Amazon on Top in Harris Reputation Poll

Amazon took the top spot in the 2018 Harris Poll Reputation Quotient Rankings.

Disney ranked high at No. 5, and Netflix, at No. 21, beat out fellow tech giants Google and Apple, ranked Nos. 28 and 29, respectively.

Among mass merchant/consumer electronics retailers, Costco (No. 17) topped Best Buy (No. 46), Target (No. 49) and Walmart (No. 69).

According to Harris, the Reputation Quotient is “technically designed to understand how a company is perceived in modern culture.” The measure takes the top most visible companies (for good or bad reasons) and evaluates them across six dimensions of corporate reputation attributes to arrive at a corporate reputation ranking. If a company is not on the list, it does not necessarily suggest that they have either good or bad reputation, but rather they didn’t reach a critical level of visibility to be measured.

The Weinstein Co., which has been embroiled in executive Harvey Weinstein’s alleged sexual assault scandal, and Takata, with its infamously defective airbags, came in last on the list at Nos. 99 and 100, respectively.

Apple, Disney and YouTube Top Millennial Brands in New Report

Apple, Disney and YouTube, respectively, ranked as the top three most “intimate” brands among millennials, according to MBLM’s Brand Intimacy 2018 Report, which is the largest study of brands based on emotions. Brand intimacy leverages and strengthens the emotional bonds between a person and a brand.

“We were surprised and pleased to see YouTube as an addition to the top three most intimate brands for millennials this year,” stated Mario Natarelli, managing partner, MBLM. “We believe its rise is due to our culture’s continued need for escape and the brand’s immediate, diverse content, personalities and growing offerings in movies and live TV. YouTube is clearly an established ritual in the lives of many millennials today.”

By comparison, in MBLM’s 2017 report, Disney placed first, followed by Amazon and Netflix.

The other brands that rounded out the top 10 were Target, Amazon, Nintendo, Google, Xbox, Netflix and Whole Foods.

The age group of 18-24-year-olds had a slightly different mix of top companies. The top 10 for that group were Apple, Amazon, YouTube, PlayStation, Starbucks, Nintendo, Google, Netflix, Coca Cola and Walmart.

The report analyzed the responses of 6,000 consumers and 54,000 brand evaluations across 15 industries in the United States, Mexico and the United Arab Emirates. The full report will be released on March 13, 2018.

Ex-FCC Chairman Powell Comes Out Swinging Against Net Neutrality, Tech Giants

Former FCC chairman Michael Powell calls the net neutrality debate old news, contending the real battle lies with the burgeoning power of tech giants such as Amazon, Google, Apple and Facebook.

Speaking March 6 at the Cable Congress in Dublin, Powell – now CEO of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association trade group, whose members include Comcast, AT&T, Charter, Cox and CenturyLink – characterized net neutrality as yesterday’s news, while calling for greater oversight on the “fairy tale stories” spun by tech companies that “do no evil.”

“Net neutrality has become like mindless trench warfare,” he said, adding that current Title II regulation of the Internet is antiquated and “designed for a slow-moving telecom monopoly in the 1930s.”

The FCC, under new chairman Ajit Pai, in December voted to repeal net neutrality guidelines approved in 2015 mandating open access to the Internet.

Powell advocates lawmakers in the United States not fight “the last war” and instead focus on the next one involving companies whose $2.8 trillion market capitalization he claims rivals the GDP of France.

“They are the market,” he said, as reported by The Economist.

Powell, a free market advocate, who was nominated to the FCC by President Bill Clinton in the 1990s, contends government regulation should apply to social media platforms that “massively increase our subjugation to algorithms,” and, he believes, increasingly ignore privacy, social relationship and mental health concerns.

He says unregulated social media and Internet has resulted in global cyber security concerns, proliferation of fake news, sex trafficking and polarization of society, among other issues.

“Fragmentation is dangerous in a democracy,” Powell said. “This demands a government response.”


YouTube Red Expanding to 100 Countries

Google’s subscription streaming video service YouTube Red is expanding service to 100 countries – three years after launching in 2015, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki told a technology confab.

