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Movies

Slashdot Asks: Would You Like Early Access To Movies And Stop Going To Theatres? 331

It appears many major stakeholders in the movie industry want to bring new titles to you within days, if not hours, as they hit cinemas. Earlier this year, we learned that Sean Parker is working on a service called "Screening Room", an idea that was reportedly backed by Peter Jackson, Steven Spielberg and JJ Abrams, to bring movies on the same day as they show up in theaters. Apple seems interested as well. It is reportedly in talks with Hollywood studios to get iTunes rentals of movies that are still playing on the big screen. Earlier this month, Bloomberg reported that several studios are exploring the idea of renting new movies for $25 to $50 just two weeks after they have hit cinemas.

None of such deals have materialized yet, of course, and also it needs to be pointed out that several movie companies have discarded these ideas before because they know that by offering you new titles so early they are going to lose on all the overpriced cold drinks, and snacks they sell you at the theatre. There's also piracy concerns. If a movie is available early, regardless of the DRM tech these companies deploy, good-enough footage of the movies will crop up on file-sharing websites almost immediately.

But leaving all those aspects aside, would you be interested in getting new titles just hours or a week or two after they hit the cinemas? Would you want to end the decades-long practice of going to a theater?
Movies

Netflix Says People Watch Same Amount of Movies Regardless of Perceived Quality or Depth (news.com.au) 161

Two of the most common issues people have with Netflix is: the movie catalog is shrinking, and the quality of the movies aren't that great anymore. Netflix says it is aware of those issues, and it thinks, in reality, those factors don't really matter much as people end up watching the same amount of movies as they always have. From a report:According to the Netflix exec, subscribers spend about the same time watching movies on the service regardless of the depth or perceived quality of the movie library. "No matter what, we end up with about one-third of our watching being movies," he told the audience. Mr Sarandos cited two contrasting examples of the United States and Canada as proof of such behavior. In Canada, Netflix has five major deals with movie studios to use their content while in the US the company basically has none, with the exception of the recently signed Disney deal. Despite US subscribers having far less access to movies from big studios, both countries spend roughly the same proportion of their time on the service watching movies. Netflix believes that by the time many blockbuster movies make it onto the platform -- many months after being released in the cinema -- a majority of fans have already seen them. "If you were passionate (about a movie), you've already seen it," he said.
Media

Netflix Keeping Bandwidth Usage Low By Encoding Its Video With VP9 and H.264/AVC Codecs (slashgear.com) 76

Netflix announced last week that it is getting offline video downloads support. The company has since shared that it is using VP9 video compression codec to ensure that the file sizes don't weigh a lot. An anonymous reader shares an article on Slashgear (edited): For streaming content, Netflix largely relies on H.264/AVC to reduce the bandwidth, but for downloading content, it uses VP9 encoding. VP9 can allow better quality videos for the same amount of data needed to download. The challenge is that VP9 isn't supported by all streaming providers -- it is supported on Android devices and via the Chrome browser. So to get around that lack of support on iOS, Netflix is offering downloads in H.264/AVC High whereas streams are encoded in H.264/AVC Main on such devices. Netflix chooses the optimal encoding format for each title on its service after finding, for instance, that animated films are easier to encode than live-action. Netflix says that H.264 High encoding saves 19% bandwidth compared to other encoding standards while VP9 saves 36%.
Media

Netflix Finally Gets Download Option (netflix.com) 105

For years, people asked Netflix to give them the ability to download movies and TV episodes. Though this might not seem like that big of a deal in many regions where internet connectivity is cheap and omnipresent, same is not the case everywhere, especially in developing regions. Netflix is finally addressing this need: the on-demand media streaming service said Wednesday that people can now download shows on their Android and iOS devices . From the company's blog post: Just click the download button on the details page for a film or TV series and you can watch it later without an internet connection. Many of your favorite streaming series and movies are already available for download, with more on the way, so there is plenty of content available for those times when you are offline.It's worth pointing out that the offline playback -- or the ability to download videos isn't available on desktop platforms. Also, it appears that a heck lot of shows currently don't have this feature -- as of today.
Privacy

