Google

YouTube Red and Google Play Music Will Merge To Create a New Service (theverge.com) 52

YouTube's head of music, Lyor Cohen, confirmed that the company is planning on merging its Google Play Music service with YouTube Red to create a new streaming offering. "The important thing is combining YouTube Red and Google Play Music, and having one offering," Cohen said. The Verge reports: Right now, YouTube's music ecosystem is unnecessarily complicated. There's YouTube Red, which removes ads from videos and lets you save them offline, while also giving you access to Google Play Music for free. Then there's YouTube Music, which anyone can use, but it gets better if you're signed up for YouTube Red. And YouTube TV is also a thing -- an entirely separate thing -- but it's not available everywhere yet. The merger has been rumored within the industry for months, and recently picked up steam after Google combined the teams working on the two streaming services earlier this year. In a statement to The Verge, Google said it will notify users of any changes before they happen. "Music is very important to Google and we're evaluating how to bring together our music offerings to deliver the best possible product for our users, music partners and artists. Nothing will change for users today and we'll provide plenty of notice before any changes are made."
AT&T

AT&T Loses Record Number of Traditional TV Subscribers In Q2, Drops 156,000 DirecTV Satellite Customers (variety.com) 78

According to Variety, AT&T's pay-TV business has lost a record 351,000 traditional video customers in the second quarter, with the internet-delivered DirecTV Now service failing to fully offset the losses. From the report: In Q2, historically a seasonally weak period for the pay-TV business, DirecTV's U.S. satellite division lost 156,000 customers sequentially, dropping to 20.86 million, compared with a gain of 342,000 in the year-earlier quarter. AT&T's U-verse lost 195,000 subs in the quarter, which was actually an improvement over the 391,000 it lost in Q2 of 2016. AT&T touted that it gained 152,000 DirecTV Now customers in Q2, after adding just 72,000 in the first quarter of 2017. Overall, it had signed up 491,000 DirecTV Now subs as of the end of June, after the OTT service launched seven months ago.
Democrats

Democrats Propose New Competition Laws That Would 'Break Up Big Companies If They're Hurting Consumers' (arstechnica.com) 332

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Senate and House Democratic leaders today proposed new antitrust laws that could prevent many of the biggest mergers and break up monopolies in broadband and other industries. "Right now our antitrust laws are designed to allow huge corporations to merge, padding the pockets of investors but sending costs skyrocketing for everything from cable bills and airline tickets to food and health care," US Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) wrote in a New York Times opinion piece. "We are going to fight to allow regulators to break up big companies if they're hurting consumers and to make it harder for companies to merge if it reduces competition." The "Better Deal" unveiled by Schumer and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was described in several documents that can be found in an Axios story. The plan for "cracking down on corporate monopolies" lists five industries that Democrats say are in particular need of change, specifically airlines, cable and telecom, the beer industry, food, and eyeglasses. The Democrats' plan for lowering the cost of prescription drugs is detailed in a separate document. The Democrats didn't single out any internet providers that they want broken up, but they did say they want to stop AT&T's proposed $85.4 billion purchase of Time Warner: "Consolidation in the telecommunications is not just between cable or phone providers; increasingly, large firms are trying to buy up content providers. Currently, AT&T is trying to buy Time Warner. If AT&T succeeds in this deal, it will have more power to restrict the content access of its 135 million wireless and 25.5 million pay-TV subscribers. This will only enable the resulting behemoths to promote their own programming, unfairly discriminate against other distributors and their ability to offer highly desired content, and further restrict small businesses from successfully competing in the market."
Piracy

Kodi Magazine 'Directs Readers To Pirate Content' (bbc.com) 48

An anonymous reader writes: A British magazine is directing readers to copyright-infringing software, the Federation Against Copyright Theft (Fact) has said. Kodi is a free, legal media player for computers -- but software add-ons can make it possible to download pirated content. The Complete Guide to Kodi magazine instructs readers on how to download such add-ons. Dennis Publishing has not yet responded to a BBC request for comment. The magazine is available at a number of retailers including WH Smith, Waterstones and Amazon. It was spotted on sale by cyber-security researcher Kevin Beaumont. It repeatedly warns readers of the dangers of accessing pirated content online, but one article lists a series of software packages alongside screenshots promoting "free TV", "popular albums" and "world sport". "Check before you stream and use them at your own risk," the guide says, before adding that readers should stay "on the right side of the law."
Businesses

