The UpStream

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.

Rovio Responding to Market Issues with New CEO

posted Sunday Aug 31, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Rovio Responding to Market Issues with New CEO

First to market is almost never an indicator of overall success in a market. For example, look at the fate of Palm and BlackBerry. Or, where is Myspace today? Mostly relegated to the pages of history. This phenomenon has also affected the casual gaming industry.

As an example, let's look at Zynga, who has not had a successful quarter in what seems like years. Just because they helped to take casual games mainstream doesn't mean they know how to handle the success or to pivot as the industry changes. Another company at the head of the casual trend was Rovio, whose Angry Birds franchise became a worldwide success quickly with sequels constantly coming out. Their early success was so great that even Lucas got involved, licensing Star Wars for one of the many sequels.

Unfortunately, as the casual gaming world has switched from a pay-for-game model to a freemium model, Rovio has had a lot of trouble adapting. Their platform has tried to adjust to this particular change, but they have still had no luck in generating revenue, which has led to a management change at the company. CEO Mikael Hed will be stepping down this year, to be replaced by Nokia veteran and current Chief Commercial Officer Pekka Rantala. Mr. Hed said of his time as CEO (in which he usually wore a red Angry Birds hoodie in public,

It has been an amazing ride. In the coming months, I will be very happy to pass the hoodie to Pekka Rantala, who will take Rovio to the next level.

This change serves to highlight an overall problem in the gaming industry, which has been more prevalent in the new social startups than even the established developers. The issue is an inability to change the thing that made them popular when they got started to adjust to a changing marketplace. While Rovio has had trouble with freemium, Zynga has had trouble backing away from Facebook. Both of these companies will have responded, maybe successfully, by changing the leadership that kept them in the dark.

Big developers have the same issues, often focusing down on a single franchise until it inevitably sinks the ship. Activision had previously focused on Guitar Hero, until ultimately disbanding the brand, only to replace it with Call of Duty. They then purchased Blizzard, which has a soft spot for the franchise, with a particular focus on World of Warcraft. If the revenue from that game were to suddenly disappear, the company would certainly fold.

Unfortunately no franchise can survive forever; people eventually want diversity, and a never-changing game is not the way to achieve it. Hopefully Rovio will be able to figure out how to take advantage of a freemium model with new management.

Telegrams Go Viral with Crazy New App

posted Sunday Aug 31, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Telegrams Go Viral with Crazy New App

So, this one is pretty weird. Miranda July believes that technology is far too impersonal, and wants to change it to the far extreme: making technology the conduit for personal communications, with a twist. Instead of calling your friend on the phone and having a fairly human-to-human interaction, July has developed a application that allows you to send a text message to a stranger, who will then find your friend and deliver the message verbally. July describes it,

The antithesis of the utilitarian efficiency that tech promises, here, finally, is an app that makes us nervous, giddy, and alert to the people around us.

Now, to be fair, if a stranger walked up to me in public and relayed a message as if they know me, nervous would not quite describe my reaction. On the other hand, I could pretend I am a secret agent receiving an assignment, so there is an aspect of not terrifying involved, I suppose.

Luckily, in reality, you get a warning that you will be approached by a stranger. Here's how the app works: you pick your friend from your contact list and ask them if they are available, then you choose your messenger from a list of participants around your contact. You can see photos, reviews and success rates for the deliverer, helping you decide whom to use. You then send the message, a photo and instructions to your agent so they can find the person to whom they will deliver the message.

Clearly, this little project only works if there are people around using the app. Since the app is only available on iOS, your selection of delivery agents will be very limited. To try and overcome this limitation, there is a concept of a hotspot, which is essentially a place for people to go to deliver and receive these incredibly off messages. While several liberal arts colleges have set up hotspots, anyone can register one, at concerts, conventions, etc.

You have probably already figured out that this is less of a messaging platform and more of a distributed performance art platform. July said,

Unpredictable, undocumented, fleeting interactions with strangers can bring great joy and inspiration! Pretending to be someone else is liberating. The feeling is a little like Truth or Dare and Charades.

I don't know if this is enough of a reason to create an awkward, uncomfortable stranger meetup, but if this seems like your thing, you can get the app from the source link.

