The UpStream

Binge watching could lead Hulu viewers to an ad-free experience

posted Saturday Dec 14, 2019 by Scott Ertz

Binge watching could lead Hulu viewers to an ad-free experience

The concept of binge-watching shows has become so common that the streaming networks, like Netflix and Hulu, have changed the way that shows are made and released to lean into the concept. A season of an original show on Netflix tends to have 8-10 episodes and are released at once, with the high profile shows releasing during a time when the next few days will be the most convenient to binge.

Hulu is taking the concept a step farther, giving their binge-watching customers on the base plan a nice new feature. The base plan for Hulu includes ads, the quantity of which has increased fairly dramatically in the past few years, starting with one or two per break, and currently running almost as many as network television. But, if you are binging a show, Hulu will start eliminating ads almost entirely.

The company has defined "binge" as watching at least three episodes in a single session. So, once you have met that qualification, future episodes will be "ad-free." Ish. On broadcast television, when a program is "ad-free" there is always a bumper before the show that says something to the effect of "This episode is presented without ads thanks to *company name*." This will also be the case for Hulu's approach, with a couple of big brands already on-board with the move, including Georgia-Pacific, Kellogg's, and Maker's Mark.

As more streaming services enter the market, consumers are starting to have to decide which they want to subscribe to. The binge feature sets Hulu apart from its ad-supported counterparts. This move comes at a time when the industry is urging Netflix to offer a lower cost plan similar in structure to Hulu's, including running ads. If Netflix were to be considering an ad-supported lower cost plan, Hulu mixing up the formula could put Netflix on their back foot, having to reconsider a service they don't want to offer.

Domain name sale price leads to burglary and 14 years in prison

posted Saturday Dec 14, 2019 by Scott Ertz

Domain name sale price leads to burglary and 14 years in prison

The internet can be a dangerous place with hacking, identity theft, malware, and more. However, in the vast array of dangers, owning a domain name is probably at the very bottom of the list. Or, that was the case until this week, when a domain listed for sale ended in a 14-year prison sentence. In 2017, an Iowa man, Rossi Lorathio Adams II, wanted to purchase a domain name that was for sale (doitforstate.com). This is a pretty common case, especially when the domain name is in high demand or involves a coveted keyword. The price was set at $20k, a high price (but far less than Pepsi paid for theirs).

The price was too much for Adams to bear. Rather than paying the price, a plot was hatched to steal the domain name from the owner at gunpoint. The failed buyer and his cousin, Sherman Hopkins Jr., drove to the domain owner's house and the cousin entered the house with a gun and a demand note with instructions on how to transfer the domain to the failed buyer's GoDaddy account. Nothing went as planned, with both the cousin and the owner getting shot. In the end, Hopkins took a plea deal including a 20-year prison sentence. This week, Adams was sentenced to 14 years in federal prison.

The list of problems with this plot is so long that it's painful. Even if it had worked and Hopkins and Adams had gotten away from the house with the domain transfer initiated, a call to GoDaddy would have been able to cancel the transfer. The transfer would have created a paper trail that tied Adams to the crime, making the case possibly even easier. Plus, an armed robbery for $20k is ridiculous. That would have barely been worth the risk 100 years ago, let alone today.

Microsoft reveals details about next Xbox console: Xbox Series X

posted Saturday Dec 14, 2019 by Scott Ertz

Microsoft reveals details about next Xbox console: Xbox Series X

Since the initial official reveal, small details about Microsoft's Project Scarlett have been the extent the information. That is until this week, where the company finally revealed information, including the name of the new console.

First, let's deal with the name: Xbox Series X. Despite major changes at Microsoft under CEO Satya Nadella, the legacy of chaotic naming schemes seems unaffected. If you ignore the inconsistency of Xbox, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Xbox One S, and Xbox One X, the real problem with this new name is the inevitable confusion between Xbox One X and Xbox Series X. This will be a challenge for both consumers and retailers Holiday 2020.

The next big reveal is the shape of the console. Traditionally, console manufacturers have limited their hardware designs to the general size and shape of stereo receivers of the 1960s. This has allowed them to join the standard stack of components that were part of an entertainment center. With the popularity of soundbars, the limited nature of cable boxes, and the growing popularity of streaming sticks, this need is far less important than in the past. Microsoft has latched onto this design change, making the Xbox Series X more of a tower than a flat box. Based on calculations made from the scale of the controller, it is estimated that the console is about the same height as the Xbox One X is wide (11.5 inches), but the width and depth are both around 4.25 inches. Essentially, cut the Xbox One X in half and stack them on top of one another and you have the new design. This will definitely be unique.

When it comes to new consoles, power is really the key. Microsoft has put significant power into the new console. The GPU is double the power of the Xbox One X, and significantly more powerful than the original Xbox One. This is accomplished with a custom AMD CPU and GPU, which is in line with the new Surface products, as well, plus 12 GB of RAM.

