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.
Japan

Konami Reportedly Blacklisting Ex-Employees Across Japanese Video Game Industry (arstechnica.com) 120

The Nikkei Asian Review newspaper is reporting that the Japanese entertainment company Konami is blacklisting former employees in the Japanese video game industry. "The company is particularly targeting those who work for Kojima Productions, which was founded in 2016 by Hideo Kojima, who used to be a top designer at Konami," reports Ars Technica. From the report: Furthermore, according to the article, Konami is pressuring other companies not to hire its former employees. As the Nikkei Asian Review wrote: "One ex-Kon described his surprise at learning that Konami had instructed an employee at a television company not to deal with its former employees. In another case, a former Konami executive was forced to close his business due to pressure from the gaming giant. Ex-Kons are not allowed to put their Konami experience on their public resumes. 'If you leave the company, you cannot rely on Konami's name to land a job,' explained a former employee. If an ex-Kon is interviewed by the media, the company will send that person a letter through a legal representative, in some cases indicating that Konami is willing to take them to court."
It's funny.  Laugh.

Marissa Mayer, Yahoo's Ex-CEO, Says She's Looking 'Forward To Using Gmail Again' 187

Former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, who resigned on Tuesday after running the company for about five years, appeared at a conference in London today. At the conference, Mayer said one of the things she was looking forward to in her post-Yahoo life was using Gmail again. "I am always faster when using a tool I designed myself," she added.
United States

Sharp To Americans: You Don't Want to Buy a Sharp-Brand TV (wsj.com) 115

Sharp has sued China's Hisense Electric, which licensed the Sharp brand for televisions sold in the U.S., accusing Hisense of putting the Sharp name on poor-quality TVs and deceptively advertising them (alternative source). From a report: The court action is the latest effort by Osaka-based Sharp to retrieve the right to use its own name when selling TVs in one of the world's largest markets. Sharp is trying to recover its position as a global maker of consumer electronics. Hisense rejected the allegations and said it was selling high-quality televisions under the Sharp name. The dispute illustrates the risks when the owner of a well-known brand name gives up control over products sold under that name.
AI

Microsoft's AI Is the First to Reach a Perfect Ms. Pac-Man Score (theverge.com) 59

Maluuba, a deep-learning team acquired by Microsoft in January, has created an AI system that has achieved the perfect score for Ms. Pac-Man. According to The Verge, the AI system "learned how to reach the game's maximum point value of 999,900 on Atari 2600, using a unique combination of reinforcement learning with a divide-and-conquer method." From the report: Though AI has conquered a wealth of retro games, Ms. Pac-Man has remained elusive for years, due to the game's intentional lack of predictability. Turns out it's a toughie for humans as well. Many have tried to reach Ms. Pac-Man's top score, only coming as close as 266,330 on the Atari 2600 version. The game's elusive 999,900 number though, has so far only been achieved by mortals via cheats. Maluuba was able to use AI to beat the game by tasking out responsibilities, breaking it up into bite-sized jobs assigned to over 150 agents. The team then taught the AI using what they call Hybrid Reward Architecture -- a combination of reinforcement learning with a divide-and-conquer method. Individual agents were assigned piecemeal tasks -- like finding a specific pellet -- which worked in tandem with other agents to achieve greater goals. Maluuba then designated a top agent (Microsoft likens this to a senior manager at a company) that took suggestions from all the agents in order to inform decisions on where to move Ms. Pac-Man. The best results came when individual agents "acted very egotistically" and the top agent focused on what was best for the overall team, taking into account not only how many agents wanted to go in a particular direction, but the importance of that direction.
Toys

How Lego Clicked: The Super Brand That Reinvented Itself (theguardian.com) 191

managerialslime shared an article about how Lego executed "the greatest turnaround in corporate history." The Guardian reports: By 2003 Lego was in big trouble. Sales were down 30% year-on-year and it was $800m in debt. An internal report revealed it hadn't added anything of value to its portfolio for a decade... In 2015, the still privately owned, family controlled Lego Group overtook Ferrari to become the world's most powerful brand. It announced profits of £660m, making it the number one toy company in Europe and Asia, and number three in North America, where sales topped $1bn for the first time. From 2008 to 2010 its profits quadrupled, outstripping Apple's. Indeed, it has been called the Apple of toys: a profit-generating, design-driven miracle built around premium, intuitive, covetable hardware that fans can't get enough of. Last year Lego sold 75bn bricks. Lego people -- "Minifigures" -- the 4cm-tall yellow characters with dotty eyes, permanent grins, hooks for hands and pegs for legs -- outnumber humans. The British Toy Retailers Association voted Lego the toy of the century.
It's a good read. The article describes how CEO Vig Knudstorp curtailed the company's over-expansion -- at one point, Lego had "built its own video games company from scratch, the largest installation of Silicon Graphics supercomputers in northern Europe, despite having no experience in the field." And he also encouraged the company to interact with its fans on the internet -- for example, the crowdsourcing of Ninjago content -- while the company enjoyed new popularity with Mindstorms kits for building programmable Lego robots.
Television

