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The Biggest Tech and Digital Media Stories of 2019 – Variety



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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pop sensation BTS' label picks JPMorgan, others for IPO -media – Financial Post



SEOUL — Big Hit Entertainment, the music label of South Korean boy band BTS, has chosen JPMorgan, NH Investment and Securities and others to handle its initial public offering (IPO), according to media reports.

The IPO could be one of the largest in years in the country’s entertainment industry, with its total valuation expected to be as high as 6 trillion won ($5 billion), the reports said, citing industry sources.

Big Hit Entertainment has chosen three local brokerage firms – NH Investment & Securities, Korea Investment & Securities and Mirae Asset Daewoo for the IPO, sources with direct knowledge off the matter told Reuters on condition of anonymity as the plan is not public yet.

The brokerage firms declined to comment, while JPMorgan did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Founded in 2005, the South Korean talent agency behind global sensation BTS has helped the South Korean superstar boy band score megahits globally and sell out U.S. stadiums. BTS also performed at the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles last month.

BTS broke into the U.S. market in 2017 and was the first Korean group to win a Billboard music award. The band is set to launch a new world tour in April.

With BTS at the height of its popularity, it would be the right time to go public for Big Hit Entertainment, analysts said. But some are skeptical about the lofty valuation.

“The band members who are in their 20s must enlist for compulsory military service in a few years,” said Yoo Sung-man, an analyst at Hyundai Motor Securities.

Big Hit Entertainment’s “valuable assets in their prime will be out of business for a while in the foreseeable future.”

Founder Bang Si-hyuk held the biggest stake of about 43.06% in Big Hit Entertainment as of the end of 2018, followed by gaming company Netmarble Corp’s 25.22%, according to a regulatory filing by the music label.

Its operating profit nearly doubled to 64.1 billion won in 2018 from a year ago, according to the filing. ($1 = 1,206.9100 won) (Reporting by Heekyong Yang; Additional reporting by Hyunjoo Jin; Editing by Himani Sarkar)

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Postmedia Calgary gets two nods for international media awards – Calgary Herald



Gifts of Life: A special series starts shining a light on the need for increased organ donations. Here, Tony Timmons and Ryan McLennan show the special pins they received after Timmons donated a kidney to McLennan, who had used billboards to advertise his search for an organ. Together, the two pins form a whole. And the two men, once strangers, are now the best of friends.

Darren Makowichuk / DARREN MAKOWICHUK/Postmedia

The International News Media Association named Postmedia Calgary on Monday as a finalist in two categories of its annual awards competition.

The first award nomination came in the category of best community service campaign — joint recognition for Postmedia Calgary (Calgary Herald and Calgary Sun) and Postmedia Edmonton (Edmonton Journal and Edmonton Sun) for a project called Gifts of Life. Postmedia newsrooms in both cities joined forces to create this month-long series of content focused on organ donations and transplants.

With support from Postmedia Editorial Services, 22 journalists worked on the project to provide compelling packages of information — stories, graphics, photos and columns — which were published online and in our four newspapers on each of the five Saturdays in November 2019. On our digital sites and social media platforms, we worked to profile a person each day of that same month who had either received a transplant, was waiting for one, had donated an organ or tissue, or had agreed to donate an organ from a deceased relative.

The other nomination for Postmedia Calgary came in the best use of video category, for a video that documented the story of injured Humboldt Broncos player Ryan Straschnitzki. The 13-minute video was created by Leah Hennel and Kerianne Sproule and accompanied a three-part story from Sammy Hudes.

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This is the fourth year in a row in which Postmedia Calgary has been named a finalist in the best use of video category. Postmedia Calgary has been nominated for or won a total of 12 INMA awards since 2010.

This year, the INMA awards attracted 824 entries from 242 news organizations in 44 countries around the world. Winners will be announced on April 28.

