Twitter Testing ‘Subscription’ Feature

President Trump’s favorite communication platform, Twitter, is reportedly testing a “subscription” option that would enable users to link to threads without commenting or adding a post.

The subscription option is similar to what YouTube and Instagram employ enabling users to keep track of third-party video posts without actively engaging directly or paying for them.

Twitter told DigitalTrends the test is part of the social media platform’s attempt to attract more casual users and entice advertisers.

The social media platform, which recently released an experimental app, Twttr, designed to offer more chat-like features, said it wants to make the service “more conversational.”

Separately, at last week’s SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas, Twitter disclosed a new camera for the app affording users easier sharing of videos and photos.

 

 

 

 

 

Lawmakers Introduce ‘Save the Internet’ Bill

As expected, Democratic lawmakers in the House and Senate March 6 introduced legislation aimed at overturning the FCC’s 2017 repeal of the 2015 Open Internet Order, or net neutrality.

Dubbed “Save the Internet Act,” the bill seeks to re-classify the Internet as a utility under Title II of the Telecommunications Act of 1934 prohibiting Internet service providers from blocking, throttling or creating fast lanes and slow lanes by charging extra fees to prioritize content.

“Since the FCC foolishly repealed net neutrality, we’ve seen a wild west where monopoly telephone and cable companies have been free to do what they want at the expense of consumers,” Michael Copps, a former FCC commissioner, said in a statement in support of the legislation.

Copp contends there exists evidence of broadband providers throttling speeds, degrading video quality, and creating service plans that favor their own content over competitors.

“The harms will only get worse the longer net neutrality remains repealed,” he said.

Jason Pye, VP of legislative affairs with FreedomWorks, a lobby group supporting small government, lower taxes and free markets, said repeal of net neutrality guidelines was an attempt to correct government overreach.

“This Democratic proposal is yet another solution in search of a problem,” said Pye. “Our Internet grew, innovated, and thrived under a light touch regulatory framework. The Democrats’ bill would inhibit future innovation and would only serve to increase big government control over the lives of everyday Americans.”

Regardless, the bill must pass Congress and then be signed by President Trump – a long shot considering Trump’s appointee to run the FCC – Ajit Pai – personally pushed for the net neutrality repeal.

 

 

Report: Trump Personally Sought to Block AT&T/Time Warner Merger

Despite claims to the contrary, President Trump wanted to block AT&T’s $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner — largely for political reasons, according to a report by The New Yorker.

According to the publication, which cited a “well-informed source,” Trump in 2017 called on former economic advisor Gary Cohn and then-chief-of-staff John Kelly to personally ensure that the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against the merger — which it did in November, citing antitrust concerns.

Trump, on the 2016 campaign trail, had said the merger would be bad for the country. According to the New Yorker, Trump’s decision was largely due to his dislike for Time Warner’s CNN news division, which he often called “fake news” in response to critical reports of his administration.

“The President does not understand the nuances of antitrust law or policy,” a former unnamed official told the publication. “But he wanted to bring down the hammer.”

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When a U.S. federal court judge ruled in favor of AT&T, the DOJ filed an appeal, which was rejected last week by an appeals court. The merger resulted in the creation of WarnerMedia, which includes Warner Bros., HBO and Turner.

The intervention by the Justice Department raised eyebrows at the time as it represented the agency’s first since it successfully blocked AT&T’s $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile in 2011.

Indeed, The New Yorker stated Trump had no objection to 21st Century Fox’s $71.3 billion asset sale to The Walt Disney Co. by longtime supporter Rupert Murdoch, whose Fox News business remains an influential media asset to the President.

Appeals Court Denies DOJ Bid to Block AT&T’s $85 Billion Time Warner Purchase

A federal appeals court Feb. 26 ruled against the Justice Department’s attempt to block AT&T’s $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner, which led to the formation of WarnerMedia.

The court found that a lower court judge’s decision last summer approving of the transaction did not violate antitrust guidelines.

“The judgment of the district court appealed from this cause is hereby affirmed,” the court wrote in its ruling.

The Justice Department had argued that the merger would enable AT&T, which also owns DirecTV, to leverage its stake in the satellite operator to force pay-TV competitors to pay more for content from Warner Bros., HBO and Turner, which includes CNN.

Some observers speculated the government’s attempt to block the deal revolved more around President Trump’s openly hostile approach to CNN, which he has labeled “fake news,” and, along with other media outlets not named Fox News, an “enemy of the people.”

Indeed, the DOJ’s legal challenges represented the first to a corporate vertical merger in four years.

