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‘Game of Thrones’ season finale sets record as HBO’s most-viewed episode ever

Despite disappointing many longtime fans of the show, the “Game of Thrones” series finale set a new record for HBO as the most viewed episode in the network’s history. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the episode reached 13.6 million viewers during its initial airing on Sunday night, which rose to 19.3 million once replays and early streaming was included. The record was previously held for a short time by the season’s penultimate episode, which drew in 12.48 million viewers when first aired and a total of 18.4 million during its first night.

The eighth and last season of “Game of Thrones,” which premiered in 2011, averaged 44.2 million viewers through Sunday after streaming, on-demand, DVRs and replays were added in, or 10 million more than the season 7 average, said HBO .

The previous HBO series finale with the most viewers was “The Sopranos” with 11.9 million viewers, though that was in 2007, before streaming and other digital services took off.

 

YouTube’s CEO says it will continue addressing monetization issues, admits Rewind 2018 was “cringey”

In an open letter to YouTube creators today, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki admitted that even her kids think Rewind 2018 is “cringey.” Meant as a celebratory recap, the video has garnered a record-setting 15 million dislikes so far.

“We hear you that it didn’t accurately show the year’s key moments, nor did it reflect the YouTube you know. We’ll do better to tell our story in 2019,” Wojcicki wrote.

Wojcicki also mentioned important issues like Article 13, proposed legislation in the European Union nicknamed the “meme ban” for its potentially chilling effect on user-generated content and monetization. Many creators saw their revenue hurt during “Adpocalypse” last year after YouTube introduced new policies to placate advertisers.

Intended to keep ads from running in front of videos with objectionable content, creators said the policies also resulted in the demonetization of many videos without a clear reason. But the letter is unlikely to address the concerns of creators who are still trying to recover revenue or gain a better understanding of how YouTube’s policies are enforced.

For example, Wojcicki repeated the statistic that the number of YouTube creators “earning five or six figures in the last year grew more than 40 percent,” which the platform has said since at least December 2017, when Adpocalypse began. (That month, Bloomberg published a story that said YouTube claimed channels making six figures or more in revenue had increased 40 percent over the last year).

But YouTube doesn’t provide much more detail than that and though Wojcicki said that number is proof that creators are “creating the next generation of media companies and we’re thrilled to see how much the YouTube creator economy is thriving,” researchers have found that a very thin sliver of YouTubers ever make it into that revenue bracket.

For example, a professor at Germany’s Offenburg University of Applied Sciences found last year that breaking into the top three percent of most-viewed channels on YouTube might bring in advertising revenue of about $16,800 a year. Those at the very top, or top one percent, often earn revenue through other deals like sponsorships, making it even more difficult to estimate how much of their revenue comes from advertising on YouTube.

Wojcicki also did not address the fact that YouTube has been kicking off many channels that were part of multi-channel networks (MCN), often used by creators who don’t to deal directly with YouTube AdSense.

Videos are removed because they may be at risk of violating YouTube’s terms of service, but creators and MCNs have complained about the lack of transparency into how they are enforced.

Wojcicki acknowledged the communication issues and said YouTube had taken steps to improve it. YouTube Studio, to provide more insight into how videos are performing, will be available to all creators this year. YouTube is also now more responsive on social media channels. Wojcicki said it has increased the number of its responses by 50 percent and made response times 50 percent faster.

Wojcicki also noted that monetization “remains a pain point” for many creators. “Just as a reminder, we started last year with many of our largest advertisers paused because of brand safety concerns,” she wrote.

“We worked incredibly hard to build the right systems and tools to make sure advertisers feel confident investing in YouTube, and most are now back,” she continued. “On the creator side, we’ve been improving our classifiers so that we make the right monetization decision for each video,” adding that YouTube has increased the accuracy of its monetization icon system (which gives creators details about why a video has been monetized or not) by 40 percent and made it easier for creators to appeal decisions.

