What we’re binging: TV, films, and streams that bring comfort in a weird year

A collage of our favorite binge-worthy series and streams in this weird locked-down year.

Enlarge / A collage of our favorite binge-worthy series and streams in this weird locked-down year. (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty Images / Respective Shows)

As 2020 has dragged on, it has become harder to look at our living rooms as an escape. Ars Technica has long been a work-from-home enterprise, but even we no longer think of plopping on the couch after a long work day as the best way to unwind.

Still, more time at the house, whether alone or with families, has led us to different TV, film, and streaming options. Sometimes, we still use TV as a way to collapse at the end of the day. Other times, we sneak streams and videos into our workday, especially if we’re juggling a full house from 9-5.

Hence, this is a different “favorite Ars binges” list than we’ve prepared in the past, and we invite you to share the series and streams that have proven comfortable or cozy during your own weird 2020.

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#binge-watching, #binge-watch, #gaming-culture, #staffsource, #streaming


Spotify adds a built-in podcast playlist creation tool, ‘Your Episodes’

Spotify today launched a new feature designed to give podcast listeners a new way to organize and save content they want to listen to at a later time or keep their favorite episodes bookmarked for easy access. The feature, called “Your Episodes,” lets you bookmark individual episodes from any podcast, which are then added a new “Your Episodes” playlist.

This playlist is found pinned to the top of Your Library in the Music Playlist and Podcast Episodes tabs, says Spotify.

The new option could be useful for those times when a podcast you don’t normally subscribe to has a show you want to listen to — like an interview with a favorite celebrity, for example, or a discussion about a topic you’re passionate about. It could also be used to sample a podcast you’re unsure of by adding a couple episodes to a playlist to see how well you enjoy its content.

For example, if Spotify recommended a particular podcast based on your current listening habits, you could visit the show’s page and create a custom playlist of the episodes that looked most interesting.

In addition, users could take advantage of this new bookmarking feature to save favorite episodes they may want to listen to again at some point.

To save an episode, you’ll just click the “+” plus icon on an episode card or an episode page to add the show to the playlist. The playlist can include up to 10,000 episodes, Spotify says, and they’ll remain there until they’re manually removed.

Spotify has dabbled with podcast playlists before today. Last year, it began allowing users to add podcasts to their playlists and launched a combo music-and-podcast playlist for commuters called “Your Daily Drive.” Earlier this year, Spotify also rolled out a set of editorially curated podcast playlists to encourage discovery.

The new save feature simplifies the process of making a podcast playlist, however, as it allows users to quickly add content to a built-in playlist with a tap, instead of having to go through the more involved process of custom playlist creation.

The company says the new feature is rolling out starting today on iOS and Android to both Free users and Premium subscribers in all markets where podcasts are available.

#media, #podcasts, #spotify, #streaming


HBO Max quietly restored service to Linux users

Sometimes it seems like Widevine is the DNS of Digital Rights Management. "It can't be Widevine!" It was Widevine. It's always Widevine...

Enlarge / Sometimes it seems like Widevine is the DNS of Digital Rights Management. “It can’t be Widevine!” It was Widevine. It’s always Widevine… (credit: Jim Salter)

In August, HBO broke its customers’ access to the HBO Max streaming service by cranking up the settings on its Widevine DRM service—most likely by enabling a Verified Media Path requirement. When Ars reached out to HBO Max at the time, service representatives brushed us off with a boilerplate response:

You may be able to stream HBO Max on Linux platforms, though it is not officially supported for HBO Max at this time. For supported browsers and devices, see HBO Max supported devices or visit the HBO Max Help Center for additional support.

HBO Max representatives did not respond to a request for comment on whether the service had enabled the VMP requirement under Widevine, which is what broke CBS All Access for Linux users in January of this year.

We never did hear anything more from HBO Max, but as reader etarts pointed out to us this week, someone eventually fixed the issue with Widevine. The service is once again handing out licenses to Linux subscribers whose browsers support Widevine encryption. The full, proprietary Google Chrome browser supports Widevine (which is a Google protocol) by default; it can also be enabled relatively easily on Chromium and on Mozilla Firefox.

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#drm, #hbo-max, #linux, #streaming, #tech, #widevine


TikTok strikes new licensing agreement with Sony Music

TikTok announced this morning it has signed new licensing agreement with Sony Music Entertainment (SME) that will allow the short-form video app to continue to offer songs from Sony Music artists for use by creators on its platform. The agreement will also see the companies partnering on efforts to promote Sony artists, TikTok said.

Deal terms were not specified. But the expanded agreement will give TikTok’s creator community access to sound clips from Sony Music’s catalog of current hits, new releases, emerging favorites, iconic classics and deep cuts, TikTok noted in its announcement.

Without going into details, the company also said it would work with Sony to support “greater levels of TikTok user personalization and creativity” and “drive new and forward-looking opportunities for fan engagement with SME’s artists and music.”

This could indicate the companies may together work on promotional efforts that extend beyond just featuring Sony’s music clips — perhaps, something like hashtag campaigns or branded effects that will enable better music discovery or fan connections.

TikTok had already struck short-term licensing deals with Universal, Sony and Warner earlier this year, reports indicated. This had allowed the labels more time to hammer out the particulars of their agreements with TikTok without having to yank their music from the platform in the interim.

According to a Billboard report, TikTok will now pay Sony a “notable increase” over its previous rights deal. TikTok has not yet announced similar expanded deals with other majors at this time.

Though TikTok ultimately had to increase its payments to labels, it’s not without negotiating power of its own. The video app brings to its side of table a proven its ability to drive tracks up the charts and even make careers for newer artists.

Nielsen last year said that no other emerging app had helped break more songs than TikTok. It then pointed to the year’s most listened to on-demand song, “Old Town Road” from Lil Nas X, as well as Ava Max’s “Sweet But Psycho” and Joji’s “Slow Dancing in the Dark,” as examples of TikTok’s marketing power.

Billboard today also noted that TikTok helped drive hits from Sony artists like Doja Cat (“Say So”) and 24kGoldn (“Mood”), and helped Sony discover new talent. Columbia, for example, signed viral TikTok artists including Lil Nas X, Powfu, StaySolidRocky, Jawsh 685, Arizona Zervas and 24kGoldn, the report said.

The new Sony deal, meanwhile, will wrap in artists like Vampire Weekend, Harry Styles, Michael Jackson and others.

Related to TikTok’s power, Spotify just today launched a new promotional marketing tool for artists that allows them to better capitalize on TikTok-driven trends. Its release came about shortly after a TikTok viral video unbelievably sent Fleetwood Mac’s classic hit “Dreams” back up the charts to hit No. 1 on both Spotify and Apple Music.

In addition to its hit-making ability, TikTok today alluded to its power in helping artists reach fans amid a pandemic when their ability to host in-person concerts is limited.

Sony, in a statement, praised TikTok’s ability to drive discovery, too.

“Short form video clips have developed into an exciting new part of the music ecosystem that contribute to the overall growth of music and the way fans experience it,” said Dennis Kooker, President, Global Digital Business and U.S. Sales for Sony Music Entertainment. “TikTok is a leader in this space and we are pleased to be partnering with them to drive music discovery, expand opportunities for creativity and support artist careers,” he added.

TikTok has been on roll in recent months, having also added music from Prince, George Michael, John Lennon, and others to its platform this year ahead of the Sony deal.

#apps, #labels, #mobile, #music, #sony, #streaming, #tiktok


Spotify will now allow artists and labels promote tracks in your recommendations

Spotify announced today it will begin to test a new service that gives artists more of a say in how their music is discovered on the Spotify platform. At launch, the service will allow artists and labels to identify music that’s a priority to them and Spotify will then add a signal to help the music get surfaced by its personalization algorithms.

While the new service is not a paid promotion and requires no upfront budget on artists’ or labels’ part, Spotify says that the artists, labels and rights holders will agree to be paid a “promotional recording royalty rate” for streams where the company provides the service. Streams that come from any other place in the app would not be impacted, however.

At launch, the promotional rate will apply only in select areas of Spotify’s app, including Spotify Radio and Autoplay. Promoted tracks won’t appear on other playlists, either algorithmic or editorial — though Spotify isn’t ruling out expansion to these areas in the future.

“We wanted to make the tools accessible and available to artists of any size, at any phase in their career,” explains Spotify Product Marketing Lead, Charleton Lamb, in describing the new service. That’s why the company won’t require an upfront payment from artists and labels, he says.

“We were looking for a model that was acceptable, more democratic and fair…The model is going to allow even really small artists to access promotions at the same terms of the biggest labels,” Lamb adds.

Image Credits: Spotify

The idea is that if a track does well due to the promotion, the rights holders would see an overall positive ROI as the music becomes more popular and sees increased plays outside of the areas where the lower, promotional rate applies. Artists can also turn off the promotions at any time if the tool is not having a positive financial benefit.

Spotify isn’t detailing the extent of the royalty rate change for promotions, saying that it may be adjusted as a result of the test.

The company also stresses it will take listener interest and enjoyment into consideration with this change. Spotify says if the music performs well, it will continue to promote it. But if it doesn’t, it will be pulled back.

“We won’t guarantee placement to labels or artists, and we only ever recommend music we think listeners will want to hear,” Spotify notes, in its public announcement.

Lamb clarifies this means users may hear a promoted track if they already listen to that genre or artist, but also if there are other signals that indicate a user may be receptive to the music. For example, users could come across the promoted track if the music was acoustically similar to what they already listen to. It could also be placed in front of the user if they listen to similar artists, or if people who have similar listening habits also listen to that music.

The reverse will also be true. If those who share a user’s listening habits are negatively responding to a promoted track — perhaps by skipping it in a session or choosing to stream less frequently from Radio, for instance — the music could be pulled back.

“If any kind of recommendation was causing a listener to respond negatively or show less interest in radio systems, then we would adjust how we’re recommending,” Lamb says.

This user feedback loop can quickly impact the extent with which the track is promoted, he also notes, as the recommendation pools for listeners are updated every 24 hours.

There is currently no limit to how many tracks that an artist or label can promote at once, nor any limit on the time frame of the promotion.

While artists can promote tracks of any recency, Spotify believes the largest focus for this tool would be on catalog music. For example, if the artist is looking to celebrate an album anniversary or take advantage of a “cultural moment.”

