Roku expands its TV licensing program to Europe – gpgmail


Roku TV today represents more than 1 in 3 smart TVs sold in the U.S. Now, the company is bringing its TV licensing program to European markets. At the consumer tech show IFA in Berlin, Roku announced it will now allow manufacturers to license its TV reference designs and use its Roku OS to build smart TVs for sale in Europe. It also said Hisense would be its first European Roku TV partner.

Today, the connected TV market is no longer limited to just the dongles, sticks, and streaming media players that plug into the HDMI ports of consumers’ TV sets.

Top companies like Roku, Google and Amazon are also making their operating systems and reference designs available to TV makers themselves, in a battle to gain consumer market share. Apple has been rumored to be working on its own television set powered by tvOS, as well.

Roku, to date, done well on this front in its home market, after first introducing the Roku TV platform at the Consumer Electronics Show in 2014. Hisense was then one of its first partners on the effort. Fast-forward to 2019, and there are now over 100 models available from over 10 brands in North America, and the company estimates that Roku TV is now the No. 1 selling smart TV OS in the U.S.

Roku isn’t alone in targeting Europe with its TV platform. Amazon this week announced more than 20 new Fire TV devices, 15 of which were TVs licensing its Fire OS. Many of these were also aimed at European consumers through partnerships with local brands and retailers.

The new Hisense Roku TV models will support 4K Ultra HD resolutions and HDR, and will come in sizes ranging up to 65 inches, Roku says. The models will launch in the U.K. in the fourth quarter.

“While consumers love Roku TV’s simplicity and advance features, TV manufacturers benefit from the low manufacturing cost, a variety of technology options, and support from Roku,” said Roku CEO and Founder Anthony Wood, in a statement. “The ability to quickly bring to market a leading smart TV experience that is regularly updated by Roku and is packed with entertainment gives TV manufacturers an edge in the competitive TV business. We are pleased to bring the Roku TV licensing program to Europe and look forward to the first Hisense Roku TVs in market this year,” he said.

 


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Paid streaming music subscriptions in U.S. top 60M, says RIAA – gpgmail


Streaming music subscriptions continue to drive the U.S. music industry’s growth and revenues, according to a new report from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) released this week. The organization said total music revenue grew 18% to $5.4 billion in the first half of 2019, with streaming music accounting for 80% of industry revenues. The report also noted the number of paid subscriptions topped 60 million in the U.S. for the first time.

Streaming revenues grew 26% to $4.3 billion in the first half of the year.

This broad figure includes paid versions of Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, and others, as well as digital radio service revenues like those from Pandora, Sirius XM, and other internet radio, plus ad-supported streaming like YouTube, Vevo, and the ad-supported version of Spotify. Screen Shot 2019 09 06 at 3.46.43 PM

Meanwhile, paid subscription streaming is continuing to grow, too, said the RIAA. Year-over-year, paid subscriptions grew 31% to reach $3.3 billion and remain the biggest growth driver for industry revenues.

In the first half of 2019, paid subscriptions made up 62% of all U.S. industry revenues and 77% of U.S. streaming music revenues.

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The number of paid subscriptions to full on-demand streaming services grew 30% to 61.1 million in the first half of the year, at an average pace of over 1 million new subscriptions per month.

This doesn’t include the “Limited Tier” subscriptions like Pandora Plus or that Echo-only subscription to Amazon Music, for example, where various factors limit access to a full catalog across devices or restrict some on-demand features. This category saw $482 million in revenues, up 39% from the year prior.

“Thanks to that breakneck growth, plus continued modest drops in digital downloads and new physical sales, streaming now generates 80% of music business revenues and has fundamentally reshaped how fans find, share, and listen to the songs and artists they love,” wrote RIAA Chairman & CEO Mitch Glazier, about the new figures.

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Ad-supported on-demand services grew 25% year-over-year to $427 million, while digital radio service grew 5% to $552 million in the first half of 2019.

However, the gains made by streaming were somewhat offset by declines in digital downloads, as Glazier noted.

Revenues in this category fell 18% to $462 million in the first half of the year, with digital track sales down 16% year-over-year and digital album revenues down 23%. Overall, digital download only accounted for 8.6% of total industry revenues.

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Physical product revenues grew 5% to $485 million in the first half of 2019, but the RIAA attributed this to a reduction in returns.

 


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MIT built a better way to deliver high-quality video streams to multiple devices at once – gpgmail


Image via Getty Images / aurielaki

Depending on your connection and the size of your household, video streaming can get downright post-apocalyptic – bandwidth is the key resource, and everyone is fighting to get the most and avoid a nasty, pixelated picture. But a new way to control how bandwidth is distributed across multiple, simultaneous streams could mean peace across the land – even when a ton of devices are sharing the same connection and all streaming video at the same time.

Researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab created a system they call ‘Minerva’ that minimizes stutters due to buffering, and pixelation due to downgraded stream, which it believes could have huge potential benefits for streaming services like Netflix and Hulu that increasingly serve multiple members of a household at once. The underlying technology could be applied to larger areas, too, extending beyond the houseful and into neighbourhoods or even whole regions to mitigate the effects of less than idea streaming conditions.

Minerva works by taking into account the varying needs of different delivery devices streaming on a network – so it doesn’t treat a 4K Apple TV the same as an older smartphone with a display that can’t even show full HD output, for instance. It also considers the nature of the content, , which is important because live action sports require a heck of a lot more bandwidth to display in high quality when compared to say, an animated children’s TV show.

