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The March 19, 2020, guidance from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) declared what global citizens appreciate more each day as the COVID-19 pandemic crisis unfolds: "Functioning critical infrastructure is imperative during the response to the COVID-19 emergency for both public health and safety as well as community well-being."

CISA's guidance to "state, local, tribal and territorial jurisdictions and the private sector" details the importance of "essential critical infrastructure workers" having a special responsibility in these trying times to continue operations.

  • CISA specifically includes "data center operators" within the core definition of "essential critical infrastructure workers."
  • As state and local governments consider and issue stay-at-home orders or other restrictions to limit operations to workers involved in essential businesses, officials must ensure that their orders align with the CISA guidance and include data center operators in essential business exemptions.
  • Alignment of CISA guidance and state and local directives is fundamental to smooth, efficient maintenance of the essential Internet networking and communications key to supporting public health, safety, and economic continuity and recovery as our nation and the world weather the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic.

When some people think of essential critical infrastructure and services, the medical sector, electric, gas, and water utilities, police, and other emergency responders might immediately come to mind. But who keeps these vital sectors and all of the rest of us in communication?

It is the skilled workers who keep the Internet's infrastructure operating.

Many consider the Internet as a primarily virtual space, but a major part of the Internet's core operating infrastructure includes sophisticated physical equipment installed inside globally-connected data centers that must be properly manned and maintained, most especially during a time of crisis. These complex, high-security operations depend upon the skills of multitudes of technical specialists managing climate-controlled physical facilities that house the servers and other equipment that keep websites, data and applications running. Among their many responsibilities, data center staff oversee electrical and cooling systems, monitor capacity and workloads, add new equipment when needed, and repair or replace malfunctioning hardware as quickly as possible — all to protect network reliability and security.

Data center operators support the entire global digital economy in myriad ways. In the U.S. as COVID-19 was breaking, many local medical communities quickly pivoted to offer much broader telehealth services to diagnose and support non-critically ill patients, helping to preserve limited physical resources such as hospitals for those who are most ill and vulnerable. Data centers are facilitating the operation of online economic lifelines, particularly for small and medium-sized businesses.

Similarly, in Europe, Internet infrastructure has been largely deemed "essential." Europe's data centers and other Internet infrastructure providers are stepping up to meet their nations' extraordinary COVID-19 challenges. For example, DE-CIX Frankfurt — a major Internet exchange — reached an all-time traffic peak of more than 9 Terabits per second without going down. This networking feat underscores the ever-greater reach, power, and essential nature of the Internet's role worldwide.

Keeping the Internet's infrastructure reliable, secure, and operational for the benefit of all by ensuring that data center operators are included in essential business exemptions of state and local COVID-19 orders is imperative to achieving CISA's immediate "community resilience and continuity of essential functions" goals. Consistent and clear standards among CISA and state and local governments in support of critical Internet operations are the best way to keep communities and citizens safe and informed as we respond together to the COVID-19 crisis.

Written by Christian Dawson, Executive Director, i2Coalition | 4/5/20

The video game retailer GameStop, which prompted an outcry by trying to declare itself an “essential” business in the midst of coronavirus shutdowns before closing all of its stores nationwide, is now struggling for survival.

Since going public in 1992, GameStop has fought to remain a leading provider of hardware and software for gamers, but as its audience increasingly adopts mobile and free gaming, the company’s bottom line has been on a downward slope. In its annual earnings report last Thursday, the company reported $6.5 billion in annual revenues in 2019, down 24% from the previous year. And while GameStop cut its net losses 35% last year, the company still remained $470 million in the red for the year.

“GameStop already had it tough going into this year, confronted by new seismic shifts to mobile and cloud-based subscription gaming,” said Peter Csathy, chairman and founder of Creatv Media, a consulting firm that advises gaming and media companies. “And now this pandemic, which instantaneously shutters much of the retail world… Those are 1-2 gut punches that have the potential to knock them out.”

The retail chain, which permanently shuttered 320 stores in 2019, expects to close at least that many in 2020 — plans that were in place even before the coronavirus pandemic upended the entire retail sector. As of last December, the company had roughly 5,700 outlets in all.

Also Read: GameStop Shuts Down Stores Due To Coronavirus After All

Just last week, GameStop pushed states to allow its stores to remain open amid the spreading COVID-19 pandemic, arguing they provide “essential” work-from-home products. In GameStop’s earnings report, the stores were shown to be anything but essential — they’re actually an asset GameStop is working hard to divest.

GameStop’s sales of both hardware and software continued to dip last year, and CEO George Sherman said in the earnings call that is likely because consumers are refraining from buying consoles until the newest ones — the PlayStation 5 from Sony and Microsoft’s Xbox Series X — hit the shelves this holiday season.

