Tesla V10.0 car software update adds Smart Summon, Netflix/YouTube, Spotify, karaoke and more

Tesla is rolling out a new software update that adds a slew of new features to its cars. These include the new ‘Smart Summon’ feature which will allow cars equipped with the optional $5,000 full-self driving package to automatically drive themselves from a parking spot to collect you in a parking spot.

This is one of the most advanced semi self-driving features that Tesla has yet released to the general public, and the company still says you should use it only in lots and when you have a clear view of your car. The company also notes that you’re ultimately responsible for the vehicle, so definitely be aware of what’s going on with the car and its surroundings if you’re planning to use this one – and you can stop the car remotely should you feel the need to. Smart Summon has been out in a limited preview beta for some customers, but now it’s going to be rolling out to all vehicles that have purchased the FSD option

Other new features included in this update include the much-requested native Spotify support, which is available to all Spotify Premium account-holders across all markets where it’s available. That should go a long way towards satisfying Tesla owners who have been less than satisfied with playing audio via Bluetooth from this extremely popular streaming music option. In China, Tesla is also rolling out Ximalaya, a podcast and audiobook streaming service.

Tesla Theater Mode, also new in version 10.0, connects your infotainment system to your Netflix, YouTube and Hulu/Hulu+ (including Live TV if you’re subscribed to that feature) accounts, giving you access to streaming video from all these platforms while the car is safely in park. In China, the automaker is also adding IQiyi and Tencent Video, and it says it’ll be adding more options globally “over time” to supplement these offerings. The new Theater Mode will also provide access to Tesla vehicle tutorials for owners to watch in-car, again only while parked.

A lot of these updates focus on entertainment options, including the new “Car-aoke” mode, which, as you might have guessed, adds an in-car karaoke experience that includes a “massive” library of music and lyrics, Tesla says, with multiple languages supported. Singing along on road-trips has long gotten by with low-tech options only, but official support might encourage more amateur James Cordens.

Last but not least for new entertainment features, there’s the launch of the Cuphead port on Tesla Arcade, the in-car gaming software Tesla launched earlier this year. Cuphead is a cult smash hit indie game, with an iconic art style reminiscent of early Disney animation, and this is definitely a nod to Tesla’s core geek audience (and probably a treat for the Musk man himself). Again, this is only available while parked in case you were worried about distracted driving.

Tesla also added some new navigation features that suggest interesting restaurants and sightseeing opportunities along your way, w which could result in some more interesting spontaneous adventures. There’s also a new file system tweak that separates videos captured by the car’s camera when in Dashcam and Sentry Mode to make it easier for users to find them, and they’ll be auto-deleted when there’s a need to free up storage.

This is a big ol’ update packed with new features, and it’s going to be rolling out over-the-air to vehicles beginning this week. As mentioned a couple of places above, you might see some slight differences region to region but Tesla says you can also check out the updates in-store at its showrooms if you want a sneak preview.

Tesla V10.0 car software update adds Smart Summon, Netflix/YouTube, Spotify, karaoke and more

Tesla is rolling out a new software update that adds a slew of new features to its cars. These include the new ‘Smart Summon’ feature which will allow cars equipped with the optional $5,000 full-self driving package to automatically drive themselves from a parking spot to collect you in a parking spot.

This is one of the most advanced semi self-driving features that Tesla has yet released to the general public, and the company still says you should use it only in lots and when you have a clear view of your car. The company also notes that you’re ultimately responsible for the vehicle, so definitely be aware of what’s going on with the car and its surroundings if you’re planning to use this one – and you can stop the car remotely should you feel the need to. Smart Summon has been out in a limited preview beta for some customers, but now it’s going to be rolling out to all vehicles that have purchased the FSD option

Other new features included in this update include the much-requested native Spotify support, which is available to all Spotify Premium account-holders across all markets where it’s available. That should go a long way towards satisfying Tesla owners who have been less than satisfied with playing audio via Bluetooth from this extremely popular streaming music option. In China, Tesla is also rolling out Ximalaya, a podcast and audiobook streaming service.

