Archive for the ‘News Roundup’ Category

Weekly News Roundup (December 16, 2018)

Sunday, December 16th, 2018

I finished bingeing (or is that binging – nope, doesn’t look right) Narcos: Mexico. It was great. I mean, I wouldn’t put it anywhere near shows like The Sopranos or The Wire, but it’s a high quality production featuring some great acting and an amazing but true (well, mostly) storyline. It’s also reminded me that I should go watch Scarface again, which is exactly what I’m doing just before I started writing this WNR.

Also watched Alpha, suspected animal abuse aside, loved it for the beautiful cinematography and simple story.

And yes, there was still time for some news …

Discs sales are on the decline, that’s clear as day. Blu-ray sales peaked in 2013, it appears, while DVD sales peaked long ago. While Ultra HD Blu-ray has lifted Blu-ray’s numbers a bit, the general trend is still down, especially for DVDs.

Walmart Blu-ray and DVD Sales Rack
Blu-ray and DVD sales still doing well in certain locations, says Walmart

The very first Black Friday sales figures I tracked for DVDs had the revenue for the week at $386.35 million (this was in 2008). This Black Friday, that figure has dwindled down to $116.45 million.

Sure, Blu-ray revenue rose from $27.68 million in 2008 to $104.37 million in 2018, but that doesn’t come anywhere near plugging in the hole left by declining DVD sales.

But according to an EVP at Lionsgate, the decline in discs sales isn’t happening everywhere, and in rural USA, sales are still going strong

And the recent Black Friday sales also show one important thing – people still do buy discs in great numbers, but only if the price is right. The discounting of UHD titles from their usual $25 to $9 on Amazon really helped, and that’s because the perceived value of discs have dropped in a day and age where $11 per month gets you thousands of titles, including many exclusives, like Narcos: Mexico, that you would have paid good money to watch and own previously.

Scene from The Kissing Booth
Netflix’s most re-watched Original film in 2018 was The Kissing Booth

Speaking of Netflix Originals, the streaming giant has put together a review of 2018 in terms the most “popular” shows and movies that have premiered in 2018. Netflix is notoriously shy about releasing actual watch figures, so they’ve used some interesting metrics to measure the popularity of shows, movies and even the fastest rising stars. The Kissing Booth was the most popular Netflix original film because it was the most re-watched; On My Block just beat out Making a Murderer: Part 2 as the most popular original series because it had the higher average watch time per viewing session (I think that’s what you would normally call binge-factor), and The Fab Five from Queer Eye were the most popular stars because their Instagram follower count increased the most. 

And you know what, hardly any of the movies and shows listed by Netflix will ever make it to Blu-ray or DVD. And this, perhaps more than pricing, is the biggest obstacle facing physical media.

======

Alright then, that’s all for the week. There won’t be a WNR next week as I’ll be away for the weekend at a wedding. Might not be one after that as well, considering it’s so near to Christmas and all that, but will try to pop on and say hello. And now, back to Scarface.

Weekly News Roundup (December 9, 2018)

Sunday, December 9th, 2018

So I watched two action movies this week. The action genre is not one of my favourites, although I really don’t mind it too much. But the differences in experience in watching the two action films, ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ (I know, I shouldn’t have waited so long) and ‘Geostorm’, couldn’t be bigger. Well one movie has quotes like “You will ride eternal, shiny and chrome”, and the other has lines like “It’s GENOCIDE, LEONARD!” – so let’s just say one movie was “Mediocre, Devlin! Mediocre!”

Between the adrenaline rush that was Fury Road, the snooze-fest that was “Gravity” for idiots aka “Geostorm”, I also watched Netflix’s ‘Dogs’ dogumentary. “Sniff-Sniff”. What an intense week!

Oh yes, I had some time to write a few news stories too.

Copyright

Another week, another disappointment for Denuvo. They should be used to it by now. Only weeks after citing how important it was for games to be protected by Denuvo, if only to cover the first two week’s of the game’s release (when most of the piracy occurs), Denuvo’s owners, Irdeto, has had to deal with an embarrassing setback.

Not only did Denuvo fail to protect ‘Just Cause 4’ for two weeks, it couldn’t even protect the game for two days.