Video is then served to viewers based on its actual needs, instead of just being allocated more or less evenly across devices, and the Minerva system continually optimizes delivery speeds in accordance with their changing needs as the stream continues.

In real-world testing, Minerva as able to provide a quality cup equivalent to going from 720p to 1080p as much as a third of the time, and eliminated the need for rebuffing by almost 50 percent, which is a massive improvement when it comes to actually being able to seamlessly stream video content continuously. Plus, it can do all this without requiring any fundamental changes to network infrastructure, meaning a streaming provider could roll it out without having to require any changes on the part of users.


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Plex Announces New Desktop App, Leaves HTPCs Behind


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The media managing and streaming service Plex has rolled out a new app today, and it might mean some painful adjustments for long-time users. Starting today, there’s a new Plex desktop app for both Windows and macOS — this will replace the existing Plex Media Player client. That marks the end of old-fashioned HTPC support for Plex. 

For the uninitiated, Plex is a media player platform that organizes video, music, photos, and other media. You can link Plex to files stored on computers, servers, NAS boxes, and even mobile devices. Plex streams all that media on-demand, even transcoding it on the fly as necessary. Technically, you’re only supposed to be using it for media that you own and have backed up, which is already a gray area. However, it’s also popular with the torrent crowd. 

The new Plex desktop app supports most of Plex’s existing features and improves a few others. As Plex users can tell you, the “Sync” option for offline downloads has been abysmally slow and buggy for a long time. With the new desktop app, that feature gets a makeover as “Downloads.” It’s faster, more reliable, and gives clearer feedback while content is being saved. The interface is also consistent with other Plex clients with one notable exception: TV mode. 

Years back, the most common Plex implementation was to attach a home theater PC (HTPC) to a TV to stream media. With the proliferation of cheap streaming devices like the Chromecast, Apple TV, and Fire TV,SEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce almost no one bothers with HTPCs anymore. Thus, Plex is retiring the TV interface with the launch of its new desktop app. This will, no doubt, upset some Plex fans nonetheless. 

What about the old Windows app? The version of Plex in the Windows Store will be retired, but that’s no great loss. According to Plex, developing a Windows Store client made sense in the past as Windows Phone existed in some capacity. Today, developing for the Metro/Modern UI platform is not a good use of resources, Plex says. 

If you don’t want to give up the classic Plex Media Player client, it’ll be updated through January 30, 2020. You can keep using it, but it’ll probably break before long without updates. The new Plex desktop apps are available for free. Some features like mobile sync, live TV, and more are locked behind the “Plex Pass” premium subscription.

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Earbuds lets audiences stream the playlists of athletes, entertainers and each other – gpgmail


Earbuds, a new startup from Austin founded by former Detroit Lions lineman Jason Fox, wants to bring the power of social media to your eardrums.

The company is one of a growing number of startups trying to rejuvenate the music streaming market by combining it with social networking so that audiences can listen to the playlists of their favorite athletes and entertainers… and their friends.

For Fox, the idea for Earbuds sprung from his experiences in the NFL, watching how other players interacted with crowds and hearing about the things fans wanted to know about their favorite players’ routines.

“We were playing Caroline in the first game of the season and Cam Newton was warming up right next to me,” Fox recalled. “He was jamming. Getting the crowd into it. And I was thinking there’re 85,000 people here and millions of more people watching at home…  And I thought… how many people would love to be in his headphones right now?”

Earbuds founder Jason Fox

It wasn’t just Cam Newton who received attention. Fox said at every press conference one or two questions would be about what songs teammates played before games. On social media, players would take screenshots of their playlists and post them to platforms like Twitter or Instagram, Fox said.

The company has been out in the market in a beta version since February and has focused on lining up potential Earbuds devotees from among Fox’s friends in the NFL and entertainers from music and media.

“We made a decision to tweak something and make it very very heavily around influencers because that’s what’s really driving traffic for us,” Fox says. 

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Image courtesy of Earbuds

At its core, the app is just about making music more social, according to Fox. “There’s a social platform for everything, but in the days of terrestrial media distribution music has remain isolated,” he says. 

Logging on is easy. Users can create a login for the app or use their Google or Facebook accounts. One more step to link the Earbuds app with Spotify or Apple Music (the company offers one month free of the premium versions of either service to new users) and then a user can look for friends or browse popular playlists.

A leaderboard indicates which users on the app have streamed the most music and users can create their own streams by adding songs from their libraries to build in-app playlists.

Earbuds isn’t the first company to take a shot at socializing the music listening experience. The olds may remember services like Turntable.fm, which took a stab at making music social but shut down back in 2013. Newer services, like Playlist, are also combining social networking features with music streaming. That site focuses on connecting people with similar musical tastes.

Fox thinks that the ability to attract entertainers like Nelly (who’s on the app) and athletes could be transformative for listeners. Basically these artists and athletes can become their own online radio station, he says.

Fox spent nearly a year meeting with streaming services, music labels, athletes, artists and college students (the app’s initial target market) before even working with developers on a single line of code. The initial work was done out of Los Angeles, but after a year Fox moved the company down to Austin and rebuilt the app from the ground up to focus more on the user experience.

Early partnerships with Burton on an activation had snowboarders streaming their music as they rode a halfpipe proved that there was an audience, Fox said. Now the company is working on integrations across different sports and even esports.

Fox raised a small friends and family round of $630,000 before putting together a $1.5 million seed to get the app out into the market. Now the company is looking for $3 million to scale even more as it looks to integrations with sports teams and other streaming services like Twitch (to capture the gaming audience).

The company currently has seven employees.

Earbuds is available on iOS.

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