Haystack News adds 16 live news channels ahead of Election Day

Ad-supported streaming news platform Haystack News is announcing a significant expansion ahead of U.S. Election Day. The company this morning introduced sixteen 24/7 live streaming news channels, including ABC News Live, CBSN, Al Jazeera, Euronews, Newsmax, Yahoo Finance and several more live local news broadcast stations across the U.S.

These are the first live news channels Haystack News has added to its previously video-on-demand (VOD) only news service.

The expansion follows another recent update to Haystack News that brought its service to over 350 total news sources, thanks to the addition of Fox owned-and-operated local stations. This change allowed Haystack News to reach 100% of the top 30 DMAs (designated market areas).

With today’s update, Haystack News aims to become a one-stop shop for live Election Night coverage, as well  — particularly for cord cutters looking for a service offering a combination of both national and local news coverage.

Haystack News has particularly benefited from the rapid shift to over-the-top streaming and rise of cord cutting.

Earlier this year, the company rebranded from Haystack TV to Haystack News to better reflect its position as a destination for ad-supported video news coverage. And in June, Haystack News reported record growth for its service with “millions” of new users signing up year-to-date, and 145% audience growth year-over-year. It also said the app was on pace to more than double usage in 2020, exceeding millions of hours monthly.

As part of its rebrand, Haystack News updated its app’s user interface and rolled out Newsline — a personalized and dynamic news TV ticker.

Today, Haystack News tells us the company has doubled its net new users for each of the past five years and that number has reached about 3 million users for 2020.

It also offered a new data point, noting for the first time that Haystack News has surpassed 2 billion minutes of news content consumed in 2020.

As a free service, Haystack News is supported through advertising, but claims its ad load is less than of traditional TV. This makes the service appealing to cord cutters in particular, who may have lost access to TV news when they dropped their traditional pay TV subscription and are looking for a free replacement.

While there are a number of ways to access streaming news from a smart TV or streaming media device, Haystack News’ advantage is that it now, as of this update, offers a variety of content — including both on-demand and live streaming news, and both national and local news coverage.

However, the company tells us its larger competitive advantage will continue to be how it personalizes the news to the end users — a feature that will help to differentiate itself from other streaming rivals, it says.

Haystack News is offering across a range of smart TVs, including Hisense, LG, Samsung, Sony, TCL and Vizio Smart TVs, as well as on Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV, Roku, and Android and iOS mobile devices. On the web, it’s available at haystack.tv.

To date, Haystack News has raised $6.5 million, including its most recent round of funding that closed in 2019. The service is backed by AltaIR Capital, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), Stanford University’s StartX Fund, SVLinks, Uhuru Capital, and Zorlu Ventures.

#haystack-news, #haystack-tv, #live-news, #live-streaming, #media, #news, #streaming-media, #streaming-news, #streaming-tv, #tv

0

The short, strange life of Quibi

“All that is left now is to offer a profound apology for disappointing you and, ultimately, for letting you down,” Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman wrote, closing out an open letter posted to Medium. “We cannot thank you enough for being there with us, and for us, every step of the way.”

With that, the founding executives confirmed the rumors and put Quibi to bed, a little more than six months after launching the service.

Starting a business is an impossibly difficult task under nearly any conditions, but even in a world that’s littered with high-profile failures, the streaming service’s swan song was remarkable for both its dramatically brief lifespan and the amount of money the company managed to raise (and spend) during that time.

A month ahead of its commercial launch, Quibi announced that it had raised another $750 million. That second round of funding brought the yet-to-launch streaming service’s funding up to $1.75 billion — roughly the same as the gross domestic product of Belize, give or take $100 million.

“We concluded a very successful second raise which will provide Quibi with a strong cash runway,” CFO Ambereen Toubassy told the press at the time. “This round of $750 million gives us tremendous flexibility and the financial wherewithal to build content and technology that consumers embrace.”

Quibi’s second funding round brought the yet-to-launch streaming service’s funding up to $1.75 billion — roughly the same as the gross domestic product of Belize, give or take $100 million.

