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YouTube channel launches on all recent Roku boxes

NewTeeVee - Tue, 04/22/2014 - 14:14

Good news for Roku users: The YouTube channel, which first launched on the Roku 3 in December, is now available on all “current-generation devices,” according to a post on the Roku blog, which also lists an exact list of all models that can now access YouTube. All of these devices also support DIAL, which makes it possible to send YouTube videos from your mobile device to your Roku, Chromecast-style.

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Categories: Video News

AT&T’s $500M online video pact with the Chernin Group: it’s all about the niche

NewTeeVee - Tue, 04/22/2014 - 13:03

The next time you call your cable company to complain about paying $100 a month for hundreds of channels, get ready for them to agree. That’s because pay TV operators are starting to realize that not all customers are created equal, and that some might be much better served with content that has traditionally been ignored by TV networks.

Case in point: AT&T, which operates its own TV service as part of its Uverse offering, just agreed to jointly invest $500 million with the Chernin Group into a new venture that will acquire, invest in and launch online video services. Some of these services will be ad-supported, while others will be subscription-based.

AT&T and the Chernin Group didn’t offer additional details about the types of content they’re looking at, but a good indicator is that the Chernin Group contributed its newly-acquired majority stake in Crunchyroll to the new venture.

Same-day access to Japanese TV shows

Crunchyroll, which we have covered numerous times before on Gigaom, has become the premier service for Japanese anime content in the U.S., offering anime fans ad-supported episodes as well as a subscription tier that comes with same-day access. Crunchyroll subscribers can watch episodes of their favorite anime shows just hours after they air on Japanese television through a variety of apps for mobile and connected devices.

Crunchyroll recently branched out with the launch of KDrama, a new subscription offering for Korean dramas, and Crunchyroll founder Kun Gao has long said that he wants to expand into other content niches as well. “There is a huge demand for hyper-targeting users of other verticals,” he told me two years ago, when Crunchyroll announced 100,000 paying subscribers for its service.

Crunchyroll, and competitors like Viki and DramaFever, have also highlighted another advantage of the niche: Content is oftentimes much cheaper than the TV shows Netflix and Amazon are competing for, while still highly valuable to certain audiences. Crunchyroll and its competitors license Anime and Korean dramas only for use outside of their home markets, giving broadcasters in Japan and Korea another way to monetize their content.

The same could be done with domestic content that hasn’t gotten enough traction on cable, like college sports events other than basketball, other other niche sports like fly fishing, dressage or even competitive cycling. Other audiences could include Spanish-speaking viewers or other minorities underserved by traditional broadcast programming.

Competing with Comcast, billing through mobile

For AT&T, there is another upside in going for the niche: The phone company’s Uverse network still isn’t available in all markets, and it often competes heads-on with TV and triple-play offerings from Comcast and other cable companies. With niche video services, it could reach every consumer, regardless of their broadband provider, and even use its wireless service for marketing and payment services.

The idea that TV operators would one day move beyond their physical footprint and compete directly with streaming services has long been framed in the terms of virtual cable operators that would offer consumers complete bundles of everything from ABC to HBO, something that Intel Media tried with its OnCue service.

But increasingly, it looks like operators may be looking to the niche to make their first moves. Aside from AT&T, DirecTV has also started to investigate niche online programming, and there have been persistent rumors that Comcast is looking to launch niche online offerings as well.

In other words: The future of pay TV could be about paying for TV you actually want to watch.

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Categories: Video News

Sponsored post: Advertising can be so much more than a clickthrough

NewTeeVee - Tue, 04/22/2014 - 12:55

Advertising can ultimately define the user experience. It can underpin the whole look and feel of a service. It’s about combining the quality and creativity seen in organic content with the commercial aspects of paid-for marketing. It has the potential to once again be an artistic feature if done transparently and responsibly. This means designing ads that are intuitive, not intrusive.

At WeTransfer, we are using native content to build better relationships with our users, not destroy them. We do this by partnering with some of the world’s most recognized brands and exciting creative minds. This allows us deliver beautiful content, whether it’s paid for or not. Perhaps this is why our clickthrough rates (anywhere up to 2 percent) are so much higher than the industry standard.

