Game on: Netflix steps up its multiplatform plans

Game on: Netflix steps up its multiplatform plans
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Updated 14 September 2022

Game on: Netflix steps up its multiplatform plans

Game on: Netflix steps up its multiplatform plans
  • Streamer aims to cash in on popular IPs such as ‘Stranger Things’ and ‘Squid Game’ by enhancing the experience for subscribers through tie-in games
  • After a low-profile launch last year, Netflix Games this week announced a partnership with Ubisoft, the developer of the smash-hit Assassin’s Creed franchise

DUBAI: Faster than some observers predicted, the wider streaming world has gained ground on industry pioneer Netflix in the fight for entertainment supremacy — but the world’s biggest streamer still has a few tricks up its sleeve.

Take Netflix Games, for instance. Soft-launched only 10 months ago with little marketing power behind it, the service has already added 28 mobile games to its library and is steadily gaining ground among the company’s massive subscription base, largely through word of mouth.

For Netflix, however, gaming is not a simply a value-added service; Netflix Games could signal the future of the company, one that will maximize the value of its in-house intellectual properties.

“We think the great opportunity that Netflix has is connecting our universes together,” Leanne Loombe, head of external video games at the company, told Arab News.

That means that in the near future, when new seasons of globally popular Netflix properties such as “Stranger Things,” “Squid Game,” “Bridgerton” and “Money Heist” are released, they might potentially be accompanied with games that tie-in with them directly. Such a service would not only cross-promote but could also enrich the entire viewing experience.

“Some of the great IPs on the streaming side could become experiences on the gaming side that could allow people to watch the TV show or the movie and then play the game and really immerse themselves in the universe and the characters. We’re excited to bring more Netflix IP games to the service,” Loombe said.

Netflix has long had a clear global strategy. It is available in 190 countries and territories, with teams around the world that aim not only to tailor existing content to each unique market but also to create content specifically designed for each one. In some cases, such as the Jordanian, Arabic-language original drama AlRawabi School for Girls, this local content ends up finding a global audience.

By embracing gaming, Netflix properties could gain cultural ground to an even greater degree, especially in countries such as Saudi Arabia where gaming is not only popular on a grassroots level but has state-level support for the industry’s continued growth.

“Saudi Arabia will become one of the global hubs for gaming and esports,” said Prince Faisal bin Bandar, chairman of the Saudi Esports Federation, during his opening remarks at the Next World Forum in Riyadh this month.

The move by Netflix toward multi-platform maximization of the value of its IPs is not a plan for the distant future. It has already announced two major games that tie into past and future Netflix projects.

A game based on the popular drama series “The Queen’s Gambit,” titled The Queen’s Gambit Chess, was announced in June. A release date was not given but is likely imminent.

In addition, an original and exclusive game in the blockbuster Assassin’s Creed franchise was announced last weekend by software company, and new Netflix partner, Ubisoft. It will reportedly tie-in with a previously announced live-action “Assassin’s Creed” TV series. Both could appear on Netflix in 2023.

“Of the 28 games we’ve released so far, and with 50 planned by the end of the year, not many of them are Netflix IP,” said Loombe. “Our future will be focused more on this as it’s an area that we have a superpower in already.”

While the majority of the games are aimed at the mobile gaming experience, that does not mean they are intended to be superficial “pick-up-and-play” experiences. The streamer already has a range of game types, from casual to so-called “hardcore gaming” experiences, and existing multiplayer options mean that the prospect of esports on Netflix’s gaming platform is not a far-fetched possibility.

“We already have multiplayer games on the service and giving people the chance to play together is something that we’re passionate about,” says Loombe.

Netflix is devoting to its future gaming plans the same depth, focus and size of investment that their TV IPs are already known for. This is especially true in the case of the upcoming Ubisoft games, which in addition to Assassin’s Creed, include spin-offs popular games Valiant Hearts and Mighty Quest.

