Gun Safety Activists Urge Tech Companies to Drop NRA TV Streaming Service

In the wake of the Florida high-school shooting that left 14 students and three teachers dead, gun safety activists are asking tech companies to stop streaming NRA TV, an ad-supported service of the National Rifle Association.

Launched in 2016, NRA TV features original programming supporting gun rights and other issues, in addition to covering conservative events such as C-PAC.

“Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense” and “Everytown for Gun Safety” are calling on companies such as Amazon, YouTube, Roku and Apple to stop carrying the NRA TV app, claiming the platform “promotes dangerous conspiracy theories, racially charged rhetoric and violent demonization of the NRA’s political opponents,” among other issues.

“Everytown,” which is fighting to close existing loopholes in gun purchase background checks and curbing the illegal trafficking of firearms, is helping spread hashtag #DumpNRATV.

The groups are also asking pay-TV operators such as DirecTV Now to cancel programming produced by the NRA.

“American businesses have the responsibility to make ethical decisions about the content they will provide on their platforms,” Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, said in a statement.

Watts, a mother of five children, founded “Moms Demand Action” following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in 2012 that left 20 children and six adults dead.

Roku spokesperson Tricia Mifsud took the high ground, saying the over-the-top video pioneer merely acts as a conduit to programming users voluntarily choose to stream.

“We operate an open-streaming platform; however, our content policies prohibit the publication of content that is unlawful, incites illegal activities or violates third-party rights,” Mifsud said in a statement to CNN.com.

 

Winter Holiday Tablet Sales Return to Growth

Sales of detachable tablets (convertible laptops with keyboard), including iPad and Galaxy, increased 10.3% to 6.5 million units in the fourth quarter of 2017 compared to the previous-year period, according to new data from IDC.

Tablet sales for the year increased 1.6%, which trailed significantly from 24% growth in 2016.

IDC attributed slowness to the launch cycle of high profile devices like Microsoft’s new Surface, which was off schedule, leaving older Surface models on shelves as consumers waited to see the upgrades.

Meanwhile, slate tablets (without keyboards) shipped 43.1 million units in Q4, and 141.7 million for the year – down about 7.6% from 2016. The report suggested sales have remained relatively steady as consumers increasingly use slate tablets to consume media, including over-the-top video and SVOD.

Top tablet vendors include (in order), Apple with 24.3% market share and 0.6% annual growth and Amazon Fire Tablet with whopping 50.3% growth and 9.6% market share. Samsung ranked third with 14.9% market share (13% sales decline), Huawei (5.9% market share, 11.9% growth) and Lenovo (6.6% market share, 13.1% sales decline.

“Continued success of [the tablet category] hinges on the willingness of other PC vendors to participate and more importantly, consumers from other countries to adopt the [detachable tablets] over convertible PCs,” Jitesh Urbani, senior research analyst with IDC, said in a statement.

CNBC Coming to Apple Smart Speakers

Business news network CNBC Jan. 24 announced it will begin offing audio news briefs for HomePod, Apple’s in-home wireless speaker, beginning Jan. 26.

HomePad, along with Google Assistant, Amazon Echo Dot, and other AI-enabled CE devices, are projected to push the speech and voice-recognition tech market to $18 billion in revenue by 2023.

HomePod users can simply say, “Hey Siri, play business news” and the CNBC audio news brief will immediately provide news updates throughout the business day, weekend look ahead features from CNBC anchors and reporters, as well as market commentary from CNBC’s on-air stocks editor Bob Pisani from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

Users can also hear business news with the CNBC audio news app on iPhone, iPad and Apple TV.

 

CES 2018 Mission: Improving the Home Entertainment Experience

More than 4,000 companies have arrived in Las Vegas for CES 2018, the world’s largest tech show, with many hoping to improve the home entertainment experience.

In addition to omnipresent television makers touting larger skinnier 4K UHD displays, CES promises myriad smart home enhancements – many featuring voice-activation.

With research firm Gartner predicting that, by 2019, at least 25% of households in developed economies would rely on digital assistants, competition to help people more easily consume anything from pizza to a movie from the comfort of the sofa has become fierce.

“Innovations such as voice control have increased consumer interest in solutions that enhance the entertainment experience,” said Elizabeth Parks, SVP at Parks Associates.

