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YouTube TV Reaches Deal to Restore Access to Disney Channels

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By Reuters | Updated: 20 December 2021

YouTube began restoring access to Walt Disney channels on its platform on Sunday, after the companies reached a distribution agreement to end a two-day blackout.

YouTube tweeted that “we’ve reached a deal with Disney and have already started to restore access to channels like ESPN and FX.”

–tw–

On Sunday, YouTube said a monthly subscription had reverted to $64.99 (roughly Rs. 4,940), but affected users would receive a one-time $15 (roughly Rs. 1,140) discount.

“We appreciate Google’s collaboration to reach fair terms that are consistent with the market,” Disney said in a statement on Sunday.

YouTube earlier this month struck a multi-year pact with streaming platform Roku to distribute YouTube’s flagship app and TV service, ending a months-long battle over accusations of anti-competitive conduct.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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TV Star Paris Hilton Launches Metaverse Business ‘Paris World’ on Roblox

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By Reuters | Updated: 29 December 2021

Paris Hilton commands as much as $1 million (roughly Rs. 7.47 crores) a night working as a celebrity DJ, entertaining partiers at clubs in China, Dubai and on the Spanish vacation island of Ibiza.

This New Year’s Eve, she will be playing an electronic set for the revelers who drop by a venue of a different sort — her virtual island on Roblox.

Hilton created an island in the online virtual world, dubbed Paris World, where visitors can explore digital replicas of her Beverly Hills estate and its dog mansion, stroll a boardwalk inspired by the neon carnival wedding celebration she and husband Carter Reum hosted earlier this year at the Santa Monica Pier in California, and explore the island in a luxury sports car or Sunray yacht.

Like other virtual hangouts, Paris World will collect small payments for purchasing virtual clothing or booking a ride on a jet-ski.

“For me, the metaverse is somewhere that you can do everything you can do in real life in the digital world,” said Hilton, who worked to create aspects of her globe-trotting life for fans. “Not everybody gets to experience that, so that’s what we’ve been working together on over the past year — giving them all my inspirations of what I want in that world.”

Hilton, 40, joins a clutch of celebrities and brands rushing to embrace the metaverse, a broad term referring to a persistent virtual world. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg popularised the term this year he renamed the company to Meta to emphasise the metaverse’s central role to the company’s future.

Brands such as Tommy Hilfiger brand launched a line of digital ready-to-wear fashion for Roblox avatars. Nike opened a virtual world called Nikeland in November, where visitors can play dodgeball with friends, lace on a pair of virtual Air Force 1 sneakers and win medals. Rappers Lil Nas X and Travis Scott have also held concerts last year for millions of virtual concertgoers.

For the socialite and reality TV-star turned entrepreneur, Paris World is the latest venture launched by her new media company, 11:11 Media. She and veteran media executive Bruce Gersh aim to capitalise on the burgeoning creator economy, in which celebrities like Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James leverage their influence to produce films, television shows and podcasts, brand marketing and to sell merchandise.

Hilton is most widely known for the reality television show “The Simple Life,” in which she and celebrity socialite Nicole Richie ditched their limos to travel America aboard a Greyhound bus.

Hilton says the dumb blonde act was a put-on, “I was always in on the joke, but I knew exactly what I was doing. Behind the scenes, I was building a brand.”

She has leveraged her gossip pages notoriety into 19 different consumer product lines, including perfumes, apparel, lingerie, cosmetics, sunglasses watches, shoes, handbags and jewelry, which together generated an estimated $4 billion (roughly Rs. 29,883 crores) in revenue over the past decade, the company disclosed.

Investment-banker husband Reum introduced Hilton to Gersh, a former Walt Disney and Time executive, to create a media enterprise around one of pop culture’s original influencers.

Since those early discussions, 11:11 Media has launched “This Is Paris,” a podcast in which she speaks candidly about her family and friends, and a pair of reality TV series, “Cooking With Paris” on Netflix and “Paris In Love,” about her engagement and marriage to Reum.

Hilton has also tapped into the mania for non-fungible tokens, collaborating with designer Blake Kathryn to sell three unique pieces of digital art — one of which fetched in excess of $1.1 million (roughly Rs. 8.21 crores), according to online auction platform Nifty Gateway.

“The final piece of the digital space is the metaverse,” said Gersh. “ We think that there’s a real opportunity for Paris to influence, even at a younger level than who her core customer is. We’ve built a fantastic, whimsical world that we believe her fans and new fans will just love.”

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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YouTube Says Services Fixed After Disruption Affects Thousands

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By Reuters | Updated: 15 December 2021 

Alphabet’s YouTube said on Tuesday it has fixed an issue that caused thousands of users to lose access to its platform or face slow services.

Downdetector, which showed there were more than 15,000 incidents of people reporting issues with YouTube, tracks outages by collating status reports from a number of sources, including user-submitted errors on its platform.

