Share69Tweet53Share29Email151 Shares“Newman’s Own Salsa, Hot, 9/2014” by Mike MozartDecember 7, 2017; PoliticoNewman’s Own Foundation is facing a very stiff tax penalty that could cause it to sell off its ownership in the food conglomerate that shares its name or even disband altogether if a provision in the tax reform bill currently being deliberated is not included. According to reports, the IRS has issued a deadline of November 2018 before a severe penalty of 200 percent will be enforced.There are two issues at play here. One is that foundations face stringent limits to the amount of ownership they can have in for-profit businesses. IRS regulation states a private foundation can generally only own up to 20 percent of the voting stock of a for-profit corporation. It keeps business owners from creating a foundation and then transferring ownership of their business to that foundation as a tax dodge. When Paul Newman died in 2008, he left ownership of the food empire named for him to the Foundation, which since then has been giving away the profits derived from the sales of salad dressing, pet food, chocolate, popcorn, and other items.Leaders of the Newman’s Own Foundation have been working with legislators in Washington in order to be given an exemption to this rule. They thought they had hit a home run when both the House and the Senate versions of the tax reform bill included the exemption, since if the exemption were not included, it is likely Newman’s Own would have to break itself up by divesting of its holdings.The other issue at play, however, is that Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough has determined the provision providing the exemption is in violation of the Byrd Rule. The rule, named after former US Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV), sets limits and guidelines for the kinds of provisions that can be included in a reconciliation bill, which is the once-a-year legislative procedure the Republican-controlled Congress is using to push through their tax reform bill. The parliamentarian, who is responsible for making sure all legislation abides by rules and regulations, has removed the Newman’s Own exemption from the tax reform bill being given final consideration. Although the report does not indicate why the provision is in violation, it’s probably because it can be considered “extraneous” to the bill’s intent.Ms. MacDonough has removed closed to a dozen provisions in the tax reform bill for similar violations of a variety of Senate rules and regulations. One is a provision advocated by Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) that would have forced tax increases in the future if the tax bill does not help the economy to the level that is currently being projected. This is a failsafe provision the Republican leadership had been counting on to help build trust in and support for the legislation.So, who knew? Who knew there was a “parliamentarian” who has the power to remove portions of legislation that might go against the rules? Obviously, the senators in Washington do, because they are currently scrambling to figure out how to rewrite the dozen or so provisions Ms. MacDonough has nixed. Apparently, there is very little precedent for overruling a parliamentarian’s decision. Conversely, who knew there was an IRS regulation limiting how much a foundation can own of a private, for-profit corporation? Obviously, the people who wrote Paul Newman’s will missed it.—Rob MeiksinsShare69Tweet53Share29Email151 Shares
Month: August 2019
Share12Tweet11ShareEmail23 SharesJuly 9, 2018; The Conversation and The HillOn July 3rd, the Trump administration announced that it will reverse several policy memos outlining how colleges and universities can use race as a factor in admissions. The memos were issued as guidance for post-secondary schools during the Obama administration on how to achieve diversity in their student bodies. The reversal of these memos can have a lasting impact on the admissions process and the future of minorities and underserved populations in post-secondary education. US Attorney General Jeff Sessions deemed the guidelines as “unnecessary, outdated, inconsistent with existing law, or otherwise improper.” He is using the rescinding as a way to “undo the government’s overreach” and the previous administration’s efforts to “impose new rules on the American people without any public notice or comment period, simply by sending a letter or posting a guidance document on a website.”This reversal comes at the tail of Justice Anthony Kennedy’s announcement that he was retiring from the US Supreme Court this summer. His departure means that the court will lose a key swing vote on affirmative action issues. In 2016, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling on affirmative action. The majority opinion was written by Justice Anthony Kennedy and stated, “A university is in large part defined by those ‘intangible qualities which are incapable of objective measurement but which make for greatness.’” Kennedy continued, “Considerable deference is owed to a university in defining those intangible characteristics, like student body diversity, that are central to its identity and educational mission. But still, it remains an enduring challenge to our Nation’s education system to reconcile the pursuit of diversity with the constitutional promise of equal treatment and dignity.” Justice Kennedy’s retirement leaves room for a more conservative replacement with conservative views on affirmative action.Over the past few years, the Trump administration has made known their views on affirmative action or the place of race in college admissions. Last year, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that they were going to investigate discrimination in college admissions. There was even an internal job posting for those with an interest in “investigations and possible litigation related to intentional race-based discrimination in college and university admissions.” While the Justice Department issued a statement stating that the posting was in response to a complaint in 2015 of allegations of discrimination against Asian