Millennials Only Have a 5 To 6 Second Attention Span For Ads (cnbc.com) 174

Reader schwit1 writes: If you're an advertiser who wants to market a product to millennials, you're going to have to make it quick. A new study by comScore revealed online ads targeted toward millennials have to be around 5 to 6 seconds to be effective, a sharp contrast from the traditional 30-second commercial seen on TV. "The length of time of an episode or a viewing period is really important and has got to be short, otherwise you just won't keep the attention of millennials," comScore CEO Gian Fulgoni told CNBC's "Squawk Alley." The format of advertising may have to be radically changed to reach millennials, he suggested. "You're going to have to make your case literally in a matter of seconds and make sure you grab somebody's attention, Fulgoni said.
Piracy

Game of Thrones Pirates Being Monitored By HBO, Warnings On The Way (torrentfreak.com) 282

HBO is leaving no stones unturned in keeping Game of Thrones' piracy under control. The company is monitoring various popular torrent swarms and sending thousands of warnings targeted at internet subscribers whose connections are used to share the season 7 premiere of the popular TV series, reports TorrentFreak: Soon after the first episode of the new season appeared online Sunday evening, the company's anti-piracy partner IP Echelon started sending warnings targeted at torrenting pirates. The warnings in question include the IP-addresses of alleged BitTorrent users and ask the associated ISPs to alert their subscribers, in order to prevent further infringements. "We have information leading us to believe that the IP address xx.xxx.xxx.xx was used to download or share Game of Thrones without authorization," the notification begins. "HBO owns the copyright or exclusive rights to Game of Thrones, and the unauthorized download or distribution constitutes copyright infringement. Downloading unauthorized or unknown content is also a security risk for computers, devices, and networks." Under US copyright law, ISPs are not obligated to forward these emails, which are sent as a DMCA notification. However, many do as a courtesy to the affected rightsholders. The warnings are not targeted at a single swarm but cover a wide variety of torrents. TorrentFreak has already seen takedown notices for the following files, but it's likely that many more are being tracked.
AMD

AMD Has No Plans To Release PSP Code (twitch.tv) 125

AMD has faced calls from Edward Snowden, Libreboot and the Reddit community to release the source code to the AMD Secure Processor (PSP), a network-capable co-processor which some believe has the capacity to act as a backdoor. But despite some signs earlier that it might consider opening the PSP code at some point, the chip-maker has now confirmed that there hasn't been a change of heart yet. "We have no plans on releasing it to the public," the company executives said in a tech talk (video).
United Kingdom

Porn Websites in UK Ordered To Introduce Age Checks From Next Year (bbc.com) 105

Reader dryriver shares an article: A nine-month countdown to the introduction of compulsory age checks on online pornography seen from the UK has begun. The April 2018 goal to protect under-18s was revealed as digital minister Matt Hancock signed the commencement order for the Digital Economy Act, which introduces the requirement. But details as to how the scheme will work have yet to be finalised. Experts who advised ministers said the targeted date seemed "unrealistic". The act also sets out other new laws including punishing the use of bots to snatch up scores of concert tickets, and mandating the provision of subtitles on catch-up TV. The age-check requirement applies to any website or other online platform that provides pornography "on a commercial basis" to people in the UK. It allows a regulator to fine any business that refuses to comply and to ask third-party payment services to withdraw support. The watchdog will also be able to force internet providers to block access to non-compliant services.
Sci-Fi

George A. Romero, Martin Landau Both Died This Weekend (variety.com) 53

This weekend the world lost two familiar faces from the world of fantasy, horror and science fiction films -- director George A. Romero and actor Martin Landau. An anonymous reader writes: Bronx-born director Romero started his career with a segment for Mister Rogers' Neighborhood about tonsilectomies, but is best remembered for his influential zombie movies Night of the Living Dead (1968), Dawn of the Dead (1978), Day of the Dead (1985), and Land of the Dead (2005), as well as the 1982 horror film Creepshow (written by Stephen King). In 1998 Romero also directed a zombie-themed ad for Resident Evil 2, and later even wrote a rejected script for the first Resident Evil movie. In 2004 Romero began work on a zombie video game City of the Dead, which was ultimately never finished. Romero appears as himself in the zombie section of Call of Duty: Black Ops, and in 2014 Marvel comics launched Empire of the Dead, a 15-issue title written by Romero.