In other words, if an artist sees sudden viral success for an older track, this service could help. That’s something that’s happening with much more frequency these days, thanks to TikTok, which is helping surface older tunes when they get featured as the background track in viral videos.

For example, when TikTok user Nathan Apodaca — better known as @420doggface208 — recorded a video of himself skateboarding and drinking Ocean Spray’s Cran-Raspberry juice to Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams,” the 1977 classic found itself back on the top charts.

TikTok said that from the video’s release on Sept. 25th to mid-October, the average daily uses of “Dreams” in TikTok videos climbed 1,380%, which then translated to a 374% jump in sales and an 89% jump in streams. This allowed the song to re-enter the Billboard Hot 100 at #21 after a 43-year absence. It also climbed to the Top Ten of Spotify’s Global and U.S. charts and hit #1 on Apple Music.

That’s precisely the type of “cultural moment” Spotify now aims to profit from.

Though the service is not exactly a “pay for play” model, it is a financially-tied service for music promotion that effectively allows Spotify to make more money when streams are “promoted” with the new tool.

Spotify has been inching its way into the pay for play market for years. In 2019, the company introduced a new feature that allows artists to buy a full-screen recommendation to promote their new album to users Spotify has identified as fans. Rolling Stone said each ad click cost 55 cents, citing internal documents.

Though the feature was targeted towards users who would be more likely to welcome such a notification, it was criticized as being a new form of payola — meaning labels that had the most money to spend would get the most play.

In previous years, Spotify had also been criticized for allowing payola to infiltrate its playlists. And the company famously angered its users in 2018 with an over-the-top Drake album promotion that placed the album and Drake’s image in sections of the app like Browse and Playlists, and used Drake’s image on playlists that didn’t even contain his music — like those featuring dance hits, pop, and more.

This new service, on the other hand, aims to counter some of the issues with past promotions, as it would favor pushing tracks to already receptive users — and it would do so in a less over-the-top way than with pop-up ads or overboard global promotions.

Spotify has tested the technology before now with a small number of partners, but says it will now begin to roll out the test and the promoted rate in the U.S.

During the test period, it will work with a small handful of labels, including both indies and majors, to gain a variety of feedback. Spotify says the feature will expand globally in the future.

#artists, #labels, #media, #music, #promotions, #spotify, #streaming


Spotify CEO says company will ‘further expand price increases’

Spotify is planning further price increases, according to comments made by co-founder and CEO Daniel Ek during the company’s third quarter earnings on Thursday. The streaming service had added 6 million subscribers in Q3 to achieve a total 144 million paying customers across 320 million active users, but fell short on both sales and earnings, driving the stock lower.

By raising prices for its service, Spotify could pull in higher revenues in markets where the company believes users will continue to see the value in paying for their streaming subscription.

The company didn’t specifically detail its plans for price increases in terms of dollars and cents or geographies. However, Ek explained how the company was thinking about possible price hikes in broader terms.

He said although Spotify’s primary focus continues to be user growth, there are markets where the service is more mature and has increased the value it provides subscribers, including with its “enhanced content.”

What he means by “enhanced content” are Spotify’s investments in growing its content library, specifically podcasts. Today, the service has 1.9 million podcasts. This quarter, it released 58 original and exclusive podcast shows, bringing this offering to a total of 16 markets.

Among the highlights, “The Michelle Obama Podcast” sent the new show to No. 1 on the platform for its July launch through August. Spotify’s partnership with DC Comics is kicking off with the “Batman Unburied” podcast. It’s also working with Riot Games‘ “League of Legends on an esports partnership and with Chernin Entertainment to turn its podcasts into film and TV.

However, Spotify’s “The Joe Rogan Experience” deal has been more controversial. It could potentially cause moderation headaches for the company now that it’s been brought in-house, and could lead to some portion of users to unsubscribe as a political stance.

This month, Spotify also rolled out new tools for Anchor users that let them include licensed music in their podcasts to help create a new type of music-and-spoken word programming.

Combined, Spotify sees these efforts as reasons why its service could be priced higher in some markets.

In its mature markets, Spotify says it’s seen engagement and value per hour grow over the years.

“I believe an increase in value per hour is the most reliable signal we have in determining when we are able to use price as a lever to grow our business,” noted Ek.

He also said that early tests of price increases have performed well.

“While it’s still early, initial results indicate that in markets where we’ve tested increased prices, our users believe that Spotify remains an exceptional value and they have shown a willingness to pay more for our service,” said Ek, in his remarks. “So as a result, you will see us further expand price increases, especially in places where we’re well-positioned against the competition and our value per hour is high,” he added.

Spotify has been openly hinting about price increases all year.

In the first quarter, Ek had slightly opened the door to the idea, saying it was “encouraging” to see the company had the opportunity to raise prices when the economy improved. In Q2, Ek again suggested higher prices were coming, and added that Spotify’s exclusive podcast content enables “pricing power,” along with its overall improving service and the existence of higher ARPU (average revenue per user.)

Today, Ek’s statement suggests higher prices aren’t just being weighed or discussed — they’re coming.

To date, Spotify has tested price hikes at its upper tiers of its service in several markets.

Last year, for example, Spotify tested price increases for its Family Plan in some Scandinavian markets, upping the cost by around 13%. The goal of those tests was to figure out if it would make sense for the streamer to roll out higher pricing on a worldwide basis.

Just this month, reports indicated Spotify had increased the price of its Family Plan in Australia from AUS $17.99 to AUS $18.99 — or, approximately US $13.69. This change was effective October 1 for new subscribers.

Today, Spotify notes it also raised the price of the Family Plan in a half dozen other markets this month, including Belgium, Switzerland, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia, alongside its Duo Plan (2-person plan) in Colombia.

There was one caveat to Spotify’s plans for higher pricing, however: the pandemic. Ek said the company would “continue to tread carefully in these COVID times to ensure we don’t get ahead of the market.”

In other words, it doesn’t make sense to raise prices in a recession, where people have lost jobs and are cutting unnecessary expenses — like their streaming subscriptions.

#earnings, #family-plan, #media, #spotify, #streaming, #streaming-music, #streaming-service, #tc


Justice at Spotify demands better compensation and increased transparency for musicians

Musicians have taken issue with Spotify’s artist compensation for about as long as there’s been a Spotify. Making a living as a musician is difficult enough for the vast majority of those who are brave — or perhaps foolish — enough to attempt such things, but being thrown in a seemingly endless global pandemic has made it near impossible for many.

This week the Music Workers Union (UMAW) launched a campaign aimed at highlighting some of the issues around the streaming giant’s model. There are demands, as well. At the top of the list is a seemingly small one: one cent per stream on the service. Justice at Spotify has its own site, along with a petition, asking artists to sign on.

“With the entire live music ecosystem in jeopardy due to the coronavirus pandemic, music workers are more reliant on streaming income than ever,” the org writes. “We are calling on Spotify to deliver increased royalty payments, transparency in their practices, and to stop fighting artists.

Organization rep Damon Krukowski told TechCrunch that the reaction so far has been overwhelmingly positive among artists. And, as anticipated, less so among some in the industry.

Response to our Justice at Spotify campaign from musicians has been quick and positive — we are about to hit 10,000 signatures by artists in only the first 48 hours,” Krukowski writes. “At the same time, response from certain corners of the industry has been as cold as we expected: ‘you’re just musicians and don’t understand business,’ is the basic gist of it. To which I would say: the problem we are calling attention to is precisely that musicians have been left out of the conversation! We always come last in payment, and in consultation — even though our work is what the streaming business is built on.”

The growing list of signees includes a number of prominent names — including, unsurprisingly, many in indie music who have been disproportionally hurt by changing models and the current lockdown. Names include Thurston Moore, Saul Williams, Ezra Furman, New Bomb Turk, Frankie Cosmos, Guy Picciotto, Speedy Ortiz and Mary Lattimore.

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek caused a storm of controversy in July with seemingly callous comments about artist compensation as live shows have all but completely dried up during the pandemic. “Some artists that used to do well in the past may not do well in this future landscape,” he told Music Ally, “where you can’t record music once every three to four years and think that’s going to be enough.”

Meanwhile, the service has poured millions into content and startup acquisitions to gain a foothold in the podcast industry. That includes a $100 million acquisition of the Joe Rogan Experience, which continues to cause controversy among the public and, reportedly, Spotify’s own staff.

We’ve reached out to Spotify for comment and will update accordingly when we hear back. Krukowski says the next steps for the organization will largely depend on the response from Spotify and the will of its members. “We have ideas for next steps in this campaign but that will depend on how it is received by both our fellow musicians, and Spotify,” he says.

#apps, #entertainment, #spotify, #streaming


The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart will return in new Apple TV+ series

Jon Stewart appears in a segment on <em>The Late Show with Stephen Colbert</em> post-<em>Daily Show</em> retirement.

Enlarge / Jon Stewart appears in a segment on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert post-Daily Show retirement. (credit: CBS)

Former The Daily Show host Jon Stewart has signed a multiyear deal with Apple TV+ to write, star in, and produce a current affairs show that Apple and Stewart expect to run for multiple seasons, according to a report from The Hollywood Reporter.

Five years ago, comedian and commentator Jon Stewart departed his role hosting Comedy Central’s The Daily Show—just a year before his audience would have wanted him most, many have observed.

Since then, he has occasionally appeared to do small and infrequent segments on his former colleague Stephen Colbert’s The Late Show on CBS, he’s appeared in some media interviews, he directed one film, and he did a comedy tour with fellow topical comedian Dave Chapelle. Mostly, though, he has lived the family life at his farm in New Jersey.

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#apple-tv, #jon-stewart, #media, #politics, #streaming, #tech, #the-daily-show, #tv


HBO Max hits 28.7M subscribers in Q3, but few are over-the-top

AT&T painted a rosy picture of HBO Max adoption during the company’s earnings report on Thursday. Despite not being available on Roku, one of the top streaming platforms in the U.S., AT&T said new HBO Max activations more than doubled from second-quarter levels, reaching 8.6 million in Q3.

In total, 28.7 million customers were eligible to stream their HBO Max subscription by the end of the quarter, the company said.

