Television

Cord-Cutters Are Ditching Their Cable Packages At the Fastest Rate Ever (axios.com) 129

Sara Fischer, writing for Axios: Cord-cutters are ditching their cable packages at the fastest rate ever, opting instead for cheaper, bundled digital TV options, according to the latest Magid Broadcast Study. The trend reflects consumers' preferences to ditch bundled cable packages for more affordable, niche bundled services that can be accessed on TV box tops or on mobile. For consumers, there are more bundled packages than ever, all popping up around similar price ranges. YouTube TV and Hulu TV launched within the past two month, joining the likes of SlingTV and DirectTV Now -- all at a roughly $40 monthly price point -- a bargain considering the average American pays $92 monthly for cable.
Businesses

The Cable TV Industry Is Getting Even Less Popular (fortune.com) 78

Aaron Pressman, writing for Fortune: It seems nobody loves their cable TV or home Internet provider. Wireless carriers, however, are on the upswing.That's the news from the huge annual survey of 43 industries from the American Customer Satisfaction Index. In 2017, cable operators and ISP tied for last place, with an average customer satisfaction rating of just 64 percent. The wireless industry was still near the bottom of the rankings, in 38th place, just below the U.S. postal system. But its 73 percent score was up almost three percentage points from last year. Many of the same companies, like Comcast and Verizon, dominate both fields, ACSI noted. And neither industry offer much choice to consumers, with most localities having only one or two cable and Internet providers. The cable industry's rating slipped 1.5 percentage points from last year, while the rating for ISPs was unchanged.
Facebook

Facebook Signs BuzzFeed, Vox, Others For Original Video Shows (reuters.com) 15

Facebook has signed deals with Vox Media, BuzzFeed, ATTN, Group Nine Media and others to make shows for its upcoming video service, which will feature long and short-form content with ad breaks. The social media company is reportedly set to pay up to $250,000 for the longer, scripted shows. Reuters reports: Facebook is planning two tiers of video entertainment: scripted shows with episodes lasting 20 to 30 minutes, which it will own; and shorter scripted and unscripted shows with episodes lasting about 5 to 10 minutes, which Facebook will not own, according to the sources. For the second tier of shorter shows, Facebook will pay $10,000 to $35,000 for each show and give creators 55 percent of revenue from ads, the sources said. Ads will run during both the long-form and short-form shows.
Space

Could Giant Alien Structures Be Dimming a Far Away Star? (sciencemag.org) 391

sciencehabit quotes a report from Science Magazine: Astronomers and alien life enthusiasts alike are buzzing over the sudden dimming of an otherwise unremarkable star 1300 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus. KIC 8462852 or "Tabby's star" has dimmed like this several times before, prompting some researchers to suggest that the megastructures of an advanced alien civilization might be blocking its light. And now -- based on new data from numerous telescopes -- it's doing it again. "This is the first clear dip we have seen since [2013], and the first we have ever caught in real time," says Jason Wright, an astronomer at Pennsylvania State University in State College. If they can rope in more telescopes, astronomers hope to gather enough data to finally figure out what's going on. "This could be the first of several dips about to come," says astronomer David Kipping of Columbia University. "Many observers will be closely watching." KIC 8462852 was first noticed to be dipping in brightness at seemingly random intervals between 2011 and 2013 by NASA's Kepler telescope. Kepler, launched to observe the stellar dimmings caused when an exoplanet passes in front of its star, revealed that the dimming of Tabby's star was much more erratic than a typical planetary transit. It was also more extreme, with its brightness sometimes dropping by as much as 20%. This was not the passage of a small circular planet, but of something much larger and more irregular.
Movies

Resident Evil Getting Rebooted Into a Six-Film Franchise (variety.com) 198

Martin Moszkowicz, chairman of the board at Constantin Film, confirmed to Variety at the Cannes Film Festival that the "Resident Evil" movie franchise is getting rebooted into a six-film franchise. From the report: The franchise was set to end with this year's "Resident Evil: The Final Chapter," which grossed $312 million worldwide after its January release, including an eye-popping $160 million in China alone. Sony helped sow the seeds of success by securing a release for "Resident Evil: Afterlife" and "Resident Evil: Extinction" in China. Based on the Capcom video game, the series launched in 2002 with Paul W.S. Anderson directing, and Anderson, Jeremy Bolt, Bernd Eichinger, and Samuel Hadida producing the first of a six-movie series. The "Resident Evil" movie franchise has earned $1.2 billion worldwide to date, making it Europe's most successful independent horror-genre movie franchise in history and the highest-grossing film series to be based on a video game.
Movies

