users through a top-notch billing and payment experience. The outstanding commercial traction demonstrated by Billogram has further cemented our conviction, and we can’t wait to support the team in bringing their solution to many more customers in Europe and beyond!”
Market research and insights are often underutilized assets for enterprises but it’s usually too hard to find content and there’s a lot of duplication, or information isn’t used well.
Swedish startup Stravito says it can centralize internal and external data sources and create something more akin to a ‘Spotify or Netflix’ for these kinds of assets, making them far more usable and consumable, they say.
It’s clearly onto something, since it’s now raised a €12.4million ($14.6million USD) series A funding round led by Endeit Capital, with additional investment from existing investors HenQ, Inventure and Creades. To date, Stravito has raised €20.1million ($23.7million USD).
Founded in 2017 by market research veterans and former iZettle employees, Stravito counts among its customers Carlsberg, Edwards Lifesciences, Pepsi Lipton, Danone, Electrolux and Comcast.
Thor Olof Philogène, CEO and co-founder at Stravito said: “It has never been more important for the world’s largest enterprises to understand and react to their customer’s changing behaviors using centralized, vetted company insights. Stravito’s technology and platform makes it fast and easy for companies to use research to make better decisions.”
On a call with me he added: “We provide a search technology, and a great design, all combined to deliver an intuitive, highly automated cloud service that allows these big companies to centralise internal and external data sources so they can pull out the nuggets they need.”
Jelle-Jan Bruinsma, Partner at Endeit Capital, added: “Endeit Capital is always looking for the next generation of international software scale-ups, and Stravito stood out in the Nordics through its impressive work to raise the bar in the multibillion dollar market research and data industry.”
Stravito also appointed Elaine Rodrigo, Chief Insights & Analytics Officer at Reckitt Benckiser, to its board of directors.
Right now, the latest Stranger Things video game is available exclusively on Android handsets in Poland, and the below article walks you through how access currently works. [credit: Netflix ]
One month after its vague announcement of a new gaming-centric strategy, Netflix has taken the wraps off of how exactly it will “publish” video games in the foreseeable future: as downloadable smartphone apps, available exclusively for paying video-streaming subscribers.
The news coincides with the company’s public launch of Netflix Gaming on Thursday as part of the service’s smartphone app… but only in Poland, and only on Android. The company’s American Twitter translated Thursday’s Polish announcement, which explains how it works and the two games launching as part of the service today: Stranger Things 3, a 16-bit beat-’em-up that was previously available as a standalone Google Play purchase (and is still live on PC and consoles); and Stranger Things: 1984, a brand-new, smartphone-exclusive game that seems to revolve around slow, puzzle-solving movement through pixellated TV-series environments. (Both games, coincidentally, were made by the same indie game studio, BonusXP, which is based in Texas, not Poland.)
To access this content, you’ll need to log in to Netflix’s Android app while using a Polish IP address, then open the region’s new “N Gaming” tab. From there, pick either of those games, which will direct you to their Google Play download listings. Once downloaded, go back into the Netflix app and boot the game of your choice from there.
Netflix today announced it will begin testing mobile games inside its Android app for its members in Poland. At launch, paying subscribers will be able to try out two games, “Stranger Things: 1984” and “Stranger Things 3” — titles that have been previously available on the Apple App Store, Google Play and, in the case of the newer release, on other platforms including desktop and consoles. While the games are offered to subscribers from within the Netflix mobile app’s center tab, users will still be directed to the Google Play Store to install the game on their devices.
To then play, members will need to confirm their Netflix credentials.
Members can later return to the game at any time by clicking “Play” on the game’s page from inside the Netflix app or by launching it directly from their mobile device.
“It’s still very, very early days and we will be working hard to deliver the best possible experience in the months ahead with our no ads, no in-app purchases approach to gaming,” a Netflix spokesperson said about the launch.
Let’s talk Netflix and gaming.
Today members in Poland can try Netflix mobile gaming on Android with two games, Stranger Things: 1984 and Stranger Things 3. It’s very, very early days and we’ve got a lot of work to do in the months ahead, but this is the first step. https://t.co/yOl44PGY0r
The company has been expanding its investment in gaming for years, seeing the potential for a broader entertainment universe that ties in to its most popular shows. At the E3 gaming conference back in 2019, Netflix detailed a series of gaming integrations across popular platforms like Roblox and Fortnite and its plans to bring new “Stranger Things” games to the market.
On mobile, Netflix has been working with the Allen, Texas-based game studio BonusXP, whose first game for Netflix, “Stranger Things: The Game,” has now been renamed “Stranger Things: 1984” to better differentiate it from others. While that game takes place after season 1 and before season 2, in the “Stranger Things” timeline, the follow-up title, “Stranger Things 3,” is a playable version of the third season of the Netflix series. (So watch out for spoilers!)
With the launch of the test in Poland, Netflix says users will need to have a membership to download the titles as they’re now exclusively available to subscribers. However, existing users who already downloaded the game from Google Play in the past will not be impacted. They will be able to play the game as usual or even re-download it from their account library if they used to have it installed. But new players will only be able to get the game from the Netflix app.
The test aims to better understand how mobile gaming will resonate with Netflix members and determine what other improvements Netflix may need to make to the overall functionality, the company said. It chose Poland as the initial test market because it has an active mobile gaming audience, which made it seem like a good fit for this early feedback.
Netflix couldn’t say when it would broaden this test to other countries, beyond “the coming months.”
The streamer recently announced during its second-quarter earnings that it would add mobile games to its offerings, noting that it viewing gaming as “another new content category” for its business, similar to its “expansion into original films, animation and unscripted TV.”
The news followed what had been a sharp slowdown in new customers after the pandemic-fueled boost to streaming. In North America, Netflix in Q2 lost a sizable 430,000 subscribers — its third-ever quarterly decline in a decade. It also issued weaker guidance for the upcoming quarter, forecasting the addition of 3.5 million subscribers when analysts had been looking for 5.9 million. But Netflix downplayed the threat of competition on its slowing growth, instead blaming a lighter content slate, in part due to Covid-related production delays.
