The UpStream

YouTube expands media offerings, new channels, increases TV pricing

posted Saturday Apr 13, 2019 by Scott Ertz

YouTube expands media offerings, new channels, increases TV pricing

In the past few years, YouTube has made a lot of changes. They've added new services, such as YouTube Premium (previously YouTube Red) and YouTube TV. They've created original content and licensed movies and TV shows. They even began retiring Google Play Music in favor of YouTube Music. This week, some new additions are being added to several of the YouTube properties.

YouTube Originals

It would appear that YouTube is being incredibly inspired by Netflix, as the company has confirmed that they are working on interactive or choose your own adventure style programming. After the social media success of Netflix's Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, and the release of the new You vs Wild, it is no surprise that YouTube would pick up on this style of programming. Based on previous rumors, it will be interesting to see if they hide this program behind the YouTube Premium paywall, or if this will be available for all viewers. It will also be interesting to see if YouTube makes the technology that makes this possible available to all creators.

YouTube TV

The YouTube TV streaming service launched 2 years ago for $35 per month. It competed with Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, Hulu with Live TV, and more. The big selling point was towards cord cutters who were looking to lower their bills on unnecessary services, like cable TV. Since then, the brand seems to have lost its focus, adding mandatory channels and increasing the monthly price as a result. The cord cutters have had to make a decision as to whether the service was worth the more expensive prices, and that is about to happen again.

The monthly price for YouTube TV is about to increase to $50 per month. That is more than I pay per month for traditional cable service, which comes with hundreds upon hundreds of channels. The enhanced price for YouTube TV will come with more than 70 channels, including the newly added Animal Planet, Discovery Channel, Food Network, HGTV, Investigation Discovery, MotorTrend, TLC, and Travel Channel. All of those networks have limited, niche appeal, but will be mandatory on your plan.

It feels like YouTube TV is falling into the same trap that cable TV, as well as a number of the alternative services, have fallen into: one big bundle. Cord cutters are looking for the ability to customize their services in order to cut costs, but this does just the opposite. Streaming TV service might want to work harder to create customizable packages to attract that core customer.

Yahoo offers $118 million to settle one of the largest breaches ever

posted Saturday Apr 13, 2019 by Scott Ertz

Yahoo offers $118 million to settle one of the largest breaches ever

In 2016, Yahoo announced that they had a massive data breach in 2013 that affected about 1 billion customers. The size and scope were enough that it almost derailed the purchase by Verizon. In the end, Verizon did receive a discount of $350 million off the overall price, which was far less than the $1 billion they wanted to save. After the purchase was finalized, Verizon reevaluated the data about the breach and discovered that not only the 1 billion announced accounts but the entirety of the Yahoo user base were affected: 3 billion accounts.

The inevitable lawsuit that resulted from the breach has been in progress nearly since the day Yahoo initially announced the incident. The two sides attempted previously to settle the case for $50 million plus attorneys' fees. That one didn't fly in court, as US District Judge Lucy Koh declined the settlement in January. This week, the company and the plaintiffs offered $117.5 million in settlement. As with the previous settlement, it will face judicial review. The new proposal states,

Following the Court's denial of (the first proposed settlement), the Parties immediately set about addressing the issues the Court identified, re-engineering the resolution of this case. The Amended Settlement Agreement not only provides the biggest common fund ever obtained in a data breach case ($117,500,000.00), it materially moves the benchmarks on: The individual claim cap ($25,000), the amount of lost time that can be reimbursed (15 hours), the minimum rate at which such time is compensated ($25.00/hour), and alternative compensation for those already having credit monitoring ($100, up to full retail value of $358.80).

As part of the settlement, every affected user will receive 2 years of credit monitoring with the option for $100 if you already have credit monitoring, the class representatives will receive a cash settlement, and out of pocket reimbursement for the cost of related identity theft. The class would include all members in the US and Israel, including individuals and small businesses.

