Insights: HBO Max May Change A Lot, And Complicate A Lot More

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HBO Max launched this week to positive reviews, and substantial confusion: How is it different from HBO? Do I still need HBO Go, or HBO Now, or HBO HBO? And why isn’t it on Amazon or Roku?

If somehow, all that left you a bit puzzled, you weren’t alone.

Yes, it’s clear that AT&T unit WarnerMedia has a potential blockbuster, possibly a must-have for streaming-video consumers. And that’s before Hulu founder Jason Kilar, recently named WarnerMedia’s new head, settles in and hones the still-imperfect product to a fine edge.

That alone could realign the streaming wars. For instance, HBO Max’s debut is likely what encouraged Apple to dump its originals-only strategy for TV+ and, reportedly, buy library content from other companies.

As it is, HBO Max is one of the most ambitious (and expensive, at $15 a month) services out there, a so-called “four-quadrant” offering. It has something for just about everyone, from beloved TV series such as Friends and The Big Bang Theory to film classics from the Turner and Warner vaults, documentaries, and of course the exquisite HBO array of shows, including The Sopranos, Game of Thrones, and current programs. There is even some original content, though the pandemic delayed much of it.

That breadth of programming dwarfs two other big new services: TV+, with about 30 shows and features, and Disney+, which has lots of shows for young children, Disney geeks, and fans of Marvel and Star Wars, but little for the rest of us.

Max’s basic pitch–“It’s HBO, plus a bunch of other cool stuff you’ll probably like, for the same price, all of it streaming on demand”–will likely resonate widely.

Why HBO Max is different

But HBO Max also is also realigning the business in other ways, most particularly because of why it’s not part of Roku and Amazon.

“This is the new carriage battle of 2020,” analyst Rich Greenfield of LightShed Partners said in a webinar this week.

By that, he means it’s a lot like what happened over the past few decades, when pay-TV providers fought with popular channels such as ESPN or CBS or Fox News over fee hikes to carry the channel on their cable service. Usually, eventually, the cable company caved. Maybe we’ll see the same thing happen with Roku and Amazon. But in the meantime, we’re seeing the streaming business shift, and a market opportunity emerge amid the growing customer confusion.

The Roku-Amazon-HBO Max fight is ultimately over having your expensive collection of programming and your fancy app experience and your incredibly valuable direct relationship with consumers chopped up and disaggregated onto someone else’s platform. Worse, those platforms have their own competing programming services.

Amazon’s Channels has generated a reported $2.5 billion a year from 5 million Prime Video customers. As Greenfield said, “It’s a very good business for Amazon to be in.”

But WarnerMedia doesn’t want to give up that control over what will be its most important new product in decades.

After all, Greenfield said, “Why bother building an HBO Max app if you’re going to just let everyone take your content onto their app?”

AT&T incoming CEO John Stankey, whom Kilar succeeded at WarnerMedia, recently told CNBC, “Roku and Amazon have elected not to be distributors. I step back and think we must be doing something right if someone believes we’re starting to be in conflict with their business.”

Apple does feature HBO Max on its platform, but that’s because Apple basically operates as a program directory for the service. Click on one of HBO’s shows, and off you go to the separate HBO Max app.

But that leaves Roku and Amazon on the outside, refusing to carry HBO Max under the terms AT&T demands, even as the older HBO Now app (which streams just the HBO library of shows) remains available. Together, those two providers reach around 80 million U.S. homes.

Into the HBO Max customer labyrinth

As Variety chief TV critic Caroline Framke put it in an otherwise positive review, finding HBO Max has become “a surprisingly labyrinthine situation that I can’t imagine will help it in the long run.”

It’s a recipe for consumer confusion, especially compared to the expensive and annoying traditional pay-TV bundle, which at least provided clarity and simplicity: You got a batch of channels from one provider, who even hooked you up with add-ons like HBO.

HBO Max’s standoff with Amazon and Roku likely means it’ll be more difficult to have that kind of simplicity going forward.

There are companies trying to solve these complications before they get any worse. Recently, I talked with one startup focused on the issue: Paket.TV, which was founded by Raffi Bagdasarian, a veteran of Disney, Universal Music, and Sony Pictures Television.

Paket’s website promises, “One monthly bill. One login for all your favorite services. Bundle discounts.”

