Weekly News Roundup (September 3, 2017)

September 3rd, 2017

Sorry for the brief hiatus, back and refreshed from warm Far North Queensland. Back into the freezing grey wasteland that is Melbourne at the moment. Spring can’t come soon enough!

A short one this week before I freeze my fingers off typing this WNR.


The Hitman's Bodyguard

Studios are failing to protect their movies

Movie studios might need to rethink the strategy of having simultaneous theatrical and digital releases, after the Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L Jackson comedy action hit ‘The Hitman’s Bodyguard’ was uploaded online in record time.

The source of the pristine, 1080p upload is speculated to be Netflix Japan, of all places, which somehow managed to secure the streaming rights to the film when other countries were still waiting for it theatrically (apparently, it’s being marketed as a Netflix Original Movie in the country, because it secured the exclusive distribution rights there). As good as it was for Japanese Netflix subscribers, this move might not have been the best for the film’s production company, Millennium Films.

Some time ago, I posted here that “if you can play it, you can rip it”. That’s still very much true, whether it’s DVDs, screeners, cams or streams. The only way to stop piracy is to stop people from actually being able to watch movies, and I’m not sure that’s what the film industry actually wants. Of course, giving a hit movie to Netflix, even in the far off land of Japan, may not have been the best idea either.


You should have watched the GoT season finale by now, and so has millions of people who definitely did not watch it legally. Piracy peaked compared to the rest of the season, but did not break any records because of the increasing number of legal viewing options, and of course, streaming.

High Definition


Not another bloody HDR format!

The HDR format war is heating up (about the only thing with heat in my house at the moment) even more with the addition of a third major format into the race. With Dolby Vision gaining momentum thanks to Paramount, Warner Bros. and Lionsgate all starting to release titles in the format, the humble HDR10 format feels like it’s getting left behind.

And it’s not just branding at stake here. Dolby Vision does offer a few additional features that, in some cases, significantly improve the picture quality. The most important of which is something called dynamic metadata. Instead of having one set of HDR data for the entire movie of TV episode, dynamic metadata allows each scene to have their own set of data, thus allowing an even greater range of brightness for scene after scene.

HDR10+ aims to solve this shortcoming by adding basically just dynamic metadata support to the existing HDR10 standard. It’s something Samsung came up with, and is now supported by major rival Panasonic and studio 20th Fox, all in an attempt to not have to pay the high licensing fees associated with Dolby Vision. Amazon already supports the format too.

A format war is always bad for the consumer, but this one is not as bad as long as studios encode their Blu-ray releases in multiple HDR formats (as is the case with Dolby Vision releases so far). HDR10 remains the “fallback” format in all cases, so even if you don’t have a Dolby Vision or HDR10+ TV, you can still enjoy HDR.


I think when your fingers and toes start feeling numb in the bitter cold that is my study, it’s probably time to stop writing. See you next week (when it’s hopefully a bit warmer)!

Weekly News Roundup (August 20, 2017)

August 20th, 2017

A chilly morning here in Melbourne. Winter was here, and should be gone soon, but I’m not waiting around any longer. I shall be making my escape to somewhere a lot warmer later this week.

But before that glorious event, there’s the news to go through for this WNR, and unfortunately, it was a quiet week again. As a result, this will be yet again a short WNR and yet again another one focused on Game of Thrones. I know, I know, I’m tired of covering it too, but (news) beggars but be choosers.


Jon Snow

I hate to keep on talking about Game of Thrones, but people have to stop leaking episodes first

So another week, another Game of Thrones leak. Winter is supposed to be here, and I’m guessing most of the water (in the North, at least) have all frozen over. So why so many leaks?

At this point, it’s almost a sport now to see who can leak the next episode first. This time, it was HBO themselves, or rather, both HBO Nordic and España. HBO Nordic has history when it comes to leaking GoT episodes, so it’s good to see that no lessons have been learnt from past mistakes.

That’s the problem with digital distribution. In the past, it would have required a daring break-in into a TV station to steal the master tapes, whereas now, it could be as simple as an intern pressing the wrong button to make an episode go live much earlier than it was suppose to. Even a digital break-in, like the HBO hack, is a lot less risky and requires less of an “Ocean’s 11” style operation.

