The Internet

Verizon Is Killing Tumblr's Fight For Net Neutrality (theverge.com) 61

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: In 2014, Tumblr was on the front lines of the battle for net neutrality. The company stood alongside Amazon, Kickstarter, Etsy, Vimeo, Reddit, and Netflix during Battle for the Net's day of action. Tumblr CEO David Karp was also part of a group of New York tech CEOs that met with then-FCC chairman Tom Wheeler in Brooklyn that summer, while the FCC was fielding public comment on new Title II rules. President Obama invited Karp to the White House to discuss various issues around public education, and in February 2015 The Wall Street Journal reported that it was the influence of Karp and a small group of liberal tech CEOs that swayed Obama toward a philosophy of internet as public utility. But three years later, as the battle for net neutrality heats up once again, Tumblr has been uncharacteristically silent. The last mention of net neutrality on Tumblr's staff blog -- which frequently posts about political issues from civil rights to climate change to gun control to student loan debt -- was in June 2016. And Tumblr is not listed as a participating tech company for Battle for the Net's next day of action, coming up in three weeks. One reason for Karp and Tumblr's silence? Last week Verizon completed its acquisition of Tumblr parent company Yahoo, kicking off the subsequent merger of Yahoo and AOL to create a new company called Oath. As one of the world's largest ISPs, Verizon is notorious for challenging the principles of net neutrality -- it sued the FCC in an effort to overturn net neutrality rules in 2011, and its general counsel Kathy Grillo published a note this April complimenting new FCC chairman Ajit Pai's plan to weaken telecommunication regulations.
Security

How Hollywood Got Hacked: Studio at Center of Netflix Leak Breaks Silence (variety.com) 72

Earlier this year, hackers obtained and leaked the episodes of TV show Orange Is the New Black. In a candid interview, Larson Studios' chief engineer David Dondorf explained how the audio post-production business allowed the hacker group to gain access to the Netflix original content. Dandorf says the company hired private data security experts to find how it was breached. The investigation found that the hacker group had been searching the internet for PCs running older versions of Windows and stumbled across an old computer at Larson Studios still running Windows 7. From the report: Larson's employees just didn't know all that much about it. Having a computer running an ancient version of Windows on the network was clearly a terrible lack of oversight, as was not properly separating internal servers from the internet. "A lot of what went on was ignorance," admitted Rick Larson. "We are a small company. Did we even know what the content security departments were at our clients? Absolutely not. I couldn't have told you who to call. I can now." It's a fascinating story about how the hacker group first made contact and tried to threaten Larson Studios' president and his wife, and how they responded. Worth a read.
Movies

Studio-Defying VidAngel Launches New Video-Filtering Platform (yahoo.com) 201

Last December VidAngel fought three Hollywood studios in court for the right to stream filtered versions of movies. Now fogez reports that "they have come up with a new tactic in their attempts to bring filtering choice into the streaming media equation. Instead of leveraging the legal loophole that landed them in court, VidAngel is now going to insert themselves as a filtering proxy for services like Netflix and Amazon." From the Hollywood Reporter: Its new $7.99 per month service piggybacks on users' streaming accounts. Customers log into the VidAngel app, link it to their other accounts and then filter out the language, nudity and violence in that content to their heart's desire... "Out of the gate we'll be supporting Netflix and Amazon and HBO through Amazon channels," says Harmon, adding that Hulu, iTunes and Vudu will follow... Harmon says it remains to be seen if the studios will fight VidAngel's new platform, but his biggest concern is how Amazon and Netflix will respond. He says his company has reached out to the streamers, and he hopes they'll raise any concerns through conversation instead of litigation... "VidAngel's philosophy is very libertarian," he says. "Let directors create what they want, and let viewers watch how they want in their own home. That kind of philosophy respects the views of both parties."
The original submission describes the conflict as a "freedom of choice versus Hollywood."
Businesses

Netflix Changes Course, Says It Will 'Never Outgrow' Fight For Net Neutrality (vice.com) 107

After a few months of wishy-washy statements on net neutrality indicating that the company had largely given up on it, Netflix is changing course. From a report: On July 12, the video streaming company will join Amazon, Reddit, Pornhub, Imgur, and more to incorporate slowed-down or disrupted service to raise awareness for the importance of strong net neutrality guidelines, giving visitors to its site a taste of what a future without a free and open internet could look like. The protest, organized by Fight for the Future, freepress, and Demand Progress, takes place five days before the first deadline for comments on the FCC's proposal to roll back net neutrality protections. The change in heart comes days after Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said, "[Net neutrality is] not narrowly important to us because we're big enough to get the deals we want."
Television

