Posts with «professional services» label

Bob Iger is returning as Disney CEO in a dramatic shakeup

Bob Iger is returning as Disney CEO in a shocking leadership shakeup, with current CEO Bob Chapek stepping down, the company announced in a press release. Iger is set to return temporarily for two years, with a mandate for "renewed growth" and to find and groom his successor. Iger said he's returning "with an incredible sensor of gratitude and humility — and, I must admit, a bit of amazement."

"We thank Bob Chapek for his service to Disney over his long career, including navigating the company through the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic," said Disney chairman Susan Arnold in a statement. "The Board has concluded that as Disney embarks on an increasingly complex period of industry transformation, Bob Iger is uniquely situated to lead the Company through this pivotal period."

Iger handpicked Chapek to follow him as CEO, but a clash in their styles quickly became clear. Iger was known as a talent- and creative-friendly CEO, while Chapek focused on streaming, particularly as the pandemic decimated Disney's theme park and theatrical distribution businesses.

Under Chapek, however, Disney initially failed to react to Florida's "Don't Say Gay" bill and criticized Black Widow star Scarlett Johansson over her lawsuit involving streaming vs. theatrical distribution. And during a Disney retreat, Iger reportedly urged the company not to rely excessively on data to make decisions — seen by some as a dig at Chapek, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Under Chapek, Disney+ has grown to 235 million subscribers (including ESPN and Hulu), but the company lost $1.5 billion on streaming last quarter. Its market capitalization has also fallen from $257.6 billion in Iger's last full year to $163.5 billion. Much of that fall is pandemic related, though, as movie theaters and Disney's parks were forced to shut down.

The move comes as a surprise considering that Disney had renewed Bob Chapek's contract for three years (no comment from Chapel was available in the press release). Iger, meanwhile, has a near-mythical status at Disney CEO, having presided over the acquisitions of Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm and 20th Century Fox. That legacy will be put to the test, though, as Disney faces challenging times — the company recently announced plans to freeze hiring and said that layoffs are likely to come soon. 

Amazon Clinic is a virtual healthcare service over text chat

Amazon has launched a new virtual health service that gives you a way to consult healthcare professionals for common conditions and get prescriptions for them without heaving to make a video call. This new product is called Amazon Clinic, and it offers a text-based solution that connects you with third-party virtual care options. You can choose among Amazon's partner telehealth providers, but the purpose of your consultation has to be in the service's list of accepted conditions, which include acne, hair loss, acid reflux, pink eye, sinusitis and UTI. You can also use the service to get prescription renewals for conditions like asthma, high blood pressure and migraine. 

This is but the latest product Amazon has introduced in its bid to delve deeper into the healthcare sector. The e-commerce giant launched Amazon Pharmacy to deliver discounted prescription medicine to Prime members in 2020, and it entered a deal to purchase primary healthcare company One Medical for $3.9 billion in July. Amazon used to offer an app-based telehealth service called Amazon Care to its employees and other companies across the US, but it was shut down by the end of September. According to a previous Washington Post report, company senior vice president of health Neil Lindsay told employees that while "enrolled members have loved many aspects of Amazon Care, it is not a complete enough offering for the large enterprise customers [the company has] been targeting, and wasn’t going to work long-term."

Unlike Care, Clinic wasn't designed to be an enterprise offering. At the beginning of your consultation on the service, you'll have to select your condition and choose your preferred provider from the list of partners before answering a short questionnaire. You'll then be connected to a secure messaging portal where you can chat with a healthcare professional, who'll send you a personalized treatment plan. They can also send your preferred pharmacy — one of the options, of course, is Amazon Pharmacy — any necessary prescriptions. You'll remain connected to your healthcare professional for up to two weeks after your initial chat, and you can send them follow-up messages within that time. 

While the service doesn't accept insurance right now, you can pay with an FSA or HSA debit card or get your receipt reimbursed when possible. You do have to pay a flat fee upfront, which is dependent upon your condition. Amazon says that the cost of care is equivalent or less than the average copay in many cases. As for medication, coverage varies, but you can use insurance to pay for it. Amazon Clinic is only available in 32 states at the moment, though the company is hoping to expand its reach to additional states over the coming months. 

Hulu with Live TV adds 14 new channels ahead of next month's price increase

Hulu is adding 14 new channels to its Live TV offering, the Disney-owned streaming service announced on Monday. Five of the additions – the Weather Channel, Comedy.TV, Hallmark Channel, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries and Hallmark Drama – are already available to watch, with the remaining nine (most of them Vevo music channels) joining the service on December 1st.

