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Disney To Boost Prices For Ad-Free Disney+ And Hulu Services And Vows Crackdown On Password Sharing

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CEO of Walt Disney Co., Bob Iger, promised to increase prices for its ad-free Disney+ and Hulu plans in October and crack down on password sharing through the end of the following year to make the company’s streaming services profitable.

The price changes will increase the ad-free Disney+ monthly fee by $3, or nearly 27%, to almost $14. In addition, the price of ad-free Hulu will increase by $3 to nearly $18 – a 20% increase, making it more expensive than Netflix’s most popular ad-free tier.

Iger remarked after Disney’s fiscal third quarter, which concluded on July 1, released its mixed numbers. The business recorded a substantial financial loss while losing clients in home and foreign markets. Disney reported an overall 4% gain in revenue for the quarter but switched from a $1.4 billion profit a year earlier to a net loss of $460 million. In after-hours trading, Disney shares, which had ended at $87.49, increased by almost 2.2% to $89.45.

Disney+ experienced narrower losses throughout the quarter but continued to lose domestic subscribers in the United States and Canada. Internationally, it recorded its third consecutive quarter of declines, even though problems in the Indian market were a significant factor.

The service had 157.8 million foreign users in the second quarter, a 7.4% decrease to 146.1 million in the third quarter. That came after a 2nd quarter loss of 4 million streaming users. It lost the same number of domestic subscribers—300,000—in the third quarter as in the second.

The Disney CEO admitted that the price increases are meant to tempt customers away from the subscription-based versions of these services and towards cheaper ad-supported alternatives. He claimed that the streaming advertising business is “picking up,” saying it is more advantageous than conventional TV advertisements. “We’re attempting to migrate more subscribers to the advertising-supported tier with our pricing strategy.”

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CEO of Walt Disney Co., Bob Iger, promised to increase prices for its ad-free Disney+ and Hulu plans in October.

Iger said only that Disney might gain from the crackdown on password sharing in 2024, but he noted that the effort “might not be completed” then and that Disney couldn’t forecast how many password sharers would convert to paid subscriptions.

Analysts expressed skepticism about Disney’s ability to return to sustained growth, despite price increases and tougher password-sharing policies. Insider Intelligence analyst Paul Verna noted that investors “anxious for clarity on the company’s strategy for its streaming services and TV networks” are unlikely to be soothed by its actions.

Although a reduction in Disney’s streaming losses is encouraging, the improvements resulted from drastic cost cuts more than organic growth, indicating that Iger still lacks a strategy for placing Disney on a solid financial footing.

To save the corporation $5.5 billion, Disney is amid a “strategic reorganization” that involves letting go of roughly 7,000 employees.

In the past several months, Iger, who returned in November to replace Bob Chapek as CEO, has attempted to turn around Disney’s streaming business while maintaining the financial sturdiness of its theme parks.

CEO of Walt Disney Co., Bob Iger, promised to increase prices for its ad-free Disney+ and Hulu plans in October.

Industry insiders generally agree that Disney’s theme parks are essential to the company’s operations in Burbank, California. Iger has prioritized winning back the brand’s devoted fans by rekindling their love of Disney theme parks. The U.S. parks saw adjustments soon following Iger’s return.

Additionally, he had to fight to stop Florida Governor Ron DeSantis from annexing the Disney World theme park district. Disney filed a lawsuit against DeSantis in late April, alleging that the governor engaged in a “targeted campaign of government retaliation” in response to the company’s opposition to a statute known as “Don’t Say Gay.” This month, a group of primarily Republican former senior government officials referred to the Florida governor’s seizure of Disney World’s administrative district as “severely damaging to the political, social, and economic fabric of the State.”

Iger agreed to a two-year contract extension, allowing the entertainment and theme park giant some time to identify his replacement. Disney announced last month that Iger will continue to serve as CEO of The Walt Disney Co. through the end of 2026.

Tuesday saw the announcement by Disney-owned ESPN that it had successfully negotiated a lucrative deal to rename a current sports betting app operated by Penn Entertainment as ESPN Bet. Penn Entertainment will continue to own and run the betting app and will pay $1.5 billion in addition to other considerations for the exclusive rights to the ESPN name.

SOURCE – (AP)

Kiara Grace is a staff writer at VORNews, a reputable online publication. Her writing focuses on technology trends, particularly in the realm of consumer electronics and software. With a keen eye for detail and a knack for breaking down complex topics, Kiara delivers insightful analyses that resonate with tech enthusiasts and casual readers alike. Her articles strike a balance between in-depth coverage and accessibility, making them a go-to resource for anyone seeking to stay informed about the latest innovations shaping our digital world.

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Faced With Possibly Paying For News, Google Removes Links To California News Sites For Some Users

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SACRAMENTO, CA – Google began eliminating California news websites from certain people’s search results on Friday, a test that serves as a warning if the state Legislature passes legislation mandating the search engine to compensate media businesses for linking to their content.