Of these, 25.1 million came from “wholesale” agreements — meaning a pay TV provider of some kind, like Comcast, Charter, Verizon [TechCrunch’s parent], or AT&T’s own DirecTV, for example. But only 3.625 million were direct “retail” subscribers.

Combined, both HBO and HBO Max topped 38 million subscribers in the U.S. and 57 million worldwide. The 38 million figure put the company ahead of its previously announced year-end target of 36 million, the report said.

However, AT&T’s numbers alone don’t paint a true picture of who’s really watching HBO Max content.

AT&T touts its quarterly “activiations” without clarifying that only a small portion of customers are choosing to sign up for HBO Max directly by paying $15 per month for a subscription. A larger portion are simply becoming eligible to watch the streaming service through their existing HBO subscriptions — but many haven’t yet signed in and actually streamed.

In fact, some significant portion of these 8.6 million new “activations” may not yet even know that HBO Max exists — especially if the service is unavailable on their favorite streaming platform, like Roku. Or they may know it exists but can’t find it on Roku, so they think it just hasn’t launched.

Roku finally took this issue into its own hands, and is now working around the stalled negotiations by adding support for AirPlay 2 on its newer devices. This will give Apple customers a way to stream from apps that haven’t launched on the Roku platform itself.

AT&T also said it’s continuing to invest in HBO Max, having poured around $600 million in the service during Q3, bringing its investment to $1.3 billion for the year so far. And it’s on track for an estimated investment of $2 billion by year-end.

The company also said consumer engagement on the new platform was doing well, up nearly 60% from HBO Now levels. But it offered few other metrics of success, other than saying its “library” titles have been “performing incredibly strong” with its customer base. In addition, only 1 or 2 pieces of leased content have made it into the HBO Max top 10, but AT&T admitted it could have launched with a stronger slate of original programs.

On the product side, AT&T said it would be pushing out software updates every 45 days to improve the user interface and usability of the app. And it’s still on track to launch an advertising-supported version of the service (AVOD)  in 2021, as planned, and expand internationally.

“AVOD not only allows us to broaden the offering [and] the amount of content we put on the platform,” explained AT&T CEO John Stankey, “it allows us to hit a different price point and attract different segments of the market and as a result of that we think that will be an important market expansion capability for us,” he said.





#att, #cord-cutting, #hbo, #max, #media, #streaming


Spotify takes on radio with its own daily morning show

Spotify’s streaming music service is starting to resemble terrestrial radio with today’s launch of the company’s first daily morning show, “The Get Up.” Like other morning shows designed for commuters, the new program will be led by hosts and will combine news, pop culture, entertainment and music. But in Spotify’s case, the music is personalized to the listener,

The show is not a live program, however. Unlike radio morning shows where content is broadcast live and often also involves interactions with listeners — like call-ins or contests — Spotify’s show is pre-recorded and made available as a playlist.

That means you can listen at any time after its 7 AM ET release on weekday mornings.

You can also opt to skip portions of the programming — like the music or some of the chatter — if you prefer. (Spotify, to be clear, refers to the show as a podcast, but the format actually splits the hosts’ talk radio-like content from the individual music tracks. In other words, it’s more like a mixed-media playlist than a traditional podcast.)

Another key thing that makes Spotify’s programming different from a radio show is that the music is personalized to the listener. Of course, that’s not always ideal. If you prefer to listen to new music during your commute, but have had been busy streaming oldies on Spotify’s service, your morning show will reflect those trends. There’s currently no way to program the show more directly by genre, either.

The show itself is hosted by three people: journalist Speedy Morman, previously of Complex; YouTuber Kat Lazo, known for her series “The Kat Call;” and Spotify’s own Xavier ‘X’ Jernigan, Head of Cultural Partnerships and In-House Talent.

The new playlist will be made available on weekday mornings in the Made for You and Driving hubs on Spotify for both free and premium subscribers in the U.S. You can also access the show directly from http://www.spotify.com/thegetup.

#media, #morning-show, #music, #podcasts, #programming, #radio, #spotify, #streaming


‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ is now an Apple TV+ exclusive

On first screening, the network assumed it had a disaster on its hands. It was a quiet cartoon — more of a meditation on seasonal depression than a proper holiday film. The pacing was slow, it was voiced by a cast of amateur children and the soundtrack amounted to little more than the jazz piano stylings of a mustachioed North Beach hipster nicknamed “Dr. Funk.”

Worst of all, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” actively railed against the commercialization of the season, primarily in the form of an extended monologue from the blanket-wielding Linus set in the context of Jesus’s nativity.

“[The executives said], ‘We’ll play it once and that will be all. Good try,’ ” producer Lee Mendelson told me in an interview back in 2006. “[Director Bill Melendez] and I thought we had ruined Charlie Brown forever when it was done. We kind of agreed with the network. One of the animators stood up in the back of the room — he had had a couple of drinks — and he said, ‘It’s going to run for a hundred years,’ and then fell down. We all thought he was crazy, but he was more right than we were.”

“A Charlie Brown Christmas” has, of course, endured. The 25-minute animated special has aired on network television every year since its 1965 debut. It ran on CBS until 2000 and then on ABC each year subsequently, including special broadcasts on its 40th and 50th anniversaries on 2005 and 2015, respectively. For its 55th anniversary, it won’t appear on network TV at all.

In October, Apple acquired the exclusive rights to the special, as part of its ongoing, billion-dollar Apple TV+ push. The deal with Wildbrain, Peanuts Worldwide and the now-late Mendelson’s production company makes Apple’s streaming platform the exclusive rights holder for Peanuts content. That means that subsequent specials “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” and “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” will see a similar fate.

It’s become a familiar story in the era of streaming. Last year HBO Max locked down exclusive access to new episodes of “Sesame Street,” though that specific deal allowed for episodes to air on PBS at a later date. There’s a bit of a loophole here, too. The Peanuts deal requires Apple to offer the specials for free for a limited window. The “Great Pumpkin” will be free through the service from October 30 until November 1, “Thanksgiving” will be made available from November 25 to the 27 and “Christmas” will come decidedly earlier this year, from December 11 to the 13.

“[Peanuts creator Charles Schulz] would say things like, ‘I never thought it would be around 25 years later,’ ” his widow Jean Schulz told me in an interview for that same piece. “One of the reasons that Christmas is so great is that back in 1965 there were no VCRs or DVDs, so you saw that show once, and you had to wait a whole year to see it again. And when it came on, it still held up. It was still charming.”

More than a half of a century later, the special still qualifies as both. It’s a perfect artifact of American popular culture that is very much both a product of its own era and a gentle protest against it. Of course, all of the things that Linus warned us about back in 1965 have only compounded in the intervening decades. The media landscape, too, has transformed several times since then.

In a world in which change is the only constant, watching “A Charlie Brown Christmas” on TV has been something to rely on. This year, the short becomes the latest bit of content to get shoveled up in the great streaming wars of 2020, as media companies fight tooth and nail for back catalogues.

Cast as the perennial cynic and antagonist football mover, Lucy Van Pelt tells the titular character, “Look, Charlie, let’s face it. We all know that Christmas is a big commercial racket.” That, at least, hasn’t changed.

#apple, #apple-tv, #apple-tv-plus, #entertainment, #streaming


1980s MTV is back, sort of: Apple launches Apple Music TV channel

Today, Apple launched a 24-hour streaming video channel called Apple Music TV that will harken back to the early days of MTV by playing mostly music videos—but in this case, it’s ad-free.

Viewers will be able to watch the channel in either the TV app (on an Apple device like a Mac, iPhone, or Apple TV) or the Music app (it’s found in the Browse tab). Additionally, you can find it at apple.co/AppleMusicTV.

There is no live chat, there aren’t any interactive features, and there’s no integration at all with the Apple Music app (like the ability to favorite songs), so users may find the service is barebones compared to some other music-focused streaming offerings.

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#apple, #apple-music, #apple-tv, #music, #music-videos, #streaming, #tech


YouTube Premium subscribers get a new perk with launch of testing program

YouTube has long allowed its users to test new features and products before they go live to a wider audience. But in a recent change, YouTube’s latest series of experiments are being limited to those who subscribe the Premium tier of YouTube’s service. Currently, paid subscribers are the only ones able to test several new product features, including one that allows iOS users to watch YouTube videos directly on the homescreen.

This is not the same thing as the Picture-in-Picture option that’s become available to app developers with iOS 14, to be clear. Instead, YouTube says this feature allows users who are scrolling on their YouTube homepage to watch videos with the sound on while they scroll through their feed.

Two other experiments are related to search. One lets you filter topics you search for by additional languages, including Spanish, French, or Portuguese. The other lets you use voice search to pull up videos when using the Chrome web browser.

Image Credits: YouTube, screenshot via TechCrunch

None of these tests will be very lengthy, however. Two of the three new experiments wrap up on Oct. 20, 2020 for example. The other wraps on Oct. 27. And they’ve only been live for a few weeks.

In years past, YouTube had allowed all users to try out new features in development from a dedicated site dubbed “TestTube.” In more recent years, however, it began to use the website YouTube.com/new to direct interested users to upcoming features before they rolled out publicly. For example, when YouTube introduced its redesign in 2017, users could visit that same website to opt-in to the preview ahead of its launch.

Now, the site is being used to promote other limited-time tests.

YouTube says the option to test the features was highlighted to Premium subscribers a few weeks ago within the YouTube app. It’s also the first time that YouTube has run an experimentation program tied to the Premium service, we’re told.

The company didn’t make a formal public announcement, but the addition was just spotted by several blogs, including XDA Developers and Android Central, for example.

Contrary to some reports, however, it does not appear that YouTube’s intention is to close off all its experiments to anyone except its paid subscribers. The company’s own help documentation, in fact, notes this limitation will only apply to “some” of its tests. 

YouTube also clarified to TechCrunch that the tests featured on the site represent only a “small minority” of those being run across YouTube. And they are not at all inclusive of the broader set of product experiments the company runs, according to the company.

In addition, non-Premium users can opt to sign up to be notified of additional opportunities to participate in other YouTube research studies, if they choose. This option appears at the bottom of the YouTube.com/new page. 

YouTube says the goal with the new experiments is two-fold. It allows product teams to feedback on different features and it allows Premium subscribers to act as early testers, if they want to.

