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Forthcoming Google-made Android TV dongle & new UI leak in render

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At the start of last month, we exclusively reported on Google’s plans for a new Chromecast Ultra based on Android TV. Subsequent reports described a content-focused revamp of the operating system, with new leaks today showing off the next Chromecast, its remote, and “Google TV’s” new look.

Marketing material acquired by XDA today shows a pebble-shaped puck that is slightly taller than the current Chromecast. A ‘G’ logo is embedded with three colors (black, white, and pink/sand) shown. The flat HDMI cable is also seen — though the connector is not — and similarly hued.

As we previously described, we see a “Remote Control” that’s very similar to the Daydream View’s. Up top is a circular D-pad, while six circular buttons are below. From today’s leak, we see a back, Assistant, home, star/favorite, play/pause, and volume mute.

Next up is a leak of the content-focused Android TV revamp, which we hear might be rebranded to Google TV when the Chromecast launches. The homescreen starts with a top bar where search is the top-left corner. This is followed by For you, Movies, TV, Live — more about what’s new here, Apps, and My Library. It’s rather similar to the current layout of the Play Store on Android TV.

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Front and center is a cover image advertising Game of Thrones from HBO Now and other shows, while there’s a “Play next” carousel below. Another capability touted is the ability to “manage your home from your couch” with a “Noise detected” notification appearing in the bottom-left.

These graphics originate from a video that will play during the set-up process, while firmware that XDA also acquired suggests an Amlogic chip that supports Dolby Vision. Codenamed “sabrina,” the retail name for this device has yet to leak, thought Nest branding was suggested by Protocol last month.

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Netflix Shuffle Play Feature Will Roll Out Globally This Year to Help Indecisive Users Pick What to Watch

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By Tanishka Sodhi | Updated: 20 January 2021

Netflix Shuffle Play feature is planned to roll out to all users globally in the first half of 2021. Since August last year, Netflix has been testing this feature through a button that plays a random movie or TV series for the viewer, based on the titles they watch. Now, the company noted during its Q4 2020 earnings report that the feature has been received positively by viewers during the testing and will reach all members across the world in the first half of this year.

The company brought up the new feature during its earnings call. The feature was referred to by Netflix as one that “gives members the ability to choose to instantly watch a title chosen just for them versus browse.”

Netflix Chief Product Officer Greg Peters said during the earnings meeting that viewers come to the platform to be entertained but are sometimes not sure what they want to watch. He said that Netflix was trying new mechanisms to help viewers in this dilemma, and that this new feature (Shuffle Play) was working well for them. Viewers will be able to indicate to the platform they want to skip browsing entirely, and Netflix will pick a title for them to instantly play, he said, describing Shuffle Play.

The Shuffle Play feature, being tested since August 2020, is available for some users as a big button on the Netflix home screen below the profile icon. It is also available in the sidebar navigation of the TV app. It has only been testing on TV devices. Shuffle Play, if rolled out, will help indecisive viewers pick a random title to watch, one that Netflix’s personalisation algorithm thinks they’ll like.

The feature’s description reads “Not sure what to watch? Try Shuffle Play. We’ll shuffle everything on Netflix and find things for you to watch based on your tastes.” Below the description, the shuffle button with the words “Try It Now” is visible.

Netflix said that the official name of the feature is still being tested, as per a report by TechCrunch. The company said that the user response to the feature had been positive, although it didn’t mention how many users had been opted into the test so far.

This isn’t the first time Netflix is experimenting with such a feature. Before Shuffle Play, users spotted a similar feature called “Play Something.” A feature that let users watch a random episode from a popular show was also being tested two years ago, stated the report.

Besides that, Netflix noted in its earnings report that its global subscriber rolls crossed 200 million at the end of 2020. It added about 8.5 million subscribers in the quarter. Netflix will no longer need to borrow money to pay for operations due to its strong cash flow, the company said during the earnings call.