Americans, there was still concern from advocacy and civil rights groups that it was a target on affirmative action.Many organizations, such as The American Council of Education and civil rights groups, have vowed to ignore the decision and say that “rescinding the guidances will be detrimental to students of color in the U.S.” The NAACP issued a statement in response to the reversal, “By encouraging schools to not consider race during the admissions process or potentially in any other circumstance, President Trump is undermining the benefits of diversity in schools, accelerating the socioeconomic divide, and rolling back access to quality education for all students, which is a top priority for this administration.” The statement goes on to say, “It is proven that racial diversity benefits all in academic achievement. Our world is made up of people of many colors; therefore, students should learn and grow in an environment that depicts this reality.” Although they have issued a statement, no plans of action have been made public.Ivy League schools such as Harvard and Yale have also issued statements expressing their disdain for the decision. Harvard spokesperson Rachel Dane stated that “Harvard will continue to vigorously defend its right, and that of all colleges and universities, to consider race as one factor among many in college admissions.” Yale is at risk for losing federal funding for their decision to “defy” the reversal. Yale seeks to create an academic community where “students interact with people from various backgrounds and points of views,” and “[their] admissions policies and practices reflect and support this goal” according to Thomas Conroy, Director, Office of Public Affairs and Communications.As the fight continues on both sides of the affirmative action debate, there are three key insights from the reversal to keep in mind: (1) rules and guidance will become less clear, giving post-secondary schools opportunities to develop their own policies and procedures; (2) this decision returns us to the George W. Bush approach of “race neutral” college admissions. Race neutral methods have been ineffective in increasing diversity in student bodies; and (3) with the retirement of Justice Kennedy, the future court can reject the notion that diversity can lead to educational benefits.After the 2017 DOJ announcement of investigation in discrimination, Anurima Bhargava, who was head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division’s Educational Opportunities Section during the Obama administration, said “any move to investigate affirmative action policies would be a fear and intimidation tactic” and that she had “a very strong sense that [it] is nothing other than politics.” Could the reversal of these memos be the same case? Either way, the never-ending battle moves along and advocacy and civil rights groups will retool and remain on alert.—Diandria BarberShare12Tweet11ShareEmail23 Shares
Share176Tweet3ShareEmail179 Shares February 23, 2019; New York TimesAs regular NPQ readers will recall, NPQ has been tracking the status of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, a program that seeks to ensure that high college tuition and the resulting student loan debt burden does not inadvertently depress the number of young adults choosing to enter lower paying government and nonprofit jobs. Launched in 2007, the program enables people working in those sectors for a decade and making regular minimal loan payments to have their remaining debt written off after 10 years.One political advantage of setting a 10-year period was that in 2007, the initial 10-year scoring (cost estimate) was zero. Of course, we’re now at year 12, and the bills are coming due, leading to a host of problems. For example, there’s the need to determine what counts as a qualifying nonprofit: If you’re a 501c3, you’re safe; if you’re another kind of nonprofit, it depends. Which brings us to the case in question here.Nearly two years ago, four public-interest lawyers—Michelle Quintero-Millan, Geoffrey Burkhart, Kate Voigt, and Jamie Rudert—filed suit on their own behalf to defend their access to the PSLF program. As Michael Wyland wrote in NPQ in April 2017, the crux of the suit is that the former law students have claimed “that FedLoan Servicing, which administers the program for the Education Department, issued approval letters that were then rescinded with little or no opportunity to appeal the decision.”As NPQ has noted, broader challenges are also affecting the PSLF program. A 2018 US Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that of the over 19,000 who completed the 10-year requirement, only 55 had their debt forgiven. Meanwhile, there are a total 890,000 people who have had their requests for inclusion in the PSLF program approved—meaning that the pipeline is likely to grow over time.Last Friday, Judge Timothy J. Kelly of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia ruled on behalf of three of the four student loan borrowers: Quintero-Millan, Burkhart, and Voigt. However, Rudert was not so lucky. The first three plaintiffs worked for 501c6 legal organizations, while Rudert worked for a 501c19 veterans association.Under the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, implemented in 2007, “Borrowers seeking to get their loans forgiven…must have the right type of federal loan, make 120 on-time payments, enroll in the correct category of repayment plans and work for an eligible public-service employer.”This, however, creates high stakes. Ron Lieber of the New York Times notes that, “people who qualify for entry into the 120-month loan forgiveness pipeline are in income-based repayment plans that don’t even cover all the interest that accrues each month. As a result, their balances grow over time rather than shrinking.”For example, say you had been told your job qualified for student loan forgiveness. As a result, you plan minimum payments, since you expect all of your debt to get waived. But then, it isn’t. The effect can be devastating. For instance, as Kelly pointed out in his ruling, “Quintero-Millan’s total federal student debt has increased from approximately $340,000 when she entered repayment to $430,446.48 as of May 2017.”For its part, the US Education Department argued in court “that the denial letters did not have ‘an immediate or significant practical effect’ on the individual plaintiffs because their ‘eligibility for PSLF’ had not yet been finally determined,’” Kelly noted that this was “nonsense,” since the borrowers’ loan balances were spiraling upward and “they might have needed to change jobs if their current employment was not eligible for loan forgiveness.”Fortunately for Quintero-Millan, Burkhart, and Voigt, the Court ruled, as Lieber explains, that the US Education Department retroactively “had changed two of its policies without properly informing borrowers or considering the impact on the borrowers who were relying on its original guidance. One policy determines whether public service is an organization’s ‘primary purpose,’ and the other relates to whether educational services are provided in a ‘school-like setting’.” This, the Court said, you cannot do.As a result of the ruling, the three borrowers who won the case and all others like them now have grounds to petition the US Education Department to have their eligibility reinstated. (The department’s press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Times.) The issue with Rudert, the fourth plaintiff, involved a different standard: whether his work for paralyzed veterans was at an organization that provides services “outright,” and whether that ought to matter. Kelly ruled that the “outright standard” was an appropriate reading of the program’s rules and that its use in this instance had not represented any actual policy change. Chong Park, a lawyer at Ropes & Gray who represented all the plaintiffs, said he and Rudert would consider their next steps in the coming days.—Steve DubbShare176Tweet3ShareEmail179 Shares
The Associated Press has launched a high-definition AP Entertainment news service, the first phase of AP’s HD rollout, which will see all news content available in HD by the second quarter of 2012.The launch of AP Entertainment in HD will be followed by sports news via its joint venture with Sports News Television (SNTV) on 16 January 2012.AP is introducing more than 200 HD cameras, upgraded mobile satellites and enhanced backhaul capabilities to handle HD signals. Video news bureaus have been upgraded to the latest generation of video editing, compression and transmission technologies and HD Master Control Rooms are being constructed in more than 20 locations including London, New York and Washington.
Sundance Channel is expanding its distribution in Poland after its parent company struck a carriage deal with the ‘n’ platform. The deal comes on the eve of the Digital TV Central and Eastern European conference, organised by Informa Telecoms and Media, in Budapest. The carriage deal is the latest struck by AMC/Sundance Channel Global following deals in the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain, Portugal, Romania, Hungary and Taiwan. The channel is already available via the UPC Polska cable platform in the country.“Poland continues to be a priority market for the expansion of Sundance Channel across central and eastern Europe and we are thrilled that this launch will greatly increase our footprint in the country,” said Bruce Tuchman, president, AMC/Sundance Channel Global.
Remote control specialist Ruwido has launched a new device that offers voice control functionality.Ruwido said the r117 device combines voice control with intuitive navigation. Speech is transmitted in HIVI quality, a high quality voice recognition standard, enabling users to search large content libraries.“Voice technology is an incredible way to search for known content, such as films featuring a favourite actor, which can be accessed with only a few words. The user can say ‘George Clooney’, and this will be transferred to a cloud server, which will then present the different movie options that feature him as an actor. Speech must, however, be used in the right context,” said Ferdinand Maier. “For scrolling through 20,000 VOD titles, the physical element is essential, which is why the r117 is our most intuitive device yet. It provides a patented interaction mechanism technology to create navigation by emotion.”
Viewers spent 100% more time watching streamed video on tablets and mobile phones than in the previous year, according to a new study by online video firm Ooyala.The firm said that approximately one third of total time users spent watching videos on their tablets last quarter was premium, long-form content running more than 60 minutes.Ooyala also claimed that iPhone users watched twice as much video on their phones than Android users did in 2012.“Streaming video has crossed an inflection point and it’s now a necessary channel for both consumers as well as broadcasters, brands and media companies around the world,” said Jay Fulcher, CEO of Ooyala.Ooyala offers video streaming, analytics and monetisation services for firms like Telstra, ESPN, Miramax and Bloomberg.
Austrian cable operator Liwest is using technology provider Arris’s CCAP-based E600 converged edge router to deliver 250mbps internet speeds, with plans to offer a 1Gbps service in the future.“At Liwest, we are committed to providing the ultimate broadband experiences to our subscribers,” said Hubert Riedl, vice-president products and services at Liwest. “The Arris E6000 CER offers new levels of density, capacity, and operational efficiency that enable us to expand our bandwidth and capacity and scale to a range of new advanced services that will delight our subscribers.”“The Arris E6000 CER empowers LIWEST to operate smarter networks that deliver the super-fast broadband speeds to attract and retain customers,” said Steve McCaffery, Senior vice-president, EMEA and Asia Pacific, Arris. “The E6000 CER is a proven global solution that uses much less space and power than existing architectures, while delivering remarkable downstream and upstream capacity. Our work with Liwest is a prime example of Arris’s collaboration with customers around the world to usher in the next era of content delivery.”