But she conceded that YouTube still has more work to do. Part of that effort includes giving creators other potential revenue streams, like YouTube Music and YouTube Premium, which has expanded to 29 countries from five at the beginning of 2019. It also lowered the subscriber threshold for channel memberships, which allows viewers to purchase memberships, to 30,000 from 100,000.

The “meme ban”

YouTube creators and other people who rely on the platform as a source of revenue in the EU will have an extra set of headaches to deal with next year. Last September, the EU Parliament voted to back Article 13 of the European Union Directive on Copyright in the Digital Market. Nicknamed the “meme ban” because it would mandate sites with large amounts of user-generated content to take down content that infringes on copyright, the legislation’s vague wording has led to concerns about how it would be enforced.

For YouTube in particular, Article 13 means that it would have automatically scan and filter user uploads for copyright violations, but it is unclear if its existing Content ID system would be enough for it to comply. Although memes and parodies are protected by laws in many countries, upload filters still aren’t advanced enough to differentiate between copyright violations and memes. Article 13’s opponents worry that this can have a chilling effect. Wojcicki wrote last year that it could potentially shut down the ability of millions of people to upload to YouTube and threaten “thousands of jobs” in the EU. YouTube is campaigning for the legislation to be reworded.

In today’s letter, Wojcicki said videos about the issue have been viewed “hundreds of millions of times,” but added that policymakers “lacked an understanding of the European creator community’s impact and size.”

“I shared with legislators the huge economic benefit you all bring to your home countries,” she said. “In France alone, we have more than 190 channels with more than 1 million subscriptions, with the number of E.U. channels reaching that milestone up 70% year over year.”

Hulu unexpectedly releases “Fyre Fraud” days before Netflix’s competing documentary

Not since the literary biopic showdown between “Capote” and “Infamous” has there been such an intense battle for the attention of viewers. This time, the fight is between Hulu and Netflix’s competing documentaries about the disastrous Fyre Festival, a 2017 music festival whose failure led to eight lawsuits and a six-year prison sentence for co-founder Billy McFarland. Hulu unexpectedly released its film, “Fyre Fraud” today, just four days before Netflix’s “Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened” was scheduled to premiere. Both films are helmed by award-winning filmmakers.

Entertainment Today reports that Hulu hopes its documentary, directed by Emmy-nominated, Peabody-winning filmmaking team Jenner Furst and Julia Willoughby Nason “will provide enlightening context ahead of [co-executive producer Elliot] Tebele’s Netflix documentary.”

“Fyre Fraud” contains exclusive interviews with McFarland, who co-founded Fyre with rapper Ja Rule, and people who used to work for Tebele’s marketing agency FuckJerry, one of the festival’s promoters. Some of Tebele’s former employees claim in “Fyre Fraud” that Tebele asked them to cover up early warning signs about the festival.

McFarland was later sentenced six years to jail in for defrauding investors, while Ja Rule is fighting to be removed as a defendant from a $100 million class action lawsuit. Attendees paid thousands of dollars for tickets, expecting a luxury music festival in the Bahamas, but instead found themselves staying in tents, no Internet service, no water, and food like processed cheese sandwiches. Delayed flights made the experience even more nightmarish, as guests were forced to wait hours in the heat for their charter flights back to Miami.

In response, the makers of Netflix’s “Frye,” directed by Chris Smith (whose “American Movie” won the Grand Jury Prize for Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival in 1999), told Entertainment Weekly that even though they worked with Tebele and Jerry Media (a FuckJerry brand), “at no time did they, or any others we worked with, request favorable coverage in our film, which would be against our ethics. We stand behind our film, believe it is an unbiased and illuminating look at what happened, and look forward to sharing it with audiences around the world.”

Smith told Entertainment Weekly earlier this week that McFarland wasn’t included in the documentary because he “wanted to get paid” for appearing and “we didn’t feel comfortable with him benefitting after so many people were hurt as a consequence of his actions.”

TechCrunch has contacted Netflix and Hulu for comment.

