Roku debuts a 15-minute weekly series that recommends what to watch next

Roku is expanding its programming for its free content hub, The Roku Channel, with today’s launch of its own weekly entertainment program called “Roku Recommends.” The 15-minute show will leverage Roku’s data to highlight the Top 5 titles for viewers to stream that week. While not exactly “original programming” the way that Roku’s recent additions of its acquired Quibi content is, the series will run only on Roku, where it can be found in The Roku Channel and Featured Free, with new episodes every Thursday.

The series is the first production to emerge from the new Roku Brand Studio — a studio that aims to produce video ads and other custom branded content for ad partners. The show is produced by Funny Or Die and Mike Farah, Beth Belew, and Jim Ziegler serve as executive producers.

The show’s co-hosts include entertainment reporter and AfterBuzz TV co-founder Maria Menounos and former NFL player, Andrew “Hawk” Hawkins. The duo will present the Top 5 titles to viewers. These recommended shows or movies may come from any of the thousands of channels across the Roku platform, based on data exclusive to the platform.

“According to Nielsen data, the average streamer spends more than seven minutes searching for what to watch next,” said Chris Bruss, Head of Roku Brand Studio, in a statement. “We are uniquely positioned to use our trending data both to help consumers find incredible movies and shows and to help advertisers go beyond the traditional 30-second ad to entertain streamers who otherwise spend time in ad-free, subscription-only environments,” he added.

The series will also allow for ad sponsors. The company says it has already signed on several national advertisers, starting with Walmart, to sponsor the program. Advertisers will have access to Roku’s Measurement Partner Program to determine whether or not their integration reaches subscription video on-demand (SVOD)-only streaming users, as well as view other metrics about their video ad campaign’s reach, brand perception and impact.

The series comes at a time when the streaming landscape is shifting. Today’s streaming services regularly serve up recommended content based on what their customers are watching — Netflix, for example, shows rows of popular and trending content, as well as a Top 10 list of newly popular titles. But as the number of available streaming services grows, larger entities merge, and content jumps around as licensing agreements end and start, consumers may be more in need of a set of current recommendations from across channels and services, not just those isolated inside one service.

Amazon Fire TV’s update recently addressed this need with the introduction of a new “Find” feature that aims to make it easier for users to search and browse movies, shows and free content across its platform. Roku, however, didn’t have a recommendation system of its own.

It’s also interesting to see that Roku is willing to use its proprietary streaming data in this way — something it could choose to do more with further down the road to help build out a broader set of recommendations, if it chose.

 

#cord-cutting, #funny-or-die, #internet-television, #media, #multimedia, #player, #quibi, #roku, #streaming, #streaming-media, #streaming-services, #television, #tv, #walmart

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HBO Max now offers a (partially) ad-supported service tier

The entrance to a drive-in theater has been manipulated to include promotional posters for current HBO offerings.

Enlarge / If you want Warner Bros. same-day movie premieres, you’ll need to stick to the original $15/mo plan—the new ad-supported plan won’t offer them. (credit: Jeff Kravitz / Getty Images)

Wednesday morning, HBO Max rolled out a new, partially ad-supported service plan. Consumers can now choose between the original ad-free plan at $15 per month or the new, ad-supported plan at $10 per month—the breakdown is similar to Hulu (no ads) versus Hulu (with ads), at $12/mo and $6/mo, respectively.

HBO Max customers (new or existing) can also prepay for additional savings. Paying upfront gets you a year of service for the cost of 10 months at the monthly rate—$150/yr for ad-free or $100/yr for ad-supported.

The new ad-supported tier offers the same content as the ad-free tier, with the exception of Warner Brothers same-day premiere films. The ad-supported plans also do not offer resolution higher than 1080p or the ability to download content for offline viewing.

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#hbo, #hbo-max, #streaming-tv, #tech, #tv

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Android TV OS reaches 80M monthly active devices, adds new features

Google offered an update on its TV platform, Android OS, at its Google I/O developer event on Tuesday. The company said its Android TV OS now reaches over 80 million monthly active devices, including through its new experience Google TV for Chromecast, as well as other platforms like smart TVs. The company also previewed a series of upcoming features for Android TV OS, including a remote control feature for consumers and several developer updates around casting, emulators, and more.

The company repositioned Android TV OS last fall with the introduction of the Google TV experience. The new experience, which runs Android TV under the hood, now powers Chromecast with Google TV, smart TVs from Sony, and is coming soon to some TCL TVs. Over 80% of Android TV OS’ growth came from the U.S., Google noted, when announcing its 80 million monthly active devices milestone during the Google I/O event.

Google’s milestone may seem to put Android TV OS is ahead of rivals like Roku and Amazon Fire TV, with 53.6 million and 50+ million monthly active accounts, respectively. However, these are different measurements.

Android TV OS figures are actually calculated by counting the number of devices that were actively used in a month — which means a user with multiple devices could have those devices counted separately, but a family with multiple people watching on one device would be counted once.

Roku and Amazon define monthly active users as “accounts” that have been active in the last 30 days. That means, even if that account streams on several different devices during the time period, it would only be counted once. If Roku or Amazon were to calculate active devices as Google is doing, their numbers would be higher.

In addition, Roku and Amazon Fire TV power both their respective company’s own device lineup and select TVs from partners, but Google’s Android TV OS also powers devices and services from TV and streaming device brand partners as well as TV service providers. That means this global number includes operator-tier and set-top boxes also powered by Android TV OS. It’s a different type of market.

Google today also announced it’s adding remote control features directly in Android, so users will be able to control their TV even when their existing remote goes missing. This feature, arriving later this year, will make it easier to type in usernames and passwords or search for longer titles, Google notes. It will work for all users of Android TV OS, including Google TV.

Image Credits: Google

Meanwhile, for those building Android TV experiences, the company announced a handful of new features coming soon. A Cast Connect feature will allow users to cast from their Chrome browser on their phone or tablet to an Android TV app. Stream Transfer and Stream Expansion will allow users to transfer media to other devices or play audio on multiple devices.

Image Credits: Google

Google is also making its first Google TV Emulator available, running on Android 11, along with an Android 11 image with the traditional Android TV experience. And developers can now also use a remote that more closely mimics TV remotes directly within the Emulator.

Following developer requests, Firebase Test Lab is adding Android TV support, as well. Initially, Firebase Test Lab Virtual Devices will run the developer’s app in the cloud on Android TV emulators to scale a test across hundreds or thousands of virtual devices. Support for physical devices will come soon.

Image Credits: Google

Finally, the Android 12 Beta 1 is being made available for TV on its ADT-3 Developer Kit, starting today.

#android, #android-tv, #chromecast, #google, #google-io-2021, #google-tv, #media, #remote-control, #smart-tv, #streaming, #streaming-tv, #tc, #tv

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Despite big Marvel and Star Wars shows, Disney+ falls short of targets

Meta-sitcom/adventure series <em>WandaVision</em> was one of Disney+'s most successful recent shows.

Enlarge / Meta-sitcom/adventure series WandaVision was one of Disney+’s most successful recent shows. (credit: YouTube/Disney+)

Analysts expected Disney+ to reach 109 million subscribers in Disney’s most recent financial quarter, but the streaming service fell short, landing at 103.6 million. The shortfall resulted in lower revenues than expected for the company and a small stock price stumble.

Alongside word that Netflix also saw fairly slow growth in its quarter, the news suggests that there is, in fact, a limit to the explosive growth that streaming platforms have experienced amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Still, Disney is staying the course with its current strategy of pumping out TV series in established Disney brands like Marvel and Star Wars, as well as releasing new motion pictures on the platform at the same time they premiere in theaters.

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#disney, #gaming-culture, #marvel, #movies, #star-wars, #streaming, #tech, #tv

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Roku will launch original programming fueled by Quibi’s content on May 20

Roku today announced the launch of its own original programming, which will initially become available to viewers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada through the media platform’s free streaming hub, The Roku Channel, starting on May 20th. The debut lineup will include 30 titles, including both the scripted and reality programming Roku had acquired from the short-form streaming service Quibi earlier this year, following its shutdown.

Quibi, of course, had launched at an inopportune time for a service that was designed for on-the-go viewing, when it arrived in the middle of a pandemic. But some have argued that much of Quibi’s content wasn’t compelling enough to pull in the number of subscribers to make the service a success. It will be interesting to see how well that same content now fares on Roku where it will no longer be “mobile-first,” but will more likely be streamed on a big-screen TV.

Among the better-known Quibi shows that will now be joining Roku are Chrissy Teigen’s “Chrissy’s Court,” Comedy Central’s “Reno 911!,” Kevin Hart’s “Die Hart” action series, Emmy-winning “FreeRayshawn,” documentaries “Blackballed” and “Big Rad Wolf,” and reality show reboot “Punk’d.”