That means most of the new additions will arrive a week before Disney increases the cost of its Hulu + Live TV bundle. After December 8th, the with ads package will cost $75 per month, up from $70 currently. With today’s expansion, Hulu notes the Live TV component of its service provides access to more than 85 channels, with mainstays like CNN, EPSN, MTV and the NFL Network represented.

For some, the new channels might make them reconsider canceling or modifying their Hulu + Live TV subscription, an outcome Disney is clearing banking on. Last week, the company announced Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+ had a combined customer base of 236 million subscribers, putting the company in the ballpark of Netflix’s numbers. At the same time, Disney said operating losses for streaming increased from $0.8 billion to $1.5 billion during its most recent fiscal quarter. Moving forward, Walt Disney CEO Bob Chapek said the company expects those losses to narrow, partly thanks to the price increases it announced earlier this year.

Disney reportedly freezes hiring and expects some layoffs

Disney CEO Bob Chapek has told division leads in a letter that the company is implementing cost cutting measures in part to help it "achieve the important goal of reaching profitability for Disney+ in fiscal 2024." Based on the internal memo obtained by CNBC, Disney is planning to limit additions to its workforce through a targeted hiring freeze. It will still welcome new people for the "most critical, business-driving positions," but all other roles are on hold for now. Chapek has also admitted in his letter that Disney "anticipate[s] some staff reductions" as it looks at all aspects of its business to find places where it can save money. 

Chapek's letter comes after Disney reported less-than-stellar earnings for the previous quarter. While Disney+ welcomed 12.1 million new subscribers for the company's fourth fiscal quarter ending on October 1st, the company's operating loss for streaming jumped from $0.8 billion to $1.5 billion. The company expects its losses to taper off going forward, thanks to its streaming services' price hikes and the launch of an ad-supported tier on Disney+. In his memo, Chapek also reiterated he is "confident in [the company's] ability to reach the targets [it has] set," but Disney clearly intends to tighten its belt until it hits its goals.

Disney is but one of the many companies imposing a hiring freeze due to the economic downturn. When Meta chief Mark Zuckerberg announced that the Facebook parent company is laying off 11,000 employees, he also said that it's extending its hiring freeze through the first quarter of 2023. Amazon froze hiring at its corporate offices earlier this month, as well. 

Netflix's 'The Witcher: Blood Origin' teaser depicts a fantastical, bloody world

Netflix's The Witcher franchise is going through some major changes, with Henry Cavill, the star of the main show, set to depart. Before Cavill's swansong in season three, though, a miniseries set in the same universe will hit the streaming service, and Netflix has offered another look at it.

The latest teaser for The Witcher: Blood Origin opens with sword-elf Scian (Michelle Yeoh) carrying out a ritual before showing violence, devastation and magic in otherworldly, high-fantasy settings. The four-episode miniseries is set 1,200 years before the events of The Witcher. Scian and her cohorts will bring about the very first witcher — a monster hunter with magic powers.

The Witcher: Blood Origin will arrive on Netflix on December 25th. It could help you bide time until the arrival of season three of The Witcher, which is slated to premiere next summer.

Disney now matches Netflix's subscriber numbers across its combined services

Disney+ has welcomed 12.1 million new subscribers for the company's fourth fiscal quarter ending on October 1st, and according to Yahoo Finance, that's 3 million more than analyst estimates. In all, Walt Disney added 14.6 million subscriptions for Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+, bringing its total number of streaming subscribers so far to around 236 million. While Disney+ alone with its 164 million subscribers have yet to reach Netflix numbers, all three of the company's services combined had amassed members that can rival the streaming giant's. Netflix revealed that it has around 223.09 million subscribers during its latest earnings report in October. 

Despite the impressive growth in subscriber number, Disney's operating loss for streaming increased from $0.8 billion to $1.5 billion for the quarter. Disney+ experienced more losses within the period due to higher production and technology costs, as well as an increase in marketing expenses. There were also no Premier Access releases for the quarter, such as last year's Black Widow and Jungle Cruise. That said, the losses were offset in part by higher subscription costs, which will become even higher in December. 

