Activision Blizzard goes exclusive with YouTube for esports streaming – Blog – 10 minute

The big picture: Activision Blizzard and Google have partnered on all things streaming, from livestreamed esports tournaments on YouTube, to cloud gaming on Stadia. Yesterday, the first season of the Call of Duty League kicked off with a bang netting almost 700,000 live viewers on the first stream. Tomorrow they’ll have the first ‘Hype Battle’ featuring Black Panther’s Michael B. Jordan. Two weeks from now the third season of Overwatch League will premiere and attempt to top the 13 million views it received during the first week of season two.
YouTube Gaming has won big.
YouTube Gaming has been generally unsuccessful in the past, and even shut down their dedicated app and portal in May. However, in recent months they’ve been able to swing things around courtesy of a brilliant new strategy: bribery.
They’ve paid a fortune to sign exclusivity deals with some serious streamers, including CouRage, Valkyrae, LazarBeam, and Muselk. Combined, the four have 23.3 million subscribers on the platform.
“With more than 200 million gamers a day watching more than 50 billion hours of gaming content per year, YouTube provides gamers and their passionate fans with the most popular video gaming platform in the world,” said Ryan Wyatt, YouTube’s head of gaming.

Activision Blizzard’s bottom line is no doubt looking pretty good right now, too. They had previously entered a $90 million deal with Twitch to stream the first two seasons of the Overwatch League on the platform, so Google must have outbid them for the next few seasons.
“Both the Overwatch League and Call of Duty League are the quintessential examples of world class esports content. As a former Call of Duty esports commentator myself, I couldn’t be more excited for Activision Blizzard to choose YouTube as its exclusive home for the digital live streaming of both leagues. This partnership further demonstrates our dedication to having a world class live streaming product for gaming.”
It’s also possible Google offered incentives relating to hosting the games on Google Stadia. None of Activision Blizzard’s major games are presently available on Stadia, but after today’s exclusivity announcement, they can’t be far away.

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How Xbox Streaming to PC Works – Blog – 10 minute

Over the course of the Xbox’s lifespan and through its various iterations, Microsoft has transitioned from a console maker to an ecosystem. Xbox no longer refers solely to the console, but to the system as a whole. After all, thanks to the new Games Pass Ultimate, you can play Xbox One games on your PC. In fact, there are several titles available through Games Pass that can only be played on PC.
This opens up brand-new avenues of integration between PC and Xbox gaming, including the Xbox Console Companion. The Xbox Console Companion is a PC application that displays your messages, activity feed, recently played games (including PC games), gaming news, and much more. 

Its strongest feature is the Integrated Xbox Streaming. Every gamer knows the question of, “Who gets to use the TV tonight?” With a decent network and a PC, however, you can set up Xbox streaming to your PC and play on your monitor, allowing your significant other to watch the latest episode of their favorite show. 
How To Set Up Xbox Streaming to PC
Before you start, make sure you have the Xbox Console Companion downloaded on your PC. In many cases, it will come by default. If not, you can download it from Xbox.com. 
Make sure your Xbox One is powered on and connected to the same network as your PC. If possible, ensure your PC has a hardwired connection via an Ethernet cord to cut down on latency between the console and the computer. 
Launch the Xbox Console Companion app. It will look like this: 

Your specific home screen will look different depending on the games you’ve played and various other factors. In the lower-right section of the screen, look for the heading “Game streaming” and select it. Doing so will open another window where the console companion prompts you to select an Xbox One to stream from. 

Your console will appear in the list. Select it to begin streaming your Xbox screen directly to your PC. You will need to connect a controller to your PC, either through Bluetooth or by plugging in a USB cable. Once you begin streaming, you can operate your console exactly as you would normally; in fact, your actual console will mirror the actions you take on your PC.
Choose a game to play and the Xbox Console Companion app will minimize as the game takes over the full screen. This is the default setting, although you can choose to use just a portion of your screen to stream. Once inside the game, you can display important information like the amount of bandwidth streaming requires and more. Take a look at the example below:

If you accidentally delete the streaming option from your Xbox Console Companion home screen, you can access it from the line of icons on the left side of the Console Companion. The second icon from the bottom, just above the Settings icon, will give you access to another screen that allows you to stream, test your streaming capabilities, and more. 

