Charter Reportedly Will Attempt to Purchase Time Warner Cable, Again

Charter Communications is reportedly poised to acquire Time Warner Cable in a second bid for the company. The companies could announce the purchase as soon as tomorrow.

Comcast’s recent attempt to purchase the company went down spectacularly down in flames, with both Department of Justice and the FCC lined up to kill the merger of the No. 1 and No. 2 cable operators.

Reportedly offering $55 billion for Time Warner, Charter offered $10 billion more than Comcast’s attempt. However, Charter’s subscribers (4.3 million) are less than half of Time Warner’s (11 million).

This is Charter’s second attempt to take control of TWC. Its first try in 2014 was rejected by the Time Warner Cable board.

Via Bloomberg. Photo by Thomas Belknap/flickr.

Aereo to Rise Again as…TiVo?

Aereo was one of those things was too good last and that was way ahead of its time. It was a cloud-based streaming DVR for broadcast stations that attempted to skirt the fees cable operators paid to them by setting up miniature antennas that the service claimed it was using to capture the over the air transmissions.

Smartphones and tablets could access it — if you subscribed and if you happened to live in one of the cities they set up shop in. Of course, cable companies and the broadcast stations hated it. Ultimately, it was the Supreme Court that shut them down.

Earlier today, it was announced that TiVo purchased Aereo’s trademarks and customer list in March for $1 million. Tom Rogers, TiVo’s CEO and president, announced his company was going to “kind of” bring back Aereo, “done legally and better.”

The company said it would make an announcement in the summer with regards to its plans. TiVo is one of the premium brands in the settop box/digital video recorder space and the best known. A cloud-based DVR service matched with TiVo’s user interface — which draws universal praise from its users — would be an amazing product that would theoretically be able offer access to anything that was shown on TV.

Could-based DVRs are a legal morass, however. Comcast offers its own cloud-based DVR product, the “X1 DVR with cloud technology“, which is usable by about half of the customers it services. However, because of the Aereo ruling, Comcast stores each customer’s recordings separately.

If TiVo has figured out how to satisfy the legal requirements the brought Aero down, it may have figured out how to stay current in an ever-changing entertainment sphere where a streaming platform means just as much, if not more than, hardware.

Via Multichannel News. Photo by Jamie McCaffrey/flickr

Facebook is Your New Ministry of Truth

As you’ve probably heard by now, Facebook entered into agreements with major news outlets to bring you, the web browsing public, Instant Articles.

By major news outlets, I mean The New York Times, National Geographic, The Atlantic , The BBC and The Guardian to name a few. By web browsing public, I mean the people Facebook is trying to turn into being an all-Facebook-all-the-time sort of public…which would include everyone.

Articles are delivered faster to Facebook because the articles are hosted by Facebook. Estimates place articles as loading 8 to 10 times faster through Instant Articles. This makes its news partners tied to Facebook to deliver their content to the social media site.

One third of Americans now get their news through it’s app. There’s also millions of people who think Facebook is the internet. And let’s not forget the rumblings of Facebook subsidizing the cost of getting online in foreign countries just so they can access Facebook. All of this puts pressure on news services that aren’t on Instant Articles to sign up with Facebook.

Instant Articles has echoes of the media consolidation of TV, radio and newspapers. That worked out well, didn’t it? (No. No it didn’t.)

Facebook says its going to allow those media companies to keep all their own ad revenues. If Facebook sells the ad, it’ll split the revenue 70/30. And it’ll totally work out, like how Darth Vader totally honored his deal with Lando in Empire. (No. No he didn’t.)

These are the same news outlets that will be the first to cry foul if any government attempts infringe on their freedom. However, they’re willing to make a deal with a business whose entire success depends on mining the personal information of their readers and viewers.

By turning over their futures and fortunes to Facebook, news outlets around the world are making a dangerous bet that Zuckerberg and company have their best interest at heart, the public’s best interest at heart and that Facebook is their salvation, not their doom.

The past has shown us time and time again that media monopolies and oligarchies don’t serve the public and in the end, they crush the independent voices that are vital for a free press and democracy. The medium may be the message, but the past is repeat itself in this case.

Via Facebook. Photo by Bhupinder Nayyar/flickr.

Why Does Verizon want AOL? Probably Not for its Dial-Up Customers

Verizon purchased AOL for $4.4 billion — and in what can only be described as a leap of faith, Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam announced “AOL has once again become a digital trailblazer.”