Netflix Has More American Subscribers Than Cable TV (engadget.com) 74

According to Leichtman Research estimates from the first quarter of 2017, there are more Netflix subscribers in the U.S. (50.85 million) than there are customers for major cable TV networks (48.61 million). While it doesn't mean Netflix is bigger than TV because it doesn't account for the 33.19 million satellite viewers, it represents a huge milestone for a streaming service that had half as many users just 5 years ago. Engadget reports: The shift in power comes in part through Netflix's ever-greater reliance on originals. There's enough high-quality material that it can compete with more established networks. However, it's also getting a boost from the decline of conventional TV. Those traditional sources lost 760,000 subscribers in the first quarter of the year versus 120,000 a year earlier. Leichtman believes a combination of cord cutters and reduced marketing toward cost-conscious viewers is to blame. Cable giants might not be in dire straits, but they're clearly focusing on their most lucrative customers as others jump ship for the internet.
Piracy

HBO, Netflix, Other Hollywood Companies Join Forces To Fight Piracy (theverge.com) 195

New submitter stikves writes: It looks like media and technology companies are forming a group to "fight piracy." The Verge reports: "A group of 30 entertainment companies, including power players like Netflix, HBO, and NBCUniversal, have joined forces today in an effort to fight online piracy. The new group is called the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), and the partnership, while somewhat thin on specifics, will allow the content creators involved to pool resources to conduct research and work closely with law enforcement to find and stop pirates from stealing movies and TV shows. The first-of-its-kind alliance is composed of digital media players, networks, and Hollywood outfits, and all recognize how the internet has paved the way to an explosion in quality online content. However, piracy has boomed as a result: ACE says that last year saw 5.4 billion downloads of pirated films and TV shows." I'm not sure how these statistics hold against real revenue loss (or the imaginary one), however this might be a development to watch for.
Businesses

America's Five Biggest Tech Stocks Lost $97 Billion Friday (yahoo.com) 98

An anonymous reader quotes CNBC: The so-called "big five" -- Apple , Alphabet Class A shares, Microsoft , Facebook and Amazon -- lost more than $97.5 billion in market value between the close on Thursday and the close on Friday, according to FactSet, dragging the Nasdaq to its worst week of the year. Shares of Apple fell nearly 4 percent on Friday, while the other four companies fell more than 3 percent. For most of the day, only 3 stocks in the S&P 500 tech sector were in the green: IBM , Teradata and Western Union . Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, and Alphabet all traded more than 2 times their 30-day average volume... "They're just plain overbought," said David Bahnsen founder, managing director and chief investment officer of The Bahnsen Group, a private wealth management firm. "They are extremely stretched from a valuation standpoint."
CNN notes the drop occurred "after a Goldman Sachs analyst questioned this year's run-up in the industry's five biggest names." They also added that "The top five techs today account for 13% of the market value weighting in the S&P 500, even though they are only 1% of the companies in the index."
Television

Younger Millennials Don't Know What Networks Are Responsible For TV Shows, Unless It's Netflix (thenextweb.com) 185

According to a new report from consulting firm Anatomy Media, millennials aren't able to identify the networks responsible for some of the most popular television shows, unless they're created by Netflix. The report indicates that most viewers age 18-26 can't match television shows from ABC, NBC, FOX, CBS, or Disney to to their respective networks. The Next Web reports: This means Jessica Jones is more likely to resonate with millennials as Netflix original programming than Empire does as a Fox network show. 65-percent of the respondents were able to identify a Netflix show correctly, compared to only 31-percent able to do so for other networks' programming. It was even worse for Amazon -- only 20-percent of the young adults could match its shows correctly. The most coveted demographic in television marketing cares twice as much about Netflix as any other provider -- and nobody cares about Amazon's original programming. A different survey conducted by Fluent Insights asked 3,100 millennials about their television viewing habits: half said they watched television exclusively on mobile or desktop platforms.
Television

Cable TV 'Failing' As a Business, Cable Industry Lobbyist Says (arstechnica.com) 185

