The UpStream (Page 108)

AT&T Haults Production on U-verse boxes, Transitions Marketing to DirecTV

posted Sunday Feb 21, 2016 by Nicholas DiMeo

AT&T Haults Production on U-verse boxes, Transitions Marketing to DirecTV

With AT&T acquiring DirecTV last year for over $45 billion, many wondered what AT&T was going to do with its existing cable service platform, U-verse. AT&T said the acquisition would allow the company to expand its service offering, but that still left many questions marks. Recently, the company has bundled DirecTV with AT&T's cell phone service, essentially marking the end to U-verse as its primary option. Now, AT&T is putting an end to pushing U-Verse as it phases customers into DirecTV.

AT&T announced this week that is will be slowly bringing U-verse marketing efforts to an end and will transition to DirecTV as the suggested offer. The company has already halted production on set-top boxes for the service, and soon be offering incentives to existing customers to make the switch to the satellite platform. AT&T said that DirecTV has both cheaper hardware and programming costs. The company lost over 240,000 U-verse customers over the last quarter as well, so it makes financial sense for this decision to happen. In contrast, DirecTV saw an increase of 214,000 customers.

Additionally, AT&T announced a three-stage plan that will be executed over three years. The end result will be a hub-like system where all AT&T services will be brought together to allow video to be sent to any device on the network.

However, the company said that it will not be completely turning off U-verse. Brad Burns, an AT&T spokesperson, said that the company will still support the platform and its existing customers who elect to stay.

To realize the many benefits of our DirecTV acquisition, we are leading our video marketing approach with DirecTV. However, our first priority is to listen to our customers and meet their needs, and if we determine a customer will be better served with the U-verse product, we offer attractive and compelling options.

U-verse already has a limited market, with only a select number of cities having the service available. DirecTV provides the nationwide coverage that is synonymous with AT&T's wireless service. That, along with less expensive programming costs, cheaper hardware, a well-known name and better content selection, consumers will likely be more apt to choose DirecTV if given the option of both anyway.

Samsung Backed Smart Shoe Changes the Way Athletes Practice and Train

posted Sunday Feb 21, 2016 by Nicholas DiMeo

Samsung Backed Smart Shoe Changes the Way Athletes Practice and Train

With Mobile World Congress in Barcelona now upon us, it's time for the smartphone manufacturers to step into the limelight and show off their most precious wares. Samsung is no exception to this rule, and this year we expect to see some pretty incredible devices and innovation come out of that camp. One in particular combines the ever-familiar duo of fitness and tech, however Samsung is flipping the script by introducing not only the device and app, but the shoe itself.

IOFIT is a smart shoe from Salted Venture, a startup that's under the Samsung umbrella. IOFIT is geared toward coaches and athletes looking to get more out of their practices or workouts. Launching at MWC, the device is loaded with sensors that serve up a cornucopia of data. G-force, speed, altitude, pressure and other measurements allow the shoe's technology to determine things like weight balance, center of gravity and more.

The data, naturally, is sent to the app which can reside on a smartphone or tablet. The app also has a video recording feature that can sync with the data so users can watch their workouts and improve on shortcomings.

Now, while this isn't the first smart shoe to appear in the space, it is the first venture that solely backed by Samsung, which places more eyes on the product. It's also the first shoe to not just focus on runners, but instead on people who simply want more out of their workouts. Golfers are also part of Salted Venture's target audience, as the weight shift in a golfer's swing can make or break their shot.

Jacob Cho, CEO of Salted Venture, said this about balance as well as a golfer's swing.

Extensive field research, valuable insight and feedback from personal trainers and professional golfers went into building IOFIT smart shoes around their needs. Balance is an essential aspect of all fitness workouts and golf swing mechanism. Without it, there is greater exposure to injury and wasteful energy consumption, making fitness workouts a lot less effective and (more) dangerous. For golf, proper balance and weight shift is crucial to generate club head speed and power. We wanted to solve this problem not just with our guts, but with actual data telling us how we are performing.

