Bilibili ups the ante in games with $123 million investment in TapTap

Competition in China’s gaming industry is getting stiffer in recent times as tech giants sniff out potential buyouts and investments to beef up their gaming alliance, whether it pertains to content or distribution.

Bilibili, the go-to video streaming platform for young Chinese, is the latest to make a major gaming deal. It has agreed to invest HK$960 million (about $123 million) into X.D. Network, which runs the popular game distribution platform TapTap in China, the company announced on Thursday.

Dual-listed in Hong Kong and New York, Bilibili will purchase 22,660,000 shares of X.D.’s common stock at HK$42.38 apiece, which will grant it a 4.72% stake.

The partners will initiate a series of “deep collaborations” around X.D.’s own games and TapTap, without offering more detail.

Though known for its trove of video content produced by amateur and professional creators, Bilibili derives a big chunk of its income from mobile games, which accounted for 40% of its revenues in 2020. The ratio had declined from 71% and 53% in 2018 and 2019, a sign that it’s trying to diversify revenue streams beyond distributing games.

Tencent has similarly leaned on games to drive revenues for years. The WeChat operator dominates China’s gaming market through original titles and a sprawling investment portfolio whose content it helps operate and promote.

X.D. makes games, too, but in recent years it has also emerged as a rebel against traditional game distributors, which are Android app stores operated by smartphone makers. The vision is to skip the high commission fees charged by the likes of Huawei and Xiaomi and monetize through ads. X.D.’s proposition has helped it attract a swathe of gaming companies to be its investors, including fast-growing studios Lilith Games and miHoYo, as well as ByteDance, which built up a 3,000-people strong gaming team within six years.

Bilibili’s investment further strengthens X.D.’s matrix of top-tier gaming investors. Tencent is conspicuously absent, but it’s no secret that ByteDance is its new nemesis. The TikTok parent recently outbid Tencent to acquire Moonton, a gaming studio that has gained ground in Southeast Asia, according to Reuters. Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, is also vying for user attention away from content published on WeChat.

#android, #asia, #bilibili, #bytedance, #china, #entertainment, #gaming, #smartphone-makers, #tencent, #tiktok, #video-hosting, #wechat, #xiaomi

0

Lowkey raises $7 million from a16z to help game streamers capitalize on short-form video

While the growth of game-streaming audiences have continued on desktop platforms, the streaming space has felt surprisingly stagnant at times, particularly due to the missing mobile element and a lack of startup competitors.

Lowkey, a gaming startup that builds software for game streamers, is aiming to build out opportunities in bit-sized clips on mobile. The startup wants to be a hub for both creating and viewing short gaming clips but also sees a big opportunity in helping streamers cut down their existing content for distribution on platforms like Instagram and TikTok where short-form gaming content sees a good deal of engagement.

The startup announced today that they’ve closed a $7 million Series A led by Andreessen Horowitz with participation from a host of angel investors including Figma’s Dylan Field, Loom’s Joe Thomas and Plaid’s Zach Perret & William Hockey.

We last covered Lowkey in early 2020 when the company was looking to build out a games tournament platform for adults. At the time, the company had already pivoted after going through YC as Camelot but which allowed audiences on Twitch and YouTube pay creators to take on challenges. This latest shift brings Lowkey back to the streaming world but more focused on becoming a tool for streamers and a hub for viewers.

Twitch and YouTube Gaming have proven to be pretty uninterested in short-form content, favoring the opportunities of long-form streams that allow creators to press broadcast and upload lengthy streams. Lowkey users can easily upload footage captured from Lowkey’s desktop app or directly import a linked stream. This allows content creators to upload and comment on their own footage or remix and respond to another streamer’s content.

One of the challenges for streamers has been adapting widescreen content for a vertical video form factor, but CEO Jesse Zhang says that it’s not really a problem with most modern games. “Games inherently want to focus you attention on the center of the screen,” Zhang tells TechCrunch. “So, almost all clips extend really cleanly to like a mobile format, which is what we’ve done.”

Lowkey’s desktop app is available on Windows and their new mobile app is now live for iOS.

#andreessen-horowitz, #ceo, #digital-media, #gaming, #hockey, #instagram, #joe-thomas, #mass-media, #microsoft-windows, #twitch, #video-hosting, #world-wide-web, #youtube, #zach-perret

0

YouTube’s TikTok rival, YouTube Shorts, arrives in the US

YouTube Shorts, the company’s short-form video experience and TikTok rival, is launching today in the U.S. The feature allows creators to record, edit and share short-form video content that’s 60 seconds or less in length, optionally set to popular music. At launch, YouTube has deals with Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group and Warner Chappell Music, Believe, Merlin, 300 Entertainment, Kobalt, Beggars, CD Baby, Empire, Peer, Reservoir, OneRPM and others.

Globally, YouTube has agreements with over 250 publishers and labels for use in the Shorts product, it says.

The YouTube Shorts product itself was first introduced in September and has been beta testing in India over the past several months, where it has since seen adoption triple.

Though you may have already encountered the YouTube Shorts “shelf” on the YouTube homepage, the ability to create YouTube Shorts videos was not live in the U.S. until today.

The experience of filming content for YouTube Shorts is very much like TikTok.

Creators have access to tools stop and start recording short video segments with a tap, much like the leading short-form app. They can also select the video’s backing music or sound and utilize a small handful of in-app editing features. At launch, these include speed controls to slow or speed the audio, a countdown timer, text timing capabilities to make text appear on the screen at certain times and, soon after launch, color adjustment filters.

Image Credits: YouTube

But while YouTube Shorts has a clever tool that lets you select the part of the song you want to use in your video, it’s lacking the more intelligent automatic sound-syncing feature that makes TikTok so accessible for beginners. YouTube’s product also at launch lacks a large catalog of special effects — like the AR features or green-screen options found on TikTok. Instead, like Instagram Reels, the initial goal with Shorts is to simply lower the barrier to entry for users who want to create and publish short-form video content on an existing social platform.

On the viewer’s side, the TikTok comparisons are even more obvious.

Currently, the experience can be launched via the YouTube Shorts shelf on the YouTube homepage, which has already been live in some markets, and, soon, from a dedicated Shorts tab in the YouTube mobile app.

Image Credits: YouTube

Once launched, you’ll be taken to a familiar full-screen vertical video experience where you can double-tap to like a video, tap into the comments or share the video with others. You can also subscribe to the creators’ YouTube channel from Shorts, if you find their content interesting.