Our service is designed to intrigue consumers, not interrupt them. The advertising, in the form of full-screen images and videos, is designed to improve the experience of our users. They add relevance, experience and creativity to our platform.

Next to advertising we offer 50 percent of our ad inventory to young creatives free of charge. This means we are not entirely reliant on marketers to produce content for our platform. We seek the most exciting and relevant content for our users. This in turn heightens the creativity and quality of paid advertising.

For us, supporting both advertisers and the creative people who would use our service is intuitive. We are building an ecosystem that will ultimately strengthen our brand, not damage it.

Categories: Video News

How do YouTubers fit into YouTube’s “Google Preferred” plans?

NewTeeVee - Tue, 04/22/2014 - 12:17

YouTube’s most popular creators bring in millions of views. Their audience is young, and should be every marketer’s dream. However, their content has yet to draw the kind of ad rates that will be sustainable in the long-term, which is why during next week’s NewFronts, YouTube is going to highlight thousands of selected channels to potential advertisers.

The question is: How many of these are native YouTubers, and what does this selection tell us about the future of YouTube?

As reported by Tubefilter and the Wall Street Journal, YouTube has curated a selection of channels  that represent the top five percent of YouTube across fourteen categories:

  • Anime/Teen Animation
  • Beauty
  • Cars
  • Comedy
  • Entertainment/Pop Culture
  • Family
  • Food
  • Music
  • News
  • Science
  • Sports
  • Technology
  • Video Games
  • Wellness

The “Google Preferred” initiative, as it’s known, will showcase for advertisers exactly what kind of content they’re buying ads against, and also reserve space for advertisers who commit to buying into top shows. It’s also promised access to a highly desirable demographic — from the Journal:

Ad buyers say YouTube has been making presentations to advertisers with comparisons of the audience makeup of YouTube versus the makeup of audiences of cable networks such as ABC Family. These comparisons showed that YouTube reached more people in highly coveted demographics, such as people aged 18 to 34, than many high-profile cable channels.

The range of content — from online video mainstays like The Young Turks to the official channels for The Ellen Show and Jimmy Kimmel Live to nearly any popular beauty vlogger you might care to mention — is massive.

Using Tubefilter’s list of 400+ channels, which reflect the top one percent of channels involved, I went category by category to see how many came from YouTube-grown talent. The results were a pleasant surprise — with a few exceptions, the split tended to lean towards the YouTuber side.

The categories that were dominated by outside brands weren’t too surprising. Music does showcase some artists who developed audiences through YouTube, including Lindsey Stirling and Pentatonix, but the majority of the channels come from pre-established artists and record labels.

Sports also shows a reliance on pre-existing brands, though it did feature a few YouTubers with unique takes on the genre, such as DevinSuperTramp and Dude Perfect.

And the majority of the News category is dominated by channels for long-standing journalism mainstays like Vice, ABC News, the Associated Press and the New York Times. Even The Young Turks, which has become a true YouTube success story, was originally born as a talk radio show.

The trend I observed — if a category had clearly defined roots in traditional media, the more channels it included from outside brands. Conversely, if a category came from traditions and genres born of YouTube, the more likely it was to be dominated by YouTube originals.

For example, one category was completely dominated by YouTubers — Beauty. All 40 channels, to the best of my knowledge, come from women who have built their followings primarily on the video platform; given how specific the genre is, and how much it owes to the vlog format, this makes a lot of sense.

The Tubefilter list isn’t a complete list of the channels being offered up to advertisers. But it does show that YouTube is not only committed to highlighting the content that’s working, but that by and large the YouTubers who have been a part of the site from the beginning are a major part of its plans. Because making more money off its ads doesn’t mean YouTube needs to stop being YouTube.