Tesla Theater Mode, also new in version 10.0, connects your infotainment system to your Netflix, YouTube and Hulu/Hulu+ (including Live TV if you’re subscribed to that feature) accounts, giving you access to streaming video from all these platforms while the car is safely in park. In China, the automaker is also adding IQiyi and Tencent Video, and it says it’ll be adding more options globally “over time” to supplement these offerings. The new Theater Mode will also provide access to Tesla vehicle tutorials for owners to watch in-car, again only while parked.

A lot of these updates focus on entertainment options, including the new “Car-aoke” mode, which, as you might have guessed, adds an in-car karaoke experience that includes a “massive” library of music and lyrics, Tesla says, with multiple languages supported. Singing along on road-trips has long gotten by with low-tech options only, but official support might encourage more amateur James Cordens.

Last but not least for new entertainment features, there’s the launch of the Cuphead port on Tesla Arcade, the in-car gaming software Tesla launched earlier this year. Cuphead is a cult smash hit indie game, with an iconic art style reminiscent of early Disney animation, and this is definitely a nod to Tesla’s core geek audience (and probably a treat for the Musk man himself). Again, this is only available while parked in case you were worried about distracted driving.

Tesla also added some new navigation features that suggest interesting restaurants and sightseeing opportunities along your way, w which could result in some more interesting spontaneous adventures. There’s also a new file system tweak that separates videos captured by the car’s camera when in Dashcam and Sentry Mode to make it easier for users to find them, and they’ll be auto-deleted when there’s a need to free up storage.

This is a big ol’ update packed with new features, and it’s going to be rolling out over-the-air to vehicles beginning this week. As mentioned a couple of places above, you might see some slight differences region to region but Tesla says you can also check out the updates in-store at its showrooms if you want a sneak preview.

Tinder’s interactive series ‘Swipe Night’ could bring a needed boost to user engagement

On Sundays in October, Tinder is launching an “interactive adventure” in its dating app called “Swipe Night” that will present a narrative where users make a series of choices in order to proceed. This sort of choose-your-own-adventure format has been more recently popularized by Netflix and others as a new way to engage with digital media. In Tinder’s case, its larger goal may not a dramatic entry into scripted, streaming video, as has been reported, but rather a creative way to juice some lagging user engagement metrics.

For example, based on analysis of Android data in the U.S. from SimilarWeb, Tinder’s sessions per user, meaning the number of times the average user opens the app per day, have declined. From the period of January – August 2018 to the same period in 2019 (January – August 2019), sessions declined 10.8%, from 4.5 to 4.1.

The open rate, meaning the percentage of the Tinder install base that opens the app on a daily basis, also declined 5.9% during this time, going from 28% to 22.1%.

These sort of metrics are hidden behind what would otherwise appear to be steady growth. Tinder’s daily active users, for example, grew 3.1% year-over-year from 1.114 million to 1.149 million. And its install penetration on Android devices grew by 1%, the firm found. (See below).

Tinder Install Penetration

Drops in user engagement are worth tracking, given the potential revenue impact.

App store intelligence firm Sensor Tower found Tinder experienced its first-ever quarter-over-quarter decline in combined revenue from both the App Store and Google Play in Q2 2019.

Spending was down 8.8% from $260 million in Q1 to $237 million in Q2, the firm says. This was largely before Tinder shifted in-app spending out of Google Play, which was in late Q2 to early Q3. Tinder revenue was still solidly up 46% year-over-year, the company itself reported in Q2, due to things like pricing changes, product optimizations, better “Tinder Gold” merchandising and more.

There are many reasons as to why users could be less engaged with Tinder’s app. Maybe they’re just not having as much fun — something “Swipe Night” could help to address. Sensor Tower also noted that negative sentiment in Tinder’s user ratings on the U.S. App Store was at 79% last quarter, up from 68% in Q2 2018. That’s a number you don’t want to see climbing.

Of course, all these figures are estimates from third-parties, not directly reported — so take them with the proverbial grain of salt. But they help to paint a picture as to why Tinder may want to try some weird, experimental “mini-series”-styled event like this.

It wouldn’t be the first gimmick that Tinder used to boost engagement, either. It also recently launched engagement boosters like Spring Break mode and Festival mode, for example. But this would be the most expensive to produce and far more demanding, from a technical standpoint.

