Spotify To Introduce Family Payment Plan

For fans of music streaming that are put off by the idea of paying video-streaming prices for their service, market leaders Spotify are attempting to remedy the situation at least a little, after announcing that their new payment plan will follow the mould of Netflix-style multi-users… although not quite as cheap.

spotify_blackAs opposed to putting multiple user accounts onto a single subscription, Spotify have introduced the same limit (of five family members in one deal) but under the idea that the five family members will receive discounts on joining a combined collective subscription after the first has paid full price.

The ‘Spotify Family’ plan will first see a single person pay a standard premium fee of $10 with each additional person thereafter paying under a 50% discount, with the unlimited streaming for multiple people paid under one bill, with an example given of the discount being that a family of four can pay $25 ($10 + 3 sets of $5), as opposed to the previous $10 (4 sets of full-price $10) they would have had to pay before for the commercial-free unlimited music streaming database option.

The 50% offer will also correlate to other territories, being placed onto the £10/month UK price and AU$12 Australian fee, amongst others, with those and further global rollouts to occur over the next few weeks.

Spotify’s ‘chief content officer’ Ken Parks summarised: “This is one of the most asked for features from our audience. With today’s announcement we’re making it easier than ever for the whole family to experience Spotify Premium on their phones, at home and on the go.”

Aiming to convert some of their 75% of 40 million+ users that aren’t paid subscribers by providing a better deal for the additional features, Spotify are gradually developing their presence across 56 markets with the addition of more platforms and new initiatives. So whilst it is noted Rdio are amongst those already offering ‘family plans’ for music streaming fans, will Spotify’s high-profile introduction help cement it as the new expected norm for such a service? There are related reports that Apple’s iTunes Radio service are already looking into fitting their approach to the family focus…

Netflix And Rogers/Shomi Share Original Thriller Series Between Them

Perhaps putting to rest some of the rumors that they don’t care about Canada or its local content output, American streaming giants Netflix have revealed a deal that will see them combine with Shomi, the new service that is supposed to be its biggest competitor in the local market.

rogers_canadaFollowing through on statements made in a Canadian inquiry that claimed they were committed to Canadian content, Netflix have revealed they will be part of production on, and naturally one of the broadcasters of, new original ‘survivalist thriller’ series Between.

The show will not be a Netflix exclusive, though, with the deal cut for three parties, two of which have much closer ties. Whilst Netflix will be able to premiere the series of 6 hour-long installments on its release date, the same privilege also extends to Rogers Broadcasting’s ‘City’ stations and of particular note, their co-owned Canadian subscription video on-demand service Shomi.

Though in both familiar and unfamiliar territory, Netflix will not have complete premiere rights in the main territory in question, with the local market taken by Rogers and shomi for Canadians, and Netflix ‘limited’ to having an official premiere-day premiere in all their other markets including the USA and the UK. For Canada, they will have to wait until one year after Rogers and shomi’s initial premiere of Between, the date of which is unconfirmed at present.

Content-wise, Between is a creation of writer/director Michael McGowan (Saint Ralph, One Week, Score: A Hockey Musical) and will star Jennette McCurdy (iCarly) in a town which has been hit by a ‘mysterious disease’ that has caused the death of everybody that isn’t 21 or younger. Production on the thriller format comes from Don Carmody Television and Mulmur Feed in association with Elevation Pictures, the latter handling worldwide distribution aside from Netflix-covered territories.

Netflix’s ‘vice-president of global independent content’ Erik Barmack said of the show: “Teaming up with Rogers on ‘Between’ is a tremendous opportunity to work with a creative partner in Canada to bring our global viewers top-notch content.”

Rogers’ ‘director of original programming’ Nataline Rodrigues added: “Showcasing Michael McGowan’s cinematic vision on the small screen, this compelling new series, in partnership with Netflix and Shomi, delivers on our promise to offer viewers world-class entertainment.”

Set to begin filming next Monday with principal photography in which Jon Cassar (24, The Kennedys) will take the director’s helm for the opening two episodes, will the use of established names both on and off set be able to take Between to critical acclaim? They just need to be careful that they don’t anger the Canadians with any poor quality work, else they may end up being set adrift:

Apple Announce Above-Expectation Profits

In an unusual contrast to Netflix and Google, who have both been running along with little major issues to discuss, the most recent financial quarter has had Apple announcing that they have performed better than their own expectations in the technology market, in spite of problems that were far more publicised and joke-worthy.

apple-logo-fontPutting a figure on the headline is Apple’s profit of $8.5b for the Q3 2014 period, surpassing their own expectations for the stretch. Naturally, it is the high-profile release of the iPhone 6 and iOS8 operating systems that have contributed the most to this 13% earnings rise from the same point last year, surpassing analyst expectations in spite of the bad publicity they were receiving from poor consumer takeup of the software, and reports that the hardware was not only ‘flexible’ against its will, but also able to pull hairs out of someone making a phone call. Also potentially explosive, but that one was beyond Apple’s control.