 

Twitter Ups Q4 Daily Users, Ad-Revenue

President Trump’s favorite communication vehicle — Twitter — Feb. 7 reported 27 million people in the United States used the social media platform on a daily basis in the fourth quarter (ended Dec. 31, 2018) — which was up 2 million users from the previous-year period.

Twitter, for the first time, revealed daily use of the platform, which included 10 million more users outside the U.S. to 99 million from 89 million in the previous-year period.

“We want to provide something valuable to people on Twitter every day, and we believe that monetizable [daily average use], and its related growth, are the best ways to measure our success,” founder/CEO Jack Dorsey wrote in the shareholder letter.

Average monthly use of the San Francisco-based service declined worldwide, including by 2 million in the U.S. to 66 million, and by 7 million to 255 million internationally.

Advertising revenue, which makes up the bulk of Twitter’s sales, increased 23% to $791 million from $644 million. Data licensing and other revenue increased 35% to $117 million from $87 million in the previous-year period.

Non-GAAP net income increased 73% to $244 million from $141 million during the previous-year period.

In the letter, Dorsey said abuse reports filed by users fell 16%, with the platform pledging to curb abuse of the platform by politically-motivated groups, individuals and others engaged in fraudulent or hateful activity.

“We will continue to prioritize the health of the public conversation on Twitter so people feel safe being a part of the conversation and are able to find credible information on our service,” he wrote.

In 2018, Twitter fielded 100 live-streaming video events and signed several video-on-demand agreements to complement user-generated and licensed live and on-demand video content already available on Twitter across a number of verticals including sports, news and politics, and entertainment.

Dorsey reiterated that video continues to be a “powerful, essential medium” on Twitter, enabling users and content owners to better “share experiences, engage in events, and converse with broader audiences.”

 

 

 

Netflix Says 80 Million Households Streamed ‘Bird Box’ in Four Weeks

Netflix Jan. 17 disclosed that through its first four weeks, original movie Bird Box, starring Sandra Bullock, was streamed by more than 80 million household worldwide.

Netflix previously disclosed that the film attracted 45 million households during its first week of release. Nielsen said that included 26 million households in the United States.

The post-apocalyptic thriller from Danish director Susanne Bier reportedly had a $19.8 million production budget.

Michael Pachter, digital media analyst with Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles, says Bird Box is an isolated phenomenon.

Pachter contends that the nature of Netflix subscriptions, where the consumption of additional content bears no additional cost, makes the streaming data for Bird Box analogous to the consumption of television programming, which is also subsumed in a pay-TV subscription.

He cited the recent college football championship game with 25 million viewers and President Trump’s national address with 43 million viewers as comparable to Bird Box numbers.

“We think that each of these broadcasts is more comparable to the 26 million viewers for Bird Box, since few (if any) people subscribed to cable TV solely in order to watch either broadcast, and each program has limited (if any) replay value,” Pachter wrote in a note. “While Bird Box definitely demonstrates the power of the Netflix platform to drive viewership of its originals, it will not necessarily lead to the long-term retention of subscribers.”

Roku, Apple, Amazon See Early Market Bounce Following U.S./China Trade Truce

Wall Street Dec. 3 reacted favorably early to tech stocks following weekend news the Trump Administration and China had reached a 90-day truce regarding proposed tariffs (taxes) on Chinese manufactured goods and raw materials.

Stocks for Roku, Apple and Amazon all climbed higher in pre-market trading as many — if not all — consumer electronics products, including the Roku Stick and branded televisions, Apple iPhone, Apple TV, Apple iPad, and Amazon Fire TV Stick are majority-made in China.

Trump had pledged to impose tariffs — beginning Jan. 1 — on $200 billion worth of Chinese-made steel and raw materials. Tariffs on another $267 billion in Chinese goods (i.e. consumer electronics) have been postponed as well.

Trump said the tariffs would be held off as trade negotiators between the two countries attempt to hammer out new trade agreements. In a Dec. 3 tweet, Trump wrote:

“My meeting in Argentina [at the G-20 summit] with President Xi [Jinping] of China was an extraordinary one. Relations with China have taken a BIG leap forward! Very good things will happen. We are dealing from great strength, but China likewise has much to gain, if and when a deal is completed.”

That was good enough for Tom Forte, analyst with D.A. Davidson, who upped from “neutral” to “buy” on Roku shares.

Meanwhile, Sacha Tihanyi with TD Securities, remained cautiously optimistic, writing in a note, reported by CNBC that “overarching concerns in the U.S.-China economic relationship remain … [and] are not ones that we believe can be easily tackled in a 90-day period.”