Swipe Night Intro

In “Swipe Night,” Tinder users will participate by launching the app on Sundays in October, anytime from 6 PM to midnight. The 5-minute story will follow a group of friends in an “apocalyptic adventure” where users will face both moral dilemmas and practical choices.

You’ll have 7 seconds to make a decision and proceed with the narrative, Tinder says. These decisions will then be added to your user profile, so people can see what decisions others made at those same points. You’ll make your choice using the swipe mechanism, hence the series’ name.

Every Sunday, a new part of the series will arrive. Tinder shot over 2 hours worth of video for the effort, but you’ll only see the portions relevant to your own choices.

The series stars Angela Wong Carbone (“Chinatown Horror Story”), Jordan Christian Hearn (“Inherent Vice”), and Shea Gabor, and was directed by Karena Evans, a music director used by Drake. Writers include Nicole Delaney (Netflix’s “Big Mouth”) and Brandon Zuck (HBO’s “Insecure”).

Swipe Night Choice

 

Tinder touts the event as a new way to match users and encourage conversations.

“More than half of Tinder members are Gen Z, and we want to meet the needs of our ever-evolving community. We know Gen Z speaks in content, so we intentionally built an experience that is native to how they interact,” said Ravi Mehta, Tinder’s Chief Product Officer. “Dating is all about connection and conversation, and Swipe Night felt like a way to take that to the next level. Our hope is that it will encourage new, organic conversations based on a shared content experience,” he said.

How someone chooses to play through a game doesn’t necessarily translate into some sort of criteria as to whether they’d be a good match, however. Which is why it’s concerning that Tinder plans to feed this data to its algorithm, according to Variety.

At best, a series like this could give you something to talk about — but it’s probably not as much fun as chatting about a shared interest in a popular TV show or movie.

Variety also said the company is considering whether to air the series on another streaming platform in the future.

Tinder declined to say if it plans to launch more of these experiences over time.

Despite the user engagement drop, which crazy stunts like “Swipe Night” could quickly — if temporarily — correct, the dating app doesn’t have much to worry about at this time. Tinder still accounts for the majority of spending (59%) in the top 10 dating apps globally as of last quarter, Sensor Tower noted. This has not changed significantly from Q2 2018 when Tinder accounted for 60% of spending in the top 10 dating apps, it said.

 

Netflix cofounder Marc Randolph on the company’s earliest days, the streaming wars, and moving on

Netflix is today a company whose valuation hovers around $130 billion, but it was, of course, once a little startup, and in his new book “That Will Never Work,” Netflix’s cofounder and its first CEO Marc Randolph takes readers on a fun and surprisingly vivid journey through the streaming giant’s earliest days.

It’s also instructive, though this is more memoir than business book, and Randolph, who is the great nephew of Edward Bernays — a  public relations pioneer — turns out to be a very compelling writer, explaining in sometimes humbling detail how and why the company eventually outgrew him, and the reason he doesn’t regret stepping away when he did.

In fact, rather than lament past decisions, Randolph seems to relish his longtime work as a startup advisor, one who often has no financial ties to the companies he helps. As he explains it, there is a “role for someone in a founder’s life who isn’t a board member or an investor or an employee. The role of a founder-CEO is extremely lonely. You can’t always be fully forthcoming with your board or investors or employees. And if you go to your peers and you bring them an issue, they don’t really understand. So it’s very valuable for a founder who doesn’t have an ulterior motive but also understands a problem well enough that they can give really good advice.”

We had a chance to catch up with Randolph earlier today to discuss the book and his current relationship with his Netflix cofounder Reed Hastings, who he met when the company that Hastings began running in 1991, Pure Atria, acquired Randolph’s company, Integrity QA Software, (They both found themselves searching out the next big thing when Pure Atria was itself acquired.)

Randolph also shared why it took him 16 years to tell his story about what has become one of the most impactful companies in the history of television.

TC: We’re still zipping through the book but there is a lot of great storytelling here, from scenes with you and Reed carpooling to the office together, to some of earlier startup ideas you ran past him and he didn’t think much of, including customized baseball bats. Did you write this alone?