Netflix has announced Tudum, a global virtual fan event set for September 25 that will showcase exclusive news and first looks at some of the streaming giant’s original content. Tudum, which is named after the sound users hear when they press play on Netflix, will feature stars and creators from over 70 Netflix series, films and specials.
“It’s our first ever global Tudum event, and our goal is simple: to entertain and honor Netflix fans from across the globe,” a spokesperson for Netflix told TechCrunch in an email.
There’s only one place to see your favorite stars reveal exclusive first looks of Netflix’s biggest shows and films… #TUDUM: A Global Fan Event is coming September 25 pic.twitter.com/moXnYqtxOD
The event will feature interactive panels and conversations with the creators and stars of some of Netflix’s most popular shows, including “Stranger Things,” “Emily in Paris,” “The Witcher,” “The Crown,” “Cobra Kai” and “Bridgerton.” Netflix will also feature some of its popular films including “Red Notice,” “Don’t Look Up,” “Extraction,” “The Harder They Fall,” “The Old Guard” and more.
Netflix is among several other major companies that have started hosting their own virtual events during the COVID-19 pandemic and the shift towards livestreamed programming. Disney+, for instance, held a special event to honor National Streaming Day earlier this year in May. These types of events are becoming the new way for companies to showcase their original content, whereas in previous years they would do so at various in-person fan conventions.
With this new fan event and other similar ones such as Geeked Week, Netflix is no longer relying on other programming or conventions to promote its original content as it can now host its own events. Tudum also seems to be a way for Netflix to acquire more subscribers by promoting popular returning shows and teasing upcoming content.
The virtual livestream for the three-hour Tudum event starts at 12 pm EST/9 am PST on Saturday, September 25. The event will be broadcast on YouTube, Facebook and Twitch. Netflix is also hosting special pre-shows to showcase its Korean and Indian original series and films along with its anime content at 8 am EST/5 am PST.
Movies Anywhere, an app that allows you to centralize your digital movie collection from across services, is rolling out a new feature that will help you make better sense of your growing library. The company today introduced an AI-powered feature called “My Lists,” which automatically groups movies together based on any number of factors — like genre, actors, franchise, theme and more.
For digital movie collectors with larger libraries, the feature could make browsing through the available options feel more like scrolling through the recommendations you’d find on a modern-day streaming service, like Netflix. That is, instead of scrolling down through endless pages showing you all your purchased movies in order of purchase or alphabetically, as before, you can now quickly scan rows where the content is organized in ways that make it easier to discover what’s actually in your library.
For example, if you had purchased all the movies from a particular franchise, they would now be on their own row together. This is an improvement over how you had to locate these movies in your collection before — where they’d be sandwiched between the other titles you bought in between the franchise purchases.
You may also discover that you own a lot of movies within a particular category, like “Action Thrillers,” or those with a central theme, like “strong female friendships,” which could help you narrow down your movie night selection.
These algorithmically created lists can also be edited, allowing you to add or remove titles — or even delete the list altogether.
Image Credits: Movies Anywhere
Plus, you can now make lists of your own, too. So you could make a list of favorites, movies you want to watch with your family, or however else you want to further organize your collection. You could even use the feature to make a “to watch” list of movies you’ve purchased, but hadn’t yet made time for.
The Movie Anywhere app has been around for years, but is now jointly operated by Disney, Universal, WB, Sony Pictures and 20th Century Fox, after migrating to a new platform back in 2017. Its biggest selling point for digital movie collectors is that you can in one place get to all the movies you bought from various services. That includes digital downloads offered by iTunes, Vudu, Prime Video, YouTube, Xfinity and others. Before, you would have to switch from app to app to figure out if you had ever purchased a given title.
Netflix has announced that its long-delayed, live-action adaptation of the influential and popular classic anime series Cowboy Bebop will premiere on Friday, November 19.
The streaming service also released the first images from the show, giving fans some sense of what to expect from a live-action series based on an animated one famous for its visual flair.
The images show actor John Cho (Star Trek, Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle) as the series’ lead character, Spike Spiegel. The series will also star Alex Hassell (Suburbicon), Daniella Pineda (Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom), and Mustafa Shakir (Luke Cage), among others.
Netflix’s live-action adaptation of classic anime has been a long time coming, and the show finally has a release date. The 10-episode first season will start streaming on November 19th.
Although hasn’t posted a trailer just yet, it provided a first proper look at Cowboy Bebop in a bunch of photos. The images show John Cho (Spike Spiegel), Mustafa Shakir (Jet Black) and Daniella Pineda (Faye Valentine) , as well as an adorable corgi.
See You Space Cowboy.
Meet Spike Spiegel (John Cho), Jet Black (Mustafa Shakir), and Faye Valentine (Daniella Pineda) in Cowboy Bebop. Premiering November 19 pic.twitter.com/7vRtZvYjYM
Live-action adaptations of anime haven’t typically been well-received (here’s looking at you, ). There’s pressure on Netflix to get this take on Cowboy Bebop right, but things are looking promising. The core cast looks great in the first batch of images, while some key creatives from the 1998 anime are involved. Legendary composer Yoko Kanno , while original director Shinichirō Watanabe consulted on the Netflix show.
Production started in 2019 but it was paused for eight months after Cho on the set. Filming eventually .
Editor’s note:This post originally appeared on Engadget.
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 continues to grow, 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 in Apps offers a way to keep up with this fast-moving industry in one place with the latest from the world of apps, including news, updates, startup fundings, mergers and acquisitions, and suggestions about new apps and games to try, too.
(Photo Illustration by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Creator platform OnlyFans is getting out of the porn business. The company announced this week it will begin to prohibit any “sexually explicit” content starting on October 1, 2021 — a decision it claimed would ensure the long-term sustainability of the platform. The news angered a number of impacted creators who weren’t notified ahead of time and who’ve come to rely on OnlyFans as their main source of income.
However, word is that OnlyFans was struggling to find outside investors, despite its sizable user base, due to the adult content it hosts. Some VC firms are prohibited from investing in adult content businesses, while others may be concerned over other matters — like how NSFW content could have limited interest from advertisers and brand partners. They may have also worried about OnlyFans’ ability to successfully restrict minors from using the app, in light of what appears to be soon-to-comeincreasedregulations for online businesses. Plus, porn companies face a number of other issues, too. They have to continually ensure they’re not hosting illegal content like child sex abuse material, revenge porn or content from sex trafficking victims — the latter which has led to lawsuits at other large porn companies.