“Daredevil” will not be renewed for a fourth season, the latest Marvel series cancelled by Netflix

Despite strong reviews and a fan petition, Netflix said today that it is cancelling “Daredevil” after three seasons. This is the latest Marvel series, after “Luke Cage” and “Iron Fist,” that Netflix has cancelled recently, and is a sign that Marvel TV and Netflix’s multi-series agreement, signed in 2013, may be hitting some bumps.

Centered around a blind lawyer-turned-superhero in New York City, played by Charlie Cox, “Daredevil” was the first series released as part of the Marvel -Netflix deal in 2015. This leaves “Jessica Jones” and “The Punisher” as the two remaining Marvel series on Netflix.

Netflix said in a statement sent to Deadline, which first broke the news, that “we are tremendously proud of the show’s last and final season and although it’s painful for the fans, we feel it best to close this chapter on a high note. We are thankful to our partners at Marvel, showrunner Erik Oleson, the show’s writers, stellar crew, and incredible cast including Charlie Cox as Daredevil himself, and we’re grateful to the fans who have supported the show over the years.”

The streaming service added that the three seasons will remain on Netflix for years, while “the Daredevil will live on in future projects for Marvel,” leaving open the possibility that the character might appear in “Jessica Jones” or “The Punisher.” Another possibility is the series moving to Disney’s upcoming streaming service, Disney+, expected to launch late next year (the Walt Disney Company owns Marvel Entertainment).

The abrupt cancellations of three Marvel series over the last new months may point to hiccups in the partnership between Netflix and Marvel TV. Potential conflicts between the two include the cost of producing Marvel-Netflix shows, the success of Netflix’s own original content, and disagreements about the length of seasons. The Marvel seasons had 13 episodes each, but newer Netflix shows are only 10 episodes per season.

Apple’s subscription TV service might be coming sooner than you think

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Apple’s competitor to Netflix and Amazon Prime Video is apparently just around the corner.

According to a report by The Information, Apple is set to launch a subscription TV service in the U.S. within the first half of next year.

In the months following the U.S. launch, the service will become available in more than 100 countries around the world, matching the availability of the aforementioned streaming giants.

The service will feature original Apple series, of which the tech giant has been slowly building on, and allow users to subscribe to TV network subscriptions as one can already do through Amazon Channels or Roku.  Read more…

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Redbox lands deal with Warner to rent DVDs on the same day they go on sale in physical stores

DVD and Blu-ray rental kiosk operator Redbox announced a deal with Warner Bros. today that allows it to begin offering new releases on the same day they go on sale in physical retail stores. Redbox’s former agreement with the studio meant they had to wait until seven days after the home-video release. In a statement, Redbox said this deal also maintains the availability of new releases in Redbox On Demand, its streaming rental service.

According to Variety, this means Redbox now has same-day deals with almost all of the major studios. In addition to Warner Bros., they include Sony Pictures Entertainment, Universal Pictures and Lionsgate (its deal with 20th Century Fox is similar to its previous one with Warner Bros ., in that it allows Redbox to rent its movies seven days after their home-video release). One notable exception is Disney, which Redbox has not had a distribution deal with since 2012. This is likely due to an ongoing legal dispute involving digital download codes for Disney content.

Redbox now operates more than 41,500 kiosks, which it said in its announcement is “more locations than Starbucks and McDonalds in the U.S. combined.”

While the idea of waiting for DVD rentals might seem quaint in the age of on-demand and streaming everything, many Americans still rent discs. According to the NPD Group, nearly a third of people it surveyed in the United States last year said they rent DVDs and Blu-rays in addition to using a subscription service like Netflix. Despite reporting declining revenue before its parent company, Outerwall, agreed to be taken private in July 2016, Redbox doubled down on kiosks last year, adding 1,500 with plans to add more this year.

