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NASA

NASA Names an Asteroid After 'Star Trek' Actor Wil Wheaton (cnet.com) 87

"An asteroid going boldly through the universe now carries a new name that honors actor Will Wheaton, who played Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation," reports CNET. An anonymous reader quotes their article. The announcement showed up on Twitter Wednesday from NASA's Ron Baalke, who describes himself as a "space explorer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory". Wheaton is in good company with other Star Trek alumni. Asteroid 7307 Takei is named for Sulu actor George Takei and 68410 Nichols gets its name from Nichelle Nichols, who played Uhura. There's also asteroid 4659 Roddenberry for Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry.
"Today, I found out that I kind of get to be in space and live right here on Earth..." Wheaton wrote on his blog Wednesday, describing his life-long interest in space exploration. "As soon as it gets dark here, I'm going to walk out into my backyard, look up into the sky, just a little above Sirius, and know that, even though I can't see it with my naked eye, it's out there, and it's named after me."
Movies

CBS, Paramount Settle Lawsuit Over 'Star Trek' Fan Film (hollywoodreporter.com) 142

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Hollywood Reporter: Stand down from battle stations. Star Trek rights holders CBS and Paramount have seen the logic of settling a copyright suit against Alec Peters, who solicited money on crowdfunding sites and hired professionals to make a YouTube short and a script of a planned feature film focused on a fictional event -- a Starfleet captain's victory in a war with the Klingon Empire -- referenced in the original 1960s Gene Roddenberry television series. Thanks to the settlement, CBS and Paramount won't be going to trial on Stardate 47634.44, known to most as Jan. 31, 2017. According to a joint statement, "Paramount Pictures Corporation, CBS Studios Inc., Axanar Productions, Inc. and Alec Peters are pleased to announce that the litigation regarding Axanar's film Prelude to Axanar and its proposed film Axanar has been resolved. Axanar and Mr. Peters acknowledge that both films were not approved by Paramount or CBS, and that both works crossed boundaries acceptable to CBS and Paramount relating to copyright law." Peters' Axanar video and script, which feature such arguably copyrighted elements as Vulcan ears, the Klingon language and an obscure character from a 1969 episode, sparked a lawsuit in December 2015. The litigation then proceeded at warp speed with the case almost making it to trial in just 13 months, an amazingly brisk pace by typical standards. When Axanar comes out, it will look different. "Axanar and Mr. Peters have agreed to make substantial changes to Axanar to resolve this litigation, and have also assured the copyright holders that any future Star Trek fan films produced by Axanar or Mr. Peters will be in accordance with the 'Guidelines for Fan Films' distributed by CBS and Paramount in June 2016," states the parties' joint announcement of a settlement.
AT&T

Despite Glitches, AT&T's DirecTV Now Hits 200,000 Subscribers in Its First Month (techcrunch.com) 25

AT&T's new live TV streaming service DirecTV Now has been off to a shaky start in terms of performance, but that hasn't stemmed the flow of sign-ups, AT&T reports. The company said the service added more than 200,000 subscribers in its first month of operations. From a report on TechCrunch: These details were included in an SEC filing for the quarter ending on December 31, 2016. DirecTV Now launched on November 30, 2016. The filing also notes the additions only include paying customers. To be clear, there's no free tier for DirecTV Now, but the company has been offering free trials so customers can kick the tires before committing to a subscription plan. Of course, it's not entirely surprising that DirecTV Now was able to gain so many customers in such a short period of time. On paper, at least, the service sounds compelling.
Sony

Sony Is Weighing a Sale of Film, TV Business (nypost.com) 34

Sony could be exploring the sale of its film and television unit just a week after announcing the departure of Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton. From a report: Tokyo's Sony Corp. is listening to bank pitches about a potential sale of its film and TV operations, several sources told The Post. "Every bank is pushing pitches," said one person familiar with the process. Another confirmed that banks have paid a flurry of visits to Tokyo to advise on a sale of Sony's film and TV business. The Post was first to report that the Japanese owners were ready to listen to bid proposals if they had the right number attached. CBS CEO Leslie Moonves has long signaled interest in acquiring the asset, though several Chinese bidders could be in the wings. Sony CEO Kaz Hirai has denied any intent to sell the firm during the five years he's been in the top slot at the company. Still, he has not appointed a successor to Lynton, despite knowing of his intention to depart for some time. That has sparked speculation that there may be no position to fill.
Movies