You can also tap on hashtags in YouTube Shorts that will take you to a page with other videos using the same hashtag. (This, to be clear, is separate from the other YouTube hashtag pages announced recently, which will host both longer-form and short-form content.)

Image Credits: YouTube

Also like TikTok, you can tap on the music icon — in YouTube Shorts, a square icon, not a spinning record as on TikTok — to be taken to a page featuring that same sound. Here, you’ll find all the other Shorts using that sound and have the option to do the same.

Image Credits: YouTube

This “sound” could be a clip from a popular song, original audio or what YouTube calls “remixed” content. The latter refers to how Shorts creators can sample from other Shorts videos to make their own sounds. And, in the months to come, the company will expand this remixing capability across YouTube’s billions of longer-form videos. YouTube creators can choose to opt out of having their original audio remixed for Shorts’ clips, but by doing so they may limit themselves from finding a new audience.

YouTube suggests creators could remix videos to show themselves reacting to their favorite jokes, trying a YouTuber’s recipe or re-enacting a comedic skit, among other things.

Image Credits: YouTube

Since its launch in India, the YouTube Shorts player has passed 6.5 billion daily views globally. However, YouTube wouldn’t say how many creators had adopted the product, nor how many Shorts videos have been produced. But the Indian market is not representative of how Shorts may fare in the U.S. because the country banned TikTok last year, helping to boost other short-form video apps as a result.

YouTube, of course, isn’t the first social platform to copy TikTok. Instagram and Snapchat have done the same with Reels and Spotlight, respectively. But in YouTube’s case, it’s even more critical to offer support for short-form video to stay relevant in a market where TikTok has become one of the most downloaded mobile apps and a preferred tool for watching video content on mobile devices.

“I think Shorts and short-form video has come to feel like a natural progression for YouTube,” noted YouTube’s Todd Sherman, the product lead for YouTube Shorts. “We’re the original user generated video platform. And that was really based around video that’s created on the desktop — digital cameras, desktop computers and video editing software. Now, we’re really keen to take a step forward into this new world of video that’s really native to the phone,” he says. “And it’s really important that we build this in partnership with the creator community…and for that matter, even more broadly, the same goes for viewers and our partners in the music industry,” Sherman adds.

The YouTube Shorts product is still considered a beta, as YouTube expects to iterate on the Shorts experience over time, and respond to user feedback as it develops new features.

Longer-term, YouTube believes Shorts will differentiate itself from others on the market by way of its connection to the larger YouTube platform.

“There’s a two-way door here where we’re building a short-form video ecosystem,” explains Sherman. “You can take a step forward into YouTube or even YouTube Music in the foreseeable future. And then from YouTube, you could also initiate creation into Shorts. That bridging of ecosystems, I think is an important part of this,” he adds.

So far, however, TikTok rivals have often seen creators simply repurposing their TikTok videos for use on other platforms — not developing original content for each of the three: TikTok, Reels and Spotlight.

YouTube Shorts’ video creation tools will begin to roll out to U.S. users starting today, and will expand to all of the U.S. over the next several weeks, the company says.

 

 

#entertainment, #short-form-video, #tc, #tiktok, #united-states, #video, #video-hosting, #youtube, #youtube-music, #youtube-shorts

0

Israel’s Retrain.ai closes $13M to use AI to understand early signals in the changing jobs market

Israel’s retrain.ai, which uses AI and Machine Learning to read job boards at scale and to gain insight into where the job market is going, has closed $9M Series A led by Square Peg. Since retrain.ai’s $4M seed round last year was unannounced (led by Hetz Ventures, with TechAviv and .406 Ventures participating) that means it’s raised a total of $13 million. It’s competitors include Pymetrics which has raised $56.6M and Eightfold.ai which has raised $176.8M.

As well as the funding, the company has secured a first deal with the Israeli Department of Labor to look at the changing nature of the Israeli job market in light of the pandemic.

With technology eating into the traditional labour market, retrain.ai says its platform can look at what jobs are being advertised, which jobs are going down in popularity and see early-warning signals as to where new jobs are going to appear from. This can help form policy for large organiations and governments.

retrain.ai’s CEO is Dr. Shay David, who is best known for co-founding the video enterprise leader Kaltura, which first appeared at TehcCrunch’s first ever conference in 2007. Isabelle Bichler-Eliasaf is the company’s COO and Avi Simon, is retrain.ai’s CTO.

Dr. Shay David said: “What was once the regular tide of change in the workforce has evolved into a tsunami, especially pronounced by COVID-19 and its huge impact on the labor market– this has been a wake-up call. Unemployment and underemployment  is going to affect a billion people globally in the next few decades. Our vision is to help 10 million workers get the right jobs by 2025 and help organizations navigate efficiently through the wave of change.”
 
retrain.ai is the first investment by Square Peg’s new $450M fund. The VC previously invested in Canva, Stripe, Fiverr and Airwallex.

#406-ventures, #articles, #artificial-intelligence, #canva, #ceo, #coo, #cto, #economy, #employment, #europe, #fiverr, #hetz, #israel, #kaltura, #machine-learning, #square-peg, #tc, #unemployment, #video-hosting

0

Amazon’s GameOn app, a platform for sharing mobile gaming clips, launches on iOS,

Mobile gaming hasn’t seen the same demand for streaming content in the past as desktop has, but Amazon sees a market there to extend Twitch’s dominance. After launching on Android back in November, the company’s mobile streaming centric app has just launched on Apple’s App Store.

The app lets users record short clips (anywhere from 30 seconds to 5 minutes of content) of gameplay from a variety of titles that support screen recording capture. Users can screen record these clips directly into the GameOn library at which point they can add commentary or additional edits before publishing to the GameOn platform or sharing links to the platform on other sites.

The GameOn platform is interestingly fully disconnected from Twitch with separate branding and different channels. Amazon has been partnering with streamers to wholly focus on mobile gaming while promoting challenges unique to the app.

Developers have been increasingly vigilant about brining more full-featured ports of desktop titles to mobile though the lack of sophisticated controls has made this a challenge. As gaming platforms aim to bring cloud streaming networks to iOS there could end up being more demand for shot-on-mobile content and titles that users control with a gamepad, but this will depend on whether the App Store grows more amenable to these platforms over time.

#amazon, #android, #app-store, #computing, #gameon, #gaming, #internet, #mass-media, #mobile-game, #streaming, #twitch, #video-hosting

0

Instagram launches ‘Live Rooms’ for live broadcasts with up to four creators

Instagram today announced it’s adding a much-requested feature to its app with the launch of “Live Rooms,” which allow up to four people to broadcast live together at the same time. Previously, the app only allowed users to live stream with one other person, similar to Facebook Live. The company says it hopes Live Rooms will open up more creative opportunities in terms of live broadcast formats to allow for things like live talk shows, expanded Q&A’s or interviews, jam sessions for musicians, live shopping experiences, and more.