By digital trailblazer, McAdam probably doesn’t mean the 2 million dial-up subscribers that still use AOL. Huffington Post, TechCrunch, Engadget — they’re all owned by AOL, not to mention the company’s homepage that someone in your family probably still uses. Most media outlets are pretty sure they’re the reason why Verizon is so keen on AOL…as well as the sweet, sweet ad revenue those blogs bring in.

All of this, of course, brings to mind the last time AOL merged with another megacompany, Time Warner in 2000. AOL would bring more eyeballs to the deal, as well as adding a user-friendly interface to Time Warner’s services. Words like “paradigm-shifting” and “outside the box” were probably used and according to Fortune, “transformative” was most definitely used. The deal went down in history, but for all the wrong reasons. To this day it’s spoken about in the same tone most people reserve for particularly bad divorces, bouts of venereal disease or, well, the AOL-Time Warner merger.

The silver lining: it demonstrates that no matter how bad a deal this large is, someone makes money. But I’m 99.999999 percent sure it wasn’t you. (Hello, Steve Case!)

AOL’s media subsidiaries are saying the purchase won’t affect their coverage of Verizon, net neutrality or anything else that might be a conflict of interest. However, Verizon’s history with SugarString, a short-lived (as in a month) tech site that became famous — or infamous — for what it didn’t cover: net neutrality and domestic spying on the part of the NSA.

The deal is scheduled to close in the summer. That assumes the feds ok the deal, though large mergers seem to be drawing more scrutiny lately (see: AOL’s former bedmate, Time Warner Cable and Comcast).

As expected, the corporate talking heads are holding hands, singing Kumbayah and putting out press releases with statements like: “[The] acquisition further drives its LTE wireless video and OTT (over-the-top video) strategy. The agreement will also support and connect to Verizon’s IoT (Internet of Things) platforms, creating a growth platform from wireless to IoT for consumers and businesses.”

It’s like Madlibs with catchphrases. You know, like 2000.

Will all your media base are belong to Verizon? Will AOL be cool again?

Maybe. Maybe not. But one thing’s for sure: a decade and a half after the last time AOL tried this, the business revolution, or fiscal debacle, will be streamed, not televised.

Via Arstechnica. Photo by Jason Persse/flickr.

Streaming Overtakes Downloads, Warner Music Reports

According to Warner Music Group, last quarter marked a milestone in the music industry. It was the first time any music company reported that its revenues in streaming audio overtook downloads.

This follows a trend that streaming audio’s become more important to music companies than downloads. (Streaming revenues grew 33 percent according to the company.) The company is also pushing YouTube and Spotify to cut back or eliminate the free music customers can stream through those services.

Warner says download sales, including those from Apple’s iTunes, fell by 7 percent. But Apple is expected to integrate its Beats streaming service it acquired last year into iTunes and its iDevices. According to reports, the rebooted Beats will be a paid service with no free tier, but it has also drawn scrutiny from the Federal Trade Commission.

Warner feels this is how people will consume music in the future and that it is not an anomaly.

Via re/code. Photo by delbz/flickr.

Zynga Shuts Down Datacenters, Brings Cloud Back to Amazon

Like the saying goes, if you can’t be a good example, be a cautionary tale. The problem is, everyone thinks they’re a good example until they’re hip-deep in it, then they realize what they really are is the cautionary tale.

Remember Farmville? Remember all those annoying games that made up most your feed on Facebook about five years ago? That was Zynga. In 2011, they were flying so high they left Amazon, which was handling their cloud services, and opened up their own data centers. It seemed nothing could stop the company’s ascension.

But since 2011, Zynga’s crashed and burned. Ex-employees claimed that its CEO, Mark Pincus, told them to copy existing games were successful and that he didn’t “fucking want innovation.” Lawsuits from other game studios piled up for copyright infringement. The company laid off employees.

Now the company, in an attempt to control costs, is shutting down those datacenters and taking it back to Amazon. The move is expected to save about $100 million. Analysts say the move isn’t just because of Zynga’s failing fortunes, but the falling price of Amazon’s web services as well.

However, the news — and all news about the company’s demise — is met with schadenfreude on the part of the people who were annoyed by the constant updates of Zynga’s games and who were the targets of its business practices. Pincus is quoted as saying, with regards to the founding of Zynga:

I knew that I wanted to control my destiny, so I knew I needed revenues right fucking now. Like, I needed revenues now. So I funded the company myself but I did every horrible thing in the book to—just to get revenues right away. I mean we gave our users poker chips if they downloaded this zwinky toolbar which was like, I don’t know, I downloaded it once and couldn’t get rid of it. [laughs] We did anything possible just to just get revenues so that we could grow and be a real business—so control your destiny. That was a big lesson, controlling your business. So by the time we raised money we were profitable.

