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Businesses

BitTorrent is Shutting Down Its Live TV Streaming Service (variety.com) 17

Janko Roettgers, reporting for Variety: San Francisco-based BitTorrent Inc. is set to shut down its P2P-powered live TV streaming service BitTorrent Live in the coming weeks, Variety has learned. Most of the 10-person team behind the live streaming service is expected to leave the company by the end of this week. The closure of Live comes after BitTorrent unsuccessfully tried to raise money to spin out the service into a separate company. It's also just the latest twist in a long corporate drama. Last year, two outside investors took control of BitTorrent, spent millions of dollars on an expensive expansion into the media space and promptly got themselves fired. BitTorrent has since rehired its former COO Rogelio Choy as its new CEO, and is now looking to focus on its core products. As part of that realignment, the company was looking to turn Live into a separate, venture-funded entity, but raising money for it proved challenging.
XBox (Games)

Xbox Chief: We Need To Create a Netflix of Video Games (theguardian.com) 142

Phil Spencer, the man who heads up Microsoft's Xbox division, says that if the video game sector is to grow both creatively and economically it needs to start thinking along the lines of a video-games-as-a-service subscription model. From a report: Over the last five years we've seen the emergence of a new concept: the video game as a service. What this means is the developer's support for a new title doesn't stop when it's launched. They run multiplayer servers so that people can compete online; and they release extra downloadable content (DLC) in the form of new items, maps and storylines -- sometimes free, but very often paid for. [...] So being able to build and sustain a community around a single title takes the risk out of development. However, the costs of renting and running server networks and maintaining the matchmaking and lobby infrastructures make the model inaccessible for smaller teams. Should it be? "This is directly in line with what I think the next wave of innovation needs to be for us as a development platform," says Spencer. His solution, it seems, is to make Microsoft's Azure cloud computing platform more open to smaller studios, so they get access to a large global network of servers. "They don't have to go buy a bunch of servers on their own and stick them under their desks and hope they get enough players to pay for them," he says. [...] Spencer feels that, from a creative standpoint, we need new types of narrative experience -- but from a business standpoint, it's getting harder and riskier to commit to those games. Is there an answer? Spencer thinks there is -- and it comes from watching the success of original content made and distributed on modern TV services. "I've looked at things like Netflix and HBO, where great content has been created because there's this subscription model. Shannon Loftis and I are thinking a lot about, well, could we put story-based games into the Xbox Game Pass business model because you have a subscription going? It would mean you wouldn't have to deliver the whole game in one month; you could develop and deliver the game as it goes."
Businesses

What Happens To Summer TV Binges If Hollywood Writers Strike (bloomberg.com) 198

An anonymous reader shares a report: There also should be plenty of new video fare if Hollywood's writers and studios can't agree on a new contract by Monday. The beautiful thing about a contract is everyone knows when it ends. In this case, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents some 350 production companies, and the Writers Guild of America, which comprises 12,000 professionals in two chapters, have had three years to prepare for a standoff. In these situations, show makers typically rush to complete a pile of scripts before the deadline. Jerry Nickelsburg, an economist at the University of California at Los Angeles, calls this stockpiling "the inventory effect." This is precisely what happened the last time writers walked off the job, from November 2007 to February 2008. If the writers do, in fact, go through with the strike they approved on Monday, jokes and soaps will be the first things to take a hit. Late-night talk shows and soap operas are to entertainment writers what delis are to hungry New Yorkers -- a daily frenzy of high-volume production. If the sandwich makers don't show up, everybody gets hungry quickly.
China

Netflix Is Now In China Via a Deal With iQiyi (techcrunch.com) 18

randomErr writes: Last year, Netflix tried to go into China but ran into regulatory issues. So Netflix has entered into a licensing deal with iQiyi. iQiyi was founded in 2010 by Baidu in a very similar way that Google owns YouTube. What Netflix content will be shown and how the subscription service will work has yet to be announced.
Businesses

Amazon Launches Marketplace For Digital Subscriptions (talkingnewmedia.com) 7

Amazon said on Monday it is launching a platform for companies with subscription services -- from newspapers, magazines to TV streaming. The "Subscribe with Amazon" marketplace allows consumers to buy subscriptions to products like SlingTV streaming, Headspace meditation, Dropbox Plus, as well as workout videos, online classes, meal plans and even matchmakers. The marketplace also features more traditional subscriptions, similar to those that have become popular on Amazon's Kindle tablets, including the Chicago Tribune, LA Times, Wall Street Journal and New Yorker.
GNU is Not Unix

Richard Stallman Interviewed By Bryan Lunduke (youtube.com) 171

Many Slashdot readers know Bryan Lunduke as the creator of the humorous "Linux Sucks" presentations at the annual Southern California Linux Exposition. He's now also a member of the OpenSUSE project board and an all-around open source guy. (In September, he released every one of his books, videos and comics under a Creative Commons license, while his Patreon page offers a tip jar and premiums for monthly patrons). But now he's also got a new "daily computing/nerd show" on YouTube, and last week -- using nothing but free software -- he interviewed the 64-year-old founder of the Free Software Foundation, Richard Stallman. "We talk about everything from the W3C's stance on DRM to opinions on the movie Galaxy Quest," Lunduke explains in the show's notes.