Movie Piracy Blackmail Plot Fails In India, Six Arrested (torrentfreak.com) 47

An anonymous reader quote's TorrentFreak's report about "a plot against Baahubali 2: The Conclusion, a record-breaking movie taking India by storm." Someone posing as a "film anti-piracy activist" told the company that a pirated copy of the movie had been obtained and if a ransom wasn't paid, a leak onto the Internet would be inevitable... Following the call Arka Mediaworks immediately involved the police, who advised the company to engage the 'kidnappers' in dialog to obtain proof that they had the movie in question. That was delivered in the form of a high-definition sample of the movie, a move that was to mark the beginning of the end for those attempting to extort Arka Mediaworks. It's unclear whether those who sent the sample were aware, but the movie was forensically or otherwise marked, something which allowed police and investigators to track the copy back to a specific theater... shortly after the owner of the theater was arrested by police. This was followed by the arrest of the person who allegedly called Arka Mediaworks with the ransom demand. From there, police were led to other co-conspirators. In total, six arrests were made, with two of the men already known to police.
TorrentFreak calls the ransoming of movies "a worrying trend in 2017" that's "damaging the image of piracy further, if that was even possible."
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.
Space

Scientists Claim 'Cold Spot' In Space Could Offer Evidence of a Parallel Universe (inhabitat.com) 124

New submitter LCooke writes: A international research team led by the University of Durham thinks a mysterious cold spot in the universe could offer evidence of a parallel universe. The cold spot could have resulted after our universe collided with another. Physicist Tom Shanks said, [...] "the cold spot might be taken as the first evidence for the multiverse -- and billions of other universes may exist like our own." From the report via Inhabitat: "NASA first discovered the baffling cold spot in 2004. The cold spot is 1.8 billion light years across and, as you may have guessed, colder than what surrounds it in the universe. Scientists thought perhaps it was colder because it had 10,000 less galaxies than other regions of similar size. They even thought perhaps the cold spot was just a trick of the light. But now an international team of researchers think perhaps the cold spot could actually offer evidence for the concept of a multiverse. The Guardian explains an infinite number of universes make up a multiverse; each having its own reality different from ours. These scientists say they've ruled out the last-ditch optical illusion idea. Instead, they think our universe may have collided with another in what News.com.au described as something like a car crash; the impact could have pushed energy away from an area of space to result in the cold spot." The study has been published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Television

Families Will Spend More Than a Third of Summer Staring At Screens (betanews.com) 103

Reader BrianFagioli writes: A new survey reveals that families will spend more than a third of the 2017 summer season with their eyes glued to some sort of screen. To make matters worse, parents say that while they would prefer to do more activities away from devices, outings are far too expensive. A typical weekend family getaway with all things factored in, could average $2,328. Sadly, the overuse of "screens" are negatively impacting the health and behavior of children too. "With warmer weather finally arriving in most parts of the country and the school year winding down to a close, Groupon asked 1,000 U.S. parents how much time their families plan to spend on their electronic devices this summer -- and the results were staggering. The average American family will spend an average of 35 days of their summer, which is the equivalent of more than one-third, using their electronic devices. The survey, which was conducted for Groupon's Funtacular Fun Fest, found that the average child will watch an estimated 60 movies and play 150 hours of video games over the summer months," says Groupon.
Sci-Fi

Star Trek Discovery's First Trailer Brings a New Ship, New Characters, and Old Conflicts (cbs.com) 507

nyquil superstar writes: Hey all, the Star Trek: Discovery trailer is out. Looks entertaining! From a report via Vox: "The trailer features Sonequa Martin-Green, fresh from The Walking Dead, as Michael Burnham, a first officer promoted unexpectedly to the position of captain by her mentor, Captain Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh). Set 10 years before the original Star Trek series (and 90 years after the franchise's only other prequel, Star Trek: Enterprise), the new series follows the starship Discovery as Burnham learns to become a captain. But she soon finds her abilities tested by a host of challenges that will be familiar to all lovers of the classic sci-fi universe: new worlds to explore and alliances to forge, hostile Klingons, and the difficulty of adhering to the Federation's peacekeeping mission."
Google

Google Home Gets Notifications, Hands-Free Calling, a TV Interface and More (theverge.com) 37

