Архив метки: TV

An already struggling smartphone market takes a big hit from COVID-19

Quarter after quarter, familiar stories have appeared. The smartphone market, once seemingly bulletproof, has suffered. The list of factors is long, and I’ve written about them ad nauseam here, but the CliffsNotes version is: costs are too high, innovation is too incremental and most people already own a device that will be plenty good for the next few years.
But 2020 was going to be different. Smartphone makers were set to finally give consumers a reason to upgrade in the form of 5G. The first handsets appeared in earnest last year, but between a much wider carrier roll out, lower-cost 5G radios from Qualcomm and the arrival of a 5G iPhone, this was going to be the year the next-gen wireless technology helped reverse the smartphone slide.
And then COVID-19 disrupted everything. For many of us, life is on hold — and will likely continue to be for months. I’m writing this from my home in Queens, N.Y., the hardest-hit county in the hardest-hit country in the world. It still feels strange to type that, even though it’s been a reality for a month and half now.
Purchasing a smartphone is most likely the last thing on anyone’s mind during what is shaping up to be the worst global pandemic since the 1918 flu pandemic. With a number of key manufacturers reporting quarterly earnings this week, the numbers are starting to bear out this disconnect. Earlier this week, both Samsung and LG reported weak mobile numbers. Yesterday, Apple reported revenue of $28.96 billion, down from $31.1 billion the same time last year.
More troubling, all three companies appeared to be united in suggesting that the worst might be yet to come. Samsung suggested that both mobile and TV demand would “decline significantly” in the following quarter. LG used virtually the same exact wording, stating that, “market demand is expected to decline significantly YoY due to COVID-19 pandemic.” For its part, Apple simply didn’t issue guidance for the next quarter, a surefire indication of uncertainty in these uncertain times — to borrow a phrase from every commercial airing currently.

An already struggling smartphone market takes a big hit from COVID-19

Media software maker Plex launches new subscriber-only apps for music and server management

Media software maker Plex has released two new projects today from its internal R&D group, Plex Labs. One is an updated take on the classic Winamp player it calls Plexamp, and another is a dedicated app for Plex server administration. The projects are meant to appeal largely to Plex power users who take full advantage of Plex’s software suite, which has grown over time from being only a home media solution to a one-stop shop for everything from live TV to streaming audio.
The first of the new apps, Plexamp, is actually a revamp of the first Plex Labs project released. In December 2017, Plex introduced its own music player, whose name Plexamp was a nod to the Winamp player it aimed to replace. The project, like others from Plex Labs, was built by Plex employees in their spare time.
The goal with the original Plexamp was to offer a small desktop player that could handle any music format. The app let you use media keys for playing, pausing and skipping tracks and it worked offline when the Plex server ran on your laptop. It also offered visualizations to accompany your music that pulled from the album art.
While the original app ran on Mac or Windows, the new release works across five platforms, now including iOS, Android and Linux.
The app itself has been completely redone, as well — rewritten from scratch, in fact. And it’s tied to Plex’s subscription service, Plex Pass — meaning you’ll need to be a paying customer to use it.

The company explains the original version of Plexamp had issues around portability and licensing; it didn’t have an easy way to add functionality; and it was built with React, which tied it to the web.
To create the new Plexamp (version 3.0), Plex built an audio player library called TREBLE on top of a low-level commercial audio engine. TREBLE has been shipping in Plex’s commercial applications, but this release brings it to Plexamp. The addition helped make the app portable across almost all desktop and mobile platforms, as was it being rewritten in React Native.
The new app provides features Plex Pass music listeners want, like gapless playback, high-quality resampling, Sweet Fades (Plex’s “smart” alternative to crossfades) soft transitions and pre-caching. Plex also added a few more effects, including one for voice boosting spoken word audio and another for silence compression.
But the app really sells itself to longtime Plex users, as Plexamp lets you go back to see your own “top personal charts” for what you’ve listened to the most in years past. (Sort of like a Plex version of Apple Music’s Replay playlists).

Plexamp 3.0 also introduces a feature that lets you build your own mixes by picking a set of artists. Plus it offers a more expansive list of stations, supports offline listening and improves its search functionality.
The new Recent Searches area, for example, will save your search results from across servers, as well as TIDAL and podcasts. And a new Recent Plays feature shows you the music you consciously chose to play, again including across all servers and TIDAL.

There are some little touches, too, that show the personal care that went into the app’s design — like the way Plexamp uses album art and a process called “UltraBlur” to give each artist and alum page its own look. Or how there are options for light and dark — and lighter and darker — themes.

The other big new release from Plex Labs is the new Plex Dash app.
This mobile and tablet app lets you keep a close eye on your personal media server, including a way to see all playbacks even across multiple servers, plus other administrative features.
With Plex Dash, you can edit your artwork, scan for new media, fix incorrect matches, check on server resource usage, tweak library settings and view server logs live.
Plex suggests you it run on the iPad you have mounted in the wall — like in your fancy media room, I guess — but for us poorer folks, it runs on your smartphone, too.
It’s a power user tool, but one that will be welcomed for those fully immersed in a Plex-run home media setup. (And also a good way to respond to criticism that Plex is too focused today on its streaming and TV options, and not its core home media software customer base.)
Like Plexamp, the new Plex Dash requires a Plex Pass subscription and runs on iOS and Android.
The apps launched today are notable as they’re the first to arrive from Plex Labs since the original release of Plexamp in 2017 and because they require a subscription in order to work.
Plex at the end of 2019 said it had 15 million registered households using its service. Though the service is profitable, only a small percentage are paid subscribers. New apps with extra features, then, could convince more Plex users to upgrade.