In addition to the ability to live stream with more people, Instagram also touts how the new feature can help creators to make more money. Last year, in the early days of the COVID-19 crisis, Instagram introduced badges as a way for fans to support their favorite creators during a live video. Once purchased, the badges appear next to a fan’s name throughout the live video, helping them to stand out in the comments and unlock other special features, like placement on the creator’s list of badge holders and access to a special heart.

Badges became more broadly available last fall, at three price points: $0.99, $1.99, or $4.99.

With Live Rooms, fans can buy badges to support the hosts (one badge per person) as well as use other interactive features like Shopping and Live Fundraisers. The company says it’s also now developing other tools, like moderator controls and audio features that will roll out in the months to come.

To start a Live Room, you’ll swipe left and select the Live camera option, then title the Room and tap the Room icon to add guests. Here, you’ll see a list of people who’ve already requested to go live with you and you’ll be able to search for other guests to add.

Image Credits: Instagram

When you start the Live Room, you’ll remain at the top of the screen while guests are added. The guests can be added all at once or individually, depending on your preference. This allows for opportunities to add “surprise guests” to live streams to keep fans engaged.

The ability to add more guests to a live stream can also help a creator grow their follower base, as all the guests’ followers are notified about the Live Room, in addition to your own.

For safety reasons, any person that’s been blocked by any of the Live Room participants will not have access to join the live stream. Plus, any guests who have previously had their live access revoked due to violations of Instagram’s Community Guidelines won’t be able to join any Live Rooms.

During live broadcasts, the hosts can also report and block comments and use comment filters to maintain a safer experience for all viewers.

Live broadcasts became an increasingly important way for creators, business owners and brands to stay connected with followers during the pandemic, which shut down in-person live events, including concerts, shows, classes, conferences, meetups, and more. Instagram reported a 70% increase in Live views from February to March, for instance, as creators and businesses shifted their work online.

Image Credits: Instagram

As the pandemic wore on throughout 2020 and into 2021, the lack of in-person connection has allowed for other opportunities and even new social networks to grow. Live audio platform Clubhouse, for example, has seen rapid adoption, particularly by the tech and creative crowds, who today use the app to tune into live shows, chat sessions, and even big-name interviews. Twitter is now building a rival, and reportedly, so is Facebook.

But while Clubhouse offers a very different experience, it still operates in the same broader space of allowing fans to connect with high-profile individuals of some sort — entrepreneurs and founders, celebrities, market experts, thought leaders, influencers, and so on. And because users’ time is limited, seeing this type of activity shift to non-Facebook owned platforms is likely of concern to Instagram and its parent.

Meanwhile, in the live video broadcasting space, Instagram today faces a number of competitors, from those focused on a particular niche — like game streaming site Twitch, live shopping apps, and more— as well as general purpose live platforms offered by YouTube and TikTok. (The latter was spotted offering a four-up live stream format just last month, in fact.)

Instagram says Live Rooms are rolling out now to both iOS and Android to all global markets. The company expects the rollout to reach 100% of its user base within the week.

 

#apps, #clubhouse, #facebook, #instagram, #instagram-live, #livestreaming, #mobile, #social, #social-media, #social-networks, #streaming, #tiktok, #video-hosting

0

YouTube to launch parental control features for families with tweens and teens

YouTube announced this morning it will soon introduce a new experience designed for teens and tweens who are now too old for the schoolager-focused YouTube Kids app, but who may not be ready to explore all of YouTube. The company says it’s preparing to launch a beta test of new features that will give parents the ability to grant kids more limited access to YouTube through a “supervised” Google Account. This setup will restrict what tweens and teens can watch on the platform, as well as what they can do — like create videos or leave comments, for example.

Many parents may have already set up a supervised Google Account for their child through Google’s Family Link parental control app. This app allows parents to restrict access across a range of products and services, control screen time, filter websites and more. Other parents may have created a supervised Google Account for their child when they first set up the child’s account on a new Android device or Chromebook.

If not, parents can take a few minutes to create the child’s supervised account when they’re ready to begin testing the new features. (Unfortunately, Google Edu accounts — like those kids now use for online school — aren’t supported at launch.)

The new features will allow parents to select between three different levels of YouTube access for their tween or teen. Initially, YouTube will test the features with parents with children under the age of consent for online services — age 13 in the U.S., but different in other countries — before expanding to older groups.

Image Credits: YouTube

For tweens who have more recently graduated out of the YouTube Kids app, an “Explore” mode will allow them to view a broad range of videos generally suited for viewers age 9 and up — including vlogs, tutorials, gaming videos, music clips, news, and educational content. This would allow the kids to watch things like their favorite gaming streamer with kid-friendly content, but would prevent them (in theory) from finding their way over to more sensitive content.

The next step up is an “Explore More” mode, where videos are generally suitable for kids 13 and up — like a PG-13 version of YouTube. This expands the set of videos kids can access and allows them access to live streams in the same categories as “Explore.”

For older teens, there is the “Most of YouTube” mode, which includes almost all YouTube videos except those that include age-restricted content that isn’t appropriate for viewers under 18.

Image Credits: YouTube

YouTube says it will use a combination of user input, machine learning, and human review to curate which videos are included in each of the three different content settings.

Of course, much like YouTube Kids, that means this will not be a perfect system — it’s a heavily machine-automated attempt at curation where users will still have to flag videos that were improperly filtered. In other words, helicopter parents who closely supervise their child’s access to internet content will probably still want to use some other system — like a third-party parental control solution, perhaps — to lock down YouTube further.

The supervised access to YouTube comes with other restrictions, as well, the company says.

Parents will be able to manage the child’s watch and search history from within the child’s account settings. And certain features on YouTube will be disabled, depending on the level of access the child has.

For example, YouTube will disable in-app purchases, video creation, and commenting features at launch. The company says that, over time, it wants to work with parents to add some of these features back through some sort of parent-controlled approach.

Also key is that personalized ads won’t be served on supervised experiences, even if that content isn’t designated as “made for kids” — which would normally allow for personalized ads to run. Instead, all ads will be contextual, as they are on YouTube Kids. In addition, all ads will have to comply with kids advertising policies, YouTube’s general ad policies, and will be subject to the same category and ad content restrictions as on Made for Kids content.

