MoviePass is under investigation for securities fraud in New York state

More bad news for MoviePass .

At the direction of New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood, MoviePass parent company Helios and Matheson is now the subject of a fraud probe in New York state. “We’ve launched a securities fraud investigation into ⁦@MoviePass⁩’ parent company,” Underwood confirmed in a tweet. “My office is committed to protecting New York investors and the integrity of our financial markets.” The probe will examine whether the company misrepresented its financial situation to investors. The probe will leverage the Martin Act, a powerful New York statute that allows the Attorney General to aggressively pursue suspected instances of fraud in the state. “We are aware of the New York Attorney General’s inquiry and are fully cooperating,” Helios and Matheson said in a statement provided to TechCrunch. “We believe our public disclosures have been complete, timely and truthful and we have not misled investors. We look forward to
Continue reading "MoviePass is under investigation for securities fraud in New York state"

Why IGTV should go premium

It’s been four months since Facebook launched IGTV, with the goal of creating a destination for longer-form Instagram videos. Is it shaping up to be a high-profile flop, or could this be the company’s next multi-billion dollar business?

IGTV, which features videos up to 60 minutes versus Instagram’s normal 60-second limit, hasn’t made much of a splash yet. Since there are no ads yet, it hasn’t made a dollar either. But, it offers Facebook the opportunity to dominate a new category of premium video, and to develop a subscription business that better aligns with high-quality content. Facebook worked with numerous media brands and celebrities to shoot high-quality, vertical videos for IGTV’s launch on June 20, as both a dedicated app and a section within the main Instagram app. But IGTV has been quiet since. I’ve heard repeatedly in conversations with media executives that almost no one is creating
Continue reading "Why IGTV should go premium"

Roborace to replace F1 racing drivers with robots at Disrupt

Formula E is so 2017. This year, it's all about Roborace, an upcoming F1-style competition. And the big new thing is that it's all about self-driving cars. I'm excited to announce that Roborace CEO Lucas DiGrassi will come to TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin to talk about this crazy idea.

DiGrassi may sound like a familiar name already as he's also a racing driver. He has competed in Formula One, Formula E and the World Endurance Championship. He’s also the current Formula E Champion. Clearly, DiGrassi is much better at parallel parking than I’ll ever be. Racing has always been a great way to break new grounds for car manufacturers. Many of the technologies that you can find in your current car were first developed for endurance and Formula One competitions. And it seems logical that the next radical step involves removing the driver altogether. Roborace will be a competition with
Continue reading "Roborace to replace F1 racing drivers with robots at Disrupt"

No, Apple didn’t acquire music analytics startup Asaii, it hired the founders to work on Apple Music

On the heels of news of not one but two acquisitions from Apple last week, a report surfaced yesterday that Apple had picked up yet another company, the music analytics startup Asaii, for under $100 million; the report led to a “confirmation” from a shareholder in a separate report. But as it turns out, neither appear to be correct.

But we asked and Apple has declined to confirm the deal, and it gave no green light to use its usual statement — the one it often issues when smaller startups are acquired. (You can see a sample of it in this story about Apple buying computer vision startup Spektral last week, which we did get Apple to confirm.) That is, the company has not acquired the assets of the startup. What it has done is hire a few employees of the company — specifically the three
Continue reading "No, Apple didn’t acquire music analytics startup Asaii, it hired the founders to work on Apple Music"

Original Content podcast: We can’t resist the thoughtful glamour of ‘The Crown’

We weren’t expecting to like “The Crown.”