The HBO hackers though continues their digital rampage and public ransom negotiations this week, with the revelation that they appears to have threatened to release more sensitive HBO data. Specifically, they might have the logins of all of HBO’s social media accounts (cue rush to change passwords by said HBO intern), and more worryingly, access to the last two unaired episodes of GoT. The hackers want $6.5 million in Bitcoins, or they’ll release GoT S7 episode 6 and 7 “as soon as possible”.

Will HBO play ball? They’ve said no, but the hackers have released an email in which HBO offered the hackers $250,000 for their “kind” help in pointing out the security flaws in HBO’s systems.

Meanwhile, the hackers have leaked more unaired episodes, including episodes of the eagerly awaited return of Curb your Enthusiasm (so that’s a pretty, pretty, pretty bad development for HBO). But is this worth $6.5 million? Probably not. It’s not as if people are cancelling their HBO accounts just because leaked episodes are now appearing online.

And you can bet law enforcement is already well on its way to tracking the hackers. They’ve always caught up with them, even if it takes a long time, so I don’t know why hackers even bother with high profile hacks like this one. As for the people who leaked episode 4, a copy obtained from Star India, four arrests have already occurred on the subcontinent.


So my previously mentioned escape will mean there will be no WNR next week. Which might be a good thing, as it might allow this while Game of Thrones leak-a-thon to finish by then (well, considering the season will be finished by next Sunday, I’d say our chances are pretty, pretty, pretty good).

Until next time, have a good one!

Weekly News Roundup (August 13, 2017)

August 13th, 2017

A broken iPhone, a format in decline, the ending of a deal and the continuing of leaks. That’s what we have in store for you in this week’s WNR. Read on to found out just what the hell I’m on about.


Power leaked via iPhone

Using a broken iPhone to leak an unaired episode of Power – that doesn’t happen usually

There’s got to be a better way to do this. Playing a screener on an iPhone with a broken screen while holding up another phone to record the playback, all the while complaining about your sore arm. This “new” cam method may not catch on, but the man responsible for it may very well be easily caught thanks to his habit of turning the phone to record his face. STARZ, the owners of the leaked ‘Power’ episodes, has promised a swift legal response, but this whole thing is so ridiculous, it might just work in the favor of the accused.

But this incident does proof one point – if there’s a way to play it, there’s a way to rip (and upload) it. STARZ may have invested in the best security infrastructure to protect their content, but all it took in this case was a shared password and a (broken) iPhone, and viola, leaked episodes.

And even when the theft attempt is more ambitious and professional, as in the case of the HBO hack, the result is the same. The HBO hackers, after failing to extract a ransom from HBO, release more content this week. The “highlight” of this latest batch of leaks is the episode outline for the unaired episode 5 of season 7. Written a year ago, so some things will have changed from the final product to air this Sunday, the episode outline will no doubt still contain a few valid spoilers. There are also timelines, roadmaps and promotional strategies for HBO’s flagship show, the release of which will no doubt irritate the suits at HBO HQ.

More leaks will be on the way, unless law enforcement can catch up to the hackers sooner rather than later.

High Definition

Tomorrow Never Dies DVD and Blu-ray

Blu-ray and DVD s are on the way out, Netflix in

The DEG’s regular reporting of the state of the U.S. home entertainment industry is an interesting read. Not so much because of the surprises (there aren’t any), but because of the very clear trend it is showing in each and every report – digital is beating physical, and streaming is beating everything else.

So the latest DEG report, for the first half of 2017, shows subscription streaming revenue continuing to rise at the expense of purchases. Not something studios heads will like. And within purchases, digital is rising while sales of physical media is dropping at a rather alarming rate (Blu-ray faring better than DVD, it has to be said).

Distribution is now more and more in the hands of tech companies like Netflix and Apple, and that’s worrying for studios, as that used to be their job (and their revenue source). So it was no surprise to me that the most powerful of the studios, Disney, wants to take back distribution by launching their own proprietary streaming platform. This also means that Disney movies will cease to be on Netflix in 2019, when Disney’s platform launches (Lucasfilm and Marvel content may follow suit).

