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July 18, 2018
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streaming service

Twitch streamers can now let viewers react with GIFs

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Giphy is coming to Twitch . For the first time, Giphy is bringing its library of animated GIFs to the Amazon-owned game streaming service. The company today is launching a Giphy extension for Twitch streamers that will allow viewers to react in real-time using GIFs during a broadcast. The idea is that GIFs could make streams more engaging and entertaining, which would, in turn, attract retain viewers for longer periods of time.

Twitch extensions were first introduced last year, but only recently did Twitch add support for running multiple extensions at once. That could encourage more developers to try out the Giphy extension, without having to give up their other favorite overlays.

To use the new extension, the streamer will first configure which part of the screen area will be used to display the GIFs viewers post. Once the extension is activated, viewers will be able to access it during a broadcast via a Giphy icon and the search terms they enter into the message bar.

Twitch is not the first game streaming site to experiment with GIF reactions. The newer site Caffeine had this as a feature, too, but pulled it before launch because they found it could be used for harassment. Twitch and Giphy are hoping to not make the sane mistake by curating the catalog of GIFs that can be shared.

According to Twitch, Giphy’s content is moderated to remove those GIFs that are “overtly offense” to any race, gender, ethnicity or community. It’s also limiting GIFs to those with a PG rating and below, which will prohibit users from posting GIFs with violence, sexual references, and other lewd terms, it says.

“Extensions are a great framework designed to make channels on Twitch more interactive so creators can better engage and retain their fans,” said Amir Shevat, Twitch VP of Developer Experience, in a statement. “With Giphy tapping into their extensive library of animated GIFs for their new Extension, it adds a fun and compelling new element to the social video experience that is sure to resonate with the current meme generation.”

Extensions are one of Twitch’s differentiating features in the game streaming market. Thanks to Twitch’s scale, there are now thousands of these add-ons and overlays in development, and over 250 which have gone live since the feature’s launch. Dozens of these, including Giphy’s, also work alongside others, allowing streamers to better customize their broadcasts and channels.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Sony’s streaming TV service PlayStation Vue raises its prices, too

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PlayStation Vue, welcome to the price hike party. Sony’s over-the-top TV streaming service is the latest to raise the price of its subscription service, which will now cost $5 more per month across all four tiers. That means Vue’s cheapest plan will now cost $44.99 per month instead of $39.99 per month. The most expensive plan will climb to $79.99 per month.

Remember when we thought streaming TV was a cheaper way to watch? No?

Above: PlayStation Vue’s current prices, before the price increases 

The pricing changes arrived on the same day that AT&T raised the cost of its streaming TV service, DirecTV Now, also by $5 per month.

And both changes follow similar moves by competitors, including the $5 per month increase announced by Sling TV only days ago, and the $5 per month increase announced by YouTube TV in March. That made Sling TV’s core package $25 per month and YouTube TV $40 per month.

According to the PlayStation Vue blog post, the decision to raise prices was attributed to the need to “keep pace with rising business costs and enable us to continue offering a better way to watch the best in live sports, entertainment, and news,” it says.

In reality, it’s clear that the whole market is shifting to a slightly higher price point for streaming TV, especially as the services expand their channel lineups to offer more broadcast stations and networks. However, for consumers, it may make these services a tougher sell – many customers signed up to avoid being nickel-and-dimed by cable TV providers with fees and lineups including channels they didn’t watch, and this is starting to feel the same.

In addition, there is a world of content out there on services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu’s on-demand service that’s far more affordable – and without requiring users to record shows with a “cloud” DVR that sometimes doesn’t even let you fast-forward through the commercials. For those who don’t care about sports or tracking particular shows, the streaming TV services may look less compelling as they become more expensive.

In its announcement, Sony vowed to continue to improve its service with the planned addition of more broadcast stations, content, and other feature enhancements.

PlayStation Vue is one of the older services on the market, but is also one of the smallest with an estimated 670,000 subscribers, far behind Sling TV’s 2.21 million or DirecTV Now’s 1.2 million. Likely, consumers believe – because of its name – a PlayStation is required to use it. But the service can be accessed from almost any device, including mobile phones and tablets, the web, Chromecast, Android TV, Apple TV, Fire TV and Roku.

It offers four different channel lineups, all of which include networks like AMC, CNBC, CNN, Discovery, Disney, ESPN, HGTV, Food Network FX, TLC, TNT, and others. In some areas, broadcasts stations including ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC are also available.