Once you’ve initially connected your Xbox One console to your PC through the Integrated Xbox Streaming feature, you can easily stream Xbox games anytime you want, provided your console is powered on. 
There are several things you should keep in mind before trying to game this way, however. 
The first is that you need sufficient bandwidth. Streaming over your home network requires quite a bit of bandwidth and affect the connection quality of other users. Vice-versa, someone streaming 4K video will likely have a negative impact on your gaming experience. 
The second thing to remember is that there is noticeable lag when playing this way. In our tests, the lag could be felt even at the best of times. While it didn’t render Apex Legends unplayable, it did make the game feel sluggish. Titles that require fast reaction speeds and little to no latency are best played on the actual console, but many single-player games can be played with no ill effects. Turn-based RPGs and titles like Assassin’s Creed are ideal for streaming, but fighting games and FPS titles suffer. 
If you’re looking for a way to stream your favorite Xbox games to your PC without dominating the television at all times, Integrated Xbox Streaming is the way to go. It’s easy to set up, and once you do you can play to your heart’s content. 

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Developers are focusing more on next-gen consoles than streaming services – Blog – 10 minute

In brief: More than 10 percent of developers questioned for the annual Game Developers Conference State of the Industry survey said they are currently working on games for next-gen consoles.
Breaking it down, a full 11 percent of respondents said their current project is being developed for the PlayStation 5 while nine percent are working on projects for Microsoft’s Xbox Series X. By comparison, 59 percent of those polled have projects in the works for PC while 39 percent are developing mobile titles.
In what may come as a surprise to some, support for streaming services remains nascent. Only six percent of those surveyed said they are developing for Google Stadia and just three percent are investing effort into titles for Microsoft’s Project xCloud.

GDC organizers have made a point to ask developers about which “immersive reality” technology they believe will be dominant in five years. Augmented reality is usually the top answer, as it was again this year, but the margin has narrowed.
Last year, only 19 percent of those polled believed virtual reality would be the dominant vision tech in five years. In 2020, that figure jumped to 25 percent although as mentioned, AR still won out with 32 percent of respondents believing it will prove most popular in half a decade.
For what it’s worth, 19 percent said they expect AR and VR to be equally as popular. Meanwhile, 16 percent said they didn’t think either tech would be important in five years while six percent said they flat out didn’t know.
The 2020 Game Developers Conference kicks off on March 16 and runs through March 20 in San Francisco. You can read more from the eighth annual State of the Industry survey by downloading a copy for free.
Masthead credit: VR by Yuganov Konstantin. Stadia by Cody Engel.

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Comcast is jacking up its prices again thanks to NBC’s Peacock streaming service – Blog – 10 minute

A hot potato: Annual rate increases for cable providers are nothing new, but sometimes the excuses the companies provide for the hikes create more animosity than it alleviates. It is especially frustrating when the increases are to compensate for a perk advertised as “free.” Comcast is notoriously bad at explaining away fees, and the latest involving its new streaming service is no exception.
Comcast customers should see a rise in their bills once the Peacock streaming service goes live, if they haven’t already. The internet TV channel enters early access on April 15, along with a rate hike.
The extra costs will not be readily evident to new customers as the rate increases mostly appear as hidden fees. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports, the broadcast television fee added to monthly bills on top of subscription rates will go up by $4.45. Internet rates and modem rental fees will also be increased by $3 and $1, respectively.
For some customers, these price hikes have already taken effect as the company began the gradual squeeze in December. All totaled, subscriptions should increase by about 3.6 percent for most subscribers, whether they use Peacock or not.

