The week TV dramatically changed: Disney, ESPN, Letterman make moves

The week TV dramatically changed: Disney, ESPN, Letterman make movesEntertainment

USA TODAY’s Jefferson Graham looks at the future of television after Disney’s announcement they are leaving Netflix to start its own streaming video service.

It seems so quaint, that day not that long ago when we plopped down on the couch, turned on the TV and watched our favorite shows when they aired.

Then came Netflix, Amazon and streaming, and viewing mostly anything we wanted to, whenever we wanted, without having to run out to a video store or wait for a DVD in the mail.

That all changed again this week.

 

The Walt Disney Co. said it would pull its movies from Netflix, to start its own streaming entertainment service in 2019. 

Thus, if you wanted to watch Moana, The Avengers, Cars 3 or endless runs of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck cartoons, this would be the place for you. It also plans to launch an ESPN streaming service in 2018.

And if it works for Disney, why not Sony, 21st Century Fox and Warner Bros. streaming services as well?

Hollywood studios could band together, yank all their content from Netflix and make considerably more money. If they get the subscribers.

Netflix could become a shell of its current self—or just another streaming service that you would subscribe to for “House of Cards,” and “Orange is the New Black.” Based on its spending spree this year, it might be preparing for the inevitable anyway.

Just this week, it signed up late-night legend David Letterman to return to video with eight new hours of a late night show, joining Jerry Seinfeld, Amy Schumer and Chris Rock, among others, to perform comedy on Netflix.

Wood-working on Facebook

Facebook also kicked off its long-rumored foray into TV like programming this week, but it’s not exactly must-see TV yet. Facebook’s Watch is a new platform offering produced, episodic TV-like fare, kicking off Thursday to a small section of Facebook users with “hundreds” of shows you surely haven’t heard of. (Social media influencer David Lopez showing off a day in his life; woodworker Tommy Mac’s tutorials, motivational speaker Gabby Bernstein taking fan questions.)   

The bottom line: Facebook wants to be your CBS, ABC and NBC, where you catch up on the news, share things with your family and friends, listen to music and be entertained. 

 

Meanwhile, Apple debuted its second TV series, an online spinoff of the late-night comedy bit Carpool Karaoke, viewable only on the Apple Music subscription site. Reviews were not kind to the new one or the Planet of the Apps competition that launched in June. 

The two series “have been a curious hybrid of low-key ideas propped up by big-name celebrities with little else of substance to recommend them,” saidthe Guardian. 

Apple recently hired some former Sony TV chiefs to find the next great hit for Apple, while Facebook’s ambitions go beyond food and motivational series: it has bankrolled some dating and reality shows for later in the year, as well. And Netflix and Amazon, well, they’ve been on a spending spree. 

So good news, consumers. At least for Netflix and Amazon, we get more good stuff to see. Apple and Facebook are works in progress. Stay tuned, or rather, online.

 

Meanwhile, in other tech news this week: 

Google. A now fired engineer’s missive against diversity at the search giant went viral, and put many issues into play. What can people safely say at work? And why aren’t companies more evenly divided among men and women?

James Damore’s internal essay argued that it wasn’t sexism keeping women from making up half of the company’s tech and leadership positions, but women’s preferences and biological differences from men.

He’s now vowed to sue Google, but first amendment experts warn that free speech is not protected when you work for a company. Employers “can clamp down on pretty much any…form of speech they deem unacceptable,” notes our Charisse Jones.

Susan Wojcicki, the CEO of Google-owned YouTube, called the memo “yet another discouraging signal to young women who aspire to study computer science,” and said it was “tragic…that this unfounded bias was now being exposed to a new generation.”

In an e-mail to employees, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the memo crossed the line “by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace. Our job is to build great products for users that make a difference in their lives. To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK.”

Damore has publicly blasted Google, and been embraced by right-wing media. This issue isn’t going away. Indeed, Friday we caught rogue placards pasted over bus-stop billboards blasting Pichai near Google’s offices in Venice Beach. 

 

Uber. This week’s drama at the ride-hailing company concerned leadership. Or rather, lack of it. Former CEO Travis Kalanick will not be returning as chief, co-founder Garrett Camp announced, and major Uber investor Benchmark Capital filed a lawsuit against the former CEO. The company, which holds a 13% stake in Uber, claimed Kalanick  usurped seats on the company’s board of directors through fraudulent means to “increase his power over Uber for his own selfish ends.” Additionally, Uber’s first employee, Ryan Graves, announced he’ll be stepping down as vice president of global operations. 

Your eclipse update.The biggest photo event of the year is around the corner, with the Great American total solar eclipse on Monday, August 21. And while many experts have cautioned to put a solar filter on any camera for taking photos of the big moment when the moon covers the sun, Apple and GoPro said this week it wasn’t needed for mobile cameras. The reasoning is simple: for an ultra close-up of the blazing sun, your camera (and you, with solar glasses) need protection. But for a mobile shot, which is wide angle, the sun itself will be just a tiny fraction of the photo.

And if you haven’t purchased your solar glasses yet, better act fast. While some low-priced models are still available on Amazon, we couldn’t help but notice a few gouges there, like $250 for a set of 50.

Finally, for some digital enjoyment of all things eclipse, check out our piece on all those eclipse apps. 

 

Your audio week in tech

You will be chipped! The story that won’t go away. We explain why. 

Sony A9 review. The $4,500 pro-level camera is really expensive, but has the fastest auto-focus we’ve seen. We explain why we love the camera. (And if you have a chance, check out our galleries of examples we shot on the A9. 

The iPad is back. After a three-year freefall in sales, the iPad is on the upswing again. What happened?

—Newsflash–no filter needed for solar eclipse photos on smartphones and GoPros, despite what you might have heard elsewhere. 

—This week’s newsletter, the audio version

 

 

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