With declining sales, GameStop is also tightening the belt on inventory, reducing its total stock by roughly 31% from nearly $1.2 billion in the prior year. “The working capital improvement they’ve seen… and the inventory, in particular, has been quite astonishing,” Jeffries analyst Stephanie Wissink said during the earnings call.

GameStop Chief Financial Officer Jim Bell said the company is evaluating “under-performing” business sectors, closing operations in European markets that aren’t profitable — including Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Norway. “We expect to exit these markets in late July, earlier than we had originally expected,” Bell said.

Also Read: GameStop Says Work From Home Products - Not Just Video Games - Makes Them 'Essential Retail'

The sale of the stores is essential for GameStop, which owes a total debt of $419 million. That’s nearly half of what it had been a year ago as the company has been busy shedding assets — but it’s still substantial given the volatility from the pandemic.

With more stuck-at-home gamers, Gamestop can still sell most of its software online, and users can purchase instant download codes. Collectibles are also still available for delivery via online couriers.

“We’ve seen an increase in store and online traffic over the past few weeks,” Sherman said last Thursday. “We remain committed to continuing to meet those needs in a safe environment.” Sherman also said that as of last week the impact of shipping and delivery delays has been “minimal.”

But many observers believe all the recent belt-tightening won’t be enough as GameStop faces a very tangible threat from mobile gaming and free-to-play games, plus newly emerging subscription game services like Google’s Stadia or NVIDIA’s GeForce. “That need to adapt is now more like an existential crisis,” Csathy said, urging the company to “establish a plan right now to transition to — or integrate with — mobile and cloud-based gaming services and their completely different business models.”

“Otherwise, GameStop faces the ghosts of Blockbuster’s past,” Csathy said, citing another bricks-and-mortar entertainment retailer who was upstaged by digital rivals like Netflix. | 3/31/20

Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing” - Arundhati Roy

I can hear her too. I have spent my working life trying to help others hear her. I wonder, when attending the annual World Economic Forum meeting this week, in the cold mountain air of Davos, if I will still be able to hear her?

 Statue of Justice Activity in Davos, 18 Jan 2018

Seven women will chair this year’s Davos, but I still wonder if lady justice will rise above the chorus of backroom deals and rhetoric about co-creating a better future. I wonder if we will be able to find the empathy and connectivity to not only debate the most pressing challenges facing the world today, but to also seize the opportunities they present to build a more sustainable and equitable future together.  The time for simply tinkering with the existing system to preserve the status quo is long gone.

Of course I will be reaching out in Davos with special attention on gender equality and justice as vital drivers of the changes we need to see in the world. I will appeal to all those I speak with to look inside themselves and ask how they feel about what is happening in the world. I will ask them to identify what they can do and simply implore them to get it done.

Each year just ahead of the Davos meeting, the WEF publish a Global Risks Report. Over the last few years, we at Greenpeace, and the broader environmental and social justice movements, have made many of the same points about risks, urgency and solutions The very systems from which corporations and politicians draw their power and profit are breaking down and creating the fractured world we now live in.

Extreme weather events (and make no mistake they are more extreme due to climate change) are once again for the second year running, what political and business leaders themselves say is the world’s biggest threat.  They are also ranked close to weapons of mass destruction in terms of potential impact. We have clearly entered the era of alternative WMD – Weather of Mass Destruction.

What more relevant place, therefore, than to have this conversation at Davos, where many of the individuals who can ensure we turn the ship in time before hitting the iceberg, are present?

Of course we have to appeal to those in power as human beings, as citizens, as parents and grandparents. We must not forget to appeal to their humanity. At the same time they have specific power and responsibility.

I will also be promoting a new Greenpeace report “Justice for People and Planet.” It calls on governments to impose effective and binding rules on corporate behavior, to make them accountable toward people and the planet. It shows how, rather than imposing these rules, governments have willingly, or unwillingly, become enablers of corporate impunity.

The report’s analysis of 20 specific cases shows how corporations have exploited corporate law, tax and investment treaties, regulatory capture and a series of barriers to justice to profit at the expense of human rights and the environment.

The report documents, among others, how differences in legal standards saw VW fined billions in the US for the dieselgate scandal, but escape unpunished in Europe; how Resolute Forest Products and Energy Transfer Partners have used SLAPP suits in an attempt to silence critics; how Glencore pollutes the environment and climate and uses private arbitration courts to pressurize governments; and how Spanish ACS group became an accomplice to an environmental and social catastrophe when it joined the construction of the Renace hydroelectric power project in Guatemala.

In response we outline common sense Corporate Accountability Principles that include ‘Holding corporations and those individuals who direct them liable for environmental and human rights violations committed domestically or abroad by companies under their control.’ and ‘Promoting a race to the top by prohibiting corporations from carrying out activities abroad which are banned in their home state for reasons of risks to environmental or human rights.’