“We needed to pivot the whole company to the streaming world, and I think what’s exciting is how well our cable company has done that,” Comcast CEO Brian Roberts told CNBC. “Peacock will go right back for the advertisers and get you in a growing market, taking advantage of streaming with a free product as well. Cable customers will get it for free, whether you are video or broadband.”
“Free product” indeed, if you do not include the rate hike. The cable giant justifies the increases claiming that programmers are to blame and that it bears most of the burden bringing customers these services.
“Comcast is fighting as hard as we can to protect our customers from unrelenting demands for higher fees from programmers,” a spokesperson said in a statement last December regarding the bump. “While we absorb some of the increased programming costs, they have a significant impact on the cost of our services.”
The excuse falls somewhat flat since NBCUniversal is a subsidiary of Comcast. So it would seem that the company is “unrelenting” in demanding higher fees from itself, at least in this case.
Some customers may see the hike as a slap in the face since the “free” version of Peacock will be supported by ads, and the “Premium” tier will come with a $5 subscription cost. The premium Peacock service will still have ads but will have about double the content as the free package. A third ad-free tier will cost subscribers $10 per month.
Masthead credit: Joshua Rainey Photography via Shutterstock

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The Witcher Soundtrack Vol. 1 hits streaming music services tomorrow – Blog – 10 minute

A true multimedia franchise: Andrzej Sapkowski’s The Witcher has received a lot of attention over the years in the form of video games developed by CD Projekt Red. More recently it has been adapted into a television series and an upcoming anime. Now it is invading the music space with a soundtrack for the Netflix series being released on January 24.
There is no arguing that The Witcher Netflix series was a complete success. It has been renewed for a second season, spurred a lot of players new and old to return to the games, and even has an anime film coming.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the show is its soundtrack. The music for the first season is proving popular enough that Netflix is releasing Volume 1 of the show’s music to streaming services on Friday.

When a humble bardWrote a catchy songYou tweeted and asked usWhat’s taking so long?
The Witcher Soundtrack Vol. 1 debuts everywhere 24 January.
“Toss A Coin” single out now: https://t.co/Id6mEUhRf0 pic.twitter.com/PNMxBeFlkS
— The Witcher (@witchernetflix) January 22, 2020

Much of the credit for the music’s popularity can be attributed to the single “Toss a Coin to Your Witcher,” which has received a lot of internet attention and is already available on Spotify and Apple Music.
The sometimes annoying bard Jaskier’s (aka Dandelion) catchy ode to the White Wolf, first appeared in the second episode of the series and quickly went viral. It would be surprising if you have not heard someone humming it at the water cooler. Polygon notes, it has even been officially translated into 12 different languages. Several covers followed as well, including a heavy metal version by Dan Vasc (below).

The tweet announcing the release did not list specific music services that the album would be available through. It just said, “debuts everywhere.” Apple Music and Spotify are the most obvious outlets. “Everywhere” probably also includes Tidal, Pandora, Google Play Music, Amazon Music, and others.
Give it a search on your preferred streaming service tomorrow, and you will probably find it.

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Microsoft opens up its Xbox Console Streaming preview to the world – Blog – 10 minute

In context: The game streaming wars are heating up, and just about every major player in this industry has something on the table right now. Google has Stadia, Microsoft is working on Project xCloud, and Sony has its Remote Play and PlayStation Now services.
Microsoft has also quietly been working on Xbox Console Streaming, a function that allows Xbox owners to play any owned and installed Xbox One, or Game Pass title on their Android smartphone or tablet with minimal effort.
The feature has been available to select Xbox Insider program testers for a while now, but today, Microsoft is finally opening it up more broadly. Starting now, as long as you live in one of the many, many countries on this list, you’ll be able to take advantage of Xbox Console Streaming. If you want to do so, you’ll need to sign up for the Xbox Insider program and enroll in the Xbox One Update Preview ring.

Once you’ve done so, open up the Google Play Store on your Android device and snag the Xbox Game Streaming (Preview) app. The rest of the instructions will be fed to you through this app, so it should be pretty straightforward.
In terms of other requirements, the Preview will demand a Bluetooth 4.0-supported Xbox controller, an Android device running version 6.0 (or higher) of the OS, as well as a Microsoft Account. A high-speed internet connection would help, too, but that’s nothing new for this sort of service. Microsoft recommends a controller mount, but that’s not strictly necessary.