Nearly 40% of Americans Would Give Up Sex For Better Online Security, Survey Finds (huffingtonpost.com) 230

A recent survey of over 2,000 adults conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of Dashlane, a "leader in online identity and password management," found that nearly 40 percent of Americans would give up sex for an entire year if it meant they'd never have to worry about being hacked. Huffington Post reports: 40 percent of people also said they'd give up their favorite food for one month in the name of peace of mind online. If all of this sounds drastic, the truth is that it probably is. The single biggest thing people can do to help keep their online identity safe is probably the easiest -- a solid password. 10 years ago, anti-virus was the primary method of online security. But since the Internet has left the desktop and is on laptops, tablets, and cell phones, and since so many people now use the cloud for backing up their sensitive data, following proper password protocol is critical. Of course, having a solid password doesn't do a lot of good if you're giving it out to people. And nearly 50% of people have shared a password to an e-mail account or to an account like Netflix with a friend or had a friend share theirs (which is a surprisingly high number when you consider that 4 out of 10 people said that sharing an online social media password was more intimate than sex). A look at the password habits of Americans showed that about 30% have used a pet's name, almost 25% have used a family member's name, 21% a birthday, and 10% each have used an anniversary, a sports team, an address, or a phone number. So if you just know a few basic, personal details about someone, you've got a decent chance at cracking their password. The study also revealed some interesting data in that younger Americans (those age 18 to 34) who grew up online are far more trusting with passwords than older generations, and married people are less likely to part with passwords than single people.
Entertainment

BBC Planning 'Netflix of the Spoken Word' to Take Radio Content Global (hollywoodreporter.com) 33

Georg Szalai, reporting for Hollywood Reporter: "The BBC makes the best radio in the world," says director general Tony Hall. British public broadcaster BBC plans to launch a "Netflix of the spoken word" to take its radio content beyond the U.K. Director general Tony Hall in a London speech on Wednesday said that the BBC plans to offer all of its audio content, in addition to its BBC World Service programming to people in foreign markets. He didn't immediately provide further details, including about whether the BBC would charge international users. The BBC is funded via a license fee covered by British taxpayers. "With our world-class content, we could use our current output and the richness of our archive to create a Netflix of the spoken word," the BBC quoted Hall as saying. "The BBC makes the best radio in the world. It is one of our crown jewels, and we have an extraordinary wealth of audio riches at our disposal." He added: "It's one of the things that will help the BBC carry the full weight of Britain's culture and values, knowledge and know-how to the world in the years ahead, and say something really important about modern Britain."
Media

Amazon Wants To Include Live Sports as Part of Prime Membership (geekwire.com) 77

An anonymous reader writes: Amazon's next Prime membership benefit could be the ability to stream live sports. The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that Amazon is in talks with leagues like the NFL, NBA, MLB, and a handful of others about live game rights. The fact that Amazon wants to stream live sports isn't a new development. But the Journal did have a noteworthy tidbit: Amazon could offer a "premium, exclusive sports package" to those who pay for a $99 per year, or $8.99 per month, Prime membership. Amazon is exploring streaming rights to multiple sports at a variety of levels. The Journal reported that Amazon wanted to exclusively license NBA's League Pass streaming product; it is also reaching out to traditional broadcasters like Univision and ESPN about the content they own but don't end up airing on TV.Amazon was also recently exploring deals with Indian Premier League, a cricket match league. In a recent interview with David Remnick of The New Yorker, Reed Hastings said that one of the most difficult decisions for him has been to not do live sports. He said Netflix doesn't want to move away from movies and TV shows, and only focus on improving the quality of the shows and user experience.
Republicans

Trump Names Two Opponents of Net Neutrality To Oversee FCC Transition Team (gizmodo.com) 395

