The UpStream

Intel to Unload OnCue on Verizon [Rumor]

posted Saturday Dec 14, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Intel to Unload OnCue on Verizon [Rumor]

When GTE originally joined the Verizon family, one of the businesses that Verizon acquired and immediately sold off AmeriCast, GTE's fledgling cable company. That company was sold to Knology with the agreement that Verizon could not pursue any business in those markets that would compete with Knology for a period of several years. Verizon agreed to these demands because why would Verizon want to be in the content delivery business, right?

Fast forward to today, when FiOS and RedBox Instant are big business for Verizon, though market penetration for FiOS is low because of their original deal with Knology. So, in a day and age when content delivery is the business to be in, how do you expand your business? By buying another, failed company.

Enter Intel's OnCue, a web-TV service that has failed to attract content or enough momentum to offer the service publicly. It does, however, own a large amount of fiber-optic infrastructure, which Verizon desperately needs. So, with Intel's fiber and Verizon's FiOS content, this certainly seems to be a match made in heaven.

A deal has not been announced, though Bloomberg believes that an announcement could be made as early as this coming week. This will be good news to Intel, whose new leadership decided that this business did not fit in with the company's goals and should be sold off. As Intel regains its focus on chips, with renewed vigor in the mobile space, OnCue would simply be in their way.

Twitter Redefines Block as Mute, Reverses Decision

posted Saturday Dec 14, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Twitter Redefines Block as Mute, Reverses Decision

Twitter made an interesting decision this week: to redefine a word. At some point, someone at Twitter decided that "block" would be better defined by the same qualities as "mute" and implemented changes to the system to accomplish this English language upgrade.

Previously, blocking someone would alert them, and they would no longer be able to interact with your account or any of its tweets. On Thursday, none of that was the case; instead, no alert and the "blocked" account could still interact with you, but you would no longer see it in your feed. That's better, right?

Of course not. That was a ridiculous change that no one in their right mind could ever think was a good idea, nor would anyone want or expect Twitter to function as such. Because of this obvious fact, the Internet did what the Internet does and revolted. People took to the service to run Twitter through the wringer. As a result, Twitter made an interesting decision, and did it in VERY short order.

Earlier today, we made a change to the way the "block" function of Twitter works. We have decided to revert the change after receiving feedback from many users - we never want to introduce features at the cost of users feeling less safe. Any blocks you had previously instituted are still in effect.

So: bad decision, lots of code, angry customers, decision reversed, code irrelevant. So recently after an IPO, it is not a great idea to show your new investors that you don't understand how your customers use your product or that you don't know what they want. However, it is a great opportunity to show your investors that you are willing to listen to your customers, even if after the fact, and reverse a decision for the greater good.

Whether you support the decision or not, I think we all have to congratulate Twitter on a swift and decisive act for their customers.

YouTube Flags Videos Erroneously, Costs Content Creators Revenue

posted Saturday Dec 14, 2013 by Scott Ertz

YouTube Flags Videos Erroneously, Costs Content Creators Revenue

Anyone who produces regular content for YouTube has had a video flagged before. It can be for music, video, imagery and, sometimes, it can be for something outside of your control. For example, music playing very quietly in the background of a live event where you are conducting an interview.

No matter the cause, the end result is the same: no revenue can be generated off of the video. While exceedingly annoying, these things happen, and we are all prepared for it. However, when your video is flagged for copyright violation for reasons outside of reality, the story is a little different.

Unfortunately for many videogame-related content producers, that situation became their reality this week when Google implemented a new pre-screening ContentID system. The system, which is an extension of their standard search and destroy algorithm, was rolled out to Multi-Channel Networks and checks videos for violations during the batch upload process.

The problem is that content is being flagged for violation from companies who do not hold the copyright for said content. For example, Deep Silver, owners of Metro: Last Light allow content producers to profit from content containing footage from the game, yet 4GamerMovie has placed claims on the content, preventing YouTube producers to make money from their content.

YouTube released a statement to VentureBeat, stating,

We recently enabled Content ID scanning on channels identified as affiliates of {multichannel networks}. This has resulted in new copyright claims for some users, based on policies set by the relevant content owners. As ever, channel owners can easily dispute Content ID claims if they believe those claims are invalid.

The biggest issue at hand is that a failed dispute will result in a strike on their account; after several strikes a channel can be closed, leaving a lot of reason NOT to contest a flag and, instead, simply accept the revenue loss.

This leaves an important question: why are videogames being targeted in this flagging wave? Does Google have reason to discourage videogame-related content or are they simply inept? Weigh in in the comments.

FCC Delays Part Two of Spectrum Auction Until Mid-2015

posted Sunday Dec 8, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

FCC Delays Part Two of Spectrum Auction Until Mid-2015

There are two auctions coming up for a big chunk of broadcast spectrum. A smaller one is next month in January 2014 and the second, larger auction was supposed to be in June. However, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a blog post that the big auction in June will now be pushed back to 2015.

The Broadcast Television Spectrum Initiative Auction, as it is called, has been talked about a lot at the FCC over the past month, since Wheeler took over as Chairman. Wheeler said that the FCC can't just issue an auction without putting some rules and policies behind the spectrum, such as what it can be used for. Wheeler has been working with the Incentive Auction Task Force on trying to meet the deadline of June 2014 but it just isn't going to happen. Wheeler said that the FCC will wait until new technologies, software and systems are in place and have been thoroughly tested before they decide to send everything to auction.

On the decision to push the date back, he said,

There are several key ingredients to fulfilling our instructions from Congress and making the incentive auction a success. We absolutely must make fact-based policy decisions in an open and transparent manner. Beyond the policy issues, however, we must also exhaustively test the operating systems and the software necessary to conduct the world's first-of-a kind incentive auction. This includes ensuring that such systems are user-friendly to both broadcasters and wireless carriers who will participate...