Consumers benefit from a clearer, simpler, more straightforward approach. “We’re offering a unified authentication, billing, and discovery platform for consumers to basically have a portable plan that they can take anywhere,” Bagdasarian told me.

Building “Switzerland” for streaming services

But such an offering won’t work unless the streaming providers also benefit.

For the hundreds of niche providers out there (think CrunchyRoll, Africa Channel, Revry, Dove Channel, among so many), the benefits should be pretty clear. Anything that improves the chance their service will be found, and then reduces the friction of signing up and keeping those consumers, is a win.

A “Switzerland” approach such as Paket’s might be the only way to successfully recreate pay-TV’s useful clarity and simplicity, especially as the big streamers get more competitive with each other. Paket won’t arrive for several months, but it, or something like it, might be our last chance to have a simpler experience in our very complicated streaming future.

“If you’re a streaming service provider, you’re going to see so many new services launching with a lot of marketing, and they’re going to all have some kind of incentive to get you locked into their ecosystem,” Bagdasarian says. “The founding ethos of Paket is, ‘Why not create a platform that is fully independent, has all the benefits, but that isn’t taking the revenue from streaming providers that are competing with them?’”

It’s a pretty interesting question. Now to see if the industry, and its consumers, want an answer.

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iPhone 13 Details Leaked

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BGR reports on iPhone 13 details leaked.

iPhone 13 Details Leaked

It’s always fascinating to hear surmises and leaks about future Apple iPhones. This is especially true because not everyone may be on an upgrade cycle targeting an iPhone 12 this year. Getting a glimpse of the iPhone 13 might help trigger or defer that decision. BGR writes:

A Twitter user who goes by the name of Fudge, and who posts Apple rumors with some regularity, shared the “alleged” camera plans for one of the iPhone 13 prototypes.

iPhone X with camera lens for HEIF versus JPEG image formats

Basically, it’s a four lens deign with impressive specs. Of course, the caveat is, “Fudge made it clear that all this information should be taken with enough salt, as nothing is confirmed.”

As the article points out, this could just be one model’s prototype. Still, fun stuff to ponder as we plan ahead.

The Week’s Apple News Debris

• HBO Max has launched. But there’s a wrinkle. “HBO stops participating in Apple TV Channels, users directed to HBO Max app.” By the way, you may already qualify for a free subscription. See this note at the HBO Max Help Center.

• iMore reports on a survey of 10,000 users by Park Associates of streaming TV service market share. Here’s the tl;dr version.

  1. Netflix – 56%
  2. Amazon Prime Video – 43%
  3. Hulu – 32%
  4. Disney+ 25%
  5. Apple TV+ – 10%

“CBS All Access, HBO Now, Showtime, ESPN+, and Starz round out the top 10.” It’ll be very interesting to see how NBCUniversal’s Peacock fares in six and then 12 months.

• Meanwhile, the Apple Watch is doing well despite the COVID-19 pandemic. iMore (again) reports: “Apple retains top spot in the wearables market in Q1, shipping 21 million units.” Quoted from IDC:

Apple was once again the top wearables company with a 29.3% share and 21.2 million units. While Apple Watch shipments declined due to difficulties in the supply chain, the strength of the Beats and Airpods[sic] lineup was more than enough to offset the negative growth.

• A new Apple TV 4K is said to be imminent. Filipe Espósito at 9to5Mac fills us in. “Should you buy an Apple TV right now or wait for a new model?” Notable:

Based on a leaked iOS 14 early build obtained by 9to5Mac, we know that Apple is working on a new version of Apple TV remote. The current sleek Siri Remote with a touch surface is considered a downside by some users, so perhaps Apple is reconsidering its design.

It makes perfect sense to include a redesigned remote with a new Apple TV 4K that has an A12X CPU to entice users to upgrade. As for those who think their current 2017 Apple TV 4K is good enough, see: “Why Apple May be Releasing a New Apple TV 4K.

• Before the pandemic, I wrote here a lot about commercial and family robots—something I see as a missed opportunity by Apple. Now, it seems that the pandemic is making the case even stronger in many ways.

For example, when you tell a robot to clean something thoroughly, you can be sure the job gets done right. Safely. No corners cut. For much more, see: “In a world gripped by pandemic, we need robots.” [Subscription may be required.]

• Finally,

Ahem. Replicator: Tea, Earl Grey, decaff.