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Categories: Video News

The Upshot vs. Vox vs. FiveThirtyEight: A hands-on review of explanatory journalism

NewTeeVee - Tue, 04/22/2014 - 10:31

At some point during the past year, the media industry seems to have gotten the message that explanatory journalism is the next big thing — how else to explain the launch of not just one but three major efforts in that area, and more to come? The New York Times has just launched The Upshot, which seems like a blend of both the data-focused journalism practiced by Nate Silver’s new site FiveThirtyEight and the explainers of Ezra Klein’s Vox. Each has its own unique flavor, but is the market for that kind of content really big enough to support them all?

In his own overview of the three sites, James Ball of The Guardian newspaper’s US unit makes a good point about the dilemma inherent in this boom market for explanatory journalism: who exactly is the target reader for long stories about the statistics behind the Senate race or the problems of the American middle class? What if the vast majority of news consumers just don’t care enough to read all of that explanation and background? Who will go there?

“All three sites risk what economists call adverse selection: let’s say you’re writing basic explainers, but the only people finding them are already pretty informed. They’ll find your content superficial, and they won’t return. If you respond by increasing the complexity of your articles, you’ll please the wonks, but alienate a little more of your audience.”

@mathewi The story of daily journalism: Set 'em up; knock 'em down; baffle beyond comprehension; then explain, as to a child.

Margaret Sullivan (@Sulliview) April 22, 2014 The Upshot: Clean design — but a tad boring

Since it is the newest, The Upshot is getting most of the attention, so let’s start our hands-on review there. As befits something from the New York Times, it is extremely well-designed and shares the clean and easy-to-read look of the rest of the newspaper’s website. It also makes use of the NYT’s formidable design chops for the charts and graphs that make it easier to “navigate through the news,” as editor David Leonhardt puts it in his welcome message.

While not all of the visualizations render that well on a mobile device — as more than one commenter on the site has mentioned — there are some unique implementations that make them worthwhile: For example, one of the charts the site uses for a Senate story allows readers to click a button and run a Monte Carlo-style simulation of potential results. It’s not clear just how explanatory that is in terms of the overall topic of Senate races, but at least it’s fun.

Upshot screenshot

For its launch day, The Upshot’s line-up included the Senate race story, the American middle class piece, one about what investors have in common with marathon runners, a story about swing voters in mid-term elections, a survey on web censorship and a piece on the causes of Europe’s debt crisis. Almost every piece included a chart or a graph, and in some cases multiple charts and graphs, each of which was fairly clean and easy to understand.

Meet our forecasting model, LEO

The site also includes some background on its Senate forecasting model, one named after LEO, the first business computer, which was invented by an accountant for a chain of tea shops in Great Britain in 1951 (a chain founded by former Reuters financial writer Felix Salmon’s ancestors, as it turns out). The Upshot piece also notes that LEO is based on the FiveThirtyEight model — and one of the site’s graphs compares its forecasts to Silver’s and to those from several other sites.

There’s no question that the pieces on The Upshot are filled with useful background and context on issues like the European debt crisis and mid-term election variability — and the Times will no doubt find them useful to link to as backgrounders when those topics come up in more straight-forward news stories. But as my friend Om notes in his capsule review of the site, they are also somewhat boring: “Reading through it felt like homework,” Om says. Is that going to be a big enough draw to make the resources invested in the site worthwhile?

Upshot screenshot5

Vox does porn, Nate Silver does math

Vox, by contrast, has clearly decided to live up to its commitment to make news “vegetables” as exciting as possible by broadening its explanatory ambit to include topics like the porn industry and the impact of actor Gwyneth Paltrow’s “conscious uncoupling” from her spouse, singer Chris Martin. In that sense, it shares a certain irreverence with sites like BuzzFeed, and that could give it more of an audience than a dry explainer site might otherwise get.

At the same time, however, Klein’s site has also run into some criticism for the way it handles corrections and updates to its information: One post on a survey of porn-consumption habits that appeared to show Republican states engaged in more porn-related behavior turned out to be based on a flawed premise — which in turn came from a misunderstanding about how geo-coding works. An update was posted, but it rendered the story largely meaningless, and that’s not the only case.

