Ellen Pao memoir adaptation among 7 new Shonda Rhimes projects for Netflix

When Shonda Rhimes left ABC last August for Netflix, both she and the studio kept a tight lid on their plans. We could only imagine where the twists and turns that her future stories would take us. Well, now we know. This week, Rhimes’s production company Shondaland and Netflix announced seven projects that she will make for the streaming platform with her production partner Betsy Beers who also made the move to Netflix. The projects tell stories of women of color, talented kids, important and routinely overlooked American history, fancy English relationships and pre-2017 White House doings.

Warner Bros. unveils the first trailers for ‘Aquaman’ and ‘Shazam’

Today at Comic-Con, Warner Bros . gave fans a peek at the first DC Comics films post-Justice League. Warner Bros. and DC had a bumpy 2017. There was the astonishing critical and commercial success of Wonder Woman, followed by the box office disappointment of Justice League — leading to an executive shakeup and a general rethinking of its movie strategy. Will Aquaman, which stars Jason Momoa as the titular superhero and is due out on December 21, turn things around? Director James Wan told the Comic-Con audience that his goal is to create a movie that “plays more like a science-fiction fantasy film than a traditional super hero movie.” Wan (who’s best-known for horror titles like Saw and The Conjuring but also directed Furious 7) previously said there’s been a long wait for the trailer because he wanted to ensure the visual effects were ready —
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Wilson is like Longreads for podcasts

Meet Wilson, a new iPhone app that plans to change the way you discover and listen to podcasts. The company describes the app as a podcast magazine. It has the same vibe as Longreads, the curated selection of longform articles. With its minimalistic design and opinionated typography, Wilson looks like no other podcasting app. On an iPhone X, the black background looks perfectly black thanks to the OLED display. It feels like an intimate experience. Every week, the team selects a handful of podcast episodes all tied together by the same topic. Those topics can be the Supreme Court, the LGBTQ community, loneliness, dads, the World Cup… Each issue has a cover art and a short description. And the team also tells you why each specific podcast episode is interesting. In other words, Wilson isn’t just an audio experience. You can listen to episodes in the app or
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YouTube CEO’s latest update details its growth, glosses over content problems

YouTube highlighted its growth and promised better communication with creators about its tests and experiments, the company announced today in its latest of an ongoing series of updates from CEO Susan Wojcicki focused on YouTube’s top five priorities in 2018. The majority of her missive today – which was also released in the form of a YouTube video – were wrap-ups of other announcements and launches the company had recently made, like the new features released at this year’s VidCon including Channel Memberships, merchandise, and Famebit. However, the company did offer a few updates related to those launches, including news of expanded merch partnerships. But YouTube didn’t detail the crucial steps it should be taking to address the content issues that continue to plague its site. YouTube said one way it’s improving communication is via Creator Insider, an unofficial channel started by YouTube employees, which offers weekly updates, responds to
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Facebook, Google and more unite to let you transfer data between apps

The Data Transfer Project is a new team-up between tech giants to let you move your content, contacts, and more across apps. Founded by Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Microsoft, the DTP today revealed its plans for an open source data portability platform any online service can join. While many companies already let you download your information, that’s not very helpful if you can’t easily upload and use it elsewhere — whether you want to evacuate a social network you hate, back up your data somewhere different, or bring your digital identity along when you try a new app. The DTP’s tool isn’t ready for use yet, but the group today laid out a white paper for how it will work. Creating an industry standard for data portability could force companies to compete on utility instead of being protected by data lock-in that traps users because it’s tough to switch services.
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Blavity raises $6.5 million Series A round led by GV

