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Movies

CBS, Paramount Settle Lawsuit Over 'Star Trek' Fan Film (hollywoodreporter.com) 136

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Hollywood Reporter: Stand down from battle stations. Star Trek rights holders CBS and Paramount have seen the logic of settling a copyright suit against Alec Peters, who solicited money on crowdfunding sites and hired professionals to make a YouTube short and a script of a planned feature film focused on a fictional event -- a Starfleet captain's victory in a war with the Klingon Empire -- referenced in the original 1960s Gene Roddenberry television series. Thanks to the settlement, CBS and Paramount won't be going to trial on Stardate 47634.44, known to most as Jan. 31, 2017. According to a joint statement, "Paramount Pictures Corporation, CBS Studios Inc., Axanar Productions, Inc. and Alec Peters are pleased to announce that the litigation regarding Axanar's film Prelude to Axanar and its proposed film Axanar has been resolved. Axanar and Mr. Peters acknowledge that both films were not approved by Paramount or CBS, and that both works crossed boundaries acceptable to CBS and Paramount relating to copyright law." Peters' Axanar video and script, which feature such arguably copyrighted elements as Vulcan ears, the Klingon language and an obscure character from a 1969 episode, sparked a lawsuit in December 2015. The litigation then proceeded at warp speed with the case almost making it to trial in just 13 months, an amazingly brisk pace by typical standards. When Axanar comes out, it will look different. "Axanar and Mr. Peters have agreed to make substantial changes to Axanar to resolve this litigation, and have also assured the copyright holders that any future Star Trek fan films produced by Axanar or Mr. Peters will be in accordance with the 'Guidelines for Fan Films' distributed by CBS and Paramount in June 2016," states the parties' joint announcement of a settlement.
Communications

Jay Z's Tidal Music Streaming Service Is Fraudulently Inflating Subscriber Numbers, Report Says (digitalmusicnews.com) 32

A new report published by Markus Tobiassen and Kjetil Saeter of Norwegian publication Dagens Naeringsliv is accusing Jay Z's Tidal music streaming service of fabricating their subscriber numbers by creating fake accounts and lying to the media and partners. The company claims to have more than 3 million paying subscribers with more than half of those paying $20-a-month. Digital News Music reports: Tobiassen and Saeter interviewed staffers at TIDAL, as well as partners and confidential sources. And the information that came back was pretty damning. "When 16 of the world's biggest pop stars, one a convicted cocaine smuggler and a former Israeli intelligence officer was not able to obtain enough customers to Jay Z's Tidal, the company began to inflate subscription numbers," the report alleges. DMN spoke this morning with Tobiassen, who offered a translation of the report. "On March 30th of last year, Tidal issued a press release stating that the company had reached 'three million members,'" the report states. "The news story reported worldwide was that Tidal had three million paying subscribers. Tidal also specified to online newspaper The Verge that this figure did not include trial subscribers. This was the last time Tidal reported a total number of subscribers to the public." The only problem with that? "In April 2016, one month after the press release issued by the company claiming three million members, Tidal made payments to the record labels for around 850,000 subscribers. The figure reported internally by Tidal in April is 1.2 million subscribers." The report further states that Tidal itself reported a figure of 1.1 million to the major record labels in late 2016. In other words, nowhere near the numbers reported to media outlets like Digital Music News and Verge.
AT&T

Despite Glitches, AT&T's DirecTV Now Hits 200,000 Subscribers in Its First Month (techcrunch.com) 25

AT&T's new live TV streaming service DirecTV Now has been off to a shaky start in terms of performance, but that hasn't stemmed the flow of sign-ups, AT&T reports. The company said the service added more than 200,000 subscribers in its first month of operations. From a report on TechCrunch: These details were included in an SEC filing for the quarter ending on December 31, 2016. DirecTV Now launched on November 30, 2016. The filing also notes the additions only include paying customers. To be clear, there's no free tier for DirecTV Now, but the company has been offering free trials so customers can kick the tires before committing to a subscription plan. Of course, it's not entirely surprising that DirecTV Now was able to gain so many customers in such a short period of time. On paper, at least, the service sounds compelling.
Sony