Google disclosed the change in a blog post on Friday, describing it as a “short-term test for a small percentage of users… to measure the impact of the legislation on our product experience.” The firm also announced that it would suspend further investments in the California news industry, including a cooperation project with news organizations and a product licensing program.

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Faced With Possibly Paying For News, Google Removes Links To California News Sites For Some Users

“By assisting consumers in finding news content, we enable publishers of all sizes to build their audiences at no expense. “(This bill) would disrupt that model,” wrote Jaffer Zaidi, Google’s vice president for global news partnerships, in a blog post.

The California Legislature is debating legislation obliging tech behemoths such as Google, Facebook, and Microsoft to pay media firms a share of advertising revenue for linking to their material. A panel of three judges will determine the amount the corporations must pay through an arbitration process.

The law tries to halt the rapid loss of journalism employment as traditional media organizations struggle to profit in the digital age. According to Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, more than 2,500 newspapers have closed in the United States since 2005. According to the bill’s sponsor, Democratic Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, more than 100 news organizations have closed in California over the last decade.

“This is a bill about basic fairness — it’s about ensuring that platforms pay for the content they repurpose,” Wicks said. “We are committed to continuing negotiations with Google and all other stakeholders to secure a brighter future for California journalists and ensure that the lights of democracy stay on.”

Despite significant resistance and lobbying attempts from major technology corporations, the state Assembly enacted the bill last year with bipartisan backing. It would need to be passed by the California Senate later this year to become law.

Supporters claimed that the measure would help level the playing field between news publishers and giant digital platforms and provide a “lifeline” to local news organizations that rely largely on Google’s search engine to spread their material in the digital age. While Google’s search engine has become the center of a digital advertising empire worth more than $200 billion annually, news publishers’ advertising revenues have fallen dramatically in recent decades.

Opponents, including Google, Meta, and several independent newsrooms, refer to the measure as a “link tax” that will disproportionately benefit out-of-state newspaper chains and hedge funds while further decimating local news organizations. Richard Gingras, Google’s vice president of news, also told state lawmakers in a December hearing that the tech giant has made significant contributions to local journalism, citing financial grants and training to nearly 1,000 local publications in 2023, among other initiatives.

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Faced With Possibly Paying For News, Google Removes Links To California News Sites For Some Users

Gingras described Google’s search engine as “the largest newsstand on Earth,” connecting people to news websites more than 24 billion times every month. Google’s search engine controls an estimated 90% of the market.

“This traffic, in turn, helps publishers make money by showing ads or attracting new subscribers,” he added, adding that each Google link click is projected to cost a news website 5 cents to 7 cents.

Google’s decision to temporarily delete links to news websites is not a novel strategy for digital behemoths when opposing unpopular legislation. When Canada and Australia established similar rules to foster journalism, Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, retaliated by censoring Canadian publishers’ content on its Canadian websites. Last year, the business issued identical threats to members of the United States Congress and California lawmakers. Google has threatened to do the same in Canada. However, in November, Google agreed to pay the news business 100 million Canadian dollars ($74 million US dollars).

News publishers would suffer and may lay off more journalists if Google fully removed content from its search results, but analysts say Google would also suffer financially without news content.

“Google would be damaging itself enormously if it decided to stop using newspaper content,” Brandon Kressin, an antitrust attorney representing News Media Alliance and other news publishers, told senators during a December session. “They would be cutting off their nose to spite their own face.”

The political debate over Google’s main search engine, which has the potential to restrict access to diverse news sources, is taking place against the backdrop of judicial proceedings that could result in verdicts that undermine the company’s online empire.

google

Faced With Possibly Paying For News, Google Removes Links To California News Sites For Some Users

After presenting evidence to support its allegations that Google has used its power to stifle competition and innovation during the largest antitrust trial in a quarter century, the US Justice Department’s lawyers will present their closing arguments next month to a federal judge who is expected to rule on the case later this year.

Following another antitrust trial that concluded in December, a federal jury determined that Google had turned its app store for smartphones running Android software into an illegal monopoly that limited consumer choices while enriching the company through unfairly high in-app purchase commissions. A hearing on the modifications Google requires due to the ruling is also scheduled for next month.

California has enhanced local journalism through various efforts, including a $25 million multiyear state-funded program in collaboration with the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism that places 40 early-career journalists in local newsrooms each year. This year, lawmakers are also debating a plan to boost tax credits for local news organizations.

SOURCE – (AP)

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Instagram Begins Blurring Nudity In Messages To Protect Teens And Fight Sexual Extortion

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LONDON — Instagram claims it’s launching new tools to safeguard young people and against sexual extortion, including one that automatically blurs nudity in direct messages.

