Patreon’s future and potential exits


This post is by Eric Peckham from TechCrunch


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Through the Extra Crunch EC-1 on Patreon, I dove into Patreon’s founding story, product roadmap, business model and metrics, underlying thesis, and competitive threats. The six-year-old company last valued around $450 million and likely to soon hit $1 billion is the leading platform for artists to run membership businesses for their superfans.

As a conclusion to my report, I have three core takeaways and some predictions on the possibility of an IPO or acquisition in the company’s future.

The future is bright for creators

First, the future is promising for independent content creators who are building engaged, passionate fanbases.

There is a surge of interest from the biggest social media platforms in creating more features to help them directly monetize their fans — with each trying to one-up the others. There are also a growing number of independent solutions for creators to use as well

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Roku on track for $1 billion in revenue in 2019


This post is by Sarah Perez from TechCrunch


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Roku plans to be a billion-dollar company in 2019, the company said on Thursday as part of its announcement of strong earnings. The company beat analyst estimates and reported strong growth in active users and streaming hours with earnings of $0.05 per share, compared with the $0.03 analysts had estimated, and revenues of $276 million, compared with the expected $262 million.

Roku also reported 40 percent year-over-year active user growth, with 27.1 million active users by year-end, and a 69 percent year-over-year increase in streaming hours, which reached 7.3 billion.

The company said it plans this year to invest in international expansion, its ad-supported service The Roku Channel, advertising and its Roku TV platform.

While cord cutting is driving some of Roku’s growth, only around half of Roku’s customers fit this description, CEO Anthony Wood pointed out. The other half are more like “cord shavers” —

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The Future of Web Q&A Panels Should be Cake


This post is by Louis Gray from louisgray.com


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Last week, Recode’s veteran tech reporter Kara Swisher visibly held an aggressive interview with Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey, who has been on something of a meandering press tour over the last few months, which has led to more questions than it’s seemingly answered, as he has avoided specifics, and not taken full responsibility for many of the negative impacts the platform he created has spawned.

Despite Kara’s noble attempts, this round didn’t fare much better, largely due to Twitter’s failing as a medium for such a debate. The #KaraJack hashtag, expected to be the core space for her serves and his returns, with a fair share of unforced errors, was difficult to follow in real time, with Twitter’s poor design getting as much visibility as the discussion itself. Taylor Lorenz of the Atlantic called it impossible.

Twitter was not designed for this, and barring dramatic

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Amazon’s Audible expands its original programming with new comedy series


This post is by Sarah Perez from TechCrunch


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Over the past few years, Amazon -owned Audible has been expanded beyond audiobooks to include more original content, like the short-form audio programming offered through Audible Channels, for example. Today, the company announced a new partnership for original comedy projects, in collaboration with Lorne Michaels’ Broadway Video. The first production from this effort is “Heads Will Roll,” a program created, produced by and starring Kate McKinnon and Emily Lynne.

The production itself is a workplace comedy about an evil queen in search of peace and quiet. It will also feature performances by Meryl Streep, Tim Gunn, Peter Dinklage, Andrea Martin, Carol Kane, Audra McDonald, Aidy Bryant, Alex Moffat, Heidi Gardner, Chris Redd, Steve Higgins, Bob the Drag Queen, Esther Perel and “Queer Eye’s” Fab Five.

Following “Heads Will Roll,” the next production will be “63rd Man,” from senior SNL writer Bryan Tucker and Zack Phillips. WWE Superstar John

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YouTube revamps its strike system to include a one-time warning, consistent penalties


This post is by Sarah Perez from TechCrunch


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YouTube today announced a significant change to its strike system – the penalty system used when YouTube’s reviewers identify a video has violated the site’s Community Guidelines. These strikes could be issued against videos containing nudity or sexual content, violent or graphic content, harmful or dangerous content, hateful content, threats, spam, scams, or misleading metadata. In the past, YouTube’s penalties have been criticized for being unevenly applied and for being less than transparent – something YouTube now wants to change.

Before, YouTube had a “three strikes and you’re out” policy, but each strike had a different penalty. The first strike had resulted in a 90-day livestreaming freeze, while the second would result in a two-week freeze on video uploads.

Creators complained that these penalties didn’t match the source of the strikes.