The explanatory news fad is an exercise in long winded self indulgence that will test readers patience more than anything else.—
David Teicher (@Aerocles) April 22, 2014

Since its much-hyped launch, Nate Silver’s site has also come under fire for some of the ways it approaches its data journalism mandate — including some criticism that it is “Slate but with charts,” meaning it takes a contrary opinion without much actual data to support its case. Several stories have been slammed for using an approach that made them seem to be based on hard data, when in fact they were just opinion, and one on climate change was criticized widely for being just plain wrong.

Like Vox, FiveThirtyEight has also been criticized by some for broadening its reach too far into more entertainment-related topics, such as a statistical breakdown of painter Bob Ross’s oeuvre or a look at the most popular days for buying weed. And Silver got some negative response to an early post he did looking at the data behind his former NYT colleague Paul Krugman’s criticisms of Silver — although the FiveThirtyEight founder later said this was intended to be satire.

Who is going to read all of this?

From a design and usability point of view, both the Vox and FiveThirtyEight sites are much more cluttered looking than The Upshot, and not everyone is a fan of the yellow theme that Vox uses. But Vox’s information “cards” are arguably a better method of displaying quick pieces of background information than the long-form posts that both FiveThirtyEight and The Upshot seem to be focusing on (so far at least). Journalists in general still seem to be overly enamored of the “story” format.

What if the problem with "explanatory journalism" is that … a large portion of the population simply does not care to know?—
Tom McGeveran (@tmcgev) April 08, 2014

Leaving the journalism aspects aside, what are the prospects for these different models when it comes to actually being a business, or supporting an existing one? That’s a tougher question to answer: The Upshot seems to be in the best position of all, since it is piggy-backing on the resources of the New York Times — although those resources are as strained as any newspaper. Nate Silver has the might of ESPN behind him, while Vox is trying to build something new, and although its parent company (also called Vox) is well funded it will still need to pay its way.

Which brings us to the real bottom line: how many competing explanatory or data-focused journalism sites does the market really need? Can all of these different sites — including the Washington Post‘s rebuilt Wonkblog and Bloomberg’s QuickTake — find an audience, or are they symptoms of a wonk bubble? And what happens when that bubble pops? Explanatory journalism may be the secret to success for one site, but it likely won’t be for half a dozen or more.

Post and photo thumbnails courtesy of Shutterstock / Docstock Media

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Categories: Video News

Visual storytelling site Storybird adds longform option for the school-age set

NewTeeVee - Tue, 04/22/2014 - 10:03

“Longform” is a buzzword these days and it’s generally used to refer to nonfiction works for adults. But Toronto-based illustrated storytelling platform Storybird thinks longform can work for a younger crowd, too, and this week it rolled out options that let writers serialize longer illustrated works. Until now, Storybird’s two available formats were picture books and poetry.

“Eighty percent of our audience is between [the ages of] seven and fifteen,” Storybird co-founder and CEO Mark Ury told me, with a “core” of 9 to 14-year-olds. In all, Storybird says it has about 4 million users. “The picture book format has served us well, but it’s a format that doesn’t suit longform stories, and it feels a little young,” Ury said. “With longform, we’re catching up with our community.”

So is Storybird trying to become more like Wattpad — the other, and more well-known, Canadian collaborative storytelling platform that recently raised $46 million to expand internationally? Ury insisted otherwise: “Our focus will always be art-inspired and enhanced stories,” he said, aand “we’re a family brand…we’re looking for the next Harry Potter, not Fifty Shades of Grey.”

Longform covers_Fan

Storybird also wants schools and libraries to adopt its product; it’s used in over 300,000 classrooms today. “We’re more similar to [children's publisher] Scholastic than Wattpad,” Ury said.

In that vein, one of Storybird’s paths to monetization is becoming a publisher. Last year the company hired Molly O’Neill, a former editor at HarperCollins (where she acquired the hit Divergent trilogy), as its editorial director. And Ury said he sees the launch of the longform platform as a possible commercial opportunity for some authors and illustrators. Storybird has already launched ten sample longform projects, which Ury said are “the basis for experimentation with promotion and commercialization,” whether it’s “working with publishers and traditional channels” or launching “our own branded subscription service.”