Particle Debris is generally a mix of John Martellaro’s observations and opinions about a standout event or article(s) of the week followed by a discussion of articles that didn’t make the TMO headlines, the technical news debris. The column is published most every Friday except for holiday weeks.


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Trump’s Executive Order Targeting Social Platforms Could Hurt “Internet Freedom,” Google Says

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Donald Trump’s newly signed executive order seeks to strip social media platforms of protections which keep them from being sued over content posted by users.

If that happens, YouTube’s parent company Google tells Tubefilter, it “would hurt America’s economy and its global leadership on internet freedom.”

YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are all explicitly named in Trump’s order, which takes aim at Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act. This federal statute says that providers of “interactive computer services” where users can post their thoughts are not considered to be the publishers of those thoughts. That’s a critical distinction, because if platforms aren’t publishers, they’re not necessarily expected to vet or approve content users generate. They’re just providing a place to post it–which means if it’s libelous or lawbreaking, they aren’t legally liable.

Section 230 also mandates that providers are allowed to remove users’ content in “good faith,” and can’t be sued for it. Basically, platforms are allowed to set content policies, and are allowed to enforce those policies by restricting or removing content that is “obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected.”

The latter provision is what made it perfectly legal for Twitter, this week, to add fact-check information to Trump’s misleading tweets about mail-in ballots and voter fraud. It was also legal for Twitter, yesterday, to limit the visibility of tweets where Trump appeared to threaten to use deadly military force on people in Minnesota protesting the alleged murder of George Floyd, a black man, at the hands of police officers.

Twitter’s actions are what spurred Trump to create and sign the executive order. Via the order, he argues that by restricting and/or removing users’ policy-violating content, platforms are acting as publishers, and therefore should not be protected from legal action. He claims platforms are infringing on users’ freedom of speech, and are “engaging in selective censorship” that “clearly reflects political bias.”

The order aims to strip platforms of safe harbor

Ultimately, the order instructs the Federal Communications Commission–which, according to experts who spoke to The New York Times, doesn’t have jurisdiction over this issue–to develop new regulations that could strip social platforms of Section 230 protections if they are deemed to have removed users’ content in bad faith. Losing protections would leave platforms open to both lawsuits over lawbreaking content, and lawsuits from users whose content is removed.

The order is a long way from actually resulting in concrete, enforceable policy changes, but Google and YouTube are watching it closely. YouTube has been a frequent target of complaints that it unfairly demonetizes/deplatforms conservative users and their content, but there’s no evidence of that–and investigations into far-right and alt-right “rabbit holes” have indicated that ultraconservative content has a foothold on the site.

“We have clear content policies and we enforce them without regard to political viewpoint,” Google tells Tubefilter. “Our platforms have empowered a wide range of people and organizations from across the political spectrum, giving them a voice and new ways to reach their audiences.”

Separately, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki told Bloomberg, “We have worked extraordinarily hard to make sure that all of our policies and systems are built in a fair and neutral and consistent way.”

Apparently presented with the idea that if policies are changed, Google could split YouTube into a separate company to contain legal risk, she said she doesn’t think that’s likely. “We work pretty closely with Google and there’s a lot of benefits that we get as being part of Google,” she said.

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CAA Signs TikTok Creator And Budding Fashion Influencer Cosette Rinab

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CAA has added another budding TikTok star to its talent coffers.

The agency has signed Cosette Rinab for representation in all areas. Rinab, 20, joined the app in early 2019 and has since amassed 2.1 million followers.

Rinab is beloved for her eye-catching work with TikTok’s editing features. Throughout her career, she has also worked as a consultant and sponsored content partner alongside top fashion brands like Dolce & Gabbana, Levi’s, Tory Burch, and Boohoo. She was also one of three TikTok stars personally tapped by the platform — alongside Taylor Hage (917,000 followers) and Tyler Gaca (625,000) — to attend New York Fashion Week and broadcast videos from the shows for her legions of fans.

Rinab was born in New York City but currently resides in Los Angeles, where she is studying public relations at the University Of Southern California. She also boasts a burgeoning presence on both Instagram and YouTube.

Other TikTok stars signed to CAA include actress and vegan food blogger Tabitha Brown (3.2 million followers), the app’s formerly-most-followed-star Loren Gray (44 million), music and comedy creator Sam Hurley (3.7 million), and actor Case Walker (2.1 million).