According to a cable lobbyist group, cable TV is "failing" as a business due to rising programming costs and consumers switching from traditional TV subscriptions to online video streaming. "As a business, it is failing," said Matthew Polka, CEO of the American Cable Association (ACA). "It is very, very difficult for a cable operator in many cases to even break even on the cable side of the business, which is why broadband is so important, giving consumers more of a choice that we can't give them on cable [TV]." Ars Technica reports: The ACA represents about 750 small and mid-sized cable operators who serve about seven million customers throughout the US. The ACA has also been one of the primary groups fighting broadband regulations, such as net neutrality and online privacy rules, and a now-dead set-top box proposal that would have helped cable TV subscribers watch the channels they subscribe to without a rented set-top box. "The cable business isn't what it used to be because of the high costs," Polka said, pointing to the amount cable TV companies pay programmers for sports, broadcast programming via retransmission consent fees, and other programming. When asked about cord cutting, Polka said, "it's the video issue of our time as consumers learn they have choice" from services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. "It gives consumers more choice, something that they've wanted for a long time, more control from the bundle of cable linear programming," Polka said. "Our members, however, I think are very aggressive in how they are trying to provide consumers that they serve with more choice through on-demand [channels], through availability of over-the-top services, making sure that their broadband plan is fast enough to support a consumer's video habits. So, yes, it's a thing that's happening today, cord cutting, cord shaving. But as an industry, our members are well primed to be able to serve their customers with their broadband service that allows them to consume the video they want."
Television

Hackers Leak Eight Episodes of An Unreleased ABC Show (torrentfreak.com) 87

The hacking entity TheDarkOverlord (TDO) has reportedly leaked Steve Harvey's Funderdome via The Pirate Bay. TDO said they approached ABC "with a most handsome business proposal" not to leak eight episodes of the ABC show but was "rudely denied an audience." TorrentFreak reports: Late April, a hacking group calling itself TheDarkOverlord (TDO) warned that unless a ransom was paid, it would begin leaking a trove of unreleased TV shows and movies. Almost immediately it carried through with its threat by leaking the season five premiere of Netflix's Orange is The New Black. The leak was just the start though, with another nine episodes quickly following. Netflix had clearly refused to pay any ransom. "We've just released ABC's 'Steve Harvey's Funderdome' Season 01 Episodes 01 through 08. This is a completely unaired show," TDO told TF. Ever since there have been suggestions that TDO could leak additional material. It was previously established that the Orange is the New Black leak was the result of a breach at post-production studio Larson Studios. TDO previously indicated that it had more content up its sleeve from the same location. During the past few hours that became evident when a message sent to TF heralded a new leak of yet another unaired show. TDO refused to confirm where it had obtained the content but since the show was present in an earlier list distributed by TDO, it seems possible if not probable that the episodes were also obtained from Larson. We're unwilling to discuss the source of this material, but we'll go on the record stating that this is content that is owned by American Broadcasting Company and it's just been released on the world wide web for everyone's consumption," TDO said.
Businesses

Netflix CEO Says Net Neutrality Is 'Not Our Primary Battle' (theverge.com) 128

Speaking with Recode's Peter Kafka at the Code Conference today, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings explained his position on the current net neutrality debate that's happening at the FCC. Or, more to the point, he addressed the fact that he's been awfully quiet about it compared to how loudly he defended net neutrality in previous fights. From a report: "It's not narrowly important to us because we're big enough to get the deals we want," Hastings said. It was a candid admission: no matter what the FCC decides to do with Title II, Netflix isn't worried about its ability to survive. Hastings says that Netflix is "weighing in against" changing the current rules, but that "it's not our primary battle at this point" and "we don't have a special vulnerability to it." He does believe that smaller players are going to be harmed if net neutrality goes away, saying that "where net neutrality is really important is the Netflix of 10 years ago."
Businesses