From a financial perspective, Quibi had reason to be hopeful. Its fundraising ambitions were matched only by the aggressiveness with which it planned to spend that money. At the beginning of the year, Whitman touted the company’s plans to spend up to $100,000 per minute of programming — $6 million per hour. The executive proudly contrasted the jaw-dropping sum to the estimated $500 to $5,000 an hour spent by YouTube creators.

For Whitman and Katzenberg — best known for their respective reigns at HP and Disney — money was key to success in an already crowded marketplace. Indeed, $1 billion was a drop in the bucket compared to the $17.3 billion Netflix was expected to spend on original content in 2020, but it was a start.

Following in the footsteps of Apple, who had also recently announced plans to spend $1 billion to launch its own fledgling streaming service, the company was enlisting A-List talent, from Steven Spielberg, Guillermo del Toro and Ridley Scott to Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Lopez and LeBron James. If your name carried any sort of clout in Hollywood boardrooms, Quibi would happily cut you a check, seemingly regardless of content specifics.

Quibi’s strategy primarily defined itself by its constraints. In hopes of attracting younger millennial and Gen Z viewers, the company’s content would be not just mobile-first, but mobile-only. There would be no smart TV app, no Chromecast or AirPlay compatibility. Pricing, while low compared to the competition, was similarly off-putting. After a 90-day free trial, $4.99 got you an ad-supported subscription. And boy howdy, were there ads. Ads upon ads. Ads all the way down. Paying another $3 a month would make them go away.

Technological constraints and Terms of Service fine print forbade screen shots — a fundamental understanding of how content goes viral in 2020 (though, to be fair, one shared with other competing streaming services). Amusingly, the inability to share content led to videos like this one of director Sam Raimi’s perplexingly earnest “The Golden Arm.”

It features a built-on laugh track from viewers as Emmy winner Rachel Brosnahan lies in a hospital bed after refusing to remove a golden prosthetic. It’s an allegory, surely, but not one intentionally played for laughs. Many of the videos that did ultimately make the rounds on social media were regarded as a curiosity — strange artifacts from a nascent streaming service that made little sense on paper.

Most notable of all, however, were the “quick bites” that gave the service its confusingly pronounced name. Each program would be served in 5-10 minute chunks. The list included films acquired by the service, sliced up into “chapters.” Notably, the service didn’t actually purchase the content outright; instead, rights were set to revert to their creators after seven years. Meanwhile, after two years, content partners were able to “reassemble” the chunks back into a movie for distribution.

#apps, #entertainment, #jeffrey-katzenberg, #media, #meg-whitman, #quibi, #streaming-media

0

Disney+ UX teardown: Wins, fails and fixes

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

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

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

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

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

Zero distractions while signing up

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

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

Image Credits: Disney+

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

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

The power of percentages

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

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

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

Image Credits: Disney+

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

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

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

0

Tencent Music bets on China’s crowded podcasting space

Listeners of podcasts, audiobooks and other audio shows are estimated to number 542 million in China this year, according to a third-party survey by marketing firm iiMedia. It’s a healthy jump from the 489 million users recorded in 2019, and it no doubt has attracted new players to the game.

That includes Tencent Music Entertainment (TME), the Tencent spin-off that is sometimes regarded as the Spotify of China but differs on many fronts in practice. The group’s main line of businesses goes beyond music streaming to encompass virtual karaoke, live streaming and audio content, a category that has recently seen a big push from the firm.

In its newly released quarterly report, TME said it has made “significant progress in expanding” its audio library by adding thousands of new adaptions from popular IP pieces and works from independent producers. This intensifies competition in what is already a crowded space.

Like Spotify, TME is late to voice-based content, an umbrella term that can include everything from podcasts, audiobooks, radio stations to more innovative listening experience like audio live streaming. This sector in China has for years been occupied by leading companies Ximalaya, the main investor in San Francisco-based podcasting firm Himalaya, and Nasdaq-listed Lizhi.

