The UpStream (Page 3)

PlayStation Store to remove all TV and movies later this year

posted Sunday Mar 7, 2021 by Scott Ertz

PlayStation Store to remove all TV and movies later this year

Digital video has become a big business, spurred on by the 356 days of "15 days to slow the spread" here in the US. We have seen companies that were not previously in the space enter, and others that were in the space change the way they offer their content. One company that is trying to finish off that transition is Sony, which has announced the end of sales and rentals in the PlayStation Store.

What is Sony Up To?

Later in 2021, Sony will completely discontinue both sales and rentals of all video content from the PlayStation Store. This is a service that has existed for years, but sales have waned. This is not a Sony problem, but a change in consumer behavior. No longer do people really want to buy or rent digital content. If they want to buy, it's going to be on physical media, and if they just want to watch it, it's going to be on streaming.

Rather than focusing on the licensing and distribution of digital content through the PlayStation Store, the company has focused on an area of the industry where they already have standing: anime. The company's Funimation division recently acquired anime streaming service Crunchyroll, which puts Sony firmly in the streaming space, in a niche market where no one else really thrives.

Why the Pivot?

Consumer behavior has changed in recent years. Some of it has come because of convenience and cost. Streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and Paramount+ give a ton of content for a small monthly fee. That is generally preferable to paying almost the same amount to rent a single movie for a night or two.

Because of this, NBCUniversal has pivoted and launched Peacock, moving away from the NBC website, HBO unified behind HBO Max, and Disney+ brought together Star Wars and Marvel.

For some, the behavior change has come because of longevity. Making a purchase of video content on a digital distribution platform does not mean that you own it. It's a confusing scenario, made a little clearer when Amazon won a lawsuit for deleting purchased content, because you are not buying the video, but access to it. This has shifted purchasers back to physical media, which cannot be revoked. The inability to revoke access has become even more important in recent months as companies pull content that they decide you should not be allowed to see based on their view of the world.

Google claims Privacy Sandbox is just as valuable for advertisers

posted Sunday Mar 7, 2021 by Scott Ertz

Google claims Privacy Sandbox is just as valuable for advertisers

As Google's deadline to retire third-party tracking cookies approaches, many industries have asked what the future holds. Will Google come up with another way to create a unique tracking ID, or does it have another plan up its sleeve? The company addressed the elephant in the room this week, claiming that its days of tracking individuals are over thanks to Privacy Sandbox.

We continue to get questions about whether Google will join others in the ad tech industry who plan to replace third-party cookies with alternative user-level identifiers. Today, we're making explicit that once third-party cookies are phased out, we will not build alternate identifiers to track individuals as they browse across the web, nor will we use them in our products.

The replacement technology, called the Privacy Sandbox, takes on the idea of group tracking surrounding interests, as opposed to individuals. The company claims that this new approach improves individual privacy while aligning with the way advertisers think.

advertisers don't need to track individual consumers across the web to get the performance benefits of digital advertising. Advances in aggregation, anonymization, on-device processing and other privacy-preserving technologies offer a clear path to replacing individual identifiers.

How Does It Work?

While none of the technology actually exists yet, the concept is pretty public. The current model uses cookies to track all activity, and sends that data to a collection of servers, where a profile is created for you based on your activities. Privacy Sandbox does all of the tracking locally within the confines of the browser, where it builds your interest profile. Then, only that interest profile is sent to the servers, theoretically allowing for an equivalent amount of targeting without the need to invade every web user's privacy.

Not Everyone Agrees

While Google is adamant about its plans to not create a new version of a tracking ID and that the new technology is just as useful to advertisers, industry insiders don't have the same opinion. Brian Handrigan, CEO of Advocado, who we met at Collision, told Multichannel News,

The Google announcement is somewhat of a "wolf in sheep's clothing" approach by the largest digital advertising vendor on the planet. Their claim to eliminate individual tracking IDs may seem like a win for privacy advocates, but is actually more of a land grab. Google can build their cohorts because, when a user logs into chrome, they give Google permission to track.