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Lupin Tops Queen’s Gambit Views on Netflix, on Track for Record 70 Million Views Worldwide

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By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 20 January 2021

The Netflix-produced series Lupin, a sly modern take on France’s beloved gentleman thief, is on track for 70 million views worldwide in its first month, setting a record for a French TV show, the streaming platform said Tuesday.

On the basis of current trends the series – starring Omar Sy of Untouchable fame — will have breezed past Netflix’s biggest recent blockbuster The Queen’s Gambit which has 62 million views and other English-language hits including Bridgerton.

The Netflix projection covers the 28 days to February 5, the company told AFP.

“70 million, that’s crazy”, Omar Sy tweeted. “So proud that Lupin is the first French series to have such an international success.”

Only half of the first season’s 10 episodes have so far been available on Netflix.

They are top of the viewing charts in around 10 countries, including Brazil, Vietnam, Argentina, and Spain.

The 1905 book on which the series is loosely based, Arsene Lupin – Gentleman Burglar by French novelist Maurice Leblanc – has shot to the top of book sales on Amazon.fr since the release of the TV show.

In the series, based in modern-day Paris, Sy plays Assane Diop who uses the gentleman thief and master of disguise as his inspiration in his quest to avenge his father for an injustice inflicted by a wealthy family.

“For an actor, Lupin is the perfect plaything,” Sy told the 20 Minutes daily. “His role is dramatic, but also light, funny, seductive, and action-packed,” he said.

Asked why so few black actors played leading roles in French productions, Sy said: “I don’t know. But let’s hope that we’ve set something in motion with Lupin”.

The series, produced by Gaumont, was mostly written by Briton George Kay, whose past work includes Killing Eve, Criminal, and The Hour, in collaboration with Frenchman Francois Uzan, author of French series Family business, another Netflix production.

Kay told AFP earlier this month that “what is great about Omar is that when he plays Assane with his charisma and his smile you want him to succeed, even when he’s breaking the rules”.

“Lupin” has a 7.4 out of 10 rating, according to a review compilation by the Internet Movie Database.

The Globe and Mail called it “a magnificent concoction”, while the Chicago Tribune said it was “Sy’s Bond-ian elegance and understated charisma that keeps you keyed in”.

Netflix has invested in several original French productions in recent years, including Plan Coeur and La Revolution, which have met with mixed reviews.

The first French Netflix series, Marseille starring Gerard Depardieu in 2016, was lambasted by critics, with El Pais calling it “a disaster” and the New York Times saying “it gets loopier and more ridiculous as it goes”.

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Netflix Tops 200 Million Subscribers as It Keeps Growing in Pandemic

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By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 20 January 2021

Netflix on Tuesday topped subscriber growth expectations in the past quarter, keeping ahead of new streaming rivals competing for viewers stuck in their homes during the coronavirus pandemic.

The streaming television leader added some 8.5 million paid subscribers in the quarter to reach 203 million, topping 200 million despite recent price hikes, its quarterly earning update showed.

“COVID-19 has accelerated that big shift from linear to streaming entertainment,” Netflix chief financial officer Spencer Neumann said on an earnings call.

“So, the underlying long-term looks good.”

The company’s cash flow was so strong that it will no longer borrow money to pay for operations, and is considering starting to buy back shares, according to a letter to investors.

Netflix shares jumped more than 12 percent in after-market trades following the release.

Profits dipped to $542 million (roughly Rs. 3,960 crores) in the fourth quarter, compared with $587 million (roughly Rs. 4,300 crores) in the same period in 2019. But overall revenue in the quarter surged 21.5 percent to $6.6 billion (roughly Rs. 48,260 crores).

For the full year, Netflix added a record 37 million paid memberships, according to the earnings report.

“We’re enormously grateful that in these uniquely challenging times we’ve been able to provide our members around the world with a source of escape, connection and joy while continuing to build our business,” Netflix said in a letter to investors.

Paid membership increased 23 percent in the final quarter of 2020 when compared with the same period a year earlier, but average revenue per membership was flat, according to the Silicon Valley-based company.