The news followed a big marketing push for OnlyFans’ porn-free (SFW) app, OFTV, which circulated alongside reports that the company was looking to raise funds at a $1 billion+ valuation. OnlyFans may not have technically needed the funding to operate its current business — it handled more than $2 billion in sales in 2020 and keeps 20%. Rather, the company may have seen there’s more opportunity to cater to the “SFW” creator community, now that it has big names like Bella Thorne, Cardi B, Tyga, Tyler Posey, Blac Chyna, Bhad Bhabie and others on board.
U.S. lawmakers demand info on TikTok’s plans for biometric data collection
The TikTok logo is seen on an iPhone 11 Pro max. Image Credits: Nur Photo/Getty Images
Earlier this month, Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Thune (R-SD) sent a letter to TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew, which said they were “alarmed” by the change, and demanded to know what information TikTok will be collecting and what it plans to do with the data. This wouldn’t be the first time TikTok got in trouble for excessive data collection. Earlier this year, the company paid out $92 million to settle a class-action lawsuit that claimed TikTok had unlawfully collected users’ biometric data and shared it with third parties.
Image Credits: Apple
Apple told developers that some of the features it announced as coming in iOS 15 won’t be available at launch. This includes one of the highlights of the new OS, SharePlay, a feature that lets people share music, videos and their screen over FaceTime calls. Other features that will come in later releases include Wallet’s support for ID cards, the App Privacy report and others that have yet to make it to beta releases.
Apple walked back its controversial Safari changes with the iOS 15 beta 6 update. Apple’s original redesign had shown the address bar at the bottom of the screen, floating atop the page’s content. Now the tab bar will appear below the page’s content, offering access to its usual set of buttons as when it was at the top. Users can also turn off the bottom tab bar now and revert to the old, Single Tab option that puts the address bar back at the top as before.
In response to criticism over its new CSAM detection technology, Apple said the version of NeuralHash that was reverse-engineered by a developer, Asuhariet Ygvar, was a generic version, and not the complete version that will roll out later this year.
The Verge dug through over 800 documents from the Apple-Epic trial to find the best emails,which included dirt on a number of other companies like Netflix, Hulu, Sony, Google, Nintendo, Valve, Microsoft, Amazon and more. These offered details on things like Netflix’s secret arrangement to pay only 15% of revenue, how Microsoft also quietly offers a way for some companies to bypass its full cut, how Apple initially saw the Amazon Appstore as a threat and more.
A beta version of the Android Accessibility Suite app (12.0.0) which rolled out with the fourth Android beta release added something called “Camera Switches” to Switch Access, a toolset that lets you interact with your device without using the touchscreen. Camera Switches allows users to navigate their phone and use its features by making face gestures, like a smile, open mouth, raised eyebrows and more.
Google announced its Pixel 5a with 5G, the latest A-series Pixel phone, will arrive on August 27, offering IP67 water resistance, long-lasting Adaptive Battery, Pixel’s dual-camera system and more, for $449. The phone makes Google’s default Android experience available at a lower price point than the soon to arrive Pixel 6.
An unredacted complaint from the Apple-Epic trial revealed that Google had quietly paid developers hundreds of millions of dollars via a program known as “Project Hug,” (later “Apps and Games Velocity Program”) to keep their games on the Play Store. Epic alleges Google launched the program to keep developers from following its lead by moving their games outside the store.
Snap on Thursday announced it hired its first VP of Platform Partnerships to lead AR, Konstantinos Papamiltiadis (“KP”). The new exec will lead Snap’s efforts to onboard partners, including individual AR creators building via Lens Studio as well as large companies that incorporate Snapchat’s camera and AR technology (Camera Kit) into their apps. KP will join in September, and report to Ben Schwerin, SVP of Content and Partnerships.
Crypto exchange Coinbase will enter the Japanese market through a new partnership with Japanese financial giant Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG). The company said it plans to launch other localized versions of its existing global services in the future.
Image Credits: Facebook
Facebook launched a “test” of Facebook Reels in the U.S. on iOS and Android. The new feature brings the Reels experience to Facebook, allowing users to create and share short-form video content directly within the News Feed or within Facebook Groups. Instagram Reels creators can also now opt in to have their Reels featured on users’ News Feed. The company is heavily investing its its battle with TikTok, even pledging that some portion of its $1 billion creator fund will go toward Facebook Reels.
Twitter’s redesign of its website and app was met with a lot of backlash from users and accessibility experts alike. The company choices add more visual contrast between various elements and may have helped those with low vision. But for others, the contrast is causing strain and headaches. Experts believe accessibility isn’t a one-size fits all situation, and Twitter should have introduced tools that allowed people to adjust their settings to their own needs.
Twitter also tapped crypto developer Jay Graber to head the company’s “bluesky” project, which aims to create a decentralized social media protocol on which a number of networks, including Twitter, will eventually operate. The project will operate independently from Twitter, but is funded by Twitter and run by Twitter employees. Elsewhere, Twitter rolled out a new option that would allow users to report misinformation.
The pro-Trump Twitter alternative Gettr’s lack of moderation has allowed users to share child exploitation images, according to research from the Stanford Internet Observatory’s Cyber Policy Center.
Pinterest rolled out a new set of more inclusive search filters that allow people to find styles for different types of hair textures — like coily, curly, wavy, straight, as well as shaved or bald and protective styles.
Photoshop for iPad gained new image correction tools, including the Healing Brush and Magic Wand, and added support for connecting an iPad to external monitors via HDMI or USB-C. The company also launched a Photoshop Beta program on the desktop.
WhatsApp is being adopted by the Taliban to spread its message across Afghanistan, despite being on Facebook’s list of banned organizations. The company says it’s proactively removing Taliban content — but that may be difficult to do since WhatsApp’s E2E encryption means it can’t read people’s texts. This week, Facebook shut down a Taliban helpline in Kabul, which allowed civilians to report violence and looting, but some critics said this wasn’t actually helping local Afghans, as the group was now in effect governing the region.
WhatsApp is also testing a new feature that will show a large preview when sharing links, which some suspect may launch around the time when the app adds the ability to have the same account running on multiple devices.
