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AT&T details its streaming service plans as it weighs a sale of its Hulu stake – TechCrunch

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AT&T details its streaming service plans as it weighs a sale of its Hulu stake – TechCrunch

AT&T may be ready to sell its stake in Hulu, the company revealed in an analyst presentation on Thursday. The company currently owns a 10 percent stake in the service by way of WarnerMedia, as a result of its Time Warner acquisition. But AT&T today is running its own streaming services, including live TV service DirecTV Now aimed at cord cutters, and a more lightweight WatchTV. It’s also preparing to launch yet another direct-to-consumer streaming service in 2019 that leverages its WarnerMedia properties.

The company offered a few more details about this new service during the presentation, noting that it will have three tiers of service.

The entry-level package will be focused on movies, followed by a premium service with original programming and “blockbuster movies.” The third service will include content from the first two tiers, then add an “extensive library of WarnerMedia and licensed content,” including classics, kids and family programming, comedy and other theatrical releases and niche content.

The service will launch into beta in Q4 2019, AT&T said, and will complement WarnerMedia’s existing business. It will also work across devices, and will expand over time to include third-party content through partnerships.

As for selling its stake in Hulu, the company is “looking for opportunities to monetize assets” that are not essential to its current strategies, explained AT&T CFO John Stephens. He said the company was looking at its “minority investments in things like Sky México or Hulu or a variety of other things.”

The mention of the Hulu sale was a part of a larger discussion about paying down $18 billion of AT&T’s $20 billion in debt by the end of next year, which involved raising up to $8 billion in cash by the sale of some assets. The Hulu stake could be worth up to $930 million, Variety notes.

Also of note was the company’s not-so-vague threat that WarnerMedia would not be renewing its licensing deals with rival streaming services when their rights expire.

Asked how the new direct-to-consumer effort will be able to compete with incumbents, WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey responded that over the next 18 to 24 months, “we’re going to see a pretty substantial structural shift that’s going to occur…some of the incumbents that are in that space today should expect that their libraries are going to get a lot thinner,” he said.

“Seventy-five to 80 percent of their total viewing tonnage is sitting on a lot of that licensed content. So their pressure is they’ve got to make this pivot over the next 18 to 24 months to get people off of viewing the licensed content that maybe sits in our library or sits in a Disney/Fox library, and get it onto their own,” Stankey added.

The company believes that, over time, it will be able to bring in enough new subscribers to its streaming offers to offset the declines related to cord cutting, which is impacting its satellite TV company DirectTV. In Q3 2019, the company lost 359,000 net DirecTV subscribers as more consumers dropped pay TV in favor of streaming services, like Netflix.

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Facebook and MIT tap AI to give addresses to people without them

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According to a paper published by the researchers earlier this month, the team trained a deep-learning algorithm to scan satellite images and identify pixels that contain roads. Another algorithm took those pixels and stitched them together into a network of roads which could then be analyzed and split into quadrants. Once everything is laid out, numbers and letters are assigned to the streets, which serve as addresses. The method makes it easy to determine intersections and other nearby locations because it’s easy to relate where different roads are on the grid based on their assigned number and letter.

The project from MIT and Facebook is not the first effort to solve the issue of unaddressed rural lands. Google introduced Open Location Codes to its maps back in 2015 as a way to label otherwise unmarked areas. Another organization, what3words, has split the globe up in a three-by-three meter square grid and applies a randomly generated, unique three-word combination to every space.

The problem with many of these solutions is that assigning addresses is the easy part of the problem. Getting those addresses widely adopted is the challenge, as they have to be accepted by governments and citizens alike. Despite the hurdles, having addresses is necessary for providing essential services like medical care and package deliveries. It also aids in planning and building infrastructure.

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Apple Music is coming to the Amazon Echo – TechCrunch

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Apple Music is coming to the Amazon Echo – TechCrunch

Starting mid-December, Amazon Echo devices will be able to stream songs from Apple Music. A bit of a surprise, perhaps, given that Apple’s been a competitor in the space since launching the HomePod back in 2017.

Amazon’s had its own music service for some time, as well, but the company appears to have given up on the dream of being a serious competitor in the space — for now, at least. Instead, Echo smart speakers offer native support for a decent cross-section of streaming services, including Pandora, Spotify, iHeartRadio and TuneIn.

The new skill lets users play specifics songs, genres, playlists and the Beats 1 station through the smart speakers. Adding Apple Music will help the popular smart home products tap into a rapidly growing service.

The company cracked 50 million subscribers earlier this year. That’s still well behind the 83 million paid subscribers Spotify announced back in July, but this addition should help give Amazon an added advantage against Google’s Home devices, particularly here in the States, where the bulk of Apple Music subscribers reside.

For Apple’s part, the offering brings Music to much more accessible hardware. The HomePod currently runs $349 — several times the price of the entry-level Echo Dot. The new skill arrives on Echo devices the week of December 17.

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DoJ charges Autonomy founder with fraud over $11BN sale to HP – TechCrunch

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DoJ charges Autonomy founder with fraud over $11BN sale to HP – TechCrunch

U.K. entrepreneur turned billionaire investor Mike Lynch has been charged with fraud in the U.S. over the 2011 sale of his enterprise software company.

Lynch sold Autonomy, the big data company he founded back in 1996, to computer giant HP for around $11 billion some seven years ago.

But within a year around three-quarters of the value of the business had been written off, with HP accusing Autonomy’s management of accounting misrepresentations and disclosure failures.

Lynch has always rejected the allegations, and after HP sought to sue him in U.K. courts he countersued in 2015.

Meanwhile, the U.K.’s own Serious Fraud Office dropped an investigation into the Autonomy sale in 2015 — finding “insufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction.”

But now the DoJ has filed charges in a San Francisco court, accusing Lynch and other senior Autonomy executives of making false statements that inflated the value of the company.

They face 14 counts of conspiracy and fraud, according to Reuters — a charge that carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

We’ve reached out to Lynch’s fund, Invoke Capital, for comment on the latest development.

The BBC has obtained a statement from his lawyers, Chris Morvillo of Clifford Chance and Reid Weingarten of Steptoe & Johnson, which describes the indictment as “a travesty of justice,”

The statement also claims Lynch is being made a scapegoat for HP’s failures, framing the allegations as a business dispute over the application of U.K. accounting standards. 

Two years ago we interviewed Lynch onstage at TechCrunch Disrupt London and he mocked the morass of allegations still swirling around the acquisition as “spin and bullshit.”

Following the latest developments, the BBC reports that Lynch has stepped down as a scientific adviser to the U.K. government.

“Dr. Lynch has decided to resign his membership of the CST [Council for Science and Technology] with immediate effect. We appreciate the valuable contribution he has made to the CST in recent years,” a government spokesperson told it.

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