Martin Landau began his career playing a gunfighter in the third episode of The Twilight Zone, and a time-travelling astronaut in the sixth episode of The Outer Limits. Soon he was starring as master of disguise Rollin Hand on Mission: Impossible -- which ran from 1966 to 1973 -- and on Space: 1999, which ran from 1975 to 1977. At the age of 66 Landau finally won an Oscar for his portrayal of Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton's 1994 film Ed Wood. In 2012 Landau also provided the voice of the science teacher in Burton's Frankenweenie, and had an uncredited role in the director's 1999 movie Sleepy Hollow as one of the early victims of the headless horseman. Landau was also in the 1998 X-Files movie (playing the doctor who tips off Mulder that there's something suspicious in the morgue).

Slashdot reader schwit1 remembers that Landau began his career playing a sadistic henchman in Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest (who appears in the climactic final scene on Mt. Rushmore) -- and that Landau famously turned down the role of Mr. Spock on Star Trek.
Television

Tech Companies Capture A Third Of This Year's Emmy Nominations (engadget.com) 31

"Streaming companies like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu snagged nearly 1/3 of Emmy nominations this year, the most ever awarded to tech companies," reports Axios, adding that streaming companies "are pouring billions of dollars into content...and it's paying off." An anonymous reader quotes Engadget: After passing 100 million subscribers, overtaking cable TV in customer numbers in the US and expanding to over 190 countries, Netflix is starting to cement something else: sustained prestige. A record haul of 91 Emmy nominations puts Netflix -- which had 54 nominations last year -- just behind perennial frontrunner HBO with 110... A key component of this upgrade in status is the sheer number of original offerings Netflix has put out. If you throw everything at an awards committee, quite a few of them might stick... Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos has said Netflix spends over $6 billion a year on its own shows, in comparison to Amazon's reported spend of nearly $3 billion, with HBO at $2 billion...

Hulu picked up 18 nominations, up from two last year, including a first series nomination for dystopian A Handmaid's Tale. Together with Netflix's House of Cards, Stranger Things and The Crown, the majority of nominees in the competitive Outstanding Drama category were from streaming services. Amazon picked up 16 nominations, the same as last year.

The shows nominated for the most Emmy awards were NBC's Saturday Night Live, followed by HBO's Westworld, but Netflix ultimately ended up with more Emmy nominations than ABC, CBS, and Fox combined.
Television

Doctor Who's 13th Time Lord Announced: Actress Jodie Whittaker (bbc.co.uk) 508

Peter Capaldi, the 12th Doctor Who, had said that he wanted to see a woman replace him in the Tardis, and so did former Doctor Who stars Billie Piper and Karen Gillan. And today it's official: "the 13th incarnation of Doctor Who will be portrayed by an actress," writes Slashdot reader Coisiche -- specifically Jodie Whittaker, who American viewers may remember from her performance as CIA officer Sandra Grimes in the 2014 mini-series "The Assets." The BBC reports: She was revealed in a trailer that was broadcast on BBC One at the end of the Wimbledon men's singles final... She will make her debut on the sci-fi show when the Doctor regenerates in the Christmas Day show... Whittaker said: "I'm beyond excited to begin this epic journey...with every Whovian on this planet. It's more than an honour to play the Doctor. It means remembering everyone I used to be, while stepping forward to embrace everything the Doctor stands for: hope... Doctor Who represents everything that's exciting about change."
Doctor Who's new showrunner said the 13th Doctor was always going to be a woman -- and that Whittaker was their first choice. "Jodie is an in-demand, funny, inspiring, super-smart force of nature and will bring loads of wit, strength and warmth to the role." Doctor Who #12 added that Whittaker "has above all the huge heart to play this most special part. She's going to be a fantastic Doctor." And Will Howells, who writes for the Doctor Who magazine, said "I don't think it's a risky choice at all but if a show that can go anywhere and do anything can't take risks, what can?"
Businesses