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NBC to launch its Peacock streaming service on July 15 with an ad-supported free version – Blog – 10 minute

In brief: In a recent investors meeting, NBCUniversal unveiled the pricing model and US launch date for its upcoming Peacock streaming service.
NBC’s entry into the streaming market with Peacock had been rumored for quite some time, additional details of which were reported last month.
The service has now been officially announced and will come with two standout features to differentiate it from competitors. The first is offering users a completely free, ad-supported streaming option, alongside two paid tiers – $5/mo (with ads) and $10/mo (no ads) – under Peacock Premium.
CNBC reports that the free tier, called Peacock Free, will have 7,500 hours of programming, including “next-day access to current seasons of first-year NBC shows, complete seasons of classic series, Universal movies and curated content such as SNL Vault and Family Movie Night.”
Going for a more cable-like experience, Peacock will also be covering live breaking news, with access to Lester Holt’s Nightly News program as well as “dozens” of streaming “channels.”
The second standout feature is live sports coverage, exclusive to Peacock Premium users, who will also be able to stream Premier League soccer games beginning in August, and September’s Ryder Cup matches.

With over 600 movies and 400 TV series, the premium tier will come with more than 15,000 hours of content (including exclusives) and the additional benefit of allowing users to stream NBC’s late-night programs like The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Late Night with Seth Meyers, a few hours earlier than their scheduled TV time.
Although the service is launching nationally on July 15, Peacock Premium will come to Comcast’s Xfinity X1 and Flex customers a full three months early on April 15. An ad-supported premium version will be offered to Comcast and Cox cable subscribers, who can pay $5/mo for an ad-free experience.

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With Peacock, NBCUniversal still thinks there’s room for ads in the streaming TV era- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

NBCUniversal (NBCU) is prioritizing a consumer-friendly, interactive ad experience on Peacock, its streaming service set to go live to Comcast Xfinity X1 and Flex customers on 15 April. The national rollout is planned for 15 July.
The Comcast-owned network shared details on Peacock during an investor show today (16 January) in New York. State Farm, Target and Unilever are among a group of sponsors that will bring in “hundreds of millions in initial advertising revenue,” according to a press release.
NBCU was reportedly pitching brands Peacock sponsorship opportunities that cost up to $25m.
“State Farm is excited to be working hand-in-hand with Peacock to help define what the modern streaming ad experience should look like,” said Patty Morris, marketing assistant vice-president at State Farm. “It goes beyond simply filling traditional ad space. We are striving to connect with consumers in new and interactive ways.”
Peacock sponsors will partner with NBCU to form the ‘Peacock Streaming Council’, a group dedicated to building and testing the ad experience for the platform.
NBCU said it will also spend “hundreds of millions” in marketing dollars to promote its launch sponsors during the Tokyo Olympics through Symphony, the network’s cross-division marketing initiative. Peacock will go live nationally nine days before the start of the games in August.
The pitch to advertisers
Ad load on Peacock will be limited to five minutes per hour or less. The service will also feature several non-traditional ad formats, including the shoppable ads it recently began airing on broadcast TV and pause ads, which have become increasingly popular among media owners.
NBCU is offering advertisers:

ShoppableTV
Prime Pods: Single, 60-second, ownable ad pods
Pause Ads: A full screen, relevant branded takeover when content is paused
Explore Ads: A contextual ad surfaced during a pause that lets the viewer take an action, such as getting a discount sent to their phone. Surfacing a regular pause ad or an explore ad will depend on the content and buys NBCU has in place
Binge Ads: Watch three episodes of a show, have a sponsor present the fourth episode ad-free
EngagementAds: Interactive ads such as trivia questions, product galleries and videos
Trending Ads: Timely ad experiences alongside the day’s most topical content. For example, a carousel of the latest Olympics scores alongside content from an Olympic advertiser
Solo Ads: An exclusive sponsorship that limits advertising to a single ad within an episode of a show
Curator Ads: Peacock’s editorial team will create curated collections of content; an advertiser can sponsor that collection
On Command Ads: Viewers can receive offers from brands by speaking through their remote via an integration with Xfinity voice technology