“Those games all had a scale that existed before they came to the platform and we want to make sure that with our upcoming originals, we’re doing those games justice in terms of the complexity, scope and depth of experience that we’re creating,” said Loombe.

“While it’s still early, as those games are in development, we are definitely staying true to those franchises and want to provide great games to the existing communities and their most hardcore fans.”

While many other streaming services emerged from existing film and television studios or services, Netflix has always been a technology-first company that does not view itself as conveniently fitting into any specific box. As Loombe puts it, it is an entertainment company and the definition of entertainment encompasses a broader category than some might think.

“I think it’s a natural progression for Netflix to move into gaming so that we have a broad spectrum of entertainment for our members to experience,” she said.

“You need a few hours to sit and watch a movie or a TV show at the weekends or in the evening, but with games you can play for five minutes in your break or you can play on your commute, especially on mobile. That makes Netflix properties that much more accessible and can fit within your lifestyle.”

And this, ultimately, is why Netflix believes its future is multiplatform — so that no amount of free time, however brief, cannot be filled with some form of entertainment that can be enjoyed for the price of a Netflix subscription.

“Games allow us to ensure that our members have something to engage in, wherever they are, whatever time of day it is,” said Loombe. “Our goal is to bring joy to our members through a connected ecosystem; to make sure entertainment is always in their hands.”

Sky News chief to step down as channel adapts to post-TV future

Sky News chief to step down as channel adapts to post-TV future
Updated 05 December 2022

Sky News chief to step down as channel adapts to post-TV future

Sky News chief to step down as channel adapts to post-TV future
  • John Ryley departing operation after 17 years

LONDON: Sky News chief John Ryley announced on Sunday that he will step down after 17 years in charge as the channel faces the challenges of a post-television future.

Ryley, 60, assumed his role as head of the news outlet in 2006, when Sky News was almost fully dedicated to producing its flagship live television channel. He led the channel’s transformation into a multimedia operation with a large online audience.

Sky News, however, continues to spend a substantial part of its budget on traditional broadcasting.

Sources at the channel told the Guardian that Ryley’s departure will be announced to staff in a call on Dec. 5. Details are yet to be confirmed, but the call is also expected to reveal new hires for Sky News’ data, podcasts and original journalism teams.

The sources added that investment in several new studios would be paused.

Across almost two decades, Ryley won many journalism awards as he faced the challenge of running a news outlet in an era of media decline.

He said in recent years that he believed television news, instead of relying on patrician presenters, should increasingly feature reporters offering expert analysis and context. “The age of the all-powerful anchor is gone — instead they share the stage with journalists in the field, providing the audience with the high-fiber news they demand,” he wrote.

The announcements, according to The Guardian, suggest that Sky News’ leadership is preparing for a future where the channel’s focus shifts away from its live news operation.

While figures show that some 10.2 million people across Britain watched Sky News in November, audience figures for individual shows came in below 100,000 viewers in some cases. The channel is increasingly turning to platforms such as TikTok to reach the younger generations.

Sky News’ financial backing is wrapped up in corporate politics. When founder Rupert Murdoch sold Sky in 2018 to US media giant Comcast, the new owners pledged to maintain Sky News’ funding for a decade.

However, that agreement has yet to be honored, and decisions will be made soon about the outlet’s long-term future and funding model. Comcast is thought to be exploring ways to integrate Sky News into its US-based NBC News operation.

The wider Sky business has faced many challenges in recent years, with revenues slumping as consumers and advertisers cut back on spending in the face of tough economic conditions. The company is already looking beyond its satellite dish model toward a future where its subscription service is delivered over the internet.

New Zealand plans law to require Facebook, Google to pay for news

New Zealand plans law to require Facebook, Google to pay for news
Updated 05 December 2022

New Zealand plans law to require Facebook, Google to pay for news

New Zealand plans law to require Facebook, Google to pay for news
  • The new legislation will go to a vote in parliament and is expected to be passed

WELLINGTON: The New Zealand government said it will introduce a law that will require big online digital companies such as Alphabet Inc's (GOOGL.O) Google and Meta Platforms Inc (META.O) to pay New Zealand media companies for the local news content that appears on their feeds.

