Owners of iPhones, iPads and Apple TVs will get $1 billion in free original programming when Apple launches its forthcoming streaming video service, reports CNBC. Similar to the Amazon Channels marketplace, Apple will offer subscription channels for existing OTT services like Hulu and HBO Now through its updated digital TV app. Customers will be able to access all their paid channels through the Apple TV app. Sources say the new app will be available early next year, though Apple has not confirmed the launch date.
With the Supreme Court nomination hearings and the worst of Hurricane Michael behind us, we bring you this week’s subscription news headlines. This week, Comcast launches X1 Music Week, offering free access to subscription music service Pandora Premium, Tinder fights back against co-founder Sean Rad for his lawsuit, and Wired works on its original, licensed programming line-up for its new OTT channel. Also this week, Forbes tries blockchain, Microsoft’s xCloud service streams Xbox games to just about any device, and SoundCloud loosens the monetization reins a bit.
While MoviePass continues to falter, AMC Theatres’ movie subscription service, AMC Stubs A-List, hits another milestone as it grows to 400,000 members. This represents more than 80 percent of AMC Theatres’ first-year goal and 40 percent of its second-year goal in just over three months’ time. The company launched the movie membership service as part of its customer rewards program this summer, offering AMC Stubs A-List members access to three movies per week for $19.95 a month.
In an unlikely partnership, Walgreens and Birchbox are teaming up to offer retail beauty experiences to customers in-store and online. In addition to buying a minority interest in Birchbox, the partnership will help Walgreens bring premium beauty brands to the store, so customers can try before they buy. Initially, 11 Walgreens stores in major U.S. cities will feature Birchbox, starting in December. Birchbox will have dedicated space inside Walgreens stores and feature full-sized hair, skin and makeup products from more than 40 brands as well as Birchbox beauty consultants to help customers with sampling and purchase of products.
Last week, educational publisher Cengage announced that it had settled a lawsuit filed by textbook authors David Knox and Caroline Schact over a dispute alleging that Cengage’s new unlimited subscription service will dramatically reduce their textbook sales and royalties. The authors were also concerned that there was not an appropriate audit mechanism in place to understand royalty payments under the new compensation system. Knox and Schacht sought class action status for their claim, filed in the Southern District of New York in May. The settlement amount was not disclosed.
After two-plus years of ridicule and misunderstanding of Tribune Publishing’s new brand, tronc with a lowercase T, the company is taking back its name. The return to Tribune Publishing Co. goes into effect today after the close of NASDAQ trading. The company’s new ticker symbol will be TPCO. Based in Chicago, Tribune owns the Chicago Tribune, the Baltimore Sun, Hartford Courant, Orlando Sentinel, South Florida’s Sun Sentinel, the New York Daily News, and The Virginian-Pilot among other newspapers.
High Times Holding Corp., the owner of High Times magazine, announced it will acquire Dope magazine for $11.2 million. Dope magazine currently publishes eight local editions in six states. Its annual circulation is 1 million, including distribution at cannabis retailers. In addition to the magazine, High Times is acquiring Dope’s website, events business and staff including CEO George Jage and founders Dave Tran, James Zochondi and Evan Carter, reports Media Post. Already this year, High Times acquired Culture magazine, available in 10 markets across the U.S., Canada and the U.K., and Green Rush Daily.
In this week’s subscription headlines, MoviePass is trying to force lapsed subscribers back into the service, Global Payments acquires a food service SaaS for $415 million, and Nintendo Switch Online’s companion app has already been downloaded 5 million times. Also this week, the Gap pulls the plug on subscription clothing boxes, Telstra is ordered to refund AU$9.3 million for bad billing practices, and subscription box service FabFitFun launches a daily Facebook show.
Microsoft has added a new subscription product to its list of offerings – Surface All Access. Starting at $24.99 a month, subscribers get a Surface bundle with access to Office 365, 24 months of consumer financing at 0 percent by WebBank through Dell Financial Services, equipment protection, in -store training and support. Four of the five Surface bundles are available on October 16. The fifth bundle, the Surface Studio bundle, will be available November 15.
Facebook is in the hot seat again. Last Friday, Facebook disclosed that hackers found a security loophole caused by three separate bugs that affected nearly 50 million Facebook accounts. According to Guy Rosen, vice president of product management, hackers used Facebook’s “View As” feature to steal access tokens, allowing them to take over people’s accounts. Facebook said these tokens are the equivalent to digital keys which allow users to stay logged into the app without having to retype their password each time.
Yesterday was a good day to smile if you are an Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) employee. The company announced it would raise its minimum wage to $15.00 per hour for all U.S. staff, including full-time, part-time, temporary and seasonal employees. The change goes into effect November 1. It will impact more than 350,000 employees, including 100,000 seasonal staff and associates hired from temp agencies, as well as Whole Foods employees and other Amazon subsidiaries.
Last week, comedy website CollegeHumor announced that it will be launching Dropout, a new streaming video subscription service. The new service will be uncensored and ad-free and feature mixed-media with original programming, animation, comics and other content, reports Variety. Dropout launched last Wednesday in public beta online and in mobile browsers. An expanded launch on iOS and Android is planned for November.
In big acquisition news, last week SiriusXM (NASDAQ: SIRI) announced it would acquire satellite radio station and streaming music subscription service Pandora (NYSE: P) for $3.5 billion in an all-stock transaction. According to SiriusXM, this acquisition will create the world’s largest audio entertainment company with revenue exceeding $7 billion in pro-forma revenue this year. The acquisition is subject to regulatory approvals. The boards of both companies have unanimously approved the deal. The deal is expected to close during the first quarter of 2019.
In this week’s subscription headlines, Facebook is testing an online dating app in Colombia, the Nintendo Switch Online NES Emulator has already been hacked, and Audi lets its subscribers switch out cars twice a month for just $1,395 per month. Also this week, Mic may be up for sale, Billboard buys entertainment news site Amplify and The Street says Red Hat is stuck as subscription questions loom.
Web and mobile payments startup Stripe is in the news again this week, this time announcing a $245 million funding round, reports TechCrunch. This infusion of capital brings the company’s value to $20 billion. The latest funding round was led by Tiger Global Management. Thrive Capital, Sequoia Capital, Kleiner Perkins and DST Global also invested during this funding round. Past investors include Visa, American Express, Peter Thiel and Elon Musk. The company said it will use the new funding to expand internationally, including the addition of an engineering hub in Singapore. Stripe originally launched in Singapore in 2016, but it will now be adding a hub there. This will be its fourth after hubs in Seattle, Dublin and San Francisco.