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The Biggest Tech and Digital Media Stories of 2019 – Variety

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Here are the trends that captured headlines this year — from the rise of the streaming wars and podcasting, to digital-media consolidation and the growing backlash against Big Tech.

1. Big-Media Streamers Assemble

The new multibillion-dollar battle fronts in streaming video became sharply drawn in 2019. Disney roared the loudest, with the debut of Disney Plus — snagging an estimated 24 million users in less than three weeks thanks to aggressive pricing, Verizon’s one-year-free promo and meme-ready breakout superstar Baby Yoda. Disney also inked a pact with Comcast to control Hulu (future home to FX’s streaming originals) and is set for a big international streaming foray next year. Apple TV Plus arrived with a more boutique play, including awards contender “The Morning Show.” The field, led by Netflix, will get more heavy artillery in 2020 with the rollouts of AT&T/WarnerMedia’s HBO Max, Comcast/NBCU’s Peacock and Quibi, Jeffrey Katzenberg’s wager on premium mobile video.

2. “Techlash” Intensity Grows

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Silicon Valley was once the poster child for American innovation and business leadership. In 2019, the chorus blasting large tech companies as dangerously powerful and even a threat to democracy grew louder — with serious calls for the U.S. government to dismantle them. Against that backdrop, regulators stepped up their attempts to brush back the behemoths. The DOJ rattled its saber with new antitrust probes. Facebook absorbed a record-breaking $5 billion FTC fine over alleged privacy violations (though investors didn’t even flinch), while YouTube was slapped by the FTC for collecting data on children under 13 and was forced to implement major changes in how it treats kid-targeted videos. TikTok, owned by Chinese internet giant ByteDance, drew scrutiny over privacy and security fears (and entered into its own FTC settlement) after exploding as one of the most popular social-video apps.

3. Digital Media Players Get Urge to Merge

Seeking strength in numbers amid revenue shortfalls and fragmenting audiences, digital-media publishers went through a wave of consolidation. Vice snapped up Refinery29, looking to forge a stronger presence with millennial women; Vox Media acquired New York Media, as a growing number of print-centric brands landed new owners; and Discovery-backed Group Nine bought female-focused PopSugar. It’s not certain how well the tie-ups will fulfill their synergy goals, but it’s safe to expect more M&A in this sector in 2020.

4. Skinny Bundles Get Fatter and Pricier

Over-the-top TV providers promised to give cable-weary consumers cheaper, more flexible ways to get subscription TV. But the economic realities of the pay-TV biz came home to roost, as every player in the sector implemented significant price hikes in 2019 while also augmenting their programming lineups. Dish just raised Sling TV’s rates 20%, after Hulu kicked up the cost of its live TV service by 22% last month, following price increases for AT&T Now (formerly DirecTV Now), Google’s YouTube TV and FuboTV. Sony threw in the towel, concluding it couldn’t make money on OTT pay-TV, announcing that it will shut down PlayStation Vue in January.

5. Podcasting Pops

After over a decade of steady growth, podcasting turned a corner this year with a flood of new investments and initiatives. Podcast mainstays like NPR, Joe Rogan and iHeartMedia’s How Stuff Works were joined in the podcast gold rush by everyone from Conan O’Brien to the Obamas. Spotify planted its flag in podcasting with a spate of acquisitions (including buying studio Gimlet Media) and building up a slate of originals, and Sony Music entered the fray. Meanwhile Apple is poised to make noise in podcasting in 2020. In 2019, an estimated 90 million U.S. consumers were listening to podcasts monthly, up 23% from 73 million last year, per Edison Research and Triton Digital.

Going to CES 2020? Don’t miss Variety‘s Entertainment Summit at CES, with a speaker lineup that includes Mark Cuban, Spotify’s Dawn Ostroff and ViacomCBS’s Marc DeBevoise.

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Nagorno-Karabakh: Information war and competing media narratives – Al Jazeera English

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REPORTER’S NOTEBOOK

While international media focuses on the fighting, it is a conflict largely seen and read through official tweets, Facebook posts and emails.

Tbilisi, Georgia – Nagorno-Karabakh is today uniquely isolated in more ways than one.

