09.30.15 Good morning. It’s Wednesday September 30, 2015, and this is your first early morning digital briefing.
Apple has hogged the tech spotlight lately, but Google is simply not to be outdone. The company has unveiled two new Android phones, the Nexus 6P and Nexus 5X. In addition to other new features, both phones can shoot video in slow motion and in 4K Ultra HD. And according to Google, the 6P has larger pixels than its predecessor, improving its indoor photography abilities. The phones’ exact release date hasn’t been announced.
Google also announced a new Chromecast device. Like the first model, the updated Chromecast 2.0 will plug into the back of a TV set and cast content from the Chromecast app to the screen. But there are some significant updates. The new Chromecast features a revamped design, along with improved Wi-Fi and connectivity features. And along with the updated Chromecast comes a new Chromecast app for iOS and Android, which allows for much easier navigation: Tapping on a show within the app will take the user directly to the appropriate app – be it Netflix, YouTube, etc. – and start streaming the show right away. (Learn more new features here.) Chromecast 2.0 will cost $35.
And yes, even more from Google: The company announced the new Chromecast Audio, which can plug directly into any speaker set and cast streaming audio services such as Spotify and Pandora over Wi-Fi. No Bluetooth required.
AOL kicked off some major new developments at Monday’s AOL Future Front event. Speakers included The Huffington Post‘s Ariana Huffington, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong, and Brian Angiolet, Verizon‘s SVP of Consumer Products. Some celebs hopped onstage as well, including Olympic snowboarder Shaun White and rapper Snoop Dogg (or is it Snoop Lion now?). Both White and Snoop are creating content for Verizon’s Go90 streaming platform, for which AOL is handling all ad sales (more on that soon). The night ended with a highly emotive performance from the Alabama Shakes, followed by a DJ set from the Dogg (lion?) himself.
Brian Angiolet‘s address was particularly notable. Verizon‘s SVP of Consumer Products detailed some new features of the Go90 service, which has been living in a beta phase for most of September. Among the most intriguing: Go90 allows users to easily isolate specific moments from videos they’ve been watching, and then share them with friends. As a reminder, Verizon is currently partnered with the NFL for a streaming deal. And it’s easy to see football fans getting giddy over the prospect of sharing their favorite plays at will.
Some more news from AOL and Verizon: Verizon has partnered with multi-national advertising group Publicis for a yearlong deal. The deal, which places Publics as Go90‘s exclusive advertiser for fully three months, is worth close to 50 million dollars. More than 10 Publicis clients will advertise on the service. As mentioned, AOL – owned by Verizon – will handle all advertising sales for the service.
So why was Snoop Dogg hanging out with a bunch of corporate executives? Well, as it turns out, he’s creating and starring in a reality sports series centered on the Snoop Youth Football League, his football league for underprivileged children. No specific release date has been set for the series.
And in yet more AOL news, the company has signed Toyota Motor as the official launch sponsor of AOL’s content partnership with NBCUniversal. First announced in April, that partnership will allow AOL to stream video content from NBCUniversal’s properties on AOL’s streaming platform On. Toyota will work with AOL on branding, sponsorship and the development of original content.
Comcast, welcome to the streaming game. Comcast has launched a beta version of Watchable, a new digital video platform that will be compatible with iOS and Xfinity X1, and accessible on watchable.com. The service features videos and TV shows from about 30 Comcast partners, including AwesomenessTV, BuzzFeed, and Discovery Digital Networks. Watchable is ad-supported, and free.
Remember when airplane passengers had to share a single screen? Those days are long, long gone. Netflix has teamed up with Virgin America: On a select number of planes, the airline will allow Netflix subscribers to access the SVOD service without paying their hefty Wi-Fi fee. Amazon Prime made a similar deal with JetBlue earlier this year.