If something like this can cure my terrible slice, I'm all for it. Salted Venture had visited with big name golf facilities and fitness centers around the country, allowing the developers to see how sensor-based technology is currently used. They then simply added value and a new take on an already existing solution. The company is looking to use the power of Samsung to allow it to find shoe partners like Asics, Adidas or Nike so that consumers can pick up the technology in their trusted brand of choice.

Aiming to launch a pre-order crowdfund campaign in July or August, Salted Venture said that the general version of the sneaker will cost $149, and the golf version - which will include additional specifically-placed sensors - will cost $199.

Spotify Adds Video Content to Platform

posted Monday Feb 1, 2016 by Nicholas DiMeo

Spotify Adds Video Content to Platform

Two years ago, rumors started swirling about Spotify adding a video streaming service to its platform. CEO Daniel Ek said he was focused on the music at the time, but kind of dodged the question when directly asked. Apparently the dodging was just and the rumors are true, as Spotify added video content to the popular app this past week.

First launching on Android, iOS users got their version over the weekend and Windows users by the end of next week. To provide content, Spotify has partnered with some of the biggest names in the game, like ESPN, ABC, NBC, Comedy Central, Vice and Maker Studios.

Recently, Spotify has been testing out their video features. Some of the ads on the app have been video-based and the company has added short clips over the past month. Over the next several months, users can expect to see more clips, packaged shorts in recap-style videos and more. Ek said that while he knows most users listen to Spotify with their device in their pockets, a lot of the video content will be made to be enjoyed just as much by listening as it is watching it.

Something that would propel Spotify forward on this feature addition would be to fully support podcasts on the app. Both video and audio podcasts could be curated, neatly organized and displayed for the entire userbase. Video podcasting is a growing market, and Spotify already has the media partners on the table for podcasters to tap into for advertising purposes.

For now, the answer is still unclear on whether this will be a positive move for the company in the long run. There is one benefit over leading video platform YouTube, and that's the fact that Spotify will not be placing ads before or after the videos. Video content will follow the standard ad policy for all media on Spotify. Premium users are ad-free, and free users see an ad once every 6 to 8 songs. That's for now, at least, as Ek did say he would not rule out video ads in the future, but it's possible that those would simply be a continuation of the current ad system.

Circuit City Relaunches Online in June, in Physical Form by End of Year

posted Sunday Jan 31, 2016 by Nicholas DiMeo

Circuit City Relaunches Online in June, in Physical Form by End of Year

Since the creation of our publication, we've not written about Circuit City. Trust me, I went back and searched, and the only time we do is in an article about Best Buy. For some of you, you may not even know what a Circuit City is. This is because the electronics big-box store went out of business in March 2009, after failing to remain competitive against Best Buy's aggressive marketing strategies. The company's physical assets were liquidated, all stores were closed and the branding, domain and all trademarks were then sold to Systemax, an IT supplier that also owns all of Tiger Direct's assets. In October, Systemax sold the Circuit City package to Shmoel, which recently changed its name to Circuit City Corp. And now the company is looking to relaunch the brand.

Ronny Shmoel and Albert Liniado may not be commonly recognizable names, but the duo have extensive successful history in the online retail world. The two hope that their positive experiences will lead Circuit City to the same green pastures as their previous endeavors. Shmoel says that he will achieve this with an extensive blueprint that includes both web sales and retail stores. In those outlets, there will not only be popular branded products, but also a Circuit City-branded alternative. The head of the newly-named Circuit City Corp also said there will be kiosks in the future, along with opportunities for franchising and other investment avenues.

Liniado, a former business development VP of two decades, said that, "We (Circuit City Corp) want to bring profitability back into retail." He added that this can be achieved through building margin into off-branded product and by keeping its retail footprint as small and efficient as possible. Best Buy just started learning that last tidbit of information over the past 3 to 4 years. Liniado said new Circuit City stores will be between 2,000 and 4,000 square feet, with product zones that resemble the RadioShack stores that were remodeled right before that brand underwent its own sale.

