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Next Round of the Streaming War Kicks-Off With Disney+ Launch

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  • After months of anticipation, Disney+ officially launched. While its content was met with largely decent reviews, it did face criticism from fans who were upset that the site crashed and had connection problems on its first day.
  • Meanwhile, an executive at Apple TV+ stepped down after the platform premiered two weeks ago to less than exciting reviews.
  • Apple and Disney are the latest to introduce their own streaming services, with more to follow. With Disney+ now in full swing, many wonder what the future of streaming will look like, and what will happen to platforms like Netflix.

Disney+ Launches

With the launch of Disney+ in full swing, the streaming wars are seeing its latest– and potentially biggest– battle. 

On Tuesday, Disney’s highly anticipated streaming service launched in the United States. Containing content that ranges from Disney’s classic animated films, to Star Wars and Marvel productions, the buildup to Disney+ was filled with fanfare and anticipation. 

When users went to watch both old and new shows, however, many hit a bump in the road. Several fans reported having connection issues with the service. In an appropriate nod to the studio’s catalog, Ralph and Venellope von Schweetz from Wreck it Ralph and Ralph Breaks the Internet deliver the bad news in an error message. 

Fans online reported receiving this message when trying to view content, load shows, and log in to or edit their profiles. Disney was the number one trending topic on Tuesday morning, accompanied by hashtags like #DisneyPlusDown and #DisneyPlusFail. Disney+ responded on Twitter, saying demand for the service “exceeded our highest expectations.”

Despite this bump in the road, the content on Disney+ has generated a relative amount of praise. High School Musical: The Musical: The Series has been hailed by USA Today as “nostalgia done right”

The Mandalorian, the highly anticipated Star Wars series, has also seen fairly decent reviews. The Los Angeles Times called it a “safe” but “entertaining blockbuster” while The Verge said it proved Star Wars can work on the small screen. 

The Mandalorian became a trending topic of its own, followed by other nostalgic Disney shows like Gargoyles and Lizzie McGuire.

Apple TV+ Executive Leaves

Disney, however, was not the only streamings service making headlines. The Hollywood Reporter announced that Kim Rozenfeld is leaving his role as the head of scripted, unscripted and documentary programming at Apple TV+. 

Rozenfeld will still remain with the company in some capacity. According to the Reporter, he will work as a producer and has a first-look deal with Apple.

Apple TV+ launched two weeks ago to less than enthusiastic reviews. Of its four scripted originals, the service heavily marketed its celebrity-packed series The Morning Show. Starring Jennifer Aniston, Steve Carell, and Reese Witherspoon, the show was picked up for a second season before it even aired. Reviews for it ended up being less than favorable. 

Rolling Stone said, “Apple TV+ Rises But Doesn’t Shine With Starry New Drama.” CNN said it sounded a “muted alarm for Apple TV+.”

Each of the service’s original shows generated low buzz in comparison to larger projects at other streaming services like Netflix. Variety published a study done by Parrot Analytics that looked at the demand for new shows in 2019 following their first 24 hours of release. Apple TV+’s content all fell at the bottom of the list, with The Morning Show squarely in last place. 

Not all press for Apple TV+ was negative, though. Starting at $5 a month, it is among the more affordable streaming options. The remainder of its scripted shows also got the green light for second seasons. 

Future of Streaming

These stories do shine a light onto the world of streaming and the so-called “streaming wars” that studios, networks, and other services are finding themselves fighting. In the cases of Disney+ and Apple TV+, both have had problems as they launched, a technical error in one case and a business shake-up in another. Still, based on excitement and critical review alone, it does feel that Disney+ is leading the charge as far as services that could become a serious threat to dethrone Netflix as the king of streaming. 

Disney owns multiple facets of the entertainment industry, including ABC, Marvel, ESPN, 20th Century Fox, and earlier this year gained full control of Hulu. With all these properties in its back pocket, it has almost always seemed the obvious leader in this fight. 

With other companies poised to launch services of their own, it begs the question: how do they plan to compete with Disney’s large catalog of content?

Right now, it seems NBC Universal will have their service, Peacock, be free to users with ads. On the other hand, HBO Max, which comes from Warner Media, is aiming to be on the more expensive side of the spectrum at $14.99 per month. Both have been in ongoing battles to get their content back from places like Netflix to put on their own services. Peacock has secured The Office and HBO Max grabbed Friends. Those two shows are among the most popular on Netflix.

See what others are saying: (Fox Business) (The Hollywood Reporter) (CNBC)

Business

Target Joins Walmart in Offering Free College Tuition To Attract and Retain Workers

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The decision makes Target the latest major company to dangle such incentives before employees, joining the likes of Walmart, Chipotle, and Starbucks.


Target Launches Debt-Free Education Asssitance Program

Target announced new employee perks on Wednesday that it likely hopes will help attract and retain workers. 

Starting this fall, Target will cover the cost of tuition, fees, and textbooks for both part-time and full-time workers who pursue degrees or certificates at more than 40 participating institutions.

Employees will have at least 250 different business-aligned programs to choose from, including Business, Computer Science, Design, and more.

Target will also fund advanced degrees, paying up to $10,000 each year for master’s programs at those schools, and it’s offering up to 5,250 for those pursuing non-master’s degrees or business-aligned programs at one of the select schools.

