television

Talking the future of media with Northzone’s Pär-Jörgen Pärson

Posted by | augmented reality, blockchain, content, Distributed Ledger, Entertainment, events, Finance, funding, Fundings & Exits, Gaming, live tv, live tv streaming, Media, music streaming, Northzone, Personnel, PJ Parson, slush, Startups, streaming, Talent, TC, television, tv, tv streaming, Venture Capital, Video, video streaming, Virtual reality | No Comments

We live in the subscription streaming era of media. Across film, TV, music, and audiobooks, subscription streaming platforms now shape the market. Gaming and podcasting could be next. Where are the startup opportunities in this shift, and in the next shift that will occur?

I sat down with Pär-Jörgen “PJ” Pärson, a partner at European venture firm Northzone, to discuss this at SLUSH this past winter. Pärson – a Swede who now runs Northzone’s office in NYC – led the top early-stage investor in Spotify and led the $35 million Series C in $45/month sports streaming service fuboTV (which has roughly 250,000 subscribers).

In the transcript below, we dive into the core investment thesis that has guided him for 20 years, how he went from running a fish distribution to running a VC firm, his best practices for effective board meetings and VC-entrepreneur relationships, and his assessment of the big social platforms, AR/VR, voice interfaces, blockchain, and the frontier of media. It has been edited for length and clarity.

From Fish to VC

Eric Peckham:

Northzone isn’t your first VC firm — Back in 1998, you created Cell Ventures, which was more of a holding company or studio model. What was your playbook then?

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T-Mobile’s mobile TV service to include Viacom channels like MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central & more

Posted by | cord cutting, Media, Mobile, mobile tv, streaming service, T-Mobile, television, tv, Viacom, Video | No Comments

T-Mobile and Viacom this morning announced a deal that will bring Viacom’s TV channels — like MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, BET, Paramount and others — to T-Mobile’s new mobile video service planned for later this year. The agreement will allow T-Mobile to offer live, linear feeds of the Viacom channels as well as on-demand viewing.

To date, the carrier’s mobile video plans have been murky. Last year, T-Mobile acquired the Denver-based startup Layer3 TV in order to launch a new over-the-top video service in 2018. It missed that window, saying that it needed more time to work on features and make “quality improvements.”

The company later said that it didn’t want to offer another Amazon Channels-like “skinny bundle” consisting of individual subscriptions to various channels, but wanted to offer something more differentiated where customers could create their own media subscriptions in “smaller pieces,” like “five, six, seven or eight dollars at a time.”

Today, T-Mobile says it still plans to move forward with both its home and mobile TV offerings, made possible by the acquisition of Layer3 TV. The in-home TV service is designed to leverage 5G technology to replace cable. Meanwhile, Viacom will be a “cornerstone launch partner” for T-Mobile’s mobile TV efforts, on track for a launch this year.

“Viacom represents the best of the best, most-popular brands on cable, so they are an amazing partner for us,” said John Legere, CEO of T-Mobile, in a statement. “TV programming has never been better, but consumers are fed up with rising costs, hidden fees, lousy customer service, non-stop BS. And MacGyvering together a bunch of subscriptions, apps and dongles isn’t much better. That’s why T-Mobile is on a mission to give consumers a better way to watch what they want, when they want,” he said.

Not much is known about T-Mobile’s mobile TV plans at this point, like a more specific launch time frame or price points. It’s also unclear if T-Mobile will go the route of bundling in its TV service with its mobile plans. That’s been a popular strategy for AT&T, which today operates two over-the-top services — a low-end service called WatchTV designed for bundling and its more premium service DirecTV Now. (It also plans to launch another featuring Warner Bros. content.)

Viacom has deals with other carriers besides T-Mobile, having recently renewed its contract with AT&T for DirecTV Now carriage. It also participates in various other streaming services, including its own service (by way of acquisition) Pluto TV, and has invested in Philo.