Yes, there are talented actors and fancy costumes on-screen, and yes, there’s an acclaimed writer at the helm who specializes in dramatizing real history. But did we really need to watch another 20 hours of serious, scripted drama about England’s royal family? Well, we were convinced to give the show a shot after it took home multiple awards at this year’s Emmys, and we were absolutely won over. It turns out that some of the questions that made us uncertain about the concept (such as: What’s the point of a monarchy in modern society?) are exactly what the show is trying to explore. And it would be hard to overpraise those actors — not just Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth II, but also Matt Smith as her husband Prince Philip, Vanessa Kirby as Pricness Margaret, John Lithgow as Winston Churchill
Continue reading "Original Content podcast: We can’t resist the thoughtful glamour of ‘The Crown’"

The team behind ‘First Man’ aims to de-mythologize the space program

Even for those of us born decades after the event itself, Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon remain among history’s most iconic and indelible images. Can a Hollywood movie tell us anything new about that moment?

With “First Man” (which opens today), “La La Land” director Damien Chazelle certainly tries. The film climaxes with an eerie and beautiful dramatization of Apollo 11, and with Armstrong’s famous words about a giant leap for mankind. But it’s what comes before that feels revelatory — the film’s fastidious attention to the training, the mistakes and the disasters that all led up to that moment. Most of those details come from real life, according to screenwriter Josh Singer (who won an Oscar for co-writing “Spotlight”). His starting point was James R. Hansen’s biography of Armstrong (who’s played in the film by Ryan Gosling), and Singer said he was also able to pepper Hansen,
First Man
First Man
First Man
Continue reading "The team behind ‘First Man’ aims to de-mythologize the space program"

With TodayTix Presents, TodayTix is starting to produce its own live shows

Mobile ticketing app TodayTix is getting into the show production business with the launch of a new program called TodayTix Presents.

While TodayTix is sometimes described as the mobile version of the TKTS booth where you can pick up last-minute tickets to Broadway shows, CEO Brian Fenty said that he sees the service’s real competitors as “anything you can do with your night, outside of work — that’s Netflix and ‘Orange is the New Black,’ that’s post-season baseball, that’s a pitcher of margarita.” At the same time, Fenty said after driving a total of $250 million in sales and to 4.6 million customers, the company has built a rich trove of data about people’s cultural interests. So with that in mind, it made sense for TodayTix to follow Netflix’s footsteps with “the same ethos that they had, to develop and to nurture programming and content that’s intimately connected
Continue reading "With TodayTix Presents, TodayTix is starting to produce its own live shows"

Apple Music adds Genius lyrics

Back in 2016, Spotify partnered with Genius to bring lyrics and backstory to its pop music playlists. Today, however, the musical reference guide has drawn a bit of a line in the sand, partnering with Spotify’s chief competitor.

Genius announced via blog post today that it’s firmly in the Apple Music camp. The new deal brings the service’s lyrics to “thousands of hit songs” via Apple’s desktop and iOS app. In addition to that deal, Genius will also be using Apple Music as its own preferred music player.

That means when you visit Genius’ site or use its iOS app, Apple’s software will be the default for playing back the song you’re viewing.

“Being able to read lyrics and annotations on Genius while you listen along on Apple Music is a dream Genius experience,” Genius CSO Ben Gross said in a statement tied to the news. “We’re proud to make

Continue reading "Apple Music adds Genius lyrics"

Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman announce the name of their stealthy mobile video startup

On stage at Vanity Fair’s New Establishment Summit in Los Angeles, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman unveiled the name of their highly-anticipated mobile video company known until now as NewTV.

The name is Quibi, short for “quick bites,” per a note on its new website: “Something cool is coming from Hollywood and Silicon Valley — quick bites of captivating entertainment, created for mobile by the best talent, designed to fit perfectly into any moment of your day.” The short-form video service, launching next year, will operate on a two-tiered subscription model similar to Hulu, per Deadline. Quibi is cooking up original content with Oscar-winning filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, Southpaw director Antoine Fuqua and Spiderman director Sami Raimi, as well as Get Out producer Jason Blum and Van Toffler, the CEO of digital media production company Gunpowder & Sky. The Hollywood Reporter says the del Toro project “is a modern zombie
Continue reading "Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman announce the name of their stealthy mobile video startup"

Making A Murderer returns on October 18

Making A Murderer is coming back to Netflix on October 18.