Sony Is Weighing a Sale of Film, TV Business (nypost.com) 34

Sony could be exploring the sale of its film and television unit just a week after announcing the departure of Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton. From a report: Tokyo's Sony Corp. is listening to bank pitches about a potential sale of its film and TV operations, several sources told The Post. "Every bank is pushing pitches," said one person familiar with the process. Another confirmed that banks have paid a flurry of visits to Tokyo to advise on a sale of Sony's film and TV business. The Post was first to report that the Japanese owners were ready to listen to bid proposals if they had the right number attached. CBS CEO Leslie Moonves has long signaled interest in acquiring the asset, though several Chinese bidders could be in the wings. Sony CEO Kaz Hirai has denied any intent to sell the firm during the five years he's been in the top slot at the company. Still, he has not appointed a successor to Lynton, despite knowing of his intention to depart for some time. That has sparked speculation that there may be no position to fill.
Movies

Star Trek Discovery Gets Delayed Again As Spock's Father Is Cast (hollywoodreporter.com) 157

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Hollywood Reporter: CBS All Access' Star Trek: Discovery has been delayed again as the series continues casting. The revival for the streaming platform has cast James Frain as Spock's father, producer CBS Television Studios announced Wednesday, as sources confirm that the show's planned May debut has been pushed. "Production on Star Trek: Discovery begins next week. We love the cast, the scripts and are excited about the world the producers have created," reps for CBS All Access said in a statement. "This is an ambitious project; we will be flexible on a launch date if it's best for the show. We've said from the beginning it's more important to do this right than to do it fast. There is also added flexibility presenting on CBS All Access, which isn't beholden to seasonal premieres or launch windows." Frain will play Sarek, the famed father of Spock who was first introduced in the original Star Trek and who has made several appearances throughout the franchise's many incarnations over the past five decades. The CBS All Access show features the franchise's Enterprise, now known as the U.S.S. Discovery. The drama will introduce new characters seeking new worlds and civilizations while exploring the dramatic contemporary themes that have been a signature of the franchise since its inception in 1966. Star Trek: Discovery was originally scheduled to debut in January and was pushed back to May, with The Good Wife spinoff The Good Fight now set to be the first scripted offering on CBS All Access, the network's VOD platform. This marks the second delay for the series, which saw former showrunner Bryan Fuller step down to focus on his Starz drama American Gods.
Television

3D TV Is Dead (cnet.com) 379

While Samsung dropped 3D support in 2016, LG and Sony -- the last two major TV makers to support the 3D feature in their TVs -- will stop doing so in 2017. None of their TVs, including the high-end OLED TV models, will be able to show 3D movies and TV shows. As a result, 3D TV is dead. The question is no longer when (or even why) 3D TVs will become obsolete, it's will 3D TVs ever rise again? CNET reports: The 3D feature has been offered on select televisions since 2010, when the theatrical success of "Avatar" in 3D helped encourage renewed interest in the technology. In addition to a 3D-capable TV, it requires specialized glasses for each viewer and the 3D version of a TV show or movie -- although some TVs also offer a simulated 3D effect mode. Despite enthusiasm at the box office and years of 3D TVs being available at affordable prices, the technology never really caught on at home. DirecTV canceled its 24/7 3D channel in 2012 and ESPN followed suit a year later. There are plenty of 3D Blu-ray discs still being released, such as "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," but if you want to watch them at home you'll need a TV from 2016 or earlier -- or a home theater projector. Those market trends are clear: Sales of 3D home video gear have declined every year since 2012. According to data from the NPD Group, 3D TV represents just 8 percent of total TV sales dollars for the full year of 2016, down from 16 percent in 2015 and 23 percent in 2012. Native 3D-capable Blu-ray players fell to just 11 percent of the market in 2016, compared to 25 percent in 2015 and 40 percent in 2012. As for whether or not 3D TVs will ever become popular again, David Katzmaier writes via CNET, based on his own "anecdotal experience as a TV reviewer": Over the years, the one thing most people told me about the 3D feature on their televisions was that they never used it. Sure, some people occasionally enjoyed a 3D movie on Blu-ray, but the majority of people I talked to tried it once or twice, maybe, then never picked up the glasses again. I don't think most viewers will miss 3D. I have never awarded points in my reviews for the feature, and 3D performance (which I stopped testing in 2016) has never figured into my ratings. I've had a 3D TV at home since 2011 and I've only used the feature a couple of times, mainly in brief demos to friends and family. Over the 2016 holiday break I offered my family the choice to watch "The Force Awakens" in 2D or 3D, and (after I reminded everyone they had to wear the glasses) 2D was the unanimous choice. But some viewers will be sad to see the feature go. There's even a change.org petition for LG to bring back the feature, which currently stands at 3,981 supporters. Of course 3D TV could come back to life, but I'd be surprised if it happened before TV makers perfect a way to watch it without glasses.
The Internet

