more Quotes
Connect with us

Entertainment news

‘Batgirl,’ David Zaslav and the End of Streaming Evangelism in Hollywood (Column) – Variety

Five years almost to the day after it began, Hollywood’s evangelistic fervor for streaming has been extinguished this week by the “Batgirl” imbroglio. 

Warner Bros. Discovery’s decision to scrap the completed DC Comics film that was bound for HBO Max marks the boldest example of Old Media economic rigor being applied to contemporary content spending. 

David Zaslav, CEO of the newly reconfigured media conglomerate, didn’t even mask his bewilderment at the decision-making process and optimistic profit projections made by the previous WarnerMedia regime. Zaslav and other executives spoke Aug. 4 during WB Discovery’s second-quarter earnings conference call with Wall Street analysts that ran 95 minutes as executives spoke with candor about the new world order. 

Zaslav and WB Discovery chief financial officer Gunnar Wiedenfels said more than once, with palpable exasperation, that there was simply no business case to be made for spending $90 million on a DC Comics movie designed to skip theaters and go straight to HBO Max.   

“We’ve looked hard at the direct-to-streaming business,” Zaslav said. “And our conclusion is that expensive direct-to-streaming movies in terms of how people are consuming them on the platform, how often people go there or buy it or buy a service for it and how it gets nourished over time is no comparison to what happens when you launch a film in the theaters. And so this idea of expensive films going direct-to-streaming, we cannot find an economic case for it. We can’t find an economic value for it.” 

The emphasis on how “Batgirl” could – or could not – possibly recoup its costs was the equivalent of a bucket of ice water being thrown on the media and entertainment sector. Zaslav has already vowed that he’s not trying to “win the spending wars” as he made the pre- and post-merger rounds around the AT&T spinoff transaction with Discovery.

Lazy loaded image

Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav
Art Streiber for Variety

But the granular financial detail and significant strategy shifts outlined by Zaslav and Wiedenfels brought the curtain down on a period of irrational exuberance in Hollywood that began on Aug. 8, 2017 – the day former Disney CEO Robert Iger surprised many of those same Wall Street analysts by announcing plans to launch the streaming platforms that became Disney+ and ESPN+. 

“I would characterize this as an extremely important, very, very significant strategic shift for us,” Iger said at the time. 

That was the cap gun going off. From that day on, Disney outmaneuvered Comcast buy 20th Century Fox, AT&T went after what was then Time Warner and Paramount Global chair Shari Redstone redoubled her efforts to reunite Viacom and CBS under one roof in a deal completed in December 2019. 

Disney’s strategy pivot toward a direct-to-consumer business model for most of its content – following the path blazed by Netflix as a platform with global reach – also crystallized the industry focus on content spending as measured in double-digit billions. Netflix drew talent like moths to a flame with its regular reveals of eye-popping content spending numbers. The traditional TV industry was already feeling the strain of Peak TV production levels, but Disney’s big move in 2017 set most of its Hollywood peers on a mission to further grow the volume of content production. 

Five years later, there’s more content available than ever before but the path to seeing a return on movies and TV shows that are less than “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Stranger Things”-level smash hits is murkier than ever. It’s no secret that executives at Netflix, Amazon, Disney+ and others are looking at the worst-performing shows in their vast streaming libraries. There’s growing realization that there’s a financial imperative to consider some form of syndication licensing for little-watched shows in the hopes of seeing some kind of return by selling it to an outside buyer.

Paramount Global CEO Bob Bakish has been a proponent of taking a diversified approach to streaming. He has championed the company’s investment in free ad-supported TV (FAST) channels on its wholly owned Pluto TV platform, which is built on a revenue-share model with outside content providers, mixed with the premium subscription content offered by Paramount+ and the standalone Showtime streaming app.

Lazy loaded image

Paramount Global CEO Bob Bakish
Celeste Sloman/Variety

“We believe our streaming business can get to TV Media-like margins (of 20%-25%) over time,” Bakish told Variety. “We’ve only been in streaming for a short time. It’s going to take a little while and that’s why we say our model has some real advantages.” 

Heretofore, the major TV networks have never had to grapple with juggling so much movie and TV inventory – all of which comes with some level of residual fees due to creative partners. That’s another cold, hard financial reason why it made more sense for WB Discovery to ground “Batgirl” and take a big tax write-off on the movie rather than spend more money on a property that  Zaslav made clear was not up to snuff for the valuable “Batman” franchise. 