PlayStation now allows username changes, alters username censorship

posted Saturday Apr 13, 2019 by Scott Ertz

PlayStation now allows username changes, alters username censorship

Since the beginning of the PlayStation Network, users have requested the ability to change their network names. For some, names were chosen in high school and, as an adult, they can be embarrassing. For others, it might relate back to a time they would prefer not to remember. No matter the reasoning, unless you were willing to lose all of our accomplishments, there was no way to move away from that name. All of that finally changed this week, when Sony introduced the ability to change your username!

Starting now, PSN members can change their PSN ID once for free, and for a small fee after the first. The incredibly long delay has been caused by a very amateur data design made in the early days of PSN, where the username was actually used as the key linking you to games and more. After years of reworking the way data has been stored, the feature is here, but it is not perfect. In fact, changing your name could potentially break games. Sony has a list of compatible games, but notes that there could still be problems with those games that haven't been detected during testing.

As with most username systems, including the PSN, there are rules to what is and is not appropriate. In the past, Sony used a heavy hand when enforcing those rules. When you created your account, if the username was determined to violate the community standards, Sony would close your account, no questions allowed to be asked. Fortunately, this policy has been amended, now that usernames can be adjusted. Rather than the account being closed, the username will be changed to TempXXXX, where the X will be replaced by a random number. This is similar in behavior to the random Xbox Live usernames, but with far less creativity. If your name gets changed due to rule violations, either during signup or ID change, you will be able to try again.

The benefits and deficits of Android updates being tied to Google Play

posted Saturday Apr 13, 2019 by Scott Ertz

The benefits and deficits of Android updates being tied to Google Play

According to a find by 9to5Google, Google might be in the process of changing the way that updates are delivered to Android users. As it works now, updates are pushed through a series of levels before they arrive on your handset. Google develops the changes and makes them available to the manufacturer of your handset. The manufacturer makes their changes and verifies that it does not break the device. The manufacturer either does or does not make the update available to your carrier, who does their own QA testing. Only then are updates made available to the owner of the device.

This incredibly long process is why it can take months from the time a big update is made available until it arrives on your device. Some devices never receive those updates, with manufacturers opting to ignore older handsets entirely. This is one of the problems that Google has tried to address with the Google One platform, which has no manufacturer or carrier overrides, providing a "pure Google experience," similar to what Apple provides with iOS and Microsoft provided with the now defunct Windows Phone and Windows Mobile.

As part of this unification, Google seems to be moving the update process from deep within the settings menu into the Google Play Store. Moving the update process will almost certainly make it a more direct process for users to get notified about, and manually search for, system updates. It might also begin to create some confusion for users, as the process is very different from any other major platform. The only system on the market today that groups app and system updates together is Linus, which has a statistically insignificant user base, making it a foreign concept.

In addition to the potential for confusion, there is the potential for legal issues. By moving the update process into Google Play, it might suggest that Android will now require Google Play and Play Services as part of the system. That will cause problems for manufacturers who have chosen to bypass Google Play and other Play Services in their devices in favor of their own stores, services, and more. If system updates are about to become dependant on Google Play, it will potentially end their platforms. At a time where Google's behaviors are being questioned on a daily basis for antitrust, this could cause them even more trouble, especially in the EU.

How is DirecTV Now Doing? According to a lawsuit, not great.

posted Saturday Apr 6, 2019 by Scott Ertz

How is DirecTV Now Doing? According to a lawsuit, not great.

For an investor to make educated decisions on whether or not to support a company, they need accurate information about that company. To that end, in the United States, companies are legally prohibited from misleading or lying to investors or potential investors. The past few months have seen representatives of companies making false statements and being punished for it. The most publicized incident has been Elon Musk's false tweets about taking Tesla private. His punishment was swift. This week, another big name is being accused of lying to investors: AT&T.

According to a class action lawsuit, AT&T has been lying to investors about the success, or lack thereof, of the DirecTV Now streaming service. Since its launch, the service's price has increased significantly both in promotional pricing ending and actual price increases. As those prices have increased, the subscriber count has decreased. The complaint alleges that the company hid that fact from investors, as well as other factors, both internal and external, which were affecting the success fo the brand.