Netflix Shows Are All Worldwide Hits -- Until They're Not (bloomberg.com) 193

An anonymous reader shares a report: On a conference call last October, Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos described the hip-hop drama "The Get Down" as a success, like the booming streaming service's other popular shows. Eight months and 11 episodes later, "The Get Down" is history, a flop after one season on the world's largest paid video service. The sci-fi thriller "Sense8," another of the company's lavish productions, was scrapped after two seasons. The back-to-back cancellations caught Hollywood by surprise. Netflix has defied convention by offering no inkling of how many people watch its shows and claiming just about everything is a hit. That's vexed competitors worried about Netflix's growing customer base and influence in Hollywood. The streaming company will spend more than $6 billion on programming this year, a good chunk of that on about 1,000 hours of original shows. Cancellations are common for all TV networks -- even for Netflix, which has wrapped up most of its first crop of original shows. Without the need to attract advertisers, the company is shielded from the weekly audience ratings that determine the fate of most dramas and sitcoms. "One of the great things about Netflix is we don't have to release ratings," Chief Executive Officer Reed Hastings said in an interview this week on CNBC. "Each show gets to have its own audience because it is very personalized." That's great for Netflix and its 100 million customers, who pay up to $12 a month for the service. Without pressure to deliver weekly ratings, the company can give shows time to develop a following. "House of Cards," the thriller starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, just started its fifth season. It's not so great for competitors -- or producers who must grope for ways to measure the success of a given program and wonder if they're getting paid enough by the streaming service. With no data, they must rely on the positive remarks Netflix executives make for all their shows.
Piracy

Net Neutrality is Not a Pirates' Fight Anymore (torrentfreak.com) 89

Today millions of people are standing up for net neutrality and an open internet. The "Battle for the Net," backed by companies including Amazon, Google, and Netflix, hopes to stop a looming repeal of current net neutrality rules. While the whole debate was kickstarted ten years ago when torrent users couldn't download their favorite TV-shows, it's no longer a pirate's fight today, writes TorrentFreak: Historically, there is a strong link between net neutrality and online piracy. The throttling concerns were first brought to the forefront in 2007 when Comcast started to slow down both legal and unauthorized BitTorrent traffic, in an affort to ease the load on its network. When we uncovered this atypical practice, it ignited the first broad discussion on net neutrality. This became the setup for the FCC's Open Internet Order which was released three years later. For its part, the Open Internet Order formed the foundation of the net neutrality rules the FCC adopted in 2015. The big change compared to the earlier rules was that ISPs can be regulated as carriers under Title II. While pirates may have helped to get the ball rolling, they're no longer a player in the current net neutrality debate. Under the current rules, ISPs are allowed to block any unlawful traffic, including copyright infringing content. In fact, in the net neutrality order the FCC has listed the following rule: "Nothing in this part prohibits reasonable efforts by a provider of broadband Internet access service to address copyright infringement or other unlawful activity." The FCC reasons that copyright infringement hurts the US economy, so Internet providers are free to take appropriate measures against this type of traffic. This includes the voluntary censoring of pirate sites, something the MPAA and RIAA are currently lobbying for. That gives ISPs plenty of leeway. ISPs could still block access to The Pirate Bay and other alleged pirate sites as a voluntary anti-piracy measure, for example. And throttling BitTorrent traffic across the board is also an option, as long as it's framed as reasonable network management. The worrying part is that ISPs themselves can decide what traffic or sites are unlawful. This could potentially lead to overblocking. Currently, there is no indication that any will, but the net neutrality rules do not preventing these companies from doing so.
Television