That Time Adam West, TV's 'Batman', Also Advocated For Videogames (twitter.com) 38

Adam West, star of the 1960s TV series Batman, has died at age 88. An anonymous reader shares a memory of that time the 53-year-old actor wrote an op-ed for a 1982 issue of Videogame and Computer Gaming Illustrated. "I've been playing with computers longer than most," West wrote on page 6. [PDF] "I had onboard computers in Robinson Crusoe on Mars, having learned in an episode of TV's The Outer Limits that you can't survive on the Red Planet without them. Then, of course, I was up to my cowl in computers as television's Batman... In 1966, when the series began its three season run, all of that was science fiction. Computers were playthings of the researchers at MIT... Today, a lot of the apparatus we had in Batman -- dressed, of course, in less imposing names -- is fact. And we're lucky this is so."

West called videogames "an ideal means to broaden the imaginations of young people," saying the medium "can expand our awareness of the world as it is, was, or might be. The medium is still in its infancy, but read this again in a few years and see if this prediction hasn't come true: as videogaming grows, we will grow."

My favorite story is how West was cast as Batman after the show's producer spotted his performance as super-spy Agent Q in a commercial for Nestle Quik. And CNN also remembers that "later in life, West made appearances on the animated series 'Family Guy' as Mayor Adam West, the oddball leader of Quahog, Rhode Island."
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.
It's funny.  Laugh.

Tim Cook Takes Swipe at Windows During MIT Commencement (cnet.com) 91

An anonymous reader shares a report: Apple CEO Tim Cook delivered the commencement address at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Friday, and he couldn't help taking a swipe at a rival. In a section of his speech describing his search for answers and tough decisions in college and beyond, he admitted turning to a Microsoft computer. "I went to grad school at Duke, looking for the answer," Cook said. "I tried meditation. I sought guidance and religion. I read great philosophers and authors. In a moment of youthful indiscretion, I might even have experimented with a Windows PC. And obviously that didn't work." The line got a hearty laugh from the crowd.
Entertainment

For the First Time, a Video Game Trailer Is Eligible To Be Nominated For an Academy Award (eurogamer.net) 71

For the first time in 90-year Oscar history, a video game is eligible for an Academy Award, specifically the recently-released game Everything. From a report: The 11-minute trailer for philosophical pontificating simulator Everything is eligible for an Academy Award -- a first for a video game promotion, boasted game developer David OReilly. The marketing material in question is included under the Academy's category "[best] animated short film," which it became eligible for after winning the Jury Prize for animation at the VIS Vienna Shorts film festival. Everything's lengthy trailer focuses on the correlation between the universe's smallest, biggest, and most remote entities, all while being narrated by the late British philosopher Alan Watts.
Movies

What Are Some Documentaries and TV Shows That You Recommend To Others? 278

Reader joshtops writes: Wow thanks for the overwhelming response on my previous post. I'm taking notes and intend to give all of the suggested books a go in the near future. If I may, and I hope the editors approve of this, could you also list some of your favorite TV shows and documentaries? Also, is there any show or documentary you think that changed or influenced your life, or at least your perception on any particular subject?
Television

Apple's 'Planet of the Apps' Reality Show Is 'Bland, Tepid, Barely Competent Knock-off of 'Shark Tank' (variety.com) 78

On Tuesday, Apple made its debut into the world of original television programming with "Planet of the Apps," a reality show that brings app developers in a competition to try to get mentoring and assistance from hosts Jessica Alba, will.i.am, Gwyneth Paltrow and entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk. Contestants describe their proposals as they ride an escalator down onto a stage where the judges sit, and then fire questions at the app developer. The problem? Critics aren't pleased. An anonymous reader shares a Variety report: Apple's first offering, "Planet of the Apps," feels like something that was developed at a cocktail party, and not given much more rigorous thought or attention after the pitcher of mojitos was drained. It's not terrible, but essentially, it's a bland, tepid, barely competent knock-off of " Shark Tank." Apple made its name on game-changing innovations, but this show is decidedly not one of them. The program's one slick innovation is the escalator pitch. You read that right; I didn't mistype "elevator pitch." The show begins with an overly brief set-up segment, which doesn't spend much time explaining the rules of the show, and which also assumes that a viewer will know who host Zane Lowe is, though a reasonably large chunk of the audience won't. Soon enough, app developers step into a pitch room with a very long escalator in the middle of it. As the four judges listen (often with looks of glacial boredom on their faces), the aspiring creators have one minute of escalator time to tout the product they want funding for. After the app makers get to the bottom of the conveyance, the judges (or "advisors") vote yea or nay. As long as one judge has given the developers a green light, they can continue making their pitch.
Music