From Azerbaijan, it should easily be reachable from the capital, Baku. But there is no way through the armies stationed on the front lines, separated in some places by not more than a few hundred metres of no man’s land, encamped in a vast network of impenetrable trenches and surrounded by minefields.

When I last travelled there to cover an outbreak in hostilities in April 2016, an asphalt road from Armenia deteriorated the closer we approached the territory. It was a tense, bone-jarring ride.

Some of the roads have since been resurfaced thanks to a more youthful and less corruption-prone government in Yerevan, but that first sight of the “Black Garden” is no less alluring – a forested mountain range sloping down to meadows and plains baked yellow in the fierce heat of summer.

The region is geographically isolated, but so too are its people – isolated from the narrative.

There are fewer than 150,000 people living in Karabakh (today almost exclusively ethnic Armenian).

There are tens of thousands of Azerbaijanis exposed in farmsteads and villages along Azerbaijan’s side of the so-called line of control. And in Armenia, there are thousands of villagers close to the border with Azerbaijan.

We are talking about the people not wearing military uniforms – all vulnerable to the heavy weaponry now being deployed.

They are the civilians referred to in a daily headcount of casualties, or those who have escaped with their lives but have seen their homes peppered by shrapnel, roofs blasted off, or walls reduced to masonry rubble.

They are those who have endured the threat of all-out war for decades, living through sporadic cross-border violence, mortars, missiles and sniper fire, making it often impossible to go out and farm their fields in safety.

And they are the hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis and Armenians suffering from the trauma of exile. As many as a million people are refugees or internally displaced people from the inter-ethnic conflict over Karabakh in the 1990s and the ghastly pogroms in the Azerbaijani SSR as the Soviet Union was collapsing.

Reaching Karabakh and the people who live in and around it was never easy. The pandemic has deterred newsrooms from dispatching journalists to travel.

Now their human stories risk being drowned out by officialese. A sterile terminology thrives, the language of security bloc acronyms and geopolitics, spouted by presidents and ministers, spokespeople, and us, the reporters too.

The international media focuses its attention once again on the fighting, but it is a conflict for now largely seen and read through official tweets, Facebook posts and emails.

We watch through cameras mounted on military drones and hilltop high magnification lenses. The videos depict tanks, anti-aircraft defences and personnel carriers disappearing in puffs of smoke.

Young recruits barely out of school are human beings too, but pixelated or hidden inside this war machinery.

Monopolised messaging

Some claims are a distraction. Azerbaijan says foreign fighters are assisting Armenian forces. Armenian officials claim Syrian mercenaries are already imposing Islamic law in Azerbaijani villages.

At the time of writing, fewer than 48 hours since the latest fighting began, none of it – yet – is independently verifiable.

Official sources have monopolised the messaging. And internet restrictions in Azerbaijan have stifled conversations between its citizens on social media.

Much of the official messaging seems vainglorious – Azerbaijan’s defence minister describes the liberation of occupied lands as a “sacred duty”.

An Armenian tweet shows a pious priest brandishing a Kalashnikov.

Controlling the narrative and the media obscures the human suffering. The pandemic, the geography and the information war make it all the more difficult to penetrate the isolation of Nagorno-Karabakh.

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Engine Media Provides Update on Acquisition of Allinsports – Canada NewsWire

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TORONTO, Sept. 28, 2020 /CNW/ — Engine Media Holdings, Inc. (“Engine” or the “Company”; TSX-V: GAME; OTCQB: MLLLF) announces that it continues to work towards closing of the previously announced acquisition of Allinsports (see press releases of April 22, 2020 and August 10, 2020). The Company has advised the shareholders of Allinsports that all closing conditions of the transaction have not been satisfied – the shareholders of Allinsports have advised the Company that they believe otherwise.  The parties continue to discuss resolution of these matters.  Further updates will be provided as they become available.