Blavity, the digital lifestyle media company geared toward black millennials, recently closed a $6.5 million Series A round led by GV with participation from Comcast Ventures, Plexo Capital and Baron Davis Enterprises. As part of the investment, GV Partner John Lyman is joining Blavity’s board of directors. As the media landscape continues to change, with some businesses up for sale, a prominent black media publication moving under new leadership and other ones shuttering, Blavity is at a point where it’s thinking about what phase two looks like, Blavity CEO Morgan DeBaun told TechCrunch over the phone. “There’s just a lot going on where it’s important now more than ever that Blavity is committed and has the resources it needs to grow as a publication,” DeBaun told me. Most of the funding will go toward opening a new office that is strictly focused on engineering and data, DeBaun
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Disney’s streaming service is resurrecting ‘The Clone Wars’

Star Wars: The Clone Wars, an animated series that ran on Cartoon Network for five seasons, is coming back. Created by George Lucas and overseen by Dave Filoni, the show depicted the adventures of Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, as well as new characters like Ahsoka Tano, during the titular Clone Wars. Fans praised its ability to showcase a wide range of stories, characters and even genres. The Clone Wars was cancelled after Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm, with a final batch of episodes known as “The Lost Missions” airing on Netflix. Characters and story elements were subsequently incorporated into the animated series Star Wars Rebels — and even into the latest film, Solo. Today at San Diego Comic-Con, Lucasfilm held a panel celebrating the show’s 10-year anniversary, where Filoni announced that The Clone Wars will return for 12 more episodes, which will air on Disney’s upcoming streaming service. He also released
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Comcast drops its pursuit of Fox, making way for Disney acquisition

Comcast announced this morning that it’s halting its efforts to acquire the film and television assets of 21st Century Fox. Disney made a deal to acquire those assets last year, but after a district court judge approved the merger of AT&T and Time Warner (despite the antitrust-related objections of President Trump’s Department of Justice), Comcast announced another, higher bid. That, in turn, prompted Disney to make an even higher offer of $71.3 billion (split between cash and stock). With Comcast dropping out, it seems like this bid will go through — if it can get regulatory approval. Comcast says that instead of continuing to pursue a Fox acquisition, it’s focusing on its offer to acquire British satellite broadcaster Sky. Another possible factor: The DOJ says it’s appealing the court’s approval of the AT&T-Time Warner merger. “I’d like to congratulate Bob Iger and the team at Disney and commend the
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Spotify’s new tool helps artists and labels reach its playlist editors

Spotify wants give artists and labels and easier way to submit their new music for playlist consideration. The streaming service this morning launched a feature, still in beta, that allows any artists with a Spotify for Artists account or labels using Spotify Analytics to share unreleased tracks directly with Spotify’s team of over 100 editors worldwide. The team is responsible for programming Spotify’s playlists – the lists on which a new track’s inclusion could become a make or break point for an emerging artist, and are a key part of album promotion. The company says that, today, more than 75,000 artists are featured on its editorial playlists every week, plus another 150,000 on its flagship playlist, Discover Weekly. However, it hasn’t always been clear how to reach the editorial team to suggest music. These days, artists and labels ask for intros to playlists editors, believing that getting to the right
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Sinemia drops prices for its movie ticket subscriptions, which now start a $3.99 per month

MoviePass competitor Sinemia is lowering prices on the already low-cost movie ticket subscription plans that it introduced earlier this year. Its monthly prices are being cut by $1 across-the-board. The cheapest plan now costs $3.99 per month, which gets you one standard movie ticket for that month. The priciest one, which covers three tickets (and includes 3D, 4D and IMAX screens), now costs $13.99 per month. Sinemia says it’s also offering discounts on its family plans, and on plans in Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia. You might think that this summer promotion (which ends on September 3) seems timed to take advantage of the negative publicity around MoviePass’ new “peak pricing” for popular movies, and Sinemia’s press release doesn’t exactly deny it — the release literally begins: “At a time when MoviePass is running surge pricing …” Sinemia subscribers also benefit from being able to
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Brat raises $30 million to reboot scripted television for the Gen Z crowd

