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Hulu’s live TV service gains 14 new channels as result of ViacomCBS deal

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A new agreement between Hulu and ViacomCBS will bring 14 new channels to Hulu’s live TV streaming service, while also renewing the deal that allows Hulu to carry various CBS broadcast stations and Showtime. According to ViacomCBS, the new multi-year distribution deal will for the first time allow Hulu + Live TV subscribers to stream cable networks like BET, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Paramount Network, VH1, CMT, Nick Jr., TV Land, BET Her, MTV2, NickToons, TeenNick and MTV Classic.

With the Hulu agreement in place, the two top live TV streaming services available in the U.S. will now carry the ViacomCBS channel lineup. Hulu with Live TV is the largest of the two, with 4.1 million subscribers as of Disney’s Q4 earnings. Meanwhile, YouTube TV has 3 million subscribers, as of Alphabet’s Q4 earnings.

ViacomCBS had forged its agreement with Google-owned YouTube TV earlier in 2020, which introduced the same channel lineup and had allowed the streamer to keep carrying CBS broadcast stations and the premium subscription channel Showtime.

Hulu + Live TV will now also be able to continue to carry CBS stations including CBS Sports Network, Pop TV, Smithsonian Channel, and The CW, as well as Showtime.

Offering the ViacomCBS cable lineup to live TV streamers represents a different strategy than Viacom had in the past, before the 2019 merger with CBS. In previous years, it allowed a deal with Hulu to fall through as well as those with other streamers, like the now-shuttered PlayStation Vue. In the meantime, the company focused on more traditional carriage agreements with pay TV operators.

 

During its first full year as a newly combined company, ViacomCBS in 2020 has pursued a different course. It got the major carriage deals done with Comcast, Dish, Verizon (TechCrunch’s parent), Nextstar, Meredith, Cox and Sinclair, but it also hashed out agreements with YouTube TV and Hulu for incremental revenues.

For streaming service customers, however, these deals aren’t always welcome. While it’s nice to gain access to new channels, agreements like this have also resulted in increased subscription prices. YouTube TV, for example, hiked its price 30% in June 2020 due to the addition of the ViacomCBS channels.

Hulu had announced in November 2020 that it would also raise the prices of its Live TV service to $65 per month starting on Dec. 18, 2020, due to the rising costs of programming. It didn’t attribute the price hike to any specific deal at the time, but it now seems clear the ViacomCBS-led expansion of its Live TV service was a factor in that decision.

The ViacomCBS deals with YouTube TV and now Hulu do raise the question as to how the company plans to attract customers to its own forthcoming streaming service, Paramount+. The service, which will be an expanded and rebranded version of CBS All Access, is set to launch in 2021. Though ViacomCBS channels are not its only draw, they do make up a far bit of its offering, in addition to the library content, CBS channels, and original series, like the new “Star Trek” shows.

“We are excited to have reached an expanded agreement with Hulu that underscores the value of our powerful portfolio of brands to next-generation TV platforms and viewers,” said Ray Hopkins, President, U.S. Networks Distribution, ViacomCBS, in a statement about the new deal. “Hulu continues to be a great partner, and this agreement ensures that Hulu + Live TV subscribers are now able to enjoy the full breadth of our leading content across news, sports and entertainment for the first time.”

Lyron Foster is a Hawaii based African American Musician, Author, Actor, Blogger, Filmmaker, Philanthropist and Multinational Serial Tech Entrepreneur.

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Apple’s App Tracking Transparency feature will be enabled by default and arrive in ‘early spring’ on iOS

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Apple has shared a few more details about its much-discussed privacy changes in iOS 14. The company first announced at WWDC in June that app developers would have to ask users for permission in order to track and share their IDFA identifier for cross-property ad targeting purposes. While iOS 14 launched in the fall, Apple delayed the tracking restrictions until 2021, saying it wanted to give developers more time to make the necessary changes.

Now we’ve got a slightly-more-specific timeline. The plan is to launch these changes in early spring, with a version of the feature coming in the next iOS 14 beta release.

This is how Apple describes the new system: “Under Settings, users will be able to see which apps have requested permission to track, and make changes as they see fit. This requirement will roll out broadly in early spring with an upcoming release of iOS 14, iPadOS 14, and tvOS 14, and has already garnered support from privacy advocates around the world.”

