X Factor Suggest Free Voting Introduction For New Season

In an extremely surprising move considering the show’s history, UK singing contest The X Factor have announced that viewers will be able to pitch in with votes on the competition for free in this upcoming series of the ITV show.

the_x_factor_uk_season_11_promoThe new 11th season of the series, which on-screen will see the return of judges Simon Cowell and “Cheryl”, newcomer Mel B, and ever-present Louis Walsh, will run as it did last year through to the live show stage, where everything will for the most part be the same… except that when it comes to presenter Dermot O’Leary pitching the voting methods each weekend, viewers who aren’t just easily convinced or related to an act will consider actually taking part considering it would be within their budget range set out for ‘talent show voting’.

The introduction of free public votes for the first time in series history comes through a new official app of the show, running throughout the contest’s decisive live stages round.

Developed alongside Tectonic Interactive and Tellybug, the app will also carry ‘exclusive content’, games, quizzes, and an ‘improved Fifth Judge feature’, enabling users to predict which performers will progress the week and offer online ‘real-time feedback’ to the songs.

Accessible to iOS and Android-based device users, the service will permit a limit of five free interactive votes in a single ‘voting window’, with the votes only able to be allocated to a single contestant or ‘one combination of contestants’.

ITV representative Ann Cook said of the app: “Having successfully launched in-app voting for The X Factor last year, we know there’s a growing appetite for viewers to engage with the show via a digital platform. The new initiative to offer in-app voting for free centres around our ambition to give viewers new and exciting ways to interact with our shows, and explore how a mixed economy of free and paid voting drives interactive behaviour.”

Kat Hebden, from series co-producers FremantleMedia UK Interactive, added: “The introduction of free in-app voting on The X Factor will be a real game changer in terms of how people interact with the show and we’re looking forward to a fantastic series.”

Syco Entertainment’s Mark Brittain summarised: “We are constantly looking to innovate around the show. Giving the viewers the ability to vote free through the app will allow viewers, we believe, an even greater opportunity to interact with their favourite show and, of course, play the hugely important role in deciding the ultimate winner of the series.”

Returning to screens at 8pm on Saturday & Sunday (30-31 August), will The X Factor‘s near-groundbreaking move to enable free votes be the spark that leads efforts to keep on-screen interest going, or will it be the familiar faces in the judging table that have the best shot?

China Plans A Cartoon For Peace

As David Hasslehoff proved a quarter-century ago, sometimes a slice of tailor-made entertainment is the ideal solution to resolving a conflict, and it is an approach currently being taken by the Chinese government.

fragrant_concubineAs opposed to a Chinese-made production attempting to be the resolution of some of the ongoing conflicts in various parts of the world, their focus in this instance is directed purely within their designated borders, as they seek to ease ethnic tensions in the north-westerly Xinjiang province.

The region is one which is predominantly populated by Muslim Uyghur people, though just behind in terms of population is the Han Chinese, the majority race of the country as a whole.

The two ethnicities have clashed regularly over the past century in particular, with occasional rioting occuring, and an overhanging on-off independence movement from the Uyghurs most commonly known as East Turkestan.

As a measure designed to relieve some of these hostilities, the Xinjiang governmental administration have begun the creation of a made-for-TV CGI cartoon that will retell a famous story of unity between the two peoples. The legend is known as Fragrant Concubine, and tells the story of an Uyghur princess named Ipal Khan, who marries a Chinese emperor of Han descent in a ‘politically important’ 18th-century union.

But it appears as though the feature, taking the title of Princess Fragrant with a goal of “boosting ethnic solidarity”, is having troubles of its own in development, as taking a leaf out of Hollywood’s book, creative personnel find themselves in constant conflict over the type of title music employed and key story themes down to whether or not characters should be able to ‘have pets’ or ‘time travel’, only in this instance it is cultural differences rather than personal ego that is the cause.