That said, when parents establish the supervised account for their child, they’ll be providing consent for COPPA compliance — the U.S. children’s privacy law that requires parents to be notified and agree to the collection and use personal data from the kids’ account. So there’s a trade-off here.

However, the new experience may still make sense for families where kids have outgrown apps designed for younger children — or even in some cases, for younger kids who covet their big brother or sister’s version of “real YouTube.” Plus, at some point, forcing an older child to use the “Kids” app makes them feel like they’re behind their peers, too. And since not all parents use the YouTube Kids app or parental controls, there’s always the complaint that “everyone else has it, so why can’t I?” (It never ends.)

Image Credits: YouTube Kids app

This slightly more locked down experience lets parents give the child access to “real YouTube” with restrictions on what that actually means, in terms of content and features.

YouTube, in an announcement, shared several endorsements for the new product from a few individual youth experts, including Leslie Boggs, president of National PTA; Dr. Yalda Uhls, Center for Scholars & Storytellers, UCLA – Author of Media Moms & Digital Dads; Thiago Tavares, Founder and President of SaferNet Brazil; and Professor Sun Sun Lim, Singapore University of Technology & Design – Author of Transcendent Parenting.

YouTube’s news, notably, follows several product updates from fast-growing social video app and YouTube rival TikTok, which has rolled out a number of features aimed at better protecting its younger users.

The company in April 2020 launched a “family pairing” mode that lets a parent link their child’s account to their own in order to also lock down what the child can do and what content they can see. (TikTok offers a curated experience for the under-13 crowd called Restricted Mode, which can be switched on here, too.) And in January of this year, TikTok changed the privacy setting defaults for users under 18 to more proactively restrict what they do on the app.

YouTube says its new product will launch in beta in the “coming months” in over 80 countries worldwide. It also notes that it will continue to invest in YouTube Kids for parents with younger children.

#apps, #families, #family, #google, #kids, #machine-learning, #media, #parental-controls, #parents, #social, #video, #video-hosting, #youtube, #youtube-kids

0

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

0

Clubhouse announces plans for creator payments and raises new funding led by Andreessen Horowitz

Buzzy live voice chat app Clubhouse has confirmed that it has raised new funding – without revealing how much – in a Series B round led by Andreessen Horowitz through the firm’s partner Andrew Chen. The app was reported to be raising at a $1 billion valuation in a report from The Information that landed just before this confirmation. While we try to track down the actual value of this round and the subsequent valuation of the company, what we do know is that Clubhouse has confirmed it will be introducing products to help creators on the platform get played, including subscriptions, tipping and ticket sales.

This funding round will also support a ‘Creator Grant Program’ being set up by Clubhouse, which will be used to “support emerging Clubhouse creators” according to the startup’s blog post. While the app has done a remarkable job attracting creator talent, including high-profile celebrity and political users, directing revenue towards creators will definitely help spur sustained interest, as well as more time and investment from new creators who are potentially looking to make a name for themselves on the platform, similar to YouTube and TikTok influencers before them.

Of course, adding monetization for users also introduces a method for Clubhouse itself to monetize. The platform is free to all users, and doesn’t yet offer any kind of premium plan or method of charging users, nor is it ad-supported. Adding ways for users to pay other users provides an opportunity for Clubhouse to retain a cut for its services.

The plans around monetization routes for creators appear to be relatively open-ended at this point, with Clubhouse saying it’ll be launching “first tests” around each of the three areas it mentions (tipping, tickets and subscriptions) over the “next few months.” It sounds like these could be similar to something like a Patreon built right into the platform. Tickets are a unique option that would go well with Clubhouse’s more formal roundtable discussions, and could also be a way that more organizations make use of the platform for hosting virtual events.

The startup also announced that it will be starting work on its Android app (it’s been iOS only for now) and that it will also invest in more backend scaling to keep up with demand, as well as support team growth and tools for detecting and prevuing abuse. Clubhouse has come under fire for its failure in regards to moderation and prevention of abuse in the past, so this aspect of its product development will likely be closely watched. The platform will also see changes to discovery aimed at surfacing relevant users, groups (‘clubs’ in the app’s parlance) and rooms.

During a regular virtual town hall the app’s founders host on the platform, CEO Paul Davison revealed that Clubhouse now has 2 million weekly active users. It’s also worth noting that Clubhouse says it now has “over 180 investors” in the company, which is a lot for a Series B – though many of those are likely small, independent investors with very little stake.

#andreessen-horowitz, #andrew-chen, #android, #apps, #buzzy, #ceo, #clubhouse, #mobile-software, #patreon, #paul-davison, #social-media, #software, #startups, #tc, #tiktok, #video-hosting

0

TikTok update will change privacy settings and defaults for users under 18

TikTok announced today it’s making changes to its app to make the experience safer for younger users. The company will now set the accounts for users ages 13 to 15 to private by default, as well as tighten other controls for all users under 18, in terms of how they can interact with other users and TikTok content itself. TikTok is also announcing a partnership with nonprofit Common Sense Networks, an education and advocacy group that helps parents and educators navigate today’s media landscape, including children’s use of technology.

The partnership will see Common Sense Networks working with TikTok to provide additional guidance on the appropriateness of its content for users under 13.

The social video app in 2019 had been fined $5.7 million by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for violating U.S. children’s privacy laws. The FTC had begun looking into the app back when it was known as Musical.ly. The earlier version, prior to its acquisition by ByteDance, had collected personal information for children under 13 without parents’ consent.

As a result of that ruling, TikTok created a new, legally compliant experience for younger users in the U.S. with age-appropriate content and no ability to publish videos.

Now, TikTok will restrict the experience for other minors using the app who are over 13, too.

For children ages 13 to 15, accounts will be set to private by default and TikTok will turn the setting “Suggest your account to others” to Off. This will allow users’ videos to only be seen by those they approve as a follower and limits their account from being recommended to others elsewhere in the app.

Commenting controls are also being locked down for these users.

They’ll now be able to choose between “Friends” or “No One” in terms of who can comment on their videos, and the “Everyone” option will be removed. The Dueting and Stitching features will also be removed, which limits how these younger users can engage with other TikTok users and their content. They won’t be able to make their videos downloadable either.

For those ages 16 to 17, the default setting for Duet and Stitch will be set to “Friends,” and they’ll only be able to download videos created by users 16 and over as a result of the lockdowns for younger users. Downloads for their own videos will also be set to Off by default, but they can enable this, if they choose.