Photo credit: Tyler Butler

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Angel Has Fallen: Great Performances and Resemblances

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So we saw Angel Has Fallen (2019) on Netflix last night.  It’s the third in the “Fallen” series – Olympus Has Fallen (2013), London Has Fallen (2016) – a nonstop adrenalin saga of Agent Mike Banning overcoming traitors and what seems like hundreds of armed commandos against him to save the U. S. President, now Allan Trumbull, played by Morgan Freeman, who has moved up from Speaker of the House, to Vice President, to now President in the trilogy.  I enjoyed the first two movies a lot, but didn’t review them, for who knows why.

What I liked most about Angel Has Fallen is Nick Nolte, who puts in an appearance as Clay Banning, Mike’s father, a hermit with munitions savvy whom Mike aptly characterizes as one step away from the Unabomber.   But Clay plays a crucial strategic role in this story, and I’m maybe only slightly exaggerating when I say this may be Nolte’s best performance and part since Rich Man, Poor Man in 1976, though I truthfully can’t think of another movie or television series in which Nolte was so surprisingly effective.

Also notable in this movie is Danny Huston, who has been one my favorite villains since his Ben Diamond in the all-too brief Magic City TV series (2012-2013).  He projects a combination of intelligence, moral structure that allows him to do great evil, with an underlying adherence nonetheless to some kind of code with some trace of, if not integrity at least its style, that makes him the ideal ultimate antagonist for Mike Banning.

Freeman as Trumbull of course makes an angel to devil comparison of what’s now in the White House in our off-screen reality, but there was an eerie suggestion of Trump nonetheless in Trumbull’s Vice President, played by Tim Blake Nelson, who reminded me of current U. S. Secretary Steven Mnuchin.   Check out the photos below if you think I’m crazy:

Steven Mnuchin


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Video Messaging Startup ‘Loom’ Closes $29 Million Funding Round At $350 Million Valuation

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Loom, a digital video startup seeking to fill a niche in the remote work industry by enabling users to concurrently record their screens and their faces — with audio — and instantly share ensuing clips via email or text message, has just closed a $28.75 million funding round.

The Series B round, led by Sequoia Capital and Coatue, brings Loom’s total funds raised to $73 million, and values the company at $350 million, reports Forbes — which is two times Loom’s valuation since its last funding round only seven months ago. In addition to previous investors like Kleiner Perkins and Slack, Loom also counts prominent Silicon Valley figures as backers, including Ashton Kutcher and Instagram founder Kevin Systrom.

Loom’s use cases are perfectly a propos for the seismic shift toward telecommuting that the corporate world has seen in recent months — including at tech giants like Twitter and Facebook — in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The platform enables users to provide project feedback or walk colleagues through a proposal, for instance. And outside of business, the app is also being used by teachers, per Forbes, who can create lessons for students to consume at their own convenience.

Accordingly, Loom — not to be confused with Zoom, another video conferencing app that has seen usership skyrocket amid the pandemic — has garnered swaths of new users in recent months. From the date that the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that COVID-19 was a ‘Public Health Emergency of International Concern‘ on Jan. 30, according to Forbes, Loom has seen total users double to 4 million — across a total of 90,000 companies.

In response to this unprecedented demand and current events, Forbes reports that Loom temporarily dropped the price for its premium service, Loom Pro (which is now priced at $5 per month, and which offers more advanced recording and editing tools than its free basic recording product). Loom has also bestowed permanent free access to Loom Pro to verified teachers and students.

Loom, which first hit the market in June 2016 as a free Google Chrome extension — was co-founded by 30-year-old Joe Thomas, who dropped out of college to begin a career in coding and launch his journey as an entrepreneur. Loom’s Mac and PC app arrived in March 2019. In addition to its Pro service, the company — which today counts 80 employees — is now working on a product specifically targeted at large businesses dubbed Loom For Teams, which lets companies create a central library of videos and protects them with stricter security safeguards.

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HBO Max Launches With Disney & 20th Century Fox Movies | Disney Plus News

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HBO Max Launches Today

#DisneyPlus #Disney






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Disney+ To Launch In Japan On June 11th & Disney Deluxe Merging Into Disney+ | Disney Plus News

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Disney+ To Launch In Japan On June 11th & Disney Deluxe to become Disney+

#DisneyPlus #Disney






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TalentX Entertainment Hires A3 Artists’ Maxwell Mitcheson As VP And Head Of Talent

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TalentX Entertainment, the nascent digital talent management firm with roots in TikTok, has announced the latest hire to join its burgeoning team.