Amazon Prime Will Soon Be More Popular Than Cable TV (recode.net) 116

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Recode: Someday soon, more U.S. households will be subscribers of Amazon Prime than cable or satellite TV, according to recent estimates of Amazon's popular shipping and entertainment service. According to estimates from Morningstar, nearly 79 million U.S. households now have an Amazon Prime membership*, up from around 66 million at the end of last year. That compares to a projected 90 million U.S. households that will pay for cable or satellite TV this year, according to S&P Global. According to these estimates, more U.S. households may have an Amazon Prime subscription than a pay TV subscription as soon as next year. The implication here is not that Amazon's Prime Video service is more popular than TV; the main reason most people subscribe to Amazon Prime is still the fast delivery of products.
Crime

State Prison Officials Blame An Escape On Drones And Cellphones (usatoday.com) 223

An anonymous reader quotes USA Today: A fugitive South Carolina inmate recaptured in Texas this week had chopped his way through a prison fence using wire cutters apparently dropped by a drone, prison officials said Friday. Jimmy Causey, 46, fled the Lieber Correctional Institution in Ridgeville, S.C., on the evening of July 4th after leaving a paper mache doll in his bed to fool guards into thinking he was asleep. He was not discovered missing until Wednesday afternoon. Causey was captured early Friday 1,200 miles away in a motel in Austin by Texas Rangers acting on a tip, WLTX-TV reported... "We believe a drone was used to fly in the tools that allow(ed) him to escape," South Carolina Corrections Director Bryan Stirling said...

Stirling said prison officials are investigating the performance by prison guards that night but pointed to cellphones and drones as the main problem. The director said he and other officials have sought federal help for years to combat the use of drones to drop contraband into prison. "It's a simple fix," Stirling said. "Allow us to block the signal... They are physically incarcerated, but they are not virtually incarcerated."

It's the second time the same convict escaped from South Carolina's maximum security prison -- albeit the first time he's (allegedly) used a drone. The state's Law Enforcement Division Chief also complains that the federal government still prohibits state corrections officials from blocking cellphones, and "as long as cellphones continue to be utilized by inmates in prisons we're going to have things like this -- we're going to have very well-planned escapes..."
China

Reality Bytes: A Highflying Tech Entrepreneur Crashes Back To Earth (wsj.com) 64

An anonymous reader shares a WSJ article: Entrepreneur Jia Yueting likes to say that Apple is outdated, China's big technology companies are innovation-killing monopolies and his company, LeEco, is the real industry disrupter. That swagger served Mr. Jia in building an empire that sprawled across seven industries, from online video content to smartphones to electric cars. By having the ambition to take on Apple, Tesla and Netflix all at once, Mr. Jia seemed to embody the boundless promise of the huge China market. And investors responded favorably. Deal makers like HNA Capital and Legend Holdings bought in, as did the city government of tech hub Shenzhen, as well as movie director Zhang Yimou and other celebrities. British sports car maker Aston Martin joined up to develop electric vehicles. The U.S. state of Nevada promised $200 million in incentives for Mr. Jia's electric car venture, Faraday Futures, to build a $1 billion plant there. And LeEco unveiled a $2 billion deal to buy U.S. TV-maker Vizio. Now, most of those deals are dead or struggling and Mr. Jia's dreams are fading away due to a cash crunch and worried creditors (could be paywalled). On Thursday he resigned as chairman of a listed unit of LeEco, Leshi Internet Information & Technology, though he will remain the chairman of the holding company. That move comes after a Shanghai court last week -- at the behest of China Merchants Bank -- froze $181 million worth of his assets and $2 billion in shares over a missed interest payment.
Television

TV Networks Hide Bad Ratings With Typos, Report Says (cnet.com) 115

A report Thursday in The Wall Street Journal details how networks are taking advantage of that fact to disguise airings that underperform with viewers. From a report: It's described as a common practice in the world of TV ratings, where programs with higher ratings can charge advertisers more to run commercials. When an episode performs poorly with viewers, the networks often intentionally misspell the show title in their report to Nielsen, according to the Journal. This fools the system into separating that airing out as a different show and keeping it from affecting the correctly-spelled show's average overall rating. The report says the practice was initially used sparingly -- for instance, when a broadcast would go up against a major sporting event.
Movies