And here are the basics of what you need to know:

  • The App Tracking Transparency feature moves from the old method where you had to opt-out of sharing your Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) to an opt-in model. This means that every app will have to ask you up front whether it is ok for them to share your IDFA with third parties including networks or data brokers.
  • The feature’s most prominent evidence is a notification on launch of a new app that will explain what the tracker will be used for and ask you to opt-in to it.
  • You can now toggle IDFA sharing on a by-app basis at any time, where previously it was a single toggle. If you turn off the “Allow apps to request to track” setting altogether no apps can even ask you to use tracking.
  • Apple will enforce this for all third-party data sources including data sharing agreements, but of course platforms can still use first party data for advertising as per their terms of service.
  • Apple expects developers to understand whether APIs or SDKs that they use in their apps are serving user data up to brokers or other networks and to enable the notification if so.
  • Apple will abide by the rules for its own apps as well and will present the dialog and follow the ‘allow apps to request’ toggle if its apps use tracking (most do not at this point).
  • One important note here is that the Personalized Ads toggle is a separate setting that specifically allows or does not allow Apple itself to use its own first party data to serve you ads. So that is an additional layer of opt-out that affects Apple data only.

Apple is also increasing the capabilities of its Ad attribution API, allowing for better click measurement, measurement of video conversions and also — and this is a big one for some cases, app-to-web conversions.

This news comes on Data Privacy Day, with CEO Tim Cook speaking on the issue this morning at the Computers, Privacy and Data Protection conference in Brussels. The company is also sharing a new report showing that the average app has six third-party trackers.

While this seems like a welcome change from a privacy perspective, it’s drawn some criticism from the ad industry, with Facebook launching a PR campaign emphasizing the impact on small businesses, while also pointing to the change as “one of the more significant advertising headwinds” that it could face this year. Apple’s stance is that this provides a user-centric data privacy approach, rather than an advertiser-centric one.

 

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Elon Musk says Tesla Semi is ready for production, but limited by battery cell output

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Tesla CEO Elon Musk said on the company’s 2020 Q4 earnings call that all engineering work is now complete on the Tesla Semi, the freight-hauling semi truck that the company is building with an all-electric powertrain. The company expects to begin deliveries of Tesla Semi this year, the company said in its Q4 earnings release, and Musk said the only thing limiting their ability to produce them now is the availability of battery cells.

“The main reason we have not accelerated new products – like for example Tesla Semi – is that we simply don’t have enough cells for it,” Musk said. “If we were to make the Semi right now, and we could easily go into production with the Semi right now, but we would not have enough cells for it.”

Musk added that the company does expect to have sufficient cell volume to meet its needs once it goes into production on its 4680 battery pack, which is a new custom cell design it created with a so-called ‘tables’ design that allows for greater energy density and therefore range.

“A Semi would use typically five times the number of cells that a car would use, but it would not sell for five times what a car would sell for, so it kind of would not make sense for us to do the Semi right now,” Musk said. “But it will absolutely make sense for us to do it as soon as we can address the cell production constraint.”

That constraint points to the same conclusion for the possibility of Tesla developing a van, Musk added, and the lifting of the constraint will likewise make it possible for Tesla to pursue the development of that category of vehicle, he said.

Tesla has big plans for “exponentially” ramping cell production, with a goal of having production capacity infrastructure in place for a Toal of 200 gigawatt hours per year by 2022, and a target of being able to actually produce around 40% of that by that year (with future process improvements generating additional gigawatt hours of cell capacity  in gradual improvements thereafter).

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Pro-Trump Twitter figure arrested for spreading vote-by-text disinformation in 2016

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The man behind a once-influential pro-Trump account is facing charges of election interference for allegedly disseminating voting disinformation on Twitter in 2016.

Federal prosecutors allege that Douglass Mackey, who used the name “Ricky Vaughn” on Twitter, encouraged people to cast their ballot via text or on social media, effectively tricking others into throwing away those votes.

According to the Justice Department, 4,900 unique phone numbers texted a phone number Mackey promoted in order to “vote by text.” BuzzFeed reported the vote-by-text scam at the time, noting that many of the images were photoshopped to look like official graphics from Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Some of those images appeared to specifically target Black and Spanish-speaking Clinton supporters, a motive that tracks with the account’s track record of white supremacist and anti-Semitic content. The account was suspended in November 2016.

At the time, the mysterious account quickly gained traction in the political disinformation ecosystem. HuffPost revealed that the account was run by Mackey, the son of a lobbyist, two years later.

“… His talent for blending far-right propaganda with conservative messages on Twitter made him a key disseminator of extremist views to Republican voters and a central figure in the alt-right’ white supremacist movement that attached itself to Trump’s coattails,” HuffPost’s Luke O’Brien reported.

Mackey, a West Palm Beach resident, was taken into custody Wednesday in Florida.

“There is no place in public discourse for lies and misinformation to defraud citizens of their right to vote,” Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Seth D. DuCharme said.

“With Mackey’s arrest, we serve notice that those who would subvert the democratic process in this manner cannot rely on the cloak of Internet anonymity to evade responsibility for their crimes.”

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