Star Trek Discovery Gets Delayed Again As Spock's Father Is Cast (hollywoodreporter.com) 158

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Hollywood Reporter: CBS All Access' Star Trek: Discovery has been delayed again as the series continues casting. The revival for the streaming platform has cast James Frain as Spock's father, producer CBS Television Studios announced Wednesday, as sources confirm that the show's planned May debut has been pushed. "Production on Star Trek: Discovery begins next week. We love the cast, the scripts and are excited about the world the producers have created," reps for CBS All Access said in a statement. "This is an ambitious project; we will be flexible on a launch date if it's best for the show. We've said from the beginning it's more important to do this right than to do it fast. There is also added flexibility presenting on CBS All Access, which isn't beholden to seasonal premieres or launch windows." Frain will play Sarek, the famed father of Spock who was first introduced in the original Star Trek and who has made several appearances throughout the franchise's many incarnations over the past five decades. The CBS All Access show features the franchise's Enterprise, now known as the U.S.S. Discovery. The drama will introduce new characters seeking new worlds and civilizations while exploring the dramatic contemporary themes that have been a signature of the franchise since its inception in 1966. Star Trek: Discovery was originally scheduled to debut in January and was pushed back to May, with The Good Wife spinoff The Good Fight now set to be the first scripted offering on CBS All Access, the network's VOD platform. This marks the second delay for the series, which saw former showrunner Bryan Fuller step down to focus on his Starz drama American Gods.
Television

3D TV Is Dead (cnet.com) 389

While Samsung dropped 3D support in 2016, LG and Sony -- the last two major TV makers to support the 3D feature in their TVs -- will stop doing so in 2017. None of their TVs, including the high-end OLED TV models, will be able to show 3D movies and TV shows. As a result, 3D TV is dead. The question is no longer when (or even why) 3D TVs will become obsolete, it's will 3D TVs ever rise again? CNET reports: The 3D feature has been offered on select televisions since 2010, when the theatrical success of "Avatar" in 3D helped encourage renewed interest in the technology. In addition to a 3D-capable TV, it requires specialized glasses for each viewer and the 3D version of a TV show or movie -- although some TVs also offer a simulated 3D effect mode. Despite enthusiasm at the box office and years of 3D TVs being available at affordable prices, the technology never really caught on at home. DirecTV canceled its 24/7 3D channel in 2012 and ESPN followed suit a year later. There are plenty of 3D Blu-ray discs still being released, such as "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," but if you want to watch them at home you'll need a TV from 2016 or earlier -- or a home theater projector. Those market trends are clear: Sales of 3D home video gear have declined every year since 2012. According to data from the NPD Group, 3D TV represents just 8 percent of total TV sales dollars for the full year of 2016, down from 16 percent in 2015 and 23 percent in 2012. Native 3D-capable Blu-ray players fell to just 11 percent of the market in 2016, compared to 25 percent in 2015 and 40 percent in 2012. As for whether or not 3D TVs will ever become popular again, David Katzmaier writes via CNET, based on his own "anecdotal experience as a TV reviewer": Over the years, the one thing most people told me about the 3D feature on their televisions was that they never used it. Sure, some people occasionally enjoyed a 3D movie on Blu-ray, but the majority of people I talked to tried it once or twice, maybe, then never picked up the glasses again. I don't think most viewers will miss 3D. I have never awarded points in my reviews for the feature, and 3D performance (which I stopped testing in 2016) has never figured into my ratings. I've had a 3D TV at home since 2011 and I've only used the feature a couple of times, mainly in brief demos to friends and family. Over the 2016 holiday break I offered my family the choice to watch "The Force Awakens" in 2D or 3D, and (after I reminded everyone they had to wear the glasses) 2D was the unanimous choice. But some viewers will be sad to see the feature go. There's even a change.org petition for LG to bring back the feature, which currently stands at 3,981 supporters. Of course 3D TV could come back to life, but I'd be surprised if it happened before TV makers perfect a way to watch it without glasses.
The Internet