Netflix Calls Out HBO For Not Letting Subscribers Binge On New Shows (arstechnica.com) 57

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Netflix has gleefully poked a stick at its competitors in the video streaming market, after revealing it had added more than seven million subscribers to its service in the last three months of 2016. HBO also got a special mention. In a letter to shareholders, the company's boss Reed Hastings teased the TV drama maker by noting that, if the BBC was willing to stream shows before they air on television, then maybe HBO -- which has rigidly stuck to its strategy of eking out episodes to viewers -- should do the same. He said: "[...] the BBC has become the first major linear network to announce plans to go binge-first with new seasons, favoring internet over linear viewers. We presume HBO is not far behind the BBC. In short, it's becoming an Internet TV world, which presents both challenges and opportunities for Netflix as we strive to earn screen time." But it's worth noting that HBO currently has an exclusive deal with Sky in the UK, Ireland, Germany, Austria, and Italy, allowing the broadcaster to have first-run rights on the likes of Game of Thrones and Westworld until 2020 -- so any such change isn't likely to happen in the near-term. Late last year, it struck a deal with Netflix rival Amazon, allowing Prime members in the US to sign up for a monthly HBO subscription. "We have a very successful partnership with this great company that continues to evolve," said HBO exec Sofia Chang in December. The company's HBO Now streaming service shows no sign of shifting strategy, either, with programs airing simultaneously on traditional TV and online.
United States

32% of All US Adults Watch Pirated Content (torrentfreak.com) 252

Nearly a third of all US adults admit to having downloaded or streamed pirated movies or TV-shows, a new survey has found. Even though many are aware that watching pirated content is not permitted, a large number of pirates are particularly hard to deter. According to a report from TorrentFreak: This is one of the main conclusions of research conducted by anti-piracy firm Irdeto, which works with prominent clients including Twentieth Century Fox and Starz. Through YouGov, the company conducted a representative survey of over 1,000 respondents which found that 32 percent of all US adults admit to streaming or downloading pirated video content. These self-confessed pirates are interested in a wide variety of video content. TV-shows and movies that still play in theaters are on the top of the list for many, with 24 percent each, but older movies, live sports and Netflix originals are mentioned as well. The data further show that the majority of US adults (69%) know that piracy is illegal. Interestingly, this also means that a large chunk of the population believes that they're doing nothing wrong.
Businesses

Netflix's Subscriber Boom Shows the World is Accepting Internet TV (cnbc.com) 145

