Sony

Sony In $2.3 Billion Deal For EMI, Becomes World's Biggest Music Publisher 28

Sony said on Tuesday it would pay about $2.3 billion to gain control of EMI, becoming the world's largest music publisher in an industry that has found new life on the back of streaming services. Reuters reports: The acquisition is the biggest strategic move yet by new CEO Kenichiro Yoshida and gives Sony a catalogue of more than 2 million songs from artists such as Kanye West, Sam Smith and Sia. The deal is part of Yoshida's mission to make revenue streams more stable with rights to entertainment content -- a strategy that follows a major revamp by his predecessor which shifted Sony's focus away from low-margin consumer electronics.

The spread of the internet led to a shrinking of the music market from around 1999 to 2014, Yoshida said, but added that has turned around with the growth of fixed-price music streaming services. The deal values EMI Music Publishing at $4.75 billion including debt, more than double the $2.2 billion value given in 2011 when a consortium led by Sony won bidding rights for the company. EMI currently commands 15 percent of the music publishing industry which combined with its Sony ATV business would make the Japanese giant the industry leader with market share of 26 percent, a company spokesman said.
Youtube

Google Launches YouTube Music Service With Creepy AI To Predict Listening Habits (audioholics.com) 83

Audiofan writes: Will the new YouTube Music streaming service provide the soundtrack to your life? Google believes that its ability to harness the power of artificial intelligence will help the new service catch up to its rivals in the music streaming business. Google's latest attempt to compete with Spotify and Apple Music may finally have what it takes if it doesn't creep users out in the process. While the service officially rolls out on Tuesday, May 22nd, only some users will be able to use it at launch. What separates YouTube's music streaming service from the competition is its catalog of remixes, live versions, and covers of official versions of songs. It also uses the Google Assistant to make music recommendations based on everything it knows (and can learn) about you and your listening habits. "When you arrive at the gym, for example, YouTube Music will offer up a playlist of hard-hitting pump-up jams (if that's your thing)," reports Audioholics. "Late at night, softer tunes will set a more relaxing mood."

YouTube Music is free with ads, but will cost $9.99 for ad-free listening. There is also YouTube Premium, which will cost $11.99 per month, and will include both the ad-free music service and the exclusive video content from the now-defunct YouTube Red.
Businesses

Twitter Is Killing Several of Its TV Apps, Too (techcrunch.com) 29

Twitter is shutting down its TV apps on Roku, Android TV and Xbox starting on May 24, the company announced this morning. From a report: The news of the apps' closure comes at a time when Twitter is now trying to steer its users to its first-party mobile apps and its desktop website by killing off apps used by a minority of its user base -- like the Twitter for Mac app it shut down earlier this year. And more recently, it has attempted to kill off popular third-party Mac apps with a series of unfriendly API changes.

It's unclear why this has become Twitter's agenda. While it can be a burden for a company to support a broader ecosystem of apps where some only have a niche audience, in some cases those "niche" users are also the most influential and heavy users. And arguably, anyone launching Twitter's app on their TV must be a die-hard user -- because who is really watching that much Twitter on their TV?

Businesses

3D Headphone Startup 'Ossic' Closes Abruptly, Leaving Crowdfunders Hanging (npr.org) 167

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NPR: Ossic raised more than $3.2 million in crowdfunding for its Ossic X, which it touted as the "first 3D audio headphones calibrated to you." But after delivering devices to only about 80 investors who'd paid at least $999 to for the "Developer/Innovator" rewards level on Kickstarter, Ossic announced Saturday it had run out of money -- leaving the more than 10,000 other backers with nothing but lighter wallets.