Former A3 Artists agent Maxwell Mitcheson has onboarded at TalentX as VP and head of its talent division, Deadline reports. Throughout his career as an agent, Mitcheson has helped clients — including Jordyn Jones, Lauren Giraldo, and Mark Dohner — land brand deals and navigate crossovers from the digital to the traditional entertainment worlds. At A3, Mitcheson also spearheaded the agency’s signings of top TikTok stars like Tayler Holder, Andre Swilley, and others.

“Maxwell’s unique skill set is very difficult to find,” TalentX CEO Warren Lentz said of the hiring in a statement. “His ability to both develop talent and build new brands will be a great asset for TalentX. He’s a true visionary as well as an executor.”

TalentX has also onboarded in recent months two former Gersh agents: Sean Stewart as digital talent director and Michael Senzer as VP of business development. The company has also forged partnerships in recent weeks with talent agency ICM, which will now represent TalentX’s clients in all areas, as well as esports conglomerate ReKTGlobal, with whom TalentX has partnered to launch a gamer-focused talent management unit dubbed TalentX Gaming.

TalentX, which was founded by three digital creators-turned-entrepreneurs — Tal Fishman, Jason Wilhelm, and Josh Richards — reps stars across myriad platforms, including TikTok creator collective Sway LA, whose six members reside in a swanky Bel Air mansion. The star-studded group has also garnered headlines in recent days due to the arrests of two of its members. All told, the Sway LA TikTok account has amassed a cool 3.2 million followers.

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Tom Ellis Signs a Deal for More Lucifer at Netflix

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Thank God, Tom Ellis just closed a deal to continue playing Lucifer should Netflix be in the market.

Despite FOX’s decision to can the series after three relatively successful seasons, Lucifer flourished on Netflix.

And even though they initially canceled the fan-favorite series after the fourth season, common sense got the better of Netflix, and we’re anxiously awaiting news on the release of Lucifer Season 5.

TE Signs Lucifer 1

With as fast as fans gobbled up Lucifer Season 4 and the intense conversation surrounding the cancellation survivor, it’s hard to imaging the fifth season will be anything but a roaring success.

So why on earth wouldn’t Netflix want to move forward with a sixth season?

Now that Deadline has reported Ellis signed on the dotted line for more of his mischievous and comical take on the dark lord, we can remain hopeful that the world will expand beyond the fifth season.

TE Signs Lucifer 2

All of the parts are falling into place!

It’s funny to think that executive producers Ildy Modrovich and Joe Henderson once felt OK with the doors closing on their beloved series after its revival at Netflix.

They signed deals as soon as Netflix began talks with Warner Bros. TV, the series producer, about getting more devilish fun on their schedule beyond the upcoming season.

Luci and Chloe

That must mean that early response to what lies ahead is even better than we hoped.

And let’s be honest, with the way that Lucifer Season 4 ended and the enormous sacrifice Lucifer made to reclaim the throne in Hell, there are infinite directions this story can take under the right guidance, and Modrovich and Henderson have steered it beautifully.

Shortened seasons has meant losing a lot of the secondary character development we enjoyed when there were 22 episodes to a season.

TE Signs Lucifer 3

Other than the excitement surrounding Lucifer resuming his reign, such as getting involved with his nephew, Charlie, and how Amenadiel and Linda are dealing with their celestial spawn.

Chloe must be reeling with Lucifer’s decision to return to Hell, and how the two make their way back to each other will certainly be worth the watch.

And let’s not forget Eve, who is now intertwined emotionally with Mazikeen. Eve sort of disappeared at the end of Season 5, but we’re not worried that she won’t be back and entertaining as ever.

TE Signs Lucifer 4

And my fingers are crossed that we’ll see a lot more with Dan and Ella, who are two of the most complex characters on the series, always surprising us with their latest developments.

The good news is that the entire cast is supposedly on board for more.

Now we just need to sit and wait patiently for word on the release of Season 5.

TE Signs Lucifer 5

Since marketing efforts might want to refer to an endpoint or the continuation beyond the upcoming season, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Ellis’ new deal will prompt Netflix to announce soon.

Are you excited? What do you think is coming for the Lucifer gang in the upcoming season?

Hit the comments and revel in this good news.


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