TiTok had already restricted younger users’ accounts before today in various ways, including not only through the under-13 age gated experience, but also by restricting direct messaging and hosting live streams to accounts 16 and over, and restricting virtual gifts to users over 18. Parents additionally have had the option to control their child’s experience through the Family Pairing feature, which offers parental controls and screen time limits, among other things.

Of course, any of these restrictions can be worked around for those who lie about their age upon sign-up. But it’s still fairly unusual for a large social network to do more than look the other way when it knows that minors are on its app.

In TikTok’s case, however, it has a large underage user base — some estimates had said that 41% of TikTok is between ages 16 and 24. But in the U.S., TikTok has attracted a particularly large teenage userbase. The company said in 2020 that 60% of its 26.5 million monthly active users in the U.S. were between 16 and 24. Even some of TikTok’s biggest stars, like Charli D’Amelio, are still just teenagers.

The attention to minor safety and parental controls gathered TikTok praise from notable youth safety experts, which the company also shared.

Today, TikTok is touting praise it’s received from the National PTA, ConnectSafely, NCMEC, Family Online Safety Institute, and WeProtect Global Alliance. The groups believe the changes will help teens be able to use the app more safely, responsibility, and without the further risk of exploitation.

“We couldn’t be more pleased about partnering with TikTok to develop better content experiences for users under the age of 13,” added Eric Berger, CEO of Common Sense Networks, in reference to his organization’s partnership with the social video platfrom. “At Common Sense Networks, we see this engagement as an opportunity to double down on our commitment to elevate the quality of children’s digital media so that age-appropriate content is the rule in our industry and not the exception,” he said.

The changes will roll out starting today.

 

#advocacy, #apps, #byte, #bytedance, #ceo, #digital-media, #federal-trade-commission, #friends, #mobile-applications, #musical-ly, #ncmec, #social, #software, #tiktok, #united-states, #video-hosting

0

YouTube launches HDR support for live streams

YouTube in 2016 added support for HDR (high-dynamic range) videos on its platform, allowing cretators to upload videos offering higher contrast, more accurate shadows and highlights, a wider range of colors, and, overall improved image quality. Today, the company announced it’s now bringing HDR support to live streamed videos, too. This will make YouTube the first major platform to support live HDR streams, it says.

The support will be available to creators using a supported encoder, while the HDR videos themselves can be played back on the latest Android mobile devices or on HDR-capable smart TVs or streaming sticks. Google’s own Chromecast, of course, supports HDR content. And the company had announced HDR playback on Android mobile devices back in 2017, so that’s not unexpected either.

When HDR first launched on YouTube, it was only offered to select YouTube channels at first. But the support for live streaming in HDR will be immediately available to any YouTube creator who wants to give it a try. Over time, YouTube says it will work to improve the experience, by allowing creators to stream HDR from additional encoders and mobile devices.

The new HDR support for live video content points to YouTube’s interest in better supporting the TV platform.

During the pandemic, YouTube said its service, as well as its live TV streaming service YouTube TV, saw an uptick in viewing on the big screen. As stay-at-home directives went into place, YouTube saw overall watch time on the TV screen jump 80% year-over-year in March. Also that month, YouTube content accounted for 41% of ad-supported video on demand streaming time on U.S. TVs, it said during its Brandcast event. YouTube usage on the TV, meanwhile, jumped to around 450 million hours per day up from 250 million hours in 2018.

Live-streamed video consumption increased during the early days of the pandemic, too. According to YouTube’s pitch to advertisers, live-streamed media via TV grew 250% globally from March 11 to April 10, 2020. It also noted that casted content watch time increased 75% year-over-year during this time frame.

By offering HDR live streams, YouTube can make a better pitch to advertisers to shift more of their dollars over to its platform from traditional pay TV networks — even if HDR viewing on YouTube’s platform remains more limited.

YouTube says HDR support is available as of today.

#chromecast, #google, #hdr, #internet-television, #live-streaming, #tc, #video-hosting, #youtube

0

The crowd goes wild for Yiming

There’s no shortage of TikTok coverage in the news today as the app’s fate in the U.S. hangs in the air.

What the press doesn’t always address is how TikTok gets here — how did a Chinese startup seize the lucrative short-video market in the West before Google and Facebook? What did it do differently from its Chinese predecessors who tried global expansion to little avail? Matthew Brennan’s new book “Attention Factory” set out to answer these questions by tracing ByteDance’s trajectory from an underdog despised by Chinese tech workers and investors to the envy of Silicon Valley and the target of the White House.

Matthew has spent years working closely with China’s tech firms, not only analyzing them but also using their products as a curious local, experiences that informed his meticulously researched and entertaining book. Interwoven with captivating anecdotes of TikTok, rare photos of ByteDance’s original team, incisive analysis and telling infographics, “Attention Factory” is an essential read for those looking to understand how ideas in the American and Chinese internet worlds collided, coincided and converged throughout the 2010s.

TikTok is a rare example of a Chinese internet service that has gained worldwide success. Before expanding overseas, ByteDance had already proven the short-video model in China through Douyin, the homegrown version of TikTok.

The excerpt below follows a high-growth period of Douyin, detailing how it gained around 200 million daily active users within a year: a loyal creator community, viral memes, algorithmic recommendation and aggressive ad spending.

Before long, the Chinese startup would replicate that growth playbook in the rest of the world, tweaking it here and there to make it work.


Hundreds of fashionably dressed young people were arriving at 751 D.PARK, an expanse of industrial plants redeveloped into a hip culture venue in northeast Beijing. They were clad in baseball caps, brightly colored dresses, loose-fitting hip-hop style streetwear and limited-edition sneakers. The site had been transformed into something akin to the stage of the talent competition “American Idol,” spanning two floors filled with strobe lighting, high-volume music and trendy backdrops. This was an exclusive party — three hundred top Douyin creators coming together to celebrate the app’s one-year anniversary.

The online stars, billed as the “new generation of internet celebrities,” weren’t there to just socialize and enjoy themselves. Every influencer was aware of the unspoken competition to derive the best content from that night. They were all fighting to achieve a higher level of superstardom and the medium of battle was short video.

The influencers who knew each other gathered in small groups as their assistants tirelessly captured fifteen-second videos of their carefully crafted skits. Loners roamed around the dance floor, absorbed in finding the ideal lighting for their lip-syncing selfie videos. Lesser-known influencers nervously approached more famous ones, proposing to record a dance together to potentially tap into their peers’ following. Loud hip-hop music kept playing in the background as creators hurried to touch up the videos they had just shot. Once the editing was done, they uploaded their works and anxiously waited for the app’s algorithms to judge who would grab more eyeballs.