Mary Meeker's 2017 Internet Trends Report (recode.net) 40

Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner Mary Meeker delivered her annual rapid-fire internet trends report at Code Conference. Here's the summary: 1. Global smartphone growth is slowing: Smartphone shipments grew 3 percent year over year last year, versus 10 percent the year before.
2. Voice is beginning to replace typing in online queries. Twenty percent of mobile queries were made via voice in 2016, while accuracy is now about 95 percent.
3. In 10 years, Netflix went from 0 to more than 30 percent of home entertainment revenue in the U.S. This is happening while TV viewership continues to decline.
4. Entrepreneurs are often fans of gaming, Meeker said, quoting Elon Musk, Reid Hoffman and Mark Zuckerberg. Global interactive gaming is becoming mainstream, with 2.6 billion gamers in 2017 versus 100 million in 1995.
5. China remains a fascinating market, with huge growth in mobile services and payments and services like on-demand bike sharing.
6. While internet growth is slowing globally, that's not the case in India, the fastest growing large economy. The number of internet users in India grew more than 28 percent in 2016.
7. In the U.S. in 2016, 60 percent of the most highly valued tech companies were founded by first- or second-generation Americans and are responsible for 1.5 million employees. Those companies include tech titans Apple, Alphabet, Amazon and Facebook.
8. Healthcare: Wearables are gaining adoption with about 25 percent of Americans owning one, up 12 percent from 2016.

Cloud

Is Amazon's AWS Hiring 'Demolishing The Cult Of Youth'? (redmonk.com) 173

Tech analyst James Governor argues that Amazon's cloud business is "demolishing the cult of youth." It just announced it is hiring James Gosling, one of the original inventors of Java... Meanwhile James Hamilton continues to completely kick ass in compute, network, and data center design for AWS... He's in his 50s. Tim Bray, one of the inventors of XML, joined Amazon in 2014. He's another Sun alumni. He's 61 now. He still codes. When you sit down with one of the AWS engineering teams you're sitting down with grownups... Adrian Cockcroft joined AWS in October 2016. He graduated in 1982, not 2002. He is VP Cloud Architecture Strategy at AWS, a perfect role for someone that helped drive Netflix's transition from on-prem Java hairball to serious cloud leadership.

Great engineering is not maths -- it involves tradeoffs, wisdom and experience... The company puts such a premium on independent groups working fast and making their own decisions it requires a particular skillset, which generally involves a great deal of field experience. A related trend is hiring seasoned marketing talent from the likes of IBM. Some other older companies have older distinguished engineers because they grew up with the company. AWS is explicitly bringing that experience in. It's refreshing to the see a different perspective on value.

In a later post the analyst acknowledges engineering managers are generally older than their reports, but adds that "If AWS sees value in hiring engineering leadership from folks that are frankly a bit older than the norm in the industry, isn't that worth shining a light on?" In response to the article, XML inventor Tim Bray suggested a new acronym: GaaS. "Geezers as a service," while Amazon CTO Werner Vogels tweeted "There is no compression algorithm for experience."
Security

More Than Half of Streaming Users In US Are Sharing Their Passwords, Says Report (streamingobserver.com) 71

A new study conducted by Fluent shows a majority of Americans are sharing passwords to their streaming video services. While millennials lead the pack, non-millennials are doing the same. Streaming Observer reports: Nearly 3 out of every 4 (72% exactly) Americans who have cable also have access to at least one streaming service and 8% of cable subscribers plan to eliminate their service in the next year. But that doesn't necessarily mean they're paying for their streaming service. New numbers from a study conducted by Fluent show that the majority of Americans are sharing passwords to their streaming video services. Well over half of millennials (aged 18-34) -- 60% -- are either using someone someone else's password or giving their password to someone else. And just under half -- 48% -- of non-millennials are doing the same. The study also revealed that the main factor in what drives consumers to sign up for streaming video services is price, with 34% of Americans saying that low cost was the primary factor. That number jumps to 38% among millennials. When you take in to account that some streaming TV services start with prices as low as $20, it makes sense that price is the biggest issue. Convenience was the next biggest factor, coming in at just below 25%.
Microsoft

Microsoft To Launch Its Netflix-Style Game Pass On June 1; Live Gold Subscribers Get Early Access (polygon.com) 36

Microsoft announced today that Xbox Game Pass, a new subscription service that would allow Xbox One owners to download and play a selection of games for a flat monthly fee, will launch on June 1. From a report: Xbox Live Gold subscribers, however, can access the service starting today, May 24. Microsoft is offering a 14-day free trial of Xbox Game Pass, giving Gold subscribers a chance to preview the service at no cost prior to launch. Xbox Game Pass offers "unlimited access to over one hundred great Xbox One and Xbox 360 titles" for $9.99 per month.
EU

