Posts with «professional services» label

Disney+ ad-free streaming price increases to $11 per month in December

Disney+ isn't done raising prices. As part of its third quarter earnings report, Disney revealed that it's hiking the price of the ad-free service in the US to $11 per month, $3 more than today, on December 8th. If you want to keep the same price, you'll have to subscribe to the ad-supported tier launching the same day. In other words, the ad-backed plan won't really be cheaper — you'll just have to pay more to keep the uninterrupted experience you already have.

The media giant also said it would raise the price of ad-free Hulu by $2 to $15 per month on October 10th. If you can accept ads, you'll also pay $8 per month instead of today's $7. A $10 monthly outlay provides both Disney+ and Hulu with ads. A bundle offering ad-free Disney+, ad-supported ESPN+ and its Hulu counterpart is climbing by a dollar to $15 per month, but you'll dip to $13 per month if you're willing to tolerate commercials across all three. You'll have to pay $20 per month to get the trio without any sales pitches.

Disney wasn't shy about the reason for the price hikes. Although it added 14.4 million Disney+ subscribers during the quarter (for a total of 221 million across all services), the operating losses for its streaming-oriented division surged from $293 million a year ago to nearly $1.1 billion. The production costs for Disney+ and Hulu are soaring, and Disney wants to make that money back.

The performance contrasts sharply with a key rival. While Netflix is prepping its own ad-driven plan, it's currently losing customers — it's counting on advertising to return growth where Disney is simply hoping to make a profit. As rough as its finances might be, Disney+ is in a stronger position.

Amazon's palm payments arrive in more than 65 Whole Foods stores in California

Amazon's palm-reading payment technology will soon be available in many more Whole Foods stores. The company is rolling out Amazon One to more than 65 Whole Foods shops in California, starting with Malibu, Montana Avenue and Santa Monica locations in Los Angeles. More stores in LA, Orange County, Sacramento, the San Francisco Bay Area and Santa Cruz will come online in the "coming weeks."

Before, palm-based payments were only available in a handful of Whole Foods stores in Austin, LA, New York City and Seattle. In California, you could also try Amazon One at the company's Style fashion store in Glendale and certain Fresh and Go locations.

As usual, One is meant to streamline retail shopping. So long as you link your palm and payment card to the service, you just have to hover your hand over a scanner to complete a purchase. While you still have to stop at a checkout terminal, you don't have to pull out a phone like you do with Amazon's camera-based Just Walk Out system.

Third-party adoption may be trickier. While Amazon has touted plans to use One at concert venues and sport stadiums, there's been a mounting backlash over worries palm data could be misused or stolen. Amazon has maintained that it holds info in secure, One-exclusive cloud storage, but politicians have still been concerned enough to grill company leadership over its practices. There's a reluctance to trust biometric tech like this, and the Whole Foods expansion isn't guaranteed to assuage people's fears.

Beats and Kim Kardashian made a line of skin-colored Fit Pro earbuds

You probably weren't waiting for earbuds designed by a reality-TV-star-slash-entrepreneur, but here they are. Kim Kardashian has teamed up with Apple on a custom version of the Beats Fit Pro. The new Beats x Kim collab is available in a trio of skin colors (Moon, Dune and Earth) that are meant to either "blend in or stand out," as Kardashian puts it. In other words, they look less like electronics and more like cosmetics.

They're functionally identical to the regular Beats Fit Pro, although that's not a bad thing. We found the normal ones more comfortable than AirPods, with strong bass (this is Beats, after all) and solid active noise cancelation. You'll also get the usual tight integration with Apple's other devices, although the earbuds will still work properly with Android. You're mainly missing out on wireless charging and that signature AirPods look.

The Beats x Kim models will be available through Apple's online store on August 16th at 10AM Eastern, and they'll sell at the Fit Pro's standard $200 price in the US, UK, Canada, France, Germany and Japan. Don't expect to find them at all the usual locations when they hit retail on August 17th, however. In-person sales are limited to 10 Apple stores (including 5th Avenue, Regent Street and Champs-Élysées) as well as fashion chains and department stores like Selfridges (in the UK) and SSENSE (in Canada). You can also buy through Amazon in North America, or WeChat in China.

These aren't the first flesh-colored earbuds in recent memory, and they certainly aren't the most affordable. JLab partnered with the nail care brand ORLY to unveil the $20 Go Air Tones in December. The Beats Fit Pro might be the best-sounding, though, and Kim Kardashian's name recognition is bound to give Apple a gigantic marketing advantage.

HBO Max finishes rolling out its much-needed app redesign

It took the better part of a year, but HBO Max's app should (hopefully) be more pleasant to use. Warner Bros. Discovery has finished rolling out its redesigned app on desktop, Android and iOS, delivering a more intuitive interface, a performance boost and some arguably overdue features. It finally supports tablets in both portrait and vertical modes, for instance. You'll also find a dedicated video download page, split-screen support, SharePlay (on Apple devices in the US) and a shuffle button on mobile.