Sophie Turner LaingFormer BSkyB content boss Sophie Turner Laing has landed what is perhaps the biggest job in global production.She will be CEO of the merged Endemol, Shine Group and Core Media Group TV production giant, which is set to launch as a joint venture between 21st Century Fox and Apollo Global Management.“Pending the parties finalising an agreement to form a joint venture comprised of Endemol, Shine Group and Core Media Group the venture partners today confirmed that Sophie Turner Laing, former managing director of content at BSkyB, would become the new venture’s CEO,” said a 21st Century Fox spokesperson.Her appointment means Endemol CEO Just Spee and Shine’s chief Alex Mahon will exit the company once the merger is complete and the business correctly structured. Both will stay on for a transitional period as operations are integrated. The future of Endemol president Tim Hincks is unclear at this stage.Core’s boss Marc Graboff has already announced his intention to exit once plans are finalised.Insiders had this summer tipped Turner Laing to land the post, with sources noting her links to Fox through its controlling stake in UK satcaster Sky as significant.At Sky, she is credited with overseeing a massive commissioning increase, and the launch of networks such as premium programming channel Sky Atlantic. She left in May this year.Her new role will hand her control of a group that counts Big Brother, MasterChef and American Idol among its format assets. It will also have a major drama production business with Shine’s UK and US producers combining with Endemol’s LA-based Endemol Studios.The size of the group has caused concerns in the UK, where Channel 4 CEO has warned it would have a dominant market cap and BBC director of television Danny Cohen has pushed for changes to terms of trade in the light of its announcement.The merger is also the latest in a series of major mergers and acquisition deals in the production sector. Last week, Discovery Communications and Liberty Global completed their joint venture takeover of All3Media, while Viacom recently bought Channel 5.
Mark ZuckerbergFacebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg predicted it will take “at least 10 years” for the Virtual Reality ecosystem to be built out, but said he is confident VR will be an important technology.In an interview for Die Welt newspaper with Mathias Döpfner, the CEO of German media group Axel Springer, Zuckerberg likened the rollout of VR to the development of the smartphone and said “now is the time to invest”.“I honestly don’t know is how long it will take to build this ecosystem. It could be five years, it could be 10 years, it could be 15 or 20. My guess is that it will be at least 10, ” said Zuckerberg in the interview, which was also published in English by Business Insider.“It took 10 years to go from building the initial smartphone to reaching the mass market. BlackBerry came out in 2003 and it didn’t get to about a billion units until 2013. So I can’t imagine it would be much faster for VR.”Zuckerberg said he could “absolutely” imagine that VR chat would one day be the most frequent type of conversation, and said that “people will always want more immersive ways to express themselves”.The comments come after Zuckerberg said at Mobile World Congress last week that sixty degree video and ultimately virtual reality will become mainstream ways of “sharing experiences” that will drive the next wave of mobile network upgrades.Separately Facebook said last month that it is looking to launch a dedicated video offering as engagement with video content on the service continues to grow.
UK mobile operator EE has launched a new feature for its EE TV service that will let customers record free-to-view programmes to their mobile or tablet to watch out of the home.BT-owned EE, which first launched its TV offering in 2014, said ‘Recordings To Go’ is designed to “set new standards” in how consumers access and watch TV and establishes EE TV as the first UK TV service to allow remote viewing of “any and all” free programming.EE TV customers can select content from any of EE TV’s roughly 70 free-to-view channels to record and then transfer to a mobile device as soon as it has aired.Users will be able to keep the shows until they choose to delete them, with no expiry date applying to the record shows, according to EE. Customers can also manage and set recordings while out of the house using the EE TV app.“We’re continually looking at ways to offer new, exciting and innovative TV features to our customers and now we’ve made EE TV truly mobile. With Recordings To Go, we’re giving users unique control over how and where they choose to watch TV – whether that’s on a train, bus, tube or even a plane,” said Simeon Bird, EE’s director of home broadband and TV.The Recordings To Go hub appears on the main menu of the updated EE TV app, and is designed to make it easy for users to view all of their recorded shows in one place, said EE.Paolo Pescatore, director, multiplay and media at research firm CCS Insight welcomed the move, describing it as “significant” for EE’s mobile-centric TV service.“Despite being acquired by BT, the company continues to bring new innovative features to EE TV. The latest update will resonate with users as it extends the EE TV experience outside of the home,” he said.“There is no denying that it is going to be a big year for video services in the UK. Vodafone will launch its own TV service, Sky is rolling out a new revamped Now TV box as well as launching UHD and, of course online providers are adding new features like HDR and much more.”EE launched its TV service in October 2014 offering content across mobiles, tablets and via a TV set-top box.In January of this year BT closed its £12.5 billion (€16.7 billion) buyout of EE, giving it a major foothold in the UK quadplay market. However, EE’s head of strategy, Guillaume Sampic, said last month that EE will continue to market its recently launched TV service independent of BT as part of its plan to keep the two brands separate.