Premium users who choose to participate can opt into and out of the new features individually, but can only try out one experiment at a time.

This could serve to draw more YouTube users to the Premium subscription, as there’s a certain amount of clout involved with being able to try out features and products ahead of the general public. Consider it another membership perk then — something extra on top of the baseline Premium tier features like ad-free videos, downloads, background play and more.

YouTube, which today sees over 2 billion monthly users, said earlier this year it’s converted at least 20 million users to a paid subscription service. (YouTube Premium / YouTube Music). As of Q3 2020, YouTube was the No. 3 largest app by consumer spend worldwide across iOS and Android, per App Annie data.




#apps, #google, #mobile, #streaming, #video, #youtube


Facebook’s Portal adds support for Netflix, Zoom and other features

Facebook announced this morning it’s bringing a number of new features and services to its family of Portal devices, including support for Netflix and Zoom. The company will also introduce easier ways to launch Netflix and other video streaming apps via one-touch buttons on its new remote, in addition to expanding its selection of its stories offered through its Story Time feature, adding new ways to use AR effects, and introducing Spanish-language voice control, among other things.

Portal TV, the media device that works with your TV at home, today offers access to a range of streaming services, including Amazon Prime Video, Showtime, and Sling TV. But, until now, one of the most important streaming services — Netflix — had been missing. Facebook says Netflix will now be introduced to Portal TV in all countries where Portal is sold.

It will also introduce a new remote that will include one-touch buttons for launching streaming apps, like Prime Video, Netflix, and its own Facebook Watch. This will ship with new Portal TV devices starting today and will be sold in stores in the coming weeks.

The news of Portal TV’s Netflix integration follows shortly after Amazon’s September announcement that it would support the popular streaming service on its own Amazon Echo Show smart displays, three years after the Echo Show line’s original debut. Google, too, recently added Netflix to its smart display lineup, with support arriving on its Nest Hub and Hub Max earlier this year.

The timing of these updates hint that negotiations with Netflix over smart display integrations had been taking place industry-wide, as Netflix worked to make to make its service available across the various platforms.

Netflix began rolling out to Portal TV units via an update late last night, so all Portal TV users should have the app available now.

Image Credits: Facebook

Facebook will also bring Zoom to its Portal devices for video-calling, it says. In August, Zoom had confirmed its plans to support smart displays, including Echo Show and Google Nest Hub Max, as well as Portal from Facebook.

With Portal support, Zoom users will be able to host a video call with up to 25 people on the screen, while leveraging the device’s high-fidelity sound and its AI-powered Smart Camera for hands-free calling, says Facebook. The support will be added to Portal Mini, Portal, and Portal+ in all regions where the device is sold.

Image Credits: Facebook

As previously announced at Facebook Connect, the company is also expanding its collection of interactive stories in its Story Time library with more diverse content. New stories include Thank You, Omu!A Kids Book About Belonging, and Grandma’s Purse. Plus, AR features are being added to  Dr. Seuss stories, including Hop on PopMr. Brown Can Moo! Can You?The Foot Book, and There’s a Wocket in my Pocket! These will roll out sometime this fall.

Portal’s AR features are getting an update, too. Users will be able to control AR effects in Photo Booth using their voice and the “Hey Portal” command to send themed cards and take photos and video with AR effects to send to friends and family.

“Hey Portal” will also now work in U.S. Spanish, in addition to English, with more languages expected to come in the future. On-screen text on Portal can be displayed in French, Spanish, Italian, and English, however.

#facebook, #media-player, #netflix, #portal, #smart-display, #streaming, #tc, #zoom


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Twitch launches a rights-cleared music catalog for streamers, Soundtrack by Twitch

Twitch today is introducing a new tool, Soundtrack by Twitch, that will allows it creators to add licensed music within their streams. The feature, which has been in development over the past year, is meant to not only make it easier to find rights-cleared music, but also to address the ongoing issues creators face with having their archives muted.

At launch, Soundtrack by Twitch is working with a variety of label and distribution partners, but doesn’t have agreements with the majors themselves. Instead, the initial lineup of supported partners includes Soundcloud, Monstercat, Distrokid, cdbaby, Empire, Westwood Recordings, United Masters, Alpha Pup, Popgang, Text Me Records, Dim Mak, Create Music Group, Chillhop Music, Anjunabeats, Soundstripe, LabelWork, mxmtoon, future classic, Nuclear Blast, Season of Mist, Chilled Cow, Pure Noise Records, Symphonic, Blkbox, and Songtradr.

Twitch says this lineup will give creators access to a range of music, including artists like Above & Beyond, mxmtoon, Porter Robinson, RAC, SwuM, and others.

Image Credits: Twitch

Some of Twitch’s music partners had already been catering to creators by publishing their free-to-use music as Spotify playlists, for example. Others had previous agreements with Twitch, like dance music label Anjunabeats which had cleared 350 tracks last year for use in Twitch streams. Soundcloud, meanwhile, had more recently launched its own channel on Twitch to help connect with viewers interested in discovering new music. Other details about this new upcoming Twitch integration were pre-announced by some participants.

Before today, Twitch’s Audio Recognition system would automatically flag any audio where users didn’t have the necessary rights to play it during the stream. Many creators mistakenly believed if they had bought the bought or paid for a streaming subscription service that would allow them to feature the music while streaming. This wasn’t true.

In reality, the only music creators were able to legally play largely fell under a few, narrow categories: music they themselves owned or music that was licensed to them. (Vocal performances captured during Twitch Sings gameplay were also permitted.)

That meant a wide variety of music-related content on Twitch simply wasn’t allowed, including radio-style listening shows, DJ sets, karaoke and lip syncing, cover songs where creators used any sort of musical accompaniment besides themselves, or even the display of lyrics.

When music was flagged, creators could find their VODs (video on demand) muted.

Image Credits: Twitch

Twitch in the past had tried to address music rights issues with the launch of the Twitch Music Library in 2015, but this was shut down last year without explanation.

With the launch of Soundtrack by Twitch, music will be separated into its own audio channel so creators can play the tracks without being worried about muting or receiving strikes against their channel. Creators will be able to choose music from a set of stations and playlists curated by Twitch staff, by theme or genre — like “just chilling” or “Lofi Hip Hop/Beats” or “Rap,” for example.

The launch of Soundtrack comes at a time when music has become a larger part of the Twitch experience, thanks to the live-streaming platform’s adoption by artists during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The company hosted a benefit in partnership with Amazon Music, called Stream Aid, which featured a number of artists, like Diplo, Barry Gibb, Ryan Tedder, Lauv, Charlie Puth, Die Antwoord and others. It since has hosted a flood of other musicians’ live stream, leading the “Music & Performing Arts” category to surge by 387% year-over-year as of this July.

Twitch also hired Spotify’s Tracy Chan as its new head of Product & Engineering for Music, partnered with Bandsintown, and rolled out several ways for artists to fast-track their way to Twitch Affiliate status. This month, Twitch livestreams were also integrated with Amazon Music’s app.

The early version of Soundtrack by Twitch is launching today and will be compatible with OBS on PC, Twitch Studio, and Streamlabs OBS (soon), the company says.

#artists, #music, #streaming, #tc, #twitch


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

The Marvel’s 616 trailer

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

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

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

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


Amazon Luna servers will run Windows games directly on Nvidia T4 GPUs

Amazon’s newly announced Luna streaming service will run games on a standard Amazon Web Services EC2 G4 instance, the company told Ars Technica in a roundtable discussion. Those server instances sport Nvidia T4 GPUs equipped with 320 Turing Tensor cores and support for Nvidia’s GRID virtualization drivers.

Luna’s server architecture is significantly different from that of Google’s Stadia, which uses Linux-based data servers and Vulkan’s open source graphics APIs. That means extra work for Stadia developers who have to port their existing games to Stadia’s environment, which can sometimes lead to apparent graphical snafus.

The precise amount of porting work needed for a Stadia port can vary. A game like Doom (2016), which already supported Vulkan graphics, reportedly took only three weeks of fulltime work by two developers to get running on Stadia. But Cyberpunk 2077 will be coming to Stadia after its Windows and console launches, according to publisher CD Projekt Red, likely due to the extra porting effort.

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#amazon, #browser, #gaming-culture, #luna, #streaming, #tech


Amazon announces streaming gaming service Luna, launching next month

Roughly 20 months after rumors first emerged of Amazon’s entry into the streaming-gaming space, the e-commerce giant and Twitch parent is today ready to officially unveil its plans. Next month, Amazon Luna will start extending early access invitations to players from the mainland United States who request them. The service will stream games running on Amazon Web Services servers to Fire TV, Windows, Mac, and iOS devices initially (with Android support coming weeks later).

That iOS support might be a bit surprising, given the onerous restrictions Apple has placed on streaming-gaming apps before they can be listed on the iOS App Store. But Amazon is getting around those restrictions by running Luna as a “progressive web application” that runs on iOS only in the Safari browser, without an App Store listing at all. That could impact the service’s visibility and ease of access to many iOS users, but it also eliminates the 30 percent revenue cut Apple demands from most App Store services.

“We worked with the Safari team to ensure that some of the things that weren’t there are there, and that allowed us to kind of get to where we are today,” Luna head of engineering and technology George Tsipolitis told Engadget.

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#amazon, #gaming-culture, #luna, #streaming


Apple allows streaming games on iOS, but there’s a catch

Apple allows streaming games on iOS, but there’s a catch

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty Images)

New App Store Review Guidelines published by Apple today open the door for streaming game apps like Google Stadia and Microsoft’s xCloud to be available on iOS devices for the first time. But the guidelines also impose some onerous requirements on multi-game streaming subscriptions that could prove difficult for services to meet.

By way of summary, Apple’s new guidelines say that any streaming game apps simply have to “adhere to all guidelines” for non-streaming apps. That means “each game update must be submitted for review, developers must provide appropriate metadata for search, games must use in-app purchase to unlock features or functionality, etc.”

More than that, though, each game in a multi-game streaming subscription needs to be submitted separately for App Store review. That step is necessary so each game can “[have] an App Store product page, appear in charts and search, [have] user ratings and review… be managed with ScreenTime and other parental control apps, appears on the user’s device, etc.”