TME’s thrust into audio content holds no immediate promise, for there is still no obvious path to profitability. Chinese users are known to be reluctant to pay for digital content, and when they do, say, for educational and self-improvement podcasts, the enthusiasm tends to fade quickly. Deep-pocketed platforms often resort to offering content for free to gain market share, relentlessly forcing out smaller contestants. The result is that everyone needs to find more indirect ways to monetize.

Lizhi, for instance, primarily generates revenues by selling virtual items through its live, interactive audio sessions, while the contribution from user subscriptions and advertising remains paltry. The seven-year-old company hasn’t turned a profit, recording a net loss of 133 million yuan or $19.1 million last year.

Indirect monetization is nothing new in China’s internet industry. Tencent, most famous for its WeChat messenger, notably relies on gaming revenues that its social networking products help drive. TME, similarly, gets the bulk of its money by selling virtual items in music-themed live streams, while only 6% of its 657 million monthly active users on music streaming apps are paying. The MAU growth has also come to a standstill as China’s online music market saturates; from 2017 to 2020, TME added only 50 million new users to its music streaming services. The question is whether the music titan can breathe new life into the adjacent audio sector.

#asia, #china, #lizhi, #media, #music-services, #online-content, #online-karaoke, #podcast, #spotify, #streaming-media, #tencent, #tencent-music-entertainment, #wechat

0

AWS launches the $995 Elemental Link for streaming video to its cloud

AWS today announced the launch of the Elemental Link, a small hardware device that makes it easy to connect a live video source to the AWS Elemental Media Live service for broadcast-grade live video processing in the cloud. The $995 Link, which weighs in at less than a pound, is meant to allow Media Live users to connect a camera or video production setup to the AWS cloud.

The fanless Link has an Ethernet port and inputs for either an HD-SDI or HDMI cable. In the AWS Management Console, it’ll show up as a media source for MediaLive and it’ll automatically adapt the streaming video based on available bandwidth.

In sophisticated environments, dedicated hardware and an associated A/V team can capture, encode, and stream or store video that meets these expectations,” explains AWS’s Jeff Barr in today’s announcement. “However, cost and operational complexity have prevented others from delivering a similar experience. Classrooms, local sporting events, enterprise events, and small performance spaces do not have the budget or the specialized expertise needed to install, configure, and run the hardware and software needed to reliably deliver video to the cloud for processing, storage, and on-demand delivery or live streaming.”

Amazon obviously has quite a bit of experience with streaming video, not only because of the broadcast networks it partners with but also thanks to Twitch.

The Link devices aren’t meant for Twitch streamers, though. AWS is clearly targeting these devices at more sophisticated organizations that are already using the AWS cloud for their broadcast infrastructure. And while the Link takes away some of the complexities of managing the streaming hardware, the MediaLive cloud piece isn’t exactly as trivial to manage as the more consumer-grade live streaming platforms available today. For those platforms, OBS Studio and a maybe a prosumer switcher like the Blackmagic ATEM Mini is all you need to get started with a multi-camera setup anyway.

Barr says AWS is working on a CloudFormation-powered solution that can take care of setting up the output from MediaLive and make actually doing something with the video that’s coming from the Link devices a bit easier.

#amazon, #amazon-web-services, #cloud-computing, #cloud-infrastructure, #ethernet, #hdmi, #jeff-barr, #medialive, #streaming-media, #streaming-video, #tc, #twitch, #twitch-tv

0

Using 25% lower bandwidth, Disney+ launches in UK, Ireland, 5 other European countries, France to come online April 7

Disney+, the streaming service from the Walt Disney Company, has been rapidly ramping up in the last several weeks. But while some of that expansion has seen some hiccups, other regions are basically on track. Today, as expected, Disney announced that it is officially launching across 7 markets in Euopre — but doing so using reduced bandwidth given the strain on broadband networks as more people are staying home because of the coronavirus pandemic. From today, it will be live in the UK, Ireland, Germany, Italy, Spain, Austria, and Switzerland; and Disney also reconfirmed the delayed debut in France will be coming online on April 7.

Seven is the operative number here, it seems: it’s the largest multi-country launch so far for the service.