Cable operators are cautiously assessing the potential of virtual reality – in in some cases experimenting with the format – but multiple obstacles make it unlikely there will be a rush to launch services, Cable Congress attendees heard yesterday.Speaking on a panel on virtual reality, Emma Svalin Sahlman, acting CTO and director of operations at Swedish cable operator Com Hem, which recently launched a VR experiment, said that there is a shortage of VR content.“We don’t want to have the technology in place and the apps in place with no content to consume. We need to move beyond the gaming world,” she said.Com Hem Play VR is a proof of concept development that is part of its aim to improve customers’ TV experience and explore new potential platforms.Visitors attending the DreamHack Summer 2016 event in Jönköping, Sweden this month were able to try out the technology, which will allow them to watch Com Hem Play from a virtual living room environment.Svalin Sahlman said that operators had to invest in their networks including in-home WiFi “whether VR is coming or not”. She said however that VR fitted very will into the overall portfolio of high-speed services. Svalin Sahlman said that Com Hem was primarily focused on the consumer play, both with regard to VR and other applications.However, she stressed that the operator was at a very early stage of thinking about how VR might be part of its portfolio of services.“Whether Com Hem is going to provide a VR package or seats at live event, I don’t know – it’s possible. We may also package it with broadband as a product that adds value, but I still don’t know what our place in the ecosystem would be yet,” she said.Speaking on the same panel, Ankur Prakash, VP, Liberty Global Ventures, said that operators would be forced to invest in in-home WiFi to suport VR and other applications. He said that Liberty is investing in WiFi in general to support applications like this. However, he said that how VR might fit into the portfolio of services offered by cable operators was still unclear. He said there was little evidence, for example, that consumers wanted to choose their point of view in live sports.Prakash said that, for the market to fulfill its potential, consumers would be expected to spend about 30 minutes a day in a VR environment. While this is possible for applications like gaming, it is less likely for entertainment content, he said. However, if social engagement can be made a significant part of the VR experience, this could help drive take-up and use, he added.Also speaking on the VR panel, Alain Nochimowski, EVP of innovation, Viaccess-Orca, said that there is a big opportunity to use VR for live events and premium sports. However, its effectiveness depends on the content and the format could not be applied indiscriminately, he said. “We were involved in two projects, one involving a soccer game and the other basketball. The cameras gave totally different effects. In the soccer game you could hardly see the players but with the basketball match you had a pretty good experience,” he said.Another challenge is video quality, he said. “You need good compression and good quality and we are working on this – you need to be able to see the ball.”
US premium cable channel Epix has hired Jonathan Dakss from NBCUniversal to fill a key digital post.Dakss will become chief digital officer at the network, which is a joint venture between Viacom, its Paramount Pictures subsidiary, Lionsgate and MGM.To this point, he has been VP, NBCU Media Labs. This saw him overseeing programmes focused on virtual reality and 360-degree video, social television and second screen discovery, metadata usage, real-time captioning and other duties.At Epix, he will report into Rob Sussman, general manager and executive VP, business operations and strategy, and will be based in New York.Besides NBCU, Dakss has run his own company, WatchPoint Media, which was sold to GoldPocket Interactive, where Dakss then sold digital video products to Comcast, Cablevision, Dish Networks and Time Warner Cable.“Jonathan’s experience developing new revenue-generating products and business solutions at digital powerhouse NBCUniversal will be a great asset to the EPIX team,” said Rob Sussman. “We’re thrilled to have him join us to advance our leadership position and direct a digital team that has been at the forefront of TV Everywhere innovation, being the first cable network to launch on Xbox, PlayStation, Roku, and Android devices, as well as our recent launch of offline viewing on Android and iOS.”
