YouTube to expand Shorts to the U.S., add 4K and DVR to YouTube TV, launch in-video shopping and more in 2021

YouTube has a host of big product updates coming this year, and it just detailed a lot of them in a blog post from Chief Product Officer Neal Mohan. Google’s streaming video site plans to expand its TikTok-esque Shorts mobile video creation and consumption tool to the U.S. (it’s currently in beta in India), make YouTube TV a more full-featured in-home cable alternative, add customization and control options to YouTube Kids and more.

Many of the product updates detailed by Mohan are expansions of existing tests and beta features, but there are also entirely new developments that could significantly change how YouTube works for both creators and audiences. YouTube’s focus on monetization and new formats also indicates a desire to keep creators happy, which makes a lot of sense in the context of the platform’s popular new mobile-first competitor TikTok.

Here’s a TL;DR of everything YouTube announced today for its 2021 roadmap:

  • Expansion of its in-video e-commerce shopping experience beyond the current limited beta
  • Expansion of Applause tipping feature
  • YouTube Shorts launching in the U.S.
  • Adding the ability for parents to specify individual channels and videos for their kids to be able to watch on YouTube Kids
  • New features for user playlists on YouTube Music, and making those playlists more discoverable to others
  • A new paid add-on coming to YouTube TV that offers 4K streaming, DVR for off-line playback, and unlimited simultaneous in-home streams
  • Automatic video chaptering for some videos that don’t have creator-defined ones
  • A redesigned YouTube VR experience focused on accessibility, search and better navigation

YouTube has a big year planned, and some of these changes could significantly alter the dynamics of the platform. Making it possible for every creator to turn their channel in a mini shopping channel has a lot of potential to alter what it looks like to build a business on the platform, while YouTube TV’s transformation narrows the gap even further between that service and traditional cable and satellite provider offerings.

#ecommerce, #google, #india, #neal-mohan, #social-media, #software, #streaming-video, #tc, #tiktok, #united-states, #video, #video-hosting, #virtual-reality, #world-wide-web, #youtube, #youtube-music

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Apple launches a U.S.-only music video station, Apple Music TV

Apple is expanding its investment in music with today’s launch of “Apple Music TV.” The new music video station offers a free, 24-hour livestream of popular music videos and other music content, including, exclusive video premieres, curated music video blocks, live shows, fan events, chart countdowns and guest appearances.

The service doesn’t have its own dedicated app, but is instead offered as a new feature within two of Apple’s existing entertainment apps. At launch, you can watch Apple Music TV from within the Browse tab of either the Apple Music app or the Apple TV app. (Accessible via apple.co/AppleMusicTV).

While Apple Music is a paid subscription service, Apple Music TV will be free to users in the U.S., the company says.

To kick off its launch, Apple Music TV today began with a countdown of the top 100 most-streamed songs ever across all of Apple Music, based on U.S. data.,

During brief tests of the new service, we found it to be a fairly basic (if uncensored) experience. The video stream only offered artist and song details at the beginning, instead of as the music played. It also didn’t take advantage of the integration with Apple Music to offer additional features to paying subscribers — like being able to favorite the song or add it to a playlist, for instance.

The stream would stop when the Apple Music app was closed, as it didn’t support background play.

Image Credits: Apple

There also weren’t any on-screen tools to share what you were watching via a social media post. You had to dig to find the “share” button under the three-dot, “more” menu. This would give you a link to tweet, but wouldn’t pre-fill it with text or hashtags, like the artist name or song.

While listening, you could stop the livestream and then return after a short pause. But after a bit, the stream would disconnect and the thumbnail of the paused music video reverts to the placeholder Apple Music TV image. When live, the text and icons will be shown in red. They revert to white when you’ve disconnected, as a visual cue.

Despite its simplicity, Apple Music TV gives Apple an immediate new home for its music-related original content, which over the years has included exclusive interviews, concert films, and more. It also provides Apple with another advantage with it goes to negotiate with artists for their premieres, as it introduces additional platform for reaching an artist’s fans — not only with the premiere itself, but by offering artists blocks of airtime leading up to their next debut that they can use to promote their releases.

The new station can also leverage content produced for the Apple Music 1 (formerly Beats 1) radio station, as it goes about running these promotions.