Ossic, which The San Diego Union-Tribune notes was founded by former Logitech engineers Jason Riggs and Joy Lyons, had excited gamers, audiophiles and other sound consumers by creating headphones that used advanced 3D audio algorithms, head-tracking technology and individual anatomy calibration to "deliver incredibly accurate 3D sound to your ears," according to its funding campaign on Kickstarter. In less than two months in 2016, it was able to raise $2.7 million from more than 10,000 backers on Kickstarter. It raised another $515,970 on Indiegogo.
"This was obviously not our desired outcome," the company said in a statement. "To fail at the five-yard line is a tragedy. We are extremely sorry that we cannot deliver your product and want you to know that the team has done everything possible including investing our own savings and working without salary to exhaust all possibilities."
Businesses

Netflix's DVD Rental Business Is Still Profitable (fortune.com) 125

Netflix might be focusing on its streaming business, but the product that made its name is still alive -- and apparently well. From a report: The company's DVD.com DVD rental business has 3 million subscribers and generated a whopping $56 million in profit on just $99 million in revenue during the first quarter, CNBC is reporting. That staggering profit margin aside, Netflix's business has a wide selection of 100,000 DVDs, which easily overshadows the 5,600 streaming titles available on Netflix, according to the report. DVD.com's profitability might surprise some who moved on long ago from disc-based entertainment in the living room to streaming. Indeed, Netflix itself seemed to have moved on in 2011 when it split the DVD division from its now-core streaming operation. And whenever Netflix discusses its business, the company focuses on streaming and its place in the original content market rather than DVDs.
Businesses

MoviePass' Days Look Limited (bloomberg.com) 158

Kyle Stock writes via Bloomberg: Eight months after slashing its price and expanding membership past 2 million users, MoviePass is now at risk of going bust. The parent company, Helios & Matheson Analytics, which now owns 92 percent of MoviePass, said last week that it had just $15.5 million in cash at the end of April and $27.9 million on deposit with merchant processors. MoviePass has been burning through $21.7 million per month. A U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing last month revealed that the company's auditor has "substantial doubt" about its ability to stay solvent. Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush Securities Inc., warns that MoviePass may not survive the summertime run of blockbusters. On Tuesday, Helios reported the performance of MoviePass for the three months ending on March 31. The company lost $107 million, earning just over $1 million from marketing deals and $47 million from subscriptions. Helios shares have fallen to decade lows of less than $1 after peaking at $32.90 in October, alongside the MoviePass hype.
AI

Ask Slashdot: Could Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics Ensure Safe AI? (wikipedia.org) 231

"If science-fiction has already explored the issue of humans and intelligent robots or AI co-existing in various ways, isn't there a lot to be learned...?" asks Slashdot reader OpenSourceAllTheWay. There is much screaming lately about possible dangers to humanity posed by AI that gets smarter and smarter and more capable and might -- at some point -- even decide that humans are a problem for the planet. But some seminal science-fiction works mulled such scenarios long before even 8-bit home computers entered our lives.
The original submission cites Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics from the 1950 collection I, Robot.
  • A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  • A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  • A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

The original submission asks, "If you programmed an AI not to be able to break an updated and extended version of Asimov's Laws, would you not have reasonable confidence that the AI won't go crazy and start harming humans? Or are Asimov and other writers who mulled these questions 'So 20th Century' that AI builders won't even consider learning from their work?"

Wolfrider (Slashdot reader #856) is an Asimov fan, and writes that "Eventually I came across an article with the critical observation that the '3 Laws' were used by Asimov to drive plot points and were not to be seriously considered as 'basics' for robot behavior. Additionally, Giskard comes up with a '4th Law' on his own and (as he is dying) passes it on to R. Daneel Olivaw."

And Slashdot reader Rick Schumann argues that Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics "would only ever apply to a synthetic mind that can actually think; nothing currently being produced is capable of any such thing, therefore it does not apply..."

But what are your own thoughts? Do you think Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics could ensure safe AI?


Music

'Yanny vs. Laurel' Reveals Flaws In How We Listen To Audio (theproaudiofiles.com) 234

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past few days, you've probably heard about the controversy over "Yanny" and "Laurel." The internet has been abuzz over an audio clip in which the name being said depends on the listener. Some hear "Laurel" while others hear "Yanny." Ian Vargo, an audio enthusiast who spends most of his working hours of the day listening to and editing audio, helps explain why we hear the name that we do: Human speech is actually composed of many frequencies, in part because we have a resonant chest cavity which creates lower frequencies, and the throat and mouth which creates higher frequencies. The word "laurel" contains a combination of both which are therefore present in the original recording at vocabulary.com, but the clip that you most likely heard has accentuated higher frequencies due to imperfections in the audio that were created by data compression. To make it worse, the playback device that many people first heard the audio clip playing out of was probably a speaker system built into a cellular phone, which is too small to accurately recreate low frequencies.