Ben VerwaayenKEEN Venture Partners, a new venture capital firm co-founded by former BT CEO Ben Verwaayen, has closed a €90 million inaugural fund.The VC fund said it will focus on investing in information and communications technology companies and intends to invest €5 million to €10 million per company.KEEN will provide early growth capital for technology companies “with breakaway momentum” across Europe – with a particular focus on innovation hubs in the UK, Netherlands, Sweden and Germany.The company, which will operate from London and Amsterdam, will also consider North American-based technology companies looking to expand into Europe.The newly established VC firm was set up by former BT and Alcatel-Lucent CEO Verwaayen; former COO of TomTom, Alexander Ribbink; and former principal at Prime Ventures, Robert Verwaayen.Key investors in the fund include KPN Ventures, ING Netherlands, Dutch Venture Initiative, and the European Investment Fund – which benefits from EU support under the COSME programme funded by the European Commission.“As a team we are passionate about supporting scale-up technology companies to become globally leading businesses. With our collective backgrounds, approach to investing and fresh capital we believe we can support the most ambitious entrepreneurs,” said KEEN general partner, Alexander Ribbink.Herman Kienhuis, director of KPN Ventures, said: “We’re excited to work with KEEN Venture Partners as a way to further expand the scope and opportunity of KPN Ventures to engage in partnerships with innovative tech companies.”
Ajit PaiFCC Chairman Ajit Pai is reportedly drawn up plans to reverse net neutrality rules, in favour of letting ISPs in the US voluntarily agree to maintain an open internet.According to a Reuters report, Pai met with major telecoms trade groups to discuss the preliminary plan this week, with a view to rolling back the tough net neutrality laws brought in by the Obama administration.According to the report, which cites three people briefed in the meeting, Pai wants internet providers to voluntarily agree to not obstruct or slow consumer access to the web, and to commit to this in writing and include it in their terms of service.The plan to overturn the existing net neutrality rules could be unveiled later this month and face a vote in May or June, according to Reuters.In February 2015 the FCC reclassified broadband providers as telecommunication services under Title II of the US Federal Communications Act, subjecting them to stronger regulation.However, the FCC’s Open Internet Order modified the meaning of that classification to avoid “utility-style burdensome regulation that would harm investment,” then-FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said at the time.The rules were designed to ban paid prioritisation so that “’fast lanes’ will not divide the internet into ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’,” added Wheeler.At the time Pai condemned the FCC’s “overreach” and compared the US experience of broadband favourably to Europe, “where broadband is generally regulated as a public utility” and fewer people have access to high-speed services.Fast forward to March this year, Pai, in his new role as FCC chair, used a speech at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona to promise a return to a “light-touch approach to regulation”, claiming the FCC has made clear mistakes in the past two years.Pai – who was appointed by Trump to lead the US media and telecoms regulator in late January – said that the US is now in the process of returning to the style of regulation that produced “tremendous innovation and investment” throughout the internet ecosystem.“It is evident that the FCC made a mistake,” he said in reference to the 2015 rules. “Our new approach injected tremendous uncertainty into the broadband market and uncertainty is the enemy of growth.”Republican Pai has been an FCC commissioner since 2012.
Amazon auto show, The Grand TourJeremy Clarkson petrol-head series The Grand Tour remains the most in-demand digitally produced original programme in Europe, exclusive data shows.Parrot Analytics stats from January 1 to August 31 of this year reveal the Amazon Prime Video series is ahead of Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why, Orange is the New Black and House of Cards.The series is driving four demand expressions per 100 capita, ahead of the 3.6 that 13 Reasons Why and the 2.7 Orange is the New Black has been taking.Narcos, Black Mirror, Castlevania, Marvel’s Iron Fist and Marvel’s Luke Cage – all Netflix titles – rounded out the top ten most in-demand shows.Earlier this year, Parrot data from the UK and Germany showed The Grand Tour was tracking well ahead of Netflix originals. GfK data from the same quarter showed similar findings.Unsurprisingly considering the overall chart, drama has been by far the most in-demand genre in Europe this year to date.The genre saw a high of nearly 3,500 demand expressions in May, and has consistently ranked much higher than others across the year.Comedy is second, though action and adventure shows saw a major spike in mid-March.Meanwhile, the superhero genre topped the rankings thanks to a spike in late March that saw it hit nearly 1,200 demand expressions.However, sci-fi drama has rated more consistently higher across the entire year, with comedy tracking now far behind.Parrot’s demand expression rating is drawn from total audience demand expressed for a title within a particular market or region.This is taken from a mix of social media mentions, blogging sites, file and photo sharing sites, video streaming sites, microblogging sites like Twitter, wikis and fan and critic sites.The study collated data from 41 territories in the Europe region, and included Russia and Monaco.Case study: drama dominates in the UKParrot’s exclusive study reveals the extent drama is dominating tastes. The genre has taken a total demand expression share of 47.99% to date this year.This is well ahead of the second placed comedy genre (20.41%), and streets ahead of action and adventure in third (9.33%).Interestingly, however, Parrot predicts animation will see the biggest amount of demand expression growth in a year-on-year comparison with 2016. It is forecast to rise a staggering 421.15%, compared with just 54.97% for drama.Horror and variety formats will also see major growth of 293.75% and 281.17% respectively. Comedy will rise 94.15% YOY, while documentary will be up 82.5%.On the flipside, drama, children (46.09%) and reality (40.9%) will see the smallest rises.