“Today’s landmark announcement marks a major step forward in our strategy to accelerate the presence of our brands on mobile and other next-generation platforms,” said Bob Bakish, Viacom president and CEO, in a release. “We’re so excited to partner with T-Mobile to provide millions of subscribers with access to our networks and more choice in a new service that will be unlike any other in the market.”

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Media fragmentation is annoying consumers

Posted by | Advertising Tech, Amazon, Assistant, augmented reality, cloud storage, deloitte, digital media, Entertainment, esports, executive, Gaming, Google, internet television, Media, Multimedia, Music, new media, Podcasts, San Francisco, Streaming Media, streaming music, streaming video, TC, television, United States, user generated content, video games, Virtual reality | No Comments

Deloitte’s Technology, Media and Telecommunications division published its 13th-annual Digital Media Trends survey, focused on identifying changes in the ways US consumers engage with various types of media.

Led by an independent research firm, the survey had roughly 2,000 consumer respondents across demographics – with the report categorizing respondents based on age (Gen-Z: ages 14-21, Millenials: 22-35, Gen-X: 36-52, Boomers: 53-71, and Matures: 72+).

While already accompanied by a succinct 13-page executive summary, the report can largely be summarized in just a couple of sentences: more people are using streaming or alternative media services than ever before, largely due to more user freedom and customization, though the growing quantity and fragmentation of platforms are becoming more frustrating for users to manage.

The survey results directionally echo already well-discussed dynamics, which we’ve previously dug into such as here, here and here. Instead, the most poignant aspects of the report were not the answers or conclusions themselves, but the immense level of support many of them received.

 

Somewhat interesting:

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T-Mobile plans to offer à la carte media subscriptions, but no TV ‘skinny bundle’

Posted by | cord cutting, Media, Mobile, skinny bundle, streaming, streaming service, streaming TV, T-Mobile, television | No Comments

T-Mobile doesn’t want to compete with other carriers or teleco’s by developing its own “skinny bundle” of streaming TV channels, the company said today on its earnings call with investors, noting the market was already oversaturated on that front. Instead, the mobile operator’s strategy will focus on helping customers pick and choose which paid TV subscriptions they want to access — a move that very much sounds like T-Mobile is going the “Amazon Channels” route with its mobile streaming plans.

According to T-Mobile President Mike Sievert, today’s customers have a number of choices for streaming TV thanks to the massive expansion of OTT (over-the-top) services that are now available.

“It’s subscription-palooza out there. Every single media brand either has or is developing an OTT solution, and most of these companies don’t have a way to bring these products to market,” he said. “They’re learning about that. They don’t have distribution networks like us; they don’t have access to the phone like we have.”

Instead, the exec explained that T-Mobile wants to help customers access paid subscriptions that already exist, by simplifying aspects of that process such as search, discovery and billing.

“We don’t have plans to develop an nth undifferentiated skinny bundle,” Sievert continued. “There are plenty of those. We think there’s a more nuanced role for us to play in helping you get access to the great media brands out there that you love, and to be able to put together your own media subscription — and smaller pieces five, six, seven or eight dollars at a time,” he said, adding that T-Mobile would begin this work in 2019.

The cord cutting-focused news site The Streamable was first to report T-Mobile’s news.

T-Mobile’s announcement comes at a time when the carrier’s mobile TV plans have been more of a focus, as everyone is trying to figure out what the carrier is up to.

Recently, a Cheddar report said T-Mobile would be launching a free mobile TV service in the weeks ahead. But that turned out to be just a “snackable content app” for T-Mobile’s Metro brand, MetroPCS, and only on two phones to start.

T-Mobile’s decision to go with an Amazon Channels-like offering, where consumers build their own “skinny bundles” by mixing and matching paid subscriptions, is not an uncommon choice. This is the same direction that many in the industry are heading, as of late.