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#apple, #gaming-culture, #google, #ios, #microsoft, #stadia, #streaming, #tech, #xcloud


Recorded music revenue is up on streaming growth, as physical sales plummet

With touring ground to a halt for the foreseeable future, 2020 has become the most difficult year for musicians in recent memory. One’s ability to survive on music depends on a variety of factors, of course, including things like audience, reach and how their fans access their output.

The world of recorded music has been a mixed bag throughout the pandemic. New industry figures from the Recording Industry Association of America out this week show that revenue for recorded music is actually up for the first half of 2020, owing, unsurprisingly, to the growth of music streaming.

With vastly more people stuck inside seeking novel methods of entertainment, paid subscriptions (Spotify, Apple Music, et al.) are up 24% year-over-year. Revenues on streaming music are up 12% overall, hitting $2.4 billion for the first half of the year. The figured has been hampered by an overall drop in ad sales that certainly isn’t limited to the music industry. That has had a sizable impact on services like YouTube, Vevo and Spotify’s free tier.

Physical sales of CDs and vinyl took a massive hit to an already rocky foundation, down 23% for that time period. Streaming now makes up 85% of all revenue in the U.S., with physical sales only commanding 7% — just slightly higher than the 6% made by digital downloads. It’s a troubling figure, given the difficulty many more independent artists have faced in monetizing streaming.

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek faced backlash from the industry for comments surrounding streaming revenue. “There is a narrative fallacy here, combined with the fact that, obviously, some artists that used to do well in the past may not do well in this future landscape, where you can’t record music once every three to four years and think that’s going to be enough,” the executive said in a recent interview.

The comments came as many musicians have struggled to keep their heads above water during a sustained touring hiatus. They also come as the streaming service has continued to pump money into acquisitions in an attempt to build out its podcasting presence.

#apple-music, #entertainment, #riaa, #spotify, #streaming, #youtube


Unity launches its Cloud Content Delivery service for game developers

Unity, the company behind the popular real-time 3D engine, today officially launched its Cloud Content Delivery service. This new service, which is engine-agnostic, combines a content delivery network and backend-as-a-service platform to help developers distribute and update their games. The idea here is to offer Unity developers — and those using other game engines — a live game service option that helps them get the right content to their players at the right time.

As Unity’s Felix The noted, most game developers currently use a standard CDN provider, but that means they must also develop their own last-mile delivery service in order to be able to make their install and update process more dynamic and configurable. Or, as most gamers can attest, the developers simply opt to ship the game as a large binary and with every update, the user has to download that massive file again.

“That can mean the adoption of your new game content or any content will trail a little bit behind because you are reliant on people doing the updates necessary,” The said.

And while the Cloud Delivery Service can be used across platforms, the team is mostly focusing on mobile for now. “We are big fans of focusing on a certain segment when we start and then we can decide how we want to expand. There is a lot of need in the mobile space right now — more so than the rest,” The said. To account for this, the Cloud Content Delivery service allows developers to specify which binary to send to which device, for example.

Having a CDN is one thing, but that last-mile delivery, as The calls it, is where Unity believes it can solve a real pain point for developers.

“CDNs, you get content. Period,” The said. “But in this case, if you want to, as a game developer, test a build — is this QA ready? Is this something that is still being QAed? The build that you want to assign to be downloaded from our Cloud Content Delivery will be different. You want to soft launch new downloadable content for Canada before you release it in the U.S.? You would use our system to configure that. It’s really purpose-built with video games in mind.”

The team decided to keep pricing simple. All developers pay for is the egress pricing, plus a very small fee for storage. There is no regional pricing either, and the first 50GB of bandwidth usage is free, with Unity charging $0.08 per GB for the next 50TB, with additional pricing tiers for those who use more than 50TB ($0.06/GB) and 500TB ($0.03).

“Our intention is that people will look at it and don’t worry about ‘what does this mean? I need a pricing calculator. I need to simulate what’s it going to cost me,’ but really just focus on the fact that they need to make great content,” The explained.

It’s worth highlighting that the delivery service is engine-agnostic. Unity, of course, would like you to use it for games written with the help of the Unity engine, but it’s not a requirement. The argues that this is part of the company’s overall philosophy.

“Our mission has always been centered around democratizing development and making sure that people — regardless of their choices — will have access to success,” he said. “And in terms of operating your game, the decision of a gaming engine typically has been made well before operating your game ever comes into the picture. […] Developer success is at the heart of what we want to focus on.”

#canada, #cloud-computing, #cloud-infrastructure, #cloud-storage, #computing, #content-delivery-network, #developer, #distributed-computing, #game-engine, #gaming, #streaming, #tc, #united-states, #unity, #unity-technologies


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Twitch launches Watch Parties to all creators worldwide

Twitch is doubling down on making its site more than just a place for live streaming gaming video. Last fall, the Amazon-owned company began testing a new feature called “Watch Parties,” which lets creators stream Amazon Prime Video content to viewers with Amazon Prime. This spring, Twitch opened up Watch Parties to its biggest streaming channels in the U.S., adding support for over 70 movies and TV shows from Prime Video at launch. Today, Twitch says the feature is now available to creators worldwide.

With the global expansion, Twitch streamers can host a Watch Party featuring any title that’s included with a Prime or Prime Video subscription in their region. Of course, if creators are streaming to an international audience, they’ll want to find content everyone can watch. These titles will be identified with a label reading “Broadly Available,” which means most Prime subscribers on Twitch can view the content.

As the content is streamed to viewers, the Twitch streamer’s own webcam will appear in the video player above Chat, so the community can watch how they react. Viewers can also show support for the streamer as they would normally, using features like Bits or subscribing to their channel, for example.

To use the feature, streamers will first need to add the Watch Party Quick Action to Stream Manger, then connect Watch Parties with their own Prime or Prime Video account. When it’s time to stream, they’ll just select the TV show or movie they want to watch, the go live.

The launch comes at a time when co-viewing experiences like this have been on the rise due to the coronavirus pandemic. People staying home under quarantines and lockdown have turned to co-watching to stay connected with family and friends. The browser extension Netflix Party went viral in the early days of the pandemic in the U.S., and since then major streaming services including Prime Video and Hulu have rolled out their own co-watching features, too.

Twitch has also found traction amid the pandemic as a home to more non-gaming content. Musicians, for example, have turned to Twitch to stream to fans. Other areas of its site, like “Just Chatting,” have boomed as well.

Twitch says it’s now working to make Watch Parties available on mobile devices — a feature it expects to launch in the next several months.

#amazon, #streaming, #streaming-video, #tc, #twitch, #watch-parties


Movies Anywhere officially launches its digital movie-lending feature, ‘Screen Pass’

Digital locker service Movies Anywhere is today officially launching its movie-sharing feature dubbed “Screen Pass,” which lets you lend out one of your purchased movies to a friend or family member. The feature was rushed into beta testing this March, followed by a more open public beta trial in April, thanks to increased demand from consumers stuck at home during coronavirus government lockdowns.

The Movies Anywhere app today allows customers centralized access their purchased movies from across a number of services, including iTunes, Vudu, Prime Video, YouTube, Xfinity and many others.

Today, the app is jointly operated by Disney, Universal, WB, Sony Pictures and 20th Century Fox. The product itself had evolved from a 2014 version known as Disney Movies Anywhere, but later migrated to a new platform in 2017. The app was also rebuilt to accommodate an expanded group of operating partners, rebranded, and now operates as a different business than it did in years past.

In April, Movies Anywhere reported over 6,000 of the titles in its app were Screen Pass-eligible. Since then, it’s added 500 more movies to the collection, including Who Framed Roger Rabbit, A Star Is Born Encore, The Muppets, and National Treasure. With the additions, over 80% of its library titles can be shared through the new feature.

Image Credits: Movies Anywhere

To share a title, you’ll click the Screen Pass icon on the title and enter the details, like the recipient’s information. Shared movies can be sent out over text, email or a message to the recipient who has a week to accept. The shared movie then works like a digital movie rental, for the most part, as the viewer will have up to 14 days to watch and up to 72 hours to compete viewing after the movie has been started. But unlike rentals, the recipient doesn’t have to pay to watch — it’s free to both share and watch.

The company says early data from Screen Pass beta tests indicated the feature has the potential to drive new acquisitions and purchases.

45% of senders shared a movie using Screen Pass because someone else had first shared a movie with them. 30% of those who received a shared movie were new to the Movies Anywhere platform. A small number of movies drove around 9% of total shares, including Ready Player One, The Prestige, Tombstone, The Mule, Bad Times at El Royale, and Jaws. This data indicates that Screen Pass shares weren’t limited to newer titles, as one may expect, but also included older classics.

In addition, around half of sharers (53%) chose the movie they were lending, versus 47% who let the recipient choose. But this could be due to how the Screen Pass beta test was structured, as recipients would be opted into the beta test by accepting a share from another member. It’s likely that some portion of the early group was simply inviting their friends by sharing a title with them.

In addition to Screen Pass sharing, Movies Anywhere also recently introduced a co-viewing feature called Watch Together which offers a synced viewing experience with up to 9 other people. This product works via Screen Pass, and competes with a variety of solutions that emerged or grew in popularity amid the pandemic, including those from Hulu, Amazon, and third-parties like Scener and Netflix Party, among others.

Screen Pass is launching today to all Movies Anywhere customers in the U.S. The Movies Anywhere app works across a range of devices, including iOS and Android mobile, Apple TV, Roku, Kindle Fire, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, and LG and Vizio smart TVs.

#apps, #film, #media, #movie-rentals, #movie-sharing, #movies, #movies-anywhere, #streaming


Spotify is developing a ‘virtual events’ feature

The coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on the music industry, as artists who relied on live performances and concerts suddenly had the rug pulled out beneath them, impacting their ability to generate income. An upcoming feature in development at Spotify could help turn things around, by again connecting artists with their fans through ticketed live music events. This time, however, instead of helping fans find live concerts, as in the pre-pandemic days, the new feature will alert fans to the artist’s upcoming “virtual events.”

The feature was first discovered by reverse engineer Jane Manchun Wong and isn’t yet available in the public-facing version of the Spotify app.