CEO Tim Cook said of the positives to take away from the month for his company, which can probably be clearly seen in their bank accounts: “Our fiscal 2014 was one for the record books, including the biggest iPhone launch ever with iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. With amazing innovations in our new iPhones, iPads and Macs, as well as iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, we are heading into the holidays with Apple’s strongest product lineup ever. We are also incredibly excited about Apple Watch and other great products and services in the pipeline for 2015.”

The posting date of Monday 20 October was one which saw Apple record an official ‘overall revenue’ of $42.1b, and beating the estimations of analysts at $40b. Apple’s chief financial officer Luca Maestri said of this display: “Our strong business performance drove EPS growth of 20% and a record $13.3 billion in cash flow from operations in the September quarter. We continued to execute aggressively against our capital return programme, spending over $20 billion in the quarter and bringing cumulative returns to $94 billion.”

With Apple’s Apple Pay mobile payment system now claimed to be fully repaired and ready to go, and the Apple Watch smartwatch product also edging closer to a late market entry, will Apple be able to use their own previous financial performances as momentum going forward with these products, or will some of the less positive headlines generated over the last quarter catch up with them in the last of the year?

The IT Crowd Takes Second American Remake Attempt

Maybe it’s because another show from the same original channel has received such an opportunity, maybe it’s because one of the stars of the original format is currently attempting something similar, or perhaps just that they wanted this particular format to have another chance, but The IT Crowd, an office-based sitcom that aired on the UK’s Channel 4, has been tapped for a remake pilot order by American network NBC.

the_it_crowdThe news comes with the fact that NBC have previously attempted to do the exact same thing, back in 2006 (with the original’s Richard Ayoade (centre) reprising his role as “Moss” alongside Joel McHale and Jessica St. Clair), but did not make it to air.

Learning from past mistakes, NBC are now taking the angle of bringing some of the people who know the format the best, namely the series creator, Irishman Graham Linehan, who will be ‘working closely’ with adapted pilot writer Bill Lawrence (Scrubs, Cougar Town) and executive producers Garrett Donovan and Neil Goldman (both Community and Scrubs). Lawrence will combine this role with his current efforts to make another TV adaptation, for movie franchise Rush Hour.

Linehan had noted on Twitter, when asked about his knowledge of the remake: “Yep. I’m closely involved and we’re going to get it right this time.”

The original critically-acclaimed version of The IT Crowd had starred Ayoade alongside Chris O’Dowd and Katherine Parkinson as the IT/tech support department at the ambiguous company ‘Reynholm Industries’ in London, running for 4 seasons between 2006-2010, followed by a one-off special in 2013 (“The Internet Is Coming”) for a total of 25 episodes. The first 4 seasons of the show are available in full to watch on Netflix, but it is a series length that would be almost matched within one season on a typical American schedule, so if the show is commissioned, would NBC be able to retain quality in a stretched-out format? If anything breaks the network during this process, they now know who to call:

Netflix Confirm Lilyhammer Return Date

One of Netflix’s less heralded pieces of original programming but most original by virtue of being its first exclusive (even if it is in fact a production of Norwegian public broadcaster NRK), Steven Van Zandt-led series Lilyhammer has had its Netflix return date confirmed.

lilyhammer_ny_norskWhilst the comedy crime drama will be starting its 8-episode 3rd season by the end of the month on 29 October, Netflix will unusually premiere it part-way through, taking all 8 of the episodes onto their streaming service (in territories/regions where they have the rights, which are noted as being USA, Canada, UK & Ireland, Latin America, the Netherlands, and Scandinavia (Denmark only)) for an instant premiere on Friday 21 November.

The series features Van Zandt (The Sopranos) as “Frank ‘the Fixer’ Tagliano”/”Giovani ‘Johnny’ Henriksen”, a former American gangster in New York City who after testifying against a mob boss is relocated by the witness protection program to the small but well-known town of Lillehammer (Norway) and soon regressing to his old ways, with the American actor having also made his mark on many other departments in the show such as executive producer and music composer, and will by the end of the season have covered ‘director’ as well, with his work on the season 3 finale episode.

Casting-wise, the new season of Lilyhammer will also see an acting debut from 8-year-old singer Angelina Jordan, famed for winning the most recent edition of Norske Talenter (Norway’s Got Talent).

Plot-wise, it is noted that season 3 features the character “Roar” (Steinar Sagen) travelling to Brazil in order to meet his internet bride, but ends up in trouble with the local law enforcement, leaving Johnny and “Torgeir” (Trond Fausa) left to fix the situation, whilst an American ‘family friend’ of Johnny sees great opportunities in Lillehammer and decides to visit.

Netflix’s chief content officer Ted Sarandos summarised the streaming service’s upcoming release, stating: “‘Lilyhammer’ is a funny and fantastic example of programming for a global audience – a comedic culture clash that’s drawn in viewers from around the world. We’re especially proud of the many international awards the show has earned, cementing its cross-cultural appeal.”

