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Netflix Reports First Subscriber Loss in Over a Decade, Suggests Looming Crackdown on Password Sharing

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The company claims nearly 100 million people access the service via another household’s account.


Netflix Loses 200,000 Subscribers

Netflix stock took a 37% dive on Wednesday morning after the streaming giant reported its first subscriber loss in over a decade. 

In the first quarter of 2022, the company lost 200,000 subscribers. The fall was especially steep considering Netflix anticipated gaining over two million customers in the time period. Now, it expects to lose another two million in its second quarter. 

In a Tuesday letter to shareholders, Netflix said four main factors may have contributed to this downward trend. 

“COVID clouded the picture by significantly increasing our growth in 2020, leading us to believe that most of our slowing growth in 2021 was due to the COVID pull forward,” the letter said. “Now, we believe there are four main inter-related factors at work.”

The first of the factors the company pointed to was the fact that Netflix relies on outside sources for its access to broadband homes, meaning it is dependent on the uptake of connected televisions and on-demand entertainment to access new consumers. 

It also noted that the recent rise of new streaming services has given Netflix sturdy competition. That, along with other “macro factors” like inflation, continuing COVID-19 issues, and geopolitical events, have also slowed its growth. Recently, Netflix made the choice to withdraw from Russia amid its invasion of Ukraine. 

Potential Crackdown on Password Sharing

Perhaps the most significant factor Netflix cited, however, was the prominence of password sharing on the platform. In addition to the 222 million paying households Netflix touts, it claims accounts are being shared with another 100 million people, making it “harder to grow membership in many markets.”

The company suggested its new focus will be monetizing those 100 million people. 

“This is a big opportunity as these households are already watching Netflix and enjoying our service,” Netflix wrote in its letter. “Sharing likely helped fuel our growth by getting more people using and enjoying Netflix.”

The company claimed that while it has tried to make it easy to share accounts within family units, the flexibility of those features “created confusion about when and how Netflix can be shared with other households.”

Last month, Netflix announced it was testing tools aimed at curbing password sharing in Chile, Costa Rica, and Peru. Details on a global rollout for these features remain unclear, but the company seems set on addressing the matter. 

“Those are over 100 million households already are choosing to view Netflix,” CEO Reeding Hastings said in a video accompanying the shareholder letter. “We’ve just got to get paid at some degree for them.”

The company is also weighing ad-supported tiers as an option to entice subscribers. While Netflix had previously voiced opposition to such a concept, Hastings said he would be “quite open to offering even lower prices with advertising, as a consumer choice.”

No plans for this tier are set in stone and it could take a couple years before anything is official. Other streaming services like Hulu and Peacock have found success by significantly lowering price points with ads. Disney+, which is arguably Netflix’s biggest competitor when it comes to subscriptions, will also be adding an ad-supported tier in the near future. 

See what others are saying: (The Verge) (CNBC) (Deadline)

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Bruce Willis Denies Rumors He Sold His Likeness For Deepfake Use

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Deepfakes face criticism from Hollywood to social media.


Willis Debunks Rumors

Actor Bruce Willis denied rumors over the weekend that he sold his likeness to the deepfake company DeepCake. 

Willis agreed last year for his face to be used in a commercial for a Russian telecoms company. For this commercial, DeepCake digitally edited Willis’ face onto a Russian actor. This sparked rumors that Willis had sold the rights to his likeness for the company to use in future projects. 

However, both management for Willis and DeepCake itself denied any partnership or agreement for these rights.

“Bruce couldn’t sell anyone any rights, they are his by default,” DeepCake said.

Agreements for the AI generation of actors have been heard of before, however. Recently, actor James Earl Jones agreed for his voice to be technologically generated for the voice of Darth Vader in the Star Wars franchise. 

Deepfakes Online

This comes as deepfakes are facing mounting criticism online, including from prominent YouTube personality and author, Hank Green. He recently tweeted about a channel that uses similar deepfake technology and AI-voice generation to parody popular YouTube creators. He stressed his concern that while the channel in question may not be nefarious, this technology could end up being harmful. 