Minister of Broadcasting Willie Jackson said in a statement on Sunday that the legislation will be modeled on similar laws in Australia and Canada and he hoped it would act as an incentive for the digital platforms to reach deals with local news outlets.

"New Zealand news media, particularly small regional and community newspapers, are struggling to remain financially viable as more advertising moves online," Jackson said. "It is critical that those benefiting from their news content actually pay for it."

The new legislation will go to a vote in parliament where the governing Labour Party's majority is expected to pass it.

Australia introduced a law in 2021 that gave the government power to make internet companies negotiate content supply deals with media outlets. A review released by the Australian government last week found it largely worked.

Apple and Amazon resume advertising on Twitter — reports

Apple and Amazon resume advertising on Twitter — reports
Updated 05 December 2022

Apple and Amazon resume advertising on Twitter — reports

Apple and Amazon resume advertising on Twitter — reports Inc. and Apple Inc. are planning to resume advertising on Twitter, according to media reports on Saturday.
The developments follow an email sent by Twitter on Thursday to advertising agencies offering advertisers incentives to increase their spending on the platform, an effort to jump-start its business after Elon Musk’s takeover prompted many companies to pull back.
Twitter billed the offer as the “biggest advertiser incentive ever on Twitter,” according to the email reviewed by Reuters. US advertisers who book $500,000 in incremental spending will qualify to have their spending matched with a “100 percent value add,” up to a $1 million cap, the email said.
On Saturday, a Platformer News reporter tweeted that Amazon is planning to resume advertising on Twitter at about $100 million a year, pending some security tweaks to the company’s ads platform.
However, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters that Amazon had never stopped advertising on Twitter.
Separately, during a Twitter Spaces conversation, Musk announced that Apple is the largest advertiser on Twitter and has “fully resumed” advertising on the platform, according to a Bloomberg report.
Musk’s first month as Twitter’s owner has included a slashing of staff including employees who work on content moderation and incidents of spammers impersonating major public companies, which has spooked the advertising industry.
Many companies from General Mills Inc. to luxury automaker Audi of America stopped or paused advertising on Twitter since the acquisition, and Musk said in November that the company had seen a “massive” drop in revenue.
Apple and Twitter did not immediately respond to Reuters request for comment on the matter.

Twitter Files: All you need to know about Elon Musk’s latest revelations

Twitter Files: All you need to know about Elon Musk’s latest revelations
Updated 03 December 2022

Twitter Files: All you need to know about Elon Musk’s latest revelations

Twitter Files: All you need to know about Elon Musk’s latest revelations
  • The thread included snippets related to the 2020 Hunter Biden story

A tweet on Friday by journalist Matt Taibbi released the “Twitter Files” Elon Musk has been teasing since Monday, claiming they unmasked the suppression of free speech by the social media platform.

Taibbi, who typed “The Twitter Files” in all caps, wrote, in his rather dramatic opening tweets, that the thread will “tell an incredible story from inside one of the world’s largest and most influential social media platforms.”

Twitter CEO Musk said in a tweet on Monday: “The public deserves to know what really happened,” and promoting the lengthy thread on Friday, he wrote, “Here we go!!” with two popcorn emojis.

The thread, peppered with snippets and screenshots described by Taibbi as “internal documents,” detailed the company’s call to block a 2020 New York Post story about Hunter Biden shortly before the presidential election.

Several of the snippets showed Twitter executives rushing to make a difficult moderation decision, which Taibbi described as “extraordinary steps to suppress the story,” about the New York Post article.

On Oct. 14, 2020, the New York Post alleged that it had obtained emails providing evidence that Hunter Biden had introduced his father, then-Vice President Joe Biden, to “a Ukrainian energy firm less than a year before the elder Biden pressured government officials in Ukraine into firing a prosecutor who was investigating the company.”