This week, for example, Viacom said it would add paid subscriptions to its newly acquired free TV service, Pluto TV. Roku recently rolled out paid subscriptions to its free TV and movies hub, The Roku Channel. And Dish’s Sling TV last year launched à la carte paid subscriptions to premium networks, without requiring the core package subscription.

However, the mobile operators aren’t necessarily going that route. AT&T, for instance, has been leveraging its Time Warner acquisition to launch multiple streaming services. Meanwhile, Verizon (disclosure: TechCrunch parent) saw its some of its streaming TV ambitions dashed with go90’s failure last year.

As the over-the-top streaming TV market is still a sliver of the larger pay TV space, it still remains to be seen which strategies and services will ultimately win over consumers. But companies are placing their bets now, experimenting, and sometimes failing then starting again.

Separately, T-Mobile today discussed its Layer3 home TV service, which was expected to launch nationwide in late 2018. That service is now planned for the first half of 2019, the company said.

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The Roku Channel adds premium subscriptions alongside its free content

Posted by | cord cutting, Media, Mobile, roku, streaming, streaming service, TC, television, tv | No Comments

The Roku Channel — Roku’s home to free, ad-supported content like movies, TV, sports and news — is expanding to include subscriptions. Essentially Roku’s own take on Amazon’s Prime Video Channels, users can now opt to add some 25 premium video subscriptions within the Roku Channel, centralizing their access to streaming services in one destination that will become more personalized over time.

At launch, consumers will be able to opt to add-on subscriptions from premium networks including Showtime, Starz, EPIX, CuriosityStream, Noggin, Baeble Music, CollegeHumor’s Dropout, Hopster, Magnolia Selects, FitFusion, Smithsonian Channel Plus, Tastemade, Viewster Anime, The Great Courses Signature Collection, MHz Choice and others.

Offering a centralized place to subscribe to paid content is a fairly significant change for Roku’s platform, where, historically, viewers would download and add apps (“channels,” in Roku’s lingo) to their Roku homepage for each service they wanted to watch. Some of those channels require subscriptions, like Netflix and Hulu, while others offer free content.

Roku in fall 2017 began to aggregate the free content from the various channels across its platform in its own Roku Channel, and combined that with content it licensed directly from studios. The Roku Channel initially featured free, ad-supported movies, giving Roku a way to further grow its advertising revenues.

Over the past year, The Roku Channel expanded to include news, sports, TV shows and other entertainment offerings both from traditional studios and digital networks. This pushed the channel to become one of the top five most-watched across the Roku platform.

Now, instead of being only a home to free content, The Roku Channel is working with video partners to offer an alternative way to watch their programming.

“We’ve been focused on ad-supported content and will continue to have a very robust offering there. But there’s lots of great content that’s available only in subscription services,” explained Roku’s vice president of Programming, Rob Holmes, as to why Roku wanted to introduce paid subscriptions. “We also wanted to try to improve the user experience in a lot of the same way that we did with the launch of The Roku Channel around ad-supported content,” he said. 

When you enter The Roku Channel, you’ll be able to explore the premium subscription content before making a decision as to whether or not you want to sign up. That’s a better experience than offered by some subscription apps today, where you’re presented only with a splash screen that directs you to sign up to see the content or offer a very limited view of their programming.

If you choose to subscribe to a premium network via the Roku Channel, you can use the payment card that’s already on file with Roku. Basically, you click a button and then confirm the subscription (in case you clicked by accidentally sitting on the remote), and then you’re signed up.

This method makes it easier to add and remove subscriptions, for those who follow individual shows and want to turn their subscription on and off, timed with the release of new seasons.

The subscriptions also support seven-day free trials, trial expiration reminders and are billed together on a single statement from Roku monthly.

Also of note, when you subscribe to networks through the Roku Channel, you’ll no longer have to download the network’s standalone Roku app to watch. Instead, your subscriptions will get their own area inside The Roku Channel, making it more of a one-stop shop for your streaming services.