Roku has launched a scheme to allow companies to build soundbars and speakers using Roku software, and has also announced plans to develop and launch a voice assistant.Roku said that its ‘whole home entertainment licensing program’ will enable electronics manufacturers to make surround sound and multi-room audio systems using Roku Connect software.Roku Connect home entertainment devices will connect wirelessly to each other and to Roku OS-powered devices within a home network, and will be controllable via voice commands and a single remote.Manufacturers will also be able to license smart soundbar and smart speaker hardware reference designs, with TCL set to announce plans to offer the first device under the new program at its press conference at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) on January 8.“We’ve always focused on making it incredibly simple for consumers to find and enjoy streaming entertainment on their TVs, and with an expanded Roku ecosystem, consumers will be able to add great sound to their TVs and audio around the whole home in a modern way,” said Roku CEO Anthony Wood.At the same time Roku announced plans to develop and launch a home entertainment-optimised voice assistant, called the Roku Entertainment Assistant, marking a move into a space Amazon and Google already occupy with their respective home speaker devices.Roku Entertainment Assistant will let viewers issue voice commands, such as ‘hey Roku, play jazz in the living room’, to all voice-supported Roku devices, including the new Roku Connect soundbars.Roku Entertainment Assistant is due to roll out alongside Roku Connect as a free software update to the Roku OS by autumn, making it available in most Roku streaming players and models of Roku TV sets.“Consumers will love the benefits of a home entertainment network, such as having more affordable options, adding one device at a time, using their voice, having a simplified set up and Wi-Fi connectivity, and holding just one remote control,” said Wood.According to Roku, expanding its licensing programme to include audio devices will make Roku TV even more appealing to brands and consumers and will increase user engagement.Roku first launches its TV licensing programme four years ago, allowing smart TV manufacturers to make sets running Roku OS.Magnavox is the ninth and latest TV brand to join the scheme and is due to launch its first Roku TVs in spring. During the first nine months of 2017 Roku claimed that Roku TVs accounted for more than one out of every five smart TVs sold in the US.Roku’s ambitious connected audio plans come just months after Roku has acquired Danish multi-room audio streaming company Dynastrom for a cash price of US$3.5 million (€3 million). Dynastrom’s software was designed to let users operate speakers by voice or touch, using an app or controls on the speaker.
Disney+ has hired former Jackal Group executive Joe Earley as head of marketing and operations for direct-to-consumer and international operations, marking one of its first major appointments. Joe EarleyThe exec, who most recently served as president of Gail Berman’s Does It Spark Joy? producer, is to serve as EVP of marketing and operations for the new streaming service, which will be launched later this year. Earley is to report into Ricky Strauss, president of content and marketing at Disney+.In the new role, he will manage operations around programming for Disney+, working in collaboration with Disney-owned groups producing content for the platform, including The Walt Disney Studios, Disney-ABC Television Group, Pixar, Marvel Entertainment and Lucasfilm, along with external prodcos.As president of The Jackal Group, Earley oversaw all areas of the studio’s television, film, commercial theatre and digital divisions. The prodco’s credits include a forthcoming adaptation of the novel The Immortalists as well as Netflix’s Marie Kondo series Does It Spark Joy?. Jackal Group also had a multi-year deal with Fox, which came to a close at the end of 2018.Previously, Earley was a long-time Fox exec, most recently serving as chief operating officer for Fox Television Group – a role in which he had direct oversight of marketing and communications, digital, research, talent relations, scheduling and audience strategy.Before that, he was COO of Fox Broadcasting Company, where he played a key management role in all areas of the network. Prior to Fox, Earley worked in media relations for HBO.He joins a number of 21st Century Fox execs heading to Disney, including Fox president and chairman Peter Rice, Fox TV Group chairman and CEO Dana Walden, FX Networks CEO John Landgraf and CEO of National Geographic Partners Gary E.Nell.Disney’s acquisition of Fox is expected to close before 1 March.Strauss said: “Joe’s industry knowledge and understanding of where the global entertainment marketplace is going will be a key component as we launch and expand the Disney+ footprint. The breadth of his experience in both content marketing and production, combined with the quality of his relationships in our industry will be huge assets to Disney+.”Earley added: “I’ve always admired Disney, their brand approach and the strong connection that people around the world have to their stories and characters.“From the moment I heard about Disney+ and the unparalleled brands that will be brought together on the service, I felt it was the model for the future of entertainment. I’m looking forward to working with Ricky and everyone on the Disney+ team, as well as with the amazingly talented creative content teams at the company, to build and grow Disney+, giving consumers direct access to the world’s most beloved entertainment.”