The move ends a long and painful saga. In its haste to launch HBO Max, WarnerMedia based the original app on the same foundations as its aging Go and Now apps. The result was, frankly, a mess — it was buggy, sluggish and otherwise less polished than software from competing services. While the new app won't persuade you to subscribe on its own, it could reduce any skittishness.

The timing is less than ideal. Warner Bros. just recently confirmed that it's merging HBO Max and Discovery+ into one service next summer. The app you see today won't last long. With that said, the redesign promises a better starting point for the new platform.

HBO Max and Discovery+ to combine into one streaming platform in 2023

HBO Max as we know it will soon be no more. At its first earnings call since the two media properties merged earlier this year, Warner Bros. Discovery announced it is planning on combining HBOMax and Discovery+ into a single streaming service — set to debut in the summer of 2023. It's unclear whether the new streamer will reference HBO at all — the company’s head of global streaming JB Perrette said the company is still doing research on how consumers perceive the brand name.

The news arrives on the heels of the newly-merged company’s $3.42 billion net loss during the second quarter. “At the end of the day, putting all the content together was the only way we saw to make this a viable business,” Perrette told analysts.

Warner Bros. leadership is planning a significant shakeup of its streaming offerings and also needs to cut $3 billion in costs, which spawned rumors that a gutting of HBO Max is underway. Executives didn’t reveal the name of the new platform or any pricing details, but did disclose that it will include an ad-free and less costly ad-supported plan. It may also add a free, ad-supported tier to further expand its audience. 

No mention was made of layoffs at HBO Max at today’s earnings call — which The Wrap reported were imminent as the two streaming platforms are restructured. Engadget has reached out to HBO Max for comment, and will update if we hear back.

It’s unclear exactly how the merger will impact future content offerings at the newly unified streamer. The company abruptly announced this week that it was canceling two movies in development for HBO Max — Batgirl and Scoob!. Around the same time, the streamer announced it was canceling the show The Gordita Chronicles and putting an end to live-action kids and family programming altogether. A number of shows and movies have disappeared from HBO Max in recent weeks, including Moonshot, The Witches and An American Pickle, and more are reportedly to follow.

One thing is certain: We’ll see far fewer blockbuster films premiere on the new streamer, as was customary during the pandemic. Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav said releasing films in movie theaters simply generated higher profits. “That’s why most people got in this business — to be on the big screen when the lights went out,” Mr. Zaslav said. “That is the magic, and the economic model is much stronger.”

Keanu Reeves to star in Hulu's adaptation of 'Devil in the White City'

Hulu has ordered a limited series adaptation of Devil in the White City, which will star Keanu Reeves and be executive produced by Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio. The streamer announced the news today at the Television Critics Association’s summer tour. Based on the book of the same name by Erik Larson about the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, the series will be the first time the work is adapted for the screen after more than a decade’s worth of deals and bidding by numerous studios. Todd Field (In the Bedroom,Little Children) is set to direct the series. Deadlinereported that the eight-episode series is aiming for a 2024 release.

As The Hollywood Reporternotes, DiCaprio first optioned the rights to the book in 2010, and was set to star in a feature film adaptation that would be directed by Scorcese. Now, both men will executive produce the limited series, which will be a co-production of Paramount Television Studios and Disney’s ABC Signature.

Disney signed a deal with Comcast where it will buy its 33 percent stake in Hulu in 2024 — granting it full operational control of the streamer. But as CNBC notes, the deal was signed before the launch of Disney+, and there’s current confusion over what role another streaming service will play in the vast Disney empire. Hulu also houses a number of critically-acclaimed series, including Dopesick, The Dropout and The Handmaid’s Tale. With Devil in the White City, it seems Disney is attempting to position Hulu within the crowded streaming landscape as an adult-oriented platform for prestige TV.

Paramount+ hits 43 million subscribers as streaming rivals struggle

You might think a network-specific streaming services like Paramount+ doesn't stand a chance in a grim market when even Netflix is floundering, but it's apparently thriving. The company has revealed that Paramount+ added 3.7 million subscribers in the second quarter, with more than 43 million total users. And that's after withdrawing from Russia — if it weren't for that, the service would have added 4.9 million viewers.

ViacomCBS partly credited the surge to expansions to more countries, including the UK, Ireland and South Korea. However, it also pointed to success with content that included its Halo series, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, movies like Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and live Champions League matches. Paramount+ is still leaning on its sci-fi audience, then, but not as much as it has in the past.