Apple Adds Support For FLAC Lossless Audio In iOS 11 (thenextweb.com) 49

Reddit users who have installed copies of the developer beta of iOS 11 are reporting that Apple has finally added support for lossless FLAC audio files in their new mobile operating system. The Next Web reports: The functionality was first spotted on an iPhone 6S Plus running iOS 11 Beta 1 and is reportedly available as part of the newly announced file-management app, Files. Up until now, Apple had deliberately opted to ignore offering playback support for FLAC files in both iTunes and iOS -- though there are numerous third-party apps to do the trick. But it appears things are finally about to change.
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.
Music

Apple Announces Its 'Next Breakthrough' Product: the HomePod (techcrunch.com) 198

Apple unveiled its home speaker during WWDC 2017 on Monday. The device, called HomePod, will go toe-to-toe with existing competitors such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home. Apple said it wanted to combine good speakers with smart speakers you can talk to, referencing Sonos and Amazon Alexa. It said the speaker "needs to rock the house" free from distortion. It also needs to have "spatial awareness" to make the music sound good no matter the room size. It also needs to be fun to use, Apple said, adding that the HomePod does all of this with a customer's privacy in mind. From a report: The device is a pill-shaped circular speaker. It has 7 beam-forming tweeter array. It has a custom-made woofer and an Apple A8 chip. It has multi-channel echo cancellation, real-time acoustic modeling and more. The HomePod can scan the space around it to optimize audio accordingly. Schiller spent a lot of time talking about how good it sounds. Of course the speaker works well with Apple Music. You can talk to the speaker to play anything in your Apple Music library and more. You can say "play more songs like that," or "I like this song." [...] It's going to cost $349. It comes in white and space grey. It starts shipping in the U.S., the U.K. and Australia. Other countries will get HomePods next year.
Books

JRR Tolkien Book 'Beren and Luthien' Published After 100 Years (bbc.com) 94

seoras quotes a report from BBC: A new book by Lord of the Rings author JRR Tolkien is going on sale -- 100 years after it was first conceived. Beren and Luthien has been described as a "very personal story" that the Oxford professor thought up after returning from the Battle of the Somme. It was edited by his son Christopher Tolkien and contains versions of a tale that became part of The Silmarillion. The book features illustrations by Alan Lee, who won an Academy Award for his work on Peter Jackson's film trilogy. It is being published on Thursday by HarperCollins on the 10th anniversary of the last Middle Earth book, The Children of Hurin.
Youtube

YouTube Clarifies 'Hate Speech' Definition and Which Videos Won't Be Monetized (arstechnica.com) 271

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: In a blog post, YouTube outlined more specific definitions of hate speech and what kinds of incendiary content wouldn't be eligible for monetization. Three categories are classified as hate speech, with the broadest one being "hateful content." YouTube is defining this as anything that "promotes discrimination or disparages or humiliates an individual or group of people on the basis of the individual's or group's race, ethnicity, or ethnic origin, nationality, religion, disability, age, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or other characteristic associated with systematic discrimination or marginalization." The second category is "inappropriate use of family entertainment characters," which means content showing kid-friendly characters in "violent, sexual, vile, or otherwise inappropriate behavior," no matter if the content is satirical or a parody. The final category is somewhat broad: "incendiary and demeaning content" means that anything "gratuitously" demeaning or shameful toward an individual or group is prohibited. The updated guidelines are a response to creators asking YouTube to clarify what will and will not be deemed advertiser-friendly. YouTube acknowledges that its systems still aren't perfect, but it says it's doing its best to inform creators while maintaining support for advertisers. YouTube also launched a new course in its Creator Academy that creators can take to learn more about how to make "content appealing for a broad range of advertisers."
Piracy

Hollywood Sees Illegal Streaming Devices as 'Piracy 3.0' (torrentfreak.com) 178

After hunting down torrent sites for more than a decade, Hollywood now has a more complex piracy threat to deal with. From a report: Piracy remains a major threat for the movie industry, MPA Stan McCoy said yesterday during a panel session at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. Much like Hollywood, copyright infringers are innovators who constantly change their "business models" and means of obtaining content. Where torrents were dominant a few years ago, illegal streaming devices are now the main threat, with McCoy describing their rise as Piracy 3.0. "Piracy is not a static challenge. The pirates are great innovators in their own right. So even as we innovate in trying to pursue these issues, and pursue novel ways of fighting piracy, the pirates are out there coming up with new business models of their own," McCoy said. "If you think of old-fashioned peer-to-peer piracy as 1.0, and then online illegal streaming websites as 2.0, in the audio-visual sector, in particular, we now face challenge number 3.0, which is what I'll call the challenge of illegal streaming devices."

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