The networks will be shown both in The Roku Channel’s homepage and they’ll each get their own tab in the channel, too.

In fact, you currently cannot choose to watch in the network’s standalone Roku app, we understand. Over time, some networks will offer authentication for Roku Channel subscribers, but that’s not the case at launch.

Of course, this begs the question — if you can’t authenticate with the network provider, does that mean you won’t be able to watch the channel’s content, except on a Roku device?

As it turns out, you can.

Alongside the launch of channel subscriptions, The Roku Channel’s mobile app is being updated to support video playback. That means you can watch The Roku Channel content, including subscriptions, on your smartphone or tablet, as well as on the web and on your TV.

Over time, Roku’s plan is to better personalize your subscriptions and recommendations. That means the shows you actively watch will be presented in the front of the queue, and Roku will be able to recommend content across services, based on viewing behavior.

Roku says it will add more partners to The Roku Channel over time. However, many providers will not participate because they want to own the experience, end-to-end with their customers. They also may not want to share a cut of subscription revenue with Roku, as is required today to be promoted as a subscription add-on within The Roku Channel.

For the time being, Roku doesn’t plan on expanding from premium subscriptions to offer some sort of core package of subscription programming the way live TV services like Sling TV or YouTube TV now do.

“I think where we are today is really focused on these à la carte subscriptions,” Holmes said. “Ultimately, from a user standpoint, there’s a lot of value in being able to pick and choose exactly what you want to sign up for — without having to sign up for one of these base packages to start with. That’s how we think about it today.”

Support for subscriptions will begin to roll out to The Roku Channel starting later this month and will complete the phased rollout by early 2019. The new mobile app will launch in late January, as well.

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Smart home makers hoard your data, but won’t say if the police come for it

Posted by | Amazon, Apple, computer security, Facebook, Gadgets, Google, Government, hardware, Internet of Things, law enforcement, national security, privacy, Security, smart home devices, television, transparency report | No Comments

A decade ago, it was almost inconceivable that nearly every household item could be hooked up to the internet. These days, it’s near impossible to avoid a non-smart home gadget, and they’re vacuuming up a ton of new data that we’d never normally think about.

Thermostats know the temperature of your house, and smart cameras and sensors know when someone’s walking around your home. Smart assistants know what you’re asking for, and smart doorbells know who’s coming and going. And thanks to the cloud, that data is available to you from anywhere — you can check in on your pets from your phone or make sure your robot vacuum cleaned the house.

Because the data is stored or accessible by the smart home tech makers, law enforcement and government agencies have increasingly sought data from the companies to solve crimes.

And device makers won’t say if your smart home gadgets have been used to spy on you.

For years, tech companies have published transparency reports — a semi-regular disclosure of the number of demands or requests a company gets from the government for user data. Google was first in 2010. Other tech companies followed in the wake of Edward Snowden’s revelations that the government had enlisted tech companies’ aid in spying on their users. Even telcos, implicated in wiretapping and turning over Americans’ phone records, began to publish their figures to try to rebuild their reputations.

As the smart home revolution began to thrive, police saw new opportunities to obtain data where they hadn’t before. Police sought Echo data from Amazon to help solve a murder. Fitbit data was used to charge a 90-year old man with the murder of his stepdaughter. And recently, Nest was compelled to turn over surveillance footage that led to gang members pleading guilty to identity theft.

Yet, Nest — a division of Google — is the only major smart home device maker that has published how many data demands it receives.

As first noted by Forbes last week, Nest’s little-known transparency report doesn’t reveal much — only that it’s turned over user data about 300 times since mid-2015 on over 500 Nest users. Nest also said it hasn’t to date received a secret order for user data on national security grounds, such as in cases of investigating terrorism or espionage. Nest’s transparency report is woefully vague compared to some of the more detailed reports by Apple, Google and Microsoft, which break out their data requests by lawful request, by region and often by the kind of data the government demands.

