Netflix has won its first Emmy after House of Cards director David Fincher won the award for Best Director of a Drama Series, beating out directors from Boardwalk Empire, Breaking Bad, Downton Abbey and Homeland.
Its Emmy win marks an important milestone for Netflix as it moves beyond rerunning TV shows and films on its streaming video platform to creating original content. House of Cards, which launched in January, reaped 9 of Netflix’s 14 Primetime Emmy nominations. The others were three nominations for Arrested Development and two for Hemlock Grove.
As Ryan Lawler noted in July when the nominations were first announced, Netflix’s Emmy nods come just two years after the company first announced its plans to get into original programming with House of Cards, and little over a year after its first original series, Lillyhammer, premiered.
Today’s Emmy win is a strong indicator that Netflix can compete with television’s major players, even though it redefines “primetime” by presenting shows in much different ways than traditional networks. Netflix does not have linear programming and all episodes in a season are made available at once.
The positive critical reception Netflix has received for its original series, including House of Cards, Arrested Development, Hemlock Grove and Orange Is The New Black, calls back to the way HBO and other cable networks changed the TV landscape in the early 1990s. Before then, cable networks were known mostly for syndicating TV shows and running second-rate movies. Then HBO began releasing original content, including The Larry Sanders Show, that did well with both viewers and critics.
For many TV critics, the premiere of The Sopranos on HBO in 1999 heralded a new “Golden Age of Television,” with cable networks launching series, such as Breaking Bad, The Wire and Mad Men, that are more narratively complex and darker in tone than previous well-received TV dramas.
One key difference between Netflix’s original content and cable shows like “Breaking Bad,” however, is that Netflix withholds viewership numbers. For example, even Orange Is The New Black distributor Lionsgate doesn’t know how many people watched the series. As Lionsgate president of worldwide televsion and digital distribution James Packer recently said, this makes it difficult to sell shows in countries where Netflix has limited reach because distributors without data. It also makes it difficult to gauge the cultural impact of a show.
With other streaming services like Amazon Studios and Hulu following Netflix’s lead by offering their own high-quality original content, however, there’s a chance the next Golden Age of TV may happen on streaming video instead.
Apple’s iOS 7 is really gaining steam when it comes to early adoption, with Mixpanel reporting that it has already passed iOS 6 in terms of traffic hitting its network of mobile sites and apps. Fast software adoption is impressive, but fast hardware pick-up is even more so. The iPhone 5s and 5c appear to be selling well, according to Localytics, having climbed to 1.36 percent of all U.S. iPhones in less than 3 days on the market.
Localytics has surveyed data from over 20 million unique U.S. iPhones, beginning on iPhone 5s/5c release day on Sept. 20 and ending at 8 PM ET on Sunday, Sept. 22 to gather its results. The findings indicate that both devices have had a strong opening weekend, when you consider that the most recent generation of iPads, including the 4th gen iPad and the iPad mini, accounted for around just 4 percent of all iPad traffic a full month after its launch.
Localytics also broke down iPhone 5s and 5c adoption by carrier, and found that AT&T had the highest buy-in rate, with the 5s and 5c making up 0.67 percent of all phones on the network. And probably not surprisingly, given the number of stock outages reported for the iPhone 5s, it is leading the way on the Localytics platform by a fairly wide margin, representing 1.05 percent of all U.S. iPhones, while the 5c trails with 0.31 percent of the total breakdown. Aside from comments on Twitter and other social media sites indicating the 5s was in higher demand and shorter supply, a conversation with an Apple Store employee this weekend at the Covent Garden location in London indicates that the 5s was sold out very quickly, with many 5c units remaining in stock as of Saturday.
The 5s was almost certainly supply-constrained at launch, but Localytics’ data indicates that it selling out at locations worldwide was down more to demand vs. there just not being enough stock. And while it might be tempting to say that based on these early figures and the evidence from cumulative store reports that the 5c isn’t selling well, it’s worth remembering that the cheaper device is likely aimed at a more broad consumer category that won’t be as concerned with getting their phone ‘first,’ at the earliest possible date.
Apple has yet to reveal its launch weekend numbers, but if history is any indication, it should issue a press release detailing launch weekend numbers sometime later this morning.
Businesses are eager to spend money on big data, but few have a clear cut plan for what they plan to do with the technology, according to a new Gartner report. 64% of organizations surveyed have already purchased or are planning to invest in big data solutions in 2013, compared with 58% in 2012. Of that 64%, 30% have already invested in big data tech, 19% plan to invest within the next year and another 15% plan to invest within two years. Less than 8% of Gartner’s 720 respondents, however, have actually deployed big data technology.