Dance teams took to the stage to display their skills. The crowd bopped their heads back and forth as rappers attempted to impress with clever lyrics. Later as the hosts were midway through giving out awards, a wave of noise erupted from the back of the crowd interrupting the proceedings.

It was Yiming. Dressed in a black baseball cap and gray T-shirt and accompanied by Lidong. The audience went wild — the CEO had decided to drop in unannounced! Immediately he was bombarded with requests to take pictures and videos. As those around him whooped and cried out wildly, the entrepreneur simply smiled and kept his hands calmly by his side, an awkward 34-year-old engineer type among the hyper fashionable, mostly teenage hip-hop crowd.

Yiming and Lidong appear at a Douyin promotional event marking the app’s first anniversary in Sept 2017

Yiming and Lidong appear at a Douyin promotional event marking the app’s first anniversary in Sept 2017.

He already knew from looking at the data, but this was confirmation in the flesh — Douyin had built a robust community, with powerful momentum and was on the verge of doing something special.

The breakout

October 1st marks the beginning of “Golden Week,” a seven-day-long official Chinese national holiday. Periods like these are big opportunities for China’s internet industry. People’s behaviors change for a week; many find more time for entertainment and to try new things.

Over October, Douyin’s daily users doubled from seven to 14 million; two months later, they reached 30 million. Over those three months, the 30-day retention rates jumped from eight to over 20%, the average time spent in the app soared from 20 to 40 minutes. It was as if some magic rocket fuel had suddenly been added, boosting every key metric. What had changed?

The answer was Zhu Wenjia. Zhu Wenjia, hired from Baidu in 2015, was widely considered to be one of the top-three best people in the entire company when it came to algorithm technology. He ran one of ByteDance’s most capable engineering teams and had recently been assigned to work on Douyin. The team’s work harnessing the full power of ByteDance’s content recommendation back end led directly to the astounding October results.

The better the metrics, the more resources ByteDance placed behind the app as it now had good retention and was fast-tracked into becoming a strategically important product. Suddenly support was coming in from all over the company — people, money, user traffic, celebrity endorsements, brand collaborations, and most importantly, full integration and optimization of ByteDance’s powerful recommendation engine. Chinese stars with massive fan bases such as Yang Mi, Lu Han, Kris Wu, and Angelababy opened accounts, joining in publicity campaigns, and a nationwide “Douyin Party” event roadshow was planned. Douyin had become the hottest upcoming app in China.

ByteDance ramped up the investment in all three short-video products, including Douyin. People, resources and advertising budget were all raised, leading an industry insider to comment later: “The sudden rise of Douyin wasn’t without good cause. Yiming threw more money at this than anyone and dared to hunt down and grab the best people.”

Commercialization began with the first three brand ad campaigns paid for by Airbnb, Harbin Beer and Chevrolet. Douyin’s advertising business would soon make rapid progress. ByteDance already had hundreds of sales and marketing staff who would shortly be able to add Douyin’s advertisement inventory to their sales targets.

Yiming revealed in a later interview that the company had made it compulsory for everyone on the management team to make their own Douyin videos with goals to gain a certain number of likes or suffer forfeits such as doing push-ups. It wasn’t good enough to just look at charts and data; management needed to understand short videos from a creator’s perspective also. Yiming had watched Douyin videos for a long time but creating his own was “a big step for me,” he admitted.

Yiming’s personal Douyin account (3277469). Seventeen videos at the time of writing, including clips from his global travels

Yiming’s personal Douyin account (3277469). Seventeen videos at the time of writing, including clips from his global travels.

‘Oh well … karma’s a bitch’

The video opened to a young woman yawning, dressed in pajamas with messy morning hair. Wearing glasses and with no signs of makeup, she casually lip-syncs the line, “Oh well … karma’s a bitch” and throws a silk scarf into the air. Suddenly loud background music explosively begins. In an instant, she transforms into a glamorous fashion model, almost unrecognizable from a second before. A new meme had taken hold of Douyin.

“Karma’s a bitch” was a new version of the original “Don’t judge me” challenge that had propelled Musical.ly to top the U.S. app store three years earlier. The meme was another breakthrough for Douyin; People loved watching the shocking transformations. Compilations of the meme’s videos started popping up online. In particular, the makeup skills of some women left many men in disbelief. “Karma’s a bitch” left an impact on mainstream culture and gained widespread recognition and publicity, even making waves out into English language global media.

Douyin was also increasingly hypercharging the popularity of catchy pop songs with strong hooks. In late 2017, a track known as the “Ci-li-ci-li song” exploded on Douyin. The song’s catchy energy was undeniably infectious. Yet, it was the novel set of dance moves that had become associated with the track’s hook that turned the music into a meme and dramatically amplified its success.

The track had actually been released back in 2013 by Romanian reggae and dancehall artist Matteo, under the name “Panama.” Four years after its debut, the song’s unexpected and explosive spike in popularity led the singer to hastily organize an Asia tour to capitalize on his track’s sudden fame. A YouTube video shows him meeting Chinese fans at the Hangzhou airport who demonstrate their moves to him in the arrivals hall. With the dance having been created entirely in China, the bewildered artist finds himself in the awkward situation of not knowing how to follow the moves to the song for which he is famous.

Perhaps the most reliable indicator of the platform’s increasing influence on society was how the name, Douyin, had started to enter everyday colloquial vernacular, becoming synonymous with short video. The meaning of “Let’s shoot a Douyin!” needed no explanation.

Make it rain

ByteDance knew they now had a winning formula. Retention was good, word of mouth was excellent, a large, vibrant community of video creators had been fostered. The recommendation engine was doing its job of surfacing the best content. Douyin’s fire was already burning bright; now, it was time to pour gasoline on things and spend, spend, spend.

The holiday week of Chinese New Year is another unique annual opportunity for app promotions. Hundreds of millions travel home to be reunited with their families and find themselves with free time to relax. An entertainment app like Douyin was the perfect way to pass the time; word of mouth spread naturally between family members.

To step up its efforts further, Douyin directly gave out money to users by running a Chinese New Year “lucky money” campaign. Users could collect small cash amounts in special videos by tapping on the “red packet” icons — a digital manifestation of cash-filled envelopes people give to each other during the holiday. ByteDance also went all out, spending wildly, buying adverts and promotions across major online channels to acquire users, spending about 4 million yuan a day (over half a million dollars). The combination of all these effects sent Douyin to the top of the Chinese app store charts. Various reports stated Douyin’s daily users jumped from around 40 to 70 million over the February to March period covering Chinese New Year, with some of the top accounts seeing their follower numbers quadruple.