MR: Of course, I had help, you can’t write about something as important as Netflix by yourself. Over the course of one-and-a-half years, I spent tons of time on the phone and [engaged in] email correspondence and in meetings with everyone I could track down, because I wanted to hear all those stories again. But this isn’t a ghostwritten book and it’s not a as-told-to book. I did write it with the help of a great editor. In fact, the book was originally conceived as more of a self-help book, but my editor came back and said, “You shouldn’t do this as a ‘you’ book. Make it a ‘me’ book. Make the lessons you’ve learn over your career implicit instead of explicit.”

But I’ve been writing all my life. I was a direct marketing guy [before founding Netflix]. I had to restrain myself from writing things like, “Frankly, I’m puzzled,” and “But wait! There’s more!”

TC: You left Netflix in 2003. Why not write a book sooner?

MR: I needed to wait all that time. Even though I needed to tell the story, I didn’t really understand the lessons. It has taken me working with other early-stage companies and mentoring them and investing in them to make these connections. Why did Netflix work? What were my failings? What could I have done better?

TC: You’re pretty candid in the book about not being punctual and not having great attention to detail, but these are minor offenses. 

How Zhihu’s become one of China’s biggest hubs for experts

Zhihu may not be as well known outside of China as WeChat or ByteDance’s Douyin, but over the past eight years, it has cultivated a reputation for being one of the country’s most trustworthy social media platforms. Originally launched as a question-and-answer site similar to Quora, Zhihu has grown to be a central hub for professional knowledge, allowing users to interact with experts and companies in a wide range of industries.

Headquartered in Beijing, Zhihu recently raised a $434 million Series F, its biggest round since 2011. The funding also brought Zhihu two important new partners: video and live-streaming app Beijing Kuaishou, which led the round, and Baidu, owner of China’s largest search engine (other participants in the round included Tencent and CapitalToday).

Launched in 2011, Zhihu (the name means “do you know”) is most frequently compared to Quora and Yahoo Answers. While it resembled those Q&A platforms at first, it has grown in scope. Now it would be more accurate to say that the platform is like a combination of Quora, LinkedIn and Medium’s subscription program.

For example, Zhihu has an invitation-only blogging platform for verified experts and since launching official accounts, it has become a channel for companies and organizations to communicate with users. A representative for Zhihu told TechCrunch that the platform had 220 million users and 30,000 official accounts as of January 2019 (for context, there are currently about 800 million Internet users in China), who have posted a total of 130 million answers so far.

The company’s growth will be closely watched since Zhihu is reportedly preparing for an initial public offering. Last November, the company hired its first chief financial officer, Sun Wei, heightening speculation. A representative for the company told TechCrunch the position was created because of Zhihu’s business development needs and that there is currently no timeline for a public listing.

At the same time, the company has also dealt with reports that its growth has slowed.

Netflix tests human-driven curation with launch of ‘Collections’

Netflix is testing a new way to help users find TV shows and movies they’ll want to watch with the launch of a “Collections” feature, currently in testing on iOS devices. While Netflix today already offers thematic suggestions of things to watch, based on your Netflix viewing history, Collections aren’t only based on themes. According to Netflix, the titles are curated by experts on the company’s creative teams, and are organized into these collections based on similar factors — like genre, tone, storyline, and character traits.

This human-led curation is different from how Netflix typically makes its recommendations. The streaming service is famous for its advanced categorization system, where there are hundreds of niche categories that go beyond broad groupings like “Action,” “Drama,” “Sci-Fi,” “Romance,” and the like. These narrower subcategories allow the streamer to make more specific and targeted recommendations.

Netflix also tracks titles that are popular and trending across its service, so you can check in on what everyone else is watching, as well.

The new Collections feature was first spotted by Jeff Higgins, who tweeted some screenshots of the addition.

If you’ve been opted in to the test, the Collections option is available at the top right of the app’s homepage — where My List would have been otherwise.

The suggestions are organized into editorial groups, with titles like “Let’s Keep It Light,” “Dark & Devious TV Shows,” “Prizewinning Movie Picks,” “Watch, Gasp, Repeat,” “Women Who Rule the Screen,” and many more.

