Daily Crunch: Disney+ launches in seven European countries

Disney+ launches in seven European countries, Microsoft admits to a “critical” Windows security flaw and we review the new iPad Pro. Here’s your Daily Crunch for March 24, 2020.

1. Using 25% lower bandwidth, Disney+ launches in UK, Ireland and 5 other European countries, France to come online April 7

As expected, Disney announced that it is officially launching its streaming service across seven markets in Europe — but doing so using reduced bandwidth given the strain on broadband networks as more people are staying home because of the coronavirus pandemic.

So starting today, Disney+ will be live in the U.K., Ireland, Germany, Italy, Spain, Austria and Switzerland; Disney also confirmed a delayed debut in France on April 7. This is the largest multi-country launch for the service so far.

2. Microsoft says hackers are attacking Windows users with a new unpatched bug

The security flaw, which Microsoft deems “critical” — its highest severity rating — is found in how Windows handles and renders fonts, according to the advisory posted Monday. The bug can be exploited by tricking a victim into opening a malicious document. Once the document is opened — or viewed in Windows Preview — an attacker can remotely run malware, such as ransomware, on a vulnerable device.

3. Review: 100,000 miles and one week with an iPad Pro

Matthew Panzarino has been using an iPad Pro as his main portable work machine for the past 18 months. This week, he tried out the latest version of the device, concluding that it offers an attractive refresh for new buyers — but not for owners of the 2018 model.

4. Ford, 3M, GE and the UAW to build respirators, ventilators and faceshields for coronavirus fight

Ford has announced the details of its current manufacturing efforts around building much-needed medical supplies for frontline healthcare workers and COVID-19 patients. Its efforts include building Powered Air-Purifying Respirators with partner 3M.

5. Where top VCs are investing in D2C

The TechCrunch team was curious —especially in the wake of the troubled Casper IPO — about how investor sentiment might have shifted and what venture capitalists are looking for in the category, so we asked some smart investors. (Extra Crunch membership required.)

6. Revolut launches its neobank in the US

Starting today, anybody in the U.S. can sign up and get a Revolut debit card. For this launch, Revolut has partnered with Metropolitan Commercial Bank for the banking infrastructure — deposits are FDIC-insured up to $250,000.

7. Mozilla expands its partnership with ad-free subscription service Scroll

Firefox Better Web with Scroll combines the tracking protection built into Mozilla’s Firefox browser with the ad-free browsing experience offered by Scroll. Anyone in the United States who’s interested in trying this out can sign up for a Firefox account and install the Better Web with Scroll extension.

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.

With lower bandwidth, Disney+ opens streaming service in UK, Ireland, 5 other European countries, France to come online April 7

Disney+, the streaming service from the Walt Disney Company, has been rapidly ramping up in the last several weeks. But while some of that expansion has seen some hiccups, other regions are basically on track. Today, as expected, Disney announced that it is officially launching in the UK, Ireland, Germany, Italy, Spain, Austria, and Switzerland; it also reconfirmed the delayed debut in France will be coming online on April 7.

Seven is the operative number here, it seems: it’s the largest multi-country launch so far for the service.

“Launching in seven markets simultaneously marks a new milestone for Disney+,“ said Kevin Mayer, Chairman of Walt Disney Direct-to-Consumer & International, in a statement. “As the streaming home for Disney, Marvel, Pixar, Star Wars, and National Geographic, Disney+ delivers high-quality, optimistic storytelling that fans expect from our brands, now available broadly, conveniently, and permanently on Disney+. We humbly hope that this service can bring some much-needed moments of respite for families during these difficult times.”

Pricing is £5.99/€6.99 per month, or £59.99/€69.99 for an annual subscription. Belgium, the Nordics, and Portugal, will follow in summer 2020.

The service being rolled out will feature 26 Disney+ Originals plus an “extensive collection” of titles (some 500 films, 26 exclusive original movies and series and thousands of TV episodes to start with) from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, National Geographic, and other content producers owned by the entertainment giant, in what has been one of the boldest moves yet from a content company to go head-to-head with OTT streaming services like Netflix, Amazon and Apple.

The expansion of Disney+ has been caught a bit in the crossfire of world events. The new service is launching at what has become an unprecedented time for streaming: because of the coronavirus pandemic, a lot of of the world is being told to stay home.

That means huge demand for new services to entertain and distract people who are now sheltering in place. But it has also been putting a huge strain on broadband networks, and to be a responsible streamer (and to make sure quality is not too impacted), Disney confirmed (as it previously said it would) it would be launching the service with “lower overall bandwidth utilization by at least 25%.