This helpful interactive tool from The New York Times allows you to use a slider to more clearly hear one or the other. Pitch shifting the audio clip up seems to accentuate "laurel" whereas shifting it down accentuates "yanny." In summary, this perfect storm of the human voice creating both low and high frequencies, the audio clip having been subject to data compression used to create smaller, more convenient files, and our tendency to listen out of devices with subpar playback components lead to an apparent near-even split of the population hearing "laurel" or "yanny."

XBox (Games)

Microsoft Announces Xbox Adaptive Controller For Players With Disabilities (theverge.com) 19

A new Xbox controller designed for people with disabilities has been announced by Microsoft today. The Xbox Adaptive Controller features two large programmable buttons and 19 jacks that can be connected to a range of joysticks, buttons, and switches to make it easier for a wider range of people to play games on Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs. The Verge reports: "I can customize how I interface with the Xbox Adaptive Controller to whatever I want," says Solomon Romney, a Microsoft Store learning specialist who was born without fingers on his left hand. "If I want to play a game entirely with my feet, I can. I can make the controls fit my body, my desires, and I can change them anytime I want. You plug in whatever you want and go. It takes virtually no time to set it up and use it. It could not be simpler."

The focus is on connectivity and customizability, with players able to build a setup that works for their capabilities and needs. It won't be an all-in-one solution for many games, but through the use of peripherals and the Xbox's system-level button remapping, the possibilities could be endless. The Xbox Adaptive Controller will cost $99.99 and goes on sale later this year.

Music

YouTube Unveils New Streaming Service 'YouTube Music,' Rebrands YouTube Red (gizmodo.com) 107

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: YouTube Music, a streaming music platform designed to compete with the likes of Spotify and Apple Music, officially has a launch date: May 22nd. Its existence will also shift around YouTube and Google's overall media strategy, which has thus far been quite the mess. YouTube Music will borrow the Spotify model and offer a free, ad-supported tier as well as a premium version. The paid tier, which will be called YouTube Music Premium, will be available for $9.99 per month. It will debut in the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, and South Korea before expanding to 14 other countries.

One of the selling points for YouTube Music will be the ability to harness the endless amount of information Google knows about you, which it will use to try to create customized listening experiences. Pitchfork reported that the app, with the help of Google Assistant, will make listening recommendations based on the time of day, location, and listening patterns. It will also apparently offer "an audio experience and a video experience," suggesting perhaps an emphasis on music videos and other visual content. From here, Google seems to be focused on making its streaming strategy a little less wacky. Google Play Music, the company's previous music streaming service that is still inexplicably up and running despite teetering on the brink of extinction for years, will slowly be phased out according to USA Today.
Meanwhile, the paid streaming subscription service, known as YouTube Red, is being rebranded to YouTube Premium and will cost $11.99 per month instead of $9.99. (Pitchfork notes that existing YouTube Red subscribers will be able to keep their $9.99 rate.) YouTube Premium will include access to YouTube Music Premium. Here's a handy-dandy chart that helps show what is/isn't included in the two plans.
Music

Tidal Is Reportedly Months Behind On Royalty Payments To Labels (theverge.com) 40

According to a report from Dagens Naeringsliv, streaming service Tidal is "behind with payments directly to the three major international record companies." The claim is backed up by two executives from a label and its Sony-owned distributor. They say they have not seen royalty payments in over six months. The Verge reports: According to a translation by Music Business Worldwide, Sveinung Rindal, CEO of distribution company Phonofile (a Sony subsidiary), told the Norwegian paper, "It is correct that there are delays in payments from Tidal," while Frithjof Boye Hungnes, CEO of Propeller Recordings, confirmed, "We have not been paid since October ... People are talking about withdrawing [their music from Tidal]; I think there is a pretty upset mood." Last December, a separate report from the same newspaper said that Tidal was running out of money, suggesting that it only had about six months of working capital left. The news comes shortly after the service was accused of faking the streaming numbers for Kanye West and Beyonce. Tidal is denying any such wrongdoings, saying: "We have experienced negative stories about Tidal since its inception and we have done nothing but grow the business each year."
Youtube