We are in the era of peak TV. Hundreds of expensive, scripted television shows are splayed across streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime. Netflix itself is now expected to spend $13 billion on original content this year. And yet, these networks can struggle to reach viewers outside of the core adult market. That’s where Brat hopes to make its mark. The LA-based production studio and media company makes scripted dramas such as Chicken Girls on platforms like YouTube targeting a purely teen audience. And unlike Netflix, Brat is built from the ground up to keep production costs low: Rob Fishman, co-founder of Brat, says that “We are spending in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for every season” for their shows, instead of what can be seven figures an episode in the Netflix world. Wide distribution to a young audience and that cost-effectiveness has proven to be a compelling
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Netflix redesigns its TV interface with new navigation, full-screen trailers

Netflix this morning announced the launch of a new interface for those who watch the streaming service on TV. The updated design is aimed at improving navigation by way of a remote control, making it quicker to get to the content you want to watch. The change involves relocating some of Netflix’s key features like the “Search” button and users’ “My List” over to a ribbon menu on the left side the screen which pops out when you navigate over. Here, it has also added new shortcuts to “Movies” and “TV” to filter its catalog by films and shows, as well as a button to see what’s “New.” Related to this change, when you browse into a given section,  you’ll now see a full-screen preview of a top show or movie autoplaying above the rows of content suggestions. The company says the redesign was based on “rigorous research and
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The Ken raises $1.5M to grow its subscription journalism business in India

The Ken, a subscription news startup from India, is moving through the gears after it raised $1.5 million in fresh funding to build out its media business. We first profiled the company in March 2017 and now, nearly 18 months later, the startup has raised its Series A round led by Omidyar Networks, which has invested in new media companies such as Rappler in the Philippines. Other investors included Yuj Kutumb, the Family Foundation headed by Xander Group founder Sid Yog, and existing and new angel investors. Rohin Dharmakumar, co-founder and CEO of The Ken, told TechCrunch that the company still has more than half of its $400,000 seed round in the bank, but it has raised this additional cash to go after new opportunities. The Ken has made its mark by publishing one thoughtfully-reported long-form story each day. An annual subscription is priced at Rs 2750 (around $43)
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BuzzFeed launches a new website for its real journalism

It’s not news at this point that BuzzFeed has a serious news organization — one whose reporting on Russia made it a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize this year. But it’s also a news organization whose stories are published alongside the social media friendly quizzes and lists that BuzzFeed remains known for — which can be confusing, or even provide easy ammunition to those who want to criticize the reporting. Yes, the company already taken steps to give the more serious reporting its own home and identity, with a BuzzFeed News app, a section on the main BuzzFeed site and a “BuzzFeed News” label on every story. Still, Senior Product Manager Kate Zasada said the company’s own research has found that some readers “don’t completely understand” that while BuzzFeed is famous for GIF-filled lists, it also produces “deeply researched and fact-checked” journalism. (The snarky comments I seem to get
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Original Content podcast: Netflix’s ‘Nanette’ takes aim at straight white men and comedy clichés

This is the first time we’ve done an in-depth review of a comedy special on the Original Content podcast, but Nanette (which Netflix released last month) isn’t a typical stand-up show. Hannah Gadsby starts off with some light, funny jokes about growing up as a lesbian in Tasmania, where being homosexual was illegal until 1997. But she soon veers away from joke-telling — in fact, Gadsby declares that she’s quitting comedy and starts analyzing the structure and content of some old jokes, asking difficult questions about who we’re laughing at and why. Nanette can’t be boiled down to a one simple message, but perhaps the overriding theme is the need for stories with uncomfortable truths — versus jokes, with their tension-releasing punchlines. It’s led to articles declaring Gadsby to be the future of stand-up and wondering whether comedy is “broken.” On this week’s episode, we’re joined by Brian
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‘Serious concerns’ at FCC threaten to halt Sinclair-Tribune merger