Just Cause 4 Screenshot
Just Cause 4 cracked in less than a day – #DenuvoDoesntWork

With the game currently being slammed by users for having too many issues, it seems to me that the publishers of the game, Square Enix, maybe should have invested the money they spent on licensing Denuvo on actually making the game work properly before release. The poor reviews plus the availability of a pirated copy should hurt ‘Just Cause 4’ sales, which is bad news for the fantastically talented people that worked on the game, but probably what was deserved for the people at Square Enix that made the decision to use Denuvo.

High Definition

So Black Friday has come and gone. I hope you didn’t spend too much, or if you did, you spent it well. And apparently, a lot of people spent good money on Blu-ray for this Black Friday, in particular, on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray.

Deadpool 2 Ultra HD Blu-ray
The Deadpool 2 UHD edition was discounted to $9 during Amazon’s Black Friday sales, down from the normal $25

Blu-ray sales, including UHD disc sales, were up almost 9% compared to last year’s Black Friday, and a lot of the growth was driven by UHD sales. The stats seem to imply this (unit sales up 3.4%, but revenue up a higher 8.9% – seems to suggest people were buying more expensive Blu-ray discs than last year, which could mean box sets or, more likely, UHD discs). The fact that Amazon, one of the main drivers for Blu-ray sales during Black Friday, discounted a lot of UHD discs to as low as $8, also seems to point to an UHD inspired buying frenzy.

Blu-ray sales, including UHD disc sales, were up almost 9% compared to last year’s Black Friday, and a lot of the growth was driven by UHD sales. The stats seem to imply this (unit sales up 3.4%, but revenue up a higher 8.9% – seems to suggest people were buying more expensive Blu-ray discs than last year, which could mean box sets or, more likely, UHD discs). The fact that Amazon, one of the main drivers for Blu-ray sales during Black Friday, discounted a lot of UHD discs to as low as $8, also seems to point to an UHD inspired buying frenzy.

There is also the fact that the top 10 Blu-ray sellers for Black Friday week were all titles that had UHD editions (and were either recently released UHD titles, or had UHD editions that were heavily discount). 

In other words, cheap UHD equals big Blu-ray sales!

======

So that’s the end of another WNR, as we count down to the end of the year. I’m also writing this on the new WordPress editor, and I must say with such a nice and clean writing environment, I feel more productive already!

Weekly News Roundup (December 2, 2018)

Sunday, December 2nd, 2018

Welcome to the final month of 2018. Where has it all gone? Or is it a case of “why did it take so long”? Regardless of which side you’re on, I think it’s safe to say that the fact that I’m talking about the calendar means I really don’t have anything more interesting to write in this intro, so I guess it’s best I just move on to the news, right?

Copyright

Google Auto-Suggest

Google’s piracy demotions system being exploited by scammers?

In case you need another reason as to why copyright take-down regimes are a bad idea because they’re too prone to abuse, well, I have another one for you this week. It appears that scammers have found a way to game Google’s anti-piracy demotion system in order to get malicious websites to rank higher for popular piracy related keywords.

The ingenious scheme involves sending bogus copyright take-down notices to Google, pretending to be well known entities such as Steam or Ubisoft, to remove game piracy related links from the rankings. To be fair, the links they’re asking to be removed do contain pirated content, and so any legitimate take-down notices containing the same links would have been removed. But the intentions behind these take-downs are not quite right, it seems, as with the real piracy links removed from the search results, the fake ones, the ones with malware, are now occupying higher positions on the search results and allowing the scammers to profit.

The scammers have obviously done their homework too, as they’ve submitted “DRM” take-downs, as opposed to the normal DMCA ones. DRM take-downs on Google do not allow the website owner to file a counter-claim, to defend their position (or to inform Google that the take-down notice was a fake one to begin with), and so the scammers have found a great way to get what they want without anyone being able to do anything about it. Many of the removed URLs do contain DRM breaking tools (cracks for games), but many do not.

But since this news story has been making the rounds, it seems Google have wised up to this little trick, and they’ve started flagging some of the take-down notices as potentially fake, although the removed URLs remain removed for the present.

Abuse of copyright take-down regimes isn’t really anything new, but it usually involves companies trying to destroy competitors.