Click through to read some of the highlights.
The Internet

America's Most-Hated ISP Is Now Hated By Fewer People (oregonlive.com) 97

"Comcast's customer service may actually be improving," writes an Oregon newspaper. An anonymous reader quotes their report: In the second year of Comcast's broad customer service overhaul, complaints to Oregon cable regulators are down 25%. They've also declined 40% since 2014. Complaints are falling nationally, too, according to the highly regarded American Customer Satisfaction Index. Its most recent report showed a surge in Comcast subscriber satisfaction... Two years ago, Comcast made Oregon the test bed for its customer service push, responding both to disparaging headlines and the prospect of growing competition from other telecom companies and from streaming video services.

The company is adding Apple-style retail stores around the metro area and introduced innovations to help consumers understand what they're paying for and when technicians will arrive for service calls. It's rolling out new tools nationally to help them improve their home Wi-Fi, and diagnosing problems before customers call to complain... For example, if several subscribers in the same neighborhood use the company's tool for testing internet speeds, that triggers an alert at Comcast to look for a problem in the local network. The company redesigned its bills to make it clearer what customers subscribe to, and what it costs, in hopes of reducing confusion and calls. And Comcast has a robust social media presence, fielding complaints on Twitter.

The article points out that Comcast's satisfaction scores are still below-average for cable TV providers, "and well below the median among internet service providers. And that's a low bar -- the telecom sector is among the most complained about under ACSI's rankings." Their figures show that the only ISPs in America with a lower score for customer satisfaction are Cox Communications, Time Warner Cable, and MediaCom.
Government

WikiLeaks Releases New CIA Secret: Tapping Microphones On Some Samsung TVs (fossbytes.com) 100

FossBytes reports: The whistleblower website Wikileaks has published another set of hacking tools belonging to the American intelligence agency CIA. The latest revelation includes a user guide for CIA's "Weeping Angel" tool... derived from another tool called "Extending" which belongs to UK's intelligence agency MI5/BTSS, according to Wikileaks. Extending takes control of Samsung F Series Smart TV. The highly detailed user guide describes it as an implant "designed to record audio from the built-in microphone and egress or store the data."

According to the user guide, the malware can be deployed on a TV via a USB stick after configuring it on a Linux system. It is possible to transfer the recorded audio files through the USB stick or by setting up a WiFi hotspot near the TV. Also, a Live Liston Tool, running on a Windows OS, can be used to listen to audio exfiltration in real-time. Wikileaks mentioned that the two agencies, CIA and MI5/BTSS made collaborative efforts to create Weeping Angel during their Joint Development Workshops.

Movies

Court Rules Fan Subtitles On TV and Movies Are Illegal (thenextweb.com) 137

A court has just ruled that making fan subtitles or translations is not protected by the law. From a report: A Dutch group called the Free Subtitles Foundation took anti-piracy group BREIN to court over "fansubbing." BREIN has previously been active in taking fan subtitles and translations offline, and the Foundation was hoping a Dutch court would come down on the side of fair use. The court didn't quite see it that way. It ruled that making subtitles without permission from the property owners amounted to copyright infringement. BREIN wasn't unsympathetic, but said it couldn't allow fansubbers to continue doing what they're doing.
Television

FCC Takes First Step Toward Allowing More Broadcast TV Mergers (theverge.com) 71

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: In a divided vote today, the Federal Communications Commission took steps that could lead to more consolidation among TV broadcasters, reducing the number of sources of local news. Today's changes revolve around the media ownership cap -- a limit on how many households a TV or radio broadcaster is allowed to reach. The rules are meant to promote diversity of media ownership, giving consumers access to different content and viewpoints. The cap currently prevents a company from reaching no more than 39 percent of U.S. households with broadcast TV. Large broadcasters hate the cap because it prevents them from getting even bigger. And since Trump took office and Ajit Pai was named chairman of the FCC, they've been lobbying to have it revised. The FCC's vote today starts to do that. First, it reinstates a rule known as the "UHF discount," which lets broadcasters have a bigger reach in areas where they use a certain type of technology. And second, it starts plans to revisit and raise the media ownership cap.
NES (Games)

Geek Builds His Own NES Classic With A Raspberry Pi (arstechnica.com) 132

"It turns out that the NES Classic Edition is just a little Linux-powered board inside a cute case," writes Andrew Cunningham at Ars Technica, "and it's totally possible to build your own tiny Linux-powered computer inside a cute case without spending much more than $60." An anonymous reader writes: Andrew used a $42 Raspberry Pi 3 Model B -- "it's relatively cheap and relatively powerful, and it can easily handle anything from the original PlayStation on down" -- plus an $8 case, and a microSD card. He also purchased a pair of gamepads -- there's several options -- and reports that "Putting our little box together is ridiculously easy, and you ought to have no problem with it even if you've never opened up a PC tower in your life."