With today’s changes, all strikes will now carry the same punishment: a temporary ban from YouTube activity, with the

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SoundCloud adds a music distribution service to its premium subscriptions


This post is by Sarah Perez from TechCrunch


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Last year, Spotify took a stake in music distribution service DistroKid. Apple acquired Platoon. And today, SoundCloud announced it’s adding its own music distribution tools to its premium accounts aimed at artists, SoundCloud Pro and SoundCloud Pro Unlimited. With SoundCloud Premier distribution, artists can upload their tracks to all major music services, including Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify, Tencent, YouTube Music and even Instagram, directly from SoundCloud.

The service, which is now launching into beta, is available at no extra cost to existing premium account holders.

The company notes this is the first distribution tool built directly into a streaming platform, but that’s not likely to remain the case for long. When Spotify invested in DistroKid in October 2018, it said that it would soon roll out a tool that would allow musicians to upload their tracks to the service through the Spotify for Artists platform. And Apple’s acquisition of

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Netflix cancels ‘Jessica Jones’ and ‘The Punisher,’ its last Marvel shows


This post is by Anthony Ha from TechCrunch


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Netflix is no longer in the Marvel superhero business, with the cancellation of “Jessica Jones” and “The Punisher.”

The writing has been on the wall since last fall, when the streaming service canceled its other three Marvel shows — “Iron Fist,” “Luke Cage” and “Daredevil.” Plus, showrunner Melissa Rosenberg was already announced to leave “Jessica Jones” after the upcoming third season.

There have been conflicting reports about which company ultimately decided to pull the plug, but this does seem to be part of a broader corporate rift, with Disney ending its overall deal with Netflix and producing Marvel shows for its yet-to-launch streaming service.

Disney has also announced a slate of animated Marvel series on Hulu (where Disney will become the majority owner, post-Fox acquisition), following a similar structure to the Netflix shows — four separate series followed by a big crossover.

Netflix, meanwhile, just released the first

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Original Content podcast: ‘The Breaker Upperers’ filmmakers know that breaking up is the worst


This post is by Anthony Ha from TechCrunch


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“The Breaker Upperers” kicks off with an ingenious premise: What if you could pay an agency to take care of your awkward romantic break-ups? And what if that agency was run by two longtime friends who are starting to drift apart?

The film was a big hit in New Zealand last year and is now available to global audiences on Netflix. Jackie van Beek and Madeleine Sami joined this week’s Original Content podcast to talk about writing, directing and starring in the movie together.

“I was thinking about how many conversations I’d had with people about the level of dread that they have when they realize they have to break up with their partner,” van Beek said. “I mean, nobody enjoys it. I thought, you could make a lot of money doing that for somebody or offering to do that for somebody.”

They pair also discussed shooting a sex

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Spotify says it paid $340M to buy Gimlet and Anchor


This post is by Jon Russell from TechCrunch


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Spotify doubled down on podcasts last week with a double deal to buy podcast networks Gimlet and Anchor. Those acquisitions were initially undisclosed, but Spotify has quietly confirmed that it spent €300 million, just shy of $340 million, to capture the companies.

That’s according to an SEC filing — hat tip Recode’s Peter Kafka — which deals the transactions which were “primarily in cash,” Spotify said. Kafka previously reported that Spotify paid around $200 million for Gimlet, which, if correct, would mean Anchor fetched the remaining $140 million.

Those numbers represent an impressive return for the investors involved, particularly those who backed the companies at seed stage.

Gimlet raised $28.5 million from investors that included Stripes Group, WPP, Betaworks and Lowercase Capital, according to Crunchbase.

Anchor, meanwhile, raised $14.4 million. Crunchbase data shows its backers included Accel, GV, Homebrew and (again) Betaworks.

Those deals represent a good chunk of change, but Spotify

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StayTuned Digital helps video creators publish and measure everywhere


This post is by Anthony Ha from TechCrunch


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If you’re a video creator in 2019, you’re probably thinking about a long list of publishing destinations: YouTube, of course, but also Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and more.

StayTuned Digital is a new startup trying to help video creators and publishers push their content to multiple platforms. The company, which bills itself as “content’s best friend,” is officially unveiling its product today and announcing that it’s raised $2.5 million in funding.

StayTuned was founded by CEO Serge Kassardjian (previously the global head of media app business development for Google Play) and Randy Jimenez (previously CTO at SinglePlatform). Kassardjian told me he saw the need for a product like this during his time at Google, when he would talk to content creators becoming “overwhelmed” by the fragmentation across all the different devices and platforms available to them.