Netflix Calls Out HBO For Not Letting Subscribers Binge On New Shows (arstechnica.com) 57

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Netflix has gleefully poked a stick at its competitors in the video streaming market, after revealing it had added more than seven million subscribers to its service in the last three months of 2016. HBO also got a special mention. In a letter to shareholders, the company's boss Reed Hastings teased the TV drama maker by noting that, if the BBC was willing to stream shows before they air on television, then maybe HBO -- which has rigidly stuck to its strategy of eking out episodes to viewers -- should do the same. He said: "[...] the BBC has become the first major linear network to announce plans to go binge-first with new seasons, favoring internet over linear viewers. We presume HBO is not far behind the BBC. In short, it's becoming an Internet TV world, which presents both challenges and opportunities for Netflix as we strive to earn screen time." But it's worth noting that HBO currently has an exclusive deal with Sky in the UK, Ireland, Germany, Austria, and Italy, allowing the broadcaster to have first-run rights on the likes of Game of Thrones and Westworld until 2020 -- so any such change isn't likely to happen in the near-term. Late last year, it struck a deal with Netflix rival Amazon, allowing Prime members in the US to sign up for a monthly HBO subscription. "We have a very successful partnership with this great company that continues to evolve," said HBO exec Sofia Chang in December. The company's HBO Now streaming service shows no sign of shifting strategy, either, with programs airing simultaneously on traditional TV and online.
United States

32% of All US Adults Watch Pirated Content (torrentfreak.com) 252

Nearly a third of all US adults admit to having downloaded or streamed pirated movies or TV-shows, a new survey has found. Even though many are aware that watching pirated content is not permitted, a large number of pirates are particularly hard to deter. According to a report from TorrentFreak: This is one of the main conclusions of research conducted by anti-piracy firm Irdeto, which works with prominent clients including Twentieth Century Fox and Starz. Through YouGov, the company conducted a representative survey of over 1,000 respondents which found that 32 percent of all US adults admit to streaming or downloading pirated video content. These self-confessed pirates are interested in a wide variety of video content. TV-shows and movies that still play in theaters are on the top of the list for many, with 24 percent each, but older movies, live sports and Netflix originals are mentioned as well. The data further show that the majority of US adults (69%) know that piracy is illegal. Interestingly, this also means that a large chunk of the population believes that they're doing nothing wrong.
Businesses

Netflix's Subscriber Boom Shows the World is Accepting Internet TV (cnbc.com) 145

Netflix's boom in subscribers is a sign that the world is accepting internet TV, meaning without commercials and on-demand, said CEO Reed Hastings during an earnings call with investors. From a report: "The basic demand is increasing as people get more comfortable and more aware of Internet television where you don't get the commercial interruptions, where you get to watch where and when you want," said Hastings. Netflix reported $2.47 billion in revenue during Q4 2016, and earnings per share of 15 cents. The streaming giant wildly beat its original projections for subscriber additions, bringing in 7.05 million new customers compared to its Q3 estimate of 5.2 million. The majority of adds were from international viewers. Even though some shows -- like "Gilmore Girls" -- started as traditional TV shows before moving to Netflix, a large part of the draw for new subscribers came from original shows. Almost half of the most searched for shows this year were Netflix originals, said Ted Sarandos, chief content officer. The company has 42 launches coming up, including Marvel's "Iron Fist" and Drew Barrymore's zombie comedy "Santa Clarita Diet."
Businesses