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Mike Bloomberg prepares media onslaught against Democratic front-runner Bernie Sanders – CNBC



Mike Bloomberg’s presidential campaign plans to unleash its cash-flush media operation against Bernie Sanders in the wake of the Vermont senator’s resounding victory in the Nevada caucuses.

Senior aides to Bloomberg’s campaign have been discussing how they are going to use some of their resources against Sanders, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter who declined to be named because these decisions were made in private. Already, the campaign has spent over $500 million on media ad buys, according to Advertising Analytics.

The campaign plans a multipronged attack, including the publication of opposition research on Sanders, these people said. It will also push out digital attack ads focused on Sanders’ record. On Monday, the Bloomberg campaign attempted to paint Sanders as a past ally of the National Rifle Association, a gun advocacy group that Bloomberg has fought for over a decade.

The attacks on Sanders, who has accused Bloomberg of trying to buy the Democratic nomination, will also attempt to highlight negative aspects of his record on race relations both as a congressman and senator, the sources said. This comes after Sanders, now seen as the Democratic front-runner, has taken aim at Bloomberg for his support of a policing policy known as stop-and-frisk that often targeted black and Latino people.

People within the Bloomberg campaign are also discussing whether to have surrogates and supporters write op-eds and show up on TV to speak out against Sanders, these people added.

Bloomberg’s campaign is sounding the alarm on Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, ahead of Super Tuesday, March 3, when 14 states hold their primaries. Sanders has pulled ahead in state and national polls, while Bloomberg’s momentum has stalled somewhat following a poorly reviewed performance in the debate last week.

Bloomberg has yet to take part in a primary and has invested most of his campaign’s efforts into capturing delegate rich Super Tuesday states, including the biggest prizes, Texas and California. The campaign has previously acknowledged that Sanders is the biggest threat to capturing the Democratic nomination.

Bloomberg has an estimated net worth of just over $60 billion, giving his self-funded campaign voluminous resources to target President Donald Trump and Sanders. It spent over $220 million in January alone, Federal Election Commission records say.

Some of Bloomberg’s attacks have already been initiated by the campaign and it gives hints at what he will likely focus on when he debates Sanders and other rivals in South Carolina on Tuesday.

Bloomberg’s team on Monday released a digital spot attacking Sanders’ track record on gun safety laws. Many more ads targeting the Vermont lawmaker are expected in the weeks to come. Bloomberg’s tech company, Hawkfish, has been responsible for crafting the campaigns digital ads.

A Bloomberg campaign spokesperson did not return a request for comment.

Dan Kanninen, one of Bloomberg’s advisors, told reporters on Monday that the campaign does plan to start focusing its messaging on Sanders’ track record when it comes to gun safety. Bloomberg and Sanders have said they will support whoever the Democratic nominee is.

“[President] Trump himself and now the Russians are indicating that Senator Sanders is the candidate they want to run against,” Kanninen said. Sanders has said that U.S. intelligence officials briefed him on Russia looking to assist his campaign in becoming the Democratic nominee for president.

In a press release highlighting Bloomberg’s new digital ad, the campaign said it is launching a California bus tour while separately deploying national surrogates to highlight the differences between Bloomberg and Sanders when it comes to guns.

The battle between Sanders and Bloomberg has been heating up in the past few weeks. Sanders and Bloomberg battled on the debate stage last week, where he was attacked for his record as New York mayor and for allegedly making inappropriate comments toward women who worked for his company.

Since then, the two sides have been speaking out against each other through social media and on the campaign trail. Bloomberg’s campaign manager Kevin Sheekey, appeared to threaten Sanders with an opposition research blitz before his boss took the stage to face Sanders.

Sanders, in the wake of his success in Nevada, has been taking aim at establishment Democrats. The Bloomberg campaign has pounced on this type of messaging, saying it is alienating a key voting bloc.

“This is a candidate who just declared war on the so-called ‘Democratic Establishment.’ We are going to need Independents AND Republicans to defeat Trump — attacking your own party is no way to get started,” Sheekey said in a statement after Sanders won the Nevada caucus.

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