Whenever possible in conversation I will relay the latest climate science, with a specific focus on the connection between extreme weather events, climate change, and corporate liability. This is a rapidly evolving field scientifically, and, as the impacts are hitting more often and more intensively, one that corporate leaders should be aware of. The recently announced case New York City divesting from fossil fuels against Exxon is based on this latest science. 

As Executive Director of Greenpeace International I get asked if I should really be going to Davos. The answer is yes. My predecessors attended for one simple reason-- it is a rare opportunity to speak truth directly to power. Of course, as always, there is no guarantee those people will listen.

I will have many meetings with senior corporate leaders away from their large support teams. Somehow it feels like a more human interaction and a chance to speak heart to heart about facts, economic opportunities, as well as to help them find the compassion they need for these challenges.

Greenpeace is often the first one to turn up at oil spill, or at nuclear disaster so why not be the ones to show up at court of corporate executives straight at the top, and get them to sign up now to the future I am sure they want for their kids and grandkids. 

Jennifer Morgan is an executive director with Greenpeace International


The 2020 Cannes Film Festival has extended deadlines and is still hoping to reschedule the May event for late June or early July — but in a Q&A posted on the official festival site on Thursday, Cannes organizers also conceded that this year’s festival could be canceled altogether.

“A postponement might be, we repeat, ‘might be,’ possible,” read the first answer in the nine-question Q&A. The festival, it added, “plays an essential role in the economy of world cinema. When the decision to cancel the event in May was considered, every stakeholder in the sector asked us not to give up on holding it this year.”

But at the same time, the festival admitted that it “one way of looking at the situation” to think that a rescheduling is unrealistic given the ongoing effects of the coronavirus in Europe and around the world. “We are working towards a deferred event, if at all possible,” it said. “And if it is not possible, we will accept that.”

Also Read: 2020 Cannes Film Festival Postponed Over Coronavirus Concerns

The Q&A also noted that festival staffers are currently working from home, including programmers who are screening films that have been submitted. The deadline for registering films will be extended by one month or more, until at least the end of May, while accreditation deadlines have been extended for about a month and a half.

The lineup of films, which was originally scheduled to be announced at a Paris press conference on April 16, will not take place on that date. If the festival is rescheduled, the lineup will be announced about one month prior to that date.

And the festival also admitted, “It would be absurd to fixate on the dates of a cultural event when the whole world is living through such a painful time.”

Also Read: Golden Globes Suspend Eligibility Rules Because of Coronavirus Theater Closings

Read the full Q&A here:


Because a postponement might be, we repeat, “might be”, possible. Although Cannes is mainly famous for its arts and media side, it also plays an essential role in the economy of world cinema. When the decision to cancel the event in May was considered, every stakeholder in the sector asked us not to give up on holding it this year.

We therefore decided, after a rapid, broad, national and international consultation, that it was necessary to investigate all routes which would allow a postponement rather than a simple cancellation. This applies to the whole Festival, including the Marché du Film, which is due to take place as part of the Festival, over the same dates.

No one knows what will happen in the near future, but Cannes must work towards solutions with the sector stakeholders who wish the event to take place. The Festival will therefore be acting in line with this perspective, while closely monitoring the changes in the global health situation. Ultimately, it is the public authorities (The Ministry of Health, the Ministry of the Interior, the Alpes-Maritimes regional authority, and the Cannes City Council) who will give the green light, just as they authorised us to announce a possible deferrment.


We made this announcement two months before the Festival. If you take the example of sport, the Monaco Grand Prix, which takes place during the Festival dates, was postponed on the same day. The spring cycling races in Belgium and France were postponed less than three weeks before they were due to begin. The European football championships were cancelled while already in progress.

The physical preparation (setting up, construction, etc.) of the Festival de Cannes begins one month before the event and had not begun in mid-March. We had until April 15th to evaluate the situation and we did so one month before that, although there were many who called on us to “stand firm”. It is not a matter of standing firm, but of analysing the situation with clarity and responsibility.

According to the professionals, for whom the festival is essential, the calendar used for May and the announcement of the deferral, three months in advance, was the most suitable one. In addition, on the subject of sport, our “athletes” are the artists and most of them are working. Our raw material is films, which we receive electronically. “Technically” (please take note the use of quotation marks), the selection process is taking place as usual.


Yes. It is above all important to remember the imperative nature of the measures in place: “stay at home”, “infection prevention measures” and “social distancing”. The Festival team is not contravening the rules. Our offices are closed and no one is to go out for work purposes.

Since the lockdown measures were announced, the Festival staff have worked remotely and continue to prepare for Cannes via written messages, telephone conversations and group chats.

As for screenings, the films now come via an internet link and are viewed by members of the selection committee in the context of the usual discussion which takes place at this time of year with artists and rights holders. Many remarks from professionals from all over the world are also coming to the fore through this exchange.