AT&T CEO Calls on Congress to Restore Net Neutrality

AT&T chairman/CEO Randall Stephenson apparently believes in miracles.

Speaking Nov. 12 at the Wall Street Journal’s WSJ Tech D. Live confab in Laguna Beach, Calif., Stephenson called on politically-divided Congress to enact net neutrality guidelines for the nation’s Internet service providers.

It was wishful thinking, Stephenson agreed, joking the lawmakers can’t agree on the freezing temperature of water.

“I get fatigued every time the President changes, the head of the FCC changes, and regulations swing from left to right,” he said.

Indeed, with politics driving the Obama-era net neutrality guidelines enacted in 2015 by the Federal Communications Commission, a slightly revamped FCC three years later under President Trump rescinded the provisions that sought to treat the Internet as a utility, intending to safeguard content distribution against ISPs throttling, denying access, and charging higher prices for faster streaming speeds, among other issues.

To Stephenson, whose telecom is both an ISP and streaming content distributor and creator through subsidiary WarnerMedia, the lack of clear regulation will only encourage individual states to employ their own versions of net neutrality – as California lawmakers voted to do this year.

“What would be at total disaster for the innovation we see in Silicon Valley is to pick our head up and have 50 different sets of rules across the U.S.,” Stephenson said.

Current FCC chairman Ajit Pai – an Obama nominee upped to head the agency by Trump – has argued that net neutrality is regulation in search of an industry.

“It is not the job of the government to pick the winners and losers of the internet … We should have a level playing field [via market forces],” Pai said earlier this year.

Critics contend the lack of regulation hurts consumers. FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel – a Democrat – said reversing net neutrality put the FCC “on the wrong side of the American public.”

The U.S. Supreme Court earlier this month declined to hear a case brought by the telecommunications industry and the Department of Justice seeking to reverse a lower appeals court ruling upholding the subsequently rescinded Obama-era guidelines.

The Supreme Court’s lack of action does not reverse the repeal of the net neutrality guidelines, and leaves the door open to future litigation should a future FCC restore the guidelines.

The latest round of net neutrality lawsuits involves the Trump Administration, arguing the supremacy clause gives the Federal government the sole authority to regulate the Internet in the United States, suing states attempting to enact their own stricter guidelines.

 

 

Roku CEO: Chinese Tariffs Have No Impact

Roku-branded televisions represent one-in-four smart TVs sold in the United States, with CEO Anthony Wood claiming the units are the top-selling TVs on Amazon.

Roku markets branded budget-priced TVs featuring a proprietary OS and assembled by eight manufacturers – Insignia, Element, TCL, Philips, Sharp, RCA, Hitachi and Hisense – four which are Chinese.

With President Trump Aug. 7 launching a second round of tariffs on 279 Chinese-manufactured products, or $16 billion worth of imports, Wood was asked on the fiscal call how tariffs could impact the cost of Roku TVs.

“They don’t appear to affect any of our products,” Wood said. “We have a lot of different TV manufacturers and they are not all in China.”

The Trump Administration is seeking to reduce the $376 billion trade deficit with China through 25% tariffs imposed on myriad products – excluding TVs – and materials manufactured in the People’s Republic of China– the world’s second-largest economy by GDP.

“It’s something that [could] change and so we’re monitoring it carefully,” Wood said.

 

DOJ Appealing Judge’s Approval of AT&T’s Acquisition of Time Warner

In a surprise, the Justice Department is set to appeal a recent federal judge’s decision greenlighting AT&T’s $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner, including Warner Bros., Turner and HBO.

In a court document filed July 12, the DOJ appears to be acting on its initial disappointment last month after U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon ruled the government had failed to meet its burden to establish that the merger was anti-competitive and would hurt consumers.

Some critics contend much of government’s resolve around thwarting the deal revolved around President Donald Trump’s public dislike of CNN, which is owned and operated by Turner. During the 2016 campaign, Trump argued the transaction would be bad for consumers.

While the DOJ had no objection to the closing of the merger following Leon’s decision, it still left open the possibility of a future appeal.

Regardless, repercussions to the DOJ decision could impact Comcast and Disney’s attempt to purchase 20thCentury Fox Film and other 21stCentury Fox assets, including U.K. satellite TV operator Sky.

Indeed, Comcast’s $65 billion offer for Fox assets and separate $34 billion bid for Sky hinged upon Leon’s decision and the DOJ’s subsequent response.

News of the appeal sent AT&T shares down 1% in after-market trading.