Titles in the mix debuting today include “The Mandalorian” live-action Star Wars series; a live-action “Lady and the Tramp,” “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series,”; “The World According to Jeff Goldblum” docuseries from National Geographic; “Marvel’s Hero Project,” which celebrates extraordinary kids making a difference in their communities; “Encore!,” executive produced by the multi-talented Kristen Bell; “The Imagineering Story” a 6-part documentary from Emmy and Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Leslie Iwerks and animated short film collections “SparkShorts” and “Forky Asks A Question” from Pixar Animation Studios.

Some 600 episodes of “The Simpsons” is also included (with the latest season 31 coming later this year).

With entire households now being told to stay together and stay inside, we’re seeing a huge amount of pressure being put on to broadband networks and a true test of the multiscreen approach that streaming services have been building over the years. In this case, you can use all the usuals: mobile phones, streaming media players, smart TVs and gaming consoles to watch the Disney+ service (including Amazon devices, Apple devices, Google devices, LG Smart TVs with webOS, Microsoft’s Xbox Ones, Roku, Samsung Smart TVs and Sony / Sony Interactive Entertainment, with the ability to use four concurrent streams per subscription, or up to 10 devices with unlimited downloads. As you would expect, there is also the ability to set up parental controls and individual profiles.

Carriers with paid-TV services that are also on board so far include Deutsche Telekom, O2 in the UK, Telefonica in Spain, TIM in Italy and Canal+ in France when the country comes online. No BT in the UK, which is too bad for me (sniff). Sky and NOW TV are also on board.

Facebook and Disney to downgrade streaming quality in Europe due to COVID-19

Facebook is temporarily downgrading the quality of video streaming in Europe on its social platforms Facebook and Instagram in response to a call for action from the European Commission, per Reuters.

Disney has also said it will work to shrink bandwidth used by its streaming service, Disney+, which is due to begin launching in Europe from tomorrow.

Last week Netflix, YouTube and Amazon said they would switch to SD streaming by default in the region.

The EU’s executive has expressed concerned about the load on Internet infrastructure during the coronavirus crisis as scores of citizens log on from home to work or try to keep themselves entertained during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Telcos in the region have reported significant increases in traffic as EU Member States have called for or instructed citizens to stay at home during the public health emergency.

Collectively, streaming platforms account for a major chunk of global Internet traffic. Online video accounted for more than 60% of the total downstream volume of traffic per a 2019 Sandvine report — while in another report last month it said YouTube alone accounted for a quarter of all mobile traffic.

“To help alleviate any potential network congestion, we will temporarily reduce bit rates for videos on Facebook and Instagram in Europe,” a Facebook spokesman also told Reuters yesterday.

We’ve reached out to Facebook with questions.

Per Reuters the measure will remain in place for as long as there are concerns about the region’s Internet infrastructure.

In related news Disney is pressing ahead with a planned launch of its new video streaming service, Disney+, in Europe starting from tomorrow but Bloomberg reports it will also take measures to reduce bandwidth utilization by at least 25% in European markets.

“We will be monitoring Internet congestion and working closely with Internet service providers to further reduce bitrates as necessary to ensure they are not overwhelmed by consumer demand,” said Kevin Mayer, chairman of Disney’s direct-to-consumer division, in a statement.

Last week the company said it would postpone the launch of Disney+ in India after the biggest local attraction — the Indian Premier League cricket tournament — was rescheduled due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Fox gets deeper into streaming with $440 million acquisition of Tubi

Fox Corp., the broadcast news and entertainment company holding what remains of the Murdoch Family’s television and cable sports and media assets after the sale of 21st Century Fox to Disney, has agreed to acquire the streaming service Tubi TV  for $440 million. 

Tubi, once of a now-dwindling number of free ad-supported streaming services, will bring a new digitally native consumer offering to Fox with younger-skewing audience that consumes roughly 160 million hours of entertainment on the platform, according to a statement.

Available on over 25 digital platforms in the U.S. and featuring 20,000 titles and 56,000 hours of film and television from 250 content partners — including major studios — will now be able to pull from Fox’s stable of news and sports programming in addition to all that licensed television and film.

Fox said that it will integrate its digital advertising, direct-to-consumer features, and personalization technology into Tubi’s advertising platform. Fox watchers can now expect to see a deluge of Tubi ads flood their appointment watching of Neil Cavuto and Fox and Friends.

“Tubi will immediately expand our direct-to-consumer audience and capabilities and will provide our advertising partners with more opportunities to reach audiences at scale,” said Fox Corp. chief executive, Lachlan Murdoch in a statement. “Importantly, coupled with the combined power of Fox’s existing networks, Tubi provides a substantial base from which we will drive long-term growth in the direct-to-consumer area.”

