Winter is coming for HBO NOW subscriber growth

Fan reaction to Game of Thrones’ final season may be mixed, but the show has been undeniably good for HBO’s network — and for its over-the-top streaming service, HBO NOW. The Season 8 premiere drew in 11.8 million live viewers and 17.4 million viewers across all platforms on the day of airing, as well as a record number of sign-ups to HBO NOW, which in March was reported to have 8 million subscribers. But the show’s finale airs this Sunday, and HBO is set to see a huge exodus of streaming subscribers, as result.

According to new research from Mintel released this week, HBO NOW users are twice as likely as those from any other streaming service to cancel their subscription when a specific show ends.

The only service that performed worse on this front was YouTube Premium. And that’s not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison, given that its subscriber base also includes YouTube viewers who want to go ad-free — not just those who are there for its original content.

The new findings are telling in terms of how heavily HBO has been relying on Game of Thrones to grow its streaming platform over the years. In addition, the metrics indicate potential struggles ahead for HBO parent company WarnerMedia’s forthcoming streaming service. Due to launch into beta later this year, the service will be led by HBO content. But without new episodes of Game of Thrones, it will have to rely on other popular shows, like Westworld, to pull in viewers.

However, even though Westworld is HBO’s second most-watched show, Game of Thrones has triple the number of viewers.  

The network is clearly aware of the negative impacts to its streaming platform the end of Thrones will bring. It already greenlit plans for a Game of … Read the rest

Fastly pops in public offering showing that there’s still money for tech IPOs

Shares of Fastly, the service that’s used by websites to ensure that they can load faster, have popped in its first hours of trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

The company, which priced its public offering at around $16 — the top of the estimated range for its public offering — have risen more than 50% since their debut on public markets to trade at $25.01.

It’s a sharp contrast to the public offering last week from Uber, which is only just now scratching back to its initial offering price after a week of trading underwater, and an indicator that there’s still some open space in the IPO window for companies to raise money on public markets, despite ongoing uncertainties stemming from the trade war with China.

Compared with other recent public offerings, Fastly’s balance sheet looks pretty okay. Its losses are narrowing (both on an absolute and per-share basis according to its public filing), but the company is paying more for its revenue.

San Francisco-based Fastly competes with companies that include Akamai, Amazon, Cisco and Verizon, providing data centers and a content-distribution service to deliver videos from companies like The New York Times, Ticketmaster, New Relic and Spotify.

Last year, the company reported revenues of $144.6 million and a net loss of $30.9 million, up from $104.9 million in revenue and $32.5 million in losses in the year ago period. Revenue was up more than 38% and losses narrowed by 5% over the course of the year.

The outcome is a nice win for Fastly investors, including August Capital, Iconiq Strategic Partners, O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures and Amplify Partners, which backed the company with $219 million in funding over the eight years since Artur Bergman … Read the rest

Facebook co-founder, Chris Hughes, calls for Facebook to be broken up

The latest call to break up Facebook looks to be the most uncomfortably close to home yet for supreme leader, Mark Zuckerberg.

“Mark’s power is unprecedented and un-American,” writes Chris Hughes, in an explosive op-ed published in The New York Times. “It is time to break up Facebook.”

It’s a long read, but worth indulging for a well-articulated argument against the market-denting power of monopolies, shot through with a smattering of personal anecdotes about Hughes’ experience of Zuckerberg — who he at one point almost paints as “only human,” before shoulder-dropping into a straight thumbs-down that “it’s his very humanity that makes his unchecked power so problematic.”

The tl;dr of Hughes’ argument against Facebook/Zuckerberg being allowed to continue its/his reign of the internet knits together different strands of the techlash zeitgeist, linking Zuckerberg’s absolute influence over Facebook, and therefore over the unprecedented billions of people he can reach and behaviourally reprogram via content-sorting algorithms, to the crushing of innovation and startup competition; the crushing of consumer attention, choice and privacy, all hostage to relentless growth targets and an eyeball-demanding ad business model; the crushing control of speech that Zuckerberg — as Facebook’s absolute monarch — personally commands, with Hughes worrying it’s a power too potent for any one human to wield.

“Mark may never have a boss, but he needs to have some check on his power,” he writes. “The American government needs to do two things: break up Facebook’s monopoly and regulate the company to make it more accountable to the American people.”

His proposed solution is not just a break up of Facebook’s monopoly of online attention by re-separating Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp — to try to reinvigorate a social arena it now inescapably owns — he also calls for U.S. policymakers to step up to the … Read the rest

We are leaving older adults out of the digital world

May is national Older Americans Month, and this year’s theme is Connect, Create, Contribute. One area in particular threatens to prevent older adults from making those connections: the digital divide.

Nationally, one-third of adults ages 65 and older say they’ve never used the internet, and half don’t have internet access at home. Of those who do use the internet, nearly half say they need someone else’s help to set up or use a new digital device. Even in San Francisco – the home of technology giants like Twitter, Facebook, and Google – 40% of older adults do not have basic digital literacy skills, and of those, more than half do not use the internet at all.

Mastering digital technology has become a key component of what it means to fully participate in society. If we do not provide technology access and training to older adults, we shut them out from society, worsening an already worrisome trend of isolation and loneliness among the elderly.

As a researcher working directly with isolated older adults to provide low-cost internet, tablets, and digital training through the Tech Allies program, led by the non-profit Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly, I regularly hear this sentiment from seniors.

I visit Tech Allies participants – whose ages range from 62 to 98 – both before and after their eight weeks of one-on-one technology training. We talk about their experiences with and perspectives on technology today. In reflecting on why he and other older adults would want to learn to use the internet, one elder told me, “We feel … Read the rest

How Amazon’s HQ2 could disrupt government IT, for the worse

When Amazon entered markets like bookselling or groceries, its competition proved highly disruptive to incumbents. In November 2018, Amazon declared that it had selected northern Virginia as one of two locations for its new second headquarters, and four months later it announced that HQ2 would only proceed in the Virginia site. The Seattle company has grandly entered yet another market, that for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) talent in the metro Washington, D.C., area.

There, Amazon’s insatiable hunger for customers will turn into a voracious appetite for up to 50,000 highly paid new employees. One other employer is particularly ill-suited to compete: the federal government, with its centenary history alternating world-changing innovation and unbelievable stodginess, could emerge shriveled and unable to fulfill its mission. Such an outcome could have dramatic consequences for the nation’s security and public services for years to come.

HQ2 has the potential to drain tech talent away from the public sector, leaving federal, state, and local agencies unable to address all of today’s challenges. From protecting critical infrastructure from hostile hackers to providing driver’s licenses and business permits, all the way to managing regulations large and small, we all rely on the work done in the often-drab halls of government.

So, what can we expect in the competition for people between one of the world’s largest bureaucracies and one of the most dynamic companies?

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Playing catch-up

Today, competition for developers, data scientists, designers, and other skilled roles is intense. … Read the rest