You can follow the Collection from the main screen, or you can tap into it to further explore its titles.

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If you tap a collection that interests you, it smoothly expands to the show the thumbnails of the suggested titles below a header that explains what the collection is about. You can choose to follow the suggestion from here too, which presumably ties into Netflix’s notification system.

Collections are also found on the app’s Home page, for those who have access to the new feature.

“We’re always looking for new ways to connect our fans with titles we think they’ll love, so we’re testing out a new way to curate Netflix titles into collections on the Netflix iOS app,” a Netflix spokesperson confirmed to TechCrunch. “Our tests generally vary in how long they run for and in which countries they run in, and they may or may not become permanent features on our service.”

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This isn’t the first time Netflix has toyed with organizing content suggestions into Collections. The company’s DVD service (yes, it still exists), had rolled out a similar Collections feature in its own mobile app.

This test comes at a time when Netflix is working on features to better retain existing subscribers amid increased competition, including that from upcoming rivals like Disney+ and Apple TV+, among others. On this front, it also recently launched a feature allowing users to track new and soon-to-launch releases, as a means of keeping subscribers anticipating what comes next.

Netflix said Collections is only available on iOS. As a test, it won’t show to all users.

Inside the Porsche Taycan’s minimalist, all-digital interior

Porsche has taken the wraps off of the interior of the all-new, all-electric Porsche Taycan ahead of its world debut September 4. Gone are the buttons and the clutter. This is a minimalist and sleek interior for the modern digital age.

Porsche released Thursday several images of the interior. Earlier this week, TechCrunch was among numerous media outlets that had a chance to get an up close view of the interior (along with some other things we can’t talk about) and a chance to play around with the infotainment system.

Porsche didn’t just slap a bunch of screens in and call it a day. Here are the inside details and what stood out.

911 design lines

At first glance, the dashboard might give viewers a twinge of deja vu. And they wouldn’t be wrong.

Designers used the dashboard from the 1963 Porsche 911 as inspiration. And that’s evident in the pictures below, which shows a clean and sleek dashboard.

The 911 DNA is evident. But this isn’t some throwback. This is a modern vehicle with its own design story, which includes horizontal digital screens that are sandwiched between the upper and lower dash lines and stretch all the way over to the passenger seat.Taycan Interior 2

The elevated center console stretches down from the horizontal central screen to two air vents that are not the mechanically-operated louvres found most vehicles today. Instead, the direction of the airflow is controlled digitally via an 8.4-inch touch panel that is located just below the central screen. This touch panel houses the climate control system and includes a track pad with haptic feedback. The trackpad can also be used for quick address inputs.

Tucked under the touch panel is a small flat space to place a wallet or phone. Two cups holders and then a storage unit, which is equipped with wireless charging and two USB ports, completes the center console.

 

Porsche’s design team repeatedly talked to TechCrunch about the emphasis on the driver. And that shows. (The design team worked on the interface alone for 3.5 years.) Although there are plenty of passenger features here as well. From the driver’s seat, everything is in reach and without constantly looking over to the center display. Natural voice integration courtesy of Nuance is activated by a “Hey Porsche” trigger or simply pressing the voice button on the central display or dedicated button on the steering wheel.

The minimalist design continues to the all-digital instrument cluster. This free-standing panel, which houses the instrument cluster, has a slight curve to it. Interestingly, it doesn’t have the standard cowl or lip that is often used to prevent reflection. Instead, Porsche used glass coated with a vapor-deposited, polarizing filter.

Porsche-Taycan-Interior-instrument

The digital instrument cluster is the highest point of the dashboard in the Porsche Taycan.

The Instrument Cluster

Inside the 16.8-inch cluster display, the driver will see three round instruments that display information. Drivers can customize what each of these instruments displays. Drivers can also remove the information for a more streamlined look in “pure mode.”

This pure mode displays only essential information such as speed, navigation or traffic sign recognition (so you know what the speed limit is). Pure mode, which manages to give the interior an even more minimalist look, could be a handy and fun feature for a Taycan owner on track day.