Verizon Looking To Buy Comcast or Charter, Says Report (nypost.com) 82

"Two well-placed sources" told The New York Post that Verizon is considering purchasing a big cable company to help it grow demand for its wireless data products. The source said the most likely targets would be "Charter or Comcast." New York Post reports: Verizon Chief Executive Lowell McAdam may be getting ready to answer rival ATT's moves to buy DirecTV and Time Warner. To be sure, Verizon is not in talks with any cable company and may not ever make such a move. Still, McAdam has been under pressure recently with Verizon's deal to acquire Yahoo still a question mark months after two major hacks of the internet portal were revealed. The wireless giants operate on 4G wireless networks but are preparing to become a real alternative to the cable company with phone, TV and data services. To do that more effectively, the phone companies are pouring money into 5G connections that can work with cable systems to provide more stable coverage for consumers. McAdam has already given Wall Street analysts and investors big hints that he's looking at a combination with, say, a Charter Communications. In a mid-December meeting with Wall Street analysts, McAdam said a get-together between the two "makes industrial sense." Three weeks later, at CES, his comments to friends make it clear that cable distribution is a path he is exploring, perhaps more seriously than first thought. "For regulatory reasons, Verizon can't dominate in FiOS and cable, so it appears to have to set its sights on cable," an industry source said. Charter could be a seller under the right conditions, the source added, emphasizing that Malone and Charter CEO Tom Rutledge are just getting going on their vision for Charter.
Movies

Netflix is 'Killing' DVD Sales, Research Finds (torrentfreak.com) 309

Netflix has become the go-to destination for many movie and TV fans. The service is bringing in billions for copyright holders, but it also has a downside. New research shows that the availability of content on Netflix can severely hurt physical disc sales, which traditionally have been the industry's largest revenue source. From a report: A new study published by researchers from Hong Kong universities provides some empirical evidence on this issue. Through a natural experiment, they looked at the interplay between Netflix availability and DVD sales in the United States. The experiment took place when the Epix entertainment network, which distributes movies and TV-shows from major studios including Paramount and Lionsgate, left Netflix for Hulu in 2015. Since Hulu has a much smaller market share, these videos no longer reached a large part of the audience. At least not by default. The researchers used difference to examine the effect on DVD sales, while controlling for various other variables. The results, published in a paper this week, show that DVD sales increased significantly after the content was taken off Netflix, almost by a quarter. "Our difference-in-difference analyses show that the decline in the streaming availability of Epix's content leads to a 24.7% increase in their DVD sales in the three months after the event," the paper reads.
Movies

Apple Exec Jimmy Iovine Confirms Company's Interest in Making 'Pop Culture' TV Shows (hollywoodreporter.com) 85

Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Apple is working to bring in veteran producers to help create original content, including TV series and movies. Apple Music head Jimmy Iovine has all but confirmed the report and company's intentions to expand. From a report: "We're going to do whatever hits popular cultural smack on the nose," Iovine said when asked about Apple's reported expansion. Days after The Wall Street Journal's report that Apple plans to expand into original TV series and movies, Apple executive Jimmy Iovine hinted at what that might look like. "At Apple Music, what we're trying to create is an entire cultural, pop cultural experience, and that happens to include audio and video," he told reporters at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour. "If South Park walks into my office, I am not going to say you're not musicians, you know?" Iovine continued when pressed about the report. "We're going to do whatever hits popular culture smack on the nose. We're going to try."
Businesses

Head of Sony Entertainment, Michael Lynton, To Step Down (deadline.com) 9

Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton has told his employees that he is stepping down from the company. He will however be staying with the company for six months to help in the transition. Lynton's note to the staff reads: Dear Colleagues,

Today I will be announcing my resignation from Sony to focus on my position as Chairman of the Board of Snap Inc. This was not an easy decision for me, and one that I arrived at after long and careful consideration. Sony Corp will be issuing an internal note from Kaz to all Sony global employees as well as a press release describing the details and timing of my transition, which I have included below.

As some of you are already aware, I have been involved with Snapchat since its early days. Given Snapchat's growth -- and my growing role and responsibilities in it -- I recently determined that the time was right to make a change.

I leave Sony with great pride in all we have accomplished together -- from our greatest victories to overcoming our biggest challenges. Together we: Produced terrific films such as American Hustle, Captain Phillips, The Social Network, Spider-man, Skyfall and Spectre; and hit TV shows like Breaking Bad, The Blacklist, The Goldbergs, The Crown and Kevin Can Wait; Grew our worldwide networks business to 178 countries, including India with our ownership of the IPL cricket rights the Ten Sports Network; Completed the Lot's most significant capital improvement projects in decades including the Jack and Harry Cohn buildings, Calley Park and the beautiful new 8-story Akio Morita building, which brought Sony Music and Sony/ATV Music Publishing employees onto the Lot for the first time; Completed the $750 million acquisition of the Michael Jackson Estate's stake in Sony/ATV, making us 100% owners; And triumphed over the most devastating and disruptive cyber-attack in corporate history, keeping studio operations running and not missing a single day of production.