Streaming & Entertainment
Netflix announced it’s adding spatial audio support on iPhone and iPad on iOS 14, joining other streamers like HBO Max, Disney+ and Peacock that have already pledged to support the new technology. The feature will be available to toggle on and off in the Control Center, when it arrives.
Blockchain-powered streaming music service Audius partnered with TikTok to allow artists to upload their songs using TikTok’s new SoundKit in just one click.
YouTube’s mobile app added new functionality that allows users to browse a video’s chapters, and jump into the chapter they want directly from the search page.
Spotify’s Anchor app now allows users in global markets to record “Music + Talk” podcasts, where users can combine spoken word recordings with any track from Spotify’s library of 70 million songs for a radio DJ-like experience.
Podcasters are complaining that Apple’s revamped Podcasts platform is not working well,reports The Verge. Podcasts Connect has been buggy, and sports a confusing interface that has led to serious user errors (like entire shows being archived). And listeners have complained about syncing problems and podcasts they already heard flooding their libraries.
Tinder announced a new feature that will allow users to voluntarily verify their identity on the platform, which will allow the company to cross-reference sex offender registry data. Previously, Tinder would only check this database when a user signed up for a paid subscription with a credit card.
Pokémon Unite will come to iOS and Android on September 22, The Pokémon Company announced during a livestream this week. The strategic battle game first launched on Nintendo Switch in late July.
Developer Konami announced a new game, Castlevania: Grimoire of Souls, which will come exclusively to Apple Arcade. The game is described as a “full-fledged side-scrolling action game,” featuring a roster of iconic characters from the classic game series. The company last year released another version of Castelvania on the App Store and Google Play.
Dragon Ball Z: Dokkan Battle has now surpassed $3 billion in player spending since its 2015 debut,reported Sensor Tower. The game from Bandai Namco took 20 months to reach the figure after hitting the $2 billion milestone in 2019. The new landmark sees the game joining other top-grossers, including Clash Royale, Lineage M and others.
Sensor Tower’s mobile gaming advertising report revealed data on top ad networks in the mobile gaming market, and their market share. It also found puzzle games were among the top advertisers on gaming-focused networks like Chartboost, Unity, IronSource and Vungle. On less game-focused networks, mid-core games were top titles, like Call of Duty: Mobile and Top War.
Image Credits: Sensor Tower
Health & Fitness
Apple is reportedly scaling back HealthHabit, an internal app for Apple employees that allowed them to track fitness goals, talk to clinicians and coaches at AC Wellness (a doctors’ group Apple works with) and manage hypertension. According to Insider, 50 employees had been tasked to work on the project.
Samsung launched a new product for Galaxy smartphones in partnership with healthcare nonprofit The Commons Project, that allows U.S. users to save a verifiable copy of their vaccination card in the Samsung Pay digital wallet.
China cited 43 apps, including Tencent’s WeChat and an e-reader from Alibaba, for illegally transferring user data. The regulator said the apps had transferred users location data and contact list and harassed them with pop-up windows. The apps have until August 25 to make changes before being punished.
Security & Privacy
A VICE report reveals a fascinating story about a jailbreaking community member who had served as a double agent by spying for Apple’s security team. Andrey Shumeyko, whose online handles included JVHResearch and YRH04E, would advertise leaked apps, manuals and stolen devices on Twitter and Discord. He would then tell Apple things like which Apple employees were leaking confidential info, which reporters would talk to leakers, who sold stolen iPhone prototypes and more. Shumeyko decided to share his story because he felt Apple took advantage of him and didn’t compensate him for the work.
Gaming platform Roblox acquired a Discord rival, Guilded, which allows users to have text and voice conversations, organize communities around events and calendars and more. Deal terms were not disclosed. Guilded raised $10.2 million in venture funding. Roblox’s stock fell by 7% after the company reported earnings this week, after failing to meet Wall Street expectations.
Travel app Hopper raised $175 million in a Series G round of funding led by GPI Capital, valuing the business at over $3.5 billion. The company raised a similar amount just last year, but is now benefiting from renewed growth in travel following COVID-19 vaccinations and lifting restrictions.
Indian quiz app maker Zupee raised $30 million in a Series B round of funding led by Silicon Valley-based WestCap Group and Tomales Bay Capital. The round values the company at $500 million, up 5x from last year.
Danggeun Market, the publisher of South Korea’s hyperlocal community app Karrot, raised $162 million in a Series D round of funding led by DST Global. The round values the business at $2.7 billion and will be used to help the company launch its own payments platform, Karrot Pay.
Bangalore-based fintech app Smallcase raised $40 million in Series C funding round led by Faering Capital and Premji Invest, with participation from existing investors, as well as Amazon. The Robinhood-like app has over 3 million users who are transacting about $2.5 billion per year.
Social listening app Earbuds raised $3 million in Series A funding led by Ecliptic Capital. Founded by NFL star Jason Fox, the app lets anyone share their favorite playlists, livestream music like a DJ or comment on others’ music picks.
U.S. neobank app One raised $40 million in Series B funding led by Progressive Investment Company (the insurance giant’s investment arm), bringing its total raise to date to $66 million. The app offers all-in-one banking services and budgeting tools aimed at middle-income households who manage their finances on a weekly basis.
Indian travel booking app ixigo is looking to raise Rs 1,600 crore in its initial public offering, The Economic Times reported this week.
Trading app Robinhood disappointed in its first quarterly earnings as a publicly traded company, when it posted a net loss of $502 million, or $2.16 per share, larger than Wall Street forecasts. This overshadowed its beat on revenue ($565 million versus $521.8 million expected) and its more than doubling of MAUs to 21.3 million in Q2. Also of note, the company said dogecoin made up 62% of its crypto revenue in Q2.
Image Credits: Polycam
3D scanning software maker Polycam launched a new 3D capture tool, Photo Mode, that allows iPhone and iPad users to capture professional-quality 3D models with just an iPhone. While the app’s scanner before had required the use of the lidar sensor built into newer devices like the iPhone 12 Pro and iPad Pro models, the new Photo Mode feature uses just an iPhone’s camera. The resulting 3D assets are ready to use in a variety of applications, including 3D art, gaming, AR/VR and e-commerce. Data export is available in over a dozen file formats, including .obj, .gtlf, .usdz and others. The app is a free download on the App Store, with in-app purchases available.