India-based music streaming service Gaana raises $115M led by Tencent

 Chinese internet giant Tencent is continuing to put its money in India and in music streaming services after it agreed to lead a $115 million investment in India’s Gaana. Gaana is a music streaming service that was started by Times Media, the company behind the Times of India newspaper and tech incubator Times Internet among other things, seven years ago. Gaana didn’t reveal its… Read More

ESPN’s new streaming service will launch in the spring and be called “ESPN Plus”

 Today on Disney’s Q3 earnings call CEO Bob Iger gave a preview of ESPN’s upcoming direct to consumer streaming service. The announcement comes after another disappointing quarter for ESPN, with decreased ad revenue and higher programing costs compared to the prior year. The service will be called ESPN Plus, and live inside a new app that will be launched by the sports… Read More

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Netflix rival iFlix reveals its first original content series for emerging markets

 Fresh from raising $90 million from investors in March, iFlix, a Netflix-like service for emerging markets, has announced its first slate of original content. The Malaysia-headquartered business claims five million registered users across 10 countries — it recently branched out into Africa and the Middle East — for its service which costs around $3 per month. Beyond cheaper… Read More

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Netflix is replacing five-star ratings with thumbs up or down

 Netflix announced today that it would ditch its standard five-star rating scheme in favor of a much more simple thumbs up or down option. The streaming service said it had been testing thumbs up and down ratings “with hundreds of thousands of members” in 2016 – and it led to 200% more ratings being given. This makes sense – giving a five-star rating takes some… Read More

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Spotify reaches 50 million paying users

spotify black history month Thank you to our 50 million subscribers. #Spotify50 pic.twitter.com/eXkOV71bwu — Spotify (@Spotify) March 2, 2017 Spotify has reached a new milestone after it crossed 50 million paying users. The service is currently available in over 60 markets, with a total catalog of more than 30 million songs on off. The streaming firm clocked 40 million ‘Premium’ subscribers in… Read More

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Trump’s inauguration broke live video streaming records

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20:  Supreme Court Justice John Roberts (2L) administers the oath of office to U.S. President Donald Trump (L) as his wife Melania Trump holds the Bible and son Barron Trump looks on, on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. In today's inauguration ceremony Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States.  (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images) Though some cried while others cheered, both sides tuned into to watch President Trump’s inauguration in sizable numbers – record-breaking numbers, in fact. The event has broken new ground, becoming the largest, single live news event that content delivery network Akamai has ever hosted, the company says, following an analysis of its live video data. According to Akamai, live… Read More

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The inauguration is happening tomorrow; here’s where you can stream it

American flags hang at the United States Capitol, in preparation for President Obama's second term inauguration ceremony in Washington, DC. (Photo by Brooks Kraft LLC/Corbis via Getty Images) If, say, the presidential inauguration is a thing you’d like to watch on Friday morning, then great news, friend, there are plenty of options. The bad news is that you’ve missed the musical stylings of Toby Keith, Lee Greenwood and 3 Doors Down.
The good news is that the real, good-old-fashioned inauguratin’ doesn’t really get started until 11:30AM ET tomorrow. Read More

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An NFL player went on Facebook Live from the locker room and nothing good happened

KANSAS CITY, MP - JANUARY 15: Wide receiver Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers is tackled by cornerback Marcus Peters #22 of the Kansas City Chiefs during the second half in the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 15, 2017 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) Yesterday after the Steelers upset the Chiefs in an AFC playoff game, Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown decided to go on Facebook Live from the locker room to celebrate with his fans. And the fans loved it – he went live for 17 minutes and had almost 900,000 views within just a few hours, before the video was deleted. A player using technology to celebrate directly with his fans… Read More

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SoundCloud co-founder takes product role, Yahoo alum steps in as CTO

soundcloudcribs On the heels of losses that appear to be growing faster than revenues, and reported acquisition interest from Google, the music streaming service SoundCloud today announced some executive movements. Eric Wahlforss, who co-founded the audio streaming startup with Alexander Ljung, is stepping away from the role of CTO and taking a new position as chief product officer. Meanwhile, SoundCloud… Read More

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