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Amazon is developing a Lord of the Rings MMO

Amazon has reached a deal with Embracer Group, the company that holds the IP rights for “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit,” to release a massively multiplayer online (MMO) game based on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. The upcoming game will be an open-world MMO adventure set in Middle-earth, featuring the stories of “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” literary trilogy.
The game is in early stages of production with the Amazon Games Orange County studio, which is the same studio behind the MMO New World. Amazon Games will publish the game globally for PC and consoles. Amazon says it will reveal additional details, including launch timing, at a later date.
Although Amazon Studios produces “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” for Prime Video, Amazon says the show is unrelated to this upcoming MMO game in development with Amazon Games.
“We’re committed to bringing players high-quality games, whether through original IPs or long-beloved ones like The Lord of the Rings,” said Christoph Hartmann, the vice president of Amazon Games, in a press release. “Bringing players a fresh take on The Lord of the Rings has long been an aspiration for our team, and we’re honored and grateful that Middle-earth Enterprises is entrusting us with this iconic world. We’re also pleased to be expanding our relationship with Embracer Group following our Tomb Raider deal last year, as they’ve proven to be excellent collaborators.”
It’s worth noting that the upcoming game will be Amazon’s second go at a Lord of the Rings MMO. The company’s first attempt was announced in 2019 and then canceled in 2021. The game was being co-developed by Amazon, Athlon Games and Leyou. The project was shelved after a disagreement between Amazon and Tencent, which acquired Leyou in 2020.
The news of the upcoming game comes as Amazon is furthering its push into video games and reworking its strategy. Earlier this year, the company laid off around 100 employees across its video games division. The layoffs included employees in the Game Growth group, Amazon’s San Diego gaming studio and Prime Gaming.
Amazon Games’ lineup includes the internally developed MMO New World and action role-playing game Lost Ark. The company is also developing a new multiplatform “Tomb Raider” title. Launched in 2013, Amazon Games has yet to produce a major hit despite several published projects. The company is now looking to cook up a success with a major fantasy franchise title that will likely garner attention.

Amazon to license original series and movies to other media companies

Amazon is developing a Lord of the Rings MMO by Aisha Malik originally published on TechCrunch
Amazon is developing a Lord of the Rings MMO

Amazon debuts free, ad-supported streaming channels just for Fire TV

Amazon is doubling down on free, ad-supported content with today’s introduction of Fire TV Channels, its new, free and ad-supported (FAST) video experience coming to Fire TV devices this week. Though Fire TV had previously offered FAST content, Fire TV Channels will now be continuously updated throughout the day and integrated into several areas across the Fire TV interface, including on Home Screen rows, within Fire TV’s “Free” tab, and in category-specific pages devoted to certain genres.
In addition, Fire TV is gaining a set of new FAST channels from NHL, Xbox, and TMZ, as well as a new Travel category featuring content from Tastemade Travel, “Rick Steves’ Europe,” “Travel Hacks,” and soon, Condé Nast Traveler. Later, Fire TV Channels will also include content from the PGA.
The company explained this Fire TV update was informed by customer behavior and the increasing demand for free streaming content.
“We’ve offered some of this [FAST] content for a while for customers — we’ve helped them discover it throughout the [user interface] by having rows of content for example throughout ‘Home’ or other pages,” explains Charlotte Maines, director of Advertising, Monetization, Marketing and Engagement for Fire TV. “We’ve seen that they’ve been engaging with it when we surface it in a topical way…And what we’ve seen in the past six months alone is that the monthly hours streamed of this content have grown by 300%. So we know it’s working for our customers,” she added.
The growth can be attributed to several factors, the exec said. For one, customers have hit a sort of saturation point with streaming video-on-demand offerings and don’t have interest in adding more subscriptions to their monthly bills, nor do they want to try to keep up with any more services. By comparison, FAST channels are easy to use because users don’t have to create an account, sign in, or jump through any other hoops to start watching.
With the update, the Fire TV interface will now pull all the new and existing FAST content together in an updated experience that provides access to a variety of categories like news, sports, food and cooking, music videos, trailers, gaming videos, comedy, and more, Maines notes.
The news category includes access to both national news coverage as well as over 330 local news channels, including as of later this week, new FAST channels from NBC and Telemundo.
These category pages can be accessed with just a click from Fire TV’s “Free” tab, and Amazon says more categories are “coming soon.”