The overall Paramount+ subscriber count is still tiny compared to Netflix (220.7 million) and Amazon Prime Video (over 200 million). Its growth is a sharp contrast to Netflix's nearly 1 million lost subscribers, though. The firm is also keen to note that it had the most sign-ups and net additions of any US-based premium subscription streaming service in the quarter, according to Antenna data. In other words, Paramount+ was outperforming all its main rivals, including Apple TV+, Hulu and Peacock.

Whether or not that trend continues is uncertain. Paramount+ is still expanding to more countries, and should be available in 60 markets by the end of the year. It can count on those newcomers to boost its numbers for a while. Eventually, though, the streamer will be more reliant on the quality of its catalog to grow its audience. And while there have clearly been some hits, heavyweights like Amazon and Netflix still have plenty of money and momentum in their favor.

Amazon offers same-day Prime delivery for select retail chains

Amazon is giving some Prime members access to another perk they can take advantage of if they'd like to buy from a store nearby but can't be bothered to put on outside clothes. The e-commerce giant has announced that Prime subscribers in more than 10 metro areas in the US will now be able to shop from select local brick-and-mortar stores through Amazon and then have the items delivered to their home on the same day. At the moment participating retailers include apparel brands PacSun, Superdry and Diesel, as well as popular vitamin retailer GNC. 

To order from the participating retail stores, customers can browse their curated selections on the Amazon app or website and then choose same-day delivery upon checkout. Amazon will forward the order to the customer's local store to be fulfilled by associates. An Amazon delivery partner will then pick up the order from the retail location and deliver it to the customer. Delivery is free for purchases above $25, but will set customers back $3 for orders below that amount. That said, buyers can also choose to buy and pay online but pick up their orders in person, which sounds like a great option if they just don't want to browse in-store and line up to pay. 

As TechCrunch notes, this is the e-commerce giant's latest move to keep up with rival services that offer same-day deliveries, such as Instacart. It also ensures it's not falling behind competitors in any way: Walmart, for instance launched a same-day delivery service for local retailers last year. The new Prime perk is now available in a handful of US cities, including Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Las Vegas, Miami, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Seattle and Washington D.C. Amazon says it will expand it to more cities, as well as introduce new retailers into the service, including Sur La Table and 100% Pure, in the coming months. 

Valve says it will ship all current Steam Deck reservations by the end of 2022

If you’ve been patiently waiting for Valve to ship that Steam Deck you reserved months ago, you may not have to wait too much longer to get your hands on the device. The company claims it will be able to fulfill all current Steam Deck reservations by the end of the year.

Valve says that many of its supply chain issues are easing and it’s able to continue increasing production. It has moved some people’s scheduled deliveries up to the third quarter (i.e. between now and the end of September). All other outstanding reservations are now scheduled for delivery in Q4. People who lock in a reservation right now should still be able to get one in time for the holiday season. After Valve reaches its capacity for that period, it will start filling up the delivery queue for early 2023. 

The update comes a month after Valve said it was doubling the number of weekly Steam Deck shipments. This is a rare sliver of positive news for a sought-after piece of gaming hardware, given the supply chain problems that have stymied PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X production. Who knows? We might even see the Steam Deck on retail shelves before too long.

Great news: Everyone who currently has a reservation can get their Steam Deck by the end of this year! We’ve cleared up supply chain issues, a bunch of folks got moved up to Q3, and all other reservations are now in Q4.

More details here:

— Steam Deck (@OnDeck) July 29, 2022

‘Star Trek: Picard’ season three trailer teases return of ‘The Next Generation’ cast

Paramount has shared a new trailer for the upcoming third season of Star Trek: Picard. And while we already knew Picard’s final adventure would reunite Patrick Stewart with most of the principal cast of The Next Generation, it’s still good to see some characters we haven’t seen in a while. The minute-long clip Paramount released during San Diego Comic-Con features voiceovers from nearly all of Picard’s season three cast, including LeVar Burton, Gates McFadden and Michael Dorn. It’s not much more than what Paramount had to offer back in April, but at least this time we get to see the former crew of the USS Enterprise in their new uniforms.

There’s a whole universe out there. Wherever you go, we go. #StarTrekPicard concludes with Season 3 in 2023. ✨

— Star Trek (@StarTrek) July 23, 2022

That’s not the only Star Trek news to come out of Comic-Con. Paramount also announced that season two of Strange New Worlds will feature a crossover episode with Lower Decks. Jonathan Frakes will direct the episode, which will feature a combination of live-action and animated footage. Tawny Newsome and Jack Quaid will also reprise their roles as the voices of Beckett Mariner and Brad Boimler. Season two of Strange New Worlds doesn’t have a release date yet, but Star Trek fans can look forward to watching a new season of Lower Decks starting on August 25th. On that note, Paramount also shared a new trailer for the animated show, which you can see below.

Prepare for warp 10 excitement! #StarTrekLowerDecks Season 3 is coming August 25th. ✨

— Star Trek (@StarTrek) July 23, 2022