Jiobit, the tracking dongle acquired by family safety and communication app Life360, this week partnered with emergency response service Noonlight to offer Jiobit Protect, a premium add-on that offers Jiobit users access to an SOS Mode and Alert Button that work with the Jiobit mobile app. SOS Mode can be triggered by a child’s caregiver when they detect — through notifications from the Jiobit app — that a loved one may be in danger. They can then reach Noonlight’s dispatcher who can facilitate a call to 911 and provide the exact location of the person wearing the Jiobit device, as well as share other details, like allergies or special needs, for example.
When your app redesign goes wrong…
Image Credits: Twitter.com
Prominent App Store critic Kosta Eleftheriou shut down his FlickType iOS app this week after too many frustrations with App Review. He cited rejections that incorrectly argued that his app required more access than it did — something he had successfully appealed and overturned years ago. Attempted follow-ups with Apple were ignored, he said.
If you use AirPods Pro or AirPods Max, your mobile Netflix-watching is about to get a bit more immersive. Yesterday, Netflix confirmed that it has begun rolling out spatial audio support on iPhone and iPad on iOS 14 after the feature was spotted by a Reddit user.
Netflix joins streaming competitors like HBO Max, Disney+, and Peacock in enabling this feature, while other popular apps like Amazon Prime Video and YouTube still don’t have this functionality. Still, Netflix said the rollout won’t be immediate — users who have the update should be able to toggle it on or off in the Control Center.
Recently, Apple has been emphasizing its spatial audio features. The company first announced that it would bring spatial audio to AirPods Pro during the WWDC conference in 2020 — during this year’s conference, Apple added that Apple Music subscribers would gain access to spatial audio and lossless audio streaming at no extra charge. This even supports dynamic head tracking, which adjusts the sound when you move your head. The Android version of the Apple Music app also supports spatial and lossless audio. In February, Spotify said it would rollout a high-end subscription service, Spotify HiFi, which would enable lossless audio, though there’s been no news since.
Last month, Netflix revealed that it start looking toward mobile gaming in addition to its original movies and television series. The company has already experimented with interactive entertainment with projects like Black Mirror: Bandersnatch and its Stranger Things games.
“We view gaming as another new content category for us, similar to our expansion into original films, animation and unscripted TV,” the company said in its quarterly earnings report.
Spatial audio is popular among video game players — so while this update will enhance the streaming video experience on iPhone and iPad, perhaps we’ll see this feature at play in eventual Netflix mobile games, too.
Eric Crowley is executive director in the San Francisco office of global investment bank GP Bullhound.
The pandemic has been extremely painful for many. But as lockdowns lifted and people began resuming their outdoor hobbies, mobile-first businesses have seen growth accelerate as consumers turned to digital tools to improve their time outdoors.
The Dyrt, for example, is the top camping app on the Apple and Google Play App Stores. The app sits at the confluence of two trends: An increased interest in outdoor recreation and travel, and an explosion in consumer subscription software (CSS).
The Dyrt launched its premium offering in 2019, The Dyrt PRO, in time to take advantage of the rising number of Americans making the great outdoors part of their lifestyle. A year later, it had a new subscriber every two minutes paying for features like offline maps and detailed camping information.
CSS businesses at the forefront of outdoor activities have closed major deals in recent years such as hunting app OnX (Summit Partners), hiking app Alltrails (Spectrum Equity), Surfline (The Chernin Group) and mountain bike leader Pinkbike (Outside Media). Companies like Netflix and Spotify have trained consumers to pay monthly or annual fees for software that enhances their lives, creating a business model investors view as reliable and poised for growth.
I think of different outdoor activities almost like individual genres on Netflix. Dominating camping or surfing might be like capturing the streaming market for comedy or horror.
Fitness and the outdoor passion space is one of the most exciting CSS categories in a growing landscape that includes everything from family planning/management services to entertainment and education. I believe CSS is still in the early stages of its growth — perhaps where B2B SaaS was a decade ago.
So what sets apart the great CSS businesses from the good ones?
Passion equals profits on the CSS flywheel
The beauty of the CSS model is the complete alignment between the business and its customers. CSS companies don’t have to please advertisers, and they can design purely for their users.
This dynamic is particularly powerful for CSS companies in the outdoors space, which make your favorite outdoor activity better with performance analytics and enhanced information such as maps, reviews, air quality reports and fire warnings. Consumers are happy to spend money on the activities and hobbies they enjoy, and CSS companies are able to make pleasing those consumers their top priority.
The result is what I call the CSS flywheel, in which a quality CSS product attracts and retains loyal users. Those users contribute their data through posts, photos and reviews, which creates a better product that further attracts new users, and so on.
The CSS flywheel shows the cycle that results when a quality CSS product attracts and retains loyal users. Image Credits: GP Bullhound
When companies get this flywheel right, it’s incredibly appealing to investors, because of the advantages of scale in CSS. Each niche will probably be dominated by one or two players, and a given niche can have tens of millions of consumers.
Disney’s streaming service is seeing improved growth, after initially seeing slower numbers of subscriber additions in Q2 as COVID lockdowns and mask mandates came to an end. Today, Disney+ beat analyst expectations for subscriber growth in Disney’s blowout third quarter, reaching 116 million paid subscribers — above the 114.5 million Wall Street had expected — and up over 100% year-over-year.
Disney also topped expectations across the board, with $17.02 billion in revenue versus the $16.76 billion expected, and earnings per share of 80 cents, above analysts’ expectations of 55 cents. Even Disney Parks were back in business.
The pandemic had thrown a wrench in forecasting growth metrics across a number of industries, streaming included. Although Disney+ has well-established itself as one of the few competitors capable of challenging Netflix in an increasingly crowded market, it has seen some ups and downs due to COVID impacts. In the earlier days of the pandemic, streaming was on the rise. This March, Disney+ passed 100 million subscribers after just 16 months of operation. At the time, Disney execs said the service was on track to meet its projections of 260 million subscribers by 2024.