No. The traditional press conference announcing the selection will not take place on April 16th. If the Festival is confirmed for the end of June or beginning of July, it will take place around one month beforehand, in Paris, at a date which is yet to be arranged. The Festival will issue more information when circumstances permit.


Yes, accreditation applications will remain open. The various dates for registration have been extended by one-and-a-half months. The details will be updated on the website very soon.

All approved accreditations will remain valid in the case of any postponement.

Accreditations for the two sessions of “3 Days in Cannes” will also remain valid. The new dates of the sessions will be automatically sent out with the new dates of the Festival and people who are already accredited will simply need to confirm their registration for the new dates.


Yes, the Films Department has decided to extend the registration deadline by one month. The new cut-off date will be specified in due course. it will certainly be extended until the end of May. At the moment everything is open. And for any further information, contact:


That is one way of looking at the situation, but we will not take that view until the evidence compels us to abandon this year’s event. At the time of writing, the 2nd round of the Municipal Elections has been announced for June 21st and the Tour de France sets off on June 27th.

It is obviously not possible to give precise dates yet. We have decided to opt for the end of June because we cannot plan further ahead than that. The lockdown which France, as well as many other countries, is under is only in its second week and we will need time, patience, calm and goodwill before we know when we will come out of it. We will also need to show solidarity. It would be absurd to fixate on the dates of a cultural event when the whole world is living through such a painful time.

People count on us: from Japanese film distributors to Cannes café owners. When the moment comes for us to all get ourselves back on our feet,to welcome festival goers, show films, open the theatres to the entire world, meet the artists, the journalists, the professionals and welcome those for whom seeing the creation, distribution and production coming back to life is important, the Festival must be ready. The Festival staff have a duty and a mission to commit themselves to that, in the name of the entire international sector.

We are working towards a deferred event, if at all possible. And if it is not possible, we will accept that. Because we are acting with humility and discretion, without ever losing sight of the national and international health priorities caused by the crisis, nor of the difficulty and pain of the days in hospitals for patients and health professionals. We want to express our solidarity and our admiration for the health workers and for all those who, where ever they are, are giving their time, their energy and their empathy.

And our thoughts are in particular with three great filmmaking countries: Italy, Spain and Iran, who have been particularly hard hit by the epidemic.

We will provide further information as soon as possible.

We will be in touch very soon,

The Festival de Cannes Team

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Since going public last year, Allied Esports Entertainment Inc. failed to turn a profit, but its new esports business could be a tipping point for the four-year old company.

Allied oversees two businesses — the World Poker Tour and Allied Esports, which organizes multiplayer gaming events and operates esports venues across the country and in Europe. Allied Esports’ main stateside facility is the HyperX Arena, located inside the Luxor Casino in Las Vegas. The Vegas facility was closed as of Friday in response to the coronavirus threat, and the company is setting up a remote broadcast facility.

CEO Frank Ng said in the company’s 2019 earnings report that it continues to learn from operating the World Poker Tour for 18 years, and applies similar strategies to its esports business.

“In-person experiences, multiplatform content and interactive services have been the go-to-market strategy that the WPT (World Poker Tour) has effectively deployed in the poker industry for nearly two decades,” Ng said. “We are also applying it to the much larger and more rapidly growing exports industry.”

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Allied’s 2019 revenue was up 27% from the prior year to $26 million, and the company’s net loss was cut nearly in half. Chief Financial Officer Tony Hung said esports made up 29% of its total revenues last year. Hung also said he thinks Allied Esports has two to three years before it becomes profitable, but noted esports will be a large part of that.

Jud Hannigan, chief executive of Allied Esports, spoke with TheWrap in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic about the role of esports in the company’s growth and push towards profitability.

Your 2019 earnings call is happening in the midst of a global pandemic, and Allied Esports has properties in Germany and China. How is the company coping?

There’s significant demand for content. Everything that is traditionally providing it has come to a grinding halt. We have the opportunity to go out and be a provider of content right now, and we’re making big strides to do that. If we can move (gaming) activity online, in a time when all of a sudden the unimaginable has happened, we can figure out a way to continue providing an outlet for people when they’re really craving entertainment the most. We’ve shifted really quickly to make programming available online, and the exciting part about that is people from all over the world can participate. The infrastructure we have allows us to continue broadcasting this content, and we’re finding ways to make sure our assets are still deployed in effective ways.

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Allied Esports Entertainment was created because of a merger, and, as a result, World Poker Tour is another part of the business. How did WPT influence the esports side?

Our business was modeled after the World Poker Tour. We wanted to create live events and dynamic content distributable across different mediums and aggregate an audience for an online DTC relationship. World Poker Tour has been around for 18 years: We did it slightly differently. We wanted to go out and build permanent installs that the gaming industry needed. It’s also given us a credible seat at the table, that helps us build strong relationships with game publishers.

Allied Esports’ physical gaming venues are now closed because of the virus outbreak, but tell us about what will hopefully be open soon.

