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The Freedom of Cable Replacement Services

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Online streaming services now give any cord cutter with an internet connection cool TV-watching freedom.

Subscription streaming video services such as Amazon Prime and Netflix have been around for years. What’s new is the growing number of new services, such as DirecTV Now and Sling TV, that are designed to replace a typical cable-TV package.


DirecTV Now
Monthly bill: $35 and up

What you get: DirecTV Now should appeal to anyone who wants DirecTV service but not the satellite dish. You get about 60 channels for $35 per month, or 80 channels for $50. Add HBO for just $5 per month. DirecTV supports two simultaneous users at a time.

What you don’t: There’s no CBS or Showtime—and live TV from some other networks is available only in larger cities. Also, there’s no cloud DVR, though one is promised for the future.


Hulu With Live TV
Monthly bill: $40 and up

What you get: Hulu with Live TV service offers about 50 channels, including major networks in some areas and sports channels such as CBS Sports, ESPN, and Fox Sports. You can watch on two devices at a time and record 50 hours on a cloud DVR. You can pay extra for more users and extra DVR storage, and the option to skip commercials.

What you don’t: Not all streaming devices are supported, and you can’t watch AMC, Discovery, or Viacom (Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Spike TV).


Sling TV
Monthly bill: $20 and up

What you get: Sling’s $20 Orange package includes about 30 cable channels but no broadcast TV. It supports one user at a time. Sling Blue ($25 per month) supports three users and about 40 channels, including local broadcasts and regional sports. A combined plan costs $40. Themed add-on packs cost $5 per month, and you can add HBO, $15; Showtime, $10; and Starz, $9.

What you don’t: Sling lacks CBS, Discovery Channel, and Fox News. Sling’s cloud DVR is now more widely available and includes more channels and some new features, such as the ability to protect recordings from being deleted.


Sony PlayStation Vue
Monthly bill: $40 and up

What you get: PlayStation Vue can be configured to resemble an expansive, if somewhat pricey, cable TV-style programming plan. Packages range from a $40-per-month basic option to a $75 “Ultra” plan with about 90 channels, including premium channels such as Showtime and HBO. You get local channels in some markets and a cloud DVR. Vue supports up to five simultaneous users.

What you don’t: Vue lost access to Viacom stations (Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Spike TV) last year.


YouTube TV
Monthly bill: $35 and up

What you get: YouTube TV is available in just five major markets so far, with more on the way, the company says. You can watch on three devices at a time, getting major networks, a decent selection of cable channels, and a cloud DVR with unlimited storage. You also get the original programming on YouTube Red Originals. Showtime can be added for an additional $11 per month.

What you don’t: The list of cable no-shows includes Comedy Central, CNN, HBO, and HGTV.

(via: Yahoo News)

Amazon Buys Whole Foods For $13.7 Billion

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Amazon has made a bid to buy Whole Foods in a $13.7 billion deal.

The all-cash acquisition (which includes Whole Foods Market’s net debt), will radically shake up any number of businesses and completely changes the online retail and bricks and mortar landscape.

“Millions of people love Whole Foods Market because they offer the best natural and organic foods, and they make it fun to eat healthy,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and chief executive in a statement. “Whole Foods Market has been satisfying, delighting and nourishing customers for nearly four decades – they’re doing an amazing job and we want that to continue.”

Whole Foods will continue to operate stores under its brand and will use its same vendors and partners around the world.

John Mackey will remain chief executive of Whole Foods the company’s headquarters will still be in Austin.

The deal, which is subject to approval of Whole Foods shareholders and regulators is expected to close in the second half of 2017.

Verizon Closes $4.5B Acquisition of Yahoo, Marissa Mayer Resigns

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After Yahoo shareholder approval last week, Verizon has finally closed its acquisition of Yahoo, which it plans to combine with its AOL assets into a subsidiary called Oath, covering some 50 media brands (including TechCrunch) and 1 billion people globally. It will be led by Tim Armstrong, who was the CEO of AOL before this.

As expected, Marissa Mayer, who had been the CEO of Yahoo and recently received a $23 million ‘golden parachute’ for her work there, has resigned.

“Given the inherent changes to Marissa Mayer’s role with Yahoo resulting from the closing of the transaction, Mayer has chosen to resign from Yahoo. Verizon wishes Mayer well in her future endeavors,” Verizon said in a statement. You can find Marissa in her own words here on Tumblr. TLDR: It’s a long list of the achievements made with her at the helm these last five years, and — alas — you will only read of the struggles that Yahoo went through between the lines.