The FCC has been under serious scrutiny by citizens, advocates and politicians alike due to its laissez-faire attitude toward, in particular, the proposed Sinclair Broadcasting merger with Tribune. But the agency is showing some backbone today with a no-nonsense declaration that the merger can’t go through unless a few “serious concerns” are addressed. It’s not the outright disapproval many have recommended, but it’s better than an unconditional green light. In a short memo posted to the agency’s site, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai explained that even under his notoriously (or blessedly, depending on your politics) deregulatory regime, the proposed deal is not acceptable as is. Here it is in full:
Based on a thorough review of the record, I have serious concerns about the Sinclair/Tribune transaction. The evidence we’ve received suggests that certain station divestitures that have been proposed to the FCC would allow Sinclair to control those stations in
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Kapwing is Adobe for the meme generation

Need to resize a video for IGTV? Add subtitles for Twitter? Throw in sound effects for YouTube? Or collage it with other clips for the Instagram feed? Kapwing lets you do all that and more for free from a mobile browser or website. This scrappy new startup is building the vertical video era’s creative suite full of editing tools for every occasion. Pronounced “Ka-pwing” like the sound of a ricocheted bullet, the company was founded by two former Google Image Search staffers. Now after six months of quiet bootstrapping, it’s announcing a $1.7 million seed round led by Kleiner Perkins. Kapwing hopes to rapidly adapt to shifting memescape and its fragmented media formats, seizing on opportunities like creators needing to turn their long-form landscape videos vertical for Instagram’s recently launched IGTV. The free version slaps a Kapwing.com watermark on all its exports for virality, but users can pay
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Netflix experiments with promoting its shows on the login screen

Netflix is testing a new way to promote its original shows – right on the login screen. A company spokesperson confirmed the streaming service is currently experimenting with a different login screen experience which replaces the black background behind users’ names and profile thumbnails with full-screen photos promoting a Netflix Original series or special, like “BoJack Horseman,” “Orange is the New Black,” “Dark,” “My Next Guest…”, “13 Reasons Why,” and several others. We first noticed the change on a TV connected to a Roku media player and on a Fire TV, but Netflix says the test is running “for TV,” which means those on other TV platforms may see the promoted shows as well. (Our Roku TV, however, had the same black background on the login screen, we should note.) The promoted shows aren’t necessarily those Netflix thinks you’d like – it’s just a rotating selection of popular originals.
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The final season of ‘Unreal’ debuts on Hulu

Unreal, the critically acclaimed series that takes viewers behind the scenes of fictional reality TV show Everlasting, has moved to Hulu . Today’s announcement confirms earlier reports that Hulu was negotiating with A+E Studios to get first dibs on Unreal‘s fourth and final season. The show’s first three seasons aired on Lifetime, with the third season recently wrapping up just a few months ago, in April. Now all eight episodes of Season 4 are live on Hulu — a departure from the streaming service’s standard approach of releasing just one or two episodes of its original shows each week. Unreal once again stars Shiri Appleby as Rachel and Constance Zimmer as Quinn, producers who return to Everlasting for an “All Stars” season that brings back old contestants. While Unreal’s cable audience has been declining steadily, Hulu says its viewers have embraced the show — it’s not releasing
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Roku unveils $200 wireless speakers made for Roku TV

Roku is getting into the speaker business with today’s announcement of Roku TV Wireless Speakers. Mark Ely, the company’s vice president of product management, said Roku is trying to address a growing consumer problem — the fact that as TVs get thinner, you end up buying “this beautiful TV, but it sounds bad.” To address this, you may end up purchasing a soundbar or creating a more elaborate home theater setup, but Ely argued that many consumers find this process confusing and intimidating. So as the name suggests, Roku has created wireless speakers specifically for Roku TVs, the company’s lineup of partner-built smart TVs. Ely described them as speakers that deliver “really premium sound in a really compact package,” and at an affordable price. (They’re about seven inches tall and weigh four pounds each, he said.) Roku says it should be easy to pair these speakers wirelessly
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