The update was announced as part of Amazon’s broader NewFronts presentation, which also included updates to its free streaming service Freevee — which offers FAST channels of its own. But Freevee is accessible across platforms, including on mobile devices and other non-Amazon media players and TVs, while Fire TV Channels are exclusive to Fire TV.
The company’s pitch to advertisers is that they can now directly target the Fire TV customer base, which tends to include Prime subscribers and younger families, through Amazon’s DSP. This lets Amazon leverage the company’s broader advertising team and capabilities to sell Fire TV’s FAST channel ad space.
Amazon notes it’s sold over 200 million Fire TV devices globally and Amazon’s ad-supported streaming solutions now reach an average of 155 million unduplicated monthly viewers, or 6 out of 10 adults in the U.S.
The company also cited a customer success story where an automotive client ran native ads on Fire TV and Fire tablets that led to an 11% lift in brand awareness and a 14% increase in purchase intent. Plus, citing Nielsen data, Amazon said 72% of its streaming TV viewers are not watching linear TV.
Amazon isn’t the only streamer offering FAST channels these days, however. Competitor Roku has over 350 FAST channels on its platform as of March. Google TV just announced over 800 FAST channels, and YouTube has been experimenting with them, as well. Plex, Warner Bros. Discovery, Tubi, and Sling TV, among others, are also wading into this market, historically led by services like Pluto TV.
The new Fire TV experience will be rolling out to customers this week, Amazon said. Customers will be able to find the new content tiles via the Fire TV Home Screen, as well as within Fire TV’s “Free” tab. Later this summer, Fire TV will bring all the FAST categories together with the launch of an always-on Fire TV Channels destination.

Amazon will juice its Freevee free streaming service with 100+ Amazon Originals in 2023

Amazon debuts free, ad-supported streaming channels just for Fire TV by Sarah Perez originally published on TechCrunch
Amazon debuts free, ad-supported streaming channels just for Fire TV

Amazon expands Fire TV lineup with more QLED models, entry-level 2-Series TVs and new markets

As competition among smart TV makers heats up, Amazon today is introducing an expanded Fire TV lineup which now includes more sizes for its top-of-the-line Omni QLED series as well as a new, lower-cost Fire TV 2-Series that will start at $199.99. The company is also bringing its TVs to new markets globally, updating some features — like the Omni QLED’s “ambient” mode — and will roll out its cloud gaming service Luna to countries outside the U.S. for the first time.
Amazon first announced its Omni QLED TVs last fall as a way to bring better picture quality to customers with a 4K QLED display. The sets, which initially shipped in both 65-inch ($799.99) and 75-inch ($1,099.99) sizes, were the first Amazon Fire TVs to ship with Dolby Vision IQ. They also support HDR 10+ Adaptive and Adaptive Brightness, which adjusts the picture brightness and contrast based on the room’s brightness.

Amazon updates its Fire TV lineup with a new Fire TV Cube, QLED TVs and Alexa Voice Remote Pro