Tubi’s chief executive, Farhad Massoudi, will continue to lead Tubi’s efforts and said that Fox’s relationships with advertisers and distributors would be a big boost to the company’s growth.

Fox is paying for the Tubi acquisition with money earned from its sale of the 5 percent stake it held in Roku — another ad-supported streamer. The company said it was basically exchanging a passive minority investment in Roku for full ownership and control of a leadership position in the free ad-supported streaming market.

It’ll be interesting to see how Fox adjusts programming on the service which primarily comes from Warner Bros., Paramount, Lionsgate and NBCUniversal .

With the acquisition, Fox becomes the second big old-line network to buy into the ad-supported streaming business. In January, Viacom bought the streaming service PlutoTV for $340 million.

Fox was advised by Allen & Co. on the deal, while Qatalyst Partners served as Tubi’s sole financial adviser.

 

Grab your ticket: Only one week to TC Sessions: Robotics + AI 2020

It’s T-minus one week to the big day, March 3, when more than 1,000 startuppers will convene in Berkeley, Calif. for TC Sessions: Robotics + AI 2020. We’re talking a hefty cross-section representing big companies and exciting new startups. We’re talking some of the most innovative thinkers, makers, researchers, investors and influencers — all focused on creating the future of these two world-changing technologies.

Don’t miss out on this one-day conference of interviews, panel discussions, Q&As, workshops and demos dedicated to every aspect of robotics and AI. General admission tickets cost $345. Snag your ticket now and save, because prices go up at the door. Want to save even more? Save 15% when you buy four or more tickets. Are you a student? Grab a ticket for just $50.

What do we have planned for this TC Session? Here’s a small sample of the fab programming that awaits you, and be sure to check out the full TC Session agenda here.

  • Q&A with Founders: This is your chance to ask questions of Sébastien Boyer, co-founder and CEO of FarmWise and Noah Ready-Campbell, founder and CEO of Built Robotics — some of the most successful robotics founders on our stage.
  • Disney Robotics: Imagineers from Disney will present state-of-the-art robotics built to populate its theme parks.
  • Investing in Robotics and AI: Lessons from the Industry’s VCs: Dror Berman, founding partner at Innovation Endeavors, Jocelyn Goldfein, managing director at Zetta Venture Partners and Eric Migicovsky, general partner at Y Combinator will discuss the rising tide of venture capital funding in robotics and AI. The investors bring a combination of early-stage investing and corporate venture capital expertise, sharing a fondness for the wild world of robotics and AI investing.

And — new this year — don’t miss watching the finalists from our Pitch Night competition. Founders of these early-stage companies, hand-picked by TechCrunch editors, will take the stage and have just five minutes to present their wares.

With just one more week until TC Sessions: Robotics + AI 2020 kicks off, you don’t have much time left to save on tickets. Why pay more at the door? Buy your ticket now and join the best and brightest for a full day dedicated to all things robotics.

Here’s what you need to know about Disney’s CEO reshuffle

Disney sent a shock wave through the media industry yesterday upon stock market closing, announcing the immediate shift of its longtime CEO Bob Iger to an Executive Chairman role. Iger said he will leave the company at the end of his current contract on December 31, 2021 and use his remaining time overseeing creative decision-making on the media side. Bob Chapek, previously head of Disney’s parks, experiences and products division, is the company’s new CEO.

Here’s what TechCrunch readers need to know about this story:

Context on Iger: As Disney’s leader since 2005, Iger has been widely viewed as the most powerful person in Hollywood and oversaw Disney’s fruitful acquisition of major IP franchises (Pixar, Marvel, LucasFilm), ongoing expansion of parks & hospitality, and major push into direct-to-consumer video streaming (Hulu, BAMTech, ESPN+, Disney+).

Disney CEO Bob Iger immediately steps down from CEO position

The Walt Disney Company announced this afternoon that Robert Iger, the company’s long-time CEO who ushered in the company’s lush franchise and entertainment platform profits, will step down immediately as chief executive. Bob Chapek, a long-time senior exec at the company who most recently held the position of Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, will succeed him.

Chapek, as head of Disney’s Parks Division was a somewhat divisive figure in that he led with a ‘value engineering’ (the Imagineering word for trimming cool stuff) and budget concious strategy instead of the more popular ‘let Imagineers do the most’ tactic that has produced some of the Parks most enduring rides and experiences. Disney Twitter has been quick to descend upon the Chapek choice as a sign of possible rough times ahead for Parks budgets.

Our guess for who would head Parks is Josh D’Amaro, extremely well liked former head of Disneyland who now heads Walt Disney World. Liked by Parks people for a lot of the opposite reasons, which politically could make this a non starter, but would be very popular appointment.