These and others will become Roku’s first original programs, joining the over 40,000 other free movies and TV shows on The Roku Channel. This free streaming hub has been growing rapidly, in part due to the pandemic which forced people to stay at home, but also because of broader demand for free streaming content.

In the fourth quarter of 2020, The Roku Channel reached 63 million people in U.S. households, up more than 100% year-over-year. Streaming hours also doubled year-over-year — growth that’s twice as fast as the overall Roku platform itself, the company notes. In the first quarter of 2021, The Roku Channel grew to reach an estimated 70 million people.

The full list of Roku Originals includes available for the May 20th launch include: #FreeRayshawn,” “About Face,” “Bad Ideas with Adam Devine,” “Barkitechture,” “Big Rad Wolf,” “Blackballed,” “Centerpiece,” “Chrissy’s Court,” “Cup of Joe,” “Die Hart,” “Dishmantled,”Dummy,” “Fight Like a Girl,” “Flipped, “The Fugitive,” “Gayme Show, “Iron Sharpens Iron,” “Last Looks, “Let’s Roll with Tony Greenhand,” “Most Dangerous Game,” Murder House Flip,” “Murder Unboxed,” “Nightgowns,” “Prodigy,” “Punk’d,” “Reno 911!,” “Royalties,” “Shape of Pasta,” “Thanks a Million,” and “You Ain’t Got These.”

Roku will market the shows to viewers inside The Roku Channel, through an ad unit below the left-side navigation on the Roku home screen, and even through a coveted slot in the navigation menu itself.

In addition to the 30 new programs launching in May, more Roku Originals will roll out over the course of 2021. In total, Roku acquired more than 75 titles from Quibi, in a deal that reportedly valued the content at “significantly less” than $100 million. That means Roku users will eventually gain access to the Quibi shows that had been in the pipeline, but never got a chance to debut.

Quibi’s content made sense for Roku because it was designed for ad-supported viewing and not because of Quibi’s mobile gimmicks — like “turnstyle” which made both portrait and landscape orientations look great, or horror shows that only stream after dark, for instance.

“There’s always unique ‘stunt-y’ ways to bring shows to life, and we will explore those for shows that make sense,” noted Roku VP Sweta Patel, who leads the company’s Engagement and Growth Marketing. “But it’s going to have to make sense for how our viewers view — which is primarily on a [Roku] device,” she says.

In other words, Roku viewers won’t care about all the Quibi tricks, just the content itself. However, the shows will stream through The Roku Channel mobile app, for the subset of viewers who do watch on the go.

Roku will also leverage the existing ad breaks Quibi had built into its content, it says. That means after every 8 to 10-minute long “episode,” a one-minute ad will play. That’s still a lighter ad load than traditional TV, Patel notes. The same ad-selling structure that The Roku Channel uses today will also apply to Originals, including the potential for brand sponsorships.

While Roku believes the Originals can help to bring in a younger, 18-34 year-old demographic, it’s not necessarily signaling a plan to increase investments in exclusive, original programming like this. Instead, Roku will watch to see how the new content performs and then use those insights to add more content to The Roku Channel’s library over time.

“This really It was a unique opportunity for us to get some incredible content for our growing base. We are always sourcing content and — whether that’s producing it or acquiring it — it has to make sense for our AVOD business model,” says Patel. However, now that Roku has its own programming to offer, it will make sense for the company to roll out The Roku Channel to its global markets outside the U.S., U.K., and Canada.

The company wouldn’t comment on those plans.

Alongside the launch of Roku Originals, Roku also announced a partnership with Laugh Out Loud, the comedy brand founded by Kevin Hart. It will now bring the linear channel LOL! Network to The Roku Channel, joining the now over 190 live, linear channels featured on the service.

#ad-supported-streaming, #avod, #chrissy-teigen, #media, #original-programming, #originals, #quibi, #roku, #streaming-service, #streaming-tv, #tc, #television, #tv

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Vizio TV buyers are becoming the product Vizio sells, not just its customers

Promotional image for widescreen television set.

Enlarge / Vizio’s 65-inch 4K OLED TV. (credit: Vizio)

Over the past several years, TV-maker Vizio has achieved a reputation among home theater enthusiasts as the company that makes TVs that provide superior picture quality relative to their cost. While the most expensive TVs from Samsung and LG beat Vizio’s in quality assessment by reviewers, Vizio is widely regarded as one of the best bang-for-buck brands.

But for consumers, those competitive prices may come with a downside: becoming subject to targeted advertising and monetized personal data collection. As reported previously on Engadget, Vizio just posted its first public earnings report, wherein it revealed that profits from the part of its business that is built around collecting and selling user data as well as targeting advertising at users totaled $38.4 million in the quarter.

That’s less than the $48.2 million of profit generated by device sales in the same quarter, but data and advertising profits grew significantly year-over-year while actual device sales grew comparatively slowly. These digital products are still nowhere close to device sales in total revenue, however; the data and ad-related business unit (dubbed Platform+) added up to only 7.2 percent of global revenue.

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#advertising, #data, #earnings, #tech, #tv, #vizio

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Paramount+ hits 36 million subscribers, will stream sci-fi movie Infinite

Two cool bros chat in a hangar in front of private jet.

Enlarge / Actor Mark Wahlberg confers with director Antoine Fuqua on the set of Infinite. (credit: Mark Wahlberg)

On the heels of revealing that it has reached just shy of 36 million subscribers, streaming service Paramount+ has announced that it will stream at least one original movie each week, including the long-delayed Mark Wahlberg and Chiwetel Ejiofor sci-fi film Infinite.

In March, the streaming service CBS All Access was rebranded as Paramount+, and it got a huge injection of new content directly resulting from the merger between parent company CBS and Viacom. ViacomCBS, the resulting new conglomerate, owns a vast swath of Hollywood brands and studios, including CBS, Showtime, MTV, BET, Comedy Central, Paramount Pictures, and others. The desire to show all of that content under one streaming platform’s roof was reportedly a key driver of the merger.

Given that CBS All Access was one of traditional Hollywood’s first forays into a streaming service to compete with previous platforms from tech companies like Netflix and Amazon, the service represented a big shift. Since then, we’ve been wondering whether the rebranding has propped up the streaming service, which before the merger was best known for its various Star Trek reboot series.

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#cbs-all-access, #gaming-culture, #infinite, #paramount, #paramount-pictures-mark-wahlberg, #sci-fi, #science-fiction, #streaming, #tech, #tv, #viacomcbs

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Netflix launches its shuffle feature, now called ‘Play Something,’ to users worldwide

Netflix today is officially launching a feature that will make it easier to find something to watch when you’re stuck browsing and unable to make a decision. The service is introducing a tool called “Play Something” to users worldwide — the final iteration that “shuffle” feature you may have already seen during Netflix’s tests over the past year. When selected, Netflix will play another show or movie it thinks you’ll like, based on your interests and prior viewing behavior.

In other words, it won’t play random content, but will instead bring up either a movie or show you’re already watching, a series or movie on your list, an unfinished series or movie you may want to revisit, or a brand new series or film that Netflix’s personalization algorithms suggest.

The feature has been in testing under various names and styles for some time. A year ago, the feature was called Shuffle Play, for example. During its Q4 earnings, Netflix said the shuffle feature would roll out to its worldwide users sometime in the first half of 2021, describing it as a way for users to “instantly watch a title chosen just for them.”

For today’s launch, not much has changed beyond the feature’s name and style.

Image Credits: Netflix

The new option can be found on Netflix’s TV app underneath your profile name, on the navigation menu to the left of your screen and on the tenth row on your Netflix homepage — a location that hopes to find users after they’ve been scrolling for some time without landing on anything they want to watch.

Netflix users with screen-readers can use Text-to-Speech (TTS) to use Play Something, the company notes.

While Netflix is always testing features that make it easier for users to jump from browsing to watching, this feature in particular comes at a time when Netflix is seeing slower subscriber growth — something it’s blaming on the lighter content slate due to COVID. But the reality is that Netflix is no longer the only streamer in town. And some of the content it has shipped has been weak, as evident in the growing list of cancellations. It has also lost top titles like “The Office” to rivals as rights’ holders have pulled their content back to their own new services.

Image Credits: Netflix

For those reasons, too, Netflix needs a way to addict its current user base to what’s available in its existing catalog before they churn out.

The new Play Something feature is available today on Netflix on TVs, and will soon begin testing on mobile devices, starting with Android.

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

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Plex raises $50M growth round to fuel ad-supported streaming, expansions

Streaming media software maker Plex announced today it has raised a $50 million growth equity round from existing investor Intercap ahead of its planned business expansion into rentals, purchases and subscription content. This is the first financing Plex has taken on since 2014 and is being partly used to purchase shares and options from Plex’s early seed investors and shareholders from prior acquisitions, and to give the company’s earliest employees a bit of liquidity. Of the $50 million raised, $15 million will be put to work as new growth capital.