Twitter’s policies prohibit the distribution of “hacked materials,” according to NBC News, and it cited the relevant policy as one of the reasons it had blocked the article, confirming that the content was not the concern.

Among the screenshots were also emails from unnamed individuals in the Biden administration, requesting that Twitter act against specific tweets.

NBC News reported that “many, if not all, of the tweets in question violated Twitter rules,” and “at least three of those tweets involved photographs of Hunter Biden.”

On Friday, Musk faced the pressure of having to make a tough moderation decision of his own, when rapper Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, posted an image of a swastika inside the Star of David, violating the platform’s policy against incitement of violence and prompting Twitter to suspend Ye’s account.

While most comments supported Taibbi’s thread, one Twitter user wrote: “Really, Mr. Musk? This is an old, very stale story.” Another user, Collin Rugg, whose profile description says he was “banned from Twitter at 75k followers for supporting Trump,” wrote: “Elon Musk is going up against some of the most powerful people in America. Pray for him.”

US Senator for Kentucky Rand Paul retweeted the thread, saying: “This is better than a Friday night movie. Everyone should read this and everyone should thank Elon Musk for bringing this public.”

Daily Mail delays public release of privacy breach court allegations

Daily Mail delays public release of privacy breach court allegations
Updated 03 December 2022

Daily Mail delays public release of privacy breach court allegations

Daily Mail delays public release of privacy breach court allegations
  • Lawyers acting for Prince Harry, Elton John and others claim clients were victims of ‘abhorrent criminal activity’

The Daily Mail is seeking to delay the publication of court allegations made by high-profile claimants surrounding the newspaper’s journalism practices.

The potentially damaging allegations, made by lawyers acting for Prince Harry, Doreen Lawrence, Elton John and other high-profile individuals, should have been formally acknowledged by the Daily Mail within 14 days from when they were served, automatically making their details available for public and media scrutiny, according to The Guardian.

, which also includes Sadie Frost, David Furnish and Liz Hurley, filed court cases against Associated Newspapers, the Mail’s parent company, in early October.

Lawyers representing the group said they had “compelling and highly distressing evidence” that their clients had been the “victims of abhorrent criminal activity and gross breaches of privacy” by Associated Newspapers over many years.

The lawyers claimed that the Daily Mail’s parent company misused private information, alleging that listening devices may have been placed in the homes of the celebrities.

Paul Dacre, now editor-in-chief of Associated Newspapers, told the Leveson Inquiry in 2012 while editor-in-chief of the Daily Mail that his newspaper had never engaged in illegal behavior such as phone hacking.

Dacre is speculated to be on Boris Johnson’s resignation honors list, but Labour MPs have demanded that the honor be delayed pending the outcome of the legal case.

Sources with knowledge of the case said that the paperwork setting out the allegations against the Daily Mail and its sister title is still private due to legal intervention by Associated Newspapers, which has delayed formal acknowledgment — and therefore publication — of the claims.

The allegations come despite the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday’s long record of campaigning against “secret justice” and promoting transparency in the court system. A spokespeople for the Daily Mail’s parent company did not respond to multiple requests for comment on why the company had yet to acknowledge the claims.

Associated Newspapers has been accused of hiring private investigators to secretly place listening devices inside cars and homes, commissioning individuals to surreptitiously listen in to, and record, private telephone calls, paying police officials for sensitive inside information, impersonating individuals to obtain medical information by deception, and accessing bank accounts, credit histories and financial transactions through illicit means and manipulation.

The Daily Mail previously dismissed the claims as “preposterous smears,” alleging that the legal cases consisted of “unsubstantiated and highly defamatory claims based on no credible evidence.” The paper said that the proceedings “appear to be nothing more than a pre-planned and orchestrated attempt to drag the Mail titles into the phone-hacking scandal.”

Former Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes is also filing proceedings against Associated Newspapers. His claims are believed to center around allegations of voicemail interception by the newspaper.

The major allegations are the first to be leveled against the Daily Mail by high-profile individuals in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal and 2011 closure of the News of the World.