In 2015, Netflix released the 10-episode docuseries Making A Murderer, created by Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos. The picture looked at the mystery surrounding the murder of Teresa Halbach. Steven Avery, a Manitowoc County man charged with the murder in 2007, was wrongfully convicted of sexual assault at the age of 22, and was exonerated by DNA evidence after serving 18 years in prison. Making A Murderer examined the original allegations, the events surrounding the murder of Teresa Halbach, all laid within the context of Avery’s wrongful conviction and subsequent lawsuit against Manitowoc County. The docuseries quickly gripped the attention of millions. The trailer for Making A Murderer Part 2 shows attorney Kathleen Zellner joining Avery’s team as they seek to appeal the 2007 conviction. You can check out the full trailer below. The series returns October 18.

What Spotify can learn from Tencent Music

On Tuesday, Tencent Music Entertainment filed for an IPO in the US that is expected to value it in the $25-30 billion range, on par with Spotify’s IPO in April. The filing highlights just how different its social interaction and digital goods business is from the subscription models of leading music streaming services in Western countries. That divergence suggests an opportunity for Spotify or one of its rivals to gain a competitive advantage. Tencent Music is no small player: As the music arm of Chinese digital media giant Tencent, its four apps have several hundred million monthly active users, $1.3 billion in revenue for the first half of 2018, and roughly 75 percent market share in China’s rapidly growing music streaming market. Unlike Spotify and Apple Music, however, almost none of its users pay for the service, and those who do are mostly not paying in the form
Continue reading "What Spotify can learn from Tencent Music"

The comic inspired by the podcast inspired by the comic

It’s 2018, and pop culture is one giant ouroboros. Exhibit A: Wolverine: The Long Night, the new comic miniseries inspired by the podcast that was inspired by the comics. Is this a first? Maybe? Who can say? Who really cares anymore? Comics are pop culture now, and the nerds have definitively won the war, and here, enjoy this book.

Announced today at New York Comic-Con, the Benjamin Percy-written, Marcio Takara-drawn, Rafael Albuquerque-covered five-issue miniseries is based on what has, by all accounts, been a successful first-scripted podcast for Marvel.

Here’s a synopsis of the new comic, which is also basically a synopsis of the podcast: “Following a string of mysterious deaths in Burns, Alaska, Special Agents Sally Pierce and Tad Marshall arrive to investigate. They soon find there’s more going on than meets the eye…”

Spoilers: A diminutive, angry Canadian gentlemen with retractable metal claws crosses their paths. The

Continue reading "The comic inspired by the podcast inspired by the comic"

Spotify Podcast submissions are open to all

Statistically speaking, there are roughly five podcasts for every human on the face of the Earth. And now they all finally have a home on Spotify. The streaming music giant this week opened podcast submissions to everyone through the beta of Spotify for Podcasters platform.

The submission process is wonderfully simple — In fact, I just did it myself (note the confetti):

Cut and paste your show’s RSS feed, pick a couple of categories, click submit. Boom, you’re done. After that, it should take a couple of hours for it to appear. So, you know, I’m writing a post or two in the meantime.

It’s been more than three years since Spotify added the ability to listen to podcasts, but the selection has been fairly thin soup. And isn’t the democratization of voices kind of the whole point of podcasting? It sort of defeats the purpose when you’re only able

Continue reading "Spotify Podcast submissions are open to all"

European Union approves content quota for streaming services

The European Parliament has voted in favor of a new quota for content on streaming services. Services, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, will have to make sure that at least 30 percent of their catalogs in Europe come from European countries. Many European countries already have quotas for movie theaters and TV networks. Quotas foster cultural diversity and ensure that movies with smaller budgets get a chance to compete with blockbuster franchises. Other countries thought it was better to let the market decide and now it’s just Fantastic Four and The Emoji Movie on repeat because local production got crushed by Hollywood’s dollars. Some European countries also set a tax on ticket sales to finance local movie production. With today’s new European agreement, streaming platforms will also have to contribute to local productions. They’ll be able to invest directly in local content or finance national funds. Netflix has
Continue reading "European Union approves content quota for streaming services"

MoviePass’ parent just raised a bunch of money

As the summer of MoviePass quickly turned into the bummer of MoviePass, the company has been trying all manner of Hail Maries to keep the dream alive. And while the movie ticket startup has been burning through cash like crazy, securing funding apparently hasn’t been an issue.