Storybird has raised about $4 million, with investors including Index Ventures, High Line and Lerer Ventures, among others.

Categories: Video News

BYOD goes TV: Fan TV starts selling its streaming box to Time Warner Cable customers

NewTeeVee - Tue, 04/22/2014 - 10:00

The bring-your-own-device phenomenon is coming to a living room near you: Time Warner Cable customers can now buy the $99 Fan TV set-top-box to access the cable company’s programming, as well as a variety of streaming services, through an innovative new interface. Fan TV devices will start shipping to Time Warner Cable customers during this second quarter, and will not require any additional fees beyond the existing cable subscription charges.

“This is a landmark for the industry,” said Fan TV CEO Gilles BianRosa during an interview Tuesday morning, adding: “This has never been done before.”

Fan TV’s streaming device was designed by Yves Behar and features a unique remote control that comes without any visible buttons, which means it works more like a touch pad than a traditional TV remote. The device doesn’t offer any DVR capabilities, but is capable of accessing Time Warner Cable’s on-demand library and features 4 GB of memory for caching, which BianRosa said is enough to pause live programming for more than 20 minutes.

The Fan TV also works with Fan’s existing online content recommendation service, allowing users to access watchlists that they have built on the web or with Fan’s mobile apps and then watch the content on the TV. Fan also taps into a user’s social graph, giving viewing recommendations based on movies and TV shows friends have liked on Facebook.

Check out a promotional video of Fan TV featuring Time Warner Cable content:

The partnership with Time Warner Cable is a big win for Fan TV, which started out as a TV recommendation app and service. The device was first introduced a year ago, and was briefly tested by Cox as part of the cable company’s short-lived FlareWatch trial. Bianrosa said that Fan initially is going to sell the device through its own website, but that it also intends to be in retail stores and possibly Time Warner Cable stores in the near future.

The challenge for Fan will now be to explain to consumers why its streaming box will offer a better value proposition that Time Warner’s existing cable boxes, and why its initial offering may not live to its full potential. At launch, only a few streaming services will be available through the device, including Redbox Instant by Verizon, Target Ticket, Crackle and Rhapsody. Bianrosa said Tuesday that additional services would be added over time, but declined to give any specifics.

Netflix would be a natural fit. The streaming service announced Monday that it will become available on set-top-boxes from U.S. cable operators this quarter, but so far has only committed to being available through TiVo’s set-top box.

Fan TV buyers could also find themselves in a situation where the new device doesn’t actually offer all the channels they’re paying for. That’s because Fan’s live TV integration is based on Time Warner Cable’s TV Everywhere service, which doesn’t offer access to all channels in all markets. Consumers will be able to access up to 300 channels in major metropolitan markets, but the line-up may be slimmer in other areas.

The other big caveat is that Time Warner Cable is in the process of merging with Comcast. If approved, Fan TV may find itself confronted with Comcast’s much more controlling approach towards TV experiences and devices. Comcast has invested a lot of money into the development of its X1 and X2 platforms, and the company wants to own the relationship with the customer through those platforms. This could mean that Fan’s BYOD approach may be short-lived, at least for Time Warner Cable customers.

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Categories: Video News

In Aereo hearing, Supreme Court expresses concern for cloud computing – but doubt over tiny antennas

NewTeeVee - Tue, 04/22/2014 - 09:30

Is Aereo, a service that lets consumers stream over-the-air TV, akin to a cable company or a hardware provider like RadioShack? The justices of the Supreme Court appeared to struggle with that question on Tuesday morning as they listened to oral arguments in what many media watchers view as the most important TV-related court case in decades.

In deciding how to respond to broadcasters’ claim that Aereo is violating copyright, the court expressed repeated concern over how to write a ruling that did not create major ripples for the rest of the TV business on one hand, or for the cloud computing business on the other.

