Multiple States Join Antitrust Lawsuit Against Google Play Store, Citing Pending 30% Sales Commission Hike

Nearly 70% of the U.S. state attorneys general have reportedly joined an antitrust lawsuit filed July 7 against Google and its branded Google Play Store. The suit, which was filed in California federal court, alleges Google is exercising monopoly power with a planned September 30% commission hike on third-party sales of digital goods, i.e. movies and TV shows, in addition to subscription streaming services such as Netflix and Disney+ and Hulu.

Lead states in the suit include Utah, North Carolina, Tennessee, New York, Arizona, Colorado, Iowa and Nebraska — underscoring a trend among conservative states taking on Silicon Valley tech giants such as Facebook, Google and Apple alleging political bias.

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But this suit, similar to litigation filed against Apple’s App Store, is calling out the company’s gatekeeper tactics as non-competitive. Google also faces separate litigation from myriad states regarding its search engine and advertising technology.

Most studios, media companies and over-the-top video platforms use Google and Apple to market their apps to consumers. Apple mandates that anyone using a branded iOS device must access third-party apps through its App Store. For Android device users, Google Play Store has become the default search tool, although consumers can access apps via alternative channels such as Amazon and Samsung.

Google last year began informing companies and services that it would begin enforcing their use of its payment system for all transactions, beginning in September. As the deadline approached companies such as Netflix and Spotify cried foul, which led to Google reportedly proposing a 15% commission on the first $1 million in revenue from video, audio and e-book transactions.

While Apple continues to operate in a closed system, Google does not — a reality Wilson White, senior director of government affairs and public policy at Google noted in written testimony submitted April 21 to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.

In his testimony, Wilson argued that use of the Android mobile operating system, which launched in 2008, is free to anyone and has increased third-party competition as a valuable go-to platform for e-commerce, development and marketing.

More importantly, Wilson contends Google operates the Play Store outside of a bubble.

“Distributors can distribute their app via many other Android app stores, directly to OEMs, or through direct downloads on their websites,” he wrote. “And developers are free to contract directly with device makers [i.e. mobile phone, tablet manufacturers] to preload their apps on Android devices.”

Apple Ups Q2 Services Revenue 27% to $16.9 Billion

Apple Inc. April 28 reported $16.9 billion in second-quarter (ended March 27) revenue for its services segment, which includes sales of movies and TV shows on iTunes, the App Store, Mac App Store, Apple Music, Apple Pay, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade and Apple News+, among others. Apple reported services revenue of $13.3 billion during the previous-year period.

Through six months of the fiscal year, services revenue has increased 25% to $32.6 billion, compared with $26 billion the year before.

Overall, Apple results were driven by the iPhone, which saw record quarterly revenue of nearly $48 billion, up 66% from revenue of $28.9 billion a year ago.

“We are proud of our March quarter performance, which included revenue records in each of our geographic segments and strong double-digit growth in each of our product categories, driving our installed base of active devices to an all-time high,” CFO Luca Maestri said in statement. “These results allowed us to generate operating cash flow of $24 billion and return nearly $23 billion to shareholders during the quarter. We are confident in our future and continue to make significant investments to support our long-term plans and enrich our customers’ lives.”

Apple Announces New Apple TV 4K Device With High-Frame-Rate HDR and Dolby Vision

Apple April 20 announced the next generation of Apple TV 4K, delivering high frame rate HDR with Dolby Vision.

The new Apple TV 4K features an A12 Bionic chip that provides a significant boost in graphics performance, video decoding and audio processing, according to Apple. The Siri Remote also has a new design.

The new Apple TV 4K will be available starting at $179 (U.S.) from apple.com, in the Apple Store app, and at Apple Store locations. Apple TV 4K is also available through Apple Authorized Resellers and select pay TV providers.

Customers can order the new Apple TV 4K beginning April 30, with availability beginning in the second half of May in more than 30 countries and regions, including the United States. Apple TV HD with the new Siri Remote will be available for $149. The new Siri Remote will be available separately for $59, and is compatible with the previous-generation Apple TV 4K and Apple TV HD.

“Apple TV 4K is in a category of its own, leveraging a deep integration of Apple hardware, software, and services that delivers a massive upgrade to any TV for the very best cinematic experience,” Bob Borchers, Apple’s VP of worldwide product marketing, said in a statement. “With the A12 Bionic and the all-new Siri Remote, Apple TV 4K lets customers enjoy their favorite shows, movies, and more in the highest quality, with simple and intuitive controls. And of course, Apple TV 4K offers easy access to Apple services, along with thousands of apps on the App Store for even more entertainment options.”