BBC To Archive Every Radio and TV Listing They Have Ever Made

The latest in a long line of BBC projects undertaken, the public broadcaster, with the history, funds, and freedom to do a little more than their commercial competitors (rightly or wrongly), have launched the ‘Genome Project‘, which aims to archive every single TV and radio broadcast that has ever been made in the UK under the BBC banner.

bbc_radio_times_#1Whilst that is a huge ask considering the BBC’s legacy (with even their best known shows being sacrificed or going missing before an improvement in archiving a few decades ago), the venture aims to go from 1923 onwards with support of the online community in the ‘curation and chronicling’ of every BBC broadcast… ever.

Currently on the official website, while without much content-wise, have put up ‘digital editions’ of each issue of the Radio Times magazine that has been published between 1923-2009, meaning that aside from late schedule changes, users can see what was on and when at various points in modern history.

Aiming to have a Wikipedia-style operation in which suggestions and changes can be made by its readers, the BBC have opened up the project to users with ‘Genome’ keeping moderation on the contributions, whilst official audio/video clips are to be added in relevant places over time by the broadcaster and by public users, as they aim to find what was previously lost where possible.

An official blog post on the matter stated:

“Genome – the BBC project to digitise the Radio Times magazines between 1923 and 2009 is now live. On the site you can find BBC broadcast information – ‘listings’ – extracted from those editions. You can also search individual programme titles, contributors and synopsis information.

Our aim on this project is to curate a comprehensive history of every radio and TV programme ever broadcast by the corporation, and make that available to the public. Our first step has been this digitisation of the BBC radio and TV programme schedules from the Radio Times magazine; the next phase of the project is to incorporate what was actually broadcast, as well as the regional and national variations. It’s one of the most important steps we’re taking to begin unlocking the BBC’s archive, as Genome is the closest we currently have to a comprehensive broadcast history of the BBC.

We’re really pleased to get the site live, not least because so many of you have been asking “when”, “how soon” and telling us “how useful it would be”. The challenges in making available the 4.42 million programme records so far have been significant – you can read about some of the recent ones on the Internet blog.

We need your help too though. We’re looking to you to help us to clean up the data. The scanning process – known as ‘Optical Character Recognition’ – has produced plenty of errors: punctuation in the wrong places, spaces where there shouldn’t be any or no spaces where there should, as well as fundamental misunderstandings about who did what.

We’ve made it possible for you to submit an edit to us, as you use the site. We’ll validate your suggested changes and publish the ones which are approved.

We’ve also included a ‘Tell Us More’ form, at the bottom of each programme listing, so we can tap into the collective memory, insight and knowledge of our users, making use of the wealth of experience out there about our programmes, something we’d like to capture.

We also know that the schedule changed considerably on occasion, because of events in the real world and we need that information too.

Additionally, during the process of building Genome, we’ve identified a few ‘chunks’ of data that are missing from the database, but due to the way in which OCR works, didn’t get picked up in the original scans. So, we will be adding this in.

The Radio Times has been published with regional variations since 1926. The magazines we scanned and the data sets which have been included in Genome are not exhaustive, rather they represent the ones which we could access and which covered the greatest areas and variations. In the future, we will look into the implications of attempting provide a more complete set of regional data.

We won’t be able to reflect what you send us straight away, but as we build on BBC’s Genome, it will come in to its own.

Now that we have published the planned broadcast schedule, our next step is to match the records in our archive catalogue (the programmes that we have a copy of in our physical archives) with the Genome programme listings. This helps us identify what proportion of the broadcasts exist in a potentially ‘playable’ form, and highlights the gaps in our archive.

It is highly likely that somewhere out there, in lofts, sheds and basements across the world, many of these ‘missing’ programmes will have been recorded and kept by generations of TV and radio fans. So we’re hoping to use Genome as a way of bringing copies of those lost programmes back in to the BBC archives too.

But, even if we don’t have an actual copy of the programme, we’ll also look to publish related items in our archives, such as scripts, photographs and associated paper-work. We’re looking in to the logistics of making some of these items available via Genome. Clearly, this will in some cases be a long and painstaking task. The BBC’s various archives contain millions of items spread over 23 archive centres across the UK, most of them in analogue form. It’s a big job, one we’re looking forward to reporting back on in the future.

What happens after 2009 when the Genome data “stops”? Well the information held at www.bbc.co.uk/programmes starts in 2007 (the birth of the iPlayer) and as the Genome data is improved and corrected (by you!), we expect to start ‘backfilling’ the bbc.co.uk/programme pages with the Genome data.”

A unique venture that will be unmatched around the world at least in sheer scale, will the BBC’s comprehensive content wiki be seen as another passing fancy by its critics, or will the Genome Project be able to put every piece of the broadcaster’s history (presumably with a 5-year buffer for new items) together  in an intriguing and well-presented manner?