Big data is expected to drive $34 billion of IT spending in 2013, but though organizations are intrigued by the promises of big data solutions, most are still trying to figure out how the technology fits into their strategy.
“For big data, 2013 is the year of experimentation and early deployment. Adoption is still at the early stages with less than 8% of all respondents indicating their organization has deployed big data solutions. 20% are piloting and experimenting, 18% are developing a strategy, 19% are knowledge gathering, while the remainder have no plans or don’t know,” said Gartner research vice president Frank Buytendijk in a statement.
Though many organizations are still unclear about which big data solutions they will invest in or how much they will spend, Gartner spotted trends in how they plan to use the technology. 49% want to increase their company’s efficiency by using big data to reduce costs or identify risks earlier, while 55% hope it will help them improve customer service. 42% of organizations want to develop new products and business models using insight gleaned from big data, while 23% want to monetize information directly.
Every vertical industry surveyed by Gartner had companies that are planning to or have already invested in big data solutions. Media and communications, banking, and services firms are the most enthusiastic big data adopters. 39% of media and communication organizations surveyed said they have already invested in big data, followed by 34% of banking organizations and 32% of services firms. The industries with the most planned investments over the next two years are transportation, with 50% planning to invest in big data technology, followed by healthcare at 41% and insurance companies at 40%. Most of these organizations are located in North America, where 38% of organizations surveyed said they had already invested in big data technology. 45% of organizations surveyed in the Asia-Pacific region said they plan to invest.
While most organizations are laying out their big data investment strategy, 15% of Gartner’s respondents are still trying to figure out what big data actually means, which is not shocking considering how broad and complex the term is.
“Perhaps unsurprisingly, this concern came mainly from respondents with no plans to invest. Organizations should be sure they are educated about big data opportunities in their industry to ensure they are not missing the boat,” said Gartner research director Nick Huedecker in a statement.
After closing a $9.7 million round this summer, Finnish startup Valkee – which makes a light-emitting pair of earbuds designed to counteract seasonal affective disorder — has put some of that cash towards a product refresh. The second generation of its product, Valkee 2, has been given a sleeker look and a variety of user-friendly tweaks.
The device, which Valkee’s co-founder Juuso Nissillä describes as a “medical iPod”, draws on scientific research that suggests bright light stimulates brain activity. The LED earbuds are designed to leverage that effect by allowing users to give themselves a daily dose of light directly into their ear canals — where the photosensitive areas of the human brain can be exposed to it.
The main change with Valkee 2 is remodelled LED earbuds, aiming for a more ergonomic, in-ear fit. There’s also a new smaller, all-aluminium casing (that looks very 2nd generation iPod nano-ish) from which the micro USB headphone cord can now be detached so that multiple users (i.e. who each have their own LEDSet) can share a single Valkee 2.
The product’s interface has also been updated to add on-device control — rather than having to change settings via Valkee’s website or a PC. Other tweaks include a longer headphone cord and internal memory in the earbuds so that settings can be retained when the headset is unplugged from the control unit.
Valkee launched its first commercial prototype in Finland in winter 2010, using off-the-shelf products. A global version, made from proprietary plastic parts, followed in winter 2011. That version retailed for €185. The startup said today it has shipped 45,000 of its bright light headsets to more than 20 countries around the world over the past three years. Satisfaction rates are apparently very high: 87% of users would recommend the product to others, it claims.
The Valkee 2 is available for pre-order – costing €199, in a choice of either black or silver – from the company’s website. It’s due to ship next month.
Tesco, the UK-based retail giant with 20 million customers in 12 countries across Europe and Asia, today took its biggest step yet into digital commerce and content: the company launched Hudl, an own-brand, seven-inch-screened Android (Jellybean) tablet priced at £119 ($190).
The idea will be for Tesco to use the hardware to promote use of its own range of digital content and e-commerce services, and in keeping with that it will be even cheaper to buy the device for those who use the company’s Clubcard loyalty card. Those who buy Hudl on the Clubcard can buy it for less than £100 ($160) when the device goes on sale September 30, first in the UK market.
Tesco is playing on a magic combination of factors: it already has a pretty large range of digital services (from entertainment through to shopping and banking); we still have relatively low tablet penetration in markets like the UK; and it’s being very Tesco-like (that is, competitive) on price. It’s also just chapter one for Tesco in this game, says its CEO (emphasis mine):
“Hudl is a colourful, accessible tablet for the whole family to enjoy. The first stage in our tablet offering, it’s convenient, integrated and easy to use with no compromise on spec,” Tesco Chief Executive, Philip Clarke, said in a statement. “Customers are quite rightly very discerning about the technology they buy so we knew we had to be competitive on all fronts.”