The company declined to disclose its valuation as a result of the funding — technically Plex’s Series C — but says it resulted in a relatively low dilution for its existing investors who have stayed in, including Kleiner Perkins and Nexstar, for example. Meanwhile, some of its earliest investors were able to get a 10x return or greater on their shares.

As part of the round, Intercap chairman and CEO Jason Chapnik joined the board of directors as chairman, and Intercap president James Merkur also joined the board. Including this financing, Plex has raised more than $60 million.

To date, Plex has been cautious about fundraising because, as Plex CEO Keith Valory says, “we really hadn’t had to.” That is, the company has been profitable on its own.

But things have been changing at Plex in recent years. Though it has always catered to the home media enthusiast with its software for organizing movies, TV, music and photos on users’ home networks, Plex more seriously began to go after the larger market of cord cutters with its 2017 launch of a low-cost, DIY streaming TV service. In the years since, it expanded into free, ad-supported streaming and last year took on rivals like ViacomCBS-owned Pluto TV with its own launch of a live TV service, also supported by ads.

Today, Plex now offers more than 20,000 free on-demand movies and shows and over 150 free live TV channels in 193 countries, alongside access to other content, including personal media libraries, streaming music and podcasts.

As it expanded the types of services it offers, it also lowered the barriers to entry for Plex newcomers. Users now no longer have to sign up for an account to access the ad-supported video or live linear streaming service, which impacts Plex’s business model.

Image Credits: Plex

“That is much more tailored towards paid marketing — like getting integrated into the search capabilities for devices like Roku, Fire TV or Vizio, etc. But then, also, using [search engine marketing] and Facebook and other, even on-device paid marketing programs to get people to get in and start watching something,” says Valory. “We found that the kind of paid marketing and customer acquisition costs for that business is really efficient. We’ve been able to get profitable on that marketing investment really, really quickly,” he adds.

That model is what prompted Plex to consider raising capital to grow this aspect of its business and expand in new areas, as well.

That included managing subscription content and offering rentals and purchases — something Plex began to talk about last year as part of its roadmap, saying they could potentially arrive in 2020. But then COVID hit, and though streaming itself grew — particularly ad-supported video in April through June or July — some Plex employees were hit harder than others by the pandemic. And Plex also needed more time to ready the infrastructure involved.

It’s now preparing to launch these efforts this year, perhaps initially with a video rental marketplace or a subscription aggregator. (Plex says it’s not sure which will get out of the gate first because both are being built simultaneously.)

With the subscription play, Plex isn’t looking just at selling subscriptions the way that say, Amazon or Apple do through Prime Video Channels or Apple TV Channels. It’s also considering deep linking technology to get users to their favorite streaming apps, including those from the big-name brands that otherwise wouldn’t want to be a part of someone else’s service. This could position Plex as a competitor to services like Reelgood, which today allows users to track what they’re watching and get recommendations across all their streaming apps, not just within each individual app.

Plex’s video rental (and maybe purchases) marketplace, meanwhile, will be much like any other, offering users a chance to pay for content they couldn’t find a way to stream.

Both ideas fit in with Plex’s larger goal to become a one-stop shop for all your media needs.

“We’ve always had a fairly audacious mission. You shouldn’t have to go to 20 different apps to get the content you care about. You should be able to go to one place and we should be able to do all that for you,” notes Valory.

Image Credits: Plex

To fuel its growth on both this front and for its ad-supported businesses, Plex plans to use the funds to expand its now 100-person team with investments in marketing and monetization teams, as well as on the development side.

“Certainly, there’s still way more work to do in terms of amplifying the efforts on our performance and growth marketing and engagement,” Valory says. “I mean, the business is growing super fast, so we’ve done a pretty good job, to date, of building out the muscles to get new users in the pipeline for the AVOD business. There’s still a ton of work to do there, but a lot of the muscles that we’re building there will help in terms of the top-of-funnel and increasing engagement for the whole product,” he adds.

Intercap, which led Plex’s round, is in it for the long haul — citing in particular how the fragmentation happening now in the streaming landscape could ultimately be good for Plex’s own growth.

“Content providers, creators and consumers are all paying the price for the explosion of so many streaming media services and the industry needs a trusted way for the experience to be as enjoyable as possible,” says Chapnik. “Plex has always been at the forefront of solving new media challenges and we believe they are primed to solve this problem — they are the cable company of the future.”

#avod, #intercap, #media, #movies, #plex, #streaming, #streaming-media, #streaming-tv, #tv, #vod

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Netflix gives its Kids’ profiles a visual upgrade

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

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

Image Credits: Netflix old Kids profile

Image Credits: Netflix new Kids profile

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

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

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

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

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Report: Samsung may change course and begin selling OLED TVs

Samsung, the world’s biggest TV manufacturer, may be on the precipice of significantly shifting its strategy to focus on OLED technology. Samsung has not produced OLED TVs in recent years, focusing instead on variants of LED LCD technology.

The news comes from a report by South Korean broadcaster MTN (among other South Korean news outlets), which says Samsung and LG have reached a conditional deal wherein Samsung would buy as many as 1 million OLED panels from LG this year and 4 million in 2022. MTN clarifies that the deal is not yet final but says only a few details are left to be worked out.

LG produces most of the world’s large-format OLED panels, such as those used for TVs; its panels are not just used in LG TVs but also in TVs sold by Sony, Panasonic, and others. Samsung produces OLED panels as well, but not at TV sizes. Samsung makes OLED panels for smartphones, and those panels use a different technology than what is seen in LG’s OLED TVs.

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#lg, #oled, #samsung, #tech, #tv

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30-year-old Soviet TV adaptation of The Lord of the Rings surfaces on YouTube

After 30 years, a TV adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings long thought lost has resurfaced. The 1991 Soviet television adaptation has been uploaded to YouTube in two one-hour videos.

The film focuses on the events of the first book in the trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring, and features many elements that were excluded from the popular global theatrical release by director Peter Jackson, including an extended sequence featuring the character Tom Bombadil—one of the biggest omissions by the bigger-budget 2001 film far more of us have seen.

Originally broadcast on TV in 1991 (and then never aired again), the film was thought lost to time by those who had seen it. But as reported in The Guardian, Leningrad Television successor Channel 5 uploaded the film to its YouTube page with little fanfare, surprising fans who had given up on seeing the production again. It is believed to be the only adaptation of these books produced in the Soviet Union.

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#gaming-culture, #j-r-r-tolkien, #soviet-union, #the-lord-of-the-rings, #tv

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#Hintergrund – Was können Gründer:innen aus ihren Lieblingsserien lernen?


TV-Shows auf Netflix, Prime und Co. bieten nicht nur spannende Unterhaltung während des Lockdowns – sie halten mit der richtigen Perspektive auch viele Lektionen fürs Unternehmertum bereit. So kann “The Crown” zum Beispiel Gründer:innen lehren, wie sich manchmal die Einsamkeit am Ruder des Startups anfühlt, “Black Mirror”, welche gesellschaftlichen Chancen und Gefahren sie mit ihren digitalen Innovationen vorantreiben, und Mister Burns von “Die Simpsons”, wie Leadership gerade nicht funktioniert.

Wir haben neun Führungskräfte gebeten, ihre persönlichen Lieblingsserien zu verraten und zu erklären, was ihrer Meinung nach Gründer:innen jeweils daraus lernen können. Eine spannende Liste für den nächsten Streaming-Abend:

Black Mirror
“Die dystopische Netflix-Serie ‘Black Mirror’ zeichnet ein Bild der nahen Zukunft – in der unsere Gesellschaft immer mehr von der Digitalisierung geprägt ist. Und auch wenn die Serie uns den ‘schwarzen Spiegel’ vorhalten soll, birgt sie doch auch Inspiration für die Gegenwart. Was für digitale Tools wird die Menschheit demnächst für sich entdecken und in ihren Alltag integrieren? Und vor allem: Wie können wir es beispielsweise mittels Regulierungen schaffen, dass unsere Zukunft nicht ganz so düster aussieht wie in ‘Black Mirror’?”

Daniel Wild ist Gründer und Vorstand der börsennotierten Beteiligungsgesellschaft Mountain Alliance AG mit Sitz in München. Im Jahr 2010 rief Wild das Unternehmen ins Leben mit dem Ziel, das Venture-Capital-Geschäft zu demokratisieren.

The Crown
“’The Crown’ erinnert mich an die Einsamkeit, die ein Gründer manchmal am Ruder seines Startups verspürt. Auch was Entscheidungen angeht, die nicht immer alleine getroffen werden können. Allerdings zeigt ‘The Crown’ auch, dass eine gute Führung über Empathie und Anpassungsfähigkeit verfügen muss – etwas, dass die Queen in ihrer langen Herrschaft, nicht wirklich zeigen konnte.”