Wong’s photos of the feature show the Spotify profile page for the artist BTS, where a new “Upcoming Virtual Events” section now appears. After tapping on the event, fans are informed that BTS will appear at a virtual concert on September 19. The event here is the 2020 iHeartRadio Music Festival, where BTS is scheduled to perform. In the example photos, Songkick is listed as the ticketing partner for this event.

A shift to include virtual event listings instead of live concerts wouldn’t be difficult for Spotify to implement. The company already works with ticketing partners including Ticketmaster, Songkick, Resident Advisor, Eventbrite, AXS and eplus in Japan. These ticketing sites have embraced virtual events amid the pandemic as way to keep their businesses afloat while in-person events were delayed and shut down over health concerns — or even became illegal under government lockdowns.

Spotify has a long history in connecting fans with artists. The company first added a concert discovery feature back in 2015. Though Spotify still doesn’t sell event tickets directly, it’s able to leverage its listening data and knowledge of a user’s location to suggest concerts to fans who may be interested in attending. Now it could push out these recommendations more broadly, as virtual events allow fans anywhere to attend — not just those nearby.

To launch a virtual events feature, Spotify would only need to slightly tweak existing partner agreements to gain access to their virtual event listings. Given the pandemic, it’s hard to imagine a partner would decline such an offer. And doing so also serves Spotify’s larger goal of being the preferred platform for artists.

Image Credits: Jane Manchun Wong via Twitter

What’s less clear is whether Spotify considers the addition of virtual events a temporary measure to help artists manage their income before things return to normal, or if it believes there’s room to grow in the virtual events market in the long-term.

At present, virtual events have been helping musical artists weather the pandemic, but they’re not a replacement for live concerts for most. There are a few exceptions, of course. A group like BTS can pull in a record $20 million for one virtual show, but this is atypical. Elsewhere, the revenue loss from the pandemic can be extreme. This was apparent in Live Nation’s recently announced earnings, for example, where it said its revenue declined 98% due to pandemic shut downs.

Before the global health crisis, live performances had been a significant part of how musicians make money, with estimates putting earnings from live gigs at as much as 75% of top musicians’ earnings. While some artists have been trying to play around with newer formats like offering “tip jars” or broadcasting small performances over Facebook Live, this doesn’t necessary scale in the way that a larger performance or concert would have done. That’s opened the door for bigger event organizers, dedicated streaming companies, and larger music players to get involved.

Indeed, Spotify’s test and work on live events is coming at a time when we’re seeing a number of similar moves from streaming music companies. Just today, eMusic announced a partnership with 7Digital to launch eMusicLive (www.emusiclive.com), which it describes as a “virtual concert and monetisation platform.”

And yesterday, Rhapsody, which owns Napster, was acquired by an immersive music performance startup, MelodyVR, which has built a business around virtual concert performances. It has also been working on events with big organizers like Live Nation and others in the wake of COVID-19 rules preventing large in-person gatherings. MelodyVR has large ambitions to take its virtual concerts up a gear, now with the added benefit of providing a large streaming catalogue alongside those video experiences.

Others reportedly interested in building up virtual music performance services include Twitch, which is deepening its ties to the music industry. And don’t forget that Apple in 2018 quietly acquired Platoon, a group of A&R experts that could help the company be closer to sourcing and discovering talent and working with artists, perhaps also in the name of developing live performances.

Combined, these efforts could help push the livestream market forward, after steady increases on the monetization front over the years. Data from virtual concert platform StageIt, as reported by Billboard, noted fans were paying just $3.75, on average, for a 30-minute livestream in 2011. This has since grown to $16.50. Ahead of the pandemic, PricewaterhouseCoopers had projected live music events would generate $28.8 billion in revenue in 2020. But whether Spotify taps into the full potential of the market remains to be seen.

Spotify isn’t commenting on the feature.

#apps, #artists, #concert-tickets, #concerts, #events, #music, #spotify, #streaming, #streaming-music, #ticketing, #virtual-events


Ridley Scott is back to making operatic sci-fi in new Raised by Wolves trailer

My favorite video.

Today marks the release of a new trailer for HBO Max’s upcoming sci-fi series Raised by Wolves, produced and initially directed by Ridley Scott, who also directed Alien and The Martian.

Compared to the initial trailer that landed recently, this one fleshes the world out a bit more by introducing additional characters and more thoroughly explaining the central conflict in the series.

Here’s a quick recap of what we know about the series so far: it principally stars a female, possibly part-biological android named Mother, who has left behind some catastrophe on humanity’s home planet to travel to a new one. There, she raises a group of children who will be the seed for a new human civilization that avoids the mistakes that purportedly destroyed civilization as we know it. But in the course of raising them, it becomes clear that the young humans are susceptible to the same tendencies that Mother claims were humanity’s undoing.

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#alien, #hbo, #hbo-max, #raised-by-wolves, #ridley-scott, #sci-fi, #streaming, #tech, #trailer, #tv, #video


Taiwan set to bar Chinese streaming services like iQiyi and Tencent’s WeTV

iQiyi and Tencent’s WeTV, two of China’s most popular streaming services, may be barred from operating in Taiwan next month as the government prepares to close regulatory loopholes that enabled them to offer local versions of their services through partnerships. But iQiyi and WeTV will still be accessible if subscribers are willing to, for example, use cross-border payment services to pay for subscriptions in China and deal with slower connections.

In an announcement posted this week, Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs said Taiwanese companies and individuals will be prohibited from providing services for OTT firms based in mainland China. The proposed regulation will be open to public comment for two weeks before it takes effect on Sept. 3.

Though Taiwan, which has a population of about 24 million people, is self-governed, the Chinese government claims it as a territory. The proposed regulations means Taiwan is joining other countries, including India and the United States, in taking a harsher stance against Chinese tech companies.

iQiyi and Tencent’s WeTV set up operations in Taiwan through “illegal” partnerships, the Ministry of Economic Affairs said in its announcement, working through their Hong Kong subsidiaries to strike agreements with Taiwanese companies.

In April, the NCC declared that mainland Chinese OTT firms are not allowed to operate in Taiwan under the Act Governing Relations between People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area. Cabinet spokesperson Kolas Yotaka said at the time that Chinese firms and their Taiwanese partners were operating at “the edges of the law.”

But NCC spokesperson Wong Po-Tsung said the proposed regulation isn’t targeted solely at Chinese OTT operators. According to the Taipei Times, he stated “the act was necessary because the cable television service operators have asked that the commission apply across-the-board standards to regulate all audiovisual service platforms, which should include OTT services. It was not stipulated just to address the problems caused by iQiyi and other Chinese OTT operators.”

Wong added that Taiwan is a democratic country and its government would not block people from watching content from iQiyi and other Chinese streaming services.

Once the act is passed, Taiwanese companies that break it will face fines of NTD $50,000 to NTD $5 million [about USD $1,700 to USD $170,000].

In a statement to TechCrunch, a spokeperson from iQiyi International, an iQiyi subsidiary based in Singapore, said it is playing close attention to the draft bill.

“China’s mainland entities have always been allowed to carry out commercial activities in the Taiwan region since the enactment of the Act Governing Relations Between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area,” she added. “As streaming services are not classified as ‘special industries’ under the Act, such services should not become the specific target of legislation.”

WeTV Hong Kong declined to comment.

#asia, #china, #iqiyi, #ott, #policy, #streaming, #taiwan, #tc, #tencent, #wetv


Netflix test puts a ‘Shuffle Play’ button right on your home screen

Don’t know what you’re in the mood to watch? Netflix’s new “Shuffle” feature could help. The company confirms it’s currently testing a feature that puts a big button labeled “Shuffle Play” right on the Netflix home screen, beneath your user profile icon. When pressed, Netflix will randomly play content it thinks you’ll like. This could be a movie or show you’re currently watching, something you’ve saved to your list, or a title that’s similar to something you’ve already watched, the company says.

The new button is currently showing up on the Netflix app for TV devices, much to many users’ surprise. Some users thought the addition could be fun or useful, while others just seem confused.

The company tells TechCrunch the idea behind the feature is to help its members quickly and easily find content that’s tailored to their tastes. This is a challenge Netflix has addressed over the years through a variety of features and tests, like screensavers on its TV apps, pre-roll videos, and even promotional content showcased on the home screen. Ultimately, the company wants the experience of using Netflix to feel more like watching traditional TV — meaning you can just turn it on and something starts playing. (Of course, that’s also what gave us the annoying auto-playing feature, which Netflix finally allowed users to disable with an update earlier this year.)

The new “Shuffle Play” button is the latest in a long series of tests where Netflix has tried to make a shuffle concept work. Last year, 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 is losing the former in 2021 and it has already lost the latter.

More recently, some Netflix users discovered a shuffle option called “Play Something” in their TV app’s sidebar navigation. (See below)

Netflix confirmed these are all variations on the general “shuffle mode” concept, which it’s been trying out across surfaces, including what it calls the “profile gate,” as well as the side menu and the main screen. Currently, the “Shuffle Play” button on the profile screen is the only test that’s still underway, we’re told.

The company said it started to roll out the new test to members worldwide last month and only on TV devices. Netflix has yet to make a decision about if or when it will launch a shuffle feature publicly, as it needs to first collect feedback from each different test and compare the results.

#cord-cutting, #netflix, #streaming, #streaming-services, #streaming-video, #tc, #tv, #video


Google Play Music to shut down starting in September, will disappear by December

Google’s plans to wind down its Google Play Music service in favor of the company’s newer YouTube Music have been known for some time. But Google this week has given users a deadline on making the switch. The company says YouTube Music will fully replace Google Play Music in December 2020, at which point Google Play Music users will no longer be able to stream from or otherwise use the Google Play Music app.

Though December is the final deadline for being able to export from the Google Play Music app, your ability to stream from the Google Play Music app will end before then.

In September 2020, users in New Zealand and South Africa will be the first to lose access to stream or use the Google Play Music app. The rest of the world will lose their access in October.

However, Google will continue to make your content available for export through December. Through the transfer tool released in May, Google Play Music users will be able to export their playlists, uploads, purchases, likes and more to YouTube Music. Alternately, users can use the Google Takeout service to export their data and download their purchased and uploaded music.

For those considering making a switch to a rival streaming service, like Spotify, there aren’t official tools available, but there are third-party options, like Soundiiz, TuneMyMusic, MusConv, and others.