The pitch to consumers
There will be three cost tiers to Peacock.
A free, ad-supported version includes next-day access to current shows, its full library of completed series and movies, Spanish-language content, marquee episodes of Peacock original and curated news and sports, including the Olympics.
The premium version comes in two tiers: $5 a month (still five minutes of ads or fewer) or $10 a month for no ads. Additionally, Comcast has partnered with Cox to bundle Peacock Premium into the cable provider’s offerings at no extra cost, making it available to 24 million subscribers.
The premium version houses twice the amount of content of the free offering at 15,000 hours, including all NBCU originals, early access to late night shows and additional sports content, including the Premier League.
Shows on Peacock include The Office, Friday Night Lights and Frasier. Originals include a drama with Alec Baldwin and a comedy with Rashida Jones.
‘Doubling-down on the ad-supported ecosystem’
Come July, the streaming stage will be set. Disney+ and Apple TV+ are already in-market competing with the established guard of Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu. Peacock is set for April (and so is Quibi), with WarnerMedia’s HBO Max rounding out the bunch a month later.
While the rest of the services are either fully ad-free or have a tiered ad model, selling a portion of Peacock as a free, ad-supported service will “future-proof” NBCU, said the network’s chairman of advertising and partnerships, Linda Yaccarino.
“With Peacock, we’re giving consumers the free service they want and advertisers the reach and scale they desperately need,” said Yaccarino. “Peacock marks a doubling-down on the ad-supported ecosystem, and the next phase of NBCUniversal’s One Platform offering.
“By investing in the next generation of streaming video, we are pushing the industry forward today and future-proofing it for tomorrow.”
NBCU introduced One Platform, it’s service to unify ad buying across all forms of video, earlier this month.
Alan Wolk, co-founder and lead analyst at TVRev, said the new entrants to streaming have “a couple years” to figure out their strategy and win customers before the industry starts to seriously worry about the health of a given service.
“There’ll be a lot of churn as people test out new services,” said Wolk.
Disney+, for example, is taking a family-centric approach with its titles. Wolk said NBCU has a strong reputation for comedy and “well-done mass entertainment” that’s slightly smarter than middle-of-the-road.
“All of the services need to figure out what they’re going to be when they grow up,” he said, adding that the fragmented streaming landscape means hit shows likely resonate with smaller, niche audiences.

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Samsung’s PlayGalaxy Game Streaming Is Live on the Note 10


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The Galaxy Note 10 got most of the attention at Samsung’s recent Unpacked event, and quite understandably. Samsung also talked about its upcoming PlayGalaxy Link game streaming platform. PlayGalaxy wasn’t available when the Note 10 launched, but it has now started rolling out as a beta. This is your chance to (kind of) play desktop games on your smartphone. 

Samsung’s PlayGalaxy Link is similar to Nvidia GameStream — the game renders on your computer. The PlayGalaxy client encodes the video and streams it to your mobile device over the local network or the internet. Your control inputs go back to the PC, allowing you to play the game. It’s like a fancy, low-latency remote desktop. 

The get set up, you’ll need the desktop PlayGalaxy Link client, which is only available for Windows 10. You also need a reasonably powerful GPU (at least NVIDIA GTX 1060 or AMD Radeon RX 550), a Core i5 or higher, 8GB of RAM, and a gigabit router. The app strongly suggests having your PC wired to the router rather than connected via Wi-Fi.  The client should detect games on your PC, but it only spotted one for me. You can manually add more by directing it to the EXE files. On the phone side, there’s a PlayGalaxy Link app available in Samsung’s Galaxy Store.

PlayGalaxy Link is still in beta, and it only works on the Note 10 and Note 10+ for the time being, More Samsung phones will get support soon, though. There’s support for wired and Bluetooth game controllers, which make desktop games playable on a phone. If you choose to use the on-screen controls, well, good luck. Even on the gigantic Note 10+, the screen is too small to play a complex game with on-screen buttons effectively. 

There’s no additional cost to use PlayGalaxy Link since you already own the games and are running them on your PC. However, don’t expect miracles right now. The app truly earns its beta label right now. The client connects and launches games reliably, but the video lag is substantial from my testing. You’d have little hope of playing a real-time game, but something turn-based might be feasible. 

If Samsung can get the kinks worked out, PlayGalaxy Link could be an additional selling point for the company’s high-end phones. It’s tough to get people to drop $1,000 on a phone, and every little bit helps.

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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.

Screen Shot 2019 09 06 at 3.47.18 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2019 09 06 at 3.47.50 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2019 09 06 at 3.48.11 PM

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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