“If you were having a slower than normal experience or were having trouble accessing YouTube earlier today – this has been fixed! The issue ran for about 20 mins,” YouTube tweeted.

YouTube experienced 65 outages over the past 12 months, according to Web tool reviewing website ToolTester.

A major outage disrupted Amazon’s cloud services for several hours last week that resulted in Netflix, Disney+, Robinhood, and a slew of other services being inaccessible, including Amazon’s e-commerce website.

Amazon’s Ring security cameras, mobile banking app Chime, and robot vacuum cleaner maker iRobot, that use Amazon Web Services (AWS), reported issues according to their social media pages.

“Netflix which runs nearly all of its infrastructure on AWS appears to have lost 26 percent of its traffic,” Doug Madory, head of Internet analysis at analytics firm Kentik, said.

Amazon said the outage was related to network devices and linked to application programming interface, or API, which is a set of protocols for building and integrating application software.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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YouTube Hides ‘Dislike’ Counts to Protect Creators From Harassment, Targeted Attacks

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By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 11 November 2021

YouTube announced Wednesday the tally of “dislike” clicks on videos will no longer be visible to the public to protect creators from harassment and targeted attacks.

A public count of likes — or dislikes — that social media posts rack up is regularly cited by critics as harmful to well-being, and Facebook as well as Instagram have allowed users to opt out.

Users on the Google-owned video sharing platform will still be able to click on the “dislike” button below a clip, but they will no longer see the negative review count.

“To ensure that YouTube promotes respectful interactions between viewers and creators… we experimented with the dislike button to see whether or not changes could help better protect our creators from harassment, and reduce dislike attacks,” YouTube said in a statement.

“Our experiment data showed a reduction in dislike attacking behavior.”

Content creators — the social media stars who draw crowds online — will be able to see the number of thumbs-down icons their clips elicit.

YouTube said smaller scale or new creators reported being unfairly targeted in attacks, where people work to drive up the number of dislikes on videos.

The changes at YouTube come as major social networks and video platforms are frequently accused by lawmakers, regulators and watchdogs of not doing enough to fight online harassment.

Facebook is battling one of its most serious reputational crises ever, driven by leaked internal documents showing executive knew of the potential harm of their platforms.

The revelations from the leaks by former Facebook employee Frances Haugen have put fresh impetus behind talk of regulating Big Tech companies.

Worry about Facebook’s potential harm has spilled over to other platforms with TikTok, Snapchat and YouTube trying to convince US senators in a hearing last month that they were safe for their young users.

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Squid Game Craze Lifts Netflix Quarter With Over 4 Million New Subscribers

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By Reuters | Updated: 20 October 2021

Netflix’s global sensation Squid Game helped lure more new customers than expected, the world’s largest streaming service said on Tuesday as it predicted a packed lineup would further boost signups through the end of the year.

After a sharp slowdown in the first half of 2021, Netflix added 4.38 million subscribers from July through September to reach 213.6 million worldwide. Wall Street analysts had projected 3.86 million additions, according to Refinitiv data.

Netflix enjoyed a subscriber boom last year as COVID-19 kept audiences at home, but growth stalled early this year. At the same time, Walt Disney’s Disney+, AT&T’s HBO Max, and other competitors bolstered their offerings. Netflix blamed the earlier weakness in part on a thin slate of new programming caused by production shutdowns from the pandemic.

Then, South Korean drama Squid Game debuted on September 17 and surprised executives by becoming the streaming service’s most-watched original series in its first month. On Tuesday, Netflix said a “mind-boggling” 142 million households had watched the dark drama about people who compete in a deadly competition to erase financial debt.

The series, made with a relatively small budget, shot to the top of Netflix viewing charts in 94 countries, kick-started sales of track suits and Vans sneakers, and kindled interest in learning Korean, Squid Game merchandise is now on its way to retailers, Netflix said.

The fervour around Squid Game also is expected to lift the current quarter. Netflix projected it will pick up 8.5 million new customers by year’s end, ahead of industry forecasts of 8.33 million, as it releases a heavy lineup of new programming. Upcoming debuts include big-budget action flick Red Notice and a second season of fantasy drama The Witcher.

It also expects a more normalised programming slate in 2022 spread throughout the year, “assuming no new COVID waves or unforeseen events,” the company said in a quarterly letter to shareholders.

Shares of Netflix were close to even in after-hours trading at $641 (roughly Rs. 48,130) following the earnings report.

Overseas growth

Most new customer pickups in the quarter came from the Asia Pacific market, where Netflix now has 30 million subscribers. Industry experts believe the region may rival the United States and Canada – Netflix’s largest market – in three to five years, said Third Bridge senior analyst Joe McCormack.

Netflix is trying new ways to attract customers overseas, including offering a free plan in Kenya. It will take one to two years to tell if that tactic leads to more paying subscribers, the company said.

