The UpStream

Disney Considering ESPN Streaming Service Without Any of the Features Viewers Want

posted Saturday Sep 13, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Disney Considering ESPN Streaming Service Without Any of the Features Viewers Want

The landscape of television and movies has been changing over the past few years in a big way. Less people are watching television live, with big new shows like The Blacklist being the most time-diverted shows on television. In fact, as I write this, I am streaming a television show on Netflix, which is a normal scenario for me. With services like Netflix and Hulu giving people access to shows without a cable subscription, many people have been cutting the cord with their cable companies; saving money with only Internet and subscriptions to these services.

Disney's ESPN brand is in an interesting place in the world of cord-cutters. People badly want to be able to get rid of their cable, but Disney has not made their content, especially their live content, available to the non-cable public. That is why people got excited when ESPN President John Skipper talked with Re/code and discussed streaming capabilities. This is the move that many people have been waiting for.

Unfortunately, Skipper shut down the excitement quickly, saying,

I do want to be clear, we are not looking to disrupt our linear channels and the content that's owned in that. We're going to go acquire new content and new kinds of things to go direct to consumers.

Let me translate: we want a streaming service, but we won't give people the content we already produce. That is unfortunate, but not entirely surprising. While the cord-cutters would like to be able to watch ESPN content without cable, there are some major legal hurdles that currently prevent Disney from making this content available over the Internet.

Let's take the NFL, for example. Any NFL game that ESPN/ABC broadcasts, either in part or entirety, is done under contract with the NFL. However, the NFL has other contracts with other carriers to provide that same content via other methods. For example, you can watch those games on a Verizon Wireless phone via exclusive contract. You could not, then, watch those on a Sprint phone, for example. If ESPN's content were made available via web, that contract would be violated.

Before ESPN could provide any of their existing content via streaming platform, they would need to change their contracts with content providers, and there are a lot of contracts to renegotiate. Some of those, such as the NFL, would not be possible at this point to renegotiate at all. Without those renegotiations, a useful ESPN platform is impossible.

Yahoo! Court Loss Paved Way for PRISM

posted Saturday Sep 13, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Yahoo! Court Loss Paved Way for PRISM

Before Marissa Mayer was made CEO, the name Yahoo had mostly faded from the mainstream. This did not mean that people had stopped using the service; in fact, usage was not down, just not something people talked about. Of course, anywhere people are using a data collecting service, the government takes notice, even when the press does not.

One way the US government took notice of Yahoo in the years before Mayer remade the company's image in the public was in secret, sealed data requests. These requests, and the ones issued to other tech companies, became the basis for a little program named PRISM. PRISM was the program that Edward Snowden, an NSA contractor, sacrificed everything to make public.

What is different about the Yahoo requests is the company's response. When the requests came in, Yahoo declined to turn over the data without an issued warrant; they claimed the warrantless data collection to be "unconstitutional and overbroad," bringing the matter to court. Unfortunately for Yahoo, and the American public, the case did not go well. Yahoo General Counsel said,

Our challenge, and a later appeal in the case, did not succeed. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC)... ordered us to give the U.S. Government the user data it sought in the matter.

Despite the court loss, Yahoo still refused to turn over the data, under the same claims of unconstitutional behavior. That's when the government threatened fines: $250,000 per day for non-compliance. They also used the sealed results of the private court case and fines to threaten other companies. When complete, the PRISM program was collecting information constantly from the likes of AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Skype (before and after Microsoft purchase) and YouTube.

All because of Yahoo's loss in court, the US government was able to create the PRISM program, and stock it with data about people all over the world: US citizens and not. It is an interesting notion that Yahoo could have had so much of a secret effect on the globe while having seemingly no public effect.

Marissa would see to it that Yahoo would continue to make a mark in the PRISM case after the Snowden leaks came out. She released a transparency report showing as much information as she was legally permitted to about the nature and targets of the data requests, dating back to 2007. Because of this, other companies on the list also released reports, including Microsoft/Skype.

Microsoft Announces New Xbox 360 Bundles for Holiday

posted Saturday Sep 13, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Microsoft Announces New Xbox 360 Bundles for Holiday

One of the more interesting pieces of information that came from the Xbox One reveal was Microsoft's commitment to the Xbox 360 platform. In addition to the continued stream of games that would come to the older console, Microsoft also announced a new version of the hardware, helping to solidify the 360's continued existence.

Today we are over a year removed form the announcement of the Xbox One, and nearly a year removed from the release of the console. In the past, this has been the point when a console manufacturer starts to phase out their previous platforms. Not necessarily quickly, but certainly a limiting focus on said platform. The PlayStation 2 had begun to disappear from stores a year after the PlayStation 3 was released; the original Xbox hardware was all but extinct a year removed from the release of the Xbox 360.

So, what about this generation? Well, Microsoft, in addition to the recent white Xbox One, we get to see some other holiday bundles, and the Xbox 360 is front and center. In fact, there are 3 new Xbox 360 holiday bundles, including a brand new color for the console.

First, we have a standard black Xbox 360 4GB Kinect bundle, which comes with Kinect Adventures, Kinect Sports, and Forza Horizon and will retail at Target for $249. Next comes a standard black Xbox 360 500GB console, which will come with Call of Duty: Ghosts and Call of Duty: Black Ops II. The console will also retail for $249 at various retailers. Finally comes the surprise bundle; it is identical to the previous bundle, except it comes in "arctic blue."

The color is bright, vibrant and wonderful, if you are into crazy colored electronics. Myself, I have a bright blue HTC 8Xt and bright red HTC 8X and a red case for my Surface. Because of this, if I was without an Xbox 360 today, I would consider picking up this wonderfully odd-colored Xbox 360 bundle. In addition to the color, this console, as well as the other bundles, all come with a free month of Xbox Live Gold, meaning you could get an additional 2 games through the Games with Gold program.