Streaming technology service provider netgem.tv has announced a deal with UK telco Three to give customers an exclusive offer.Through Wuntu, Three’s rewards app, customers can sign up for netgem.tv’s on-demand service starting at £3.99 (€4.63) per month.For that £3.99, customers will receive netgem.tv’s HD TV streaming box to their doorstep, and access to Freeview Play Channels, and a range of apps like Hayu and Prime Video (though subscriptions are still required to these). There is also no fixed term contract for Three customers and customers will have the figure added to their phone bill. Sylvain Thevenot, managing director of netgem.tv said: “At netgem.tv we recognise that modern TV viewers increasingly turn to their mobile devices for access to their favourite shows, and expect to simply continue the experience on the big screen at home without friction. This is why we launched with Three a membership of a new kind with mobile at the heart, box included and free equipment upgrades.“Three UK was the perfect partner to take netgem.tv’s service to even more people: the exclusive Three membership deal will open up a world of personalised high-quality content at an unbeatable value – all across the UK.”
Romtelecom has consistently been one of the most innovative players in the competitive Romanian pay TV market. Irina Cazacu, Romtelecom’s product development manager, has been behind the launch of services including online video portal dolcetv.ro and new personalised bundles.Age Well…I think only men should get this question. Definitely pretty young, but my “TV age” is four.Education MSc in Business Administration, Faculty of Economics; MSc in Statistic and Probabilities, Faculty of Mathematics.Previous positions Previously, I served in several positions most of them in the sales and financial areas. When I joined the team having as my mission to develop one of the most innovative TV service in central and eastern Europe, I saw this as huge opportunity for making a fresh start. I am now enjoying working in a dynamic company, facing the challenges of a high demanding and fast changing market.Last year’s highlights Probably one of the main achievements is that I succeeded in driving from start to completion the build of a solid and comprehensive development roadmap of our IPTV product. A considerable amount of work was needed to build and interpret complex market analysis, adapt the supplier roadmap to our needs, get agreement from all stakeholders and synchronise with the overall company strategy on consumer products in general and TV in particular. Another achievement was to succeed in fine tuning the existing IPTV product to market requirements by building offers which were better adapted to the needs of our customers. This will help us to maintain our healthy growth in a very challenging market.Most significant industry development The entire TV industry is changing shape very rapidly. Fast and innovative technology development is supporting new value added services, new content and new ways to deliver and discover it. Although I was expecting this, the accelerated growing interest in OTT and multiscreen is remarkable.Goals for next year I will continue to focus my efforts to ensure that we keep our leadership in developing and implementing new and innovative TV services. Therefore the implementation of the agreed IPTV roadmap is the key goal for me next year. Equally we need to keep working hard to ensure we are continuously fine tuning our commercial offers to ensure they meet the customers’ and market’s demands.Industry challenges and opportunities I think that we’re all witnessing a big change in users’ lifestyle and the way they are now consuming the content. There is now strong evidence that there is an increasing demand to enhance the TV experience with “social media” features, just to give one example. From the usability perspective the main questions would be which have to be integrated on the main TV screen, under what form and how they should be linked with the content. Not to mention that, for some of these features, it makes more sense to be available only on the second screen. Another major challenge I can see is that content discovery and recommendation need to be speedily integrated into the overall TV experience. Considering the fast-growing variety and amount of content, it will be an essential aspect for the user to quickly find the content which will better suits his preferences at any certain moment, while the operators need be able to monetise it. Also let’s not forget that the business models able to generate the revenues to back the implementation of these extra features are still to be proven, especially in “low ARPU” markets.Alternative career choice It’s hard for me to answer to this question when I am now so much into TV product development. I always enjoy developing products capable of getting to people’s hearts by bringing extra value and being easy to use. Over and above that I need challenges in my career to keep myself motivated. Leading product development in a very demanding and price sensitive market is just an aspect of what I savour. Very likely I will always work in an area that encourages innovation and the use of the most recent technology.TV character most identified with I can’t really identify myself with a TV character. I think each of us has lived some interesting experiences and we can each have our own movie to tell a story. However, I have to admit that one of my favorite movies is Inception simply because it makes you wonder and is generating so many open questions.Most admired personality I’m rather trying to look for models among people around me. And I have some good examples. There is a lesson to be learned from anybody, even if it is a lesson of “how to” or “how not to”. All we have to do is carefully watch and listen.Life outside work I try to mix and match leisure time with my mood. It’s a bit of everything from socialising (real and virtual), sport and painting – to list the main ones only.It’s a true joy to have so many options available nowadays.