The deal, nevertheless, brings to a close the independent life of one of the oldest and most iconic internet brands, arguably the one that led and set the pace for search — the cornerstone of doing business on the spaghetti-like internet — at least until Google came along and surpassed Yahoo many times over, and led the company into a number of disastrous and costly attempts to redefine itself, ultimately culminating in the sale we have here today.

The sale of Yahoo is another sign of the massive consolidation that continues to happen in the world of online media and content, as large companies look to bring together multiple audiences for economies of scale to build out stronger advertising businesses in competition with the likes of Google and Facebook.

“The close of this transaction represents a critical step in growing the global scale needed for our digital media company,” said Marni Walden, Verizon president of Media and Telematics (which will include Oath), in a statement. “The combined set of assets across Verizon and Oath, from VR to AI, 5G to IoT, from content partnerships to originals, will create exciting new ways to captivate audiences across the globe.”

Carriers have been an especially interesting player in this regard, as they are looking to offset declines in their legacy businesses. But don’t cry for Verizon just yet: the company employs 161,000 people and made $126 billion in revenues in 2016, with 113.9 million retail connections in its mobile business.

MCGREGOR-MAYWEATHER SUPERFIGHT SET FOR AUG. 26

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Worlds will collide in Las Vegas on Aug. 26 when UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor makes his professional boxing debut against future Hall of Famer Floyd Mayweather Jr. in a 12-round contest in Las Vegas.

The most talked-about fight in years was officially announced on Wednesday, with Mayweather and McGregor taking to social media to inform their fans while UFC President Dana White appeared on ESPN SportsCenter to discuss the particulars of the match, which will be contested with 10-ounce gloves at 154 pounds. A boxing undercard will be put together by Mayweather’s company, Mayweather Promotions.

“We’ve been in negotiations now for a while and to be honest, negotiations went smooth,” White said. “Floyd is surrounded by some smart people and we got this thing done. The impossible deal is now done.”

“The McGregor clan has been taking over villages for the last 300 years and Floyd’s village is next,” said Conor McGregor

Originally thought to be strictly a fantasy matchup pitting a boxing icon against a mixed martial arts superstar, both Mayweather and McGregor were dead serious about making the fantasy fight a reality. Soon it became very real, with White opening the door for the 155-pound champion to make his move to the boxing ring.

“Conor McGregor is a guy who’s done a lot of good things over the years for this sport and for this company, and he wanted this,” White said. “And obviously the fans wanted it too.”

Pandora Gets $480 Million From Sirius XM

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Pandora is getting a $480 million investment from Sirius XM and selling its Ticketfly business to Eventbrite for $200 million as the internet-radio pioneer tries to revive its business and find a possible buyer.

The deals will help Oakland, California-based Pandora grapple with widening losses and a tepid outlook for its online music business. The fast growth of Spotify and Apple Music, along with the billions of dollars Amazon.com Inc. and Google are investing in music, has pressured Pandora to expand beyond its roots as an internet radio company and become a streaming service seeking paying subscribers.

Though Pandora has also diversified into ticketing and artist services, investors such as the hedge fund Corvex Management LP have questioned that strategy and urged a possible sale because of losses and a tumbling stock price.

The strategic cash investment by Sirius XM represents a 19 percent stake in Pandora’s common stock, according to a separate statement. Sirius XM will name three people to Pandora’s board, with one serving as chairman. The board will also expand to nine directors.

Netflix Is Burning Cash in Its Shift to Originals

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Netflix got major attention in 2016 declaring its intent to spend $6 billion on content in 2017. But that’s not a true reflection of the cash they’re shelling out.

Through about 2011, the money Netflix spent on content each year was roughly equal to the amount the company expenses each quarter in its profit-and-loss statement. However, that changed starting in late 2012 with Netflix’s spending on original content, which is very different from the way it pays for licensed content.

With licensed content, the streaming company has generally been able to arrange to pay in a manner that aligns with the way it accounts for content costs in its P&L statement — a little bit at a time over the life of the content. But with original content, Netflix has to fund the whole expense out of pocket from day one, meaning that almost all of the cash cost is incurred before the content is even available.

The rapid shift from licensed to original content is the single biggest difference between Netflix and, say, HBO, whose spending on originals has remained constant over the past five years. Even Amazon isn’t spending at nearly the same levels as Netflix, and it has a massive e-commerce business to generate cash.

Netflix has publicly anticipated “many years” of negative free cash flow and doesn’t forecast turning that around until it has reached a much larger revenue base. That means the strategy is entirely dependent on the company’s continued ability to grow rapidly and expand its margins. But if its growth trajectory slows or its cost of content increases faster than anticipated, Netflix will find its current ability to keep raising more debt seriously compromised.

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