“It makes me nervous about taking your preferred route … Where does it stop?” said Justice Stephen Breyer, addressing Paul Clement, the lawyer for ABC and other big broadcasters that want to shut Aereo down.

Breyer and other Justices expressed particular concern about the broadcasters’ claim that they have a public performance right in Aereo’s transmissions, which are controlled by its subscribers. Breyer pointed out that a thousand people can  – and do — store a file in a personal cloud service like Dropbox, and can play it back at the same time — which could be considered a public performance under the broadcasters’ version of the case.

The “public performance” question is the central issue in the closely-watched case, which turns on whether Aereo’s antenna technology, infringes broadcasters’ copyright, or if the service is instead an extension of existing legal services like remote DVR’s.

 Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia leaves the U.S. Supreme Court after oral arguments April 22, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia leaves the U.S. Supreme Court after oral arguments April 22, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Chief Justice John Roberts also pressed Clement, noting that Aereo appears to provide an antenna in the same way that RadioShack does. But he also expressed deep skepticism over Aereo’s technology, asking why it rents out tens of thousands antennas rather than using just one.

“Is there any reason you need 10,000 of them?” asked Roberts, suggesting the only reason Aereo’s technology operates this way is to get around copyright laws.

“There’s no technically sound reason to use all those antennas,” added Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

David Frederick, the lawyer for Aereo, responded by suggesting that modular designs help startups who don’t know how quickly they will have to scale up and that, in any case, efficiency questions are irrelevant for copyright purposes.

The justices also pressed Clement over how the court could square a ruling in the broadcasters’ favor with the decision in a case called Cablevision, in which an influential appeals court ruled that remote DVR’s are legal. The court noted that the Cablevision ruling was not binding on it, but that the outcome appeared correct. Clement responded by stating that the outcome in Cablevision was indeed correct, but that the lower courts’ reasoning for allowing remote DVR’s was all wrong.

For copyright watchers, the Justices’ questions left no clear indication of how the case will turn out. While Ginsburg appeared, as expected, to be clearly in the broadcasters’ camp, the other Justices expressed repeated concern over the cloud computing issue, and also expressed sympathy at times for one of Aereo’s central contentions — that the signals that are picked up by its customers’ antennas are local over-the-air transmissions that are free already.

Photo from Aereo

Photo from Aereo

And, in a possible nod to an argument made in a supporting brief signed by 36 law professors, several justices suggested that what the case was really about was a reproduction right — not a public performance right. As Frederick was quick to point out, the broadcasters chose not to rely on the reproductive right argument because, had they done so, they would have run afoul of a seminal case 30 years ago that found private copying by VCR’s does not infringe copyright.

The case is significant not just for Aereo, which operates in 11 cities and is backed by media mogul Barry Diller, but for the entire TV industry. The broadcasters have warned that they may remove their over-the-air signals, and become cable channels if Aereo wins. Barry Diller, whose company IAC had put up most of the $97 million invested in Aereo so far, says the company is “finished” if the court grants the broadcasters an injunction.

Aereo released this transcription of a statement it delivered at the court following the hearing:

From our perspective, the issue in the case was whether consumers who have always had a right to have an antenna and a DVR in their home and make copies of local over-the-air broadcast television, if that right should be infringed at all simply by moving the antenna and DVR to the cloud.

The court’s decision today will have significant consequences for cloud computing. We’re confident, cautiously optimistic, based on the way the hearing went today that the Court understood that a person watching over-the-air broadcast television in his or her home is engaging in a private performance and not a public performance that would implicate the Copyright Act.

A decision is likely to come sometime in June or July. The case attracted considerable attention, including an overnight line for seats that began forming on Monday evening.

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Categories: Video News

Netflix Closes in On 50 Million Subscribers and International Profitability Analysis - Tue, 04/22/2014 - 07:57

Netflix announced strong financial performance for Q1 '14 late yesterday, continuing its momentum from 2013. The company reported a total of 48.35 million global subscribers, including 35.67 million in the U.S. and 12.68 million internationally. That was up a total of 6.25 million subscribers vs. the end of 2013, and just slightly behind the 6.4 million subscribers added in Q4 '13.