Nick Bortot ist Gründer und CEO von BUX, einem der führenden Europäischen Neobroker mit Sitz in Amsterdam.

Suits
“Die Einstellung ist alles – das macht die Serie ’Suits’ deutlich. Vor allem, wenn es darum geht, mit Fehlern umzugehen. Fehler machen gehört zum Mensch- und Unternehmersein dazu. Das was zählt, ist der richtige Umgang mit Fehlern.”

Kilian Kaminski ist einer der drei Co-Gründer von refurbed, dem am schnellsten wachsenden Online-Marktplatz für refurbished Produkte in der gesamten DACH-Region.

The Man in the High Castle
“‘The Man in the High Castle’ ist ein düsteres, aber spannendes Stück Seriengeschichte, wenn es darum geht, die Bedeutung und die Folgen alternativer Szenarien in der Gesellschaft zu skizzieren. Die auf dem gleichnamigen Roman (bzw. übersetzt „Das Orakel vom Berge“) basierende Geschichte stellt, ähnlich wie ‘Black Mirror’, eine kleine, aber wirkungsvolle Frage, die alles auf den Kopf stellt: Wie würde die Welt aussehen, wenn der Zweite Weltkrieg völlig anders ausgegangen wäre? Oder einfacher: Was wäre wenn? Diese Frage ist in der realen Welt, die durch Globalisierung und Technologie geprägt ist, nicht weniger wichtig. Mein Learning aus der Serie ist daher, dass es nie verkehrt ist, sich intensiv mit den ‘Was wäre wenn’-Fragen zu beschäftigen und über den Tellerrand zu schauen, um neue Bedürfnisse, Anwendungen und Lösungen zu verstehen. Und vor allem: nicht ein Problem zu lösen, indem man ein anderes aufmacht.”

Thomas Kessler hat gemeinsam mit Benedikt Köppel das Proptech Locatee gegründet. Das Unternehmen bietet die führende Lösung für Workplace Analytics, mit deren Hilfe Sie fundierte Entscheidungen hinsichtlich Ihres Immobilienportfolios treffen können.

Lupin
“Die französische Netflix Serie ‘Lupin’ erzählt von einem Sohn, der seinen Vater rächen will. Natürlich sollen Gründer sich an niemandem rächen oder für ihre Existenz massenhaft Diebstahl begehen. Doch Assane, der Held der Geschichte, kann Gründer:innen lehren, ihren Fokus und Antrieb stets vor Augen zu behalten. Inspiriert von der literarischen Figur des Meisterdiebs Lupin verfolgt der charmante Assane das Ziel, seinen unschuldig inhaftierten Vater, der im Gefängnis Selbstmord begann, zu rächen und die Wahrheit über den dem Vater untergeschobenen Diebstahl ans Licht zu bringen. Dazu bedarf es Wandlungs- und Anpassungsfähigkeit – zwei weitere Aspekte bei erfolgreichen Gründern. Assane ist zielstrebig, unermüdlich und will etwas besser machen – ein echter Gründer sozusagen.”

Nils Drosin ist Gründer und CEO von 4Dmagic, einem Fullfilment Dienstleister für Digital Signage und Omnichannel-Lösungen mit Fokus auf der Textilbranche und dem Einzelhandel.

BILD.Macht.Deutschland?
“Für viele Unternehmerinnen und Unternehmer ist die Medienwelt weitestgehend eine Blackbox. Wie funktionieren Prozesse? Worüber wird berichtet und worüber nicht? Was sind die Themen, die begeistern? Wer sind die Menschen dahinter? Klar herrschen über die BILD als Medium verschiedene Meinungen und Sichtweisen, aber die Doku zeigt eindrucksvoll, wie diese Prozesse funktionieren und wirft einen spannenden Blick hinter die Kulissen des wohl größten Boulevard-Imperiums Deutschlands. Für mich bestätigt sich auch wieder, dass sich Menschen vor allem für Menschen interessieren und dass dies ein entscheidender Punkt einer guten Geschichte ist. Wenn es also neue Services oder Produkte auf dem Markt gibt, zählt nicht nur die Qualität oder ‘Made in Germany’ allein. Es kommt auch auf die Menschen, die dahinter stehen und ihre Geschichten an.”

Tilo Bonow ist Gründer und CEO von PIABO, Deutschlands führendem Full-Service-PR-Partner der Digitalwirtschaft mit Sitz in Berlin.

Die Simpsons
“Bei ‘Die Simpsons’ zeigt Mr. Burns, der uralte Leiter des städtischen Atomkraftwerkes, eigentlich ganz genau, wie man es nicht machen sollte: Er hört seinen Mitarbeitern nicht zu, er verpasst neue Trends und Entwicklungen und er hasst Nachhaltigkeit. Es war mir oft ein Rätsel, wie er rentabel bleiben konnte. Wahrscheinlich weil er als einziger lokaler Kernkraftwerksbetreiber reiner Monopolist war und das weniger brauchte. Außerdem konnte er mit strenger Kostenkontrolle und Fokus auf Cashflow sein Unternehmen auch in schwierigen Zeiten solide weiterführen. Seinen pragmatischen Umgang mit regulatorischen Hürden verbuche ich mal unter Unternehmergeist.”

Miro Morczinek ist ehrenamtlicher Vorstand der Kommunikation des Chapters Berlin der Entrepreneurs‘ Organization (EO Berlin). Seit 2008 gibt es das globale Peer-to-Peer-Netzwerk, das weltweit über 14.000 Unternehmer-Mitglieder zählt, auch in der deutschen Hauptstadt. Dort bietet es eine regelmäßige Plattform für Events, Trainings und qualitativen Austausch.

The Umbrella Academy
“‘The Umbrella Academy’ ist eine Netflix-Serie, in der eine Geschwistergruppe mit unterschiedlichen Superkräften das Ende der Welt verhindern muss. Schnell lernen sie, dass sie dieses Ziel trotz divergierender Ansichten nur gemeinsam bewältigen können. Gründer:innen können von der Serie lernen, dass Unternehmertum immer eine Gratwanderung zwischen Individualismus und Gemeinschaft bzw. Teamwork ist. Jede:r Gründer:in bringt wichtige Eigenschaften mit, doch ganz alleine kann niemand auf Dauer ein erfolgreiches Unternehmen führen. Und so wie auch die Mitglieder der Academy an verschiedenen Missionen scheitern (einer von ihnen stirbt sogar in jungen Jahren beim Training und tritt nur noch über seinen Bruder als Medium in Erscheinung), müssen auch Gründer:innen immer wieder aufstehen und besser werden.”

Ayhan Yuruk ist Gründer und Managing Director der New Retail Agency #SHOWROOMING. Mit seiner Agentur baut Yuruk Real-Life Brand Spaces für digitale Unternehmen, um ihnen zusätzlichen Reach, Awareness und Kundennähe zu ermöglichen.

Star Trek
“Im Mittelpunkt der Handlung von ‘Star Trek’ stehen die Führungsoffiziere. Erzählt wird von ihrer Begegnung mit fremden Welten, bislang unbekannten Lebensformen, neuen Zivilisationen. So auch in der Gegenwart: Gründer:innen begeben sich auf eine undurchschaubare Erlebnisreise, bei der feste Ziele gesetzt und eine mit Ausdauer geprägte Reise geplant werden sollte. Vor allem die Crew-Mitglieder sind wichtig – für die Gründung werden diese stets sorgfältig ausgesucht, um das Projekt einwandfrei steuern zu können. Auch das Netzwerk und diverse Koalitionen bilden im Universum, sprich auf dem Markt, ein gutes und wichtiges Zusammenspiel. Die Serie gibt Gründer:innen folgende wichtige Botschaft: Man sollte immer mit unbekannten Herausforderungen rechnen und schnell und entschlossen darauf reagieren.”

Lars Reimann ist Gründer und Geschäftsführer des Berliner Start-ups mySheepi. Mit mySheepi brachte er 2018 ein patentiertes Kissenkonzept auf den Markt, das am am Institut für angewandte Humankybernetik in Berlin wissenschaftlich erforscht worden ist.

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

Foto (oben): Shutterstock

#4dmagic, #aktuell, #bux, #entrepreneurs-organization, #know-how, #locatee, #mountain-alliance, #mysheepi, #piabo, #refurbed, #tv

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HBO Max will get a cheaper, ad-supported tier in June

A shot from the upcoming <em>Dune</em> adaptation, which will hit theaters and HBO Max this year.

Enlarge / A shot from the upcoming Dune adaptation, which will hit theaters and HBO Max this year. (credit: Chiabella James/Warner Bros.)