“Launching in seven markets simultaneously marks a new milestone for Disney+,“ said Kevin Mayer, Chairman of Walt Disney Direct-to-Consumer & International, in a statement. “As the streaming home for Disney, Marvel, Pixar, Star Wars, and National Geographic, Disney+ delivers high-quality, optimistic storytelling that fans expect from our brands, now available broadly, conveniently, and permanently on Disney+. We humbly hope that this service can bring some much-needed moments of respite for families during these difficult times.”

Pricing is £5.99/€6.99 per month, or £59.99/€69.99 for an annual subscription. Belgium, the Nordics, and Portugal, will follow in summer 2020.

The service being rolled out will feature 26 Disney+ Originals plus an “extensive collection” of titles (some 500 films, 26 exclusive original movies and series and thousands of TV episodes to start with) from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, National Geographic, and other content producers owned by the entertainment giant, in what has been one of the boldest moves yet from a content company to go head-to-head with OTT streaming services like Netflix, Amazon and Apple.

Caught in the crossfire of Covid-19

The expansion of Disney+ has been caught in the crossfire of world events.

The new service is launching at what has become an unprecedented time for streaming media. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, a lot of of the world is being told to stay home, and many people are turning to their televisions and other screens for diversion and information.

That means huge demand for new services to entertain or distract people who are now sheltering in place. And that has put a huge strain on broadband networks. So, to be a responsible streamer (and to make sure quality is not too impacted), Disney confirmed (as it previously said it would) that it would be launching the service with “lower overall bandwidth utilization by at least 25%.”

There are now dozens of places to get an online video fix, but Disney has a lot of valuable cards in its hand, specifically in the form of a gigantic catalog of famous, premium content, and the facilities to produce significantly more at scale, dwarfing the efforts (valiant or great as they are) from the likes of Netflix, Amazon and Apple .

Titles in the mix debuting today include “The Mandalorian” live-action Star Wars series; a live-action “Lady and the Tramp,” “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series,”; “The World According to Jeff Goldblum” docuseries from National Geographic; “Marvel’s Hero Project,” which celebrates extraordinary kids making a difference in their communities; “Encore!,” executive produced by the multi-talented Kristen Bell; “The Imagineering Story” a 6-part documentary from Emmy and Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Leslie Iwerks and animated short film collections “SparkShorts” and “Forky Asks A Question” from Pixar Animation Studios.

Some 600 episodes of “The Simpsons” is also included (with the latest season 31 coming later this year).

With entire households now being told to stay together and stay inside, we’re seeing a huge amount of pressure being put on to broadband networks and a true test of the multiscreen approach that streaming services have been building over the years.

In this case, you can use all the usuals: mobile phones, streaming media players, smart TVs and gaming consoles to watch the Disney+ service (including Amazon devices, Apple devices, Google devices, LG Smart TVs with webOS, Microsoft’s Xbox Ones, Roku, Samsung Smart TVs and Sony / Sony Interactive Entertainment, with the ability to use four concurrent streams per subscription, or up to 10 devices with unlimited downloads. As you would expect, there is also the ability to set up parental controls and individual profiles.

Carriers with paid-TV services that are also on board so far include Deutsche Telekom, O2 in the UK, Telefonica in Spain, TIM in Italy and Canal+ in France when the country comes online. No BT in the UK, which is too bad for me (sniff). Sky and NOW TV are also on board.

#amazon, #animation, #apple, #austria, #belgium, #broadband, #chairman, #companies, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #deutsche-telekom, #disney, #disney-channel, #e-commerce, #emmy, #entertainment, #europe, #executive, #france, #germany, #google, #internet-television, #ireland, #italy, #kevin-mayer, #lg, #media, #microsoft, #mobile-phones, #national-geographic, #netflix, #pixar, #pixar-animation-studios, #portugal, #roku, #smart-tv, #sony, #spain, #streaming-media, #streaming-media-players, #streaming-services, #switzerland, #telefonica, #the-walt-disney-company, #the-simpsons, #united-kingdom

0