“There are ways to do this that would be much worse, more mean spirited, and more exploitative than this,” Green said. “And I’m very worried about what that will look like, because if this is working (and allowed), people will do it.”

Among other issues, Green mentioned these videos could abuse monetization and sponsorship opportunities while exploiting someone else’s face and brand. Green even implored YouTube to evaluate its terms of service as the popularity of deepfakes rise. 

See what others are saying: (BBC) (Mashable) (The Telegraph)

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Thousands of Students at Nearly 100 Virginia Schools Staged Walkout Over Anti-Trans Policies

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More than 20,000 comments have been submitted to the Virginia Department of Education over the rules.


The Walkout

Public high school students in Virginia are protesting new Department of Education guidelines issued by Gov. Glenn Youngkin that could impact transgender students.

Among other measures, the guidelines dictate that a student will only be referred to by the name, sex, and pronouns listed in the district’s official records. The only way to change the records is by written request from the student’s parent or guardian. 

Students would also require a court order or legal documentation if they want to be referred to by a different preferred name.

Versions of these guidelines are set to be adopted across the 133 school districts in the state after the 30-day comments period expires in late October.

This prompted more than 12,000 students in nearly 100 schools across Virginia to participate in a walk-out in protest on Tuesday.

“Our main goal is to ensure that we get enough pushback to these regulations so that they don’t get passed, and even if they do get passed, that school boards will be under enough pressure to reject them,” one lead organizer said.

Concerns About Guidelines

Supporters of the guidelines believe these policies will give rights back to parents by keeping them informed about and responsible for this aspect of their children’s lives.

“The guidelines make it clear that when parents are part of the process, schools will accommodate the requests of children and their families,” a spokesperson from Governor Youngkin’s office said. “Parents should be a part of their children’s lives, and it’s apparent through the public protests and on-camera interviews that those objecting to the guidance already have their parents as part of that conversation.”

Students and others who oppose the measures fear they could lead to bullying or harassment of trans students, who might not be able to go by their chosen gender and name while in class.

As of the evening of Tuesday, more than 20,000 comments have been submitted to the Virginia DOE. Upon closing the comment period on Oct. 26, staff at the DOE will review submissions and recommend any changes necessary to the draft. 

See what others are saying: (Washington Post) (USA Today) (Guardian)


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Actor James Earl Jones Gave Green-Light for His Voice to be AI-Generated in “Star Wars” Properties

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What does this mean for the future of actors and AI in movies?


James Earl Jones Hangs Up His Hat

At the age of 91, actor James Earl Jones has decided to step back from his role as Darth Vader in the famous “Star Wars” trilogy, allowing Skywalker Sound to use voice archives to create AI-generated dialogue for the character in appearances moving forward.

For the prequel series on Disney+, “Obi-Wan Kenobi,” Skywalker Sound hired the Ukraine-based startup Respeecher to craft the dialogue using their AI technology and Jones’s recordings from previous performances. Essentially, they take the recordings and “teach” an AI how to replicate the patterns and tone of Darth Vader that scared so many for so many years. 

AI in Hollywood

AI voices have been a point of controversy for a while. For example, “Roadrunner,” the documentary about the late Anthony Bourdain, used AI technology to replicate Bourdain’s voice, reading letters he had written during his life. This sparked backlash online from those who found it unethical to use someone’s voice posthumously. 

“Star Wars” has gone beyond generating just voices — using AI to achieve a variety of feats. In 2016’s “Rogue One,” filmmakers digitally resurrected Peter Cushing, who died in 1994, for his role as Grand Moff Tarkin. In the same movie, they used CGI to put Carrie Fisher’s face on a double. They later used the same method after she passed away.

That same CGI was also recently used to digitally de-age Mark Hamill for his role as Luke Skywalker in the Disney+ show “The Book of Boba Fett.”

It has not been confirmed if Jones will be paid for the continued use of his voice in this manner, but his family did say they were pleased with the work done on “Obi-Wan Kenobi.”

See what others are saying: (Vanity Fair) (ABC News) (AV Club)

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