The UpStream

Aereo is Officially Gone, as Are Its Assets

posted Saturday Feb 28, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Aereo is Officially Gone, as Are Its Assets

The story of Aereo may not be long, but it is awfully sad. After losing their Supreme Court case and inevitably closing their offices, the company tried, unsuccessfully, to change directions. With the company out of business, it was just a matter of time before the assets of the defunct company would be sold off.

The expectations for the sale, which concluded this week, were for between $4 million and $31 million. Not an unreasonable set of numbers for a company with servers, antenna farms, television tuners, streaming systems and their patents. Unfortunately, those expectations were not to be, as the entire company's asset portfolio sold for only $2 million - half of the lowest number expected.

Aereo's lawyer William Baldiga said that the company was "very disappointed" with the results. It was definitely an unimpressive showing, with only 10 bidders participating in the bankruptcy auction. TiVo, the new owner of said assets, certainly made off like bandits, having the ability to do as they wish with those patents. The proceeds will be used to pay off some of Aereo's creditors, who, I would imagine, were also hoping for more than the $2 million Aereo received.

Google Bans and Unbans Adult Content on Blogger

posted Saturday Feb 28, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Google Bans and Unbans Adult Content on Blogger

This has been an interesting week for the Internet. The FCC has deemed itself the hall monitor of the Internet which is likely to end up with broadcast-style, or English-style content filtering in the United States. Before the FCC can forever change the Internet for us, though, Google and Reddit announced content filtering themselves. While Reddit announced that they would no longer allow any adult content without permission from those involved, Google took a different approach.

Google's announced that their Blogger brand, which is known for containing a lot of adult content, would no longer allow most of that content. Included in the ban was almost all photos and videos, leaving behind only erotic fan fiction and the occasional Penthouse-style story - usually overly exaggerated. They did leave a single exception, saying,

We'll still allow nudity if the content offers a substantial public benefit, for example in artistic, educational, documentary, or scientific contexts.

As one might expect, there has been a lot of backlash. Most of the content producers and users of Blogger are there for one thing: nudity. With all of the public comments, and the obvious fear of a massive user exodus, Google has backed down on their decision. The company said,

This week, we announced a change to Blogger's porn policy stating that blogs that distributed sexually explicit images or graphic nudity would be made private.

We've received lots of feedback about making a policy change that impacts longstanding blogs, and about the negative impact this could have on individuals who post sexually explicit content to express their identities.

It is unusual for Google to back down on an unpopular policy change - if they were this easy to change directions, then YouTube would never have implemented Google+ for its commenting system. Perhaps this is a new day for Google, if not the Internet as a whole.

Microsoft and Lionhead Make New Fable Free to Play on Xbox One and PC

posted Saturday Feb 28, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Microsoft and Lionhead Make New <i>Fable</i> Free to Play on Xbox One and PC

The term "free to play" has some pretty negative connotations. Casual and mobile games have certainly made the concept painful and expensive. Often, "free to play" games require large sums of money to actually play them, despite their name. That is why the decision to make new Fable free to play on Xbox One and PC initially sounds devastating to fans of the series. They have promised 3 tenants for the game.

The good news is, this is not the same kind of free to play. In fact, you will have free access to the entire game, not just small sections of the game, with paid locks on others. This is their first promise to players. Users will be able to earn silver in the game, giving the ability to purchase goods inside of the game. There will, of course, be paid items in the game, but nothing of consequence. These paid items will include things like cosmetic items, etc.

In addition to an open game, the company promises that the game will also be fair. This means that anything that is required to continue playing the game will be available in-game. This means that no portion of the game will require a purchase to advance, distancing itself from the normal "free to play" fare.

Finally, the company promises to be generous in the game. Mostly, the goal here is to make a game and a scenario that encourages a happy player community. The success of a game like this revolves entirely around the happiness of its players. Unfortunately, that is not always a goal of the development team for a game; if it was, gaming would be a significantly more entertaining place.

GameStop Moving in to RadioShack Locations

posted Saturday Feb 28, 2015 by Scott Ertz

GameStop Moving in to RadioShack Locations

By now, everyone knows that RadioShack filed bankruptcy a few weeks ago. As part of the bankruptcy, the company is closing bunch of stores and selling others to Sprint. Some of the stores that are being abandoned will transition to new owners, including GameStop.