The real losers are competitors to the Google Ad products, advertisers and even consumers. Consumers will receive less targeted ads, and advertisers will have more ad waste.

So, What is the Reality?

The reality of the change likely lies somewhere in the middle. Google is certainly trying to avoid additional governmental battles by reducing the amount of data it collects about everyone. However, the move will probably decrease the fidelity of ad targeting. Of course, consumers are probably going to be okay with the trade-off between privacy and accuracy, but if Google doesn't address the concerns of the advertisers, someone else will find a way to do it and knock Google off its pedestal.

Epic purchases Mediatonic, developer of popular game Fall Guys

posted Sunday Mar 7, 2021 by Scott Ertz

Epic purchases Mediatonic, developer of popular game Fall Guys

Mediatonic is a name that 2 years ago, no one would have recognized, and had little public value. However, last year they took the gaming world by storm with the release of Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout. This game is especially popular among online streamers, attracting 3.5 million followers on Twitch. The game is also known for its memes, many of which start on the game's official Twitter account. Epic Games recognized the value of the game and its developer, bringing them into the fold.

But where does Mediatonic fit

It might seem like Epic Games purchased the company and the game studio might seem obvious. It's a popular game that competes against Epic's own Fortnite. But, that is only part of the equation. Fall Guys has an active community, and the company is good at creating and cultivating virtual experiences. And that is where the brand fits inside of Epic - as part of the experience building team for the Epic Games Metaverse.

What is the Epic Games Metaverse?

Metaverse is a word that originated in science fiction, but is becoming a more standard part of the online language. The idea is a shared virtual space. The failed PlayStation Home was a simple version of the concept. Facebook's VR ambitions are centered around the concept.

However, Epic CEO Tim Sweeney is the most vocal about the contept. Last year, he described the project saying,

The metaverse is going to be some sort of real-time 3D social medium where instead of sending messages and pictures to each other asynchronously, you're together with them and in a virtual world, and interacting and having fun experiences which might span anything from purely games to purely social experiences.

This might sound familiar, especially considering what we've seen in Fortnite over the past year. But, it's not enough - expanding the experiences and the variety of options is essential, and that is what Epic Games is hoping Mediatonic can bring to the table. Sweeney said of the integration,

It's no secret that Epic is invested in building the metaverse and Tonic Games shares this goal. As Epic works to build this virtual future, we need great creative talent who know how to build powerful games, content, and experiences.

Biden Administration recruits Tim Wu, an anti-Big Tech advisor

posted Saturday Mar 6, 2021 by Scott Ertz

Biden Administration recruits Tim Wu, an anti-Big Tech advisor

The Biden Administration is in the process of nominating and campaigning for confirmation to positions across the Federal government. However, not all positions require confirmation, and those tend to go to people who might not have a chance at confirmation. This could be because they have ruffled the feathers of those who confirmation they need, like Neera Tanden. Others may be because their ultimate goals go against the party. That is more where Tim Wu falls.

Tim Wu has been appointed to the National Economic Council (NEC), as a special assistant for technology and competition policy. His position within the administration suggests that the Biden Administration will be focusing on Big Tech in a big way. That's because Wu has a history of criticizing the industry, and has been vocal in his concern about the growing influence of the major tech companies, including Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. He was involved in the 2019 campaign to break up Facebook, which included the company's co-founder Chris Hughes.

Over the past few elections, tech companies both big and small, have put a lot of money into the Democratic Party in an attempt to curry favor with the party. Despite all of that money, it seems that the industry is no safer in their hands than in the hands of the Republicans, who have been distrustful of the Big Tech companies for years. In fact, many Democrats praised the appointment. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who has proposed an overhaul of antitrust law, said,

It is clear this administration is serious about promoting competition in the United States. America has a major monopoly problem that must be urgently addressed... I look forward to working with Tim to modernize antitrust enforcement, strengthen our economy, and protect workers and consumers.