While Netflix raised rates slightly in the US late last year, the majority – some 83 percent – of its new subscribers were from outside North America, the earnings report indicated.

Films to launch

Netflix has invested heavily in original shows and films to make itself a must-have service in the increasingly competitive streaming market.

“It’s super impressive what Disney has done,” Netflix chief executive Reed Hastings said on the call.

“It is going to be great for the world that Disney and Netflix are competing show by show, movie by movie.”

While Apple, Comcast, Disney, and others have fielded streaming services, Netflix thus far “has been a clear winner,” according to eMarketer analyst Eric Haggstrom.

Netflix executives said their productions are back up and running in most regions after being derailed by the pandemic.

Netflix boasted having more than 500 titles in post-production or being readied for release on the service, with the plan being to launch at least one new original film weekly.

Already the master of the pandemic-era movie landscape, Netflix last week offered a preview of upcoming 2021 releases, a list with no fewer than 70 star-studded feature films.

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YouTube Extends Ban on Donald Trump’s Channel Ahead of US Presidential Inauguration

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By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 20 January 2021

Google-owned YouTube on Tuesday confirmed it extended a ban on new video being added to US President Donald Trump’s channel due to the potential for inciting violence.

The weeklong suspension of uploading or streaming live video to Trump’s channel had been set to lift on the eve of President-elect Joe Biden taking the oath of office.

“In light of concerns about the ongoing potential for violence, the Donald J. Trump channel will be prevented from uploading new videos or livestreams for an additional minimum of seven days,” YouTube said in response to an AFP inquiry.

“As we shared previously, comments will continue to be indefinitely disabled under videos from the channel.”

Trump’s access to the social media platforms he has used as a megaphone during his presidency has been largely cut off since a violent mob of his supporters stormed the Capitol in Washington DC on January 6.

Operators say the embittered leader could use his accounts to foment more unrest aimed at Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday.

YouTube last week suspended Trump’s channel “for at least seven days” and removed a video for violating its policy against inciting violence, joining other social media platforms in banning his accounts after the deadly Capitol riot.

Facebook suspended Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts following the violent invasion of the US Capitol, which temporarily disrupted the certification of Biden’s election victory.

In announcing the suspension, Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg said Trump used the platform to incite violence and was concerned he would continue to do so.

Twitter went a step further by deleting Trump’s account, depriving him of his favorite platform. It was already marking his tweets disputing the election outcome with warnings.

Trump also was hit with suspensions by services like Snapchat and Twitch.

Trump, who has not appeared in public for a week, broke days of silence on Tuesday with a pre-recorded farewell video address uploaded to a White House channel at YouTube.

Trump for the first time asked Americans to “pray” for the success of the incoming Biden administration — a change of tune from weeks spent persuading his huge number of Republican followers that the Democrat cheated in their election battle.

Trump has yet to personally congratulate Biden on his win or invite him for the customary cup of tea in the Oval Office.

The supporters of Trump who attacked the US Capitol were “provoked” by the president and “fed lies,” Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday.

Thousands of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol on January 6 following a speech by the president outside the White House in which he repeated his false claims to have won the election.

At least five people died in the mayhem.

The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives impeached Trump on January 13 for “inciting insurrection” and he faces a potential trial in the Senate after he leaves office on Wednesday.

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Amazon Prime Video Web Series Tandav Asked to Be Banned for Disrespecting Hindu Deities

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By Press Trust of India | Updated: 18 January 2021

Taking cognisance of complaints that Hindu gods and goddesses have been ridiculed in web series Tandav, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting on Sunday sought an explanation from streaming platform Amazon Prime Video on the issue, sources said.

The development came after BJP MP Manoj Kotak on Sunday said he has written to Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar seeking a ban on Amazon Prime Video’s series Tandav for ridiculing Hindu deities.

Tandav, starring actors Saif Ali Khan, Dimple Kapadia, Sunil Grover, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Dino Morea, Kumud Mishra, Mohd Zeeshan Ayyub, Gauhar Khan, and Kritika Kamra, premiered on the streaming platform on Friday.