As Forbes said, “a smart home is a surveilled home.” But at what scale?

We asked some of the most well-known smart home makers on the market if they plan to release a transparency report, or disclose the number of demands they receive for data from their smart home devices.

For the most part, we received fairly dismal responses.

What the big four tech giants said

Amazon did not respond to requests for comment when asked if it will break out the number of demands it receives for Echo data, but a spokesperson told me last year that while its reports include Echo data, it would not break out those figures.

Facebook said that its transparency report section will include “any requests related to Portal,” its new hardware screen with a camera and a microphone. Although the device is new, a spokesperson did not comment on if the company will break out the hardware figures separately.

Google pointed us to Nest’s transparency report but did not comment on its own efforts in the hardware space — notably its Google Home products.

And Apple said that there’s no need to break out its smart home figures — such as its HomePod — because there would be nothing to report. The company said user requests made to HomePod are given a random identifier that cannot be tied to a person.

What the smaller but notable smart home players said

August, a smart lock maker, said it “does not currently have a transparency report and we have never received any National Security Letters or orders for user content or non-content information under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA),” but did not comment on the number of subpoenas, warrants and court orders it receives. “August does comply with all laws and when faced with a court order or warrant, we always analyze the request before responding,” a spokesperson said.

Roomba maker iRobot said it “has not received any demands from governments for customer data,” but wouldn’t say if it planned to issue a transparency report in the future.

Both Arlo, the former Netgear smart home division, and Signify, formerly Philips Lighting, said they do not have transparency reports. Arlo didn’t comment on its future plans, and Signify said it has no plans to publish one. 

Ring, a smart doorbell and security device maker, did not answer our questions on why it doesn’t have a transparency report, but said it “will not release user information without a valid and binding legal demand properly served on us” and that Ring “objects to overbroad or otherwise inappropriate demands as a matter of course.” When pressed, a spokesperson said it plans to release a transparency report in the future, but did not say when.

Spokespeople for Honeywell and Canary — both of which have smart home security products — did not comment by our deadline.

And, Samsung, a maker of smart sensors, trackers and internet-connected televisions and other appliances, did not respond to a request for comment.

Only Ecobee, a maker of smart switches and sensors, said it plans to publish its first transparency report “at the end of 2018.” A spokesperson confirmed that, “prior to 2018, Ecobee had not been requested nor required to disclose any data to government entities.”

All in all, that paints a fairly dire picture for anyone thinking that when the gadgets in your home aren’t working for you, they could be helping the government.

As helpful and useful as smart home gadgets can be, few fully understand the breadth of data that the devices collect — even when we’re not using them. Your smart TV may not have a camera to spy on you, but it knows what you’ve watched and when — which police used to secure a conviction of a sex offender. Even data from when a murder suspect pushed the button on his home alarm key fob was enough to help convict someone of murder.

Two years ago, former U.S. director of national intelligence James Clapper said the government was looking at smart home devices as a new foothold for intelligence agencies to conduct surveillance. And it’s only going to become more common as the number of internet-connected devices spread. Gartner said more than 20 billion devices will be connected to the internet by 2020.

As much as the chances are that the government is spying on you through your internet-connected camera in your living room or your thermostat are slim — it’s naive to think that it can’t.

But the smart home makers wouldn’t want you to know that. At least, most of them.

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Reelgood’s app for cord cutters adds 50+ services, personalized recommendations

Posted by | Apps, cord cutting, Media, Mobile, reelgood, streaming, streaming services, TC, television, tv | No Comments

Reelgood, a startup aimed at helping cord cutters find their next binge, is out today with its biggest update yet. The company has been developing its streaming guide over the past year to solve the issues around discovery that exist when consumers drop traditional pay TV in favor of streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Prime Video, and others.

The company first launched as a website in the summer of 2017 before expanding to mobile last fall. During that time, it’s grown to over a million monthly active users who now check in with Reelgood to find something new to watch.