One of GameStop's lesser-known brands, Spring Mobile, will be moving in to 163 of RadioShack's dark stores. Those stores do not sell videogames, as you might expect, but instead are AT&T authorized dealers. This 1,500 employee brand will be expanding from around 300 stores to more than 450 with this single transaction, making it a huge expansion for the company.

What is interesting about this transition is in business concept. These stores, which are currently under RadioShack's control, have for the past 10 years sold AT&T phones (and Cingular before them), along with Sprint and Verizon or T-Mobile (depending on the year). Under those circumstances, RadioShack was unable to maintain the cost of the stores, even with additional revenue options available.

This means that GameStop is hoping that, while limiting the product line available in the stores, they will be able to sell more of that product category than their previous tenants. The concept of limiting scope can be successful for retail, as other revenue options may actually be driving profits down. Over the past few years, however, RadioShack's revenue and profits came more and more from wireless sales. Here in the end, some stores reported 40% of their revenue from wireless, meaning that this isn't that big of a change in business model.

Will GameStop be able to make a successful move into stores that couldn't succeed on increasingly wireless sales with only wireless sales? What do you think? Let us know in the comments section.

YouTube Kids App Launches Tomorrow, Curates Child-Centric Content

posted Sunday Feb 22, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

YouTube Kids App Launches Tomorrow, Curates Child-Centric Content

Beginning tomorrow, YouTube will be making a YouTube app for kids, in order to keep them away from the random clips of twerking, drug experimentation and other content not suitable for children. Dubbed YouTube kids, the app will be available for Android devices at first, with more devices coming in the near future.

The app will revolve around content produced and targeted specifically for children. Shows from DreamWorks TV, Jim Henson TV, Mother Goose Club, Talking Tom and Friends, and Geographic Kids will all be available for their viewing pleasure. Even further, the app will feature a control set for parents to use, to set things like viewing time limits, toggling the search option and more.

With as questionable as YouTube's "Recommended Videos" section is after you select a video, it's understandable that parents were concerned as to what might auto-play after their selection. It's even more troubling when certain videos are purposefully mistagged in order to show up in other categories. You could imagine what problems can arise from that.

ConnectSafely's co-director Larry Magid was excited for the app to make its way onto devices. ConnectSafely is a nonprofit that is partially funded by Google, with the purpose of educating people about the basics of the Internet and best safety, security and privacy matters.

This is good for kids and parents. YouTube has done a good job providing curated content that's suitable for kids and easy for kids and parents to discover. There is no substitute for engaged parenting, but it never hurts to have a little help. As with any media, parents need to be sure their kids are getting a balanced diet, so it's good that Google included a timer to help limit how long a child can use the app.

The number of children who use YouTube as a media consumption platform has blown up in the last year, so it's only appropriate that they receive an app that filters out the garbage that sometimes (almost always) takes over the Internet.

T-Mobile Not Concerned with FCC Net Neutrality Proposal

posted Sunday Feb 22, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

T-Mobile Not Concerned with FCC Net Neutrality Proposal

T-Mobile receives a lot of flack from us, and rightfully so given their track record of line-crossings and deceptions. Based on that, it's only right to point out when the company is doing something right, so here we are.

Many big telecom companies have outright lied about how net neutrality laws would impact their businesses, even claiming huge increases in costs that will be passed down to customers. Some have even said they would have to cutback on their offerings and services. Sprint has already gone on record to say that the FCC's reclassification would not hurt Sprint as a company. Now, T-Mobile is mirroring that same sentiment.

T-Mobile COO Mike Sievert said in an interview,

There is nothing in there that gives us deep concern about our ability to continue executing our strategy.

This was after T-Mobile's CEO John Legere said that reclassifying would be the wrong approach. However, his comments on Twitter were before the FCC's plan was released, and upon reading it, changed his tune and said that T-Mobile would not be hindered by the policy.

It's good to see two of the wireless carriers, albeit the smaller two, step up to add both levity and clarity to the whole net neutrality situation from a corporate perspective. The FCC's proposal should pass the Commission's vote this month, and having corporations on its side can only help the cause.

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