Perhaps one of the most functional features is the map mode. The map replaces the central power meter in this mode. But it really becomes useful when “full map mode” is turned on, which extends the map across the full display. TechCrunch wasn’t allowed to take photos of the interior during its visit to Porsche North America headquarters, so readers will have to imagine it a digital map taking up most of the instrument cluster.

Finally, just to the left and right of the main instrument cluster, drivers will see small, touch-control fields at the edges of the screen for operating the light and chassis functions. One of these buttons is a trigger key, which lets drivers customize what it operates.

All The Screens

The Porsche Taycan has several screens. Beyond the digital instrument cluster is a horizontal 10.9-central display. Directly below this is a tilted screen that houses climate control as well as a digital track pad that gives haptic feedback.

From the central screen and moving to the right, is a display for the passenger. The passenger display cannot be turned on if the driver is the only one in the vehicle, according to Oliver Fritz, director of driver experience at Porsche. The company is experimenting with streaming video on the passenger display and testing technology that would prevent the driver from being able to view the screen. Fritz emphasized that this idea was still in testing and Porsche won’t roll out streaming video unless it’s sure the driver cannot see the screen.

Dark Mode

Porsche designers have made “dark mode” the default in the instrument cluster and rest of the infotainment system. That can be changed to a white background, Porsche said. TechCrunch doesn’t recommend that though. The dark mode, and the ability to turn off the central 10.9-inch infotainment display and optional passenger one, should let drivers enjoy the road and escape the annoying “blue light” that is emanates from so many vehicles these days.

Interior colors and leather-free options

Porsche will offer a number of color combinations in the interior, including an all-black matte look, which TechCrunch viewed. The company’s design team didn’t reveal the total number of interior color combinations, but they did list a few. There will be four exclusive interior colors for the Taycan, a black-lime beige, blackberry, Atacama beige and Meranti brown. An optional interior accent package will include black matte, dark silver or neodyme, which is like a champagne gold color.

The doors and center consoles can have wood trim, matte carbon, embossed aluminum or fabric.

The company is also offering a leather-free trim interior, which includes the steering wheel. Porsche designer Thorsten Klein was careful not to call it vegan. He told TechCrunch that even synthetic materials can be treated using animal products. Porsche is pushing to source materials that don’t use these processes, but until then Porsche won’t use the vegan term.

Apple Music and more

Earlier this week, Porsche announced it will integrate Apple  Music into the Taycan, the first time the music streaming service has been offered as a standalone app within a vehicle.

But Apple Music is just one of the many features in the infotainment system. The user interface is laid out to always show a home, vehicle and messages button, which will lists notifications coming into the vehicle. The voice feature can also be used so the driver doesn’t need to glance at the screen.

Other buttons on the central screen include navigation, phone, settings, climate, news, calendar, charging information, weather and Homelink, which can be used to open the owner’s garage door.

Hulu and Amazon Prime Video chip away at Netflix’s dominance

Netflix is still the No. 1 subscription streaming service in the U.S., according to a new report from eMarketer, but rivals, including Amazon Prime Video and Hulu, are starting to cut into its market share. The analyst firm forecasts 182.5 million U.S. consumers will subscribe to over-the-top streaming services this year, or 53.3% of the population. Netflix is still the top choice here, with 158.8 million viewers in 2019, and it is continuing to grow. However, its share of the U.S. over-the-top subscription market will decline even as its total subscriber numbers climb, the report said.

Though Netflix announced in Q2 the first drop in U.S. users in nearly a decade, eMarketer says Netflix will see strong growth throughout the rest of the year — up 7.6% over 2018. This will be driven by the new seasons of popular series like “Orange Is the New Black” and “Stranger Things,” as well as Academy Award-winning director Martin Scorsese’s new movie, “The Irishman.”

But Netflix is no longer the only option for streaming video these days. Back in 2014, it had 90% of the market. In 2019, its share will have shrunk to 87%.

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This decline in market share is attributed to the rise of rival services, like Hulu and Prime Video.

Hulu, for example, is estimated to reach 75.8 million U.S. viewers this year, or 41.5% of subscription service users. The number of viewers will also increase by 17.5% in 2019, but this is a drop from 2018’s big growth spurt of 49.6%

Prime Video, meanwhile will remain the second-largest subscription over-the-top video provider in the U.S. in 2019, the report says, with 96.5 million viewers. That’s up 8.8% over last year.