Anime

Amazon Launches Anime Channel for $5 Per Month, Its First Branded Subscription Channel (variety.com) 114

Todd Spangler, writing for Variety: Amazon is rolling out its first branded on-demand subscription service for Amazon Channels: Anime Strike, offering more than 1,000 series episodes and movies ranging from classic titles to current shows broadcast on Japanese TV. The Anime Strike channel is available to U.S. Amazon Prime members for $4.99 per month after a seven-day free trial, the newest addition to the lineup of around 100 services now available in Amazon Channels. Amazon has struck exclusive U.S. streaming deals for several series on Anime Strike, including "Scum's Wish," "Onihei," "The Great Passage," "Vivid Strike!," "Crayon-Shin Chan Gaiden: Alien vs. Shinnosuke," and "Chi's Sweet Adventure."
Movies

Apple Planning To Make Original TV Shows and Movies as Hardware Sales Soften (venturebeat.com) 130

While investors seem to remain optimistic about the future of Apple, it's no secret that sales of its iconic hardware products have flatlined or fallen over the past year. From a report: We'll have to wait until January 31 to find out how the company performed over the critical holiday period. But for the moment, its most promising category of revenue has been "services," which includes things like Apple Music, and has been on a big winning streak over the past several quarters. Now it appears Apple is getting ready to make an even bigger bet in that category. According to a story just published by the Wall Street Journal, the company "has been in talks with veteran producers in recent months about buying rights to scripted television programs. It also has approached experienced marketing executives at studios and networks to discuss hiring them to promote its content." According to the story, the programming would be part of is Apple Music subscription ($6/month for an individual plan, $9 for a family plan.) The movie bit is deemed to be "more preliminary," according to the Journal.
Businesses

Comcast Remains America's Most-Hated Company, Survey Finds (dslreports.com) 111

What may come as no surprise to cable TV or internet subscribers, Comcast remains among the least-liked companies in American history, according to a new survey from 24/7 Wall Street. From DSL Reports: [The survey] combines data from the American Consumer Satisfaction Index, JD Power and Associates and a Zogby Analytics poll, and lists Comcast as the "most hated company in America." Comcast had made some small strides in the ACSI rankings last year, but even with minor improvements still consistently battles Charter for last place in most customer satisfaction and service studies. "The company')s internet services received the fourth worst score out of some 350 companies. In J.D. Power's rating of major wireline services, only Time Warner Cable -- recently subsumed by Charter -- received a worse score in overall satisfaction," notes the report, which adds that Comcast received the worst scores in consumer costs, billing, and reliability. "In 24/7 Wall St.'s annual customer satisfaction poll conducted in partnership with Zogby, nearly 55% of of respondents reported a negative experience with the company, the second worst of any corporation." Comcast finds itself ahead of numerous banks and airlines, but it isn't alone in the rankings among telecom providers. Dish Network is ranked eighth, the report noting that 47% of those polled reported a negative service experience with the company. Also on the list at tenth is Sprint, which had the worst customer service rating out of the more than 100 companies included in the survey. "More than half of Sprint customers polled reported a negative customer service experience with the company," the study found.
Transportation

JetBlue Giving All Passengers Free In-Flight 'Fly-Fi' High-Speed Wi-Fi (betanews.com) 71