In some ways, offering a tablet is a logical progression for Tesco, which has in the past year acquired Mobcast, an online bookseller, for $7.2 million; and beefed up its Blinkbox film and TV service. Alongside this, the company has its web portal for online shopping and grocery delivery, as well as various consumer-focused financial services like online banking and insurance, and brodband, telephone and cellular services.
As with Amazon and its e-commerce operation and content holdings and subsequent foray into hardware with the Kindle e-readers and subsequent Kindle Fire tablets, Tesco pulling all of these together and putting them front and center will help the company promote these products more effectively, in a way that only Tesco would be able to do on its own device.
Right now, the intention appears to be to offer these devices in the UK market only, which is Tesco’s biggest, with nearly half of its 6,784 stores; over 310,000 of its 530,000 employees; and most of its profit. Indeed, Tesco points out that in the UK right now some 75% of households do not own a tablet; and the market for these is still in its early days, even in developed markets, and it is there for the grabbing.
But I suspect the sights are bigger. Just as Tesco has plans to take its various online services out to other markets (those include China, India, Malaysia, South Korea, Thailand, Czech Republic, Hungary, Republic of Ireland, Poland, Slovakia and Turkey), it would make sense to bring Hudl along for that ride.
“Currently there is nothing specifically planned outside the UK, but that’s not always going to be the case,” a person close to the company told TechCrunch on the occasion of its Blinkbox digital content launch earlier this year, when the company also made a big point of hinting hard about a tablet launch.
Today, a spokesperson echoed that sentiment. “We wouldn’t rule out other markets in the future,” he said, in response to questions about what will come after the UK.
Going global is also what the company did with other digital pushes, claiming that it “built the world’s first virtual store where commuters buy groceries via their mobile phones in South Korea.” (Those services first came online in its home market, the UK.)
In fact, you could argue that, with the economies of scale that you need to make hardware break-even or profitable business, pushing the tablet into international markets will be an important part of the equation for Tesco, which says that it is producing the tablet with a “manufacturing partner based in China…which also manufactures well-known products for Microsoft, HP, Blackberry and Sony.”
And while it makes sense for Tesco to push hardware to “close the loop” on the digital proposition, it is also an imperative for the company in a wider sense. Philip Clarke, Tesco’s chief executive, remarked recently on how conditions outside the UK remain “challenging” with the UK currently “subdued.” Pushing into new areas like hardware and tablets in that regard is an important offensive move to defend against erosion and competitive pressure elsewhere in the business.
· 7” 1440 x 900 HD screen
· Android Jellybean 4.2.2
· 16GB storage which can be expanded to 48GB with microSD cards.
· Quad-core 1.5GHZ processor
· 9 hours video battery life (Conditions may vary dependent on video format and content, audio volume, screen brightness and processor load)
· Micro-HDMI port
· Bluetooth 4.0, GPS
· Dual band Wi-Fi for a more stable connection
· Access to over a million apps via Google Play™
· Comes in 4 colours: black, blue, red, purple
· Wi-Fi only
· Sleek, high-quality design, with a durable, matte, soft-touch back for better grip
· Scratch resistant touch screen
Instagram has yet to make a formal push into using its platform for paid advertising and marketing purposes (although its co-founder is certainly putting out some signals for what it might do when it goes there). But in the meantime, Snaps — a startup, platform and app based around a photo network for spreading viral brand messages by way of photo mash-ups — is building out a standalone business targeting this very area. Today, the New York-based company is announcing an angel investment of $2.25 million, with a notable group of investors backing it.
They include Steve Kantor of S2K (Kantor is possibly most recently known for heading up Cantor Fitzgerald’s ill-fated move into investment banking); Ben Barokas, the co-founder of Admeld (acquired by Google for $400 million) who is now GM of marketplace development for Google; and Jonathan Carson, Vevo’s chief revenue officer. Carson is now also Snaps’ chairman of the board, along with another new appointment, Andy Levitt as president.
Other illustrious investors in this round include Michael Kassan of MediaLink; Mike Katz (ex-Yahoo); Leo Hindery Jr. (ex-AT&T); Bill Lohse (ex-Ziff Davis Publishing); Digital Capital Advisors; Dolgen Ventures; and Lucas Point Ventures. Prior to today, Snaps raised $1.1 million in April 2011 under its previous name, GoldRun, from investors including Jeremy Zimmer of United Talent Agency and Ed Matthias of the Carlyle Group.