In evidence is the registration statements made when AT&T closed its purchase of Time Warner. In those documents, AT&T claimed that the subscriber growth of DirecTV Now was more than sufficient to offset the losses that traditional DirecTV was seeing. As it turns out, DirecTV Now was already seeing subscribers jump ship, especially those who had signed on under promotional pricing that was ending.

In October 2018, AT&T finally revealed the bad news about the services, saying,

Traditional DirecTV satellite subscriber losses jumped over 25% from 286,000 to 359,000 quarterly. Meanwhile, DirecTV Now subscribers plummeted over 85% from 342,000 down to 49,000 quarterly. These dramatically diminished DirecTV Now subscriber gains were nowhere close to offsetting the dramatically increased traditional satellite subscriber losses. As a result, Defendant AT&T's 80,000 total video subscriber "Net Video Additions" had reversed into a 297,000 total subscriber "Net Loss."

After the revelation and the resultant media coverage, AT&T's stock price fell 12 percent. That loss to investors could have mitigated if AT&T had been upfront about the troubles with the service all along, rather than hiding them behind false claims.

Melvin Gross is the lead plaintiff and is currently seeking class action classification in the hopes of including all investors who were affected by the false information.

Is Google's brand image one of innovation or failed experiments?

posted Saturday Apr 6, 2019 by Scott Ertz

Is Google's brand image one of innovation or failed experiments?

We are just a few days into the second quarter of 2019, and so far the list of high profile Google products and services that have been killed off has reached epidemic levels. On January 11, Chromecast Audio was retired. On January 15, YouTube annotations were all deleted and will no longer show on videos. February 8 saw the abandonment of Louisville by the Google Fiber internet service. February 13 saw the removal of IoT from Android Things, which is what the platform was for. March 12 reportedly saw a staffing cut for Google's laptop and tablet division. March 13 saw the end of unpopular chat service Allo. March 14 saw the closure of the Spotlight Stories VR studio. March 30 saw the goo.gl URL shortener signup process close. March 31 saw the end of IFTTT support for Gmail. If that list wasn't enough for you, this week we had 2 more product closures.

April 2 saw the end of Google's Inbox email client, which Google claimed to be a new approach to how you send and receive emails. Either the claim was more than what Google was able to deliver, or users didn't like the new approach, because the service never managed to gain the steam that Google had hoped for. Luckily for Inbox users, Google has other email clients to choose from, including the default Android client and the official Gmail client.

April 2 also saw the end of Google+. There was no transition plan for this service. Instead, it represents Googe's complete abandonment of generalized social networking. Again. Google+ was flawed in concept from the beginning and suffered from the heavy hand of Google, who seemed mad that people didn't like it. In their anger, they tried to force users to adopt the platform, integrating YouTube, Picasa, and more into the platform. Inevitably those integrations were reversed, leaving rather large holes in the platform. Somehow, it took a security breach to finally close it down.

Google likely sees these closures as the cost of doing business. Sometimes you build a product and it doesn't work out. When it doesn't, there is no sense in continuing to spend money developing a product that people don't want. The problem is, with a company as large as Google, this many closures in a short span can cause irreparable damage. That is what is starting to happen to Google.

Participating in the Google ecosystem requires trust in that system. In the future, when Google launches a new product, potential product users will be faced with a new condition to consider: will Google get bored with this new investment and eventually abandon it? Is it worth investing your time into a new Google product with the lingering potential of an eventual shutdown?

The Google ecosystem is a very different experience from Apple, who infrequently shuts down a product or service, at least without a transition plan to something similar or better. Even in the face of complete consumer indifference Apple continues producing products. While it might be a little laughable that they are still headstrong into the HomePod a year into the product, the attitude creates confidence in the ecosystem. When people buy into an Apple product or service, there is little fear that the line will be abandoned.

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