"Making retro game consoles is a fairly common use case for the Pi, so there are a few different operating system choices out there," Andrew reports, and he ultimately chose the Linux-based RetroPie OS, which includes a number of emulators. Basically the process boils down to dropping a RetroPie boot image onto the SD card, putting it into the Pi, and then plugging it into your display and connecting your controllers -- plus configuring some menus. "The default quality of the emulation looks just as good as it does on the NES Classic Edition," and "the emulators for these older systems are all advanced enough that things should mostly run just like they did on the original hardware... I've been having a ton of fun with mine now that it's all set up, and its flexibility (plus the quality of those USB gamepads) has made it my favorite way to play old games, outpacing my Apple TV, the pretty but not-living-room-friendly OpenEmu, and the old hacked Wii I still have sitting around."

The hardest part may just be finding a PC with an SD card slot -- and of course, the resulting system gives you lots of flexibility. "By using the Raspberry Pi and freely available software, you can build something capable of doing a whole heck of a lot more than playing the same 30 NES games over and over again."
Movies

17 Years Later, A New Season Of MST3K Premiers On Netflix 84

Launched in 1988, Mystery Science Theater 3000 ran for ten seasons on Comedy Central and The Sci-Fi Channel, with its last episode airing in August of 1999. But now Slashdot reader #5844 ewhac writes: 17 years later, Season 11 of MST3K debuted Friday on Netflix. A full season has been produced, including a stretch-goal Christmas special, funded by the highest-earning Kickstarter Film & Video campaign to date ($5.76 million) -- thousands of contributors are listed in the show's end credits, spread across all fourteen episodes.

The show remains true to its low-budget roots, relying almost exclusively on models and practical effects, including a very inventive new door sequence. The backstory for the new season is very swiftly established in the opening to Experiment 1101, as Jonah Heston (played by co-producer Jonah Ray) is abducted by the evil mad scientist Kinga Forrester (Felicia Day) and her sidekick Max a/k/a TV's son of TV's Frank (Patton Oswalt). Together with Gypsy (Rebecca Hanson), Tom Servo (Baron Vaughn), and Crow (Hampton Yount), Jonah quips his way through a barrage of bad movies, including Reptilicus, Starcrash, The Loves of Hercules, and The Christmas That Almost Wasn't.

In 2008 MST3K's original creator Joel Hodgson answered questions from Slashdot's readers, and said he was fascinated by the popularity of Creative Commons licenses. "For most of the public domain titles that we've used, it's a matter of the garbage not being taken out. Basically, they forgot to apply for a copyright so it in fact lapsed into the public domain."
Advertising

Burger King Won't Take a Hint; Alters TV Ad To Evade Google's Block (washingtonpost.com) 606

ewhac writes: Earlier this week, Burger King released a broadcast television ad that opened with an actor saying, "Ok, Google, what is the Whopper?" thereby triggering any Google Home device in hearing range to respond to the injected request with the first line from the Whopper's Wikipedia page. Google very properly responded to the injection attack by fingerprinting the sound sample and blocking it from triggering responses. However, it seems Burger King and/or its ad agency are either unwilling or congenitally incapable of getting the hint, and has released an altered version of the ad to evade Google's block. According to spokesperson Dara Schopp, BK regards the ad as a success, as it has increased the brand's "social conversation" on Twitter by some 300%. It seems that Burger King thinks that malware-laden advertising infesting webpages is a perfectly wonderful idea (in principle, at least), and has taken it to the next level by reaching through your TV speakers and directly messing with your digital devices. You may wish to consider alternate vendors for your burger needs.
Japan

The Great Japan Potato-Chip Crisis: Panic Buying, $12 Bags (bloomberg.com) 110

Demand for potato chips has surged in Japan this week, with products on offer for 6 times their retail price online after Japanese snack company Calbee halted the sale of some of its most popular chip brands. From a report: Calbee's pizza-flavored chips were going for about 1,250 yen ($12) on Yahoo Japan Corp.'s auction website Friday. One bag usually sells for less than 200 yen. Photos of near-empty shelves at their local supermarkets were trending on Twitter. The crunch came after Calbee warned on Monday that it will temporarily halt the sale of 15 types of potato chips due to a bad crop in Hokkaido, a key potato-producing region. The northern island was hit by a record number of typhoons last year. Calbee, which has a market value of 507.9 billion yen and is 20 percent-owned by PepsiCo Inc., has a 73 percent market share of potato chips. Potato chips are a big deal in Japan, a country also known for its senbei rice crackers and Pocky sticks. Calbee's potato-snack products were the most and second-most popular snacks in a TV Asahi poll of 10,000 people and 13 confectionery makers last year, and the subject of a primetime show that lasted more than two hours.
Operating Systems