Google says it will also be making changes to the Google Play store and Music Manager.

Starting this month, users will no longer be able to make purchases or pre-order music from Google Play Music through Music Manager, nor will they be able to upload and download music.

The company has been preparing YouTube Music in advance of this shift to address complaints Google Play Music users had with earlier versions of the service. This year, Google increased playlist length from 1,000 to 5,000 songs and added support for uploads (up to 100K tracks — 50K more than on Google Play Music). It has also rolled out offline listening, lyrics, and Explore tab for discovery, and a tool for transferring podcast subscriptions and episode progress to Google Podcasts.

YouTube Music offers a variety of playlist options now, too, including collaborative playlists built with friends and new programmed playlists built by editors. Assistive technology now also make personalized suggestions of what to add when you’re building a YouTube Music playlist.

YouTube Music service has expanded its reach across platforms, as well, with support for Android TV, Google Maps (for music while navigating), and via Google Assistant in recent days.

For any user who doesn’t opt to move to YouTube Music, Google says subscriptions will be automatically canceled.

Google’s strategy with music has been overly complicated for some time (not unlike its strategy with messaging and communication apps). When users signed up for YouTube Premium (previously YouTube Red), they’d automatically receive access to Google Play Music, and vice versa. And Google continued to sell YouTube Music as a separate subscription. In other words, Google created a world where it wasn’t only competing against big streaming services like Apple Music, Spotify and Pandora, it was also competing against itself.

Now it’s hoping to shift its streamers to YouTube Music. The idea came about because YouTube for a long time has been a way to access free music, thanks to a deep catalog of officially licensed music videos, live performances and other music content. So why not upsell YouTube’s freeloading music fans on an ad-free, upgraded music experience? That strategy may have worked to some extent, but it’s more recently being challenged. Last week, Facebook announced deals with record labels to make music videos free on its platform, as well. If user behavior shifts as a result, YouTube’s ability to funnel free music fans into a premium product could be impacted, too.


#google, #media, #music, #streaming, #streaming-music, #streaming-service, #youtube, #youtube-music


Xbox Game Pass Ultimate gets free xCloud game streaming in September

Last November, Microsoft announced that its Project xCloud game-streaming service (which is currently in open beta) would eventually be integrated with its Xbox Game Pass subscription service in some form. This morning, Microsoft added a bit more clarity to that integration, announcing in a blog post that xCloud streaming will be available “at no additional cost for Xbox Game Pass Ultimate members” starting in September.

Microsoft promises that “over 100 Xbox Game Pass titles” will be available for xCloud streaming “on your phone or tablet” as part of a Game Pass Ultimate subscription. That’s a much smaller selection than the 234 Xbox 360 and Xbox One games that are currently available to download as part of the subscription, not to mention the 140 or so PC-exclusive downloads that are also included. But it is a larger selection than the 50+ games currently available as part of the Project xCloud preview program.

Aside from Halo Infinite, which gets specific mention in today’s announcement, Microsoft has yet to clarify which specific titles will be available for streaming with Game Pass. Microsoft also has yet to say whether xCloud access will be available outside of a subscription plan (i.e., on a per-game basis) or as part of a streaming-only plan separate from Game Pass. A Microsoft representative said it expects to have formal answers to those questions closer to the September launch.

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#game-pass, #gaming-culture, #microsoft, #stadia, #streaming, #xbox, #xcloud


Amazon Prime Video finally launches user profiles to all customers worldwide

Amazon’s Prime Video is finally adding a feature that’s long since become a standard for streaming video services: user profiles. With profiles, Prime Video users will have access to their own Watchlist, personalized recommendations, and they’ll be able to track their own viewing progress, similar to rival services, like Netflix.

Customers can create up to 6 profiles for their household members, including 1 primary profile associated with the Amazon account, plus 5 additional profiles, which can be a mix of adult and kids’ profiles.

The new profiles will be first available in the Prime Video app on iOS, Android, Fire tablet (Gen 10 and higher), and the Fire TV Prime Video app, in addition to the Prime Video apps built for other living room devices.

Prime Video profiles were spotted earlier this year by NDTV, which led to some erroneous reporting that the feature had officially launched to all. In actuality, Amazon first rolled out profiles to its customers in India and Africa. It’s now making it accessible to all worldwide, including the U.S.

Image Credits: Amazon

For any profile set as a “Kids” profile, the service will only include age-appropriate content aimed at those 12 years old or younger. The search results and search suggestions will also be filtered to only show Kids titles. Children with a Kids profile won’t be able to make purchases, either.

Meanwhile, any adult profile will be able to play all the entitled Prime Video content form the primary account, including content that has been purchased or rented, Prime Video titles, Prime Video Channels, and Live content.

However, if the adult wants to set up parental controls on their account so this content is not accessible on a shared device, like the living room TV, they can do so. In this case, viewing restrictions will be enabled but parents can enter a PIN code to access the content, as they can now.

Parents can also continue to block children from making purchases from an adult profile by enabling Purchase Restrictions under Prime Video Settings, which will also require a PIN to complete the transaction.

The one exception to how child profiles work is on mobile devices. The Prime Video app will allow a child profile to access the adult profile’s downloads on mobile — a decision Amazon made because it didn’t want to restrict access to downloads if the device was taken offline, making it impossible to profile switch.

In addition, for customers that have set up wallet-sharing in their Amazon Household settings, Prime Video will automatically create profiles for those users. This can be disabled from the Manage your profiles page, but once profile sharing is off, it can’t be re-enabled.

The lack of user profiles have been, to date, one of the bigger oversights with Amazon’s Prime Video streaming service, first launched in 2011, and a much-requested feature for years. Today, streaming services don’t just compete on their content library but on how well they can surface the titles from that library by way of personalized recommendations and other tools that keep a user’s favorites and interests easily accessible. But Prime Video ignored this need, forcing all members of a household to share a single account. That choice told customers that even Amazon itself didn’t consider Prime Video a true competitor to other top services, like Netflix, Hulu and Disney+.

It’s finally correcting this matter, but only as the streaming market crowds with new offerings, like recently launched HBO Max and NBCU’s forthcoming Peacock, for example.

Amazon cautions that user profiles are being launched today, but not everyone will see them immediately. The feature is rolling out in phases, so you may see them arrive in a few days’ time, if not today.

#amazon, #amazon-prime-video, #cord-cutting, #media, #prime, #prime-video, #streaming, #streaming-service


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

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

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

Image Credits: Apptopia

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

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

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

Image Credits: Apptopia

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

Image Credits: Disney

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

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

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

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



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


#Brandneu – 5 neue Startups, die wir uns ganz genau merken

Jeden Tag entstehen überall in Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz neue Startups. deutsche-startups.de präsentiert an dieser Stelle wieder einmal einige ganz junge Startups, die zuletzt, also in den vergangenen Tagen, Wochen und Monaten an den Start gegangen sind sowie einige junge Firmen, die zuletzt aus dem Stealth-Mode erwacht sind und erstmals für Schlagzeilen gesorgt haben.

Hinter Skillmill verbirgt sich ein Business-Netzwerk für Kreativschaffende – mit einem besonderen Fokus auf Jobvermittlung. “Über die Messengerfunktion können Unternehmen und Kreative direkt kontaktiert werden – eine wertvolle Möglichkeit, ein breites Netzwerk aufzubauen”, teilt das Startup aus Wien mit.

URL: www.skillmill.co
Hashtags: #Network
Ort: Wien
Gründer: Max Hareiter, Ute Leonhartsberger

Bei getanote kann sich jeder Nutzer eine anonyme Kontaktadresse zulegen. “Unser System ermöglicht es dir, ohne Preisgabe deiner Kontaktdaten mit Personen zu kommunizieren”, heißt es auf der Website. Zum Einsatz könnte getanote etwa am Auto, in Kleinanzeigen oder auf Social Media-Kanälen.

URL: www.getanote.com
Hashtags: #Messenger
Ort: Aachen
Gründer: Christian Laczny, Miguel Ricking

Bei Fobe können Onlinerinnen sich Luxushandtaschen per Abo ausleihen. Los geht es ab 99 Uhr pro Monat. “Mit deiner Fobe Mitgliedschaft kannst du endlich Luxus Accessoires konsumieren und gleichzeitig die negativen Auswirkungen auf die Umwelt senken”, heißt es auf der Website.

URL: www.fobe.me
Hashtags: #eCommerce #Sharing
Ort: Berlin
Gründer: Marlena Dietz, Anton Wochmanin

Über die Plattform StreamParty können bis zu 50 Onliner gemeinsam Streams auf Netflix, Youtube und Disney+ schauen. “Dabei wird das Video bei allen Nutzern global synchronisiert und das System stellt einen Chat oder Videochat zur Verfügung”, teilt das sehr junge Unternehmen mit.

URL: www.streamparty.tv
Hashtags: #Streaming #Tool
Ort: Willich
Gründer: Malte Granderath

Hinter applaudio verbirgt sich eine Software in Sachen Peer-to-Peer Recognition. Das Startup will es Mitarbeitern einer Firma ermöglichen, sich gegenseitig Wertschätzungen auszusprechen. So funktioniert es: “Die Vergabe von Wertschätzungen erfolgt digital und ist spielerisch einfach auf der applaudio-Plattform umzusetzen”.

URL: www.applaudio.de
Ort: #Tool #Software
Gründer: Fabian Essrich, Lukas Menges

Tipp: In unserem Newsletter Startup-Radar berichten wir einmal in der Woche über junge, frische und brandneue Startups, die noch nicht jeder kennt. Alle diese Startups stellen wir in unserem kostenpflichtigen Newsletter kurz und knapp vor und bringen sie so auf den Radar der bundesweiten Startup-Szene und im besten Fall auf die Agenda von Investoren, Unternehmen und potenziellen Kooperationspartnern. Jetzt unseren Newsletter Startup-Radar sofort abonnieren!

Startup-Jobs: Auf der Suche nach einer neuen Herausforderung? In der unserer Jobbörse findet Ihr Stellenanzeigen von Startups und Unternehmen.

Foto (oben): Shutterstock

#aktuell, #applaudio, #brandneu, #fobe, #getanote, #skillmill, #streamparty


Spotify Duo for couples is cheaper than the standard family plan

Screenshot from commercial features two puppets conversing on a sofa.