Netflix's boom in subscribers is a sign that the world is accepting internet TV, meaning without commercials and on-demand, said CEO Reed Hastings during an earnings call with investors. From a report: "The basic demand is increasing as people get more comfortable and more aware of Internet television where you don't get the commercial interruptions, where you get to watch where and when you want," said Hastings. Netflix reported $2.47 billion in revenue during Q4 2016, and earnings per share of 15 cents. The streaming giant wildly beat its original projections for subscriber additions, bringing in 7.05 million new customers compared to its Q3 estimate of 5.2 million. The majority of adds were from international viewers. Even though some shows -- like "Gilmore Girls" -- started as traditional TV shows before moving to Netflix, a large part of the draw for new subscribers came from original shows. Almost half of the most searched for shows this year were Netflix originals, said Ted Sarandos, chief content officer. The company has 42 launches coming up, including Marvel's "Iron Fist" and Drew Barrymore's zombie comedy "Santa Clarita Diet."
PlayStation (Games)

Report: PS4 Is Selling Twice As Well As Xbox One (arstechnica.com) 132

The latest numbers released by analysts suggest that the Sony PlayStation 4 is selling twice as many units worldwide as the Xbox One since both systems launched in late 2013. The data comes from a new SuperData report on the Nintendo Switch, which is backed up by Niko Partners analyst Daniel Ahmad. SuperData mentions an installed base of 26 million Xbox One units and 55 million PS4 units. Ars Technica reports: Ahmad's chart suggests that Microsoft may have sold slightly more than half of the 53.4 million PS4 units that Sony recently announced it had sold through January 1. Specific numbers aside, though, it's clear Microsoft has done little to close its console sales gap with Sony over the past year -- and may have actually lost ground in that time. The last time we did our own estimate of worldwide console sales, through the end of 2015, we showed the Xbox One with about 57 percent as many systems sold as the PS4 (21.49 million vs. 37.7 million). That lines up broadly with numbers leaked by EA at the time, which suggest the Xbox One had sold about 52.9 percent as well as the PS4 (19 million vs. 35.9 million). One year later, that ratio has dipped to just above or even a bit below 50 percent, according to these reports. The relative sales performance of the Xbox One and PS4 doesn't say anything direct about the health or quality of those platforms, of course. Microsoft doesn't seem to be in any danger of abandoning the Xbox One platform any time soon and has, in fact, recently committed to upgrading it via Project Scorpio later this year. The gap between PS4 and Xbox One sales becomes important only if it becomes so big that publishers start to consider the Xbox One market as a minor afterthought that can be safely ignored for everything but niche games.
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Japan To End Tourists' Toilet Trouble With Standardised Buttons (theguardian.com) 186

The Japan Sanitary Equipment Industry Association, a consortium of companies producing plumbing products has agreed to unify the iconography used on the often baffling control panels for Japanese toilets. From a report on The Guardian: Navigating the array of buttons on Japan's high-tech toilets can be a disconcerting experience for the uninitiated, who, expecting to hear a familiar flushing sound, are instead subjected to a sudden, and unwanted, cleansing of the nether regions. As Japan prepares for an influx of overseas visitors during the 2019 rugby World Cup and the Tokyo Olympics the following year, the country's sanitation industry has agreed to standardize pictograms on toilets so users know for certain if they are about to receive a blast of warm air or a jet of water. Nine manufacturers belonging to the Japan sanitary equipment industry association will soon start using the same eight symbols to explain the buttons found on their state-of-the-art WCs. At a launch event this week, the firms said they had agreed to simplify the pictography in response to complaints from tourists that they are confused by symbols that differ depending on the make of toilet. In a survey of 600 foreign visitors, a quarter said they could not understand some of the symbols that appear on the toilet buttons.
Businesses