The firm estimates Prime Video will reach a third of the U.S. population by 2021.

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Netflix market share dominance is about to face new threats as well, most notably from the Disney-Hulu-ESPN bundle, which is priced the same as a standard U.S. Netflix subscription.

“Netflix has faced years of strong competition for viewers, coming from streaming video platforms, pay-TV services, and even video games,” said eMarketer forecasting analyst Eric Haggstrom. “While there is no true ‘Netflix killer’ on the market, Disney’s upcoming bundle with Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+ probably comes closest. Netflix’s answer has been to stick to what has made it the market leader—outspending the competition on both licensed and original content, offering customers a competitive price,” he added.

Disney isn’t the only one with a new streaming service in the works, though.

Apple TV+ is poised to launch later this year, and is said to be spending $6 billion on content — far more than the $1 billion that had been reported. It’s also said to be considering a competitive $9.99 per month price point.

NBCUniversal and AT&T WarnerMedia are also poised to enter the market, the latter with HBO Max. And following the CBS-Viacom merger, the combined company is looking to beef up its own platforms, CBS All Access and the ad-supported Pluto TV, with the newly acquired content.

“The market for streaming video has been driven by an explosion in high-end original content and low subscription costs relative to traditional pay TV,” Haggstrom noted. “A strong consumer appetite for new shows and movies has driven viewer growth for services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video, as well as the broader market.”

MIT built a better way to deliver high-quality video streams to multiple devices at once

Image via Getty Images / aurielaki

Depending on your connection and the size of your household, video streaming can get downright post-apocalyptic – bandwidth is the key resource, and everyone is fighting to get the most and avoid a nasty, pixelated picture. But a new way to control how bandwidth is distributed across multiple, simultaneous streams could mean peace across the land – even when a ton of devices are sharing the same connection and all streaming video at the same time.

Researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab created a system they call ‘Minerva’ that minimizes stutters due to buffering, and pixelation due to downgraded stream, which it believes could have huge potential benefits for streaming services like Netflix and Hulu that increasingly serve multiple members of a household at once. The underlying technology could be applied to larger areas, too, extending beyond the houseful and into neighbourhoods or even whole regions to mitigate the effects of less than idea streaming conditions.

Minerva works by taking into account the varying needs of different delivery devices streaming on a network – so it doesn’t treat a 4K Apple TV the same as an older smartphone with a display that can’t even show full HD output, for instance. It also considers the nature of the content, , which is important because live action sports require a heck of a lot more bandwidth to display in high quality when compared to say, an animated children’s TV show.

Video is then served to viewers based on its actual needs, instead of just being allocated more or less evenly across devices, and the Minerva system continually optimizes delivery speeds in accordance with their changing needs as the stream continues.

In real-world testing, Minerva as able to provide a quality cup equivalent to going from 720p to 1080p as much as a third of the time, and eliminated the need for rebuffing by almost 50 percent, which is a massive improvement when it comes to actually being able to seamlessly stream video content continuously. Plus, it can do all this without requiring any fundamental changes to network infrastructure, meaning a streaming provider could roll it out without having to require any changes on the part of users.

PBS coming to YouTube TV later this year

YouTube TV has landed another network partner: PBS. The public broadcaster’s member stations will be able to stream live and o-demand to YouTube TV subscribers beginning later this year, PBS and YouTube announced today.

This is the first digital TV provider partnership for PBS, and the broadcaster is intent upon providing local livestreams to “as many Americans as possible” with the move. The partnership will also include PBS KIDS, providing educational and entertainment content for children via the platform. All content will be available through YouTube TV video-on-demand, and recordable via its DVR service without limits on how much content users can store, too.

YouTube has had its own share of criticism for the kind of content kids may be able to access from its platform, and its said to be considering a number of options for addressing misuse of the platform when it comes to children-focused videos. YouTube TV is distinct from its primary streaming video business, however, and is much more like a traditional over-the-top cable or satellite subscription, however, with a number of broadcast networks and premium channels signed on to provide U.S. viewers access for $49.99 per month.