With today’s update to its iOS app, Reelgood is adding a number of features, including personalized recommendations, curated selections, alerts for shows and movies you’re tracking, advanced search and filtering, and the ability to track content over 50 more streaming services, among other things.

As discovery is Reelgood’s focus, the updated app now offers two new types of recommendations.

One is Reelgood’s own take on “Because You Watched” – a type of viewing suggestion you’ll find today on individual services, like Netflix. But those are more limited because they’ll only suggest other shows or movies they offer themselves. Reelgood’s recommendations will instead span all the services you have access to, offering a more universal set of suggestions.

This feature is tied to Reelgood’s watch history, where you track which shows and movies you’ve seen. That means you have to use Reelgood as your tracking app as well, in order for this feature to work.

The app’s other new way of offering recommendations is less personalized – in fact, it’s random. Because sometimes serendipity is a better way to find something, a feature called “Reelgood Roulette” lets you shake your device while on the Discover tab to get a non-personalized, random suggestion.

Reelgood credits Netflix Roulette, created by Andrew Sampson, as the basis for this addition. In fact, it acquired the rights to the software last year, and then updated it to support more streaming services.

The app also now offers more powerful search and filtering capabilities involving Rotten Tomatoes, IMDb scores, plus cast and crew listings. This allows you to query up things like “Meryl Streep’s top-rated movies” or “drama series with an IMDb rating of at least 8.0 that came out in the last 3 years,” for example.

Reelgood’s search and filtering mechanisms have always been the place where it excels, but it’s less useful as a simple tracker. For that, I prefer TV Time, which lets you quickly mark entire seasons or series as “Watched” and offers discussion boards for each episode where you can post photos and memes and chat with other fans.

TV Time, however, hasn’t been as useful for making recommendations – its suggestions have been off-the-mark when I’ve tried it in the past, often leaning too heavily on network’s back catalogs than pushing me to more current or trending content. It makes me wish I could combine the two apps into one for the best of both worlds – tracking and recommendations.

The updated Reelgood app also doubles down on its own curation capabilities by offering editorial collections. For example: 2018 Emmy Nominees, IMDb’s Top 250 Movies, Original Picks, Dark Comedies, British Humour, and more. This can be a good way to find something to watch when you’re really stumped.

And as you discover new shows and movies you want to see, you can set alerts so you’ll be notified when they hit one of the streaming services you’re subscribed to, similar the tracking feature on Roku OS.

Finally, Reelgood’s update includes the addition of 50+ streaming services – that means there’s now support for more niche services like IndieFlix, FilmStruck, Shudder, Fandor, Crunchyroll, Mubi, AcornTV and Starz, among others.

“Reelgood 4.0 is the culmination of all we’ve learned about how people watch and the increasingly fragmented streaming world,” said Eli Chamberlin, Reelgood’s head of product and design. “Our aim with this release was to take all the streaming content out there, and display it in the most meaningful way possible so that people can get the most out of their existing streaming services without wasting countless hours browsing.”

The new app is rolling out to iOS today on the App Store.

 

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Twitch will livestream Pokémon TV series and movies, while viewers ‘catch’ badges

Posted by | Gaming, Media, pokemon, streaming, television, tv, Twitch | No Comments

Twitch has teamed up with The Pokémon Company to allow viewers to binge watch the Pokémon: The Series TV show and related movies on its site, and “catch” Pokémon badges along the way. While the former is one of Twitch’s many retro binge watch fests – it’s previously streamed old shows like Bob Ross, Julia Child, Mister Rogers, SNL, and most recently, Knight Rider – the interactive feature it’s debuting is something new.

According to the company, Twitch will launch its own Pokémon extension to accompany the broadcast. This overlay, called “Twitch Presents: Pokémon Badge Collector,” will encourage viewers to collect Pokémon badges that appear on the screen for points, which places them on a leaderboard.