The $9.99 service is currently available in Australia, Mexico, New Zealand and South Korea, in addition to the U.S.

Speaking Feb. 12 at Recode’s Code Media confab in Huntington Beach, Calif., Wojcicki reiterated the video service – unlike Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu – is targeting music subscribers. Last year, the service inked license deals with Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment.

“YouTube Red is a service that is really a music service,” Wojcicki said. “We have an amazing collection of music. We have all these music videos. And then on top of that it has the ability to watch all of YouTube ads free, with the background and offline services. And on top of that we’ve actually been doing a number of YouTube Originals.”

Original programs include “Ryan Hansen Solves Crimes on Television,” “Step Up: High Water: Season 1,” “Ultimate Expedition: Season 1,” and “Foursome,” among others.

“Now that we’ve finished all of our music deals, we’re actually going to be expanding to a large number of countries,” Wojcicki said, adding the service would roll out to 100 countries.


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.


TiVo Ups Google Deal to Include YouTube TV

TiVo Jan. 18 announced an updated patent license agreement with Google that includes the search behemoth’s online television service, YouTube TV.

The deal covers Google’s use of TiVo’s technologies worldwide and offers a license for Google’s products and services across Internet-based platforms and devices.

Launched last spring, You Tube TV offers access to more than 40 pay-TV channels starting at $35 monthly. The app enables subs to watch programing on computers, portable devices and connected LG and Samsung TVs, or televisions employing Chromecast, Android TV, Xbox One or Apple Airplay streaming media devices.

TiVo, which helped create the digital video recorder market in the ’90s, licenses software applications that help track user data, remote control functions, program search, channel listings, transactional VOD support and other backend technology.

“The world of video entertainment is expanding with exciting new consumer offerings such as YouTube TV,” said Arvin Patel, EVP and chief intellectual property officer, Rovi Corp., a TiVo company.


Fandango Incorporates Google Pay

Seeking to simplify online payment transactions, Fandango Jan. 8 announced it is using Google Pay as a digital payment option for movie ticket purchases across its online, mobile and social ticketing platforms.

Google Pay includes Android Pay and Google Wallet.

According to a recent Fandango survey, 81% of respondents said they currently used some sort of digital payment service.

“Fandango is always looking for new ways to make discovering movies and purchasing tickets faster and easier for moviegoers,” Mark Young, SVP, strategy & business development, said in a statement.

Moviegoers can expedite the checkout process on Fandango by selecting Google Pay as a payment option after choosing the show time and entering the quantity of tickets to purchase.

Fandango is offering a $5-discount on all tickets ordered using Google Pay on the Fandango Android app and entering the promo code (GooglePay2018). Offer available while supplies last, with a limit of one code per person.

In 2017, Fandango saw more than 70% of its ticket sales coming from mobile devices.  In December, the company closed its acquisition of, which will join ticketing brands Fandango, Flixster, Ingresso and Fandango Latin America to create a global suite of movie ticketing properties.


Internet Trade Group Vows Net Neutrality Legal Fight

The Internet Association, a trade group comprised of major online companies, including Netflix, Google, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft, is planning legal action following the Federal Communications Commission’s December rollback of net neutrality provisions.

The FCC, in a 3-2 vote along partisan lines, backed a proposal from chairman Ajit Pai to stop regulating the Web as a utility under Title II of the Telecommunications Act of 1934.

Specifically, the “Restoring Internet Freedom Order” gives Internet Service Providers such as Comcast, AT&T and Verizon more influence over third-party broadband access and costs, among other issues.

Internet Association CEO Michael Beckerman, in a Jan. 5 statement following formal FCC disclosure of the rollback, said the action will gut net neutrality protections for consumers, startups, and other stakeholders.

Beckerman said the group intends to act as an intervenor in judicial action against the order and, along with member companies, continue pushing to restore “enforceable” net neutrality protections through the legislative process.

“The final version of Chairman Pai’s rule, as expected, … defies the will of a bipartisan majority of Americans and fails to preserve a free and open internet,” Beckerman said.


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.