High Definition

LG UP970

Standalone Ultra HD Blu-ray players have doubled in numbers in 2018

This Christmas may be all about 4K, according to a new report by consulting firm Futuresource. The report shows that, with the average price of 4K UHD TVs now down to about the same level as a standard HDTV, adoption of these ultra high definition sets are speeding up. Global shipment of UHD TVs are expected to exceed 100 million units globally, with China being the biggest market. Even the pricier HDR enabled sets are selling well, roughly half of UHD TVs sold are now HDR capable.

Standalone Ultra HD Blu-ray players are also increasingly popular, with this year doubling the number of units sold previously, and along with that, $360 million in UHD Blu-ray disc sales.

Streaming still remains the most popular way for people to obtain 4K content though, and by streaming, it mostly means Netflix at the moment. 4K broadcasts, on the other hand, remains rare. There are still some issues to be resolved in regards to broadcasts standards, and this may mean a lot of 4K UHD TVs are already obsolete (or require a very “last decade” solution, like a set top box, for future compatibility). For now, OTT (ie. streaming) still easily beats OTA (over-the-air), when concerning 4K.

======

And on that note, we end the first WNR of December, and one of the last of 2018. See you next week.

Weekly News Roundup (November 25, 2018)

Sunday, November 25th, 2018

It’s going to be a really short one this week, as the News Gods have not smiled upon me this week and endowed us with the an overflowing of news riches. In other words, it was a quiet news week again. And it’s probably to do with Thanksgiving.

That’s not to say there isn’t any news, as otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this intro, and you definitely wouldn’t be reading it.

And so, with that out of the way …

Copyright

Digital Security Privacy

The MPAA is against a new privacy measure because it endangers privacy

The MPAA is at it again, this time crying foul over recent changes to the WHOIS system. So what exactly is WHOIS? It’s basically the system that stores and displays ownership information for domain names. Previously, most WHOIS data for domains are public, in that you can query any number of free WHOIS search engines and retrieve detailed ownership information for domains. And as ICANN (the people who manages the domain name system) requires domain information to be real and not made up, it often means that personal information, such as emails, telephone number and even home addresses, can be easily scraped from the WHOIS database. This has led to not only “innocent” spam, but also not too innocent cases of outright fraud. At the very least, it also led to some dodgy business practices by certain unnamed domain registration firms who scrape WHOIS databases for domains that are near expiration, and use the info contained there to send emails/letters to unsuspecting domain owners asking them to urgently renew their domain name or face losing it. These less then reputable companies usually have some kind of official sounding name, like the United States Internet Domain Authority, and instead of charging a normal fee of about $10 a year to renew, they ask for as much as $99. Many unsuspecting domain owners have been caught out, or at least that’s what I suspect, since I still get tons of these kind of letters in my mailbox and there must be money to be made for them to be doing this (often via international mail as well).

I think I may have gone off on a tangent here, but the point is that having WHOIS information public by default has led to a lot of problems. Commercial solutions, such as WhoisGuard (now free with Namecheap domains) help to mask private data, and they work well. But with privacy now being a big deal, especially given new EU directives, ICANN has made the right decision to make WHOIS data private by default, as opposed to the other way.

Guess who now has a problem with this common sense move, and even if you can guess right (it’s not too hard, I’ve already mentioned them at the start of this rant), you’ll never guess the reason they’ve come up with this to be against protecting WHOIS data.

The MPAA says that making all WHOIS data public, so any spammer/scammer can get at it, is actually good for privacy. Their logic goes like this. If websites have publicly available WHOIS data, then visitors of these websites can more easily check out the credentials of the websites and make more informed decisions about what kind of personal data to share with the website, thereby benefiting privacy.

Of course, this assumes the WHOIS data for the website in question is actually valid – there is a requirement from ICANN for valid info, but in reality, there’s little enforcement. Second, knowing the domain registrant’s name/address tells the website visitor nothing about the intentions of the website when it comes to using their data (for example, knowing facebook.com is owned by Facebook, Inc. located at 1601 Willow Rd, Menlo Park, CA, does not actually tell me anything about how Facebook will use my private data). Third, some websites use third party companies to manage their domain names, and so the WHOIS data tells you even less about the website in question.