Between now and Holiday 2020 release, we will likely see more detailed information (such as official sizing), but this is a good start. What do you think of the new console? Let us know in the comments.

RCS Chat has finally arrived to bring advanced messaging to Android

posted Saturday Dec 14, 2019 by Scott Ertz

RCS Chat has finally arrived to bring advanced messaging to Android

It has been a long time coming, but support for the Rich Communications Service Universal Profile protocol, better known as RCS Chat, has finally arrived in the US. Chat is a more open version of Apple's iMessage, which brings a number of the features that we've come to expect from modern messaging systems that SMS and MMS have not been able to support. The most obvious features will involve status indication of a conversation: typing indicators and delivery/read receipts. It's an interesting paradox when you consider that the smartphone revolution made these features ubiquitous, the most ubiquitous messaging system has been without this feature.

In addition to status indications, RCS Chat will also bring the ability to attach data other than photos and videos. Some of the types of data that could be most useful to transfer will be truly mobile-first types, such as mobile boarding passes. Also, the ability to include programmable features, you could go so far as to select your seat on a flight through your messaging app. Possibly most importantly, Chat messages can and will be sent over data (including Wi-Fi), rather than traditional SMS and MMS.

The important thing to remember here is that Chat is hardware and platform agnostic, meaning that, while Google is the first company to support it completely, it could eventually come to the iPhone as well. While dreaming is nice, let's stay focused on reality and what is needed to make your Android phone compatible with RCS right now. First, you're going to need a toolkit called Carrier Services. This toolkit has no UI and no settings, but it brings the capabilities to your device. Next, you need to install Messages, the newest version of the Android texting app. With these two pieces in place, you are ready to try out the advanced messaging features.

Quibi finds big content partner with sketch series Reno 911!

posted Friday Dec 6, 2019 by Scott Ertz

Quibi finds big content partner with sketch series Reno 911!

In the streaming video world, this week has been one of contract announcements for the rights to popular older shows. The future of The Office, Friends, and more are solidified for a while. However, in the crowded streaming field, having something unique is essential to the success of the platform. Netflix has a ton of original programming, Hulu gets new episodes the day after airing, Disney has a century worth of catalog to offer. However, when Quibi announced that their service would be exclusive to T-Mobile customers, it looked like they were heading the wrong way.

This week, however, the company announced that a long canceled, but highly popular show would be coming back with new content on the platform. That series is Comedy Central sketch comedy series Reno 911! The series is a mix between Saturday Night Live and , but with a twist. It's a mockumentary series setup in short sketches, in the style of Cops. The twist is that there isn't a script - only a loose idea of the direction of the sketch.

The important part of what this means is that Quibi has found the middle ground between the nostalgia factor that has worked for the other services and their promise of short-form content, or "quick bites." By licensing new content from the series, which is known for their short-form sketches, they can appeal to their target demographic of Millenials and GenZ, both of whom are a perfect target for Reno 911! It also gives us a little bit more of an idea of what Quibi is shooting for with their platform. The pitch has, thus far, been vague, to say the least - sounding a lot like the TikTok or Vine of professional storytelling. Sketch comedy, though, seems like a great content type for this medium. We'll learn more about the company's plan at CES 2020 during CEO Meg Whitman's keynote.

Bernie Sanders wants internet access to be government controlled

posted Friday Dec 6, 2019 by Scott Ertz

Bernie Sanders wants internet access to be government controlled

Senator Bernie Sanders has spent his political career with a complicated relationship with monopolies. On the one hand, he sees monopolies everywhere he looks, even in industries with a lot of competition. On the other hand, his solution to solving these "monopolies" is to build a true monopoly in its place. His current pitch is against the broadband industry, claiming that "monopolies" like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon hold their customers hostage.

The pitch isn't entirely incorrect. There are parts of the country where it is not financially feasible to bring a hardline internet connection, either because it is very remote, the population is small, or a combination of the two. Because of this issue, the government has a program called the Universal Service Fund (USF), which is intended to help companies offset those costs so that everyone can have access to phone and internet service.

Despite the continued success of the USF program, Sanders believes that the government should take control of the internet, treating it like a public utility. In a tweet, Sanders said,

Just as President Roosevelt fundamentally made America more equal by bringing electricity to every community, urban and rural, over 80 years ago, as president, I will do the same with high-speed internet.

Having the government intimately involved in the power industry has guaranteed service to everyone, but it has also created nearly insurmountable challenges. As solar power has grown in popularity, power companies could not work with individuals in a meaningful way.

The difference between the power industry and the data industry is significant and important, though. Internet access can provide a lot of information about its customers - information that the government desperately wants. The NSA built an entire spy network dedicated to collecting this information without permission, or even without legal authority. However, if the government is your ISP, your consent to their data mining is required. If this pitch were to come to reality, which is less than likely, it would certainly create an even bigger need for VPN services.

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