This June, HBO Max will get a cheaper, ad-supported subscription plan, parent company AT&T told investors today. However, a specific price and launch date have not been announced. Right now, an ad-free subscription to HBO Max costs $14.99 monthly in the United States.

There is one major catch, though: the ad-supported version of the service will not stream the much-hyped Warner Bros theatrical releases. Those films include Wonder Woman 1984, which showed simultaneously on HBO Max and in theaters in December of 2020, and Dune, which is expected to premiere this year.

HBO will join Paramount+, Hulu, and some other streaming services in offering (at least) two tiers—one relatively low-cost one that involves pre-roll or mid-roll advertising, and one with a higher monthly fee that involves no ads. Still, some of HBO Max’s competitors, like Disney+ or Netflix, do not do sold advertising at all.

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#att, #hbo, #hbo-max, #streaming, #tech, #tv

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Ars’ plea: Someone make this into a series

A pair of full bookshelves face each other.

Enlarge / Vancouver Public Central Library. Libraries are where books sleep when you’re not reading them. (credit: GoToVan / Flickr)

The past few years have seen an explosion in high-concept, high-budget adaptations for premium TV and streaming services, like The Expanse and Game of Thrones. Following in the footsteps of antecedents going back to the miniseries based on Roots, they’ve tackled material that’s too intricate and too sprawling to possibly squeeze into a movie-length work. At their best, these adaptations have done justice to the most challenging material.

All of which has left the Ars staff wanting more. If producers and networks are willing to put that much love into works we either weren’t familiar with or weren’t in love with, what might they manage with some really good material?

What started as a watercooler chitchat morphed into an article and has now blossomed into a series of short pleas/pitches—Hollywood, we’re all easy to reach. And we’re giving you, the reader, the chance to tell us how wrong we are or to come up with some suggestions of your own.

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#fantasy, #gaming-culture, #sci-fi, #tv

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Amazon Fire TV expands live TV features, adds Alexa support for live content

Amazon is rolling out a new experience for its Fire TV platform that puts more focus on subscription-free streaming and other live content. The company today announced several new services are being integrated into its suite of Live features, including Xumo and its own IMDb TV and Amazon news app. The company also soon plans to add Plex, it notes.

All four of the services are available for free with ads and don’t require a subscription, Amazon says. These channels and their content will appear in Fire TV’s Live tab in the “On Now” rows, as well as in the Universal Channel Guide on the Fire TV app.

With the additions, Amazon says there are now over 400 live streaming channels from across 20 providers that can be accessed from Fire TV’s live channel guide — including services like YouTube TV, Sling TV, Tubi, Pluto TV, Philo, Prime Video Channels, Prime Video Live Events (like Thursday Night Football), and more.

Amazon also notes that more than 200 of those channels are available for free with ads, and don’t need a subscription to watch.

Free, live streaming content is becoming a battleground for both Amazon and Roku, the top two streaming media platforms in the U.S. But they’re taking different approaches to the format.

Amazon’s section showcasing free, live content has become more of a part of its overall Fire TV interface, instead of a separate channel you have to launch. This speaks to Amazon’s design philosophy with Fire TV, whose interface largely resembles that of a streaming service.

“We’ve always taken a content-forward approach when designing Fire TV. When you turn on your TV, you’re going to see shows, movies, and sports — not just rows of apps,” said VP & GM of Amazon Fire TV, Sandeep Gupta. “This philosophy extends to our approach to live content. We’re continuing to invest heavily in Live TV and so are our content partners. We’re expanding that today with the addition of new integrations, Alexa capabilities, and enhanced content discovery mechanisms,” he added.

Meanwhile, Roku offers its own hub with always-on free movies and TV shows, called The Roku Channel, which helps to serve as a starting point for cord cutters who are looking for something to watch after they’ve ditched traditional pay TV. But unlike Fire TV, Roku’s design is, in fact,  “rows of apps.” This makes its interface simple to use and less cluttered — something many people seem to prefer. Here, The Roku Channel is just another app to launch, not a part of the Roku interface.

Roku also makes The Roku Channel available online and as a standalone mobile app, just like other free streaming services. And this week, it integrated most of The Roku Channel’s free content with its main Roku.com website, in order to reach more consumers.

Separately, Fire TV offers its own app, but limits itself to live content, not on-demand, ad-supported shows and movies.

In addition to today’s newly announced live TV integrations, Amazon also says its live TV programs are now Alexa-enabled.

That means you can say things like “Alexa, play Good Morning America” or “Alexa, play the Seahawks game,” to launch a specific live TV program by name. This will work with the Alexa Voice Remote, on the Fire TV Cube, and with Fire TVs paired with an Echo device.

Live TV programs will also appear in the “App Peak” (hover) feature on the newly updated Fire TV interface. This feature will show you what’s on a given channel when you hover over it in the main navigation, and works on Fire TV Stick (3rd gen.) and Fire TV Stick Lite, for the time being.

As a result of its expansions and live TV integrations — not to mention the pandemic that’s kept people at home for entertainment — Amazon says that engagement with live streaming apps on Fire TV has more than doubled in the last 12 months, up by over 130%.

Amazon says the new features are rolling out today to Fire TV devices.

#amazon, #amazon-fire-tv, #fire-tv, #live-tv, #media, #streaming, #tv

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Samsung will soon ship Micro LED TVs, but Mini LED still leads the lineup

It’s that time of year when many TV manufacturers begin announcing prices for and shipping their annual product refreshes. We took a look at Sony’s OLED lineup yesterday, and today we’re turning our attention to Samsung, which just announced imminent availability (most models will start shipping this month) for its high-end Micro LED and Mini LED TV lineup.

We’ll get to Micro LED in a minute, but let’s start with the mainstream high end, which comprises the Mini LED TVs. Samsung is giving these a proprietary “Neo QLED” label.

The top-end QN900A is the most tricked-out 8K option, with 65-inch ($5,000), 75-inch ($7,000), and 85-inch options ($9,000). One step down while keeping the 8K banner flying is the QN800A, offered in the same sizes but at $3,500, $4,700, and $6,500, respectively.

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#4k, #hdr, #lcd, #led, #qled, #samsung, #tech, #tv, #ultrahd

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Sony’s brighter A90J OLED TV makes its way to living rooms this month

LG’s OLED TV lineup often gets the most press among its peers, but Sony’s high-end OLED TVs get positive reviews as well. Today, Sony announced pricing and release timing for its flagship 2021 OLED, the A90J.

Preorders have already started in Europe and the UK, and the US is expected to follow any time now. But regardless of the staggered preorders, the TVs will ship this month in both regions.

The A90J will be available in 55-, 65-, and 83-inch sizes. The 55-inch model will cost $3,000 in the US, while its 65-inch counterpart will cost a whopping $4,000. US and EU pricing haven’t been announced for the 83-inch model, but it costs £7,000 in the UK, so let that be your guide.

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#4k, #dolby-vision, #hdmi-2-1, #hdr, #oled, #sony, #sony-a90j, #tech, #tv, #ultrahd

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LG enters fray with Google, Amazon, Roku for TV operating system dominance

LG has announced that it will begin licensing its webOS TV software for use by other TV manufacturers. That will put webOS in direct competition with other platforms in use across TV brands, such as alternatives from Roku, Amazon, and Google.

LG says “over 20 TV manufacturers” have “committed to the webOS partnership” and names RCA, Ayonz, and Konka as examples. They’ll ship the OS in their TVs and, in so doing, gain access to voice-control features, LG’s AI algorithms, and a fairly robust library of already built streaming apps like Netflix, YouTube, or Disney+.

For smaller manufacturers, this is more cost-effective than developing these features on their own or lobbying companies like Netflix or Disney to support new platforms.

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#ayonz, #konka, #lg, #operating-system, #rca, #tech, #tv, #webos, #webos-5, #webos-6

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

An anthropomorphized mouse holds up a sword and a shield.

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

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

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

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

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

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CBS All Access is dead, long live Paramount+: “New” streaming service launches March 4

<em>Star Trek: Picard</em> will be offered on the new/old streaming service.

Enlarge / Star Trek: Picard will be offered on the new/old streaming service. (credit: ViacomCBS)

It’s time for yet another streaming service—sort of. ViacomCBS has announced that Paramount+ will launch on March 4, but it’s more of an evolution than a wholly new service, as it replaces and expands upon the company’s previous service, CBS All Access.

The move to replace CBS All Access was announced several months ago. It’s in large part a result of the completion of the merger between CBS and Viacom, as CBS All Access launched before that merger, but the merger greatly increased the content library that could be put on a streaming service run by the company.

In addition to shows associated with the CBS TV network, Paramount+ will include content from properties Viacom brought to the mix, including MTV, BET, Comedy Central, VH1, and Nickelodeon, as well as theatrically released films from Paramount Pictures.

