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Netflix Adds New Emphasis on Original Content for Children and Families

posted Monday Jan 25, 2016 by Nicholas DiMeo

Netflix Adds New Emphasis on Original Content for Children and Families

Last week, Hulu struck a deal with Sony Pictures to add more movies and big-name content to the platform. Not to be outdone, Netflix announced this week that it will be spending a large amount of its $5 billion programming budget for 2016 on children and family content, to further cement itself at the top video-streaming service.

Chief Content Office Ted Sarandos announced that Netflix is "doubling down on kids and families." As it stands, Netflix has just over a dozen original shows that are focused for children. Over the span of the next year, the company will up that number to 35 total programs.

While Netflix currently has hundreds of shows for kids on the network, most of them are acquired through their licensing deals. That was an important first step for the platform, which has a formulaic approach to targeting its key demographics. The next step, which has proven successful for Netflix, is to create new, original content in order to keep its consumers locked into the service.

Sarandos also acknowledge the challenge that the company faces on a global level. While their security team is currently blocking VPN and proxy services, Netflix understands that its customers use those services because a lot of content isn't available outside of the US. He promised this week to focus heavily on global license agreements.

We are running a global network that is not easily comparable in business or cultural terms to anything that has come before. Every year the exclusions of different countries in our licensing agreements will become less and less.

The show titles and storylines haven't been announced yet, but Sarandos said that information would be coming in just a few weeks as the ink dries on the fresh sheets of printed paper.

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Big ISPs Try to Shut Down Open Fiber Network Bill

posted Sunday Jan 24, 2016 by Nicholas DiMeo

Big ISPs Try to Shut Down Open Fiber Network Bill

In West Virginia, citizens have grown tired of private Internet service providers skirting the line of acceptable Internet speeds, reliability and consistency. In some parts of the state, there is simply no Internet solution at all outside of satellite services. In response to the restlessness, people have rallied to push for a publicly funded fiber-based Internet service. They also have legislators pushing for the infrastructure to be built to allow this to happen. Needless to say, the big private companies are completely unhappy with this idea and are looking to shut it down.

Recently, State Senator Chris Walters (R) brought to the table a bill that would have contractors lay down over 2,000 miles of fiber cable through the state. This isn't to start up a new ISP, however. Instead, this fiber network would be accessible by any ISP that wants to tap into the lines and bring service to homes in the state. As you could imagine, this could sprout dozens of small companies to bring potentially high-quality service to the areas in need, and of course the big ISPs are against the bill.

West Virginia Cable TV Association Chief Mark Polen said,

This bill would obligate the state to borrow between $75 million and $100 million, and it wouldn't guarantee that a single rural customer who doesn't have broadband service would get it. The state-financed, state-owned, and state-operated fiber network will be in direct competition with the private investments our members have made in West Virginia.

It should be noted that Polen is in charge of a group that includes Comcast, Time Warner and other popular middle-tier ISPs in the state. Frontier, who is not in the association but is found in many areas of West Virginia, have also opposed the new network. It is reported that lesser-known ISPs like Citynet and Alpha Technologies, however, are fully in favor of bringing better broadband to troubled regions and giving rural residents a reliable and affordable Internet service.

Senator Walters, in a statement, openly argued against the Cable TV Association of West Virginia.

Once we build this network, people are going to use it. If all of a sudden you have a network that affordably gets you where you want to go, you're going to use it if it makes financial sense.

Startup ISPs could surely benefit from a provided fiber system, and could more than likely pass down savings to the consumer. Bigger ISPs have backed an alternative bill that would simply hand out $1 million in tax credits to ISPs wanting to build in rural areas. The problem with that is it's only for $1 million in total, not for every ISP who wants in on the action. The Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committee reviews both bills next week and has already shown interest in the bill introduced by Walters, who is also the chair of the Committee.

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FAA Investigates Cowboys' Drone Use, Team Files Exemption

posted Sunday Jan 24, 2016 by Nicholas DiMeo

FAA Investigates Cowboys' Drone Use, Team Files Exemption

Back in June, the Dallas Cowboys announced that they would be combining sports and tech and introduced the use of drones during their practices and workouts. This was an innovative way to use the technology in a commercial space, and gave the NFL team a literal new perspective on the team's performance. Unfortunately, it didn't help the Cowboys, as the team suffered yet another disastrous losing season. But the bad news didn't stop there; the Cowboys also came under some hot fire with the FAA.

The Federal Aviation Administration said that the team never sought permission from the agency in order to use the drones, and consider that the Cowboys are a for-profit business, the practice was considered illegal. This resulted in the NFL and the Dallas Cowboys becoming the target of an investigation by the FAA to find out just how the drones were being used. Turns out, unlike the Patriots, there was no underlying wrongdoing, however the team was still not in the clear.

The Cowboys, following the probing, have since filed a "333" exemption, which the FAA granted. This gives the Cowboys permission to use drones within the facility, and also for filming purposes. This adds the team to the list of more than 3,000 other commercial entities in the US who have filed for the same ability to legally operate a drone.