Wiendenfels acknowledged that WB Discovery’s thinking on content spending for its soon-to-merge streaming platforms – HBO Max and Discovery Plus – has changed over the 16 months since Discovery and AT&T first reached a deal on the spinoff transaction that created WB Discovery. Those changes were also surely accelerated by the volatility in equities markets and the plunge in WB Discovery stock price over the past few months. On Friday, the market cap of the company that is home to two of Hollywood’s glossiest brands — HBO and Warner Bros. — fell to $35.4 billion as the stock price sank 16% following the after-market earnings report. 

Direct to consumer streaming is “one platform in a larger portfolio of assets and in a larger lineup of distribution outlets. We are not going to be religious about driving hard to fuel just one platform,” Wiedenfels said on the call. “DTC has its space and Warner Bros. Discovery is uniquely positioned with the enormous surface area with our customers to service them and to tell great stories for decades to come.” 

Zaslav went further, saying that WB Discovery will return to pursuing international sales of content in select cases. Under the previous WarnerMedia regime led by Jason Kilar, the studio made the hard choice to forgo that third-party revenue in favor of stocking up titles that could only be found on HBO Max. 

“Anything that’s important to us to growing HBO and HBO Max … we are going to keep that exclusively,” Zaslav said. “What kind of content could be non-exclusive and have no impact on us (that’s what) we want to monetize to drive economic value. And then there’s content that we are not even using right now — massive amounts of TV and motion picture content that we are not using.” 

The steepness of the climb that Team Zaslav has ahead was underscored by a question from Morgan Stanley media analyst Ben Swinburne, who gently reminded the new owners that HBO not long ago was delivering about $2.5 billion in earnings (before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) a year as a linear cable offering. 

But therein also lies the dilemma for Big Media. There’s no going back to the linear era of fat profit margins from traditional cable. The explosion of free and lower-cost options has led to a steady shrinkage of high-paying subscribers to linear MVPD providers like Comcast, Charter and DirecTV. The customer exodus is tallied every quarter, because of pay-TV’s importance to Hollywood earnings.

WB Discovery is mulling a FAST channel iteration of HBO Max and Discovery+ to serve as a kind of barker service to lure paying subscribers. The exploding popularity of FAST channels has industry veterans clucking that consumers now have the means to recreate the traditional cable bundle but on economic terms that are far worse for content providers.

All of this volatility, coupled with the gathering macroeconomic headwinds, explain why media stocks have been pummeled so far this year. Once Netflix’s aura of invincibility came down with its Q1 surprise of subscriber losses ahead, the gospel of spend-at-all-cost to build platforms and gain market share has lost some of its hold on CEOs and CFOs.  

The health of the subscription streaming market will get an important temperature check next week when Disney reports its fiscal Q3 earnings on Aug. 10. 

Paramount’s Bakish has been gratified to see that the strategy he set off on in 2019 of assembling a mixed portfolio of FAST and pay channels is being embraced by Paramount’s larger rivals. With the road ahead more unclear than ever, Bakish said it’s the kind of business environment that creates its own opportunities, for companies that aren’t paralyzed by fear and second-guessing.

“You make your own decisions about what to do and then get on about doing it,” Bakish said. 

Continue Reading

Entertainment news

Hubble sees red supergiant star Betelgeuse slowly recovering after blowing its top: Analyzing data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and several other observatories, astronomers have concluded that the bright red supergiant star Betelgeuse quite li – Science Daily

The star Betelgeuse appears as a brilliant, ruby-red, twinkling spot of light in the upper right shoulder of the winter constellation Orion the Hunter. But when viewed close up, astronomers know it as a seething monster with a 400-day-long heartbeat of regular pulsations. This aging star is classified as a supergiant because it has swelled up to an astonishing diameter of approximately 1 billion miles. If placed at the center of our solar system it would reach out to the orbit of Jupiter. The star’s ultimate fate is to explode as a supernova. When that eventually happens it will be briefly visible in the daytime sky from Earth. But there are a lot of fireworks going on now before the final detonation.

Astronomers using Hubble and other telescopes have deduced that the star blew off a huge piece of its visible surface in 2019.

This has never before been seen on a star. Our petulant Sun routinely goes through mass ejections of its outer atmosphere, the corona. But those events are orders of magnitude weaker than what was seen on Betelgeuse. The first clue came when the star mysteriously darkened in late 2019. An immense cloud of obscuring dust formed from the ejected surface as it cooled. Astronomers have now pieced together a scenario for the upheaval. And the star is still slowly recovering; the photosphere is rebuilding itself. And the interior is reverberating like a bell that has been hit with a sledgehammer, disrupting the star’s normal cycle. This doesn’t mean the monster star is going to explode any time soon, but the late-life convulsions may continue to amaze astronomers.