Now, the company is expanding its QLED lineup with three new models starting at $449.99, in 43-inch, 50-inch and 55-inch sizes. Like their larger counterparts, these will still include QLED displays with up to 96 dimming zones and the sensor-driven “Ambient Experience” features.
The TVs ship with a custom sensor package on the front that includes a presence sensor that allows the TV to turn its “Ambient Experience” on or off based on whether someone has entered or left the room thanks to an ambient light sensor that helps the TV understand the context of the movement. That is, if you just walked past the TV to get a midnight snack it may remain off, but if you walk into the room in the morning, it may load the ambient experience to help you start your day.
Image Credits: Amazon
The experience includes a free package of artwork and photography and various Alexa widgets that can be displayed either compacted or expanded, delivering things like news and headlines, your calendar, notes and reminders, streaming recommendations and more.
Now, Amazon says the experience is being updated with new art, too. Specifically, it’s adding something it’s calling “dynamic art,” or art that adapts to the current environment. The art will change based on factors like the time of day, temperature, weather and more. Initially, Amazon is working with contemporary artist Samuel Stubblefield to create the dynamic art package.
“We want to make smart TVs that are actually smart. That means things like bringing together content usefully…but we also want them to be beautiful and useful throughout more parts of the day and infused with ambient intelligence to make them more powerful for customers,” noted Daniel Rausch, VP of Entertainment Devices & Services at Amazon, in a conversation about the new Fire TV products.
Image Credits: Amazon (Fire TV Omni QLED Series)
These newly added QLED models will become available for preorder today and ship on May 11. The 43″ will be $449.99; the 50″ is $529.99; and the 55″ is $599.99.
Amazon is also now introducing a new line of more affordable Fire TVs, dubbed the Fire TV 2-Series, which slots in below the existing QLED and 4-Series. These will ship in two models to start: 32-inch ($199.99) and 40-inch ($249.99) options in HD. The 2-Series lineup supports HDR 10, HLG and Dolby Digital Audio and comes with an Alexa Voice remote.
Image Credits: Amazon (Fire TV 2-Series)
These models can be ordered now and start shipping today.
In addition, Amazon says it will now begin to ship its Omni QLED Series, 4-Series and new 2-Series in the U.K., Germany and Mexico for the first time.
Rausch says the company has now sold more than 200 million Fire TV devices worldwide, including TVs and media players, and has shipped over 260 Fire TV models with its partners, like TCL, Hisense, Yamada, Xiaomi and others. As TV sets themselves become more powerful, many consumers are now opting to buy a TV with Fire TV baked in, rather than as a streaming player add-on. This has resulted in TVs becoming the fastest-growing part of the Fire TV business, he notes.
Image Credits: Amazon (Luna)
Alongside the TV expansion, the company will also bring its Luna cloud gaming service to new markets outside the U.S. for the first time.
Designed to work with Fire TV, Luna offers Prime customers a rotating selection of monthly games that can be streamed and played using a Bluetooth controller like Amazon’s Luna Controller, or even with a smartphone through a companion app.
Luna customers can optionally choose to subscribe to premium packages, like Luna+, Ubisoft+ and Jackbox Games. Luna+ includes a broad selection of games like action, adventure, platformer, indie, shooter, racing and classic games for $9.99 per month. The Ubisoft+ subscription, meanwhile, features top titles and fan favorites like Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry for $17.99 per month. And Jackbox Games offers a party gaming set for $4.99 per month.
The service has been generally available in the U.S. for over a year and is now coming to the U.K., Germany and Canada, Amazon says, which will allow it to reach some of the new Fire TV markets.

Roku unveils its first-ever TVs designed and built by the company

Amazon isn’t alone in targeting consumers with TVs running its own OS — rival Roku in January revealed its first-ever TVs designed and built by the company. But neither effort is meant to preclude the companies from working with partners — it’s more of a way to demonstrate what’s possible from the company’s own software and specs while generating additional revenue from hardware sales.
Amazon expands Fire TV lineup with more QLED models, entry-level 2-Series TVs and new markets by Sarah Perez originally published on TechCrunch
Amazon expands Fire TV lineup with more QLED models, entry-level 2-Series TVs and new markets