A few oddities surround this sudden change. Iger is only 14 months into a 36 month contract extension and this comes not on a regularly scheduled earnings call but in the midst of an interesting time for Disney as it faces Parks shutdowns due to the Corona virus outbreak. Disney’s earnings have been amazing lately, which would have made for a nice two-hander at earnings time. Speculation is still high for the exact reason behind Iger’s departure, with many hoping for something benign (ish) like a Presidential run vs. a personal issue.

Iger will address Disney employees at 5:30EST today, we’ll update if anything further comes of that address.

Under Iger’s tenure since 2005, Disney expanded aggressively into movies, theme parks, and other entertainment verticals, culminating late last year with the introduction of the company’s Disney+ streaming service. Iger oversaw such dramatic acquisitions as Marvel Entertainment a little more than a decade ago, and also bought Lucasfilm and its Star Wars and Indiana Jones series. He also helped to rebuild a partnership with late Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs, and eventually acquired the Pixar animation studio, which Jobs had founded in 1986. Those decisions, among other aggressive media growth strategies, has given Disney a commanding role in the media universe.

As Jake Coyle noted in the AP earlier this year:

But in today’s IP-driven movie world, one studio is in a league of its own. In 2019, Disney dominated American moviegoing more than any studio ever has before — roughly 38% of all domestic moviegoing.

The year’s top five films were all Disney movies, and it played a hand in the sixth. Disney’s Marvel Studios produced the Sony Pictures release “Spider-Man: Far From Home.”

Since its launch, Disney+ itself has drawn almost 30 million subscribers according to data released by the company earlier this month.

Iger will assume the role of Executive Chairman through 2021 according to Disney’s statement.

It has been no secret that Iger has been thinking about succession planning for years, but at least until recently, details had remained scant. Media analysts probed for news in Iger’s book The Ride of a Lifetime, which was published late last year and was a summation of his tenure at the media conglomerate and his business philosophy. Yet, finding a successor at the company has been challenging, with multiple heirs apparent departing the company when the top slot looked like it would remain locked in Iger’s grasp.

On an already heavy red-ink day, Disney stock was further hit in after-hours trading by investors. Yahoo Finance’s most recent quotes puts Disney stock down 2.57% in after-hours trading, following a 3.62% decline during trading hours stemming from the global coronavirus outbreak. Disney has significant properties in Asia, including Shanghai Disney Resort, which was the company’s first platform in China and was overseen by incoming CEO Chapek.

A team of Imagineers will discuss Disney’s tech breakthroughs at TC Sessions: Robotics + AI, March 3 at UC Berkeley

With TC Sessions: Robotics + AI 2020 a little over a week away, you likely thought we were finished with our big announcements. Understandably. We have top executives from Amazon and Toyota Research, and some of the hottest startups and biggest VCs. But there’s still some excitement left to announce.

On March 3, Disney will be returning to the event to discuss some of the breakthroughs the entertainment giant has been making around robotics for its theme parks. We’ll be joined by Disney Imagineers Dawson Dill, Selina Herman and Joe Mohos.

The trio have been working on using robotics to enhance rides at the park, blending physical trackless vehicles with other physical and virtual tools to transport riders both figuratively and literally. The team will discuss their latest breakthroughs in the space and the applications such technologies will have in entertainment and beyond.

Tickets are now available for $345 right here. Take advantage of this discounted pricing now, as prices will go up soon! Students, book a super-discounted $50 ticket right now and get in on the action.

Join the TechCrunch team and 1,000+ of today’s leading minds in robotics and artificial intelligence for this single-day conference. The event will feature great panels and fireside chats, breakout sessions and plenty of networking opportunities. There also will be an expo hall packed full of startups looking for their big break, and awesome hands-on demos for you to interact with.

 

Disney+ launches discounted annual subscriptions for European users

Disney is offering a discount on its new streaming service for select European markets ahead of its March 24th launch, the company announced on Monday. Customers who pre-order Disney+ before March 23rd will get £10 or €10 a full year’s subscription, bringing the cost down to around £49.99 or €59.99 per year (~$64 USD). The service initially debuts in the U.K., Ireland, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Austria, and Switzerland.

Disney+ is already live in the Netherlands, which is not eligible for the discount.

In the U.K., Disney has operated a subscription streaming service called DisneyLife. The company confirmed that DisneyLife will become Disney+ on March 24th, but existing subscribers will not have their accounts automatically switched over. They’ll also need to sign up for Disney+ directly — which means they can benefit from the new discount pricing, as well.