Google has announced several news features for Google Home to help it better compete against the Amazon Echo. The six new features coming to Google Home include: notifications, free calling to phones in the U.S. and Canada, calendar and reminders, more streaming services, a TV interface, and new locations. The Verge details each feature in its report: Notifications: Google calls this feature "proactive assistance." Essentially, Google Home will do its best to alert owners to things they need to know, like reminders, traffic alerts, or flight delays.
Free Calling To Phones In U.S. and Canada: Google is one-upping Amazon by letting the Home dial out to actual landline and mobile phones. Whenever this feature rolls out, you'll be able to ask the Home to call anyone on your contacts list, and it'll dial out to them on a private number.
Calendar and Reminders: You can finally set reminders and calendar entries. Finally.
More Streaming Services: Google Home has already been able to control a handful of music and video services, but it's about to get a bunch of major missing names. For music, that includes Spotify's free tier, Deezer, and SoundCloud. For video, it includes HBO Now and Hulu. On top of that, Home is also getting the ability to stream anything over Bluetooth.
A TV Interface: Sometimes you actually want to see what's going on, so Google's making a TV interface for the Google Home. You'll soon be able to ask the Home to send information to your TV, from basics like the weather and your calendar, to information it's looking up like nearby restaurants or YouTube videos you might want to watch.
New Locations: The Home is going to expand to five new countries this summer: Canada, Australia, France, Germany, and Japan.

Piracy

Popular Torrent Site ExtraTorrent Permanently Shuts Down (torrentfreak.com) 169

ExtraTorrent, the world's second largest torrent index, on Wednesday said it is permanently shutting its doors. The site, which launched in 2006, had steadily climbed the ranks in the piracy world to become the second most popular torrent site, observing millions of daily views. TorrentFreak adds: "ExtraTorrent with all mirrors goes offline.. We permanently erase all data. Stay away from fake ExtraTorrent websites and clones. Thx to all ET supporters and torrent community. ET was a place to beâ¦." TorrentFreak reached out to ExtraTorrent operator SaM who confirmed that this is indeed the end of the road for the site. "It's time we say goodbye," he said, without providing more details. [...] ExtraTorrent is the latest in a series of BitTorrent giants to fall in recent months. Previously, sites including KickassTorrents, Torrentz.eu, TorrentHound and What.cd went offline.
AI

Amazon Targets Cord Cutters With First-Ever Integrated Fire TV Sets (variety.com) 80

An anonymous reader writes: Amazon is going to start shipping TV sets powered by the company's own smart TV operating system soon: The company began listing Element's Fire TV Edition TV sets for pre-order Tuesday, and is expected to start shipping them next month, when the devices will also reach other retailers. Amazon and Element as well as Element's sister company Westinghouse first announced Fire TV-based TV sets at CES in Las Vegas earlier this year. Now, the companies shared a number of additional details, including pricing. Element's 43-inch Fire TV Edition will retail for $449. A 50-inch model and a 55-inch model will cost $549 and $649, respectively, and a $65-inch model will retail for $899. Each of these devices support 4K video, and pack a quad-core processor, 4GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage for apps -- beefed-up specs that won't just guarantee smooth app performance and streaming, according to Amazon's VP of Smart TVs Sandeep Gupta, but are also meant to future-proof the device. "It will have a longer life cycle than a regular smart TV," he told Variety during a recent interview. The interface of the TV is virtually identical to that of a Fire TV box or stick, save for a few differences. There are extra tiles that let users switch their input devices to access game consoles, Blu-ray players and cable boxes.
Movies

Our Obsession With Trailers Is Making Movies Worse (cnet.com) 206

An anonymous reader shares an article: Our increasing obsession with trailers is changing how we watch movies. We're becoming audiences afraid of surprise, audiences that would rather watch movies we're certain we'll like than risk watching films that surprise us into love. In some cases, this fixation is even lowering the quality of movies themselves by encouraging bad filmmaking habits. The most extreme example happened when Warner Bros released such a successful trailer for 'Suicide Squad' it brought on the company that cut it to edit the whole film -- dropping the director's original cut altogether. [...] Thanks to trailers' easy accessibility on YouTube and those shot-by-shot breakdowns that quickly appear online once trailers drop, anyone interested in a given flick can pore over all the available footage for hours -- even if that leads to major spoilers for them and everyone they share it with.
Music

MP3 Is Not Dead, It's Finally Free (marco.org) 415

The commentary around IIS Fraunhofer and Technicolor terminating their MP3 licensing program for certain MP3 related patents and software has been amusing. While some are interpreting this development as the demise of the MP3 format, others are cheering about MP3s finally being free. Developer and commentator Marco Arment tries to prevail sense: MP3 is no less alive now than it was last month or will be next year -- the last known MP3 patents have simply expired. So while there's a debate to be had -- in a moment -- about whether MP3 should still be used today, Fraunhofer's announcement has nothing to do with that, and is simply the ending of its patent-licensing program (because the patents have all expired) and a suggestion that we move to a newer, still-patented format. MP3 is supported by everything, everywhere, and is now patent-free. There has never been another audio format as widely supported as MP3, it's good enough for almost anything, and now, over twenty years since it took the world by storm, it's finally free.

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