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With A12 Bionic, Apple TV 4K now supports high frame rate HDR (high dynamic range) and Dolby Vision video, enabling fast-moving action at 60 frames per second (fps) to play more smoothly and appear more lifelike, according to the Apple announcement. Apple is working with leading video providers around the world, including Fox Sports, NBCUniversal, Paramount+, Red Bull TV and Canal+, as they begin to stream in high-frame-rate HDR. With high-frame-rate support in AirPlay, videos shot on iPhone 12 Pro can be displayed in full 60-fps Dolby Vision on the new Apple TV 4K.

Through a new color balance process, Apple TV works with iPhone and its advanced sensors to improve a television’s picture quality, according to the announcement. Apple TV uses the light sensor in the iPhone to compare the color balance to the industry-standard specifications used by cinematographers worldwide. Using this data, Apple TV automatically tailors its video output to deliver much more accurate colors and improved contrast — without customers ever having to adjust their television settings, according to Apple.

The new Siri remote for Apple TV

The new Siri Remote features a clickpad control that offers five-way navigation for better accuracy and is also touch-enabled for fast directional swipes. The outer ring of the clickpad supports a circular gesture that turns it into a jog control, which can be used for finding a scene in a movie or show. The new Siri Remote also has a power button that controls a TV’s power and another for mute to eliminate the need for other remots. Using Siri, customers can search for specific shows or movies, control smart home accessories, check sports scores or the weather and more, according to Apple. Siri now works on Apple TV in Austria, Ireland, and New Zealand, joining the 13 countries and regions that already support Siri.

Apple TV 4K runs tvOS. AirPlay on Apple TV 4K lets customers effortlessly share videos, school projects and other content from their iPhone, iPad or Mac directly to the TV. Videos shot on iPhone 12 Pro can be displayed in full 60-fps Dolby Vision with high frame rate support in AirPlay. Apple TV 4K can be used as a home hub to control HomeKit accessories, and allows customers to view HomeKit video cameras and doorbell notifications on the television screen. With multiuser support on Apple TV 4K, family members can see personalized recommendations for shows, movies and music, access their purchased apps in the App Store, or play games on Apple Arcade.

For the first time, AppleCare+ will be available for Apple TV, providing three years of technical support and additional hardware coverage, including up to two incidents of accidental damage protection every 12 months.

Apple Greenlights Louis Armstrong Doc

Apple Original Films has greenlighted the Louis Armstrong documentary feature Black & Blues: The Colorful Ballad of Louis Armstrong from Brian Grazer and Ron Howard’s Imagine Documentaries to join its feature film slate.

The film offers a definitive look at the master musician’s life and legacy as a founding father of jazz, the first pop star and a cultural ambassador of the United States. He was loved by millions worldwide but often mischaracterized for not doing enough to support the civil rights movement. In reality, his fight for social justice was fueled by his celebrity and his willingness to break his silence on issues of segregation and patriotism. With the support of the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation, the filmmakers have access to never-before-seen archival materials, including hundreds of hours of audio recordings, film footage, photographs, personal diaries and a life’s worth of ephemera for exclusive use in the first significant documentary dedicated entirely to Armstrong’s life.

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The documentary, which is produced under Apple’s first-look agreement with Imagine Documentaries, will be directed by Sacha Jenkins (Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men), and will be produced by Jenkins, Julie Anderson, Sara Bernstein and Justin Wilkes. Brian Grazer and Ron Howard serve as executive producers. The project is being produced in association with Universal Music Group’s Polygram Entertainment, with Michele Anthony and David Blackman serving as executive producers.

Apple TV+ Orders Comedy Series Starring Maya Rudolph

Streaming service Apple TV+ has ordered a new half-hour comedy series starring Emmy Award winner Maya Rudolph.

Created by Peabody and Emmy Award winner Alan Yang (“Little America,” “Master of None”) and Emmy Award winner Matt Hubbard (“30 Rock,” “Forever”), the series will feature Rudolph (“Saturday Night Live,” “Forever”) as Molly, a woman whose seemingly perfect life is upended after her husband leaves her with nothing but $87 billion.

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The project marks the second collaboration between Apple TV+ and Yang following the premiere of the three-time Independent Spirit Award and NAACP Image Award-nominated anthology series “Little America.”

Apple TV+ is $4.99 per month with a seven-day free trial. For a limited time, customers who purchase a new iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Mac or iPod touch can get one year of Apple TV+ for free.

Apple Orders Limited Series ‘Lady in the Lake’ Starring Natalie Portman and Lupita Nyong’o

Apple has given a straight-to-series order for “Lady in the Lake,” a new limited series that will co-star Academy Award winners Natalie Portman and Lupita Nyong’o.

The series is directed and co-written by Alma Har’el. Dre Ryan, who will co-create and co-write the series with Har’el, will write the pilot.

“Lady in the Lake” is an adaptation of Laura Lippman’s New York Times best-selling novel of the same name. The series takes place in 1960s Baltimore, where an unsolved murder pushes housewife and mother Maddie Schwartz (Portman) to reinvent her life as an investigative journalist and sets her on a collision course with Cleo Sherwood (Nyong’o), a hard-working woman juggling motherhood, many jobs and a passionate commitment to advancing Baltimore’s Black progressive agenda.