HBO and Cinemax Come To Hulu, But You'll Need the New App To Watch (techcrunch.com) 67

An anonymous reader shares a report: Hulu this morning announced it's finally adding HBO as an optional add-on for subscribers, as well as HBO-owned Cinemax. The premium networks will be offered to those who subscribe to Hulu's on-demand service plus those who pay for Hulu's new live TV service, including both the ad-supported and commercial-free versions. As on most other streaming services, including HBO NOW, the HBO add-on will cost subscribers an extra $14.99 per month. Cinemax is a more affordable upgrade at $9.99 per month. The deal's timing comes just ahead of "Game of Thrones" big summer release, which will allow Hulu the opportunity to capture some number of subscribers for this premium upgrade. Many HBO viewers only pay for the streaming service while the flagship series is airing, as they want to watch it live but no longer pay for cable TV. Now, they'll be able to watch the show live or on-demand, along with past seasons of other popular HBO series, like the "The Sopranos," or catch up on newcomers like "Westworld," along with all the other shows, sports, comedy and music specials, and movies that HBO offers. Some of HBO's other notable originals include "Veep," "Last Week Tonight," "Vice," "Silicon Valley," "Big Little Lies," and "The Night Of." It's now home to kids classic "Sesame Street," too.
Businesses

Chinese Court Seizes Millions in Assets of LeEco Founder as Conglomerate's Troubles Grow (variety.com) 27

Chinese Internet tycoon and LeEco founder Jia Yueting's ambition to challenge the likes of Apple and Tesla looks even more in doubt after $182 million of his assets were frozen by a Shanghai court following unpaid loans. From a report: Jia and LeEco came in for stinging criticism from Chinese media Wednesday, which warned that the Internet streaming company and hardware manufacturer was set to fall into further trouble, with the asset freeze as only the beginning. LeEco's development "is too big, too quick and too reckless," Beijing Business Today wrote. "Developing TV [programs and TV sets], mobile phones, [electric] cars and sports programs all consume too much cash at the same time. Not only can the capital not sustain these developments; fractures are inevitable in areas ranging from human resources, technology and management." According to the official Xinhua news agency, the Shanghai High People's Court last week ruled in favor of China Merchants Bank's application to freeze $182 million in assets belonging to Jia, his wife and three LeEco affiliates. Further reading: LeEco Said To Lay Off Over 80 Percent of US Workforce, LeEco's CEO Jia Yueting Says Company Overstretched, Now Running Out of Cash, and China's LeEco Calls Off Its $2 Billion Purchase of TV Maker Vizio.
AT&T

Forced Arbitration Isn't 'Forced' Because No One Has To Buy Service, Says AT&T (arstechnica.com) 342

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: AT&T is denying that its contracts include "forced arbitration" clauses, even though customers must agree to the clauses in order to obtain Internet or TV service. "At the outset, no AT&T customer is ever 'forced' to agree to arbitration," AT&T Executive VP Tim McKone wrote in a letter to U.S. senators. "Customers accept their contracts with AT&T freely and voluntarily; no one 'forces' them to obtain AT&T wireless service, DirecTV programming, or other products and services." AT&T was responding to concerns raised by Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and Edward Markey (D-Mass.), who previously alleged that AT&T's use of forced arbitration clauses has helped the company charge higher prices than the ones it advertises to customers. While AT&T is correct that no one is forced to sign up for AT&T service, there are numerous areas of the country where AT&T is the only viable option for wired home Internet service. Even in wireless, where there's more competition, AT&T rivals Verizon and Sprint use mandatory arbitration clauses, so signing up with another carrier won't necessarily let customers avoid arbitration. One exception is T-Mobile, which offers a way to opt out of arbitration. The terms of service for AT&T Internet and DirecTV require customers to "agree to arbitrate all disputes and claims" against AT&T. Class actions and trials by jury are prohibited, although individual cases in small claims courts are allowed. AT&T doesn't offer any way to opt out of the arbitration/small claims provision, so the only other option is not buying service from AT&T.

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