The pricing changes will go into effect starting on July 24, 2018, Sony says, and will impact both new and existing subscribers. Current subscribers will see the change reflected on their billing cycle after July 31, 2018. Vue’s standalone channels and add-ons are not affected by the price increases.

News Source = techcrunch.com

AT&T raises DirecTV Now pricing by $5 per month

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Following last week’s launch of its low-cost streaming TV service, Watch TV, AT&T is now raising prices on its original over-the-top offering, DirecTV Now, by $5 per month. That means instead of starting at $35 per month for its basic “Live a Little” tier with 60+ channels, the new service will start at $40 per month. The other tiers are going up by $5 per month, as well.

That means the “Just Right” 80+ channel package will be $55/month, the “Go Big” 100+ channel package will be $60/month, and the “Gotta Have It” 120+ channel package will be $70/month.

The news was first spotted by Cord Cutters News over the weekend. There was also a discussion of the price changes occurring on Reddit.

While there are concerns about AT&T’s price hikes elsewhere in its business, it’s not the first TV streaming service to raise its prices in recent months. YouTube TV also upped the cost of its service by $5/month, going from $35/month to $40/month back in March. And only days ago, Dish’s Sling TV revamped its service with a price change of its own, going up $5/month to $25/month instead of $20/month for its base package without add-ons.

Meanwhile, $40/month is in line with Sony’s PlayStation Vue’s least expensive plan as well as with Hulu’s Live TV service.

AT&T attributed its decision to these shifts in the market for streaming TV.

“In the 18 months since our launch, we have continued to evolve our DirecTV Now products to serve this new customer set and compare favorably with our competitors. To continue delivering the best possible streaming experience for both new and existing customers, we’re bringing the cost of this service in line with the market—which starts at a $40 price point,” a spokesperson said.

The changes were announced via email to existing subscribers, and may see some of DirecTV Now’s early adopters fleeing, as a result. Commenters on Reddit complained about the quality of AT&T’s service, including issues with its streams and DVR, for example. Others, meanwhile, felt that AT&T’s channel lineup was still a good value for the money, even with the increase.

Above: DirecTV Now email – source: Cord Cutters News

As a result of price hike, there are now few services left offering low-cost streaming TV. Sling TV, even at now $25/month remains one of the most affordable, along with AT&T’s far more limited Watch TV, and Philo’s $16/month service lacking sports and locals.

The new prices will go into effect on July 26 for new customers based on their billing date, AT&T tells us.

Update, 7/2/18, 11 AM ET: posted updated with effective date pricing from AT&T

News Source = techcrunch.com

Sling TV revamps its service with a price hike, new free tier & a la carte channels

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Sling TV, the first to deliver an over-the-top TV service aimed at cord cutters, is shaking up its business. The company announced today it’s raising the base price of its core package of over 30 channels, including ESPN, by $5 per month to now $25 per month. But it’s also rolling out free content and a la carte channel subscriptions, similar to Amazon Channels, in order to attract a new audience.

The service would not be the first to inch up its pricing.

YouTube TV in March also raised its prices by $5 per month. It’s now $40 per month, which is more in line with competitors like Hulu ($40/mo) and DirecTV Now ($35/mo).

That means, even with the price hike, Sling TV remains one of the more affordable options for live TV, a DVR, and access to sports via ESPN.

Unfortunately, though, existing customers aren’t being grandfathered in to the old pricing structure – just like back in the cable TV days, your monthly bill will simply increase. And there’s nothing you can do except cancel.

The pricing changes affects only those on Sling’s core offering, Sling Orange. Those with expanded service (Sling Orange + Sling Blue), will continue to pay $40 per month. And the optional add-on packs will remain at $10 per month.

To woo subscribers, Sling TV is also now launching free content.

When you launch the Sling TV app, you’ll now see over 100 hours of popular TV shows and movies to watch without a subscription, including  “Wrecked,” “At Home with Amy Sedaris,” “Good Behavior,” “Flip or Flop” and more. The idea here is to attract viewers – particularly those with lapsed subscriptions – and encourage them to come back and watch. The company hopes its former customers will choose to restart their subscription after some time.

Perhaps the most significant change is that Sling TV is going a la carte.