“What’s happened is every single one of the platforms is releasing new formats,

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Wattpad’s latest deal will turn its stories into TV shows and movies in Korea


This post is by Sarah Perez from TechCrunch


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Wattpad’s ambitions to grow beyond a storytelling community for young adults took another leap forward today with the announcement of a new partnership that will help expand its reach in Asia. The company has teamed up with Huayi Brothers in Korea, who will now be Wattpad’s exclusive entertainment partner in the region. The two companies will co-produce content sourced from Wattpad’s community, as it’s adapted for film, TV and other digital media projects in the country.

Development deals like this are not new to Wattpad at this point.

In the U.S., the storytelling app made headlines for bringing the teen hit “The Kissing Booth” to Netflix, which shot up to become the No. 4 movie on IMDb for a time.

Wattpad also recently announced a 2nd season for “Light as a Feather,” which it produces with AwesomenessTV and Grammnet for Hulu.

It additionally works with eOne, Sony,

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Sling TV closes year with 2.4 million subscribers, but growth slowed significantly


This post is by Sarah Perez from TechCrunch


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Sling TV’s growth has slowed dramatically as the competitive landscape for live TV streaming services has heated up. Despite this, the Dish -owned streaming service remains ahead of rivals in terms of subscriber count – largely due to it being first to market with streaming TV. Dish said today it closed out the year with 2.417 million Sling TV subscribers. That puts it ahead of AT&T’s DirecTV Now, which ended 2018 with 1.6 million subscribers.

It’s also more than newcomers like YouTube TV and Hulu with Live TV. The latter topped 1 million subscribers this past fall. YouTube TV doesn’t report its numbers, but had an estimated 800,000 subscribers as of last July. It’s likely neck-and-neck with Hulu Live TV at this point.

Dish reported its Sling TV numbers as a part of its Q4 2018 earnings, which also indicated that Sling TV is nowhere near making

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Amazon’s ‘Alexa Blueprints’ can now be published publicly on the US Alexa Skills Store


This post is by Sarah Perez from TechCrunch


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Last year, Amazon introduced Alexa Blueprints, a way for an Alexa device owner to create their own customized voice skills and Alexa responses without needing to know how to code. These skills — like family trivia or tips for your babysitter — could then be published for personal use. Later, Amazon added the ability to share the skills with others by way of a link. Today, Amazon is taking things a step further — you’ll now be able to publish these skills publicly to the U.S. Alexa Skills Store.

Alongside the launch, Amazon is also adding four new blueprints aimed at content creators, bloggers and organizations.

The idea with blueprints is to offer Alexa device owners a simple, online tool for building voice skills using templates you customize and edit to your liking.

Originally designed for use in the home and among families, some of the

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BuzzFeed News employees vote to unionize


This post is by Catherine Shu from TechCrunch


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Shortly after BuzzFeed News employees revealed that they had voted to unionize, its editor-in-chief said the company wants to meet with them to discuss voluntarily recognition. Employees announced today that they are organizing as BuzzFeed News Union under the NewsGuild of New York.

“Our staff has been organizing for several months, and we have legitimate grievances about unfair pay disparities, mismanaged pivots and layoffs, weak benefits, skyrocketing health insurance costs, diversity, and more,” says a mission statement posted to BuzzFeed News Union’s site. It adds that employees have been meeting for years and ramped up its efforts last fall when BuzzFeed laid off video staffers and its podcast team. Organizing efforts gained more urgency two weeks ago, when BuzzFeed cut 15 percent of its workforce, or about 250 jobs.

BuzzFeed News’ deputy news director Jason Wells reports that the publication’s editor-in-chief, Ben Smith, told employees “we look forward to meeting

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Jim Steyer runs the powerful nonprofit Common Sense Media, and he’s increasingly using his influence around tech consumption


This post is by Connie Loizos from TechCrunch


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California Governor Gavin Newsom earlier today proposed a so-called digital dividend that would let consumers share in the profits generated by California-based tech companies that have been “collecting, curating and monetizing” their users’ personal data. Newsom added that he has asked his administration to develop a proposal for a “new data dividend for Californians, because we recognize that data has value, and it belongs to you.”

It’s an idea that tech companies will surely argue against if it begins to take shape beyond a talking point, but it has at least one early proponent: Jim Steyer, the founder and CEO of the hugely popular,15-year-old nonprofit organization Common Sense Media. In fact, says Steyer, the idea is his, and Common Sense, which also has powerful advocacy and educational arms, is working on related legislation right now.