Both Brookfield and Simon Properties are investors in us. These are the titans of the industry, and we are fortunate to be a part of what’s happening in the retail real estate industry. There’s an evolution happening, it’s not just gaming. (Malls) are becoming more experiential destinations in many ways. Being in partnership with these guys and having access to their properties, we get to be part of that esports story in their evolution and that puts us in a sweet spot. Globally, Simon has roughly 200 malls and Brookfield has a similar amount. We are working to open two mall locations now.

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Tell us about how Allied tries to cater to the more casual crowd.

When it comes to programming, every day we run a different broadcast and competitive event for a unique community. Each night of the week, we have a different game and we give that community time to shine on the grand stage. We’re growing individual communities where we’re at. Some of the games we have are Fortnite and Smash … We built a community competitive scene around Mario Kart, and call it Saturday Night Speedway. It’s my favorite night of the week and gets a lot of engagement. Some people drive down to Vegas from LA to compete. We want to appeal a bit more to the casual gamer. There’s no barrier to entry, and that allows us to appeal to the curious. They want to know, ‘Hey what is this esports thing?’

How does Allied approach the streaming component of gaming?

We typically are broadcasting across live stream platforms but mainly Youtube and Twitch. It depends on the event. And everyone is keeping an eye on other platforms. There has been a seismic move to sign people exclusively; Mixer’s done it, Facebook’s done it, Caffeine is doing it…. It’s an interesting battle for viewership that’s happening right now. Right now, we’re interested in our content being viewed on as many platforms as possible.

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Would Allied ever get in on the “streaming wars” and sign a popular streamer?

We have the infrastructure to sign a streamer, and I won’t say no to that as a concept. We had success with Ninja at a 2018 event in Vegas. We have the opportunity to provide influencers and content creators to headline the Las Vegas Strip because of our location. The short answer is, we might…

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FuboTV, the sports-focused streaming service, is merging with entertainment company FaceBank, the two companies announced on Monday morning. As part of the deal, FaceBank, in a filing with the SEC on Monday, said it had secured a $100 million revolving line of credit for FuboTV to use.

Once the merger is complete, FuboTV will become a subsidiary of FaceBank and the company will be renamed FuboTV Inc. David Gandler, FuboTV’s chief executive, will remain as CEO of the new firm.

“The business combination of FaceBank Group and FuboTV accelerates our ability to build a category-defining company and supports our goal to provide consumers with a technology-driven cable TV replacement service for the whole family,” Gandler said in a statement. “With our growing businesses in the U.S., and recent beta launches in Canada and Europe, FuboTV is well-positioned to achieve its goal of becoming a world-leading live TV streaming platform for premium sports, news and entertainment content.”

Also Read: How ESPN Plans to Survive Without Sports During Coronavirus Hiatus

He added: “In the current COVID-19 environment, stay-at-home stocks make perfect sense – we plan to accelerate our timing to uplist to a major exchange as soon as practicable. We look forward to working with John and his team of creative visionaries.”

The deal has been approved by the boards of each company. FaceBank will send an initial $10 million loan to FuboTV as part of the agreement by April 1. FuboTV’s basic monthly subscription costs $55, with the service carving out a niche as a go-to spot for sports fans looking to cut the cord, offering NBA TV, NBC Sports Network, Fox Sports, and the NFL Network — along with Fox, CBS, and NBC on the network side.

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Disney+ is slashing its bandwidth utilization by 25% in European markets where the service will debut on March 24, the steaming service announced Saturday.

Walt Disney Co. chairman of direct-to-consumer & international Kevin Mayer released a statement explaining that the move is a response to a European Union government request that streamers switch from high definition to standard definition. Hopefully, the move will prevent the continent’s internet infrastructure from crashing, as millions of people stay home amid the coronavirus spread.

“In line with Disney’s longstanding commitment to act responsibly, we are responding to the request of European Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton to work together to ensure the smooth functioning of the broadband infrastructure,” Mayer said.

“In the coming days, we will be monitoring Internet congestion and working closely with Internet service providers to further reduce bitrates as necessary to ensure they are not overwhelmed by consumer demand,” he added. “We look forward to the launch of Disney+ and hope it will provide a much-needed respite for families in these challenging and trying times.”

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Disney+ is also delaying its launch in France until April 7.

“To our French fans, the Disney+ service is coming,” Mayer said, “but at the request of the French government, we have agreed to postpone the launch until Tuesday, 7 April 2020.” 

The move comes two days after a similar action by Netflix.

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AMC Networks had added Dan McDermott and David Beck to lead the company’s programming division, with McDermott heading up original programming and Beck leading programming strategy and business operations.