Walt Disney CEO Bob Chapek said that the company expects its streaming losses to narrow going forward, thanks to its price increases and the launch of an ad-supported tier on Disney+. The company even believes that Disney+ is on track to achieving profitability in the fiscal year of 2024, assuming the lack of a "meaningful shift in the economic climate." If you'll recall, Disney is raising its streaming prices across the board this December, and the ad-supported tier for Disney+ is launching on December 8th for $11 a month. 

Combined HBO Max and Discovery+ streaming service launching earlier than expected

Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) recently announced plans to combine HBO Max and Discovery+ into one streaming service set to debut in the summer of 2023. Now in the company's latest earnings call, WBD President and CEO David Zaslav said the combined service will arrive in the US earlier than expected in spring of 2023.

The streaming services combined now have 94.9 million subscribers, with the large majority of those from HBO and HBO Max, according to Fierce Wireless. That includes 2.8 million new subscribers, with most of those (2.3 million) coming from overseas markets. 

Along with the combined streaming service, WBD plans to launch its own free ad-support streaming TV service (FAST) in 2023. "As the company with the largest TV and film library in the industry... that allows us to distribute our content in multiple ways," said Zaslav. The company also said its investing in content at historic levels, citing the hiring of James Gunn and Peter Safran as co-chairmen and CEOs of DC studios.

It's still not clear what form the combined streaming service will take or what it will be called. However, WBD recently started transferring Discovery+ content to HBO Max like Fixer Upper: The Castle, and it's became a top five show in just a few days, Zaslav said. 

Decade-old Pebble smartwatches gain Pixel 7 support in 'one last update'

It's been nearly a decade since the Pebble smartwatch started shipping to backers of its wildly successful initial Kickstarter campaign, but there's still life in the ol' dog yet. The wearables are now compatible with Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro, as well as 64-bit-only Android devices that will arrive later.

As noted by Ars Technica, Katharine Berry, who works on Wear OS and is a prominent member of the Rebble group that's keeping the Pebble ecosystem alive, wrote that the latest Pebble update comes four years after the previous one. The last update allowed for many of the Pebble app's functions to run on independent servers. Fitbit, which Google has since bought, shut down Pebble's servers in 2018, two years after buying some of the smartwatch maker's assets.

Along with Pixel 7 compatibility, the latest update also improves Caller ID reliability on recent versions of Android. While the app isn't available on the Google Play Store, the APK is signed with official Pebble keys and retains Google Fit integration, Berry noted.

On the surface, this might finally appear to be the end of the line for Pebble in terms of official support. "Thanks to Google for providing us with one last update," Berry wrote on Reddit. However, as Ars Technica points out, it looks like a Pebble hackathon is set to take place next month. So if your Pebble's e-ink screen and battery are still holding up, it might be useful for a while longer yet.

Today is the 10 year anniversary of the @Pebble Kickstarter launch. I had enough foresight at the time to take a photo of the exact moment when everything in my life changed: pic.twitter.com/XvMFwEUykm

— Eric Migicovsky (@ericmigi) April 11, 2022

Amazon now lets you pay using Venmo

Your Venmo money is now useful for much more than covering your share of last night's pizza. As promised last year, Amazon is rolling out the option to use either your Venmo balance, a linked bank account or an associated debit card for payments. You can make Venmo the default if you like, and that service's purchase protection still applies in addition to Amazon's own safeguards.

The Venmo option is available to some Amazon shoppers today. It should be widely available in the US by Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving), the company says. You can add the choice through Amazon's website or mobile app.

The support doesn't come as a shock. Venmo has close to 90 million users as of this writing. The new payment choice could encourage that large audience to use Venmo more often in general, especially for shopping. For Amazon, meanwhile, this opens the door to customers who rarely use conventional payment methods.

This Amazon move also comes as PayPal increasingly makes Venmo a catch-all platform. You can use Venmo to pay for Lyft rides, manage cryptocurrency and even cash checks. Now, you can do a large chunk of your online shopping. Venmo still isn't a full-scale replacement for traditional banking at this stage, but it's noticeably closer.

WhatsApp is down for users worldwide

If you've been trying to send messages via WhatsApp and they're not going through, you're not alone. The messaging app has been down for many users around the world for at least 30 minutes. Based on information from Downdetector — and from Engadget editors' reports — the service isn't working in several countries, including the US, the UK, Canada, India and the Philippines. WhatsApp users either can't connect to the service at all or their messages get stuck with the loading wheel and aren't being delivered. Instagram and Facebook appear to be fine and unaffected.

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