But in Disney’s second-quarter earnings, the economy’s re-opening impacted Disney+ numbers, as people finally had more to do than just sit at home, and vaccinations become more widely available. Then, Disney+ only reached 103.6 million subscribers, when analysts were expecting 109.3 million, and the stock slipped as a result.
Disney wasn’t alone in feeling the impacts of COVID-induced lumpiness in subscriber additions. Netflix had also seen slower subscriber growth earlier in the year due to COVID and its far-reaching effects on things like production delays and release schedules.
But Netflix’s most recent quarter, where it once again topped subscriber estimates, had hinted that Disney+ may see a similar boost. Aiding in that growth was Disney+’s recent market expansions in Asia. Disney+ Hotstar arrived in Malaysia and Thailand in June after prior launches in India and Indonesia last year.
The Hotstar version of Disney+, however, led to lowered average monthly revenue per user (ARPU) in the quarter due to its lower price points. In Q3, ARPU declined from $4.62 to $4.16 due to a higher mix of Disney+ Hotstar subscribers compared with the prior-year quarter, Disney said.
Disney’s other streaming services, Hulu and ESPN+, didn’t see the same trend.
Hulu’s subscription video service jumped from $11.39 to $13.15 year-over-year and its Live TV service (+SVOD) grew from $68.11 to $84.09. ESPN+ also grew from $4.18 to $4.47.
Subscriber growth also increased across the services, with ESPN+ growing 75% year-over-year to reach 14.9 million customers and total Hulu subscribers growing 21% to reach 42.8 million.
“…Our direct-to-consumer business is performing very well, with a total of nearly 174 million subscriptions across Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu at the end of the quarter, and a host of new content coming to the platform,” noted Disney CEO Bob Chapek in a press release.
Across Disney’s direct-to-consumer business, revenues grew 57% to $4.3 billion and its operating loss declined from $0.6 billion to $0.3 billion, thanks to improved results from Hulu, including subscription growth and higher ad revenues.
These gains were offset by a higher loss at Disney+ attributed to programming, production, marketing and technology costs that were somewhat mitigated by increases in subscription revenues and success of the Disney+ Premier Access release of “Cruella.” (Disney’s fiscal quarter ended July 3, so the impacts of the massive haul that “Black Widow” saw following its U.S. opening — nor the resulting lawsuit from star Scarlett Johansson, for that matter — have yet to be included in these figures.)
Netflix blocks known commercial VPNs and proxies from accessing its services in order to preserve its geofencing—partitioning access to content based on a user’s real-world location. Users who connect to a commercial VPN or proxy provider endpoint in another country can access content licensed for viewing in the endpoint country—but not in the viewer’s own.
Recently, as reported by TorrentFreak, Netflix began including putatively residential IP subnets in its blocklists.
Cat and mouse
Since Netflix first began blocking commercial VPN and proxy providers in 2015, those services have fought back by finding ways to evade its and other streaming services’ blocking attempts. The simplest way is just to discard an existing subnet that’s been widely identified as “VPN/proxy” and purchase another, “clean” space. This move can buy a blocklist evader a few days or even weeks before the new subnet is added to the list.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays an elite assassin—the titular Kate. [credit: YouTube/Netflix ]
A ruthless criminal operative is poisoned and has less than 24 hours to exact revenge on her killers in Kate, a new action thriller from Netflix starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who played Huntress in Birds of Prey.
The streaming service seems to be casting about for a female version of the hugely successful John Wick franchise, but it’s harder to pull off than it looks. First there was 2020’s The Old Guard, where Charlize Theron leads an immortal group of mercenaries on a mission of revenge. Theron was terrific, but the film itself was uneven. Just last month, Netflix served up the disappointing Gunpowder Milkshake, which had a stellar all-star cast and all the right elements, including some impressive fight choreography. But as with The Old Guard, nothing really gelled. Gunpowder Milkshake ended up feeling flat, predictable, and an exercise in style over substance.
The basic premise of Kate is a familiar one; it’s essentially a twist on the classic 1950 film noir D.O.A., in which a man—a seemingly ordinary accountant and notary public—walks into a police station and says he has been poisoned, with only a few days left to live and discover who murdered him. (Due to someone not renewing the copyright on time, the film is in the public domain.) It’s inspired three direct remakes: 1969’s Color Me Dead, 1988’s D.O.A. (starring Dennis Quaid), and the 2017 film Dead on Arrival. And the film has influenced countless more, such as the 2006 film Crank, in which Jason Statham plays a British hitman who has to keep his adrenaline levels spiking to counteract being given a deadly poison.
Inspiration4 is getting its own documentary. Netflix said Tuesday it would be releasing a five-part series on the mission, its first documentary to cover an event “in near real-time,” in five parts in September.
“Countdown: Inspiration4 Mission to Space” will follow the first all-civilian Inspiration4 crew as they prepare for and undergo a three-day flight to low Earth orbit. The private flight is being funded by — surprise! — a billionaire: Jared Isaacman, the CEO and founder of payment processor Shift4 Payments. He will be joined by Hayley Arceneaux, a physician assistant at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital and a pediatric bone cancer survivor; Christopher Sembroski, a Lockheed Martin engineer and Air Force veteran; and professor of geoscience Sian Proctor.
Isaacman has committed to donating $100 million to St. Jude’s out of his own funds, in addition to the public donation drive that was used to select Sian Proctor’s seat. As of March, the donation drive raised an additional $13 million for the children’s hospital.
The crew will travel to orbit in a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft and a Falcon 9 rocket. The launch giant is customizing the Dragon especially for the mission, replacing a docking mechanism with a transparent glass dome out of which crewmembers will be able to take in what will likely be some pretty spectacular views. The dome will only be large enough to fit one passenger at a time, and it’ll only open once the spacecraft has safely exited Earth’s atmosphere. (Stellar views are a relatively recent concern for launch developers and space passengers, mostly an effect of the burgeoning space tourism industry.)
The Netflix series will likely be the cherry on top of the massive media event that will be Inspiration4. The Netflix series will be directed by Jason Hehir, who previously headed “The Last Dance,” an ESPN documentary miniseries about Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.
This September, four civilians will launch into space for a three-day trip orbiting Earth.