Media software maker Plex launches new subscriber-only apps for music and server management

Disney debuts its streaming service in India for $20 a year

Disney+ has arrived in the land of Bollywood. The company on Friday (local time) rolled out its eponymous streaming service in India through Hotstar, a popular on-demand video streamer it picked up as part of the Fox deal.
To court users in India, the largest open entertainment market in Asia, Disney is charging users 1,499 Indian rupees (about $19.5) for a year, the most affordable plan in any of the more than a dozen markets where Disney+ is currently available.
Subscribers of the revamped streaming service, now called Disney+ Hotstar, will get access to Disney Originals in English as well as several local languages, live sporting events, dozens of TV channels, and thousands of movies and shows, including some sourced from HBO, Showtime, ABC and Fox that maintain syndication partnerships with the Indian streaming service. It also maintains partnership with Hooq — at least for now.
Unlike Disney+’s offering in the U.S. and other markets, in India, the service does not support 4K and streams content at nearly a tenth of their bitrate.
Disney+ Hotstar is also offering a cheaper yearly premium tier, priced at Rs 399 (about $5.3), that will offer subscribers access to movies, shows (but not those sourced from aforementioned U.S. networks and studios) and live sporting events; it won’t include Disney Originals.
Access to streaming of sporting events, especially of cricket matches, has helped five-year-old Hotstar become the most popular on-demand video streaming in India. During the cricket tournament Indian Premier League (IPL) last year, the service amassed more than 300 million monthly active users and more than 100 million daily active users.
It also holds the global record for most simultaneous views on a live stream, about 25 million — more than thrice its nearest competitor.
Prior to today’s launch, Hotstar offered its premium plans at 999 Indian rupees, and 365 Indian rupees. Existing subscribers won’t be affected by the price revision for the duration of their current subscription.

The service, run by Indian conglomerate Star India, offers access to about 80% of its catalog at no cost to users. The company monetizes these viewers through ads.
But in recent years, the company has begun to explore ways to turn its users into subscribers. Two years ago, Hotstar stopped offering cricket match streaming to non-paying users.
People familiar with the matter told TechCrunch that Hotstar has about 1.5 million paying subscribers, lower than what most industry firms estimate. But that figure is still higher than most of its competitors.
And there are many.
India’s on-demand video market
Disney+ will compete with more than three dozen international and local players in India, including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Times Internet’s MX Player (which has over 175 million monthly active users), Zee5, Apple TV+ and Alt Balaji, which has amassed over 27 million subscribers.
“The arrival of Disney+ in India is another case study in the globalization of entertainment in the digital era. For decades, the biggest companies in the world have expanded their reach into different markets. But it’s new, and actually quite profound, that everyone on earth receives the very same version of such a specific cultural product,” Matthew Ball, former head of strategic planning for Amazon Studios, told TechCrunch.
As in some other markets, including the U.S., streaming services have inked deals with telecom networks, TV vendors, cable TV operators and satellite TV players to extend their reach in India.
Most of these streaming services monetize their viewers by selling ads, and those who do charge have kept their premium plans below $3.
Why that figure? That’s the number most industry executives think — by spending years in the Indian market — that people in the country are willing to pay for viewing content. The average of how much an individual pays for cable TV, for instance, in India is also about $3.
“I think everyone is still trying to sort out the right pricing. It’s true the average Indian consumer is used to far lower prices and can’t afford more. However, we need to focus on the consumers likely to buy this, who have the requisite broadband access and income, etc,” said Ball.
Commuters drive along a road past a billboard in Mumbai advertising the Amazon Prime Video online series “The Forgotten Army”. (Photo by INDRANIL MUKHERJEE / AFP via Getty Images)
At stake is India’s booming on-demand video streaming market that, according to Boston Consulting Group, is estimated to grow to $5 billion from half a billion two years ago.
Hotstar’s hold on India could make it easier for Disney+, which has launched in more than a dozen markets and has amassed over 28 million subscribers.
As the country spends about two more weeks in lockdown that New Delhi ordered last month to curtail the spread of coronavirus, this could also compel many to give Disney+ a try.
On the flip side, if the lockdown is extended, the current season of IPL, which has been postponed until mid-April, might be further delayed or cancelled altogether. Either of those scenarios could hurt the reach of Hotstar, which sees a massive drop in its user base after the conclusion of each cricket tournament.
Disney initially planned to launch its streaming service in India on March 28, the day IPL was supposed to commence. But the company later postponed the launch by six days.
Industry executives told TechCrunch that if IPL is cancelled, it could severely hurt the financials of Hotstar, which clocks more than 50% of its revenue during the 50-odd days of the cricket season.
Some said Disney+’s premier catalog might not be relevant for most of Hotstar’s user base, who seem to care about this streaming service only during the cricket season or to catch up on Indian soap operas.
Hotstar has also received criticism for censoring more content on its platform than any other streaming service in India. Last month, Hotstar blocked from streaming on its platform an episode of “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” that was critical of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. YouTube made that segment available without any edits.
John Oliver slammed Hotstar for censoring the episode and noted that the streaming service had additionally edited out parts from his older episodes where he made fun of Disney. In 2017, Hotstar also edited out a segment from Oliver’s show in which he mocked Samsung for the Galaxy Note 7 fiasco. Hotstar and Samsung had a commercial partnership.
Hotstar did not respond to multiple requests for comment in 2017. Hotstar did not respond to multiple requests for comment on the recent controversy.

Disney debuts its streaming service in India for $20 a year