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#cbs, #cbs-all-access, #paramount, #star-trek, #streaming, #tech, #tv, #viacomcbs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image Credits: TechCrunch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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LG’s 2021 OLED TVs are modest upgrades, but computer monitors are coming

Today is the first day of the annual Consumer Electronics Show, and while 2021 is obviously an irregular year, that hasn’t stopped the routine unveiling of new product refreshes from Big Tech companies. That includes LG, which at this point may be best known for the OLED TVs and OLED panels it provides to other companies for their own devices.

LG’s updates to its OLED lineup are going to be modest for most buyers this year. The company is touting brighter HDR on its highest-end TVs, but most people won’t splurge for those devices, so we’re mostly looking at lightly expanded gaming features and response-time improvements, as well as new or ostensibly improved AI-driven picture optimizations. Generally, no one who bought an LG OLED last year is going to feel like they jumped the gun too soon here.

The bigger story, then, may be OLED making its way into smaller and smaller screen sizes. Last year, LG introduced its first 48-inch OLED TVs, which was a sizable drop from the previous floor of 55 inches. But the company seems to be going even smaller in late 2021, and we might even see LG’s panels finally venturing into desktop-monitor territory in the somewhat near future.

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#ces-2021, #lcd, #led, #lg, #monitor, #oled, #tech, #tv

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Hulu discounts its on-demand service to $1.99 per month for students

Looking to gain traction with a younger user base, Hulu this morning announced it’s dropping the price of its on-demand streaming service to $1.99 per month for students over 18 who are attending a U.S. college or university. This represents an over 65% discount off Hulu’s ad-supported subscription, which typically sells for $5.99 per month, the company says.

The students will gain access to the same version of Hulu’s streaming service, which includes its library of thousands on-demand movies and TV, including Hulu Originals. They’ll also be able to use the recently launched Watch Party feature that allows users to co-watch with friends and family in different locations as well as use group chat in a sidebar as the content plays.

Over the past few years, Hulu has offered a variety of deals and discounts aimed at growing its user base. In fall 2017, for example, it partnered with Spotify on a combo deal, also aimed at students. It later expanded this deal to include Showtime and then opened it to a broader audience. In 2019, Hulu also again dropped the standard price for its streaming service while raising the cost of its Live TV add-on and rolled out an even more discounted Spotify-Hulu combo.

These promotions help to boost Hulu’s subscriber base to its entry-level service in the hopes that users will later choose to upgrade to Hulu’s more expensive plans. For students, in particular, the goal is to capture the market while users are young and paying for subscriptions possibly for the first time. When the students graduate, Hulu believes they’ll continue to still see the value in its service and convert to fully-paid customers.

This new student deal arrives a couple of months after Hulu once again raised the price of its Hulu with Live TV plan – this time to help fund the addition of 14 new ViacomCBS channels. As Hulu’s Live TV service becomes to look more like traditional pay TV in terms of its pricing, it becomes even more important to attract users to Hulu’s on-demand plan as the first step toward later upsells.

Hulu says the new student deal is “evergreen” and begins to roll out today.

#hulu, #media, #streaming, #streaming-media, #streaming-service, #students, #television, #tv

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The Expanse S5 review: The show is bigger, bolder, and better than ever

Space is mind-bogglingly big... but what happens there may not stay there.

Enlarge / Space is mind-bogglingly big… but what happens there may not stay there.

The science fiction space opera is by now a well-known genre, and yet somehow The Expanse is hard to describe. Let me try to sum it up at its most basic: The Expanse is a show about space. It is a show about society, about resources, about people with passions and problems and desires and—most especially—about what happens when all those things collide.

It is also, in a word, excellent. The Expanse‘s fifth season is the best since its first, a long-awaited high-stakes payoff to several seasons’ worth of setup. If you drifted away from the show during earlier seasons, like something accidentally dropped in microgravity, this new season makes it worth finding a way to come back.

The setup

For the first few seasons, The Expanse was concerned entirely with our own solar system. In its vision of the 24th century, we have fairly widespread access to spacefaring technology, just all at sublight speeds. The moons of Jupiter and Saturn might be accessible, but not so much the stars beyond.

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#amazon-prime-video, #gaming-culture, #gravity, #prime-video, #reviews, #the-expanse, #tv

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Streamers, including Netflix and CBS All Access, roll out new family-friendly features

As competition in the streaming service market heats up, services are looking for ways to differentiate their offerings. One area of increased interest — especially in light of fierce competition from newcomer Disney+ — is how to make their services more family-friendly. On this front, Netflix today announced the rollout of new features for families, the Kids Activity Report and Family Profiles, while CBS All Access added a Kids Mode and other updates aimed at families.

Streamers for years have marketed their services towards families with children, not only because these customers will often pay for higher-priced tiers offering more simultaneous logins, but also because strong kids’ entertainment offerings helps to keep subscribers loyal.

Netflix has led on this front with investments in children’s programming and long time support for parental controls, a “Kids” profile, and more.

Today, the company says it’s testing new features to better improve the Netflix experience.

One is a new Kids Activity Report that provides parents with information about what their kids are streaming on Netflix.

Image Credits: Netflix

This includes information about the child’s recently watched shows and interests, as well as suggested conversation topics and activities — like coloring pages or jokes —  that parents can use to engage kids further. This could help those families where parents may not be clued in as to how kids’ are spending their time on Netflix — like those where the kids often watch independently or on their own device, for example.

It also arrives at a time when families are stuck at home due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has limited the options for kids’ entertainment, leading to increased screen time. A feature that turns something parents worry about — too much screen time — into offline activities for family engagement could help this increased Netflix usage been seen in a more positive light.

Netflix says the report, which is sent via email, is being tested globally in select markets.

Another test involves a Family Profile, that focuses on helping family members find programming they can all watch together. Like other profiles, the Family Profile would be accessed from the main screen with its own icon and maintain its own recommendations and watch lists, separate from an individual’s own profile.

Unlike a kids’ user profile, which has a specific age range depending on the settings, the Family Profile would feature a selection of titles that extend up to PG-13 for movies TV-14 for shows.

This content can still be surprisingly hard to find these days, as much of what some streamers consider “family” viewing are titles that are actually aimed at little kids –titles that are often painful for full-grown adults to sit through, that is. Family-friendly profiles could instead include less of this preschool fare, perhaps, and more of popular family titles like the recent hit, “Enola Holmes.”

Netflix suggested you also might find titles like the upcoming animated short “Canvas,” animated special “A Trash Truck Christmas,” or live action family movie “We Can Be Heroes,” on a Family profile.

Image Credits: Netflix

This test is also running globally, but only on the TV, Netflix says.

The Verge first reported on the tests.

“We’re always looking for new ways to improve the Netflix experience for members of all ages,” a Netflix spokesperson told TechCrunch about its new features. “We run these tests in different countries and for different periods of time – and only make them broadly available if people find them useful,” they said.

Of course, new family features could also help Netflix overcome some of the customer backlash against its service following the “Cuties” scandal earlier this year.

The French film and award winner, was meant to be social commentary on the hypersexualization of children, but was condemned for exploiting children instead, possibly even denting Netflix subscriber growth. (The controversy was heavily tied to the QAnon #SavetheChildren conspiracy, too, though not all customers objecting to the film knew they were participating in the broader movement driven by QAnon.)

Netflix was not the only streamer to launch family-friendly features today.

In addition, CBS All Access today announced the roll out of new family-friendly features of its own. However, it’s playing catch-up with other streamers with its launches.

Image Credits: CBS All Access

The company says it will add a new feature that allows families to create up to 6 profiles per account and manage those using a “Kids Mode” option. This allows parents to create profiles that limit content to younger and older children based on content ratings. In addition, the service’s existing parental controls (the PIN-based controls) will also be available across these new profiles.

The features arrived alongside the addition of nearly 800 more episodes of kids’ content, including Nick Jr. favorites like Paw Patrol, Blaze and the Monster Machines, Blue’s Clues, Bubble Guppies, Dora the Explorer, Shimmer and Shine, and others. The service already had over 1,000 episodes of children’s programming before the new shows arrived, including Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Danger Mouse, Lassie, George of the Jungle, and Mr. Magoo. A SpongeBob spinoff, Kamp Koral, will arrive next year, along with The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run. 

In related news, a top streaming platform, Fire TV, is also looking to better serve multi-person households and families with its latest changes.

Image Credits: Amazon

Fire TV today offers a platform for engaging with streaming apps, games and other content, but organizes this into an interface complete with tailored recommendations and other features. Its redesign, first announced in September, rolls out starting today.

The update brings a brand-new look-and-feel to Fire TV, which now reorganizes the navigation and improves how it makes recommendations. But one of the bigger changes is that Fire TV users — including kids — will now each get their own profile for a more personalized experience.

All the updates are rolling out starting today. Netflix’s tests, however, won’t reach all users at this time.