I believe we can conduct a successful auction in the middle of 2015. To achieve that goal, there will be a number of important milestones along the way. The Task Force will provide more details about the timeline and milestones in a presentation at the January 2014 Commission meeting.

Here's how it will all go down. The smaller auction of the 10MHz of space will happen in January 2014 as planned. Then, based on Congress passing the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act last year, 65MHz of spectrum must be auctioned off by the end of 2015. All of the money made from these auctions will go towards implementing first responder LTE network, FirstNet. This new network would allow first responders to have a dedicated system to be used for both their everyday and emergency operations.

So while there's not much change or news to write home about here, it was important to note that the FCC is acting in a methodical and carefully-planned manner, which is sometimes a rarity for the Commission. It's also refreshing to see that there is an actual effort being placed on making sure the spectrum can be implemented immediately and that there will even be a "mock auction" before everything actually takes place, in order to ensure that any flaws in the entire project are found before they do this for real.

Beats to Launch Music-Streaming Service, Surprisingly Called Beats Music

posted Sunday Dec 8, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Beats to Launch Music-Streaming Service, Surprisingly Called Beats Music

Beats, arguably the most popular high-end headphone in the market today, is moving into the music-streaming service to compete with Pandora, Spotify and more. Jimmy Iovine, the company's co-founder and head of Interscope/Geffen Records, dove into details this week about Beats' decision to enter a new space.

In keeping with its easy naming system, the headphones, digital audio hardware technology, and now the music-streaming service will be called Beats Music. Iovine said that the way Beats is going to differentiate itself from the competition is by putting all its effort into hand-curated lists for all types of scenarios, moods and times of day.

We are making tons and tons of curated lists. If you go the gym, we'll know where you are. So when you wake up in the morning, there will be a list waiting for you.

According to the chairman and co-founder, Beats Music, codenamed Daisy, currently has over 100 professionals putting together playlists for every possible occasions they can come up with. Of the team working on the unique take on music streaming, only one of them is famous: Trent Reznor. The former 9 Inch Nails vocalist has been signed on to oversee Beats Music's curation process. Iovine also said that subscribers would be able to set up personalized playlists using a proprietary algorithm that Beats created for the service.

When asked about pricing, he interestingly responded by saying Beats Music would "charge the same thing as everybody else... $10 a month or whatever it is." Good to know that he has a firm grip on the competitors in the market space and their pricing.

Beats Music comes after the Beats picked up music-streaming service MOG last year for $10 million. Marking it as a "failed utility" but with promise, Iovine added,

The infrastructure and technology were great. It's hard to hire 50 good engineers. We were able to retain 99% of them.

There's one last caveat to add here. Beats Music should also be better for the artists whose songs are on the platform. The service will be able to give better information and access on who is listening to an artist's music. Described as "fair play," Beats Music will tell an artist how many times a song has been played, under what playlists, how it compares to other songs in its space and more. That's definitely an added bonus in a world where iTunes gives you almost no information on the demographic listening to music.

Activision Blames Consoles for Ghosts Sales

posted Saturday Dec 7, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Activision Blames Consoles for <i>Ghosts</i> Sales

In the latest issue of GameInformer features a discussion with Activision CEO Eric Hirshberg about the recent sales drop for Call of Duty: Ghosts. Despite being the top-selling title on next generation consoles, overall sales for the title have been lower than that company had hoped.

Obviously, the belief in the industry is that the yearly release schedule has caused people to have less of an urge to purchase each individual title. With that type of schedule, you end up with a lot of cookie cutter-style gameplay that would be better served as DLC rather than a branded title. Even EA has weighed in on the concept, publicly stating that they had abandoned the idea of annual Battlefield titles for fear of diluting the franchise.

So, what does Activision believe the problem is? Too many active consoles on the market. Apparently, since many people have the ability to purchase the title more than once, they have decided not to purchase it at all.

We've been pretty transparent all year that we think, because of the challenges of the console transition year, that that was likely in the short-term. I think it would be a mistake to conflate the challenges of the console transition year with any indications about the health of the franchise.

Of course, there is no way it could be possible that mimicking the Guitar Hero business model could lead to a similar fate. It is more likely that doing the exact same thing twice will result in significantly different outcomes. Hirshberg's response to critics of the business model is possibly the most disconnected from reality.

Well no, obviously not - and obviously I don't agree with the critics there. I know that Call of Duty's a polarising franchise with some of the critics, and it's clear to me that not all the critics like our strategy of making a game every year, but thankfully our fans do.

It's also clear to me that the critical response doesn't always mirror the fans' appreciation of a game. We actually do read the critics' comments and take them into consideration during our creative process, but we just can't measure ourselves by that yardstick alone.

It is a good thing that Activision listens to critics during the creative process, as Ghosts is the lowest rated game in the franchise of the entire generation.

Our most important audience is our fans, so we try to stay laser-focused on making games that they love. If you look at the fact that {Ghosts is} the most pre-ordered game of the year, it's the most pre-ordered next-gen game of the year, it's already the number one most played on Xbox Live, and that we're seeing longer average playtimes than ever before, we're confident that we're doing well by the criteria that matter most.

So, we listen to critics, but stay laser-focused on gamers. While that might sound like a major disconnect, in this case they are the same. Low ratings, plus low sales hopefully equals an altered release schedule with an actual focus on gamers and gameplay, rather than just saying it in an interview. We won't know until E3, but Activision is not known for making fact-based business decisions, so if there was money on it, I would bet for a new title in 2014.

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