Flickr Account Plays Home to Internet Archive of Images of the Past

posted Sunday Aug 31, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

Flickr Account Plays Home to Internet Archive of Images of the Past

One of the great and positive accomplishments of the Internet is the ability to save pieces of history forever. This happens every day on the Web, but one of the major projects has been archiving photographs from as early as 1500 onto Yahoo's newly renovated Flickr. The idea was that 14 million images from the Internet Archive Blog would be preserved on Flickr by Kalev Leetaru, a technology scholar. This week, the Flickr account eclipsed 2.5 million images that can now be searched, viewed and shared.

Leetaru has taken the task of scouring through 600 million pages in the Internet Archive, with help of course, in order to showcase history in a new and interesting way via Flickr. Previously, if one wanted to look at the 1600s version of Lolcats, the task would've proven more difficult. Now, within a few clicks, you can quickly take a glimpse into the past through a vast array of imagery.

As Leetaru puts it, for too long the Internet has been concerned with simply scanning in text and keeping that in PDF form.

For all these years all the libraries have been digitising their books, but they have been putting them up as PDFs or text searchable works. They have been focusing on the books as a collection of words. This inverts that.

The images he's after range from 1500 to 1922, when copyright laws place limitations on the ability to simply scan and preserve works of art and other media. Leetaru also developed him own software to accomplish this goal. Instead of previous OCR software that is able to ignore pictures, his code actually takes that information to specifically target images to save as individual files. The software is then able to snag a caption for each image, when applicable, and can grab the text right before and after the image as well. After that's done, the software automatically posts the image to Flickr, text included.

All of this came to be after Leetaru worked on a communications technology project at Georgetown University, where the research was funded by Yahoo, which explains how Flickr became the method of choice. "Stretching half a millennia, it's amazing to see the total range of images and how the portrayals of things have changed over time," he said. What's even cooler is the ability to type "cat" or "telephone" and you're then able to see all images that fall under the specific tag.

Leetaru has added that he wants to see Wikipedia and other common license organizations get involved with his Flickr endeavor so that all media can be tagged and categorized so it can be easily searched. Have you viewed the page yet? There's some pretty incredible images from over 300 years ago. What's your favorite? Let us know in the comments section below.

Amazon Steps In, Picks Up Twitch for $970 Million

posted Friday Aug 29, 2014 by Nicholas DiMeo

Amazon Steps In, Picks Up Twitch for $970 Million

So it turns out the entire Internet was wrong, including us, and Google didn't actually buy Twitch. All the changes just seemed to be coincidence, as it was announced this week that Amazon stepped in and laid out $970 million for the video game streaming service.

It seems that Google was in talks with Twitch for some time, but when the two companies discussed possible anti-trust issues, something Google is extremely familiar with, the sides could not come to an agreement on a "break-up" fee in case the deal couldn't go through. When that happened, Twitch continued to shop around and Amazon was in the wings the whole time. Amazon's $970 million check makes Twitch the largest aquisition for the company.

So what happens now? Obviously this maintains competition in the market and puts Google on the defensive. Twitch seemed to be the clear answer for YouTube's failing YouTube Live service, and now Google will have to come up with an alternative plan to attract new content creators. Of course, there's other competition like Hitbox, and Vimeo is also considering a stronger push to live content, but YouTube is now in a position of do-or-die.

For Twitch, this is good news all around. More server support, more resources and the ability to continue to grow are what comes to the table from Amazon. Twitch CEO Emmett Shear puts it all into perspective for us on why this all went down.

We chose Amazon because they believe in our community, they share our values and long-term vision, and they want to help us get there faster. We're keeping most everything the same: our office, our employees, our brand, and most importantly our independence. But with Amazon's support we'll have the resources to bring you an even better Twitch.

My outlook on this whole thing is much more optimistic than it was two weeks ago. YouTube picking up Twitch was going to make most gamers very sad, however the myriad of changes that Twitch implemented since the rumors started aren't going away. So what will happen now? Content creators didn't really leave Twitch, despite their threats from last week, so hopefully this news will entice them to stay. Twitch is still breaking records, too, and we'll probably see more growth, unique viewers and new channels coming to the service by the end of the year.

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