The new Circuit City locations will be aimed at millennials and college students, and will feature everything you'd expect inside a Best Buy Mobile mixed with a small version of Fry's. Smartphones, tablets, laptops, headphones, gaming accessories, wearables and even drones and 3D printers. The stores will come complete with electronic tags for pricing and will seamlessly integrate with's one million SKU inventory.

Shmoel's end goal, while ambitious, can be done if it's focused right. The retail exec says he expects around 100 retail corporate stores to be opened by next year, with another 200 franchise locations. The website will be relaunched and ready for business in June.

Five Key Executives Depart Twitter Simultaneously

posted Sunday Jan 31, 2016 by Nicholas DiMeo

Five Key Executives Depart Twitter Simultaneously

Twitter's been under a bit of a revival plan as of late. It started about a year ago when the company decided to really take on trolls and abuse, and continued when former CEO Dick Costolo was replaced by co-founder Jack Dorsey. Dorsey, still running the company, has tried to focus on making Twitter profitable and sustainable, but the social media giant has been juggling executive roles in the process.

Shortly after our show wrapped last Sunday, Dorsey took to his domain to confirm that four major executives from Twitter would be leaving the company. Head of Products Kevin Weil, Head of Media Katie Jacobs Stanton, Head Engineer Alex Roetter and Head of HR Skip Schipper all were set to leave the company. In addition to those four, the head of Vine, Jason Toff, is also leaving Twitter to go work for Google again. It is being reported that some of these execs were asked to leave, while other simply resigned.

For instance, Stanton and Weil both said that they would be leaving the company to spend more time with their families. Roetter added that he would be "taking a step back" from Twitter while focusing on his family as well. This could all be a veil covering up the real reason they are all leaving, but that's what was posted on social media.

It is surprising to see five big names of a top company leave all at once, but considering the rapid decline of Twitter's stock price, it's possible that this is all ahead of massive shake-up within Twitter. The stock has been sinking for the past year, falling from its first day price of almost $45, to just under $18 this past week.

Dorsey has maintained his position as CEO of Twitter since June of last year, and has made several key changes since. Aside from the ones already mentioned, Dorsey also fired almost 10 percent of Twitter's total employee count back in October. On the positive end of the spectrum, Dorsey was behind the new feature, Twitter Moments, in hopes that it will bring new users to the platform and further engage existing ones. If the resignations of the five executives are any indication of it, there are only going to be more changes in 2016 for Twitter.

Facebook Considering Dedicated Video Service

posted Sunday Jan 31, 2016 by Scott Ertz

Facebook Considering Dedicated Video Service

Over the past year or so, Facebook's commitment to video has increased hugely, sometimes for the better, sometimes not. For example, the company decided to auto-play videos in your newsfeed as you scroll past them. It does make sense that motion will attract people's eyes, but for many the move was annoying. They have also enhanced their video player to suggest related videos and, in some cases, auto play the next video in line.

These changes have created a scenario where around 500 million users watch some sort of video on Facebook every day. One day last quarter, the network watched 100 million hours of video, meaning every one of those 500 million users watched an average of 10 minutes of video that day. This is a huge development for the company. In response, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said,

We are exploring a dedicated place on Facebook for when they just want to watch videos.

Now, this could be a dedicated Facebook Videos app, similar to how Google implemented Photos. It could also mean a video-specific landing page within the main site, more inline with Pages or Groups. Either way, this move will likely lead to what we have thus far avoided: pre- and post-roll ads on Facebook Videos.

This would not be unexpected, as Facebook's revenue is mostly from advertising and video is a popular medium for advertising. COO Sheryl Sandberg said,

Marketers also really love video and it's a compelling way to reach consumers.

That comment certainly lends credence to the idea that we will see a lot more video advertising inside this new platform, whatever it turns out to be.

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