Verizon Looking To Buy Comcast or Charter, Says Report (nypost.com) 82

"Two well-placed sources" told The New York Post that Verizon is considering purchasing a big cable company to help it grow demand for its wireless data products. The source said the most likely targets would be "Charter or Comcast." New York Post reports: Verizon Chief Executive Lowell McAdam may be getting ready to answer rival ATT's moves to buy DirecTV and Time Warner. To be sure, Verizon is not in talks with any cable company and may not ever make such a move. Still, McAdam has been under pressure recently with Verizon's deal to acquire Yahoo still a question mark months after two major hacks of the internet portal were revealed. The wireless giants operate on 4G wireless networks but are preparing to become a real alternative to the cable company with phone, TV and data services. To do that more effectively, the phone companies are pouring money into 5G connections that can work with cable systems to provide more stable coverage for consumers. McAdam has already given Wall Street analysts and investors big hints that he's looking at a combination with, say, a Charter Communications. In a mid-December meeting with Wall Street analysts, McAdam said a get-together between the two "makes industrial sense." Three weeks later, at CES, his comments to friends make it clear that cable distribution is a path he is exploring, perhaps more seriously than first thought. "For regulatory reasons, Verizon can't dominate in FiOS and cable, so it appears to have to set its sights on cable," an industry source said. Charter could be a seller under the right conditions, the source added, emphasizing that Malone and Charter CEO Tom Rutledge are just getting going on their vision for Charter.
Google

Porn Pirates Exploit Well-Known Loophole To Upload Raunchy Videos On YouTube (thenextweb.com) 91

Adult video websites appear to be exploiting a YouTube loophole to host explicit material on the platform. An anonymous reader shares a report on The Next Web: A number of adult streaming websites have begun using a known backdoor that ultimately makes it possible to store infringing material on Google's servers -- entirely free of charge. To pull this off, the pirates essentially take advantage of YouTube's option to upload content without sharing it publicly, which effectively allows them to embed the videos on their websites and bypass Google's Content-ID takedown system. This means the content remains unlisted on YouTube and is served directly from the GoogleVideo.com domain instead. While the move hasn't gone unnoticed by the porn industry, California-based adult content-maker Dreamroom Productions claims it has made it much harder for producers to hunt down and flag infringing material, since the videos are not shared publicly.
Movies

Netflix is 'Killing' DVD Sales, Research Finds (torrentfreak.com) 306

Netflix has become the go-to destination for many movie and TV fans. The service is bringing in billions for copyright holders, but it also has a downside. New research shows that the availability of content on Netflix can severely hurt physical disc sales, which traditionally have been the industry's largest revenue source. From a report: A new study published by researchers from Hong Kong universities provides some empirical evidence on this issue. Through a natural experiment, they looked at the interplay between Netflix availability and DVD sales in the United States. The experiment took place when the Epix entertainment network, which distributes movies and TV-shows from major studios including Paramount and Lionsgate, left Netflix for Hulu in 2015. Since Hulu has a much smaller market share, these videos no longer reached a large part of the audience. At least not by default. The researchers used difference to examine the effect on DVD sales, while controlling for various other variables. The results, published in a paper this week, show that DVD sales increased significantly after the content was taken off Netflix, almost by a quarter. "Our difference-in-difference analyses show that the decline in the streaming availability of Epix's content leads to a 24.7% increase in their DVD sales in the three months after the event," the paper reads.
Movies

Apple Exec Jimmy Iovine Confirms Company's Interest in Making 'Pop Culture' TV Shows (hollywoodreporter.com) 85

Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Apple is working to bring in veteran producers to help create original content, including TV series and movies. Apple Music head Jimmy Iovine has all but confirmed the report and company's intentions to expand. From a report: "We're going to do whatever hits popular cultural smack on the nose," Iovine said when asked about Apple's reported expansion. Days after The Wall Street Journal's report that Apple plans to expand into original TV series and movies, Apple executive Jimmy Iovine hinted at what that might look like. "At Apple Music, what we're trying to create is an entire cultural, pop cultural experience, and that happens to include audio and video," he told reporters at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour. "If South Park walks into my office, I am not going to say you're not musicians, you know?" Iovine continued when pressed about the report. "We're going to do whatever hits popular culture smack on the nose. We're going to try."

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