In May, a dozen Amazon.com Inc. executives, including Chief Executive Jeff Bezos, gathered in a Seattle conference room to select the first original TV shows the company would produce for its streaming video service.
A group of 14 “pilot” episodes had been posted on the company’s website a month earlier, where they were viewed by more than one million people. After monitoring viewing patterns and comments on the site, Amazon produced about 20 pages of data detailing, among other things, how much a pilot was viewed, how many users gave it a five-star rating and how many shared it with friends.
Those findings helped the executives pick the first five pilots – winnowed down from an original pool of thousands of show ideas – that would be turned into series. The first will debut this month: “Alpha House,” a political comedy about four politicians who live together, written by Doonesbury comic strip creator Garry Trudeau.
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YouTube-rival Dailymotion launches a standalone video-recording app to encourage user-generated content
French video-sharing service Dailymotion has launched a video-camera app for iPhone users, as it looks to encourage more users to upload their own content.
The Paris-based company claims to be the second biggest video-sharing service on the Web behind – you guessed it – YouTube. Following the collapse of a much-rumored Yahoo acquisition earlier this year, France Telecom’s CEO promised to invest 30-50m in Dailymotion, a company owned by France Telecom’s subsidiary Orange.
Whether a dedicated recording app was always on the cards isn’t clear, but it’s an interesting move from the company and brings it into line with YouTube which also has a Capture app.
How it works
Dailymotion Camera was designed in-house and, given its simplicity, it’s clearly aimed at everyone – even those with a rudimentary grasp of smartphone technology.
It has a record/pause/resume button which does exactly what you’d expect, and when you’re done you click the ‘tick’ button.
You can then trim the clip to your desired size, choose a filter (if you want), and then upload. You will of course have to connect your Dailymotion account, while you can also connect your Facebook and Twitter profiles too.
You can manage multiple video clips recorded separately, which can be ordered into a final deliverable. You can also access videos directly from your camera roll.
“UGC [user-generated content] is an important part of our video library, but many of our 115 million users have not had the skills or tools to document their worlds – preferring to view content than create it,” says Cedric Tournay, CEO of Dailymotion.
“We want to encourage this to change by providing a free, simple tool for any user – UGC and professional – to easily produce and upload top quality video content.”
Dailymotion Camera is available to download for free now, and this is in addition to the existing app for viewing videos. An Android version is in the pipeline, we’re told, but no definitive date has been set for that.
Dailymotion Camera | App Store
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SmartThings, the open platform for powering home-automation efforts, has received $12.5 million from Greylock Partners and Highland Capital Partners.
The Washington, D.C.-based startup said it would use the money from its Series A funding to improve its products and increase distribution.
SmartThings, which began as a Kickstarter initiative, had previously raised $3 million. It sells a starter kit for close to $200 that lets consumers control various things in the home – from lighting to climate or security – via a mobile application. That includes actions such as detecting motion or closing a garage door.
These kinds of products are often referred to under the meme of the “Internet of Things” – a much overused term in tech right now – which is essentially digitizing and connecting an ever wider variety of devices.
As part of the transaction, SmartThings said Greylock’s Josh Elman and Highland’s Manish Patel will join its board of directors.
As Lauren Goode wrote when SmartThings demoed at the 11th D: All Things Digital conference in late May: “The notion that one’s home appliances could all be connected in some way – and respond with a simple tap, swipe or voice command – was once only a reality for the very wealthy or the very nerdy. Now, anyone with a Wi-Fi router at home can automate their appliances.”
At D11, Alex Hawkinson, the creator of SmartThings, showed its Rise and Shine app, which turned on the lights, raised the shades and made the connected coffee pot start to brew.
SmartThings is an open platform, which allows a wide variety of developers to create different applications for it.
Here is the video of SmartThings at D11:
The European Commission has accepted book publisher Penguin’s proposals to scrap all of its existing ebook agency agreements – including its deal with Apple, most importantly – and refrain from adopting any similar partnerships for the next five years.