This is only the second time Twitch has added an interactive element like this to one of its viewing events, and its addition could see users watching for longer periods of time, as a result. The first was a “watch and win” extension during a Doctor Who broadcast, but it was different as it focused on collecting contest entries.

Twitch also notes this will be the longest viewing event it’s ever held.

The binge will see 16 movies and 19 TV seasons with 932 episodes streamed across Twitch’s network, starting on August 27, 2018, and spanning until 2019. This will kick off with the first season, Pokémon: Indigo League at 10 AM PDT on the 27ths for audiences in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Latin America, and Australia. The content will air on TwitchPresents and on its companion channels in French, German, Spanish, Italian, and Brazilian Portuguese.

“The Twitch community has a passion for Pokémon based on the warm embrace the series received when we celebrated the brand’s 20th anniversary, as well as the cultural milestone that was set when over a hundred thousand Twitch members played Pokémon together,” said Jane Weedon, Director of Business Development at Twitch, in a statement about the launch.

The viewing event comes at a time when reports claim Twitch is going after a wider audience than just gamers. The company has been wooing creatives like vloggers, cooks, artists, and others to come to its site, instead of only broadcasting on YouTube. And it’s been airing non-esports content through marathon events like this new one with Pokémon. According to Bloomberg, TV show livestreams are one of the two fastest-growing genres on the site, the other being “IRL” (in real life) content.

The Pokémon viewing event, in particular, is aimed at a younger audience who may not have the level of nostalgia for the classic TV shows Twitch previously aired. Instead, Twitch says the livestream is appropriate for fans 13 and up – which means it could attract those whose first real exposure to Pokémon was the mobile game that went viral following its launch in 2016.

The dates and times of the Pokémon series and movies will be on Twitch Presents. The binge fest won’t include newer series, like the Sun & Moon or Sun & Moon Ultra Adventures, however.

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Dish is the first TV provider to offer support for Apple’s Business Chat

Posted by | Apple, business chat, Customer Service, Dish, Mobile, social media, television, tv | No Comments

Dish today announced it’s becoming the first TV provider to offer customer support over Apple’s Business Chat. Launched earlier this year, Business Chat allows companies to communicate with their customers over iMessage in order to answer questions, provide customer service, or even enable purchases. In Dish’s case, the TV provider says its customers can use Business Chat to reach a live agent with their questions, make account changes, schedule an appointment, and more.

They can even use their credit card in Business Chat to order a pay-per-view movie or sporting event, then watch it within minutes of confirming the purchase, Dish says.

This feature takes advantage of Apple Pay, which lets you quickly make purchases using your stored payment information without having to leave the iMessage conversation.

Business Chat is as secure as placing a call, where customers would have had to provide information to identify themselves as the account holder. As Dish explains, Apple Business Chat doesn’t display the customer’s contact information to the agents, so customers can choose if they want to share that information themselves. They’re also in control of authenticating their account, if they want to make changes or purchases.

“TV should be simple, so we’ve made reaching our live customer service representatives as easy as sending a text,” said John Swieringa, Dish’s chief operating officer, in a statement about the launch. “Adding messaging with Apple Business Chat is a powerful way to connect with us, giving another choice so you can pick what fits with your life.”

Business Chat is a direct attack by Apple on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

Today, businesses tend to set up Facebook Pages and often offer customers the ability to reach out over Facebook’s Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp with questions. Twitter has also entered the customer service business, allowing businesses to respond to customers over tweets and DMs. Business Chat offers companies an alternative to social media, with the advantage of having access to Apple Pay built-in. (Facebook, meanwhile, hasn’t established itself as a payments company nor does much of its user base keep their payment information on file with the company. The same goes for Twitter.)

In addition, operating over iMessage means businesses get even closer with their customers – their conversations are in the same Messages app as chats with friends and family, not in a third-party app. And Apple isn’t interested in profiting from data collection. Its main goal is to sell more devices, which in turn allows it to sell more of its own services to users, like iCloud storage and Apple Music.