#amazon, #amazon-fire-tv, #cbs, #cbs-all-access, #families, #fire-tv, #kids, #media, #netflix, #parents, #streaming, #streaming-service, #streaming-tv, #television, #tv, #viacomcbs

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Hulu officially launches its co-viewing feature Watch Party

Hulu’s social viewing feature, Watch Party, has now launched to all on-demand subscribers, the company announced today. The co-viewing feature was first introduced during the earlier days of the pandemic in 2020, allowing Hulu users to watch shows together from different locations, as well as chat and react to what they’re watching in a group chat interface on the side of the screen.

Initially, the feature was only made available to Hulu’s “No Ads” subscribers before being tested with Hulu’s ad-supported subscribers in a more limited capacity. To celebrate the Season 2 premiere of Hulu Original “Pen15,” the company had offered the Watch Party experience to its ad-supported customers for 10 days, starting on Sept. 18.

In November, Hulu began testing the Watch Party feature with election news live streams — the first time it had offered co-viewing with its live content.

Today, Hulu says Watch Party is no longer in a “test” phase, and is now officially available to both sets of on-demand customers, including those on its commercial-free and ad-supported plans alike.

At launch, Watch Party works across thousands of on-demand titles from Hulu’s library. This includes not only Hulu’s own original content but also other licensed and broadcast programs like The Golden Girls, This is Us, Family Guy, and The Bachelorette — all of which Hulu said had been popular titles for Watch Party during the testing period.

To use Watch Party, you’ll look for the new Watch Party icon that appears on a title’s detail page on Hulu.com. This will provide a link that you can then share with up to seven other Hulu subscribers, age 18 or older. The experience doesn’t require a browser plugin, but works directly on the Hulu website itself.

As the program plays, users can chat and react with emoji in the group chat window, or even pause the viewing experience if they need to take a quick break. This won’t pause the stream for other viewers, as with some other co-watching experiences — instead, the user can rejoin the group and stay behind others or they can use a “Click to Catch Up” button in the chat window to get back in sync.

Co-watching has been a popular pandemic activity, as people looked for ways to stay connected with friends and family when they couldn’t spend time in person. In addition to Hulu, Amazon Prime Video launched co-viewing and Twitch launched its own Watch Parties. HBO teamed up with Scener, Plex launched Watch Together, and Instagram and Facebook rolled out co-viewing too. Netflix users still have to use third-party tools, however.

#hulu, #media, #movies, #tv, #video, #watch-party

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The best TV deals of Black Friday 2020

lg bx oled tv

Enlarge / LG’s BX OLED TV is among the best premium TVs for most people. (credit: LG)

Black Friday is almost synonymous with TV deals, but in reality, most of the offers advertised during the shopping holiday aren’t worth your time. While many retailers are happy to shovel out big screens at dirt-cheap prices, the actual image quality of those cheaper displays tends to be mediocre. Put another way, you usually get what you pay for.

That said, for the handful of TVs that are good value, Black Friday is generally the best time to pick up a new set. You can check out our list of the best Black Friday deals for a more general roundup, but to make things easier for those who are specifically looking to grab a new centerpiece for their living room, we’ve curated a separate rundown of the best Black Friday TV deals we can find.

While we don’t regularly review TVs here at Ars, we’ve scoured through feedback on forums and review sites we trust to supplement our own impressions. We’ve also made sure to check price history charts to ensure each offer below brings genuine savings over what you’d pay at other points in the year. We’ll be sure to update this post if any more good discounts become available, but just be warned that some deals may sell out before the end of the day, since Black Friday sales started earlier than usual this year.

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#black-friday, #black-friday-2020, #dealmaster, #staff, #tv

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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

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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

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WarnerMedia to discontinue HBO and WB TV channels in India, and select other South Asia markets

WarnerMedia will discontinue HBO and WB TV channels in India, Pakistan, Maldives, and Bangladesh later this year as the entertainment conglomerate struggles to find a sustainable business model in South Asian despite operating in the region for over a decade.

The company said it will end HBO and WB TV channels in the aforementioned markets, where a cable subscription costs about $4 to $5 a month, on December 15. In India, for instance, it costs less than 25 cents to subscribe to both HBO (in HD) and WB atop a monthly cable plan, which costs about $2.

While HBO is a household name in the U.S. and several other developed markets, in India and other South Asian nations, its audience size remains tiny. Times Internet’s Movies Now, Star Movies, and Sony Pix had a considerably larger viewership than HBO in India last month, according to Broadcast Audience Research Council, India’s ratings agency.

Warner Media cited a dramatic market shift in the pay-TV industry for its decision. It said it will continue to offer Cartoon Network and Pogo in India, and distribute CNN International in the country.

“After 20 years of successes for the HBO linear movie channel in South Asia and more than a decade with the WB linear movie channel, this was a difficult decision to make. The pay-TV industry landscape and the market dynamics have shifted dramatically, and the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for further change,” said Siddharth Jain, SVP and Managing Director of WarnerMedia’s entertainment network in South Asia, in a statement.

HBO also maintains a content syndication partnership with Disney’s Hotstar in India. So the streamer will continue to offer HBO’s shows such as “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver” — hopefully without any censorship — in the country.

“WarnerMedia has a strong interest in India and are committed to assessing optimal opportunities to serve valued customers here,” said Jain.

#asia, #entertainment, #hbo, #india, #south-asia, #tv, #warnermedia

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Amazon redesigns Fire TV, introduces new Fire TV Stick and low-cost Fire TV Stick Lite

Amazon today announced a redesign Fire TV experience along with an updated Fire TV Stick and a new, lower-cost Fire TV Stick Lite. The updated interface for the Alexa-enabled smart TV platform will introduce a handful of new features, including support video calling and other options for using Fire TV as a way to video chat, including later, support for Zoom, Amazon says.

It also improves the overall design of the Fire TV software experience.

The updated Fire TV design includes a personalized home page where you can more quickly get to your favorite content and apps. It will also support the recently introduced user profiles for up to six people in a household. The profiles allow users to keep track of the shows they’re watching and see recommendations tailored to their own interests.

Fire TV’s navigation has also been simplified. Gone is the lengthy row of tabs at the top of the screen to click through. Instead, navigation has moved down the page next to your profile icon, and now includes tabs for Home, Find, Live, and Library, alongside a row of your favorite apps.

The top of the screen, meanwhile, has been freed up to better display a large advertisement for Amazon’s own content. This is an understandable design choice but also serves as a reminder that Amazon Fire TV is not as neutral a platform as something like Roku, where home screen ad space is offered for sale to interested parties and may even point you to new services and apps.

An Alexa hub on Fire TV will help to show off what sort of things you can do with Alexa, including how you can use picture-in-picture mode to watch your smart cameras alongside your TV show. And now, when you ask Alexa a question, she won’t take over the full screen — a tweak that recalls Apple’s recent update to the Siri experience in iOS 14, perhaps.

But the bigger is news is around how Amazon envisions the Fire TV as a communications device.

“People have been watching more and more TV at home through devices like Fire TV and we’ve sold over 100 million of them live today,” said Amazon VP, Entertainment Devices and Services, Marc Whitten. “They’re watching billions of hours of entertainment a month. And they’ve also been using them for new things — different things that they hadn’t before,” he added.

On this front, Amazon is introducing Video Calling with Fire TV.  The new feature will allow the home’s biggest screen to display video calls. Initially, this will work by allowing customers to connect a Logitech USB webcam with their Fire TV Cube to enable two-way video calling on Alexa. Later, Amazon will add support for Zoom, but didn’t offer a launch date.

Though not mentioned today, it seems obvious that Amazon is likely planning to introduce new Fire TV television sets that include built-in webcams at some point further down the road. It’s unclear why it wasn’t ready to launch those today at its big event, however.

Image Credits: Amazon

As for Fire TV hardware, today’s announcements were limited to Fire TV Stick.

The Fire TV Stick is one of Amazon’s best-sellers and the first product on all of Amazon.com to surpass a quarter of million in customer ratings, the company noted. It now has the most 5-star ratings of any product.

The updated Fire TV Stick has been updated with a 50% more powerful processor, and supports HDR compatibility and Dolby Atmos support for full-HD streaming. But it will use 50% less power than its predecessor, Amazon says. It will continue to ship with the Alexa remote, which includes dedicated volume, power and mute buttons that can control your TV, soundbar and AV equipment. The device will roll out later in the year for $39.99.

Amazon also announced a new, more affordable Fire TV Stick, called the Fire TV Stick Lite. This version, which isn’t quite as powerful, supports streaming in full-HD with HDR, and comes with Alexa Voice Remote Lite.

The Fire TV Stick Lite will start shipping later this month for $29.99.