Categories: Video News

Twitch To Keynote Streaming Media East Show: Learn How They Broadcast Live To Millions

The Business Of Online Video - Tue, 04/22/2014 - 05:52

Twitch_Logo_ 6441a5I am pleased to announce that Matthew Szatmary, Senior Video Encoding Engineer at Twitch will kick off the Streaming Media East show, on Tuesday May 13th in NYC. Launched in 2011, Twitch is the world’s leading video platform and community for gamers where more than 45 million gamers gather every month to broadcast live video, watch and chat about gaming. In February 2014, the Wall Street Journal ranked Twitch as the 4th largest website in terms of peak internet traffic in the U.S. fortifying the brand as an entertainment industry leader and the epicenter of social video for gamers.

Live streams of video gaming championships are one of the fastest growing segments of the industry. Last year, the League of Legends Season 3 World Championship broadcast peaked at 8.5M simultaneous streams. Twitch, which is now on the Xbox One and PS4 has 1M people streaming live footage each month and some of the most popular gamers are doing 137,000 simultaneous streams just from their single account.

Come hear how Twitch is developing next generation encoding services and playback technologies to serve live video to one of the Internet’s largest audiences. Register online for an exhibits pass using the code DR100 and you’ll have FREE access to the keynotes.

Categories: Video News

AT&T creates $500M joint venture for a Netflix-style TV service

NewTeeVee - Tue, 04/22/2014 - 05:25

AT&T, the nation’s second largest broadband provider and wireless company, is getting into the streaming business with a $500 million joint venture created to acquire, invest in and launch a Netflix-style video streaming service. As the television distribution model that’s been in place for decades collapses online, this deal marks the first time a big U.S. ISP has decided to go over the top with a TV service.

AT&T has joined forces with media and entertainment company the Chernin Group, and together the two companies have committed $500 million in funding to the venture. More detailed financial terms of the transaction have not been disclosed. However, the Chernin Group will bring assets to the venture, including the contribution of its majority stake in Crunchyroll, a subscription video on demand service.

From the press release, it is unclear exactly what type of content the joint venture hopes to offer. The Crunchyroll content is mentioned in the release, and Chernin has a quote that seems to indicate this is about providing more content outside of the traditional broadcast options. From the release:

“‘A critical part of The Chernin Group’s strategy has been our significant focus on the online video industry, and joining forces with AT&T only further underscores our strategic commitment in this area as operators, investors and programmers,’ said Peter Chernin, Chairman and CEO, The Chernin Group. ‘Consumers are increasingly viewing video content on their phones, tablets, computers, game consoles and connected TVs on mobile and broadband networks. AT&T’s massive reach on those platforms across mobile and broadband and their commitment to the online video space make them the perfect fit for this venture with us.’”

If done well, this joint venture is a significant move and could break down the geographical barriers for buying pay TV. If the content is robust enough on the AT&T effort, Comcast subscribers or FiOS pay TV subscribers might elect to choose the AT&T offering instead, destroying the triple play bundle and throwing content companies into a tailspin.

If the venture is done poorly, or with a lack of compelling content, the new offering will join a crowded field of big over-the-top providers and perhaps help drive up up content acquisition costs. This might validate Netflix, Amazon’s Prime Instant Video and YouTube’s efforts, but it’s also a big new player to look out for.

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Categories: Video News

Aereo at the Supreme Court: a guide to the biggest TV case in 30 years (and where to learn more)

NewTeeVee - Tue, 04/22/2014 - 02:00

Update 11:20am PT: My story recapping this morning’s hearing can be found here. Read on for the backstory of the case.

On Tuesday at 11am ET, Aereo will face off at the Supreme Court against big broadcasters and the Justice Department over whether Aereo, which lets consumers watch and record over-the-air TV for $8/month, should be shut down for copyright infringement.

Here’s a brief Q&A about the most important TV case since 1984, when the Supreme Court found the VCR to be a legal technology. Below you can find links to full background coverage.