A chart mapping the progress of Douyin, from zero to 200 million daily active users, during the first two years of operation.

A chart mapping the progress of Douyin, from zero to 200 million daily active users, during the first two years of operation.

 


This article is an excerpt from “Attention Factory: The Story of TikTok and China’s ByteDance,” which was written by Matthew Brennan and edited by TechCrunch reporter Rita Liao, who wrote the introduction to this post.

#apps, #asia, #bytedance, #douyin, #entertainment, #internet-service, #media, #mobile, #mobile-applications, #social, #tiktok, #video, #video-hosting

0

TikTok’s big UnitedMasters deal is the way forward for creators looking to secure their bag

TikTok is right in the jaws of a thorny situation with the U.S. Government regarding its ownership, but it’s sending a clear message today that it is not sitting on its heels with big deals. Yesterday, it announced a deal with UnitedMasters to allow artists on TikTok to distribute their songs directly to streaming services and other partners directly.

UnitedMasters is the un-record-label label — in fact a direct distribution company founded by former president of Interscope Records, Steve Stoute. The firm allows musicians (especially budding ones) to pay a competitive distribution rate to get access to Spotify, YouTube, SoundCloud, Apple Music and other services. It also gets them access to analytics, retargeting, CRM tools and individual deals that UM makes with brands like ESPN and the NBA.

Normally, the path between an artist being able to go viral on TikTok and be included in the next NBA 2k or before an official game on the air would be a long one involving a lot of knives out for pieces of the pie. UnitedMasters shortcuts all of this.

The simple scenario is this:

  • An aspiring artist or songwriter puts out a song or riff on TikTok (likely one of many).
  • This one has something and it catches on the algorithm and generates numbers.
  • The creator opts in to participating in UnitedMasters’ program.
  • They give up a cut of 10% but get direct distribution into the major streaming buckets and potential A-grade partners. (There’s also a $5/mo subscription option.)
  • They can also market things like tickets, merch and more directly to fans using UM’s customer tools.
  • The artist keeps 100% of their royalties.

Which is why a tie up with TikTok makes a hell of a lot of sense. One of the biggest issues with viral social platforms has been the way that they reward creators. Twitter’s Vine, of course, squandered their opportunity there. Even YouTube has had major problems providing consistent revenue to many of its top creators, with a long trend towards big hitters monetizing off platform in order to earn consistent, durable money.

TikTok has already announced a creators fund with a significant purse, but it needs to go beyond that. We’ve seen over and over how young creators on the platform create viral waves of attention for TikTok and millions of re-enactments and remixes. Often, though, those creators are offered little recourse to monetize or benefit from their creations. Dance creators and musical talents, often young Black women, are literally crafting culture in real-time on TikTok and the pathways for them to benefit materially are very rare. Sure, it’s great when an originator gets called out by a Times reporter willing to do the work to trace the source, but what about the thousands of others being minted as a real voice on the platform every month?

It’s beyond time for the creators of The Culture to benefit from that culture. That’s why I find this UnitedMasters deal so interesting. Offering a direct pipeline to audiences without the attendant vulture-ism of the recording industry apparatus is really well aligned with a platform like TikTok, which encourages and enables ‘viral sounds’ with collaborative performances. Traditional deal structures are not well suited to capturing viral hype, which can rise and fall within weeks without additional fuel.

In terms of overall platforms, TikTok clearly has the highest concentration of incredible and un-tapped musical talent on the market. It’s just wild how many creators I see on there that are just flat out as good if not better than what you hear on the radio. Opera, rap, soul, folk, comedy, songwriting, it runs the gamut.

TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer came to the company after a long stint at Disney ending with a very successful Disney+ launch. Almost immediately, he was dropped into a political firestorm between China and the U.S. government. Parent company ByteDance must sell within 90 days, says Trump, or get shut down. Microsoft might buy them. Other tech companies are circling. This deal is a pretty crisp forward-looking signal that TikTok sees a way through this and is not waiting to innovate on one of the trickier components of this era of user generated businesses.

And on top of that, it charts a course for how user generated platforms should look to service creators and keep them in their universe. All UGC plays garner significant value from the creative energies of their users, but few have found a way to make that relationship reciprocal in a way that feels sustainable.

This UnitedMasters deal feels different, and the start of a larger trend that could pay big dividends to platforms and, finally, creators.

#apple-music, #artist, #byte, #bytedance, #ceo, #china, #computing, #crm, #disney, #espn, #kevin-mayer, #microsoft, #national-basketball-association, #nba, #president, #software, #soundcloud, #spotify, #steve-stoute, #tc, #tiktok, #trump, #u-s-government, #united-states, #unitedmasters, #video-hosting, #vine

0

In game app-development platform Overwolf acquires CurseForge assets from Twitch to get into mods

Overwolf, the in-game app development toolkit and marketplace, has acquired Twitch’s CurseForge assets to provide a marketplace for modifications to compliment its app development business.

Since its launch in 2009, developers have used Overwolf to build in-game applications for things like highlight clips, game performance monitoring and metrics, and strategic analysis. Some of these developers have managed to earn anywhere between $100,000 and $1 million per year off of revenue from app sales.

“CurseForge is the embodiment of how fostering a community of creators around games generates  value for both players and game developers,” said Uri Marchand, Overwolf’s chief executive officer, in a statement. “As we move to onboard mods onto our platform, we’re positioning Overwolf as the industry standard for building in-game creations.”

It wouldn’t be a stretch to think of the company as the Roblox for applications for gamers and now it’s moving deeper into the gaming world with the acquisition of CurseForge. As the company makes its pitch to current CurseForge users — hoping that the mod developers will stick with the marketplace, they’re offering to increase the revenue those developers will make by 50 percent.

Overwolf said it already has around 30,000 developers, who have built 90,000 mods and apps, on its platform already.

As a result of the acquisition, the CurseForge mod manager will move from being a Twitch client and become a standalone desktop app included Overwolf’s suite of app offerings and the acquisition won’t have any effect on existing tools and services.

“We’ve been deeply impressed by the level of passion and collaboration in the CurseForge modding community,” said Tim Aldridge, Director of Engineering, Gaming Communities at Twitch . “CurseForge is an incredible asset for both creators and gamers. We are confident that the CurseForge community will thrive under Overwolf’s leadership, thanks to their commitment to empowering developers.”