Global Times report that the cartoon’s director Deng Jianglei (from the Shenzhen Qianheng Cultural Communications Company) took over a year to find an appropriate musician to compose a theme song with lyrics. Jianglei stated: “The musician has to be accepted both by the communities of Han and Uighur people, which means he or she has to be familiar with two different cultures and musical styles, which is difficult. Hong met almost all of our expectations. He grew up in Xinjiang, knows Xinjiang well and is well accepted by Han people.”

Hong Qi, the half-Uyghur musician eventually selected for the task, noted problems that he witnessed while on duty, with Uyghur staff strongly against the idea of incorporating time travel into the plot (a theme most commonly seen as frowned upon in nation-wide entertainment authorities), as well as using animal characters, as a snake and later a squirrel character was pitched for inclusion in the Princess Fragrant story. Qi said: “Snakes are regarded as evil in Islamic culture, and Uighur families seldom keep pets, unlike Han people.”

Though those issues, like others, appear to be on a slow route to resolution, with Jianglei compromising by insisting on having at least one animal in the cartoon “for the sake of the market”. Xinjiang Bureau of Culture official Sheng Jun said of the ‘sensitive’ overall process that is hoped to have a calming end result: “It is similar to fighting a war in the realm of ideology. If we don’t pass on positive energy, the opposite side would occupy the battlefield. Xinjiang’s cartoon industry can use this opportunity to develop its own market. “

Whether a historical reimaginacament’s desired effect will be achieved by Princess Fragrant‘s creators remains to be seen (whenever it does get released), but it wouldn’t be the first time that children’s cartoons are used in an attempt to contribute to a big cause:

Amazon Take Over Twitch With $970m Purchase

It has been revealed this week that Amazon have managed to come under the noses of rivals Google with the news that they have taken over streaming platform Twitch, at a cost of just $970m.

twitch_silverThe online retail specialists have moved in on a deal that was long-since rumoured to be Google’s, after the latter had prepared a $1b takeover which has fallen flat in favour of the fast-emerging competing bid.

In spite of the slightly reduced amount received, Twitch are thought to have made the decision based on how each owner could help them grow and fit their vision, with Amazon clearly winning out.

In an open letter towards ‘the Twitch community’, Twitch’s CEO Emmet Shear stated of the reasons: “We chose Amazon because they believe in our community, they share our values and long-term vision, and they want to help us get there faster. We’re keeping most everything the same: our office, our employees, our brand, and most importantly our independence. But with Amazon’s support we’ll have the resources to bring you an even better Twitch.”

A statement from Amazon’s chief executive Jeff Bezos noted: “Broadcasting and watching gameplay is a global phenomenon and Twitch has built a platform that brings together tens of millions of people who watch billions of minutes of games each month. We look forward to learning from them and helping them move even faster to build new services for the gaming community.”

With plenty of the seemingly unpopular changes recently made by the video game content streaming brand had been made with new ownership in mind, Amazon will presumably keep the planned future structure in place, to the distaste of a majority of their 55 million+ ‘unique monthly viewers’.

For one of Amazon’s biggest corporate purchases in their history, will bringing Twitch under their wing sufficiently aid their cause in developing a threat in the video streaming market?

Breaking Bad Adds To Award Tally With Five Emmys

After plenty of anticipation in the build-up to their final appearance at the awards after 5 years, Breaking Bad left the Emmy scene with five more awards to add to their tally from the annual NBC special.

emmy_meshA total that is taken to 6 for the evening with Creative Arts Emmy Awards considered, the AMC drama can now claim to have won a final total of 16 Emmy Awards from a total of 58 nominations, and 6 from 16 at this year’s event.

Those awards won were naturally all in the ‘Drama Series’ section of the show, claiming ‘Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing‘ (Skip MacDonald, “Felina”), ‘Outstanding Supporting Actor‘ (Aaron Paul, “Confessions”) ‘Outstanding Writing‘ (Moria Walley-Beckett), ‘Outstanding Lead Actor‘ (Bryan Cranston), ‘Outstanding Supporting Actress‘ (Anna Gunn, all “Ozymandias”), and the coveted ‘Outstanding Drama Series‘ prize.