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: President-elect Donald Trump has appointed two new advisers to his transition team that will oversee his FCC and telecommunications policy agenda. Both of the new advisers are staunch opponents of net neutrality regulations. Jeff Eisenach, one of the two newly appointed advisers, is an economist who has previously worked as a consultant for Verizon and its trade association. In September 2014, Eisenach testified before a Senate Judiciary Committee and said, "Net neutrality would not improve consumer welfare or protect the public interest." He has also worked for the conservative think-tank American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and in a blog post wrote, "Net neutrality is crony capitalism pure and simple." Mark Jamison, the other newly appointed adviser, also has a long history of battling against net neutrality oversight. Jamison formerly worked on Sprint's lobbying team and now leads the University of Florida's Public Utility Research Center. Both Eisenach and Jamison are considered leading adversaries of net neutrality who worked hard to prevent the rules from being passed last year. For the uninitiated, the rules passed last year prevent companies internet providers from discriminating against any online content or services. For example, without net neutrality rules, internet providers like Comcast and Verizon could charge internet subscribers more for using sites like Netflix. The FCC's net neutrality rules would protect consumers from paying exorbitant fees for internet use.
Microsoft

4K Netflix Arrives On Windows 10, But Only Via Microsoft's Edge Browser (theverge.com) 126

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Netflix 4K streaming is finally heading to Windows PCs this week. While a number of TVs and set-top-boxes already support 4K Netflix streams, the PC has largely been left out of the high-quality streams due to piracy fears. Netflix is now supporting 4K streaming through Microsoft's Edge browser, but you'll need a new PC to actually make use of it. Netflix is only supporting 7th generation (Kaby Lake) Intel Core processors, and there aren't many laptops that actually support both the 4K display required and the new Intel processors. As a result, Microsoft is using the 4K Netflix support as a marketing effort for its Edge browser and to encourage people to upgrade their hardware to watch new episodes of the Gilmore Girls. It all might seem like a bit of a con, but it's largely the fault of DRM requirements from Hollywood studios and TV networks. Content providers have strict controls for 4K playback, so that streams can't be captured and redistributed illegally. The latest hardware decryption features simply aren't available on older Intel processors, and the new Kaby Lake chips now support 10-bit HEVC, a popular 4K video codec.
Television

The Grand Tour Show To Be Streamed In Over 200 Markets as Amazon Prime Video Goes Global (mashable.com) 70

For years, Amazon's Prime Video on-demand streaming service has been available in limited regions, such as the United States and United Kingdom (along with a handful of other markets), but that's changing now. Amazon is expanding the Prime Video service to more than 200 new markets. The announcement comes via The Grand Tour motor show, which premieres in select places Friday. Earlier this week, show's hosts -- Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May -- posted on Amazon website that their new show will be streamed in over 200 nations (pretty much everywhere where BBC's Top Gear is broadcasted and streamed). Speaking of which, fans of the Grand Tour will be able to watch the show worldwide starting next month, and once Prime Video is available in their region, they will be able watch new episodes at the same time as others. The move comes months after Netflix expanded to 130 new regions in January this year. Netflix is available in roughly 200 territories as well.
Businesses

The Internet Association, Whose Members Include Amazon, Facebook and Google, Writes Open Letter To Donald Trump (cnet.com) 19

The Internet Association -- a group of 40 top internet companies including Airbnb, Amazon, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Netflix, Twitter, Uber and Yahoo -- issued an open letter on Monday that congratulates Donald Trump on his victory and offers a long list of policy positions they hope he'll consider during his time as president. From a report on CNET:That list includes:
Upholding Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act so internet companies can't get sued easily for things their users say or do online.
Upholding Section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act so internet companies can't get easily sued if they quickly remove copyrighted content that users upload (such as infringing photos and YouTube videos).
Reforming the 30-year-old Electronic Communications Privacy Act -- "Internet users must have the same protections for their inbox as they do for their mailbox," states the association. Supporting strong encryption (Trump called for a boycott of Apple when it refused to comply with an FBI order to unlock an iPhone linked to terror.)
Reforming Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which lets the NSA collect online communications without a warrant.
Providing similar copyright protections for companies that operate outside the US.
Reforming the US Patent Office to deter patent trolls, a term for companies that sue other companies based on patents without actually producing new products.
Here's the full list.
AT&T