The acquisition comes two years after Overwolf raised $16 million in a round of financing from Intel Capital, which had also partnered with the company on a $7 million fund to invest in app and mod developers for popular games.

“Overwolf’s position as a platform that serves millions of gamers, coupled with its partnership with top developers, means that Intel’s investment will convert into more value for PC gamers worldwide,” said John Bonini, VP and GM of VR, Esports and Gaming at Intel, in a statement at the time. “Intel has always prioritized gamers with high performance, industry-leading hardware. This round of investment in Overwolf advances Intel’s vision to deliver a holistic PC experience that will enhance the ways people interact with their favorite games on the software side as well.”

Other investors in the company include Liberty Technology Venture Capital, the investment arm of the media and telecommunications company, Liberty Media.

#chief-executive-officer, #computing, #gamer, #intel, #intel-capital, #liberty-media, #minecraft-mods, #mod, #overwolf, #roblox, #tc, #telecommunications, #twitch, #twitch-tv, #video-games, #video-gaming, #video-hosting, #vp, #wikia

0

With 170M users, Bilibili is the nearest thing China has to Youtube

Bilibili, a Chinese video streaming website that was once regarded as a haven for youth subculture, has been steadily making its way into the mainstream as users age up and content diversifies. The NASDAQ-traded company recorded a 70% year-over-year growth to reach 172 million monthly active users by the first quarter, placing it in the same rank as video services operated by Tencent and Baidu’s iQiyi.

Daily time spent per user soared to a record of 87 minutes, which is likely linked to the extended stay-at-home order imposed on students during COVID-19.

In the same period, Tencent Video reported 112 million subscribers, while iQiyi commanded 118.9 million, almost all of whom are paying. Bilibili, by contrast, saw only about 8% of its MAU paying.

Bilibili’s growth engine is fundamentally different from the two giants though. While Tencent Video and iQiyi bet on Netflix -style, professionally produced programs, Bilibili relies on a wide array of user-generated content in the style of Youtube. The number of monthly creators grew 146% to 1.8 million, who collectively submitted 4.9 million pieces per month. Among its top creators is, lo and behold, the Communist Youth League of China.

The site also has an unconventional way of monetizing its audience. It doubles as a mobile gaming platform — to be expected given its young user base — and earned half of its revenue from video games in Q1. Other avenues of revenue generation come from virtual item sales during live broadcasting, advertising, and sales from content creators who operate online shops via Bilibili.

Despite healthy user growth, Bilibili widened net loss to 538.6 million yuan or US$76.1 million in the first quarter, a steep increase from 195.6 million yuan from the year before. It cites COVID-19 in causing delays in merchandise deliveries through its platform.

Nonetheless, the company bolstered its cash reserve to 8 billion yuan or $1.13 billion following Sony’s outsized $400 million investment to explore synergies in animation and games between the pair. The online entertainment upstart is among a small crop of companies that have attracted financing from both Alibaba and Tencent, which are long-time archrivals.

“Our cash flow in Q1 is positive and higher than our losses. In all, the company is in a healthy financial position,” its chief financial officer Fan Xin asserted during the company earnings call.

#alibaba, #animation, #asia, #bilibili, #china, #earnings, #iqiyi, #netflix, #sony, #tencent, #video-hosting

0

Players Ntwrk launches celebrity gaming channel backed by WME, Daylight and Stratton Sclavos

Emerging from the smoldering wreckage of Echo Fox and Vision Venture Partners, the investor Stratton Sclavos is rising again to launch a new esports related venture — a gaming-focused digital network also backed by the WME talent agency and Daylight Holdings.

Tapping Daylight and WME’s roster of talent, Sclavos has created PLAYERS NTWRK, a new gaming-focused production company that will look to compete with other upstarts angling to tap into esports and competitive gaming’s newly dominant place in the entertainment firmament.

Players Ntwrk will feature original programming, unscripted series, celebrity gameplay and live events tapping talent from music, traditional pro-sports, and the esports gaming world.

Sclavos and the multifaceted talent manager and president of Daylight Holdings, Ben Curtis, dreamed up Players Ntwrk as a way to tie together disparate groups of athletes and entertainers around their shared love of gaming and entertainment. the network will initially leverage relationships with WME and Klutch Sports Group, the agency founded by LeBron James’ longtime manager, Rich Paul, to find talent for programming.

The network will launch on Tuesday at 5:00pm Pacific for two hours of gameplay featuring the New Orleans Pelicans Guard/Forward Josh Hart and Sacramento Kings point guard De’Aaron Fox on the Players Ntwrk Twitch channel. Additional live streams will be broadcast Friday and Saturday, the company said.

Over the next twelve weeks the network will add live programming featuring all of its “First Squad” talent and experimenting with different gaming and unscripted formats. Ultimately, the network will produce between twelve and fifteen hours of original programming per week by the end of the second quarter and will ramp up to twenty to twenty-four hours of programming per-week by the end of the year.

Initial programming is going to be devoted to charity fundraising, with proceeds going to designated charities based on direct audience donations, the company said.

PLAYERS NTWRK’s First Squad talent roster includes:

  • Professional athletes: De’Aaron Fox (Sacramento Kings), Josh Hart (New Orleans Pelicans), Jarvis Landry (Cleveland Browns), and Alvin Kamara (New Orleans Saints)
  • Music and Entertainment: PARTYNEXTDOOR, Murda Beatz, producer Boi-1da, actor/former athlete Donovan Carter (Ballers)
  • Creators/Streamers: KatGunn, Sodapoppin, Cash, Jesser, Jericho, Octane, Sigils, Sonii and DenkOps

Players Ntwrk joins companies like Venn, which are angling to gain a slice of the roughly 37.5 million monthly viewers that are expected to watch live streams on Twitch by the end of 2020, according to research done by eMarketer.

“The number of viewers and subscribers consuming gaming entertainment across YouTube and Twitch tops other entertainment services such as Netflix, HBO, Spotify and ESPN combined,” said Sclavos, in a statement. “Entertainment spectacle is trumping hardcore gaming competition. That kind of engagement makes it clear; gaming entertainment is the next pop culture phenomena. PLAYERS NTWRK is the only platform embracing and executing this new reality by creating original content with the most influential people who also happen to be fans themselves.”

#digital-media, #endeavor, #entertainment, #esports, #hbo, #internet, #lebron-james, #netflix, #producer, #sacramento-kings, #spotify, #tc, #telecommunications, #twitch, #twitch-tv, #video-hosting, #wme

0