This week, MoviePass’ parent company Helios & Matheson secured an additional $63 million in funding. MoviePass has since confirmed the funding with TechCrunch, but won’t go into any additional details regarding what it plans to do with the money.

Helios & Matheson CEO Ted Farnsworth was a bit more open — if not particularly specific — about what all this means. “We’re still here, and we’re not going anywhere,” he told The Wrap. “We’re doing M&A, we’re looking at all kinds of acquisitions at any given time and we’ll grow the company that way and I think you’ll see over the next few

Continue reading "MoviePass’ parent just raised a bunch of money"

Original Content podcast: We struggle with the mysteries of Netflix’s ‘Maniac’

“Maniac,” a new miniseries on Netflix, comes from an impressive creative team — it stars Emma Stone and Jonah Hill, while director Cary Joji Fukunaga also helmed the first season of “True Detective,” and creator Patrick Somerville used to write for “The Leftovers.” And yet the series left us a bit cold. On the latest episode of the Original Content podcast, we try to figure out why. “Maniac” seems to take place in an alternate present (or maybe it’s the past, or the future) inspired by ’80s science fiction — a world with robots and sentient AIs, where computers have an old-fashioned bulkiness and tactility, and where advertising comes in the form of an “ad buddy” who sits next to you and delivers targeted marketing spiels. Against this backdrop, Annie Landsberg (Stone) and Owen Milgrim (Hill) sign up to test a new pharmaceutical drug, which eventually leads to
Continue reading "Original Content podcast: We struggle with the mysteries of Netflix’s ‘Maniac’"

Cloudera and Hortonworks announce $5.2 billion merger

Over the years, Hadoop, the once high-flying open-source platform, gave rise to many companies and an ecosystem of vendors emerged. It was long believed that some major companies would emerge from the pack, and, sure enough, Hortonworks went public in 2014. Cloudera followed three years later, but the market slowed down and the two companies announced today they are merging in a deal worth $5.2 billion, based on the price at the close of business yesterday. Part of the problem with Hadoop, even though anyone could download it, was the sheer complexity of it. That’s where companies like Hortonworks and Cloudera came in. They packaged it for IT departments that wanted the advantage of a big data processing platform, but didn’t necessarily want to build Hadoop from scratch. These companies offered different ways of helping to attack that complexity, but over time, with all the cloud-based big data solutions,
Continue reading "Cloudera and Hortonworks announce $5.2 billion merger"

MasterClass, the education platform featuring all-star instructors, will soon teach you how to run for office, too

In 2015, the San Francisco-based education platform MasterClass was founded to provide everyone access to “genius,” whether it be in filmmaking, directing, book writing, cooking, tennis, basketball, comedy, acting, screenwriting, photography — even producing electronic music. Toward that end, MasterClass, which is now selling a $180 all-you-can-eat yearly subscription to 80 percent of its customers, currently offers hours of instructional insights from Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, James Patterson, Gordon Ramsay, Serena Williams, Steph Curry, Judd Apatow, Helen Mirren, Aaron Sorkin and Annie Leibovitz, among many experts in their respective fields. Now, backed by $80 million in fresh funding that it closed on earlier this month, the fast-ballooning company is looking to expand on ways to attract new people to its platform, and two of those new areas center on business and politics. So said co-founder and CEO David Rogier at an industry event in San Francisco last week hosted by
Continue reading "MasterClass, the education platform featuring all-star instructors, will soon teach you how to run for office, too"