About Engine Media Holdings, Inc.
Engine Media is focused on accelerating new, live, immersive esports and interactive gaming experiences for consumers through its partnerships with traditional and emerging media companies. The company was formed through the combination of Torque Esports Corp., Frankly Inc., and WinView, Inc. and trades publicly under the ticker symbol (TSX-V: GAME) (OTCQB: MLLLF).  Engine Media will generate revenue through a combination of: direct-to-consumer and subscription fees; streaming technology and data SaaS-based offerings; programmatic advertising and sponsorships; as well as intellectual property licensing fees.  To date, the combined companies have clients comprised of more than 1,200 television, print and radio brands including CNN, ESPN, Discovery / Eurosport, Fox, Vice, Newsweek and Cumulus; dozens of gaming and technology companies including EA, Activision, Blizzard, Take2Interactive, Microsoft, Google, Twitch and Ubisoft; and have connectivity into hundreds of millions of homes around the world through their content, distribution and technology.

Cautionary Statement on Forward-Looking Information

This news release contains forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors which may cause the actual results, performance or achievements of Engine to be materially different from any future results, performance or achievements expressed or implied by the forward-looking statements. Often, but not always, forward-looking statements can be identified by the use of words such as “plans”, “expects” or “does not expect”, “is expected”, “estimates”, “intends”, “anticipates” or “does not anticipate”, or “believes”, or variations of such words and phrases or state that certain actions, events or results “may”, “could”, “would”, “might” or “will” be taken, occur or be achieved.  Forward-looking information contained in this news release include, but are not limited to, statements relating to closing of the acquisition of Allinsports and the satisfaction of all closing conditions thereto. In respect of the forward-looking information contained herein, Engine has provided such statements and information in reliance on certain assumptions that management believed to be reasonable at the time, including assumptions as to obtaining required regulatory approvals. Forward-looking information involves known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors which may cause the actual results, performance or achievements stated herein to be materially different from any future results, performance or achievements expressed or implied by the forward-looking information. Actual results could differ materially from those currently anticipated due to a number of factors and risks.  Accordingly, readers should not place undue reliance on forward-looking information contained in this news release.

The forward-looking statements contained in this news release are made as of the date of this release and, accordingly, are subject to change after such date. Engine does not assume any obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether written or oral, that may be made from time to time by us or on our behalf, except as required by applicable law.

Neither the TSX Venture Exchange nor its Regulation Services Provider (as that term is defined in policies of the TSX Venture Exchange) accepts responsibility for the adequacy or accuracy of this release.

SOURCE Engine Media Holdings, Inc.

For further information: Paul Ryan, [email protected] 678-644-0404, Lou Schwartz, Co-CEO [email protected], https://www.engine.media

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Public urged to call police first, not use social media, to report suspicious incidents in Mount Pleasant – Vancouver Sun

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Vancouver police are urging the public to call investigators first — instead of posting on social media — with reports of suspicious activity in Mount Pleasant.

The reminder comes as police investigate suspicious events in Mount Pleasant that were reported in social media posts. The posts allege a man in a silver sedan has been approaching or following women in the Mount Pleasant area, asking to borrow phones or inviting them to approach the vehicle. Other posts allege similar incidents are also taking place in Kitsilano and Burnaby.

The flurry of informal reports has prompted the creation of a neighbourhood safe walk and plenty of action on group chats and social channels, although police say they have no evidence to link any of the reported incidents.

“We want them to call police right away,” Const. Tania Visintin said to anyone who has had a similar experience in recent weeks. “Don’t go to the internet and write it on Twitter, don’t tell your barista or server. Call us so we can investigate.”

“We just want the first thing not to be people going to social media, we want you to call us so we can track these incidents and we can see if they’re all linked.”

Visintin said Monday that a handful of suspicious circumstances had been reported directly to police in the Mount Pleasant area in recent weeks and that investigators are taking them seriously. And while there is an understandable desire for residents to warn others in the community, Visintin notes that unconfirmed social media posts can create a lot of fear.

“If we truly believe that we need to warn the public, we 100 per cent will and that will come from our mouth right away,” she said, noting there is nothing wrong with warning others, but that it’s important to contact police first with information that can help an investigation.

“If anything, we should all get out of this is awareness. We need to remind everyone — men, women and children — to be alert, be aware of your surroundings, know where you are, have your phone on you charged in any kind of situation so this is a good reminder of that.”

Visintin also noted that many of the posts about the recent circumstances are written by individuals on behalf of a friend or are secondary sources, which poses a challenge for investigators who need to speak directly with victims.

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