Steyer’s involvement in the background might surprise some of the 125 million people who visit

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Medium buys Bay Area mag The Bold Italic to add to its paywall


This post is by Josh Constine from TechCrunch


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Medium is seeking to juice up its premium subscription content in its home market with the acquisition of The Bold Italic. The 10-year-old online culture magazine will go behind the $5 per month Medium Membership paywall. The deal will keep The Bold Italic afloat when other San Francisco-local publications have struggled, following the shutdown of the The Oakland Tribune an SFist plus the layoff of most the Easy Bay Express.

The Bold Italic could make Medium Membership more appealing to Bay Area techies, newshounds, and community-philes. It needs all the subscribers it can get after pivoting away from ads and laying off 50 employees as well as shuttering two offices in 2017. That’s despite having raised $132 million. Last year it gave some publications whiplash by suddenly terminating its program that let them operate their own paywalls on the Medium platform. With so many publications competing for subscription revenue (TechCrunch

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Hulu greenlights ‘Howard the Duck’ and three other animated Marvel shows


This post is by Anthony Ha from TechCrunch


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Four new animated Marvel series, plus a crossover special, are coming to Hulu.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Hulu has greenlit “MODOK,” “Hit-Monkey,” “Tigra & Dazzler Show” and “Howard the Duck.” The characters will then come together in a special titled “The Offenders.”

These aren’t exactly A-list, or even B-list, Marvel characters. Howard the Duck (created by Steve Gerber) is probably the best-known — mostly for starring in a notorious ’80s flop — but I’ve also got a soft spot for MODOK, a gloriously ridiculous villain whose full name is Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing.

MODOK

Presumably, the strategy here is to make funny shows about some of the weirder Marvel characters. And there are some established names working behind the scenes, with Kevin Smith signed up as a writer and executive producer on “Howard the Duck,” Patton Oswalt serving in a similar role on “MODOK” and

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Epix launches a $6 per month streaming service offering 4K video and offline access


This post is by Sarah Perez from TechCrunch


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MGM-owned Epix is joining other premium networks like HBO, Showtime, and Starz with the launch of its own, over-the-top streaming service aimed at cord cutters. The service, called Epix Now, offers access to Epix’s original series and thousands of Hollywood movies and class films for $5.99 per month, and supports offline viewing and 4K video, the company says.

Initially, Epix Now is available on Apple TV, iOS and Android devices, but Roku and Amazon Fire TV apps are arriving soon.

Epix has been working for some time to reposition its network to better compete in the streaming market.

Following MGM’s $1 billion acquisition of Epix in 2017, the company last year announced plans to enhance the service’s offerings with a variety of original series. MGM said by spring 2019, it aimed to have 50 to 60 hours of original scripted content, and 70 to 80 hours of scripted

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Original Content podcast: Netflix’s ‘Velvet Buzzsaw’ is lethally dull


This post is by Anthony Ha from TechCrunch


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Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo and writer-director Dan Gilroy — who worked together on the creepy crime thriller “Nightcrawler” — have reunited for a new Netflix Original film, “Velvet Buzzsaw.”

While “Nightcrawler” wasn’t perfect, it was tense and unsettling, filled with eerily beautiful shots of nighttime L.A., plus a career-best performance from Gyllenhaal. It’s hard to believe that the same team was responsible for the muddled “Buzzsaw,” a film that tries to combine art-world satire and horror movies scares, ultimately failing on both counts.

The setup involves the death of a mysterious artist, leaving behind a trove of strangely compelling paintings. Soon, though, everyone involved in promoting or selling these paintings starts dying too.

On the latest episode of the Original Content podcast, we’re joined by Jon Shieber to try to understand what went wrong here. The movie isn’t particularly funny or scary — instead, we’re stuck

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Netflix reportedly paid $10M for campaign documentary featuring Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez


This post is by Jon Russell from TechCrunch


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Freshman Congresswomen and meme queen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is headed to Netflix. The streaming service said this week that it has snapped up ‘Knock Down the House,’ a Sundance award-winning documentary profiling the campaigns of four female progressive candidates, including Ocasio-Cortez, in the 2018 midterm election.

The documentary raised money via a Kickstarter campaign last year and it grabbed the Festival Favorite Award at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, beating 121 other contenders to land the highest number of audience votes.

That acclaim and the rising star of Ocasio-Cortez looks to have made the picture a hot commodity. Deadline reports that Netflix is spending $10 million to secure the film, a price that — if true — would make it the most expensive Sundance documentary deal to date. It apparently beat off competition from NEON, Focus, Hulu and Amazon to land the production, according to Deadline.

‘Knock Down the House’ is produced by New York’s Jubilee

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