It seems that, if there is one topic that both parties can agree upon, it is the distrust over the growing power of the Sith Lords. No, sorry - the growing power of the Big Tech companies.

Facebook bans all news in Australia to prove they are serious

posted Sunday Feb 21, 2021 by Scott Ertz

Facebook bans all news in Australia to prove they are serious

When talking about the disasterous publishing law in Australia, we tend to focus on the impact on Google. However, the other major player in this battle has been Facebook. Last Summer, when the country first published its draft for comment, Facebook was possibly the loudest opponent. The company said that, if the draft were made law, it would force the company to shut down sharing of local and international news on both Facebook and Instagram. This week, the company pulled the trigger, shutting down all news sharing in Australia.

The shutdown happened before the proposed law has become law, and is clearly intended to retaliatory or persuasive. The smart money suggests that Facebook wants the Australian people, and particularly the government, to see what the platform looks like without the ability to share news stories. The move seems to have backfired a little bit, though, as the response from users was surprisingly positive. Ozzy Man posted saying,

My personal newsfeed has become wall to wall gold given satire publications are still up.

People seemed to be enjoying the change of pace. This is, unless you were a news source on Facebook who got caught up in the block. Several pages commented on posts from those who were saved saying that their content, which was not news, was getting blocked as well. In the collection of publications that got banned on Facebook was Facebook. Their own page was not available on their own platform. Classic.

Of course, those who were most annoyed by what was happening were in the government. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison took to Facebook to complain about Facebook's move, saying,

Facebook's actions to unfriend Australia today, cutting off essential information services on health and emergency services, were as arrogant as they were disappointing. I am in regular contact with the leaders of other nations on these issues.

These actions will only confirm the concerns that an increasing number of countries are expressing about the behaviour of BigTech companies who think they are bigger than governments and that the rules should not apply to them. They may be changing the world, but that doesn't mean they run it.

We will not be intimidated by BigTech seeking to pressure our Parliament as it votes on our important News Media Bargaining Code. Just as we weren't intimidated when Amazon threatened to leave the country and when Australia drew other nations together to combat the publishing of terrorist content on social media platforms.

I encourage Facebook to constructively work with the Australian Government, as Google recently demonstrated in good faith.

The responses to his post are mixed, showing that there might be support for this move simply because it allows people to see content from their friends and family "rather than half truths."

Comcast delays nationwide data cap expansion into sometime in 2022

posted Sunday Feb 21, 2021 by Scott Ertz

Comcast delays nationwide data cap expansion into sometime in 2022

Last year, Comcast announced new data caps would be rolling out to all of their customers. Previously, only certain markets were saddled by the data cap policy, and that policy had been suspended because of the lockdowns. The rollout was intended to begin, with the return for existing customers, starting in March. However, that date was slightly delayed, as the lockdowns continue in many areas. This week, the extension was made longer for some, heading into 2022.

The company announced via blog that they would delay the expansion of the 1.2TB data caps in the Northeast until at least 2022. The company said,

We are delaying implementation of our new data plan in our Northeast markets until 2022. We recognize that our data plan was new for our customers in the Northeast, and while only a very small percentage of customers need additional data, we are providing them with more time to become familiar with the new plan.

The announcement is certainly welcome news for those in the Northeast, however, it is clearly not welcomed to Comcast themselves. This move was forced upon them because of terrible public optics. There are already issues with lower income families not being able to use home schooling tools because of a lack of internet, and Comcast is focusing on charging more for regular usage. This extension of the data cap implementation, in combination with offering public hotspots for students, they are trying to fix that perception.

Of corse, this does not address a number of other concerns. First, when will existing data caps return to areas that had it previously? When in 2022 will the data caps be implemented? Does Comcast realize that decisions like this that continue to place it as one of the most hated brands in America? Some of these we'll get answers to, others we never will.

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