McDermott comes from Lionsgate TV, where he led the studio’s scripted partnership with BBC Studios. He will serve as president of original programming and co-president of AMC Studios. He effectively replaces David Madden, who led programming for AMC’s Entertainment Networks and AMC Studios and departed last year after AMC Studios was moved under Entertainment Networks Group president Sarah Barnett.

Beck, who comes from WarnerMedia, joins as executive vice president and head of programming strategy and business operations. Both Beck and McDermott will report to Barnett.

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“These two outstanding leaders arrive as we reshape our company to put our passionate audiences and premium content at the heart of our operations. Nobody can thrive today in our fast-moving industry without a nimble structure and exceptional teams led by outstanding people, that’s what we’re building at AMC Networks,” Barnett said.

McDermott will be based in Los Angeles and will be responsible for content creation across the Entertainment Group’s network brands including AMC, BBC America, IFC and SundanceTV, as well as AMC Studios, where he will be co-president along with Stefan Reinhardt, who oversees business operations and studio production.

Beck will lead the Entertainment Group’s linear and digital programming strategy, scheduling and acquisitions group, digital content and operations including AVOD, TVE, and AMC Premiere, as well as oversee certain brand and functional areas across AMC, BBC America, IFC, and SundanceTV.

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While esports companies are taking a short-term hit as live events shift to online-only competitions, industry experts say the gaming world could be well positioned to weather the coronavirus pandemic.

Last week, the threat of the spreading novel coronavirus forced game developer and Call of Duty League operator Activision Blizzard to completely pause its first annual “Call of Duty” season. Activision also canceled all home arena events in its nationwide Overwatch League throughout March and April, meaning fans can’t see their home teams play in-person for two months.

Broadcast rights to esports matches and events this season have already been purchased and will air mostly as planned.

“The competition is just moving from in-person to online, and that allows for the integrity of the rights to be what was purchased, so long as viewership is both as broad and deep as was intended,” said Ari Segal, chief executive of Culver City-based esports team owner Immortals Gaming Club, which competes in the now-on-hold League of Legends Championship Series.

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“League of Legends” developer Riot Games postponed many of its key upcoming esports events, including the 2020 League of Legends Championship Series spring finals that had been scheduled to take place in Dallas from April 18-19. Riot also changed the location of its LCS European championship from Budapest to Berlin because of the pandemic.

On Tuesday, Riot announced its European League of Legends Championship would continue as scheduled, but only online.

Riot Games’ Head of Esports Communications David Higdon said it’s too early to assess how much his company — or the industry — might lose as a result of the cancellations and postponements. But Higdon did say in-person events are crucial to Riot’s business. “We have community events and other activities that are a big part of the gaming and esports experience that will be impacted,” Higdon said.

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Riot changed its first Los Angeles-based esports event of the year from a community event to an online-only showcase, he added.

Riot operates on a global scale with more than 20 offices, including locations in West Los Angeles, Barcelona, Dubai, Seoul and Shanghai. And Higdon said its 3,000 international employees are prepared to handle a high broadcast volume. With remote broadcast centers across the globe, Riot can still show matches on monetized platforms like YouTube and Twitch, its main rights holders.

Activision’s Call of Duty League’s rights are owned by YouTube, which means the league will be able to showcase matches to a wider audience and even tack on additional ads.

“If (viewership) is flat with expectation or exceeds it because more people are home, there’s an argument to be made that in the short-term, the value realized for the rights purchased is in excess of what was originally thought,” Segal added.

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Doron Nir, chief executive of Tel Aviv-based StreamElements, which provides analytics to streamers, said that even if broadcast rights aren’t affected by the shift to virtual matches, live events still remain a key part of the esports experience.

“Broadcast rights are generally not impacted, but the online platforms who pay for the rights might lose out if the viewership drops as a result of losing some of the excitement value generated from those attending an event,” Nir said.

StreamElements, which has an office in Palo Alto, California, helps aspiring gaming broadcasters track their followings, manage and monetize their streaming platforms.

It’s a relatively easy thing for companies to account for more traffic on digital channels — but gaming firms that have shelled out money in advance for in-person events are likely to lose much of that expenditure, Nir added.

Also Read: Disney Could Lose $500 Million-Plus From Closure of Theme Parks

“Esports as a whole are only a small part of the hours watched of livestreamed gaming content,” Nir said, “so if the model were online only, the overall ecosystem is still going to continue to grow.”

Although the physical presence of game developers and esports will be suspended for the near future, the gaming industry is uniquely able to thrive in a virtual-first economy because it doesn’t require in-person participation. So long as publishers adapt to an increasingly virtual selling environment, Nir said, they will likely come survive the pandemic shutdowns.

“We expect to see the budgets reallocated to support online initiatives, whether it’s sponsored overlays, branded alerts and bots, or traditional ads …given the much larger audiences that online events attract, this should already be (publishers’) primary focus,” Nir said. “Esports as a whole are only a small part of the hours watched of livestreamed gaming content, so if the model were online only, the overall ecosystem is still going to continue to grow.”