Disney content on Netflix

Disney to go it alone as it plans to remove content from Netflix

From a consumer perspective, this is bad news. The dream of an all-inclusive, single streaming platform where everything you’ve ever wanted to watch is just a click away, is dying. Instead, we might have to start getting used to fragmentation, where you have to juggle between half a dozen or more streaming accounts just so you can binge between episodes of Family Ties and Cheers, or run a movie night of the best zombie movies ever (which will never, ever, featuring Brad Pitt’s World War Z).

Or we might have to get used to some kind of super, meta streaming service: Netflix ($9.95) with the add-on options including Disney, HBO, SHOWTIME, STARZ, et al. Did we just reinvent cable?

(and to be fair, Hulu is already doing something similar with its HBO, Cinemax and SHOWTIME – and now with a live TV option too. So I ask again, did we just reinvent cable?)

Whatever happens, it will most likely mean we’ll have to pay more to get what we currently get.


So with that, we come to the end of another WNR. I’m off to watch the Disney stuff on Netflix before it all gets taken down. See you next week.

Weekly News Roundup (August 6, 2017)

August 6th, 2017

A heads up – this is going to be another short one for you, as it’s been a relatively quiet week again. And just because the news stories this week all revolve around Game of Thrones, it does not mean that I’ve spent the last week bingeing on old and new episodes of the hit HBO show and this is the actual reason why I haven’t bothered to write up any news stories. No, this is definitely not the case.


Game of Thrones - Season 7, Jon Snow

Game of Thrones making all the wrong headlines this week

So while I wasn’t lying on the couch, munching on junk food and getting my GoT fix, this story about GoT happened: HBO got hacked! Terabytes of data were stolen in a brazen cyber-heist, and the point of entry may have been HBO’s Executive Vice President Legal Affairs Viviane Eisenberg’s account at HBO – her personal and banking passwords were also released as part of the hack suggesting she may have been the original target (or that she was careless enough to store all her passwords as plain text on HBO’s servers).

While the hackers may have been disappointed that they could not get their hands on any unaired GoT footage, they did get script and story overviews for the then unreleased episode 4 of the latest season. They did get unaired episodes of Ballers, Barry, Room 104 and Insecure. All of the stolen content were uploaded online to the website winter-leak.com (a reference to the weather phenomenon that is currently occurring in Westeros), which at the time of writing, has been taken down.

The recent trend has been worrying for Hollywood. The old problem used to be unauthorised leaks, usually via a third-party production or distribution company. Now, it’s brute force hacking that studios and supporting companies have to deal with. Netflix, Disney, and now HBO, have all fallen victim recently, as hacking groups vie for notoriety by trying to get their hands on the “best” stolen content.

So when a couple of days later, news broke that episode 4 of GoT season 7, the one whose script was leaked, was the subject of another leak, this time a much more serious one in which the entire episode was uploaded online. Ironically enough, this new leak was entirely unrelated to the HBO hack, and instead, came via the “old problem” I mentioned above – HBO’s Indian pay TV partner Star India appears to be the source of the leak based on the visible watermark found in the leaked video.

The digital revolution has brought about many positive changes. The ease in which content can now be stolen and shared, is not one of them.


So I think that was it for the week. That wasn’t all of “it”, I’m sure, and I’ll definitely have more for you next week, and it’s definitely not because I am almost finished binge watching all 6 and a bit seasons of GoT. Nope, definitely not because of that, because I definitely didn’t do that last week instead of work.

Weekly News Roundup (July 30, 2017)

July 30th, 2017

I know I’m a little late to the game, but having wanted to do the right thing and wait for a legal way to watch Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale here in Australia, I’m just about to finish the first season. Wow – is all I can say, what a great show! Sure, there may be a little too much hand-holding to elevate the show to the status of The Sopranos or The Wire, but it’s right up there, especially the acting from Elisabeth Moss, Alexis Bledel and Ann Dowd (she’s also great in the movie ‘Compliance’, which is also very disturbing) – but everyone the show does a fantastic job, to be honest). Give it all the awards now!

And yes, despite what might feel like me wasting words on filler, we do have news to go through this week.