Countdown: Inspiration4 Mission To Space — the first Netflix documentary series to cover an event in near real-time — will premiere in five parts leading up to and following the mission. pic.twitter.com/8fLnxHCQNN
Directed by Harald Zwart (The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, The Karate Kid) with Petter Holmsen (who also serves as head writer), the six-episode series is “an intriguing mix of thriller, drama, and supernatural elements,” according to Tesha Crawford, director of Nordic original series at Netflix. Per the official premise:
Live Hallangen is declared dead. Hours later she suddenly wakes up on the forensic table. A dark, insatiable hunger has awoken in her. Meanwhile, her brother Odd tries to keep the family driven funeral home afloat, but the stagnant death rate in the small Norwegian town of Skarnes makes it impossible. Live has to learn to control her new dangerous nature and decide if she is willing to sacrifice people’s lives for her own survival, which ironically goes hand in hand with the survival of the family business.
Kathrine Thorborg Johansen stars as Live, Elias Holmsen Sorensen plays Odd, Kim Fairchild plays Judith, Andre Sorum is Reinert, Sarah Khorami is Rose, and Terje Stromdahl is Arvid. In a statement, Zwart praised his cast members, saying that they all “embody the blend of Scandinavian mystique and dark humor.”
While direct-to-consumer growth has exploded in the past year, some brands are finding there’s still plenty of room to forge ahead in building a more direct relationships with their customers.
Sydney-based Okendo has made a splash in this world by building out a popular customer reviews systems for Shopify sellers, but it’s aiming to expand its ambitions and tackle a much bigger problem with its first outside funding — helping brands scale the quality of their first-party data and loosen their reliance on tech advertising kingpins for customer acquisition and engagement.
“Most D2C brands are still very dependent on big tech,” CEO Matthew Goodman tells TechCrunch.
Gathering more customer reviews data directly from consumers has been the first part of the puzzle with its product that helps brands manage and showcase customer ratings, reviews, user-generated media and product questions. Moving forward Okendo is looking to help firms manage more of the web of cross-channel customer data they have, standardizing it and allowing them to give customers a more personalized experience when they shop with them.
“Merchants have goals and want to better understand their customers,” Goodman says. “As soon as a brand reaches a certain level of scale they’re dealing with unwieldy data.”
Goodman says that Apple’s App Tracking Transparency feature and Google’s pledge to end third-party cookie tracking has pushed some brands to get more serious about scaling their own data sets to insulate themselves from any sudden movements.
The company needs more coin in its coffers to take on the challenge, raising their first bout of funding since launching back in 2018. They’ve raised $5.3 million in seed funding led by Index Ventures. 2020 was a big growth year for the startup as e-commerce spending surged and sellers looked more thoughtfully at how they were scaling. The company tripled its ARR during the year and doubled its headcount. The bootstrapped company was profitable at the time of the raise, Goodman says.
Today, the company boasts more than 3,500 D2C brands in the Shopify network as customers, including heavyweights like Netflix, Lego, Skims, Fanjoy and Crunchyroll. The startup is tight-lipped on what their next product launches will look like, but plans to jump into two new areas in the next 12 months, Goodman says.
Netflix lost 430,000 subscribers in the US and Canada in the second quarter and issued weaker than expected forecasts for later in the year, rekindling investor doubts over how the streaming group will fare after the economic reopening.
The California-based company predicted it would add 3.5 million subscribers in the third quarter, disappointing investors who were looking for a stronger rebound in the second half of the year. Analysts had forecast that Netflix would add 5.9 million subscribers during the third quarter.
In the past year and a half, Disney, Apple, WarnerMedia, Comcast and others have launched streaming platforms, and there are more than 100 streaming services for consumers to choose from, according to data company Ampere.
A report last week hinted at some of Netflix’s gaming ambitions. In its Q2 2021 earnings report, the company confirmed some things. First, Netflix says it “will be primarily focused” on mobile at first, looking to expand on its interactivity projects like Black Mirror Bandersnatch and its Stranger Things games. The upcoming titles will be available at no additional cost as part of your subscription and the company was clear it will keep up the pace on movies and television.
“We view gaming as another new content category for us, similar to our expansion into original films, animation and unscripted TV,” the company said in a letter to its shareholders.
2020 was a big year for Netflix. With everyone stuck at home and movie theaters closed, the streaming service attracted 16 million new customers in three months. As expected, in 2021 that pace has dramatically slowed and the new customer numbers continue to be a struggle. In its earnings report, the company says it added 1.5 million subscribers in Q2, which was actually a bit better than its forecast mark of one million. However, that’s lower than Q1 2021, which saw the company tack on 3.98 new customers globally.
Netflix says it forecasts new customer additions to hit 3.5 million in Q3 2021, up from 2.2 million during the same three-month a year ago. If it does so, the company explains that would bring the total new subscriber tally to 54 million over the last two years. The pace may have slowed for Netflix, but overall it’s doing just fine. Revenue was still up 19 percent year-over-year at $7.3 billion for the quarter.
According to Netflix’s own numbers, Shadow and Bone was a popular series this quarter, streaming to over 55 million “member households” in less than a month. The show has already been renewed for a second season based on those numbers. Sweet Tooth, a series based on a DC comic, was streamed by 60 million households the first month it was available. Unscripted series like Too Hot to Handle and The Circle were popular selections as well, as was true crime docuseries The Sons of Sam. In terms of movies, Zac Snyder’s Army of the Dead hit 75 million households in the first month. Netflix also explained that The Mitchells vs. The Machines is now its biggest animated film to date, streaming to 53 million households.
Netflix says COVID-related production delays led to a “lighter” first half of 2021 in terms of content, but the pace will pick up throughout the rest of the year. The company’s Q3 lineup includes new seasons of La Casa de Papel (Money Heist), Sex Education, Virgin River and Never Have I Ever in addition to live action films like Sweet Girl (Jason Momoa), Kissing Booth 3 and Kate (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). Plus, there’s the animated film Vivo, which will feature new music from Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on Engadget.
Netflix’s growing fascination with video games will soon explode in the form of a full-fledged game-publishing arm.
While Netflix has yet to post its own announcement about the initiative, the streaming-video provider has confirmed to Ars Technica that it has hired a former EA and Oculus exec to lead a Netflix game-publishing team.