For example, on Thursday, October 22, Apple Music TV will promote the upcoming release of Bruce Springsteen’s “Letter to You” with music video blocks featuring his greatest videos, plus as exclusive interview with Zane Lowe, and a special livestream fan event.

Fridays, meanwhile, will focus on new music. This Friday, October 23, at 9 AM PT Apple Music TV will showcase two new exclusive video premieres – Joji’s “777” and SAINt JHN’s “Gorgeous.”

Apple Music TV’s biggest advantage, of course, is the fact that it’s freely accessible to millions of Apple device owners.

But it may struggle for traction as it lacks the features that make other livestream fan events or premieres engaging — like group chats or direct interactions with creators.

Instead, it’s more like a traditional TV broadcast — even MTV-like — compared with other online destinations where artists today connect with fans and promote their albums, like YouTube, VEVO, or more recently, Facebook, which just this year launched music videos.

Apple didn’t say if it planned to expand the new station outside the U.S.

#apple-inc, #apple-music, #apple-tv, #apps, #ios, #media, #mobile, #music, #streaming-video

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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

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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

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Amazon Prime Video will finally offer one of Netflix’s most basic features

Amazon Prime Video on an iPad Pro.

Enlarge / Amazon Prime Video on an iPad Pro.

At long last, Amazon Prime Video is catching up to competitors like Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+ with a key feature: user profiles. The feature is rolling out in the mobile and set-top box versions of the Prime Video app starting today.

The feature allows multiple people sharing an Amazon Prime subscription to maintain separate watch histories and watch lists. Additionally, Amazon has made a distinction between user profiles for kids and profiles for adults, with different rules. Users can configure up to six profiles in any mix of children’s and adults’ profiles. All this is rolling out starting today, but it won’t reach all users right away.

According to TechCrunch, multiple user profiles were supported in India and Africa previously, and they are only now making their way to the rest of the world, including the United States. The rollout brings Amazon closer to feature parity with Netflix and other big streaming players. The majority of major apps in this space offered this feature, but there are some outliers—like CBS All Access.

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#amazon, #amazon-prime, #amazon-prime-video, #gaming-culture, #streaming-video, #tech, #tv, #video

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Top cybersecurity VCs share how COVID-19 has changed investing

The coronavirus pandemic is, without doubt, the greatest challenge the world has faced in a generation. But the wheels of the world keep turning, albeit slower than during normal times.

But where the world has faced challenges, the cybersecurity industry remains largely unscathed. In fact, some cybersecurity businesses are doing better than ever because cybersecurity has emerged as one of the few constants we all need — even during a pandemic.

The vast majority of the global workforce is (or has been) working from home since the start of the lockdown, and the world had to quickly adjust. Tech companies pushed their technology and services to the cloud. Businesses had to shift from not just securing their office network but also preventing threats against their highly distributed employees working from their own homes. And, hackers are retooling their attacks to be coronavirus themed, making them far more likely to succeed.

All of these things — and more — need security. Or, as one investor told us: “Many of these trends were already underway, but COVID-19 is an accelerant.” That’s helped cybersecurity firms weather the storm of this pandemic.

We spoke to a dozen cybersecurity VCs to hear their thoughts on how COVID-19 has changed the investment landscape:

Here’s what they told us. (Answers have been edited for clarity.)

Ariel Tseitlin, Scale Venture Partners

Security budgets haven’t been affected nearly as much as broader IT spend. We continue to see existing portfolio companies raise follow-on financings, and we continue to meet with companies for new potential investments. The big change in my criteria for new investments is that a company must be able to continue growing in the current environment. We don’t know how long this downturn will last, so I don’t buy into the promise of “as soon as the economy recovers, growth will resume.”

Shardul Shah, Index Ventures

On Microsoft’s last earnings call, chief executive Satya Nadella said: “As COVID-19 impacts every aspect of our work and life, we have seen two years worth of digital transformation in two months.” This acceleration has actually created momentum for a number of cybersecurity businesses, which is why the best companies continue to draw significant interest from investors. I serve on the board of security firm Expel, which raised $50 million in the middle of this crisis.