Such is the current state of cord-cutting: Even Showtime doesn’t need you to subscribe to Showtime. The CBS-owned premium network’s stand-alone SVOD service, which gives users VOD and live streaming access to the network’s programming, has launched on multiple Amazon and Google devices. The service is now available on Fire tablets, Fire TV, and Fire TV stick, as well as Android phones, TVs, tablets, and Google‘s Chromecast.
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Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music…Amazon? Yesterday, Amazon announced that Prime Music, its streaming music service, will add albums from Universal Music‘s catalogue. That includes the likes of Katy Perry, Maroon 5, Ariana Grande, and many more. Until now, many have criticized Prime Music for carrying too many old titles that draw little interest from listeners.
Well that’s a surefire way to engage students. On Monday, Google announced its Expeditions Pioneer Program: During the 2015/2016 school year, the company will bring virtual reality kits to classrooms in multiple countries. The kits will allow teachers to take pupils (eye pun very much intended) on virtual tours of famous locations, including the Great Wall of China, the Great Barrier Reef, and even Mars. The kits will include ASUS smartphones, a tablet for teachers to direct a virtual tour, a router that allows Expeditions to run without an Internet connection, and either Google Cardboard viewers or Mattell View-Masters, either of which can be used to turn phones into VR headsets.
Lorne Michaels‘ production company Broadway Video, best known for producing Saturday Night Live, has announced Mas Mejor, an upcoming digital production studio aimed at Latinos. SNL alums Fred Armisen and Horatio Sanz will be taking on major roles, working with emerging talent – including Vine star David Lopez and stand-up comic Gina Brillon – to develop short-form comedy content for the studio. Mas Mejor launches in January 2016.
Netflix just nabbed some new content. The service has acquired streaming rights to the CW‘s telenovela-style dramedy Jane the Virgin, as well as CBS‘s sci-fi series Zoo and USA‘s upcoming drama Colony. The deal terms haven’t been made public.
This summer, Evolve Media‘s CraveOnline Media relaunched its flagship website, CraveOnline.com. The relaunch featured a complete design overhaul, and a shift in editorial direction under new Executive Editor Andrew Pogany. The male-lifestyle site now focuses exclusively on the 25-34-year-old demographic. CraveOnline is celebrating the relaunch tonight, with an 8pm gala at the NYC club Provocateur.
NBA Digital, which is jointly managed by the NBA and Turner Sports, is going multiplatform with NBA Real Training Camp. The show, a backstage look at Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, will be simulcast on the NBA TV Facebook page, along with NBA TV and NBA.com. The broadcast will mark the first time a live sports program has been simulcast on Facebook.
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Millennials do pay attention! That was one of the main takeaways from Viacom‘s Attention Study, released today, in an interactive exhibition that will run at the company’s New York headquarters through October 8. The experience includes biometric research on how different television show genres impact attention; a multitasking test, which neuroscientists say only 2.5% of the population can do effectively, and more. The goal, of course, is to frame a new conversation to help marketers create more engaging experiences for their audiences. Taco Bell VP Media & Brand Partnerships Juliet Corsinita gave the presentation a big thumbs up. "We are always interested in deeper levels of connection," she told Cynopsis. Top of mind for TB these days? "Big events. Live sports are of interest and anything with music. Plus gaming, which is new for us. People want to be part of the athleticism of sports, and gaming allows you to become personally invested."
Hulu has hired Ben Smith to a newly created role. Previously a product manager for Sonos and Microsoft‘s Xbox team, Smith will serve as Hulu‘s SVP and Head of Experience. As Head of Experience, Smith will oversee the four teams that make up Hulu’s Experience division: product, user experience, digital video production, and customer support.
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Marriott Content Studio, which has been producing original branded content for Marriott since the studio’s launch in 2014, has released a five-episode animated web series. Hot Shoppe, produced in partnership with Believe Entertainment, explores the history of the Marriott brand. It’s available on the company’s YouTube page, and it’s a memorable bit of branded content. Watch the first episode here.
See you tomorrow,
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