#amazon, #amazon-hardware-event-2020, #fire-tv, #fire-tv-stick, #tc, #television, #tv, #video-calling

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“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

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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

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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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Star Trek: Lower Decks review: Comfort food with a comic twist

Screenshot from Star Trek: Lower Decks trailer

Enlarge / Ensigns Tendi (Noël Wells), Rutherford (Eugene Cordero), Boimler (Jack Quaid), and Mariner (Tawny Newsome) reporting for duty. (credit: YouTube/CBS All Access)

Star Trek has been many things in the past 54 years: eight television series, 13 films, the better part of a thousand total novels, and the beating heart that arguably created modern fandom as it now stands. But for all the humor—both intentional and not—scattered throughout its storied history, there is one frontier it has not yet explored: the half-hour comedy.

The ninth and newest Star Trek series aims to change all that. Lower Decks is a half-hour animated series set in the timeline two years after the conclusion of Star Trek: Voyager. The half-hour comedy cartoon format is a definite change of pace from ViacomCBS’ other recent Star Trek offerings, the heavily serialized dramas Picard and Discovery. The question any fan might have then, is simple: does it hold up?

And the answer is yes, mostly—but don’t set your expectations to “stunned.”

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#cbs, #cbs-all-access, #gaming-culture, #reviews, #star-trek, #star-trek-the-next-generation, #star-trek-lower-decks, #tv

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Plex launches a live TV service with over 80 free channels, most available worldwide

Streaming media platform Plex announced today it’s further expanding into live TV with the addition of over 80 free live TV channels accessible by free users and subscribers alike. The company had already allowed consumers to capture and record live TV by way of a digital antenna and tuner connected to a Plex media server, but this had required investment in additional hardware and involved a more complicated setup process.

The new Live TV service, meanwhile, will offer easier access to a broad range of free content across categories like news, sports, film, classic TV, comedy, game shows, anime, kids, entertainment, esports, and more.

The channel lineup include Reuters TV, Yahoo Finance, Toon Goggles, Kidoodle TV, KidsFlix,
fubo Sports Network, Cooking Panda, DrinkTV, IGN TV, AFV Family, Tastemade, Revry, FailArmy, Dove Channel, Docurama, The Pet Collective, WeatherSpy, Made in Hollywood, and others. There are also channels dedicated to individual programs, like The Bob Ross Channel or Deal or No Deal, for example. Others are more thematic in nature, like Surf TV, the Law & Crime Trial Network, Game Show Central, Retro Crush, Gravitas Movies, and more. A range of music video channels, also genre-based, fill out the selection.

While none of these are big names, they expand Plex’s service with a range of free content where you might catch something interesting upon browsing — like a cooking show, old movie, classic TV episode, funny video, or kids cartoon, for instance.

Initially, Plex users will access the service from a new section called “Live TV On Plex.” From here, you’re taken to a more traditional grid guide that shows you what’s currently airing on each channel and what’s coming up in the hours ahead. In the future, Plex says it aims to integrate the free live channels with its existing product for recording from live TV via the over-the-air antenna, in order to simplify navigation.

Unlike with its current Live TV product, you can only tune into and watch the free live TV programs — you can’t record the shows or movies. However, in true Plex fashion, it’s making it easy to customize the guide to your particular interests, by allowing you to do things like reorder channels to your liking or even hide those you don’t care about.

Though there are several “free TV” services on the market today, Plex aims to differentiate its offering by making over 80% of the live channels available to users outside the U.S., where “free TV” services are more limited.

The free content is supported by programmatic advertising, which also supports Plex’s on-demand Movies & TV library and its free News offering. The company says it has no plan to directly sell its own ads for any of these properties, but its continued expansions into ad-supported content have begun to return revenue.

The company declined to speak to its specific revenue situation. But Plex co-founder and Chief Product Officer Scott Olechowski described the numbers as getting “interesting.”

“It’s now becoming interesting enough that we’re able to expand this footprint, the licensing we’re doing, the resources we’re putting into it, and the marketing we’re doing it around it,” he explains. “Because of [Plex’s] independence, the quality of the catalog, and the quality of the app, the amount of interest we’re getting from demand partners is pretty impressive,” Olechowski adds.

Plex may also benefit from the increasing battles between media giants to run their own, competing free TV platforms. For example, Fox Corp. acquired free streaming service TUBI in March and ViacomCBS now runs the free service Pluto.TV, acquired last year. As these services now operate as an arm of corporate giants, it makes sense for them to highlight and promote the parent company’s own content over niche, third-party channels, where the revenue take is smaller.

Now that the service has launched, Plex says the plan is to further expand its lineup with more channels in time, potentially including those it programs itself using content from its existing free Movies & TV library. Longer-term, Plex envisions creating even more personalized channels for its users which would include content from its free services combined with content from your own media library.

More broadly, the company sees live TV as another hole to plug on its way to becoming a comprehensive media platform that includes not only access to users’ personal libraries, but also live and on-demand TV and movies, podcasts, music, news, web shows, and more. The company is still working to add a movies and TV rental and purchase library, and is figuring out a way to direct users to off-platform content, perhaps by way of its movie and TV database, Plex Mediaverse.

The new live TV channels are rolling out now in the U.S. and other international markets, where supported.

#cord-cutting, #live-tv, #media, #plex, #streaming-service, #streaming-tv, #tv

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Amazon Fire TV now pulls in live TV content from Sling TV, YouTube TV and Hulu + Live TV

Amazon is upgrading its Fire TV’s live TV experience through new integrations with several live TV streaming services, including Sling TV, YouTube TV, and Hulu + Live TV. Live content from these services will now appear within key areas with the Fire TV user interface, including the Fire TV’s Live tab and Channel Guide, making Fire TV feel even more like a cable TV replacement than before.

Already, Amazon Fire TV had offered integrations with nearly 20 other apps in a similar fashion, including live TV apps like Philo and Pluto TV, as well as its own Prime Video Channels.

But the addition of Sling TV, YouTube TV and Hulu + Live TV brings in the three largest and most popular apps among cord cutters who are paying for a live TV experience. Sling TV has 2.31 million subscribers; YouTube TV has over 2 million; and Hulu + Live TV has 3.3 million.

Live content from these apps will be found within three main sections: the Live tab, the “On Now” rows and the multi-app Channel Guide.

Streaming live TV over the internet has become a more popular option for cord cutters over the years, as it offers a less expensive way to have a cable TV-like experience. Unfortunately, that gap has been closing in more recent months, as live TV users have been subjected to continual price increases as the services expanded their channel lineups.

However, many live TV customers remain because even with the increases, it can still be slightly less than cable and offers more flexibility — like working across platforms and not tied to a cable box.

This trend toward live content has also been seen on Fire TV, Amazon says.

The Live tab has become the second-most-visited destination on the Fire TV interface after the Home screen, due to its integrations of live content, the company noted. In addition, live TV streaming apps on Fire TV have seen the total time spent in app and active customers more than double, on average, since Fire TV added its live TV discovery integrations.

Image Credits: Amazon

“Fire TV is hugely popular among Philo fans. Since integrating with Amazon’s live streaming discovery features, the number of active Philo users is up nearly 2.5x on Fire TV,” said Philo CEO Andrew McCollum, whose TV streaming app was one of the earlier additions to Fire TV.

To use new integrations, you’ll first need to log into the streaming app you subscribe to with your current account information. You can then access the app’s live content across the Live Tab, which organizes live content in the familiar Netflix-like style of scrollable rows. Here, there are rows for things like “Live Sports” and “Live News,” plus content from your subscriptions’ channels.

From here, you can hop into the Channel Guide, which offers the more traditional grid guide, similar to cable TV.

This format is proving popular among live TV service subscribers.

On Monday, for example, Roku introduced its own Live TV Channel Guide, accessible via a new tile, which allows Roku users to browse the free live and linear content Roku offers in a similar way.

Amazon’s Fire TV platform, however, has the perk of Alexa integration.

That means users can ask Alexa to open the Channel Guide or even change the channel, by saying “Alexa, tune to [name of channel],” for example. This works via built-in Alexa on the Fire TV Cube, via a paired Echo device, or by using the Fire TV’s Alexa Voice Remote, depending on your setup.

“We’re excited to welcome Sling TV, Hulu + Live TV, and YouTube TV into our integrated suite of Live TV discovery features,” said Sandeep Gupta, VP of Fire TV, in a statement. “We believe the future of Connected TV is one that brings live content forward, simplifies the streaming and OTT landscape, and enables customers to discover the programs they want to watch with ease,” he added.

Sling TV’s integration began rolling out earlier this year, Amazon clarifies, but is being officially announced today.

YouTube TV will be available starting today, and Hulu + Live TV will become available in the coming weeks.

#alexa, #amazon, #amazon-fire-tv, #cord-cutting, #fire-tv, #live-tv, #live-tv-streaming-service, #media, #streaming-service, #streaming-tv, #tv

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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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