In addition, European markets may not have the same set of content as Disney+ carries in the U.S., Disney also recently revealed by way of its Disney+ U.K. Twitter account. The company noted that the plan is to premiere a lot of content at the same time as in the U.S., but said there may be some variations in content between countries. This is because of the different licensing deals Disney may have in place on some titles.

The company has hinted, too, that top new show “The Mandalorian” may get a stagged release when it arrives in Europe, by saying that episodes would “start to roll out from March 24th.”

However, European subscribers will still gain access to Disney’s huge catalog, along with Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, and National Geographic content, as well as Disney’s original programming and more new releases that roll out throughout the year.

Disney+ has been on a tear following its mid-November debut in the U.S.

The company announced earlier this month that the service had grown to 28.6 million customers — ahead of already bullish Wall St. estimates of 25 million subscribers. In part, Disney’s subscriber growth can be attributed to its partnership with (TechCrunch parent) Verizon in the U.S., which is offering the service for free for its first year. Disney says that 20% of subscribers come from Verizon, which technically means 20% aren’t yet paying subscribers.

Disney also ran other co-marketing deals in the U.S. to boost sign-ups and a similar discount for pre-orders by way of its D23 fan club. And it’s been offered in a discounted bundle along with Hulu and ESPN+.

The European pre-order discount is available until March 23. Afterward, Disney+ will revert to standard pricing of £5.99 per month or £59.99 per year.

 

These leaders are coming to Robotics + AI on March 3. Why aren’t you?

TechCrunch Sessions: Robotics + AI brings together a wide group of the ecosystem’s leading minds on March 3 at UC Berkeley. Over 1,000+ attendees are expected from all facets of the robotics and artificial intelligence space — investors, students, engineers, C-levels, technologists and researchers. We’ve compiled a small list of highlights of attendees’ companies and job titles attending this year’s event:

ATTENDEE HIGHLIGHTS

  • ABB Technology Ventures, Vice President
  • Amazon, Head, re:MARS Product Marketing
  • Amazon Web Services, Principal Business Development Manager
  • Autodesk, Director, Robotics
  • AWS, Principal Technologist
  • BMW, R&D Engineer
  • Bosch Venture Capital, Investment Principal
  • Capital One, President of Critical Stack
  • Ceres Robotics Inc., CEO
  • Deloitte, Managing Director
  • Facebook AI Research, Research Lead
  • Ford X, Strategy & Operations
  • Goldman Sachs, Technology Investor
  • Google, Vice President
  • Google X, Director, Robotics
  • Greylock, EIR
  • Hasbro, Principal Engineer
  • Honda R&D Americas Inc., Data Engineer
  • HSBC, Global Relationship Manager
  • Huawei Technologies, Principal System Architect of Corporate Technology Strategy
  • Hyundai CRADLE, Industrial Design
  • Intel, Hardware Engineer
  • Intuit, Inc., Software Engineer
  • iRobot, CTO
  • John Deere, Director, Precision Ag Marketing and Innovation
  • Kaiser Permanente, Director
  • Kawasaki Heavy Industries (USA), Inc., Technical Director
  • LG Electronics, Head of Engineering
  • LockHeed Martin, Engineering Manager
  • Moody’s Analytics, Managing Director
  • Morgan Stanley, Executive Director
  • NASA, Senior Systems Architect
  • Nestle, Innovation Manager
  • NVIDIA, Senior Systems Software Engineer
  • Qualcomm Ventures, Investment Director
  • Samsung, Director, Open Innovations & Tech Partnership
  • Samsung Ventures, Managing Director
  • Shasta Ventures, Investor
  • Softbank Ventures Asia, Investor
  • Surgical Theater, SVP Engineering
  • Takenaka Corporation, Senior Manager, Technology Planning
  • Techstars, Managing Director
  • Tesla, Sr. Machine Learning Engineer
  • Toyota Research Institute, Manager, Prototyping & Robotics Operations
  • Uber, Engineering Manager
  • UPS, Director of Research and Development

STUDENTS & RESEARCHERS FROM:

  • Columbia University
  • Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Harvard University
  • Northwestern University
  • Santa Clara University
  • Stanford University
  • Texas A&M University
  • UC Berkeley
  • UC Davis
  • UCLA
  • USC
  • Yale University

Did you know that TechCrunch provides a white-glove networking app at all our events called CrunchMatch? You can connect and match with people who meet your specific requirements, message them and connect right at the conference. How cool is that!?

Want to get in on networking with this caliber of people? Book your $345 General Admission ticket today and save $50 before prices go up at the door. But no one likes going to events alone. Why not bring the whole team? Groups of four or more save 15% on tickets when you book here.