Analyzing data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and several other observatories, astronomers have concluded that the bright red supergiant star Betelgeuse quite literally blew its top in 2019, losing a substantial part of its visible surface and producing a gigantic Surface Mass Ejection (SME). This is something never before seen in a normal star’s behavior.

Our Sun routinely blows off parts of its tenuous outer atmosphere, the corona, in an event known as a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME). But the Betelgeuse SME blasted off 400 billion times as much mass as a typical CME!

The monster star is still slowly recovering from this catastrophic upheaval. “Betelgeuse continues doing some very unusual things right now; the interior is sort of bouncing,” said Andrea Dupree of the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

These new observations yield clues as to how red stars lose mass late in their lives as their nuclear fusion furnaces burn out, before exploding as supernovae. The amount of mass loss significantly affects their fate. However, Betelgeuse’s surprisingly petulant behavior is not evidence the star is about to blow up anytime soon. So the mass loss event is not necessarily the signal of an imminent explosion.

Dupree is now pulling together all the puzzle pieces of the star’s petulant behavior before, after, and during the eruption into a coherent story of a never-before-seen titanic convulsion in an aging star.

This includes new spectroscopic and imaging data from the STELLA robotic observatory, the Fred L. Whipple Observatory’s Tillinghast Reflector Echelle Spectrograph (TRES), NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory spacecraft (STEREO-A), NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, and the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO). Dupree emphasizes that the Hubble data was pivotal to helping sort out the mystery.

“We’ve never before seen a huge mass ejection of the surface of a star. We are left with something going on that we don’t completely understand. It’s a totally new phenomenon that we can observe directly and resolve surface details with Hubble. We’re watching stellar evolution in real time.”

The titanic outburst in 2019 was possibly caused by a convective plume, more than a million miles across, bubbling up from deep inside the star. It produced shocks and pulsations that blasted off the chunk of the photosphere leaving the star with a large cool surface area under the dust cloud that was produced by the cooling piece of photosphere. Betelgeuse is now struggling to recover from this injury.

Weighing roughly several times as much as our Moon, the fractured piece of photosphere sped off into space and cooled to form a dust cloud that blocked light from the star as seen by Earth observers. The dimming, which began in late 2019 and lasted for a few months, was easily noticeable even by backyard observers watching the star change brightness. One of the brightest stars in the sky, Betelgeuse is easily found in the right shoulder of the constellation Orion.

Even more fantastic, the supergiant’s 400-day pulsation rate is now gone, perhaps at least temporarily. For almost 200 years astronomers have measured this rhythm as evident in changes in Betelgeuse’s brightness variations and surface motions. Its disruption attests to the ferocity of the blowout.

The star’s interior convection cells, which drive the regular pulsation may be sloshing around like an imbalanced washing machine tub, Dupree suggests. TRES and Hubble spectra imply that the outer layers may be back to normal, but the surface is still bouncing like a plate of gelatin dessert as the photosphere rebuilds itself.

Though our Sun has coronal mass ejections that blow off small pieces of the outer atmosphere, astronomers have never witnessed such a large amount of a star’s visible surface get blasted into space. Therefore, surface mass ejections and coronal mass ejections may be different events.

Betelgeuse is now so huge now that if it replaced the Sun at the center of our solar system, its outer surface would extend past the orbit of Jupiter. Dupree used Hubble to resolve hot spots on the star’s surface in 1996. This was the first direct image of a star other than the Sun.

NASA’s Webb Space Telescope may be able to detect the ejected material in infrared light as it continues moving away from the star.

Continue Reading

Entertainment news

Meta injecting code into websites visited by its users to track them, research says – The Guardian

Meta injecting code into websites visited by its users to track them, research says

The owner of Facebook and Instagram is using code to follow those who click links in its apps, according to an ex-Google engineer

Meta logo

Meta, the owner of Facebook and Instagram, has been rewriting websites its users visit, letting the company follow them across the web after they click links in its apps, according to new research from an ex-Google engineer.

The two apps have been taking advantage of the fact that users who click on links are taken to webpages in an “in-app browser”, controlled by Facebook or Instagram, rather than sent to the user’s web browser of choice, such as Safari or Firefox.

“The Instagram app injects their tracking code into every website shown, including when clicking on ads, enabling them [to] monitor all user interactions, like every button and link tapped, text selections, screenshots, as well as any form inputs, like passwords, addresses and credit card numbers,” says Felix Krause, a privacy researcher who founded an app development tool acquired by Google in 2017.