Roku-Enabled TVs Will Soon 'Listen' To Programs You're Watching To Suggest Streaming Content (variety.com) 52

Roku-enabled TVs will be receiving a new OS update that will listen to what show or movie you're watching via your cable or satellite set-top or over-the-air antenna, in order to suggest internet-streaming content. "Compatible TVs will use automatic content recognition (ACR) technology to identify the content and then suggest additional viewing options available on via streaming services like Netflix, Hulu or Vudu," reports Variety. From the report: It may seem vaguely Big Brother-ish, but Roku is being careful about ensuring consumer privacy: Users will be required to enable the feature via an opt-in prompt. In addition, the "More Ways to Watch" feature can be turned off at any time (although Roku says viewing information collected prior to the feature being turned off will not be deleted). For now, the "More Ways to Watch" feature is available only in the U.S., and only for Roku-enabled television sets available from Best Buy's Insignia, Sharp, Hisense and TCL. It will be coming first to conventional HDTV models first, followed by support for 4K Roku TV models later this summer.
Communications

T-Mobile Spends $8 Billion as Big Winner of FCC Auction (cnet.com) 48

T-Mobile, Dish Network and cable giant Comcast emerged as the big winners in the government's wireless spectrum auction. From a report: The Federal Communications Commission announced the winners of its $19.8 billion spectrum auction Thursday. T-Mobile spent $8 billion in the auction and won the biggest number of licenses, according to the FCC. Dish Network was in second, committing $6.2 billion, and Comcast spent a total of $1.7 billion. Verizon, which had committed ahead of time to participating in the auction, did not bid, the FCC said. The broadcast incentive spectrum auction has been one of the agency's most complex and ambitious auctions to date. The auction, which began last year, was conducted over two major stages. A so-called backwards auction took place last year in which TV broadcasters agreed to give up wireless spectrum that the government later sold in a so-called forward auction to wireless providers.
Advertising

Broadcasters Put New Ad-Skipping Restrictions On YouTube TV (dslreports.com) 227

YouTube launched its new "YouTube TV" service last week for select markets. One of the biggest features for the service is its DVR functionality, which would in theory allow users to record shows and fast forward through all the commercials. Unfortunately, that is not the case, notes the Wall Street Journal. Karl Bode writes via DSLReports: If a show is available on-demand, viewers won't be able to skip ads, even if they recorded the episode on DVR. Google has confirmed with the Journal that the restriction is courtesy of the licensing agreements the broadcast industry forced Google to adhere to in order to offer the service. As a result, if YouTube TV has the on-demand version of a specific program you may be interested in, then the service won't let viewers watch a recorded version that allows for ad-skipping. Instead, viewers are forced to watch the on-demand episode and all of the ads, even if consumers thought they saved the show on their DVR for ad-skippable viewing.
DRM

The Kodi Development Team Wants To Be Legitimate and Bring DRM To the Platform. (torrentfreak.com) 156

New submitter pecosdave writes: The XBMC/ Kodi development team has taken a lot of heat over the years, mostly due to third-party developers introducing piracy plugins to the platform. In many cases, cheap Android computers are often sold with these plugins pre-installed with the Kodi or XBMC name attached to them -- something that caused Amazon to ban sales of such devices. The Kodi team is not happy about this, and has taken the fight to the sellers. The Kodi team is now trying to work with rights holders to introduce DRM and legitimate plugins to the platform. Is this the first step towards creating a true one-stop do it yourself Linux entertainment system?
Businesses

TV's Golden Age Is Anything But, Say Writers Preparing To Strike (bloomberg.com) 200

The world's largest media companies returned to the negotiating table Monday with Hollywood screenwriters, seeking to avert a strike that could cost the entertainment industry billions of dollars and take popular TV shows off the air indefinitely. From a report on Bloomberg: Hollywood is bracing for the worst-case scenario after the Writers Guild of America warned advertisers and investors of the financial fallout and said members will most likely walk out May 2 if the new round of talks fail. Major TV programmers, such as NBC and CBS' flagship network, are scanning their slates of upcoming shows to determine which ones can air without guild writers. Negotiators on both sides are counting on cooler heads to prevail as they seek to avoid a repeat of the 100-day work stoppage in 2007-08 that cost the entertainment industry more than $2 billion, according to Milken Institute estimates. Yet the entertainment business, specifically TV, has undergone myriad changes that are creating new sticking points since the last strike almost a decade ago, and the writers say they haven't benefited.

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