Google, for example, is coming to CES hoping to up its 25% market share of the smart speaker market, according to Strategy Analytics. Amazon Echo currently commands a 67% market share.

Both companies (and Apple) sell digital movies and TV shows, including 2014 sci-fi hit Ex Machina. Seems natural to order the Oscar-winner by voice-command.

“You should have the same assistant helping you across all the contexts of your life,” Scott Huffman, VP for Google Assistant, told The Washington Post, whose founder/CEO Jeff Bezos owns Amazon.

But what good is virtual assistance if you can’t live forever, looking like George Clooney?

Netflix has a solution, showcasing the pending original series “Altered Carbon,” which launches globally Feb. 2. The streaming giant “partnered” with PsychaSec, the fictional company whose tech underscores the cyberpunk sci-fi series about technological advances that allow one to extend life indefinitely – without arguably selling your soul to the Devil, a.k.a., “The Picture of Dorian Gray.”

Twentieth Century Fox, Panasonic and Samsung will present updates for HDR10+, the open-source High Dynamic Range platform Samsung began pushing last year to avoid paying HDR royalties to Dolby Vision.

Amazon Prime Video has already incorporated the enhanced 4K UHD format for original content “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan,” comedy “Jean-Claude Van Johnson,” and “The Tick,” among others.

Chinese TV manufacturer TCL Jan. 8 will announce plans to join Roku’s “Whole Home Entertainment Licensing Program,” a new platform enabling OEM brands to incorporate voice-activated Roku Connect software as a home entertainment network. TCL manufactures Roku-branded TVs.

“Consumers will love the benefits of … having more affordable options – using their voice, having a simplified set up and Wi-Fi connectivity, and holding just one remote control,” said Roku founder/CEO Anthony Wood.

Seeking to make sense of it all, Hulu CEO Randy Freer joins Turner CEO John Martin Jan. 10 on a keynote panel titled “Reimagining Television.” Freer and Martin are slated to discuss how technology companies are moving into content creation, while content companies are expanding digital distribution. The panel takes place at Monte Carlo’s Park Theater.

Finally, leave it to French furniture maker Miliboo to feature a smart sofa allowing users to wirelessly charge cell phones and related portable devices while watching TV.

Even smarter: The sofa tracks how long you’ve been a couch potato, while monitoring the effects on your body’s posture.

Apple Buying Netflix Seems Like a No-Brainer

NEWS ANALYSIS — Apple acquiring Netflix might seem like M&A fantasy, until you think about it. Apple has more than $200 billion in cash, little debt and is poised to increase its fiscal largess following implementation of President Trump’s corporate tax cuts.

The days of late Steve Jobs’ treatment of video at Apple as a “nice little hobby,” are long gone. The tech giant has pledged to up original program spending from $1 billion to $4.2 billion through 2022.

Last year, Apple contracted Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon to star and co-produce a drama based on morning television – Apple’s first scripted episodic series.

But to what end?

While Apple TV remains a conduit for selling and renting movies and TV shows from iTunes, the market increasing revolves around subscription streaming.

With Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu cornering the SVOD market, and Disney readying a proprietary branded service in 2019, Apple would seem foolish to reinvent the wheel creating its own SVOD.

Citi analysts Jim Suva and Asiya Merchant contend there is a 40% chance Apple CEO Tim Cook pulls the trigger acquiring Netflix.

“The firm has too much cash – nearly $250 billion – growing at $50 billion a year. This is a good problem to have,” Suva and Merchant said in a recent note reported by BusinessInsider.com.

Indeed, much of Apple’s cash sits overseas — largely for tax reasons. That goes away following the tax overhaul, which would impose a one-time 10% tax on foreign cash reserves, leaving Apple with about $220 billion in cash.

Suva and Merchant believe it would take about $73 billion to acquire Netflix – leaving Apple with plenty of funds for related content costs.

More importantly, Apple would acquire a global brand with more than 100 million subscribers, ongoing sub growth and coveted appeal among consumers across all demos.

An online poll from LendEDU found that 79% of millennials favored original content on Netflix compared to other SVOD services.

A 2017 report from IBM Cloud Video found that 90% of domestic respondents subscribe to Netflix, compared to 46% for Prime Video and 27% for Hulu.