Are you currently without an Xbox 360? Would these deals, or the crazy color of the final bundle, make you consider adding a 360 to your home theater setup? Let us know in the comments.

New Offline Method to Attack WiFi Routers Exploits Major Flaw

posted Sunday Aug 31, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

With the onslaught of data breaches happening lately, both online and in-store, it almost feels like nothing is safe anymore. You might be feeling a bit skeptical about even stepping foot outside or on the Web, and you might have good reason for feeling that way. This week, a report has come out that could make your palms sweat a little more. Even if you have a secure Wi-Fi password or PIN code for your one-touch WPS option, hackers can still crack the code in under a second.

Swiss researcher 0xcite released a new way to gain entry to those routers with pesky passwords. By simply going around the Wi-Fi Protected Setup button and using offline algorithms and calculations, instead of guessing for a PIN code for hours on end, you can now just take one guess to get in. And usually, you're into the router in the blink of an eye.

How does it work? Well, the presentation in the source link below has the finer details, but the gist of it is that there is an exploit that is found within some similar chipsets used in a lot of routers. The good news is that all routers aren't affected, but those using Broadcom chipsets and ones from another unnamed company can be at risk. The undisclosed company is currently working rapidly on a fix, which is part of the reason it's not being identified.

The Wi-Fi Alliance, the organization responsible for standards and practices in the world of wireless, has said that the vulnerability is probably due more on how a company sets up its wireless networking features and less on Wi-Fi itself. The Alliance has added that users should immediately turn off their WPS setup option and accept that dealing with a secure password might be a better option for now. Wi-Fi Alliance spokeswoman Carol Carrubba explained,

A vendor implementation that improperly generates random numbers is more susceptible to attack, and it appears as though this is the case with at least two devices. It is likely that the issue lies in the specific vendor implementations rather than the technology itself. As the published research does not identify specific products, we do not know whether any Wi-Fi certified devices are affected, and we are unable to confirm the findings.

Broadcom has not commented on the matter yet but 0xcite said they've reached out to both Broadcom and the other company to immediately fix the flaw. Nothing has been stated on a turnaround time for a patch to the problem as of yet, so it's on the user to protect themselves for now.

Hulu Loses Another Company-Owned Series to Netflix

posted Sunday Aug 31, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Hulu Loses Another Company-Owned Series to Netflix

I often wonder if Comcast (NBC), Disney (ABC) and News Corp. (FOX) remember that they jointly own Hulu. It is usually when a company makes an odd decision that helps a service that they are not involved with in a way that hurts Hulu. This week, we discover that Netflix has purchased the rights to stream NBC's 2013 top-rated new series The Blacklist.

This decision comes to us thanks to Sony Pictures TV, who retained the rights for post-season streaming, selling those rights to Netflix for a rumored $2 million per episode. If this number is correct, it would be the most expensive external per-episode series Netflix has ever been involved with. The Walking Dead cost them roughly $1.3 million per episode, Dexter cost them just shy of $2 million per episode, but this would be the first time to breach that $2 million mark.

If you somehow missed the series, NBC placed it in the post-The Voice anchor spot on Monday nights at 10PM, where they also originally launched Revolution, which lost its audience after they moved its night. The series' over-arching storyline and sometimes unpredictable characters released to NBC's largest audience of the season, and ended with the title of No. 1 new program.

In addition to these titles, it also earned another interesting title: most time shifted series of the season. This means that more people watched The Blacklist on DVR or Hulu than any other series. With that title, it is no surprise that Netflix would be interested in getting hold of the rights to this already time shifted series.

With the season 1 successes, NBC is going to try and revitalize Thursday night ratings, moving The Blacklist to ER's old slot at 10 PM after The Super Bowl, which will also be followed immediately by the series. While NBC is making a big broadcast deal about the James Spader led series, Sony Pictures TV is going to try for the same success in streaming on Netflix. If you haven't seen the show yet, you definitely should. It will be available starting September 7th.

Windows Live Messenger is Finally Completely Gone

posted Sunday Aug 31, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Windows Live Messenger is Finally Completely Gone

In 2012, Microsoft announced that it was closing Windows Live Messenger, also known as MSN Messenger, worldwide in favor of its then recently acquired Skype. There was only a single exception: mainland China. While there was no real explanation at the time as to why China was keeping the outdated service which, obviously, would no longer allow out-of-country communication, it was accepted as just another China thing.

As it turns out, the service was operated by a separate company in mainland China, and therefore was not included as part of the abandonment. That Microsoft brand was unable to handle the mobile messaging craze without the support of the parent company, and Chinese users have found more their way over to apps like WhatsApp in exchange for Messenger. Because of this, the final shutdown was inevitable.

The most popular name in the platform for China, though relatively unknown outside, is WeChat, a product developed by Tencent. The product is so popular in China, in fact, that the Chinese counterpart to TechCrunch, TechNode, has a QR code for their corporate WeChat account on the sidebar of their website. If an AOL partner, which still operates AOL Instant Messenger, is using the service over their partner's service, you know the size and scope of the service.

WeChat's developer, Tancent, has a VP who was originally part of Microsoft's MSN service, heading up the Chinese version of MSN Spaces and MSN Shopping. He left in 2006 to build MSN competitors at Tencent. It could explain why WeChat is having the success that they are, having both the backing of a Chinese company and the leadership of someone who knows the inner workings of MSN.

Either way, it is a sad day knowing that the bubbly blue and green icon is officially over worldwide.

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