One of the biggest draws for Amazon Channels, which reportedly accounts for more than half of direct to consumer video subscriptions, is that you can pick and choose which ones you actually want to watch. Sling TV is now doing the same.

Without a base subscription, customers can subscribe to: Showtime ($10 per month), CuriosityStream ($6 per month), Stingray Karaoke ($7 per month), Dove Channel ($5 per month), Outside TV Features ($5 per month), UP Faith & Family ($5 per month), Pantaya ($6 per month) and NBA League Pass ($28.99 per month).

Stingray Karaoke, Dove Channel and Outside TV Features are new channels launching today, which combined add more than 10,000 titles to Sling’s on-demand library.

The company says more a la carte channels will arrive in time.

In addition, Sling TV will offer pay-per-view (PPV) events and over 5,000 movies which can be watch without a monthly subscription. The company previously offered UFC and boxing matches via PPV – the first for a live streaming service – so expect more of the same here.

“When we first launched Sling in 2015, we set out to create an entertainment experience that put our customers first, offering unprecedented flexibility and control – no annual contracts, no hidden fees and the ability to customize programming,” said Warren Schlichting, president of Sling TV, about the changes. “The new Sling evolves the experience even further by providing access to great content without anchoring customers to a base subscription.”

The changes to the service will be made available through a new user interface that’s arriving first on Roku devices, starting today. It will come to other devices in the near future, Sling TV says.

 

News Source = techcrunch.com

AT&T launches a low-cost live TV streaming service, WatchTV

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AT&T this morning announced the launch of a second TV streaming service, called WatchTV, days after its merger with Time Warner. The lower-cost alternative to AT&T’s DirecTV Now will offer anyone the ability to join WatchTV for only $15 per month, but the service will also be bundled into AT&T wireless plans. This $15 per month price point undercuts newcomer Philo, which in November had introduced the cheapest over-the-top TV service at just $16 per month.

With WatchTV, customers gain access to over 30 live TV channels from top cable networks including A&E, AMC, Animal Planet, CNN, Discovery, Food Network, Hallmark, HGTV, History, IFC, Lifetime, Sundance TV, TBS, TLC, TNT, VICELAND, and several others. (Full list below).

Shortly after launch, it will add BET, Comedy Central, MTV2, Nicktoons, Teen Nick, and VH1.

There are also over 15,000 TV shows and movies on demand, along with premium channels and music streaming options as add-ons.

While the new WatchTV service is open to anyone, AT&T is also bundling it into two new unlimited plans for no additional cost.

These plans are the AT&T Unlimited & More Premium plan and the AT&T Unlimited & More plan.

The Premium plan customers will have all the same features of the existing AT&T Unlimited Plus Enhanced Plan, including 15 GB of high-speed tethering, high-quality video and a $15 monthly credit towards DirecTV, U-verse TV, or, AT&T’s other streaming service, DirecTV Now. They can also choose to add on other options, like HBO, Showtime, Starz, Amazon Music Unlimited, Pandora Premium and VRV, more for an additional fee. Add-ons can only be swapped out once per year.

The regular plan (AT&T Unlimited & More) only offers SD video streams when on AT&T’s network, including when customers are viewing WatchTV. It also includes the $15 monthly credit towards other AT&T video services and up to 4G LTE unlimited data.

The Premium plan costs $80 for a single line after the AutoPay billing credit; or $190 for 4 lines. The regular plan is $70 with the AutoPay billing credit and paperless billing. It’s $5 more per line per month then the current Unlimited Choice Enhanced plan, but when you go up to 4 lines, it works out to the same price as before, $40 per line per month.

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson had previously revealed the carrier’s plans for the new low-cost streaming TV service while in court defending the Time Warner merger against anti-trust claims. He used its launch as a point of rebuttal against comments about the ever-higher prices for AT&T’s DirecTV satellite service.

The Justice Department was concerned that following the merger, AT&T would raise prices on Time Warner’s HBO and Turner networks, like TNT, TBS and CNN, in order to prop up its own offerings. For now, it seems AT&T will just come up with a million different ways to generate revenue from its networks, by offering different bundles and packages to AT&T customers and other consumers.

The company also touted the merger, when announcing today’s news:

Our merger brings together the elements to fulfill our vision for the future of media and entertainment. We’ll bring a fresh approach to how media and entertainment works for you—including new offerings that integrate content and connectivity.

News Source = techcrunch.com

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