AT&T Will Offer a Lower-Quality Video Option But Without a Discount (fortune.com) 48

After T-Mobile and Sprint introduced lower-cost wireless plans in return for customers accepting lower quality video streaming, AT&T is following suit. An anonymous reader shares a Fortune report:The second-largest wireless carrier said it would introduce a feature starting next year called "Stream Saver" to let customers voluntarily downgrade streaming video from any service -- including YouTube and Netflix -- to DVD quality. But AT&T will not lower prices or give a discount to customers activating the lower-quality stream, which would use much less data than watching a typical high-definition video stream. The data used will also still count against a customer's monthly data allowance. AT&T emphasized that the optional feature was intended to help customers use less data, essentially stretching their monthly allowance to go further. "Stream saver lets them enjoy more of what they love," David Christopher, chief marketing officer in AT&T's entertainment group, said in a statement. "And, they are in control -- it's their choice on how to use this innovative feature."
Software

New Software Remembers Everything Your Computer Has Ever Displayed (cnn.com) 117

A Napster co-founder launched a new software this week which lets you search for anything you've ever looked at on your computer. schwit1 shared this report from CNNMoney: Atlas Informatics Founder and CEO Jordan Ritter calls the software "a photographic memory for your digital life"... This includes web pages, emails, Slack chats, Netflix films, Spotify songs, or anything else that's appeared in front of your eyes on your screen... You can search by keyword, content type or time, and it displays all related information based on relevancy. For instance, if two documents were open at the same time and you toggled between them, they will both appear whether or not they contain a keyword. Once installed on your hard drive and browser, Atlas Recall runs in the background and begins collecting your activity. The company captures all the content you've looked at and stores it on its servers.
It's encrypted before transmission to the Atlas Cloud servers, though you can block it from capturing data from certain applications, files, and web sites. "The platform wars are over, nobody won, and no one will ever win them again..." Ritter told CNNMoney. "What we want is something that works the way we use our devices and data."
Security

Another Internet Outage Takes Down Services in US and UK (chicagotribune.com) 34

Reader Archangel Michael writes: Parts of the internet were down across the U.S. and in the U.K. Wednesday morning, as service provider Level 3 Communications reported an outage. Level 3, which provides internet and voice services to businesses, said the company did not yet know the cause of the outage, which temporarily disrupted or slowed service to some customers. "Our technical team is looking into this issue to determine the cause. Our priority is to ensure the reliability of our network and services. We will provide updates as more information becomes available," Nikki Wheeler, senior director of media relations, wrote in an email. The Broomfield, Colo.-based company is a Tier 1 provider, which means its network powers other internet and content providers. In 2015, it partnered with Verizon. It is also the content delivery network for Netflix and the HBO Go mobile app; a Blue Sky test of those services showed they seemed to be unaffected. ArsTechnica has more details.
AT&T

CenturyLink To Buy Level 3 For $34 Billion, Create a More Formidable Competitor To AT&T (bloomberg.com) 67

In what is seen as a move to build a more formidable competitor to AT&T, rival CenturyLink today announced it is buying Level 3 Communications for about $34 billion in cash and stock. From a report on Bloomberg: Both companies have amassed giant networks to haul internet traffic through deals over the years. Level 3 is one of the largest providers used by internet services including Netflix and Google to route traffic across the web, operations that would bolster CenturyLink's core offerings to businesses. Level 3 was the second-biggest U.S. provider of ethernet services -- running high-bandwidth internet connections for companies -- in the first half of this year, trailing only AT&T, according to Vertical Systems Group. CenturyLink was fifth on the list.
Communications