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There is no historical precedent for the financial drain that the coronavirus is about to do to the movie business, but multiple box office and financial analysts told TheWrap that the growing wave of theater closures and postponed film releases may sink 2020 domestic grosses to levels not seen since the turn of the 21st century.

Domestic grosses for 2020 may well sink below $8 billion for the first time since 2000, analysts said, while admissions may fall below 1 billion tickets sold for the first time since 1976.

This past weekend, overall grosses dropped 45% from the previous weekend, to $55.3 million, lower than even the box office weekends following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. To find a total that low, we have to go back all the way to Halloween weekend of 1998, when overall ticket sales fell to $50.8 million before inflation adjustment. With the postponement of “A Quiet Place Part II” and “Mulan,” two films that were expected to drive springtime moviegoing, those numbers are going to sink even lower even if some theaters manage to stay open.

Others, however, said that trying to put any sort of estimates on how big the drop will be is a fool’s errand at this point.

“We are still at the earliest stages of this slump, and we still don’t know just how long theaters will have to remain closed, how many films this will affect, or what studios will do whenever this all ends,” Exhibitor Relations analyst Jeff Bock said. “How could anyone try to make a prediction when the situation changes almost on an hourly basis?”

Also Read: Trump Issues New Coronavirus Guidelines, Urges Americans to Avoid Gatherings of 10 or More

The American movie theater industry tried longer than other countries to maintain a “business as usual” mantra. As recently as last Wednesday, theater owners and regional trade organizations were assuring the public that theaters would remain open. But as millions have been encouraged to stay home and local officials in major cities have begun forcing closures, their hand has been forced.

On Sunday night, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti ordered that all bars, nightclubs, and yes, movie theaters be closed for at least the remainder of March while restaurants will only be open for delivery and takeout.

Then, after the Trump Administration recommended at a White House press conference on Monday that the public avoid gatherings of more than 10 people, Cineworld announced that all 543 Regal Cinemas locations in the U.S. would close indefinitely, joining countries across Europe and major Asian markets like China, where over 70,000 cinemas have remained dark since late January.

Also Read: Cinema Stocks Drop Up to 31% as Coronavirus Shuts Theaters, Delays Releases

For the theaters that haven’t received orders to close, seating capacity has been severely curtailed. After first reducing screening capacity by 50%, AMC Theaters announced early Monday that it would cap the number of tickets sold for each screening at 50, in keeping with the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control to prevent community spread of the virus. But now that Regal has made the first big move, other nationwide chains are expected to follow suit and announce they are closing soon.

The CDC also recommends that this 50-person limit be enforced for at least the next eight weeks, a time period that extends to the first two weekends of May. That would likely force Disney to postpone the release of the Marvel Studios blockbuster “Black Widow,” a film that was supposed to kick off the summer moviegoing season, with an opening weekend topping $100 million.

If health officials are correct in their prediction that social distancing will have to continue for two months or more, domestic grosses for the box office will sink below $8 billion while estimates of financial losses for the film industry will likely spiral well above $20 billion.

Also Read: Regal, Showcase Cinemas Become First US Theater Chains to Close Nationwide Amid Coronavirus Crisis

The Trump administration on Monday even suggested that the crisis could last into “July or August,” which would effectively shut down the entire summer blockbuster season for the first time in movie history. Dennis Carroll, former director of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Global Health Security and Development Unit, told USA Today that it is difficult to predict exactly how long the crisis will last as there is so little information known about the virus. Strong containment efforts in China and South Korea, the first countries to face outbreaks, have led to significant reductions in new cases over the past week, but those cases are still being reported.

“By May we could be returning to some state of normalcy,” he said. “But, again, what we don’t know about this virus is epic. Holding a May date as a beacon of hope may soothe some of the angst but who knows?”

And there’s a new wrinkle that even further complicates matters for theaters: day-and-date releasing. As streaming and video-on-demand have become more popular over the past decade, theater owners have resisted even the idea of theatrical releases hitting the home market before the long-sacrosanct three-month theatrical window. That standoff has prompted clashes with Netflix over Oscar-contending films like “Roma” and ‘The Irishman” that opened in select theaters but began streaming well before then.

But as the coronavirus has thrown out all industry norms, Universal on Monday decided to pull the trigger on Monday and announce that while “Trolls World Tour” will be released to theaters on April 10 — assuming theaters are still open — the animated sequel will also be available for 48-hour digital home rental on the same day for a suggested price of $20. Universal is also cutting short the exclusive theatrical window of current releases like “The Invisible Man” and “The Hunt” with plans to put them up for digital rental as early as this Friday.