YouTube Expands Music Credits: Makes It Easier To Identify the Song Featured in a Video (pitchfork.com) 20

Next time you hear a song featured in a YouTube video and you are not sure what it is called, or who made it, you can find out by clicking (or tapping) the "show more" button. From a report: YouTube has announced that the platform is expanding the credits available on videos featuring music. The new description feature, called "Music in this video," provides credits -- which includes artist, songwriter, label, and publisher -- on both music videos and fan-uploaded content that contains recorded music. This feature will also include a link to available official artist channels and official music videos. The expanded credits are made possible by Content ID, a YouTube system that uses copyright owners' information and a database of files to identify and manage content.
It's funny.  Laugh.

The SEC Created Its Own Scammy ICO To Teach Investors a Lesson (theverge.com) 75

In its latest effort to fend off cryptocurrency scams, the Securities and Exchange Commission launched its own fake initial coin offering website today called the Howey Coin to warn people against fraudulent cryptocurrencies. From a report: The name is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the Howey Test that the SEC uses to determine whether an investment is a security, which the Commission would therefore have legal jurisdiction over. Click 'Buy Coins Now' on the Howey Coins site and you'll be redirected to an SEC page that states: "We created the bogus HoweyCoins.com site as an educational tool to alert investors to possible fraud involving digital assets like crypto-currencies and coin offerings." It even has a white paper [PDF].
The Almighty Buck

Comcast Charges $90 Install Fee At Homes That Already Have Comcast Installed (arstechnica.com) 141

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Based on our tests, signing up for standalone Internet or TV service on Comcast.com often requires payment of a $59.99 or $89.99 installation fee, depending on where you live. (The fee was $60 in two Massachusetts suburbs and $90 at homes in Houston, Texas, and Seattle, Washington.) In cases where the $60 or $90 fee is charged, the fee is required whether you purchase your own modem or rent one from Comcast for another $11 a month.

The installation fee might be charged even if the home you're buying service at has existing Comcast service, and even if you order Internet speeds lower than those purchased by the current occupant. That means the fee is charged even when Comcast doesn't have to make any upgrades at the house or apartment you're moving into. Internet speed makes no difference, as the fee may be charged whether you purchase 15Mbps downloads or gigabit service. You can avoid the installation fee by purchasing certain bundles that include both TV and Internet, but the fee is often mandatory if you buy only TV service or broadband individually. The $60 or $90 fee is also charged when you buy phone service only or a "double-play" package of phone service and broadband.

Piracy

The Brazen Bootlegging of a Multibillion-Dollar Sports Network (nytimes.com) 63

What do you do when your multibillion dollar sports network has been stolen? For the last several days, executives at Qatar's beIN Sports, which functions as the ESPN of the Middle East, have been pondering the same question. For the last several months, live coverage of beIN Sports feed is being broadcast on nearly a dozen beoutQ channels, a bootlegging operation seemingly based in Saudi Arabia, whose roots lie in the bitter political dispute between Qatar and a coalition of countries led by its largest neighbors, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. From a report: The coalition countries have subjected Qatar to a punishing blockade over the past year. Those countries last year accused Qatar of supporting terrorism and criticized its relationship with Iran, an ally of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. They enacted an embargo, cut off diplomatic ties and set up the blockade of the energy-rich emirate, closing Qatar's access to many of the region's ports and much of its airspace. Qatar has denied the allegations and has claimed it has assisted the United States in its war on terrorism.

Now, one month before the start of the World Cup, the world's most-watched sporting event and beIN's signature property, the audacious piracy operation is positioned to illicitly deliver the tournament's 64 games to much of the Middle East. Qatar, despite abundant resources, has been powerless to stop it. Decoder boxes embossed with the beoutQ logo have for months been available across Saudi Arabia and are now for sale in other Arab-speaking countries. A one-year subscription costs $100. A Bangladeshi worker reached by phone at Sharif Electronics in Jeddah this week said his shop has been selling the boxes for three months. "Many people buy them," he said.

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