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“Lady in the Lake” marks Natalie Portman’s first foray into television, as well as Alma Har’el’s first television project. Har’el’s most recent film, Honey Boy, won her the Sundance 2019 Special Jury Directing Award for Craft and Vision, received four Independent Spirit Awards nominations including Best Director, and made her the first woman to win the DGA Award for First-Time Feature Film. She is also the first woman in DGA Awards history to be nominated for both commercial directing (2018) and narrative directing (2020).

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“Lady in the Lake,” produced by Crazyrose and Bad Wolf America, is executive produced by Har’el alongside producing partner Christopher Leggett through her new production company, Zusa. In addition to starring, Portman and Nyong’o will serve as executive producers on the series, alongside Portman’s producing partner Sophie Mas. Crazyrose principals Jean-Marc Vallée and Nathan Ross will also serve as executive producers, and Julie Gardner will executive produce for Bad Wolf America. Author Laura Lippman and Dre Ryan will also executive produce on the project. Endeavor Content is the studio.

Apple’s SVOD service Apple TV+ is $4.99 per month.

Interpret: 90% of Apple TV+ Subs Own at Least One Apple Device

Interpret research found that 90% of Apple TV+ subscribers own at least one Apple device, with 42% owning four or more Apple products.

Apple’s SVOD service (regularly $4.99 a month) has been free to any users who purchased an iPhone or other iOS device in late 2019. After extending the free period through February, the company extended the free service through July.

Pundits have noted that Apple TV+ lags in content offerings compared to other subscription streaming services, such as Disney+ and Netflix.

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Among those who cancelled their Apple TV+ subscription, nearly a third did so because of a “promotional price ending,” suggesting that viewers were anticipating the end of their free trials, according to Interpret.

 

Apple Spends Big at Sundance Film Festival

Fresh off a record fiscal quarter that saw Apple generate $111 billion in revenue and $28.7 billion in profit, the consumer tech giant went to the annual Sundance Film Festival with its wallet out.

The company reportedly outbid Amazon Prime Video and Netflix, paying a record $25 million for exclusive distribution rights to CODA (Children of Deaf Adults), a coming-of-age movie about a high-school senior (Emilia Jones) who must choose between a music career and working the family business with her deaf parents and sibling.

The previous rights fee record was set by Hulu in 2020 after the Disney-owned streaming service shelled out $22.5 million for Andy Samberg rom-com Palm Springs. In addition to being one of the top streamed movies in 2020, Palm Springs generated $675,000 at the mostly-shuttered box office.

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CODA director Siân Heder is no stranger to streaming video as executive producer of Apple’s “Little America” and writer for Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black.” In 2015, Heder directed indie romantic-comedy movie Tallulah, which streams on Netflix.

 

Apple Posts Record Q1 Revenue, Topping $111 Billion

Apple Jan. 27 reported record quarterly revenue for its services segment, which includes sales of movies and TV shows on iTunes, the App Store, Mac App Store, Apple Music, Apple Pay, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade and Apple News+, among others. The segment generated $15.8 billion in revenue for the first quarter, ended Dec. 26, 2020, compared with $12.7 billion in the previous-year period.

When factoring in more than $95 billion in product revenue, Menlo Park, Calif.-based Apple generated record $111 billion in revenue, up 21% from revenue of $91.8 million in the previous-year period.

Apple saw green throughout its product categories, with iPhone sales up 17% to $65 billion; Mac sales up 21% to $8.7 billion; iPad revenue up 40% to $8.4 billion; wearables (Apple Watch) up 29.5% to $15.8 billion.

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“We’re gratified by the enthusiastic customer response to the unmatched line of cutting-edge products that we delivered across a historic holiday season,” CEO Tim Cook said in a statement.

 

Apple TV+ Renews ‘Tehran’ for Second Season

Apple TV+ Jan. 26 announced that “Tehran,” the global espionage thriller from Moshe Zonder and Omri Shenhar, has been renewed for a second season.

“Tehran” tells the story of Mossad agent Tamar Rabinyan, who goes deep undercover on a dangerous mission in Tehran that places her and everyone around her in dire jeopardy. The series stars Niv Sultan, Shaun Toub, Navid Negahban, Shervin Alenabi, Liraz Charhi and Menashe Noy.

Apple TV+ is available on the Apple TV app in more than 100 countries and regions on devices including iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, iPod touch, Mac, select Samsung, LG, Sony and Vizio smart TVs, Amazon Fire TV and Roku devices, and PlayStation and Xbox consoles, and at tv.apple.com, for $4.99 per month with a seven-day free trial.

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For a limited time, customers who purchase a new iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Mac or iPod touch can enjoy one year of Apple TV+ for free. This special offer is good for three months after the first activation of the eligible device.