BrianFagioli quotes a report from BetaNews: Today, JetBlue announced something miraculous for travelers. Every one of its passengers will have access to free in-flight high-speed Wi-Fi, which it calls "Fly-Fi." This is on every single aircraft in its fleet. In other words, if you are flying JetBlue, you get free high-speed internet "JetBlue's Fly-Fi, which clocks in at broadband speeds beating sluggish and pricey Wi-Fi offerings onboard other carriers, keeps customers connected with an Internet experience similar to what they have at home, including the ability to stream video and use multiple devices at once. The service enables JetBlue to deliver Amazon Video streaming entertainment to customers onboard to their personal devices, as well as web surfing and chatting on favorite messaging apps," says JetBlue. The vice president of JetBlue, Jamie Perry, explains, "It's 2017 and our customers expect to be connected everywhere, whether that be from the comfort of their sofa or 35,000 feet above it. That's why we're so proud that JetBlue is now the only airline to offer free, high-speed Wi-Fi, live TV and movies for all customers on every plane."
Television

Streaming TV is Beginning To Look a Lot Like Cable (theverge.com) 209

The advent of streaming TV services and over the top devices that support them has come at a cost. They used to work on a simple, unwritten principle: being different from normal cable services. You didn't have to pay for large, non-configurable bundles of channels that played shows in linear fashion and required you to use a digital video recorder built into the box (often for an extra fee) if you wanted to create your own collection of programming to watch on your own schedule. But that's not the case anymore, argues veteran technology columnist Walt Mossberg. He writes: The general idea is that each of these TV services will appeal to cord-cutters and cord-nevers who merely consider old-style cable and satellite TV too costly. To overcome that, each offers what are called "skinny bundles" of channels, with fewer choices, at various prices. On Sling, for instance, you start at about 30 channels for $20 a month. On DirecTV Now, it's 60 channels for $35 a month. Both offer other, costlier plans, with more channels, or add-on plans for HBO, or for specialized programming such as sports, or kids' shows. Both are working on DVR offerings. In other words, while the bundles may be cheaper and skinnier, they're still bundles, not unlike the tiers of programming offered by traditional cable and satellite services. And you can't assemble your own custom bundle. Also, unlike in the Netflix / Hulu model, the emphasis here is on networks, not shows.
AT&T

AT&T Imposes Another $5 Rate Hike On Grandfathered Unlimited Data Plans (arstechnica.com) 58

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: ATT is raising the price of its grandfathered unlimited data plans by $5 a month, the second such increase in the past year. The price increase affects longtime mobile customers who have held onto unlimited data plans for years after ATT stopped selling them to new subscribers. The latest price increase was reported by DSLReports yesterday, and ATT confirmed the move to Ars. "If you have a legacy unlimited data plan, you can keep it; however, beginning in March 2017, it will increase by $5 per month," ATT said. The unlimited data price had been $30 a month for seven years, until ATT raised it to $35 in February 2016. The price increase this year will bring it up to $40. That amount is just for data: Including voice and texting, the smartphone plans cost around $90 a month. ATT encouraged customers to move to one of its new plans, most of which have data limits, saying the newer packages "provide several benefits that our legacy unlimited plan doesn't." For example, the newer plans support mobile hotspot connections allowing a phone's Internet service to be shared with another device. ATT had stopped selling unlimited smartphone data to new customers and to customers who are switching plans, but last year introduced a new unlimited plan that's available only to people who also subscribe to DirecTV or U-verse TV.
Businesses

'OLED TVs Will Finally Take Off in 2017' (engadget.com) 238

From a feature article on Engadget: After years of taunting consumers with incredible picture quality, but insanely high prices, OLED TVs are finally coming down to Earth. Prices are falling, there will be even more models to choose from and, at least based on what we've seen from CES this year, LCD TVs aren't getting many upgrades. If you've been holding out on a 4K TV upgrade, but haven't had the budget to consider OLED up until now, expect things to change this year. Even before CES began, it was clear the OLED market was beginning to change. Throughout 2016, LG steadily lowered the prices of its lineup -- its cheapest model, the B6, launched at $4,000, but eventually made its way down to $2,000 by October. Come Black Friday, LG also offered another $200 discount to sweeten the pot. A 55-inch 4K OLED for $1,800! It was such a compelling deal I ended up buying one myself. Since then, the B6's price has jumped back up to $2,500, but I wouldn't be surprised to see its price come back down again. So why the big discounts? LG reportedly increased the production of its large OLED panels by 70 percent last year, likely in anticipation of more demand. That could have led to a slight oversupply, which retailers wanted to clear out before this year's sets.

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