For the quarter that ended in September, diluted earnings-per-share came in at $3.19 (roughly Rs. 240), beating analyst expectations of $2.57 (roughly Rs. 190). Revenue rose 16 percent to $7.5 billion (roughly Rs. 56,325 crores).

Before the earnings report, Netflix shares had risen roughly 22 percent this year and were trading near record highs, but their gains lag behind the 54 percent increase in the Nasdaq.

Netflix, which keeps much of its viewership data secret, also said it will release information more frequently and shift its main publicly reported metric to hours viewed, rather than the number of accounts that watched a title for at least 2 minutes. The company noted that it competes with a large set of activities beyond TV including TikTok and Fortnite. When Facebook suffered a global outage in early October, “our engagement saw a 14 percent increase during this time period,” Netflix said.

Executives did not address worker complaints about a Dave Chappelle comedy special, which the company has previously defended. Some employees say Chappelle made comments that harmful to transgender people, and they plan a walkout on Wednesday.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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Squid Game, Netflix’s Biggest Hit, Estimated to Be Worth About $900 Million: Report

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By Reuters | Updated: 18 October 2021

Squid Game, Netflix’s biggest original series launch, is estimated to be worth almost $900 million (roughly Rs. 6,770 crores) for the streaming giant, as per a report citing figures from an internal Netflix document.

The nine-episode thriller, in which cash-strapped contestants play childhood games with deadly consequences in a bid to win KRW 45.6 billion (roughly Rs. 290 crores), became an international hit after it launched last month.

In comparison to its estimated net worth, the showcost just $21.4 million (roughly Rs. 160 crores) to produce, Bloomberg said.

According to the report, about 132 million had watched at least two minutes of the show in its first 23 days, easily breaking the record set by UK costume drama Bridgerton, which was streamed by 82 million accounts in its first 28 days.

Netflix had earlier announced the show had amassed 111 million fans, but Bloomberg said those figures were based on slightly older data.

Los Gatos, California-based Netflix estimated that 89 percent of people who started the show watched more than one episode, the news agency said, and 66 percent of the viewers finished watching the series in the first 23 days.

Netflix declined to comment on the report. An attorney for the company told Bloomberg that it would be inappropriate for Bloomberg to disclose the confidential data contained in the documents that it had reviewed.

The series is also the first Korean drama to snatch the top spot on Netflix in the United States, and has even spurred interest among people in learning Korean.

In China, where Netflix is unavailable without a VPN, a Beijing bakery has introduced a Squid Game-themed confection-making challenge in its store.

The show has even drawn positive comments from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, with the billionaire calling the work “impressive and inspiring.” Amazon’s streaming service Prime Video competes with Netflix.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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Prime Video Channels Bundling Service Launched by Amazon for Video Streaming Apps in India

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By Reuters | Updated: 24 September 2021

Amazon launched in India on Friday a bundling option on its video platform for global and local streaming services, in a move aimed at boosting subscriptions.

The launch comes at a time of increasing competition from global and domestic rivals in an important market for the US tech company.

The Amazon Channels service will help customers using its Prime flagship loyalty programme to subscribe to multiple streaming apps on a single interface, Gaurav Gandhi, the head of Amazon Prime Video in India, told Reuters in an interview ahead of the launch.

“We believe besides solving customer problems… multiple apps, multiple log ins… it also solves a lot for our partners where they are able to get the benefit of Prime Video’s reach and ubiquitous distribution,” said Gandhi.

The service is launching with streaming apps from partners including Discovery, Lions Gate Entertainment, and Mubi, said Gandhi, adding that India is the 12th country where it is being launched.

Gandhi declined to talk about specifics of revenue sharing with content partners or discuss other financial parameters of the service.

Amazon’s Prime loyalty programme, which costs an annual Rs. 999 in India, offers customers free delivery, early access to deals during sales, and free music and video streaming.

India, the world’s second-most populous nation with 1.3 billion people, is a vital growth market for Amazon and its global rivals Netflix and Walt Disney.

Prime Video’s rival Disney+ Hotstar hosts Bollywood movies, TV shows and live streams India’s popular cricket league matches, while Netflix has bet big on local original content. An announced merger of India’s Zee and a local unit of Japan’s Sony is also set to create a TV powerhouse that will challenge Prime Video and others in the market.

Amazon has invested heavily in acquiring and producing local content in India and its founder Jeff Bezos said last year that Prime Video was doing well globally “but nowhere it’s doing better than India”. Amazon does not break out user numbers by country.

But India has also proven to be a political minefield for Amazon where it was forced to issue a rare apology earlier this year for some scenes in an original drama series, which allegedly hurt Hindu religious beliefs.

“We learn from experiences and we work on,” Gandhi said when asked if Amazon Prime Video had become more careful in selecting and hosting content after the controversy.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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