A Radiologist Has the Fastest Home Internet In the US (vice.com) 135

An anonymous reader writes: Jason Koebler via Motherboard has interviewed James Busch -- a radiologist and owner of "the first 10 Gbps residential connection in the United States" -- at a coffee shop in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Motherboard reports: "For reference, the Federal Communications Commission officially classifies 'broadband' as 25 Mbps. His connection is 400 times faster than that. Busch found a way to make good use of his 1 Gbps connection, and now he's found a use for 10 Gbps, too. 'An X-ray averages around 200 megabytes, then you have PET scans and mammograms -- 3D mammograms are 10 gig files, so they're enormous,' Busch said. 'We go through terabytes a year in storage. We've calculated out that we save about 7 seconds an exam, which might seem like, 'Who cares,' but when you read 20,000 or 30,000 exams every year, it turns out to be something like 10 days of productivity you're saving just from a bandwidth upgrade.' While 10 gig connections sound excessive at the moment, Busch says his family quickly started using all of its 1 gig bandwidth. 'We ballooned into that gig within eight or nine months. With my kids watching Netflix instead of TV, with me working, we did utilize that bandwidth,' he said. 'There were situations where my daughter would be FaceTiming and the others would be streaming on the 4K TVs and they'd start screaming at each other about hogging the bandwidth. We don't see that at 10 gigs.' So why does Busch have a 10 Gbps and the rest of us don't? For one, 10 Gbps offerings are rare and scattered in mostly rural communities that have decided to build their own internet networks. Most companies that have the technology offer gigabit connections (a still cutting-edge technology only available in a handful of cities) at affordable prices and 10 Gbps connections at comparatively exorbitant ones. In Chattanooga, 1 gig connections are $69.99 per month; 10 gig connections are $299. Thus far, 10 Gbps connections are available in Chattanooga; parts of southern Vermont; Salisbury, North Carolina; and parts of Detroit and Minneapolis. But besides Busch, I couldn't find any other people in the United States who have signed up for one. EPB, the Chattanooga government-owned power utility that runs the network, confirmed that Busch is the city's only 10 Gbps residential customer. Rocket Fiber, which recently began offering 10 Gbps in Detroit, told me that it has 'no customers set in stone,' but that it's in talks with prospective ones. Representatives for U.S. Internet in Minneapolis and Fibrant in Salisbury did not respond to my requests for comment. Michel Guite, president of the Vermont Telephone Company, told me his network has no 10 Gbps customers, either."
Movies

People Like Netflix's Original Content More Than Its Other Content: AllFlicks (allflicks.net) 77

According to a study by IHS Markit this month, in the last two years Netflix's spending on original content rose from $2.38 billion to $4.91 billion. The company has invested big in original programming -- and it looks to be paying off. The folks over at AllFlicks have found that Netflix's subscriber base prefers Netflix's original content to that of its syndicated content. AllFlicks reports: Netflix user ratings show that Netflix's subscriber base prefers Netflix's original content to its syndicated content. Netflix originals sport an average rating of 3.85 stars out of five; all other content averages 3.47 stars. That means that user ratings for Netflix originals are 11% higher, on average, than user ratings for syndicated content. Netflix does best in the documentaries category, where users rate non-original content, on average, at 3.54. Netflix's documentaries average 4.07 stars, a pretty impressive showing. Netflix's TV shows do the worst, but still edge their other TV show content by 5.7%. It's possible that the frequent reviewers among Netflix's user base differ from the user base as a whole, but there's not a lot of reason to doubt the raw data here. The Netflix originals and non-originals were both reviewed on the same service and using the same rating system, yet originals consistently outperformed the rest of the content.
Canada