The company said it plans to invest a total of $200 million in the education program over the next four years, and employees in the U.S. will qualify as soon as their first day.

“Target employs team members at every life stage and helps our team learn, develop and build their skills, whether they’re with us for a year or a career. A significant number of our hourly team members build their careers at Target, and we know many would like to pursue additional education opportunities. We don’t want the cost to be a barrier for anyone, and that’s where Target can step in to make education accessible for everyone,” said Melissa Kremer, Target’s Chief Human Resources Officer.

Companies With Similar Perks

Places like Chipotle and Starbucks have already had similar education programs in place, but more companies have been introducing or expanding on similar policies as businesses across the country struggle to find and retain workers amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Just last week, Walmart announced that it will cover the full cost of college tuition and books for itsemployees, after previously requiring them to pay $1 a day for the assistance. Those workers can now select from around 10 academic partners.

While many have applauded these actions from big corporations, others have noted that it makes it tougher for smaller businesses to compete since they don’t have the same resources at their disposal.

There is some concern about how this could change the business landscape in the future as a handful of large companies dominate in their own sectors and siphon a lot of the talent, forcing smaller competitors to close. Still, others argue that this was already happening. At least now, the big players are investing and support their workforce while doing it.

See what others are saying: (CNBC) (The Hill) (Forbes)

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Tencent Stock Plummet as Company Weighs Video Games Ban for Kids in China

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The world’s largest game developer appears fearful that the Chinese government will launch another crackdown on gaming similar to one it launched in 2019 when it limited game time for minors.


No More Video Games

Tencent Holdings, Ltd. — China’s most valuable corporation and the world’s largest gaming company — announced Tuesday that it would consider completely banning games for those under 12-years-old in China.

Tencent also announced that it will now limit playtime for Chinese minors to just 1 hour during weekdays and no more than 2 hours during weekends and holidays. Under a Chinese law set up in 2019, game developers are required to limit minors to just 1 hour and 30 minutes of playtime during weekdays and 3 hours during weekends and holidays.

Additionally, the company explained that it will move forward with plans to enact systems that bar those under 12 from engaging in microtransactions, starting with the largest mobile game, “Honor of Kings” (王者荣耀). It’s possible the ban will extend to some of Tencent’s other holdings, such as “League of Legends” (Riot Games) and “Path of Exile” (Grinding Gear Games), although these changes will likely only affect Chinese users.

Tencent’s decision comes just a day after the Economic Information Daily, a subsidiary of state media giant Xinhua News, said in a now-deleted article that video games were “spiritual opium” and that no industry should continue in a manner that will “destroy a generation.”

Likening video games to opium holds cultural significance in China, which has long disliked narcotics and is sensitive to comparisons to the drug. Using such language, especially by state media, is often seen as a sign that the government is ready to crack down on the industry.

Crackdown Fears

Those fears largely played out over a 24-hour period as shares for Tencent and NetEase, another large game developer in China, plummeted. Tencent’s shares dropped by 11% on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, although it eventually settled at just a 6% loss by the end of Tuesday.

It wasn’t just Chinese gaming companies that were worried. The announcement sent ripples across the entire industry as Nintendo, Capcom, and Nexon shares all were heavily affected as well. One of the reasons that such an article can cast widespread concern is that China has increasingly become the largest market in the $180 billion video game industry, making it larger than the global movie industry and North American professional sports, combined.

Coupled with the recent fall of ActivisionBlizzard’s stock over the last two weeks due to its sexual assault lawsuit and other industry shakeups, over a trillion dollars of market value was wiped out at one point on Tuesday.

See what others are saying: (Associated Press) (Time) (Fox Business)

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Google Is Banning “Sugar Dating” Apps as Part of New Sexual Content Restrictions

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The change essentially targets apps like Elite Millionaire Singles, SeekingArrangements, Spoil, and tons of other sugar dating platforms.


Sugar Dating Crackdown

Google has announced a series of policy changes to its Android Play Store that include a ban on sugar dating apps starting September 1.

The company’s Play Store policies already prohibit apps that promote “services that may be interpreted as providing sexual acts in exchange for compensation.”

Now, it has updated its wording to specifically include “compensated dating or sexual arrangements where one participant is expected or implied to provide money, gifts or financial support to another participant (‘sugar dating’).”

The change essentially targets apps like Elite Millionaire Singles, SeekingArrangements, Spoil, and tons of other sugar dating platforms currently available for download.

Search results for “Sugar Daddy” on Google’s Play Store

What Prompted the Change?

The company didn’t explain why it’s going after sugar dating apps, but some reports have noted that the move comes amid crackdowns of online sex work following the introduction of the FOSTA-SESTA legislation in 2018, which was meant to curb sex trafficking.

That’s because FOSTA-SESTA created an exception to Section 230 that means website publishers can be held liable if third parties are found to be promoting prostitution, including consensual sex work, on their platforms.

It’s worth noting that just because the apps will no longer be available on the Play Store doesn’t mean the sugar dating platforms themselves are going anywhere. Sugar daters will still be able to access them through their web browsers, or they can just sideload their apps from other places.

Still, the change is likely going to make the use of these sites a little less convenient.

See what others are saying: (The Verge)(Engadget)(Tech Times)

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