The social media platform stated in a blog post on Thursday that it is testing the features as part of its campaign to combat sexual fraud and other forms of “image abuse,” as well as to make it more difficult for criminals to contact teenagers.

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Instagram Begins Blurring Nudity In Messages To Protect Teens And Fight Sexual Extortion

Sexual extortion, often known as sextortion, is the practice of enticing someone to transmit graphic photos online and then threatening to make the images public unless the victim pays money or does sexual favors. Recent high-profile incidents include two Nigerian brothers who pleaded guilty to sexually extorting teenage boys and young men in Michigan, one of whom committed suicide, and a Virginia sheriff’s officer who sexually extorted and kidnapped a 15-year-old girl.

Instagram and other social media platforms have come under fire for failing to adequately protect young people. Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Instagram’s parent company Meta Platforms, apologized to the parents of victims of such abuse during a Senate hearing earlier this year.

Meta, headquartered in Menlo Park, California, also owns Facebook and WhatsApp, but the nudity blur feature will not be introduced to communications sent through those services.

Instagram claimed scammers frequently use direct messages to request “intimate images.” To address this, it will soon begin testing a nudity-protection function for direct messages that blurs any photographs containing nudity “and encourages people to think twice before sending nude images.”

“The feature is designed not only to protect people from seeing unwanted nudity in their DMs, but also to protect them from scammers who may send nude images to trick people into sending their own images in return,” Instagram stated in a statement.

For all teenagers under the age of 18, the option will be by default enabled. Adults will receive a notification inviting them to activate it.

Images containing nudity will be obscured with a warning, allowing users to choose to view them. They will also be able to block the sender and report the communication.

instagram

Instagram Begins Blurring Nudity In Messages To Protect Teens And Fight Sexual Extortion

People who send direct messages with nudity will receive a notice asking them to exercise caution while sending “sensitive photos.” They’ll also be told that they can unsend the photographs if they change their minds, but there’s a risk others have already seen them.

Instagram claimed it is developing technologies to help detect accounts that may be involved in sexual extortion scams “based on a range of signals that could indicate sextortion behavior.”

To prevent criminals from engaging with young people, it is also implementing safeguards such as not presenting the “message” button on a teen’s profile to potential sextortion accounts, even if they already follow one other, and developing novel techniques to hide teenagers from these accounts.

instagram

Instagram Begins Blurring Nudity In Messages To Protect Teens And Fight Sexual Extortion

In January, the FBI warned of a “huge increase” in sextortion instances involving children, particularly financial sextortion, in which someone threatens to expose compromising photographs unless the victim pays. The intended victims are often guys aged 14 to 17, although the FBI says any child can become a victim. In the six months from October 2022 to March 2023, the FBI reported more than 20% more financially motivated sextortion instances involving child victims than in the same time the previous year.

SOURCE – (AP)

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Amazon Adds Andrew Ng, A Leading Voice In Artificial Intelligence, To Its Board Of Directors

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Amazon has appointed artificial intelligence pioneer Andrew Ng to its board of directors amid fierce AI competition among startups and large technology corporations.

Judy McGrath, a former CEO of MTV who has informed Amazon that she will not run for reelection, will give way to Ng, a managing director at the Palo Alto, California-based AI Fund.

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Amazon Adds Andrew Ng, A Leading Voice In Artificial Intelligence, To Its Board Of Directors

Ng’s AI Fund, established in 2017, invests in entrepreneurs developing artificial intelligence enterprises. Previously, he managed AI projects at Chinese internet companies Baidu and Google, where he oversaw a team that taught a computer system to recognize cats in YouTube videos without ever knowing what one was.

Ng’s appointment to the board comes as the company, like other technology companies, invests heavily in generative artificial intelligence. The corporation has invested $4 billion in Anthropic, a San Francisco-based startup working with the company to develop foundation models for generative AI technology. Last year, Amazon also launched Q, a chatbot for enterprises, and Rufus, a generative-AI-driven shopping assistant.

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Amazon Adds Andrew Ng, A Leading Voice In Artificial Intelligence, To Its Board Of Directors

In an annual shareholder letter released Thursday, CEO Andy Jassy stated that generative AI may be the next significant pillar of Amazon’s business, alongside the company’s popular online marketplace, Prime membership program, and cloud computing section, AWS. Jassy said generative AI could be the most significant technical shift since cloud computing and “perhaps since the Internet.”

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Amazon Adds Andrew Ng, A Leading Voice In Artificial Intelligence, To Its Board Of Directors

Meanwhile, other technologies have had significant setbacks. Last week, the business said it was removing its Just Walk Out technology from Fresh locations in the United States in response to customer concerns. Amazon announced that it was updating the technology that allows consumers to skip the checkout line with smart carts that will allow them to do so while also allowing them to see their spending in real-time.

SOURCE – (AP)

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