All the Good Netflix Movies Are in Canada and Brazil (gizmodo.com) 93

Netflix's movie library has declined over the last two years when cross referenced with IMDB's 250 movies list. Earlier this month, we learned that if you were in the United States, Netflix only had 31 of the 250 movies listed on the holy-grail of all movie databases. Gizmodo today reports that if you were in Brazil or Canada, that same library looks a lot better. From the report: According to analysis by both The Streaming Observer and AddonHQ, Canada and Brazil have the best content ecosystems, when it comes to movies on Netflix. But when it comes to good movies, Brazil is tops. The Streaming Observer found that Brazil had 85 movies from IMDb's Top 250 in its library. The site also put together a ridiculously huge chart if you want to see exactly which movies are available on each service. It's worth checking out. Brazil has movies that those of us in America could only dream of streaming, like The Godfather Part II, Fight Club, and The Empire Strikes Back. Mexico and Sweden have solid showings too, with 73 and 70 movies from the IMDb's Top 250 in their respective libraries.
China

LeEco Who? Chinese Tech Giant Tries Its Luck In the US With 'More Products Than You've Ever Seen' (cnet.com) 59

LeEco is often called the Netflix of China. Which is funny for two reasons: LeEco is bigger than Netflix, and it has been around for longer than the American on-demand movies and TV shows streaming service. Besides, LeEco runs a fleet of other businesses, including ecommerce portal, smartphones, TVs, and even an autonomous cars. A company executive said this month that this would be a better description of LeEco, "If you were to take Apple, Amazon, Paramount Pictures, Tesla, Uber and Netflix and combine all of those companies, you get what LeEco does in China" But you may not have heard much about LeEco, the company which was until earlier this year known as LeTv. But you will now, because the company today announced a range of products for the U.S. market. TechCrunch adds: Perhaps predictably, one of the first US-based offerings from the company often referred to as "the Netflix of China" will be a content platform. And, as with just about everything else at today's event, LeEco's coming out swinging. The list of partners for LeEco Live includes MGM, Lionsgate, Vice, Showtime, Sling and Magnolia Pictures, along with publication partners like Cosmopolitan and Esquire, to name but a few. From another CNET report, which lists the other things that LeEco announced today: UMax 85 TV is LeEco's flagship 4K smart television. It's 85 inches, comes with 4GB in RAM and 64GB in storage and supports HDR10 and Dolby Vision. It will cost $4,999. Super4 X65 TV is LeEco's second biggest 4K smart television at 65 inches and comes with most of the same features as the UMax 85. Super4 X55 TV is a 55-inch 4K smart television and comes with most of the same features as the UMax 85. Super4 X43 Pro TV is 43-inch 4K smart television and comes with most of the same features as the UMax 85. LeEco has an upcoming prototype VR headset; it will have a gyroscope, bluetooth headphones and USB Type-C. LeSee Pro is LeEco's self-driving concept car. It will be fully autonomous and will have a connected interior to let people stream movies, music and work documents. LeSee is LeEco's semi-autonomous vehicle (level 3). It is internet-connected and has streaming content in rear seats. LeEco first unveiled this car in April.
Businesses

Netflix's Big Bet on Original Shows Finally Seen Paying Off (reuters.com) 90

Netflix shares jumped as much as 20 percent on Tuesday, after the company added 50 percent more subscribers than expected in the third quarter. Reuters adds: At least 10 brokerages, including Goldman Sachs and RBC Capital Markets, raised their price targets on the stock, praising the company's focus on developing original content. The video streaming company also said it was getting ready to spend $6 billion on content next year, up $1 billion from 2016. "The benefits of Netflix-produced original content including attractive economics and greater control are clear and we believe returns on original spend are high," J.P. Morgan Securities analyst Doug Anmuth said in a research note. Strong subscriber additions after two quarters of disappointing growth helped Netflix post a 31.7 percent jump in third-quarter revenue. Anmuth said he believed Netflix was on track toward 60 million plus subscribers in the United States and about 100 million internationally by 2020.A study by IHS Markit this month noted that both Netflix and Amazon are challenging major networks by upping spending on original shows. The study noted that Amazon and Netflix both had doubled spending on new shows in the last two years. Amazon dropped $1.22 billion in 2013 and spent $2.67 billion in 2015. Netflix's spending on original content rose from $2.38 billion to $4.91 billion over the same period.

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