Penguin, along with competitors Simon & Schuster, Harper Collins, Hachette, Holtzbrinck, were all criticized for working with Apple and damaging the European ebook market by switching to an agency model.
This allowed the publisher, rather than the retailer, to set the sticker price seen by consumers in digital storefronts. Given that Apple takes a 30 percent cut of each sale regardless, this suited both the publishers and iBookstore vendor just fine. It also prevented other retailers, such as Amazon or Google, from undercutting these prices.
It differs from the wholesale model, whereby retailers are able to negotiate with publishers for the general rights to an ebook and then sell it at whatever price they like. The European Commission has concluded that Apple may have been trying to control ebook prices – a breach of antitrust rules in the European Union.
Under the new agreement, a two year “cooling-off” period will be instigated, by which all retailers will be able to discount Penguin ebook titles as they see fit.
The book publisher is also banned from using the so-called Most Favored Nation (MFN) clause – which meant publishers had to price ebooks on Apple’s services at least as low as the cheapest price offered by any other retailer – in all necessary renegotiations.
Joaqu n Almunia, Commission Vice-President in charge of competition policy, said: “After our decision of December 2012, the commitments are now legally binding on Apple and all five publishers including Penguin, restoring a competitive environment in the market for ebooks”.
A similar antitrust case in the United States came to a close in May this year when Pearson, Penguin’s parent publisher, confirmed it would pay $75 million in consumer damages. A US federal judge has since ruled that Apple truly did conspire to raise the price of ebooks across the market.
Apple has since confirmed that it plans to appeal the decision. “Apple did not conspire to fix ebook pricing and we will continue to fight against these false accusations,” company spokesman Tom Neumayr said. “When we introduced the iBookstore in 2010, we gave customers more choice, injecting much needed innovation and competition into the market, breaking Amazon’s monopolistic grip on the publishing industry.
“We’ve done nothing wrong and we will appeal the judge’s decision.”
Image Credit: LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images
Days after Google unveiled its $35 Chromecast dongle to bring the smart TV experience to regular TVs, British satellite broadcaster has got in on the act after launching Now TV Box, a Roku-like set-top box.
The box is available for 9.99 and brings the benefits of Web TV to any television. Customers can enjoy ongoing access (sans contract) to BBC iPlayer, Sky News, Demand and the BBC News App. That’s in addition to Sky’s own Now TV service, which features notable channels like Sky Sports and Sky Movies.
Of course, the Now TV Box also brings Web services to TVs, so the likes of Facebook and Spotify can light up living rooms around the UK via the box.
The Box – which measures 8.4cm x 8.4cm x 2.4cm – plugs in via an HDMI cable and, once connected to WiFi, is up and running. It’s similarity to Roku, couple with Sky’s $11.9 million stake in the media company, suggests the device may be a white-labelled version of the Roku player.
“Millions of people are switching on to the convenience and flexibility of on-demand TV, choosing when and how they want to watch,” said Director of Now TV Gidon Katz, Director of Now TV. “For under a tenner, the NOW TV Box offers the best terrestrial catch-up, plus pay-as-you-go access to must-see sport and the option to enjoy latest blockbuster movies on demand – all on the big screen.”
Sky has diversified its television offering from straight-up satellite in recent times, and the introduction of the Now TV Box looks like an interesting move to boost subscriptions of its Web-TV service.
Launched in 2012, Now TV offers Sky channels via a more flexible monthly subscription plan. It finally brought Sky Sports into the mix in March this year, letting users access all its main sports channels for 9.99 for 24 hours – a price that may not appeal to all but represents an alternative offering to a full-on Sky subscription.
The boxes are available to buy now from nowtv.com. The Now TV service itself can be accessed from the Web, devices running iOS and Android, Xbox, PS3 and Roku set-top boxes.
Headline image via BEN STANSALL / AFP / Getty Images