#cloud-infrastructure, #collaboration-tools, #computer-security, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #crowdstrike, #cryptography, #cybercrime, #cyberwarfare, #dharmesh-thakker, #digital-transformation, #energy-impact-partners, #expel, #extra-crunch, #funding, #information-age, #investor-surveys, #microsoft, #sarah-guo, #satya-nadella, #scale-venture, #security, #streaming-video, #theresia-gouw, #venture-capital, #video-conferencing

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Houseparty expands beyond video chat with co-watching of live events

Houseparty, the video chat app that’s seen a surge of growth during quarantine, is preparing to expand its service in a new direction: co-watching live video with friends. The company on Friday will launch its first experiential event series called In The House, which will feature over 40 celebrities who will dance, talk, cook, sing, workout, and more, over the course of three days.

Viewers of the event will be able to sing and dance with Alicia Keys and DaBaby; cook with Bad Bunny, José Andrés, and Christina Tosi; workout with Cam Newton and Terry Crews; and dance with Derek Hough and Addison Rae, for example.

Newer additions who were just confirmed this afternoon include Katy Perry, John Legend, David Blaine, Lindsey Harrod, Gabi Butler, Snoop Dogg, CHVRCHES, and Dua Lipa.

They join other participants already scheduled on the In The House website, including Zooey Deschanel, Keegan-Michael Key, Tinashe, Miguel, Robin Arzon, Jermey Fall, Jalaiah, Roy Choi, Chef Mike, The Shoe Surgeon, Jen Atkin, Aquaria, Westside Gunn, Ralph Garman, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Craig Robinson, Justin Willman, Conrad Rocha, Kerri Verna, Cam Newton, Marissa Mullen, Dr. Woo, JB Smoove, 2 Chainz, and Neil Patrick Harris,

The event will run from Friday, May 15 through Sunday, May 17 directly in the Houseparty app. To join in, you open the app when the content is live. Once there, you’ll see a billboard for the show that’s currently airing. This billboard will appear 30 minutes before each broadcast so you can subscribe to the event and receive a push notification when the show starts.

These live streams are not meant to be watched alone like other live videos often are –where users can only participate by typing in group chats or sending virtual likes.  Instead, the idea is to join your friends on Houseparty in a group video chat, as usual, then tune into the live content and watch together.

You’ll see a TV icon appear when there’s a new stream to watch, Houseparty notes.

This live, co-watching experience is made possible thanks to Houseparty’s newly launched video player. The player is designed to sit on your screen but not cover up your friends’ faces, allowing you to watch and chat at the same time.

The live show is over, it will only re-air once, exactly 12 hours after the original show time. Then, it’s gone forever.

Houseparty soft-launched the video player last week when it hosted a virtual prom experience with D-Nice. But that was more of a test run ahead of this much larger and longer live event.

The company doesn’t see this weekend’s virtual celeb party as a one-off event, however. Instead, Houseparty sees this as the first of many live co-watching experiences still to come.

“While many entertainers have turned to performing online during these unprecedented times, this event is different from anything that has happened in the past few months. This is not just another virtual music festival – this weekend’s lineup is a curation of shared experiences: cooking demos, comedy shows, fitness secrets, dance parties, sing-a-longs, and more,” Houseparty spokesperson, Kimberly Baumgarten, told TechCrunch.

“Now that we have this live player it allows us to create more interactive experiences for our users to enjoy together in the future. This content will be additive to the Houseparty video chat experience for our users,” she said.

Watching video together is an activity that’s been booming during quarantine, as friends binge Netflix together through extensions like Netflix Party or join Twitch ‘Watch Parties.‘ Shared experiences, like tuning into virtual concerts or DJ sets on Instagram Live, are popular, too. (If only Google hadn’t shut down its experimental Uptime app for YouTube co-viewing! Darn!)

By focusing on co-watching within group video chats, Houseparty is in closer competition with Instagram, which just this March introduced co-watching of feed photos and videos. But Houseparty is offering planned and scheduled experience — allowing users to coordinate when they’ll join each other in the app, instead of leaving it up to chance.

Quarantine may have rushed this co-watching video technology into development and adoption. But it seems the next step for our high-speed connections was not just to “go live” in order to be watched, but the creation of a world where everyone goes live together — whether performer or viewer.

#apps, #celeb, #co-watching, #houseparty, #live-event, #live-video, #media, #mobile, #social-app, #social-media, #streaming-video, #video-chat, #virtual-events

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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

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