Filmmaker Ali Abbas Zafar has created, directed and produced the political drama with Himanshu Kishan Mehra and it is written by Gaurav Solanki, best known for Article 15.

“The ministry has taken cognizance of the matter (complaints) and asked Amazon Prime Video to explain,” a source in the ministry said.

Kotak, the MP from Mumbai North-East, alleged that attempts are often made on such platforms to not show Hindu deities in good light.

He said different organisations and individuals have complained that Hindu gods and goddesses have been ridiculed in Tandav web series.

“Hence, we have made a demand to Javadekar ji and have written to him to ban the web series immediately. The actors, producers and directors should apologise for hurting sentiments,” he added.

Sharing the picture of his letter to Javadekar on Twitter, Kotak said as there is no law or autonomous body governing digital content and films on such platforms are full of sex, violence, drugs, abuse, hate, and vulgarity.

“Sometimes, they also hurt religious sentiments,” he added.

It seems that makers of Tandav have deliberately mocked Hindu gods and disrespected Hindu religious sentiments, he said in the letter dated January 16.

Another politician, Ram Kadam, a BJP MLA from Ghatkopar West, also asked the director to remove the portion of the web series in which Lord Shiva is allegedly ridiculed.

The legislator said he has filed a complaint in this connection at the suburban Ghatkopar police station.

When contacted about the complaints, Amazon Prime Video PR said the platform “won”t be responding” on the matter.

The government recently brought OTT platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney+ Hotstar, besides other online news and current affairs content, under the ambit of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, giving it powers to regulate policies and rules for the digital space.

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YouTube Removes New Content Uploaded on Donald J Trump Channel, Disables Comments

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By Tasneem Akolawala | Updated: 13 January 2021

YouTube on Wednesday announced it had removed new content uploaded to Donald J Trump’s channel for violating its policies. The Alphabet-owned company also disabled comments on Trump’s channel indefinitely due to ‘safety concerns’. This comes after US civil rights group threatened to organise an advertiser boycott against YouTube if it didn’t take down Trump’s verified channel, which has over 2.76 million subscribers. Facebook, Twitter, Snap, and even Reddit have all recently blocked Trump after his supports stormed the US Capitol last week, leading to five deaths.

The online video-sharing platform took to Twitter to confirm that new content uploaded to Trump’s verified channel has been removed for violating policies. YouTube has also prevented the channel from uploading new content for seven days. The tweet reads, “After review, and in light of concerns about the ongoing potential for violence, we removed new content uploaded to Donald J. Trump’s channel for violating our policies. It now has its 1st strike and is temporarily prevented from uploading new content for a minimum of seven days.”

Furthermore, YouTube has also disabled comments on Trump’s channel indefinitely. “Given the ongoing concerns about violence, we will also be indefinitely disabling comments on President Trump’s channel, as we’ve done to other channels where there are safety concerns found in the comments section,” the second tweet explains. Earlier in the week, US civil rights groups threatened to organise an advertiser boycott against Alphabet’s YouTube if it does not remove President Donald Trump’s channel.

YouTube was the last of the major tech companies to act against Trump after the US Capitol violence. Trump’s channel, however, has not seen a complete ban on YouTube and still exists with videos uploaded seven hours ago still accessible. As mentioned, Trump’s social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat have been removed since last week, and pro-Trump subreddit ‘r/DonaldTrump’ has also been blocked by Reddit.

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg recently said that the company has no plans on lifting Donald Trump account ban after the events at US Capitol. Twitter says it has permanently suspended @realDonaldTrump’s account “due to the risk of further incitement of violence.” His tweets from @POTUS and @WhiteHouse accounts were also deleted, and Trump campaign director Gary Coby’s account was also suspended.

Even the Parler app that became home to Trump supporters after the social media band has been removed from Google Play and App Store, and kicked off Amazon Web Services servers.

For the biggest CES 2021 stories and latest updates, visit our CES hub.

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