Via The Wall Street Journal. Photo by David Berkowitz/flickr.

Meerkat Pivots to Facebook

Meerkats on the African savannah are known for their upright postures to scan the horizon for eagles and other birds of prey. In a way, Meerkat the app is looking for something as well, though in this case, it’s on the lookout for an ally instead of a predator.

The app could use a friend. Though it was the first one off the lifestreaming-as-app block, Periscope came on the scene a little while after it. Periscope had one very big advantage — a sugardaddy in the name of Twitter. It cut Meerkat off from its social graph and Periscope sucked the air out of the room.

Meerkat announced a pivot that may keep it in the streaming game. The app is now integrating itself into Facebook to allow users to push their livestreams through the social networking site. Popular Meerkat activity will make its way to Facebook feeds, a function known as “mobbing”. Meerkat is also upping its own social networking game by connecting users through their contacts (an optional service).

Facebook has about 1.28 billion users. Twitter has about 500 million. Both numbers are nothing to sneeze at, but Meerkat throwing its lot with Facebook may lead to to more users than tying themselves just to Twitter. Though it still uses Twitter to login into its service, Meerkat’s embrace of Zuckerberg and company is a smart play.

Via MacWorld. Photo by bzd1/flickr.

“No Seinfeld for you!”…if don’t have Hulu

What’s the deal with on-demand video?

That’s a questions that Jerry, Kramer, Elaine and George are probably not as asking on their way to the bank to deposit their huge checks from Huiu. The streaming service (which, to the ire of of its Hulu Plus customers, still shows ads after they’d forked over $8 a month for the privilege) paid about $126 million for the whole series.

Slated to debut on the streaming service in June, it’s believed that the Seinfeld deal is worth more than what Netflix paid for Friends, at about $500,000 an episode.

Via Ars Technica. Photos by Mercedes Bugarin (mertxe)/flickr.

Questionable and Expensive Advice: Inside those “You Have Malware! Call Now!” Pop-Ups

If you’re the designated tech support in your family, you’ve probably had someone approach you about those pop-ups that warn about the doom and gloom that’s about to befall that person’s computer if they don’t call the number on the pop up right then and there.

The warnings are as real as a three dollar bill and the offer of tech support is, of course, a come-on for money. But one blogger decided to call and find out what he could about the scam.

According to Lenny Zeltser, the person who answered the phone on the other end of the line from Help Desk National didn’t sound like he was a Nigerian prince. Rather, the person spoke in “non-accented North American English”. But what was curious was  the choice of wording: the person was with “the operating system” when asked if they worked for Dell or Microsoft and that he recommended using “STOPzilla”, apparently anti-virus/spyware software that isn’t very well-regarded that’s also a “Microsoft Silver” product (“Microsoft Gold” products are for people or companies “using T1s and servers and things like that”) that was being sold at a considerable markup (natch).

They’ll also take control of the computer using a remote desktop app (what could possibly go wrong with that?), and offer “senior discounts.” How nice of them — though one person Zeltser spoke to was a senior and paid over $200 for a 15 minute fix of the alleged problem.

It’s a very interesting read and something to forward on to the people who might very well be victims of this sort of “tech support”.

Photo by Avi Schwab (froboy)/flickr.

Netflix to Shift to Content Ownership and Enter Production

House of Cards, Orange is the New Black and the newer seasons of Arrested Development may be the jewels in Netflix’s crown, but the streaming service doesn’t own the shows. It licenses the programs, meaning that older seasons of the series pop up on other competing services and the foreign rights are sold without the company seeing seeing any revenue.

However, it looks Netflix will soon be more like a studio than an internet destination. Over 20 new original new shows premiering on the service next year will be owned by the company, meaning that the company will be able to control how and where its programs are available, as well as making it available on physical media like Blu-Ray or DVD.

Licensing programs meant that Netflix paid about half of what it would to produce and own programming. However, by shifting to ownership, the company will be a peer of HBO, which is also shifting its model to be more Netflix-like with the launch of HBO Now, a streaming service that bring its network’s offering to internet users.

“We’ve continued to expand our creative role on the shows. Now we’re taking on ownership and production,” Netflix CEO Reed Hastings told Bloomberg.

Netflix could produce as many as 40 shows by 2018, according to UBS. Other analysts see original content as a hedge against other traditional content producers that may withhold their movies and TV series from the company in the future.

Via Bloomberg. Photo by Christopher (Mr.Thomas)/flickr.