What is Aereo and why are the broadcasters suing it?

Aereo rents dime-size antennas that act like long-distance rabbit ears attached to a remote DVR. The service, which is available in 11 cities, lets people watch and record over-the-air channels like NBC and Fox by streaming shows to their phone or computer.

The broadcasters say Aereo is violating copyright law by rebroadcasting their signals. Aereo, however, claims that it’s the subscribers who are doing the transmitting, and that Aereo simply rents a tool that lets people watch a private performance — much like they do when they tape a TV show and watch it their living room.

What does each side want?

The broadcasters want the Supreme Court to reverse an appeals court ruling, and to issue an injunction that will shut Aereo down across the country. Aereo wants the court to say it does not violate copyright law, which would allow it to expand to more cities, including ones on the west coast.

How long is the hearing and how can I follow it?

The hearing lasts one hour. The lawyer for ABC and the other broadcasters will argue for 20 minutes, and the Deputy Solicitor General (who is siding with ABC) will weigh in for 10 minutes on behalf of the Justice Department. Aereo gets 30 minutes to make its case.

The Supreme Court is still a sketchbook and note-pad sort of place, so there will be no live-blogs, tweeting or TV. But Gigaom and others will be filing stories shortly after the hearing.

How will the Justices decide?

Experts genuinely aren’t sure and are predicting a tight ruling. Liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is expected to side with the broadcasters, but the views of the other Justices are less clear.

Copyright lawyer Ali Sternburg has pointed out that Justice Elena Kagan did not support the broadcasters in a similar Supreme Court case when she was Solicitor General, and noted that Justice Stephen Breyer has argued in the past for more limited copyright — meaning these two Justices could side with Aereo. As such, the outcome is likely to come down to Chief Justice John Roberts and the other conservatives on the bench.

Another notable feature of the case is that, in an unusual move, Justice Samuel Alito at the last minute reversed his early decision to recuse himself from the case. Alito’s surprise move eliminated the prospect of a 4-4 tie, which would have upheld a lower ruling in favor of Aereo.

Finally, veteran SCOTUS reporter Lyle Denniston observes that things will turn out poorly for Aereo if the Justices spend most of their time focusing on what Aereo is doing – while things will look brighter if the Justices’s questions are instead about what consumers are doing when they use the service.

When will the decision come?

Sometime in the summer — probably late June or early July.

Why is the case so important?

Aereo right now is still just a speck in the massive television economy. But the TV industry is worried that Aereo could eventually upset the current “bundle” model of TV, which relies on selling consumers a large package of channels. If Aereo is legal, it may encourage more consumers to “cut the cord” and replace their pay-TV provider with some combination of Aereo and other internet services like Netflix.

This had led the broadcasters to threaten that, if Aereo wins, they will take their signals off the air and become cable channels. Meanwhile, sports leagues like the NFL — which seek to tightly control how and where people watch their games — are warning that Aereo will hurt their business, and are supporting the broadcasters in the case.

The case also has implications for the emerging cloud computing industry. Companies like Google and Dropbox, which are supporting Aereo, worry that a win for the broadcasters could thrust the “public performance” right — the central legal issue in this case — into a host of other consumer cloud services.

Where can I learn more about all this?

Argument preview: Free TV at a bargain price? (SCOTUS Blog’s rundown of all legal issues, including the Justice Department perspective)

Here are 3 ways Aereo will tell the Supreme Court it is legal (Our overview of Aereo’s legal strategy)

Aereo Case will Shape TV’s Future (New York Times media writer David Carr explains what the case means for the TV industry)

Aereo’s CEO on the future of Netflix, TV sports and the public airwaves (Gigaom’s interview with Chet Kanojia)

What happens if broadcasters lose the Aereo case? (Fortune story contains numerous quotes from TV analysts and law professors)

Inside Aereo: new photos of the tech that’s changing how we watch TV (Gigaom’s original profile of the Brooklyn site where it all started)



Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:
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Vishal Sood

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