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July 18, 2018
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streaming

Spotify is testing a data-friendly ‘Lite’ app for Android

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Spotify is the latest tech company to join the ‘Lite’ app party after a data-friendly version of its music streaming app surfaced for Android devices.

‘Spotify Lite’ — which was first spotted by the eagle eyes at Android Police — is designed to take up less space on smartphones and to consume less data, too. That’s particularly important for cheaper smartphones, which tend to have less memory, and people who use metered mobile data . In that respect, the app is just 15MB in size, as opposed to 100MB for the main Spotify app, while it also tracks the amount of data that the app uses each month.

However, like most things in life, there’s a compromise here… although we can’t quite be sure exactly what. That’s because the app is being trialed in Brazil only — tough luck if you live elsewhere and want to get it — although Android Police got hold of an SDK which it said shows the app is devoid of some key features. That apparently includes — or, rather, doesn’t include — offline playback and Spotify Connect for streaming to other devices. It looks like Lite app users can’t select specific songs and must instead rely on the shuffle button, even if they are a Spotify Premium subscriber.

Of course, the app is in beta right now so that list of missing features may change as/when it gets a full worldwide release. For now, app tracking firm Sensor Tower suggests Spotify Lite has racked up just 4,000 downloads so this is very much a test deployment.

Here’s Spotify’s non-committal statement on the Lite app.

“At Spotify, we routinely conduct a number of tests in an effort to improve our user experience. Some of those tests end up paving the path for our broader user experience and others serve only as an important learning. We aren’t going to comment on specific tests at this time,” a spokesperson told TechCrunch.

The company has tested other apps on Android in the past, like Spotify Hopper back in 2016, and more recently, a pared-down radio app called Spotify Stations.

Spotify Lite isn’t the first time Spotify has helped its users save on data consumption. The company added a low-data mode to its service in April as part of a wider product launch focused on bringing more value to its free-tier users. The Lite app could add another element to attract more users, giving Spotify an additional competitive advantage over rivals like Apple Music and Pandora.

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

Twitch now lets streamers use multiple Extensions at once

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Last year, Twitch announced a suite of tools called Extensions, that allow streamers to customize their channel pages with interactive features, including polls, leaderboards, schedules and more. Today, Twitch is making Extensions even more useful by allowing streamers to run up to three of these overlays at the same time on their video, plus three more below the video player, for a total of six that can be active on their channel at any time.

This update, Twitch says, will allow streamers to better customize their channels in unique ways, while engaging and retaining their fans.

To enable multiple Extensions, streamers will visit their channel dashboard’s redesigned Extensions Manager, where Extensions can now be sorted by category, like Extensions for Games, Music, Streamer Tools, and others. There’s also a “Partner Picks” section here which is where top creators are sharing their favorites.

Alongside the launch, a number of developers have released new and updated Extensions that are designed to work with one another. However, Twitch does note that there will be some exceptions based on the area needed to display the Extension itself. That is, you can’t put overlays on top of one another.

In addition to the better customization options, there’s another reason why streamers may be interested in adding multiple Extensions: monetization.

In April, Twitch introduced a new revenue stream for creators and developers alike with the launch of Bits in Extensions. This allows developers to customize their Extensions with other interactive experiences they can charge for using Bits. That allows viewers to pay using Twitch’s virtual currency to unlock the features, and the streamer gets a portion of the revenue for hosting the Extension on their channel.

By combining multiple Extensions that use Bits on their channel pages, streams and developers will be able to generate additional revenue thanks to this expansion.

Twitch says there are over 150 Extensions live today, over 30 of which can be combined with others, and 35 that offer paid experiences via Bits. There are thousands of Extensions in development, as well.

All channels will be able to use the new customization options starting today.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Yes, Netflix was down, but it’s back up again

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If you had trouble accessing Netflix earlier today, you weren’t alone. Netflix tweeted that it was “aware” of streaming issues, but said soon afterward that they had been resolved.

A map from Outage.Report shows that Netflix was down for users around the world, with outages going on for a couple of hours.

Outage.Report map

TechCrunch has contacted Netflix to ask what caused the issues.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Hulu re-org see departures of Content Chief Joel Stillerman, top SVP’s

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On the heels of Hulu’s news of its growing live TV business, which has now reached 800,000 subscribers, the streaming service today announced a major re-organization of it business focused on four strategic priorities, effective immediately. These include “the subscriber journey, technology & products, content and advertising,” says Hulu. The changes see three major execs departing: Chief Content Officer Joel Stillerman, Senior Vice President of Partnerships & Distribution Tim Connolly and SVP Experience, Ben Smith.