Amazon ramped up content spending to $16.6B in 2022, including $7B on originals

Amazon detailed the costs of its content business during its fourth-quarter earnings on Thursday, citing that its content expenses jumped to $16.6 billion in 2022, a 28% increase from $13 billion in 2021.
According to Chief Financial Officer Brian Olsavsky, around $7 billion of that figure went toward Amazon Originals, live sports programming and licensed third-party video content included with Prime. In 2021, Amazon spent $5 billion on those three areas of content, for comparison.
While the company didn’t break down exactly how much it invests in each title, it’s reported that Amazon is spending more than $1 billion annually for its NFL streaming rights. Plus, the first season of “The Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power,” the most-watched Amazon original series worldwide, cost more than $500 million.
Streaming services know by now that original content is the key to standing out amongst rivals and reducing churn. Amazon is likely boosting its content investments to better compete with Disney, Netflix and HBO Max. Disney spends approximately $33 billion on content, while both Netflix and HBO Max spend a reported $18 billion. (Note that a portion of Disney’s figure goes toward sports rights — around $11 billion.) Paramount+ also plans to increase streaming content spending to $6 billion by 2024, it recently said.
Amazon didn’t report subscriber numbers for its streaming business. However, Olsavsky boasted during the earnings call that its Prime Video content is a “strong driver of Prime member engagement and new Prime member acquisition.”
For instance, “The Rings of Power” was viewed by more than 100 million global viewers with over 24 billion minutes streamed. The company added that, during its launch window, “The Lord of the Rings” series helped drive more Prime sign-ups worldwide than any previous Prime Video content.
Amazon also touted that Thursday Night Football reached the youngest median age audience of any NFL broadcast package since 2013, and viewership among fans ages 18 to 34 years old increased by 11% compared to the 2021 season.
The company claimed the TNF games had an average audience of 11.3 million viewers. The first exclusive TNF game on Prime Video had 15.3 million viewers. Before the 2022 season began, Amazon expected to reach about 12.5 million viewers per week.

Amazon Prime Video’s ‘Thursday Night Football’ starts strong with 15.3 million viewers

Other original content added to the streamer in 2022 includes “My Policeman” starring Harry Styles, the third season of “Jack Ryan” and the Western drama “The English,” among others.
Amazon is also benefiting from its 2022 acquisition of MGM for $8.5 billion. The company noted that “Wednesday,” the MGM-produced series on Netflix, premiered at No. 1 on Nielsen’s weekly streaming charts and earned two Golden Globe nominations. In December, “Wednesday” became the second most popular English-language series on Netflix, surpassing 1.02 billion total hours viewed in just three weeks since its streaming release. More than 150 million households watched the show.
Prime members in the U.S. also saw the return of HBO Max as a Prime Video Channel offering, giving customers access to approximately 15,000 hours of premium content.

HBO Max comes back to Prime Video Channels

Amazon ramped up content spending to $16.6B in 2022, including $7B on originals by Lauren Forristal originally published on TechCrunch
Amazon ramped up content spending to $16.6B in 2022, including $7B on originals

Amazon is working on a standalone app for sports content, new report claims

Amazon is developing a standalone app for watching sports, according to a new report from The Information. The move signals Amazon’s continued push toward investing in Prime Video and live sports content. If released, the standalone app would better highlight Amazon’s sports content, which is currently included in the company’s main Prime Video platform.
The report comes as Amazon CEO Andy Jassy recently called live sports “a unique asset” that Amazon will continue to invest in. Amazon’s current live sports offerings include exclusive rights to the NFL’s Thursday Night Football, along with some Premier League soccer matches and Yankees baseball games. Amazon has also invested in other sports content to complement the live games, as the company launched original sports talk shows on both Prime Video and its ad-supported streaming service Freevee.
It’s unknown when Amazon plans to launch the standalone sports app. It’s also possible that the company may decide to shelve the plans altogether.
Amazon did not respond to TechCrunch’s request for comment.
Amazon’s plans for a standalone sports app suggest that the company is exploring new ways to tap its live sports investments into additional revenue streams. Considering the steep costs of streaming rights, it wouldn’t be surprising if the company plans to charge a separate subscription fee for sports content with this standalone app. It’s also possible that Amazon may decide to offer a separate subscription tier that includes its sports content.
The new report comes as Amazon has been reviewing parts of its unprofitable divisions, which led to the elimination of numerous roles. Even amid these cost-cutting efforts, Amazon appears to be committed to building out Prime Video and its live sports streaming content.
Amazon isn’t the only major company looking to continue investing in live sports content, as the company faces increasing competition from other tech giants who have also inked sports streaming deals. Last week, Google’s YouTube secured the NFL Sunday Ticket in a landmark streaming deal. On the other hand, Apple has gained the rights to Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer games.

YouTube secures NFL Sunday Ticket in landmark streaming deal

Amazon is working on a standalone app for sports content, new report claims by Aisha Malik originally published on TechCrunch
Amazon is working on a standalone app for sports content, new report claims