EU Passes 'Content Portability' Rules Banning Geofencing (torrentfreak.com) 119

Long-time Slashdot reader AmiMoJo writes: The European Parliament has passed draft rules mandating 'content portability', i.e. the ability to take your purchased content and services across borders within the EU. Freedom of movement rules, which allow EU citizens to live and work anywhere in the EU, require that the individual is able to take their life with them -- family, property, and services. Under the new rules, someone who pays for Netflix or BBC iPlayer and then moves to another EU country will retain access to those services and the same content they had previously. Separately, rules to prevent geofencing of content within the EU entirely are also moving forward.
Android

Netflix Says No To Unlocked Android Smartphones (androidpolice.com) 255

An anonymous reader writes: Last week Netflix app started showing up as "incompatible" on the Play Store for rooted and unlocked Android devices. However, the app itself continued to work fine, leading some to think it could have been an accident. However, Netflix has now confirmed to blog AndroidPolice that blocking modified devices from downloading the app was intentional. This is the full statement: "With our latest 5.0 release, we now fully rely on the Widevine DRM provided by Google; therefore, many devices that are not Google-certified or have been altered will no longer work with our latest app and those users will no longer see the Netflix app in the Play Store."
Television

Streaming Services Will Pay Writers More Under New Writers Guild Pact (deadline.com) 64

An anonymous reader quotes Deadline: Netflix, Amazon and Hulu will be paying a lot more in writers' residuals under the new WGA film and TV contract. New details, outlined by WGA West, reveal that high-budget shows they run will generate anywhere between $3,448-$34,637 more residuals per episode over the life of the three-year contract than they did under the old contract, depending on the platform and the length of the show. Essentially, it's the same deal the Director's Guild of America got in their negotiations last December. The WGA contract, which has been unanimously approved by the WGA West board and the WGA East council, now goes to the guilds' members for final ratification. Voting begins Friday and concludes May 24.
For every half-hour of a high-budget show, Netflix will be paying $19,058 more in residuals than it did under the old contract.
Movies

Going After Netflix, Cannes Bans Streaming-Only Movies From Competition Slots (slate.com) 136

An anonymous reader writes: The Cannes Film Festival is taking a stand against Netflix. Responding to a rumor that the streaming service's Okja, directed by Bong Joon Ho, and The Meyerowitz Stories, directed by Noah Baumbach, would be excluded from awards consideration after being included in the Competition lineup, the festival released a statement clarifying and adjusting its positioning going forward. The short version: From now on, if you want to compete at Cannes, your movie had better be released in French movie theaters -- not just online. There has long been a point of tension between Cannes and Netflix, to the extent where the inclusion of Okja and The Meyerowitz Stories came as a bit of a surprise. Netflix films had previously been snubbed and festival officials had advocated for "discouraging" the streaming service's online-first approach to release. The two movies included in Cannes' lineup this year are slated for theatrical bows stateside, but according to the festival's official statement, "no agreement has been reached" to get the moves into French cinemas and the effort to reach one was made "in vain." However, the statement does clarify that this rule goes into effect next year, so Okja and The Meyerowitz Stories will remain in competition and eligible for the Palme d'Or.
Television

Hulu Launches Its Live TV Streaming Service (fortune.com) 53

Hulu has officially unveiled its $40-a-month live-television streaming service to help it better compete against larger rivals like Netflix. Fortune reports: On Wednesday morning, Hulu announced the launch of the public beta version of Hulu with Live TV, which starts at $39.99 and allows users to stream live and on-demand programming from more than 50 TV channels running the gamut of live news, entertainment, and sports. The cost of the new service also includes access to Hulu's existing $7.99 premium streaming subscription and access to the company's library of archived content, which includes more than 3,500 film and TV titles. Subscribers to the new live service also get 50 hours of storage for recording programming, the ability to create up to six separate Hulu viewer profiles, and two simultaneous streams per account. The launch comes days after Hulu announced that it secured the final major piece in its live-television puzzle in the form of an agreement with Comcast's NBCUniversal to add several NBC- and Telemundo-owned channels to the Live TV lineup. That deal gave Hulu access to all four major broadcast networks: ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox. The new live service also includes popular cable networks such as CNN, ESPN, FX, Fox News, TBS, TNT, and the Disney Channel. The only premium cable network currently available on the new live service is Showtime, which costs an additional $8.99 per month. Cable networks such as HBO, AMC Networks, Viacom's Comedy Central and MTV are among those not currently included in Hulu's new service, though the company said on Wednesday that additional premium network add-ons will be available soon.

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