In addition, Hulu has hired two new executives to help it with its goals: CTO Dan Phillips, previously of TiVo, and Jaya Kolhatkar of Walmart Labs, who will claim the newly-created Chief Data Officer role.

Phillips had previously led TiVo’s engineering, product and professional services workforce of more than 1,000 members, and helped TiVo shift its business from being known only as a DVR maker, to a cloud services provider as well. He also previously worked at Uniscape, Crossworlds Software, and co-founded enterprise software company Metasystems, Inc.

At Hulu, Phillips will oversee a now unified Technology & Product organization, which includes engineering, Hulu’s data center operations, its network and broadcast operations center, I.T. and program management, plus product management, user experience, and product development.

Hulu’s Santa Monica, Seattle, Marin, and Beijing teams will report to Phillips, who’s based in Santa Monica, on his first day, June 4.

Meanwhile, Jaya Kolhatkar, previously Senior Vice President, Global Data and Analytics Platform for Walmart Inc., is being appointed to the newly-created executive management role of Chief Data Officer, which reports directly to CEO Randy Freer. She will also be based in Santa Monica as of July 2.

At Walmart, Kolhatkar oversaw a large global team responsible for its enterprise data warehouse, big data environment, real-time predictive analytics platform and business intelligence tools, Hulu says. She also previously held senior roles at PayPal, eBay and Amazon.

At Hulu, Kolhatkar will now be responsible for all Hulu’s data decisions, including customer intelligence and data governance, and will help Hulu make data-driven business decisions.

The “Subscriber Journey” priority – meaning everything from user acquisition to viewer experience and research – will be a focus for an expanded marketing organization, led by CMO Kelly Campbell, a Google marketing vet who joined Hulu last year.

Meanwhile, Hulu’s current SVP Experience, Ben Smith, will retire in July.

Smith had led the somewhat controversial revamp of the Hulu’s app, which saw the company retroactively responding to consumer complaints about the layout and organization of items in its user interface. It later rolled out updates to address some of these concerns, like a grid guide for live TV, for example.

The Content organization is also being re-organized into two groups, one focused on acquired on-demand and live content partners and another on Hulu Originals. Senior Vice President of Content, Craig Erwich, who will report to Freer, will run the Originals side.

Senior Vice President of Partnerships & Distribution Tim Connolly and Chief Content Officer Joel Stillerman are leaving Hulu as result of these changes, and Hulu is now searching for a new head of its Content Partnerships group. The Chief Content Officer role is being dropped.

“Ben, Tim and Joel have all played a significant role in getting Hulu to the strong position it is in today. They will forever be a part of Hulu’s success story, and we wish them the very best in their next endeavors,” said Freer.

The combination of live TV and subscription video on demand (SVOD) content licensing, acquisition and business functions, into a single organization reflects Hulu’s interest in making more unified deals with content providers, instead of addressing all live TV and SVOD content separately.

Hulu says it will also bring more premium add-ons to its service as a result. (It currently carries HBO, Cinemax, and Showtime.)

Hulu’s ad sales group will continue reporting to Senior Vice President of Ad Sales Peter Naylor, and Hulu’s shared services  functions – Finance, Legal, Corporate Communications and Talent & Organization – will continue as usual.

This is the first major change to Hulu’s operations since Freer joined as CEO in October, replacing Mike Hopkins. It indicates a desire at Hulu to grow its business into even more of a major player, beyond the 20 million total subscribers it has today.

The company has benefitted from the increased exposure provided by its Emmy winning The Handmaid’s Tale, but has largely failed to establish itself as a truly viable competitor to Netflix, in terms of originals. Stillerman, who was president of originals at AMC and Sundance TV, had helped developed The Walking Dead, and its spinoff, and the Breaking Bad prequel Better Call Saul. But Hulu hasn’t had a series of its own hits of that scale.

The changes also come as the future of Hulu seems uncertain. With Disney’s proposal to acquire Fox’s TV and movie business, it would also gain its 30 percent stake in Hulu. Combined with its own existing stake, Disney would become a majority owner – that could be a concern for Hulu’s other shareholders NBCU and Time Warner. And Disney is launching a Hulu / Netflix rival of its own in 2019, muddying the waters even further.

“As one of today’s top direct-to-consumer entertainment brands, led by technology, innovation and data, Hulu has an enormous opportunity to lead the media and advertising industries into the future,” said Freer, in a statement. “By adding new expertise and capabilities to our executive ranks and creating greater alignment around our customers, we are positioning Hulu to grow more rapidly, innovate more quickly and connect consumers even more deeply with the content they love.”

News Source = techcrunch.com

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