There are, however, a couple caveats. 31, in fact. The FAA has given the football team almost three dozen provisions they must abide by, including the ones that are outlined in the FAA's drone operation guidelines. Most of these are pretty straight forward, such as the drone must be under 55 pounds and be within the operator's line of sight. Others regarding aerial filming require that an exemption be submitted in writing 3 days prior to any filmed activity. Considering that practices are Tuesday through Friday, that's a lot of paperwork.

The NFL has also filed for the same exemption and it too was granted. There's speculation that 4K cameras will be mounted and experimented with during the week of Super Bowl 50, and possibly even during the big game.

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Netflix Implements Promised Ban on VPN and Proxy Services

posted Sunday Jan 24, 2016 by Scott Ertz

Netflix Implements Promised Ban on VPN and Proxy Services

From a consumer point of view, one of the annoyances about Netflix is that, if you are not in the USA, there is a lot of content missing. This is because many content producers license their content either exclusively for the US market, or have different streaming agreements for other countries. This means that a non-American will be missing some of the best content that Netflix has to offer.

To combat this, many people in other areas have begun using proxy or VPN services to make it appear to Netflix that they are in the US. This might seem like a good thing for the watchers, but it is a massive problem for Netflix. Particularly, it is a legal issue for them, as they are technically violating their licensing deals.

Because of this, Netflix has promised to begin blocking VPN and proxy services from accessing their system all together. This week, it appears that they have begun making good on their threat/promise, as users around the world have begun reporting messages on their devices.

You seem to be using an unblocker or proxy. Please turn off any of these services and try again.

This will not be an easy road for the company to travel, though. Blocking proxies only works so long as they are known, and changing IP ranges is an easy task for one of these services. In fact, several users who have initially reported the new, forced outages have begun reporting that, if they used a different server, the error went away. That means that, even for the known proxies, there are gaps in the knowledge, meaning that the blocks are only partially successful.

Having partial blocks could actually open Netflix up to further legal issues. It is one of the reasons why companies often avoid even considering these types of blocks. It will be interesting to see if they continue to pursue this block or consider another alternative.

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Yahoo Continues to Fight Asset Sell-Off [Report]

posted Sunday Jan 24, 2016 by Scott Ertz

Yahoo Continues to Fight Asset Sell-Off [Report]

Over the past few months, the future of Yahoo has been a big question. The board of directors has been entertaining the idea of spinning off several aspects of the company. At one point they considered divesting their ownership in Alibaba.com, the Chinese Amazon. More recently, however, the board has decided that Alibaba should stay and Yahoo's core businesses should go.

Included in the current spin-off consideration are the display advertising business, which mostly serves Yahoo's other core businesses, such as news, sports and mail, as well as the Internet business itself. Spinning off the core business could be financially positive to the corporation, as it would be done tax free. On the other hand, the move could take upwards of a year, just ask HP.

Some of the investors, including notoriously loud investor Starboard Value LP, has advocated for an outright sale instead of spinoff. They believe that the faster turnaround and cash injection could help get the company going down whatever path it is they have planned. For now, however, the board is not entertaining this idea. That is, they are not entertaining it this week.

On February 2nd, the company will release its quarterly earnings report. Depending on the reaction to the numbers and, more importantly, the announced plans for the future, the board may take the investors' idea into consideration. It could be a good time to consider it, too, as people close to the situation have said the company has been approached several times about such a sale. Yahoo has not commented on these rumors.

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Valve Adds Additional 3rd Party Hardware Support to SteamOS

posted Sunday Jan 24, 2016 by Scott Ertz

Valve Adds Additional 3rd Party Hardware Support to SteamOS

Valve's "gaming console" Linux-based operating system SteamOS, has not been successful, either commercially or with hardware partners producing Steam Machines. In fact, many manufacturers are skeptical of the platform for a number of reasons. The primary reason for the skepticism might be the lack of games available on the platform, but a leading concern is the lack of hardware that can be used with it.

Many gamers are not big fans of the uncomfortable, awkward controller that is part of the standard setup, meaning that an alternative was needed. In a recent update, Valve has agreed and added support for Microsoft's new Xbox One Elite controller. This new controller is becoming incredibly popular among hardcore console gamers, meaning that supporting the controller could actually gain some traction for Steam Machines. The downside, of course, is that the controller can only be used wired, causing a lot of inconvenience in the livingroom.

Another area that SteamOS has lacked is in the ability to communicate with people on the platform. The addition of Bluetooth pairing in the latest update means that you can now pair any headset to the console, from a cheap cellphone headset to a high-end Monster headset. In addition, Bluetooth means that you could pair a PlayStation 3 or 4 controller with the system, though there is no telling whether or not the buttons will be mapped to anything that matters.

While these new features, available currently in the beta release, might make a lot of Steam Machine owners happy, it is unlikely that it will draw new users to the platform. Before they will be able to get any real traction, Valve still needs to address the biggest issue: catalog.

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