AutoGK Google AdSense Ban

Apparently Google thinks video conversion tool AutoGK is a file sharing tool

The war on piracy takes a strange turn as previous ally, Google, has apparently now joined the dark side. Google’s decision to prevent download site FossHub from putting ads on pages that link to file sharing (including BitTorrent) software sounds like something Hollywood would do, not the tech company we’ve known and loved. Apparently, having anything to do with BitTorrent, in Google’s eyes, is illegal, despite the fact that these software are completely legal and have as much to do with piracy as web browsers (in that while it’s true that BitTorrent clients are used to download pirated content, the same can be said of web browsers, like even Google’s own Chrome browser, which people who visit The Pirate Bay and other pirate sites are most likely using).

But was I surprised at the way Google acted? Ask any webmaster that has been in the business for a few years, and they’ll tell you lots of horror stories about having to put up with the search engine company we all used to love, but is now out to screw us in any way it can. In fact, I’m not even surprised at the exact circumstances that led Google to ban the entire FossHub site from their advertising service just for a few file sharing tools, because I’ve been through exactly the same thing, and even worse.

Google banned ads from being served by my AutoGK software download page a while ago for the exact same reason they gave to FossHub: “unauthorized file sharing”. This is despite the fact that AutoGK is a video conversion tool, and does not have any file sharing features (and it’s also 8 years out of date). I attempted to repeal the decision, but there’s almost always no real person at the end of the review process, and so I just gave up.

A couple of years ago, Google also banned my site from being able to display ads because we had a few YouTube downloader tools. Despite the fact that Google claims different parts of their company (YouTube, Google search, AdSense …) are all separate and they do not collude with one another (and so there’s no anti-trust issues at all), the fact that their advertising branch banned my site because it featured downloads that violated another branch’s policies, seems to suggest otherwise. Also interesting to note that they did not care about video downloaders for other video sharing sites like Dailymotion or Vimeo. Anti-competitive much?

Anyway, here’s hoping the extra media attention will help FossHub reach a real person at Google and resolve this issue. But even if that happens, the thousands of other sites that are in the same situation and won’t get the same media coverage, like this one, are still going to be out of luck. And you know what the suckiest thing about all of this? That there’s actually no real alternative to Google ads, just like there’s no real alternative to YouTube, Google Search, Google Shopping … monopolies are no fun!

Game of Thrones: Season 4

Oh crap, GoT season opener viewed 90 million times illegally

A follow up to last week’s story about Game of Thrones piracy, the final figures are in and the season premier was viewed or downloaded illegally more than 90 million times! And as we touched upon last week, nearly 78 million views were directly associated with streaming portals, as opposed to torrent downloads. Only 500,000 downloads came from torrent sources, according to the data from piracy monitoring firm MUSO.

Australia didn’t have the most downloads/views, but given our small population, 2.2 million views (and assuming 2 view/download per household), it means that something like 12% of households in Australia might have gone down the piracy route for GoT – not surprising considering the epic fail by our only legal broadcaster for the show (see last week’s WNR for more info on that).

High Definition

Paramount has chosen to embrace Dolby Vision, joining the likes of Warner Bros., Lionsgate and Sony. Why is this news? Well, it isn’t really, as Paramount hasn’t even bothered to produce a list of future releases that will feature the souped up HDR tech (Baywatch? Transformers: The Last Knight?). And since hardly anyone even has a DV enabled TV, will anyone actually care?

But news is news, and when there’s not much going on, one can’t be choosy.


Nintendo Switch

The Switch is selling well for Nintendo

Speaking of choosy, a lot of people have chosen the Nintendo Switch, with 4.7 million units already sold in the first four months since release. This compares well to the Wii U, which only sold 3.45 million units during the same period, and it didn’t have stock issues to deal with either. It’s still somewhat behind the Wii’s 5.84 million, but who can compete with the Wii?

Switch games are also selling like hot cakes (I looked it up, I think we call them pancakes here in Australia), with ‘The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’ being the pick of the bunch with 3.92 million copies sold (and who are the 0.8 million people that are buying the Switch without Zelda? Heretics!)

As to why the Switch is a success while the Wii U wasn’t? I think it’s because the Switch’s design and purpose are a lot clearer than the Wii U’s “portable but not really portable” design.


That’s all I have for you this week. A little bit longer than my recent efforts – it’s good to have news to write about! See you next week.

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