But a more private WHOIS system will make some things harder, including harder for the MPAA and their minions to go after pirate site operators, which is actually the extent of the MPAA’s interest in this matter. Why they didn’t just come out to say so, and instead have to invent some twisted logic about the “good of the general public”, I don’t know, and not only that, they just had to tack on unsubstantiated claims that a WHOIS system with more privacy will be a boon to “sex trafficking, unlawful sale of opioids, cyber-attacks, identity theft”. At least they haven’t thrown child pornography into the mix, not this time anyway

So in a very quiet week for news, it seems one can always rely on the MPAA to give us a bit of controversy. They’re the best!

======

And on that sarcastic note, we come to the end of this short WNR. See you next week!

Weekly News Roundup (November 17, 2018)

Sunday, November 18th, 2018

It’s hay fever season here again in Melbourne, and this one’s bad one. Bad to the point where everything on my face is itchy, and the only time I get a break is when I’m in a series of uncontrollable sneezes. Oh, the never-ending sense of fatigue is just the icing on the cake.

I’ve just loaded myself full of antihistamines about half an hour ago and they seem to be kicking in right about now, which is just in time for me start writing this week’s news roundup.

Copyright

YouTube's Content ID

YouTube’s Content ID has paid out more than $3 billion to rightsholders

Starting with copyright news as per usual, Google has released its latest version of the How Google Fights Piracy report, which details the efforts and results of the company’s anti-piracy efforts.

The report includes several interesting stats, most notably that YouTube’s Content ID has paid out more than $3 billion dollars to rightsholders since its inception. For all of its flaws, including several high profile false positives, you have to admit that Content ID’s way of dealing with anti-piracy has proved to be effective in allowing users to still freely create, as well as rightsholders to be rewarded when users do use copyrighted content (sometimes incidentally/accidentally). Of course, it also helps Google to keep rightsholders at bay and to allow users to keep on creating without fear. The alternative would have meant content removal and account bannings. The number of popular cover songs and other content that rely on copyrighted materials on YouTube is prove that Content ID is working.

The other parts of the report focuses on Google’s anti-piracy efforts elsewhere, including on its search engine. Other than lauding the fact that piracy demotions are working, Google also noted that piracy searches are actually not all that popular on Google. For example, searches for the phrase “wonder woman” was 10,719 times more popular than the phrase “wonder woman watch free”. There’s been a lot of pressure on Google to do more to proactively filter out piracy results in its search engine, but the truth of the matter is that people who know how to download pirated content almost never rely on Google and other search engines to find downloads – most already have a list of sites that they rely on to source the latest content, be it streaming or downloads.

Google (the search engine) has never been the problem when it comes to piracy, despite what the anti-piracy lobby tells you.

High Definition

Netflix shares have been on the slide recently, despite some better than expected subscriber results, and perhaps part of the reason for this is the imminent threat of Disney’s upcoming streaming platform, Disney+. This is why Netflix CEO Reed Hastings went the effort to assure nervous investors that Netflix is ready for the fight against Disney+, citing the fact that they’ve been in competition with Amazon Prime for more than 10 years (has it really been this long?).

Netflix Remote

Netflix ready for fight with Disney+

The recent share price wobbles does not really reflect how subscribers feel about the service though, with most quite pleased at the constant stream (har har) of original content coming to Netflix every month. And according to a survey by analyst firm Piper Jaffray, even a 40% price increase might not put off these happy subscribers, which is what Netflix may have to do if it finds itself in trouble against Disney+ – not so much as to raise revenue, but to raise the required funds to fuel more original productions.

But time is on Netflix’s(and Disney+’s) side, with the latest research showing that live broadcast TV is getting less and less popular. This is also why Disney, who owns live broadcasting network ABC, has been so keen to develop their own streaming, on-demand network, and part of the reason why despite the optimism towards Disney+, Disney’s own share price have been pretty stagnant over the past few years. The transition from traditional broadcast TV networks to on-demand platforms has been on-going for a couple of years now, and everyone is keen to see whether Disney can successfully complete the transition while still maintaining market share and the all important profit results.

======

And I must now complete the transition between working and not working, as we’ve come to the end of another WNR. See you next week!