Enlarge / This promo clip for Duo is exactly what you think it is—green puppet is a classical musician who declares his superior taste, and blue puppet “can spot a good song when he hears it.” (credit: Spotify)

Today, Spotify announced that it is expanding its Duo plan to 55 markets, including the United States. In a nutshell, Spotify Duo is a dual plan for couples—who must reside at the same physical address—without a family.

If you want Spotify Premium service, the appeal of a family account is obvious—individual Spotify Premium accounts go for $9.99/mo apiece, while a family account that covers up to six people goes for $14.99/mo. Duo sits in between the two at $12.99/mo—for the most part, it’s simply Family without the family, offering fewer total accounts and no parental controls.

The new Duo plan also comes with a feature called Duo Mix, intended to provide mutually enjoyable playlists based on the preferences of both partners on a Duo plan. The mix is automatically generated, and its overall tempo can be changed by tapping “chill” or “upbeat” icons on a mobile device.

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#demographics, #families, #spotify, #streaming, #tech, #uncategorized


#Brandneu – 5 neue Startups, die einen Blick wert sind

Jeden Tag entstehen überall in Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz neue Startups. deutsche-startups.de präsentiert an dieser Stelle wieder einmal einige ganz junge Startups, die zuletzt, also in den vergangenen Tagen, Wochen und Monaten an den Start gegangen sind sowie einige junge Firmen, die zuletzt aus dem Stealth-Mode erwacht sind und erstmals für Schlagzeilen gesorgt haben.

Die Streaming-Plattform whyzzer stellt mehr oder weniger bekannte Persönlichkeiten in Serien vor “Dabei geht es nicht um einfache Biographien, sondern um das Teilen von persönlichen Erfahrungen und Wissen”. Die Inhalte sollen als Video und als Podcast funktionieren. Das Abo kostet 4,99 Euro.

URL: www.whyzzer.com
Hashtags: #Streaming #eLearning
Ort: Hamburg
Gründer: Eric Garsleitner, Yassin Belarbi

Bei autoRetouch dreht sich alles um Bildbearbeitung. Das Stuttgarter Startup nennt sich selbst: ”The first end-to-end, automated image processing platform”.Schwerpunkt ist dabei die Modewelt.Mit wenigen Klicks man über autoRetouch jeder Bilder freistellen und an seinen eigenen Stil anpassen.

URL: www.autoretouch.com
Hashtags: #Tool
Gründer: Alex Ciorapciu

Die Jungfirma Ladenglück positioniert sich als “Plattform für sicheres und rücksichtsvolleres Einkaufen”. Gemeint ist damit die Reservierung von Einkaufszeiten. “Ladenglück richtet sich dabei sowohl an Geschäfte als auch an ihre Kunden”, teilen die Macher mit.

URL: www.ladenglueck.de
Hashtags: #Software
Ort: München
Gründer: Claudio Bierbrauer, Jimmy Weber

Das Team hinter Shavent möchte den Plastikmüll beim Dauerthema Rasierer abschaffen. Dazu haben die Münchner “einen komfortablen Schwingkopf mit der Einfachheit klassischer Rasierklingen vereint”. Plastikmüll fehlt dabei dann nicht mehr an. Der Rasierer soll für Männer und Frauen funktionieren.

URL: www.shavent.com.de
Hashtags: #eCommerce #Nachhaltigkeit
Ort: München
Gründer: Romy Lindenberg, Armin Lutz Seidel

Die App MySkills will sich als “Wegbegleiter in ein bewusstes und selbst­bestimmtes Leben” etablieren. MySkills soll Nutzer “mit Übungen und Protokollen” durch ihren Alltag begleiten. Zielgruppe sind Menschen mit psychischen Störungen. Einen Therapeuten ablösen will das Startup aber auf keinen Fall. Die App soll in die Therapie zu integriert werden.

URL: www.myskills.app
Hashtags: #App #eHealth
Ort: Berlin
Gründer: Anne Florin, Patrick Hartwig

Tipp: In unserem Newsletter Startup-Radar berichten wir einmal in der Woche über junge, frische und brandneue Startups, die noch nicht jeder kennt. Alle diese Startups stellen wir in unserem kostenpflichtigen Newsletter kurz und knapp vor und bringen sie so auf den Radar der bundesweiten Startup-Szene und im besten Fall auf die Agenda von Investoren, Unternehmen und potenziellen Kooperationspartnern. Jetzt unseren Newsletter Startup-Radar sofort abonnieren!

Startup-Jobs: Auf der Suche nach einer neuen Herausforderung? In der unserer Jobbörse findet Ihr Stellenanzeigen von Startups und Unternehmen.

Foto (oben): Shutterstock

#aktuell, #autoretouch, #brandneu, #ladengluck, #myskills, #shavent, #startup-radar, #whyzzer


How to get your nice camera set up as a high quality webcam

Everyone needs a webcam these days, whether for business meetings or the distant socializing accomplished via video calling — but if you’re like most, you’re using the built-in camera on your laptop or some piece of junk from years ago. But if you happen to have a nice big-brand camera, it’s easy to set it up as a standalone webcam and produce imagery that will be the envy your friends and colleagues.

Our guide to setting up a professional-looking home webcam solution with lighting, audio, and all the other fixins is here, but unless you’re using a capture card (that’s a whole other how-to) getting your DSLR or mirrorless camera hooked up to your computer isn’t as simple as it ought to be.

Surprisingly, you can’t just take a camera released in the last couple years and plug it into your computer and expect it to work. So far only Canon, Fujifilm, and Panasonic provide free webcam functionality to at least one desktop OS. For Nikon, Sony and Olympus, you may have to pay or put up with a watermark.

Here are the easiest ways to put each brand of camera to work. (Spoiler warning: For Macs, it’s mostly Cascable. I’ll mention that a few more times because people are probably just scrolling past this to their brand.)

Canon: EOS Webcam Utility

Canon released this software just a couple weeks ago and it’s still in beta, so there may be a few hiccups — but it supports both Windows and Apple machines and a good variety of camera bodies. There’s even some extra documentation and tutorials for the app at its microsite.

Compatibility is pretty good, working with any of their camera bodies from the last 3-4 years: the Rebel T6-T7i, T100, SL2, SL3, 5D Mk IV, 5DS, 5DS R, 6D Mk II, 7D Mk II, 77D, 80D, 90D, 1D X Mark II and Mark III, M6 Mk II, M50, M200, R, RP, PowerShot G5X Mk II, G7X Mk III, and SX70 HS. Download the software here.

If you’re having trouble, check out the third party apps listed for other brands below and see if you have more luck.

Fujifilm: X Webcam

Fujifilm’s solution is easy, but a bit limited. The popular X100 series is not supported, and Macs are left out in the cold as well. But if you have one of the company’s more recent interchangeable-lens bodies and a Windows 10 machine, you’re golden. Just install and plug in your camera with a normal USB cable.

Compatibility includes the X-T2, X-T3, X-T4, X-Pro2, X-Pro3, X-H1, GFX100, GFX 50R, and GFX 50S. Get that medium format setup going right and your eyes will be in focus but not your ears. Download the software here.

This guy really did Mac users a favor.

For Macs, Cascable is a useful bit of Mac software that acts as a bridge to your camera for a variety of purposes, and the author just added webcam capability. It has wide compatibility for both wired and wireless connections, and provides broader functionality than Fuji’s own software, but it isn’t free. But the current $30 price is probably less than you’d pay if you opted for a nice webcam instead.

If you’re confident fiddling around in command lines, this tutorial tells you how to get a Fuji camera working on Macs with a bit of fiddling around and some other third party software.

Panasonic: Lumix Tether

That’s it. That’s the image they provided.

Panasonic just made the webcam-capable version of their Lumix Tether Windows app available, and you can tell from the paucity of the documentation that it’s a pretty barebones solution. The price is right, though. It works with the GH5, G9, GH5S, S1, S1R, and S1H. The company also posted a helpful start-to-finish tutorial on how to get going with streaming software like OBS here:

Cascable works well with a variety of Panasonic cameras, far more than the official app, even some superzooms that could be really fun to play with in this context.


There’s no official software to turn your Sony cameras into webcams, so we have to jump straight into third party options. For Windows users, Ecamm Live is probably your best bet, but it has limited Sony compatibility, only supporting the latest bodies. It’s $12 per month, but there’s a free trial if you want to give it a go first.

Cascable on Mac is again your best bet there, with support reaching back several generations to cameras like the NEX series and RX100 III.


It’s the same story for Olympus. On Windows, Ecamm Live has compatibility with the latest bodies — the E-M1 II, III, and X, and the E-M5 original and Mk II. No go on the PEN series, unfortunately.

On Mac, Cascable has wired support for many more Oly bodies, including Stylus cameras and the retro-style PEN F, which will probably resent being used for such a modern purpose.


Surprisingly, while Nikon recently put up a rather helpful page on streaming using its cameras, it doesn’t produce any of the software itself, referring the reader to a variety of third-party programs.

As before, Cascable seems like the easiest way to get your Nikon working with a Mac, and Ecamm Live for Windows — though for Nikons, SparkoCam is also a frequently recommendation.

Warnings to the webcam-curious

These methods may be easy, but they’re not completely without issues.

One potential problem is heat. These cameras were designed primarily for capturing stills and short video clips. Running full time for extended periods can result in the camera getting too hot to function and shutting down. A camera shouldn’t damage itself seriously, but it’s something to be aware of. The best way to avoid this is using a dummy battery with a power adapter — these are pretty easy to find, and will mitigate overheating.

Audio also may not be as nice as the image. For people doing serious video work, an external mic is almost always used, and there’s no reason you shouldn’t do the same. Considering a solid mic can be had for under $50 and should provide a substantial upgrade to your device’s built-in one, there’s no reason not to take the plunge.

You may also want to check a few forums for the best settings to use for the camera, from making sure it doesn’t turn off after a few minutes to exposure choices. For instance, since you’re not doing stills, you don’t need to worry about sharpness, so you can shoot wide open. But then you’ll need to make sure autofocus is working quickly and accurately, or you’ll end up lost in the bokeh. Check around, try a few different setups, and go with what works best in your situation.

And when you’re ready to take the next step, consult our more thorough guide to setting the scene.

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