While Instagram has built out an informal — and almost accidental, if you hear co-founder Kevin Systrom describe it — marketing network on its social, mobile photo-sharing platform, Snaps has been using its service to do much of the same, except with the express purpose of getting brands to pay for the privilege.
“Brands have realized that ‘communicating with images’ is the primary activity of consumers when they use social networks,” Vivian Rosenthal, CEO and founder, tells me. Some of those paying customers include Kate Spade, Deloitte, Lifetime, Travel Channel, Wendy’s, Nestle and Showtime. These brands pay Snaps through an SaaS model, she says, charged on a monthly basis.
You can see one of the fruits of one of those campaigns in the image here, of a baby — presumably the charge of a Kate Spade fan — donning a pair of her shades. Yes, cute, but also a little iffy (hello, Honey Boo Boo), and overall almost certainly viral in its whole positioning.
“Through our content management system we track all of the content and provide clients with the data and analytics around the branded photos as well as the photos themselves,” she notes.
Right now, Snaps users can share posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and by email. Noticeably absent are other networks like Pinterest and Google+ (although the latter may see an integration with the addition of a Googler to the list of investors.)
“We are adding more channels with each product release and prioritizing them based on user demand,” Rosenthal says. “Facebook and Instagram are the most popular,” she adds. She declined to give out specifics on how big its audience is today, except to note that Snaps is “seeing 100%+ monthly growth in downloads and active users since launching [in 2011.]“
Snaps says that the investment today will be used for two main areas: ad tech (that is, it’s expanding the engineering team to meet a demand from brands and agencies to better measure the effects of the social media sharing that Snaps enables); and new services to create more interesting features for luring users into sharing more in general. (I wouldn’t be surprised to see things like video and specifically GIFs make their way in here, for example.) The prize is a tempting one: the projectsion are for some $7.3 billion in mobile ad revenues worldwide in 2013.
Yet, as with so many other services that piggy back on other social networks that will also be looking to ad-based models to generate revenue, it will be interesting to see how companies like Snaps will evolve when those ecosystem partners become competitors:
“While Snaps is the pioneer in providing brands with a platform to engage with consumers in the visual Web, we are excited for others, like Instagram, to get into the game and help us to create this market,” Rosenthal says diplomatically.
Indeed, although sites like Instagram already offer some room or viral marketing, a lot of that goes uncaptured, pointing to an opportunity for those who can pick it up and harness that more effectively. “There are hundreds of millions of images shared via mobile device each day, yet many photo-based platforms are struggling to realize revenue from these efforts. Snaps monetizes photos through a new type of engagement: real consumers creating authentic photo-based advertising that moves beyond the more passive Like, Comment or Heart,” said Carson in a statement.
This is what interests other investors, too. “As everyone is looking beyond the banner these days, Snaps is seeing very real traction with brands, entertainers, and sports teams,” noted Katz in a statement. “Driving genuine engagement as well as ROI on mobile is far from trivial and Snaps is one of the few companies I have seen that is really getting it right.”
QR codes (you know, those square images that can be scanned by your phone and point you to mobile websites) have never quite taken off with a mass audience, but some startups aren’t giving up the technology. For example, there’s Tel Aviv-based Visualead, which just raised $1.6 million in Series A funding.
The idea of QR codes is appealing because the codes promise to connect physical, printed objects (such as business cards, fliers, and posters) to the digital world. The problem? They’re also confusing and downright ugly — unless you like random square dots printed on a square grid.
Visualead tackles the problem by incorporating QR codes into existing images. In fact, it says it can “seamlessly blend” those codes with any image or design. This doesn’t make the QR code invisible, exactly, but it does make the code look less like a message from an inscrutable alien intelligence and more like a piece of promotional art. You can see one example in the image above, and others at the Visualead website.
The company first launched in January, offering a self-serve platform for small and medium businesses. It says the platform is now used by 200,000 SMBs, who create 30,000 campaigns every month.
“We like to measure ourselves by amounts of Visual QR Codes out there,” added founder and CEO Nevo Alva by email. “Within the next 6 months we are going to reach creation of 1M Visual QR Codes a month.”
Visualead also licenses its technology to large brands and enterprises — Alva told me that even though the SMB side of the business has been growing more quickly, he sees the company’s biggest opportunity at the enterprise level.
The new round was led by Kaedan Capital and Entrée Capital. Visualead has now raised a total of $2.35 million.