That said, it’s not likely that businesses will abandon their social media presence for Business Chat, so it may end up being just one more place for them to check – albeit one with an install base of hundreds of millions.

Dish is one of the earlier adopters for Business Chat. Other companies on the platform include Aramark, Discover, Four Seasons, Harry & David, Hilton, The Home Depot, Lowe’s, Marriott, NewEgg, T-Mobile, TD Ameritrade, Wells Fargo, 1-800-Flowers, and, of course, Apple.

To chat with Dish via Business Chat on iPhone or iPad (iOS 11.3 or higher), customers search for “Dish” then tap the Messages icon that appears next to the Dish search result. They can also open chat from the contact page of their MyDISH app, where they manage their Dish TV account.

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AT&T launches a low-cost live TV streaming service, WatchTV

Posted by | AT&T, live tv, Media, Mobile, streaming, streaming service, television, tv | No Comments

AT&T this morning announced the launch of a second TV streaming service, called WatchTV, days after its merger with Time Warner. The lower-cost alternative to AT&T’s DirecTV Now will offer anyone the ability to join WatchTV for only $15 per month, but the service will also be bundled into AT&T wireless plans. This $15 per month price point undercuts newcomer Philo, which in November had introduced the cheapest over-the-top TV service at just $16 per month.

The service will arrive for everyone next week, including both wireless subscribers and the general public.

With WatchTV, customers gain access to over 30 live TV channels from top cable networks including A&E, AMC, Animal Planet, CNN, Discovery, Food Network, Hallmark, HGTV, History, IFC, Lifetime, Sundance TV, TBS, TLC, TNT, VICELAND, and several others. (Full list below).

Shortly after launch, it will add BET, Comedy Central, MTV2, Nicktoons, Teen Nick, and VH1.

There are also over 15,000 TV shows and movies on demand, along with premium channels and music streaming options as add-ons.

While the new WatchTV service is open to anyone, AT&T is also bundling it into two new unlimited plans for no additional cost.

These plans are the AT&T Unlimited & More Premium plan and the AT&T Unlimited & More plan.

The Premium plan customers will have all the same features of the existing AT&T Unlimited Plus Enhanced Plan, including 15 GB of high-speed tethering, high-quality video and a $15 monthly credit towards DirecTV, U-verse TV, or, AT&T’s other streaming service, DirecTV Now. They can also choose to add one other option, like HBO, Showtime, Starz, Amazon Music Unlimited, Pandora Premium and VRV, for no additional fee. Add-ons can only be swapped out once per year.

The regular plan (AT&T Unlimited & More) only offers SD video streams when on AT&T’s network, including when customers are viewing WatchTV. It also includes the $15 monthly credit towards other AT&T video services and up to 4G LTE unlimited data.

The Premium plan costs $80 for a single line after the AutoPay billing credit; or $190 for 4 lines. The regular plan is $70 with the AutoPay billing credit and paperless billing. It’s $5 more per line per month then the current Unlimited Choice Enhanced plan, but when you go up to 4 lines, it works out to the same price as before, $40 per line per month.

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson had previously revealed the carrier’s plans for the new low-cost streaming TV service while in court defending the Time Warner merger against anti-trust claims. He used its launch as a point of rebuttal against comments about the ever-higher prices for AT&T’s DirecTV satellite service.

The Justice Department was concerned that following the merger, AT&T would raise prices on Time Warner’s HBO and Turner networks, like TNT, TBS and CNN, in order to prop up its own offerings. For now, it seems AT&T will just come up with a million different ways to generate revenue from its networks, by offering different bundles and packages to AT&T customers and other consumers.

The company also touted the merger, when announcing today’s news:

Our merger brings together the elements to fulfill our vision for the future of media and entertainment. We’ll bring a fresh approach to how media and entertainment works for you—including new offerings that integrate content and connectivity.

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