In a statement, Meta said that injecting a tracking code obeyed users’ preferences on whether or not they allowed apps to follow them, and that it was only used to aggregate data before being applied for targeted advertising or measurement purposes for those users who opted out of such tracking.

“We intentionally developed this code to honour people’s [Ask to track] choices on our platforms,” a spokesperson said. “The code allows us to aggregate user data before using it for targeted advertising or measurement purposes. We do not add any pixels. Code is injected so that we can aggregate conversion events from pixels.”

They added: “For purchases made through the in-app browser, we seek user consent to save payment information for the purposes of autofill.”

Krause discovered the code injection by building a tool that could list all the extra commands added to a website by the browser. For normal browsers, and most apps, the tool detects no changes, but for Facebook and Instagram it finds up to 18 lines of code added by the app. Those lines of code appear to scan for a particular cross-platform tracking kit and, if not installed, instead call the Meta Pixel, a tracking tool that allows the company to follow a user around the web and build an accurate profile of their interests.

<gu-island name="EmbedBlockComponent" deferuntil="visible" props="{"html":"”,”caption”:”Sign up to First Edition, our free daily newsletter – every weekday morning at 7am BST”,”isTracking”:false,”isMainMedia”:false,”source”:”The Guardian”,”sourceDomain”:””}”>

Sign up to First Edition, our free daily newsletter – every weekday morning at 7am BST

The company does not disclose to the user that it is rewriting webpages in this way. No such code is added to the in-app browser of WhatsApp, according to Krause’s research.

“Javascript injection” – the practice of adding extra code to a webpage before it is displayed to a user – is frequently classified as a type of malicious attack. Cybersecurity company Feroot, for instance, describes it as an attack that “allows the threat actor to manipulate the website or web application and collect sensitive data, such as personally identifiable information (PII) or payment information.”

There is no suggestion that Meta has used its Javascript injection to collect such sensitive data. In the company’s description of the Meta Pixel, which is usually voluntarily added to websites to help companies advertise to users on Instagram and Facebook, it says the tool “allows you to track visitor activity on your website” and that it can collect associated data.

It is unclear when Facebook began injecting code to track users after clicking links. In recent years, the company has had a noisy public standoff with Apple, after the latter introduced a requirement for app developers to ask permission to track users across apps. After the prompt was launched, many Facebook advertisers found themselves unable to target users on the social network, ultimately leading to $10bn of lost revenue and a 26% fall in the company’s share price earlier this year, according to Meta.

Continue Reading

Entertainment news

Google is letting some people launch cloud games directly from search results – The Verge

Friction is the mind-killer when it comes to cloud gaming. You can’t just click a game trailer to instantly be playing a game quite yet. But this week, Google appears to be rolling out a feature that could reduce that friction: if you simply search for the name of a game in Google search, you might be presented with a “Play” button that can instantly launch the title.

The Nerf Report’s Bryant Chappel appears to be the one who noticed the change, and he quickly discovered it’s not limited to Google’s own Stadia cloud gaming service, either. He says it works with Amazon Luna, Xbox Cloud Gaming, and Nvidia’s GeForce Now, too.

There’s still friction — you need to be logged into an account that’s associated with these cloud gaming services or else you’ll just get a signup page, and there may still be intermediate prompts. Also, it doesn’t appear to work with all games.

But with Stadia and Xbox Cloud Gaming, at least, a single click from a Google search result will take you just as far as you get by navigating to the website of your favorite cloud gaming service, picking your title, and pressing the play button you’d find there.

It’s not clear when or if Google will fully roll out this feature. We initially saw it live this afternoon, but suddenly it was gone and doesn’t appear in our search results anymore. Then it came back for me, but only for my Google Workspace account, which isn’t associated with any cloud gaming services and can’t play Google Stadia at all. Chappel confirms to The Verge that he’s still seeing it working from his home in Austin, Texas. 9to5Google saw it as well.

My guess is that Google is running an A / B test with this feature to see how people react. Or maybe it jumped the gun, not unlike GeForce Now in 2020, by rolling it out without the permission of game studios.

Google didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Continue Reading


Copyright © 2021 ZimFocus.

One Zimbabwe Classifieds | ZimMarket

Zimbabwe Market Classifieds | ZimMarket

1 Zimbabwe Market Classifieds | ZimMarket

Linking Buyers To Sellers Is Our Business Tradition