Other series which had a good night at the Primetime event included BBC/PBS series Sherlock and ABC‘s Modern Family with 3 awards each (the latter taking ‘Outstanding Comedy Series‘), and FX shows American Horror Story and Fargo taking 2 apiece.

Meanwhile, one of the biggest possible professional awards in the animation industry (‘Outstanding Animated Series‘ as a Creative Arts Emmy), was claimed by Fox series Bob’s Burgers for the first time, beating competition from Archer Vice, Futurama, South Park, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

The full results can be found here, whilst highlights of the evening away from the awards and trivial ‘who’s wearing who’ gossip include Billy Crystal leading a tribute to the recently-deceased Robin Williams, presenter Seth Meyers opening the show with a critically-acclaimed monologue:

…And singer Weird Al Yankovic making a surprise appearance with a specially-written song to the tune of current TV theme songs:

Google Grab The Gecko For X

Major technology companies nowadays love being able to use their financial muscle to expand their business empire, with ownership of a smaller company adding to both their expertise and networking portfolios, which Google are currently aiming to do by adding 18-year-old startup Gecko Design under their wing.

gecko_design_logoGecko are described as product-design specialists, being consulted by companies regarding making their ideas into feasible developments, but they will now take on their biggest and potentially exclusive task – realising the vision of whatever Google, or more specifically their ‘X Labs’ division, can conceive.

The excitement for Gecko here will naturally come from that brand’s history, having previously been responsible for the now-released Google Glass augmented reality eyewear technology, efforts to create internet signals in developing countries by medium of balloons, and the still-in-testing driverless car.

Gecko’s new home will be within that Google X division as an absorbed property, into a place noted for its secrecy in projects, but also for making them big ones.

Gecko’s president Jaques Gagne (who will join Google X along with Gecko’s 4 other employees) said of the developments in a blog post: “This is an incredible opportunity for everyone at Gecko. We are very excited and honoured to join Google and work on a variety of cutting edge projects.”

He added: “We’re a piece that Google X doesn’t necessarily have. People come to Gecko because they don’t know how to turn ideas into real products, especially when it’s something that hasn’t been done before. That’s what attracted Google X.”

Though it is unclear what Gecko Design’s team will be tasked with within Google X, will their presence manage to speed up developments and bring the world some more of Google’s gloriously quirky ideas?

Breaking Bad Goes To The Streets… View

While some of the shows themselves have been going all-out to celebrate their participation on the nominees’ lists for this year’s Primetime Emmy Awards on NBC tonight, one of the most popular starting points for finding out more on said shows has made their celebratory move ahead of the evening, utilising one of its other divisions to do so.

breaking_bad_los_pollos_hermanos_restaurant_street_viewNot one for letting a day go past without it being commemorated in some way, Google have picked out Google Street View as the place where they will celebrate the day of the Emmys this year, bringing a new Google LatLong blog post to attention with links to a special collection of show-themed ground-level browsing.

The blog highlights a number of prime filming locations from a number of the shows that will be competing for awards tonight, enabling viewers to get close-ish to the locations that their favourite actors once (or continue to) grace while on-duty. Content linked to in the post includes “Los Pollos Hermanos” of Breaking Bad fame, “Freddy’s BBQ Joint” from House of Cards, and “Yunkai” on Game of Thrones. Other award-nominated shows included with special set-based virtual visits include Downton Abbey and Scandal.

The post summarised: “Whether you’re into D.C. intrigue or Khaleesi’s conquests, chances are you’re watching the Emmy Awards on Monday. To get ready for the show, relive your favorite moments from this year’s nominees with Google Maps. While we can’t get you a ticket to the awards, Google Maps can at least make you feel like an extra on the set of your favorite show. Happy (Street) viewing!”

Of course, those who are really desperate to visit the awards on location could visit the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles (USA) on Street View tonight and pretend like a bouncer isn’t letting them in… and also that it’s darker than in the pictures.