The newly hired exec is Mike Verdu, who most recently worked in developer relations with Facebook’s Oculus VR team (his public profile still says that’s his current job). He has worked in game development and publishing since the early ’90s, and his first studio, Legend Entertainment, was eventually acquired by GT Interactive.
Matthias Schweighöfer was a comic highlight in Army of the Dead as brilliant safecracker Ludwig Dieter. [credit: Netflix ]
If, like me, you thoroughly enjoyed Zack Snyder’s gory comic/horror zombie thriller Army of the Dead, you’ll be intrigued by Netflix’s prequel series, Army of Thieves, one of two upcoming Snyder projects set in the same fictional universe. Co-producer Deborah Snyder has said Army of Thieves will be a standalone film and compared the “romantic comedy heist” to 2003’s The Italian Job (itself a remake of the 1969 British film).
Army of the Dead followed Dave Bautista and his team of mercenaries as they ventured into zombie-infested Las Vegas to recover millions in cash from a casino vault. Naturally, brain-munching carnage ensued. As I wrote in my review, “While Snyder’s distinctive directorial style is plainly evident, he has reined in his worst impulses to give us a clever, entertaining twist on the zombie apocalypse, featuring all the flesh-eating carnage one expects from the genre.”
Bautista received top billing as Scott Ward, who brings the team together for the Vegas heist in hopes of having something to leave his estranged daughter, Kate (Ella Purnel). But the entire ensemble cast was terrific. In addition to Tig Notaro’s delightfully cynical pilot and Samantha Win’s martial arts fireworks, viewers loved the dynamic between zombie-killing-machine Vanderohe (Omari Hardwick) and the brilliantly nerdy, high-strung German safecracker Ludwig Dieter (Matthias Schweighöfer). Not only did the two forge a believable (albeit reluctant) bond, Dieter’s well-timed high-pitched screams whenever a zombie charged was one of several running gags. So naturally Dieter is getting his own prequel.
The ability to download videos in their entirety to a mobile device has been a nice (yet lesser-known) feature of Netflix and similar services for a few years now, but the experience has not been without its frustrations. A new update to the Netflix mobile app aims to make the feature better.
Starting today, Android phone or tablet users on version 7.64 or higher can start viewing a video download in the Netflix mobile app, even if that video hasn’t finished downloading to a device. The company’s newsroom post announcing the new feature says it’s intended for times when “unreliable Wi-Fi or a maxed-out data plan” prevent a video from fully downloading.
So if you tried to download a movie on airport Wi-Fi before your coast-to-coast flight but only got to 80 percent before you had to board, you can now at least watch part of the movie while waiting for an opportunity to finish the download. Once you have a reliable connection again, the download can pick up where it left off, even if you started watching the video in the interim.
French actor Omar Sy returns in another knockout turn as self-styled “gentleman thief” Assane Diop in Part 2 of Netflix’s surprise French hit series Lupin. In my review earlier this year, I called Part 1 a “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.” I was delighted to discover that Part 2 is even better, with twists, turns, and surprise reveals galore—all without sacrificing those crucial character-enriching quiet moments that add a bit of depth. It’s the best series of 2021 thus far.
(Spoilers for Part 1 below.)
Lupin’s original creator, Maurice LeBlanc, featured his gentleman thief in 17 novels and 39 novellas, so there is plenty of source material to work with. The Netflix series is the creation of Louis Leterrier, who directed the 2013 heist thriller Now You See Me, in which a band of magicians pulls off ingenious robberies. So it’s easy to see why he was drawn to this project. Per the official premise, “As a teenager, Assane Diop’s life was turned upside down when his father died after being accused of a crime he didn’t commit. 25 years later, Diop will use Arsène Lupin, Gentleman Burglar as his inspiration to avenge his father.”
As we become more and more aware of the kind of impact we are having on this planet we call our home, just about everything is having its CO2 impact measured. Who knew, until recently, that streaming Netflix might have a measurable impact on the environment, for instance. But given vast swathes of the internet are populated by websites, as well as streaming services, then they, too, must have some sort of impact.
It transpires that a new service has identified how to gauge that, and now it’s raised venture capital to scale.
Ryte raised €8.5 million ($10 million) in a previously undisclosed round led by Bayern Kapital out of Munich and Octopus Investments out of London earlier this year for its Website User Experience Platform.
It has now launched the ‘Ryte Website Carbon KPI’, which claims to be able to help make 5% of all websites carbon neutral by 2023.
Ryte says it worked with data scientists and environmental experts to develop the ability to accurately measure the carbon impact of clients’ websites. According to carbon transition think tank, the Shift Project, the carbon footprint of our gadgets, the internet, and the systems supporting them account for about 3.7% of global greenhouse emissions. And this trend is rising rapidly as the world digitizes itself, especially post-pandemic.
Ryte has now engaged its data scientist, Katharina Meraner, who has a PhD in climate science and global warming, and input from Climate Partner, to launch this new service.
“There are currently 189 million active websites,” Ryte CEO Andy Bruckschloegl said. “Our goal is to make 5% of all active websites, or 9.5 million websites, climate neutral by the end of 2023 with the help of our platform, strong partners, social media activities, and much more. Time is ticking and making websites carbon neutral is really easy compared to other industries and processes.”
Ryte says it is also collaborating with a reforestation project in San Jose, Nicaragua, to allow its customers to offset their remaining emissions through the purchase of climate certificates.
Using a proprietary algorithm, Ryte says it measures the code of the entire website, average page size, as well as monthly traffic by channel then produces a calculation of the amount of CO2 it uses up.
Admittedly there are similar services, but these are ad-hoc and not connected to a platform. A simple Google search will bring us sites like Websitecarbon, Ecosistant, and academic papers. But as far as I can tell, a startup like this hasn’t put this kind of service into their platform yet.
“Teaming up with Ryte will help raise awareness on how information technology contributes to climate change – while at the same time providing tools to make a difference. Ryte’s industry-leading carbon calculator enables thousands of website owners to understand their carbon footprint, to offset unavoidable carbon emissions and thus lay a basis for a comprehensive climate action strategy,” commented Tristan A. Foerster, Co-CEO ClimatePartner.