Also Read: Universal to Release 'Trolls World Tour' for Digital Rental on Same Day as Theatrical Release

“It can’t be a positive sign for any theater owner, regardless of the circumstances, that Universal decided to make this move so quickly,” Bock said. “‘Trolls World Tour’ wasn’t going to be a massive hit. The first film made less than $400 million (worldwide). But it wasn’t a small release either. It was going to be a strong draw for families. Not even Disney announced any streaming moves for ‘Mulan’ when they pulled it, so now it’s going to be interesting to see if any other studios see Universal’s move as a green light to try and go straight to home release with some of these spring blockbusters.”

While it could simply be a temporary, extraordinary measure for extraordinary times, Universal’s video-on-demand move shows how coronavirus has so severely damaged an industry long viewed as recession-proof. The resiliency of movie theaters through the decades has been a point of pride for owners and mentioned in speeches by leaders like Motion Picture Association CEO/Chairman Charles Rivkin, who boasted of it in his keynote speech last year at CinemaCon — the annual industry convention whose 2020 edition was canceled just last week.

“Since that first nickelodeon theater opened in Pittsburgh 114 years ago, we’ve been hearing about our demise for more than a century,” Rivkin said. “Through two world wars, the Depression, and calls for censorship and through new technologies — each one of them guaranteeing the end.”

Also Read: Trump-Touted Coronavirus Testing Website Launches, But Still Not Available Nationwide

While the immediate outlook looks bleak, movie theaters as a whole should survive this. Analysts expect a quick rebound to normal business and possibly even a boost for theaters in some regions as many Americans will be looking to finally get out of the house after weeks or months in isolation. But what the landscape of the industry will look like on the other side of this crisis is unclear.

“My best guess is that this could permanently shrink the movie theater market in terms of locations that are open,” Bock said. “It’s no secret that the theatrical industry was already on thin ice, and this is the worst possible time for any of this to happen. They will have a hard time in the short term for them to convince people to come out the longer this goes. Theaters that were already having a hard time financially might not get back up from this.”

“Larger chains like AMC and Regal might survive, but it may not make business sense for some theaters that go bankrupt because of this to be replaced. The days of having two different cineplexes across the street from each other or a few blocks apart may be over.”

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Hulu is out with its list of everything that’s coming and going from the streaming service in April, which should come in handy assuming we’re all still in isolation next month due to coronavirus.

The third and final season of “Future Man,” which stars Josh Hutcherson, Eliza Coupe, and Derek Wilson, will be available on April 3.

That same day, a new episode of Hulu’s monthly episodic anthology “Into the Dark” drops. April’s installment is called “Pooka Lives,” and follows a group of thirty-something friends who create their own Creepypasta about Pooka, but don’t like what they find once the thing goes viral.

Also Read: Why Disney Tied the Knot Between FX and Hulu

This year’s Oscar best-picture winner “Parasite” will also start streaming April 8.

Some good ones leaving in April are “My Best Friend’s Wedding” starring Julia Roberts and Dermot Mulroney, and “Bridget Jones’s Diary” starring Renee Zellwegger, Hugh Grant and Colin Firth.

Below is the full list of everything coming and going in April:

Also Read: Hilary Duff Joins Call for Disney to Move 'Lizzie McGuire' Revival to Hulu

April 1

Kabukicho Sherlock: Complete Season 1 (DUBBED) (Funimation)

60 Days In: Narcoland: Complete Season 1 (A&E)

90 Day Fiance: Happily Ever After?: Complete Season 4 (TLC)

Alone: Complete Season 6 (History)

Breaking Amish: Complete Seasons 2 & 3 (TLC)

Bring It!: Complete Season 5 (Lifetime)

Chopped: Complete Season 36 (Food Network)

Cutthroat Kitchen: Complete Season 12 (Food Network)

Dance Moms: Complete Seasons 2 & 6 (Lifetime)

Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives: Complete Seasons 27 – 29 (Food Network)

Dr. Pimple Popper: Complete Season 3 (TLC)

Fast N’ Loud: Complete Season 13 (Discovery)

Fixer Upper (How We Got to Here: Looking Back on Fixer Upper): Special (HGTV)

Forged in Fire: Complete Season 6 (History)

Gold Medal Families: Complete Season 1 (Lifetime)

Hidden Potential: Complete Season 1 (HGTV)

House Hunters: Complete Season 120 (HGTV)

Kids Behind Bars: Life or Parole: Complete Season 1 (A&E)

Little Women: Atlanta: Complete Season 5 (Lifetime)

Little Women: LA: Complete Seasons 7 & 8 (Lifetime)

Love It or List It: Complete Season 14 (HGTV)

Married at First Sight: Complete Season 9 (FYI)

Marrying Millions: Complete Season 1 (Lifetime)

Property Brothers: Complete Seasons 10 & 11 (HGTV)

Taken at Birth: Complete Season 1 (TLC)

The Family Chantel: Complete Season 1 (TLC)

The Food That Built America: Complete Season 1 (History)

The Kitchen: Complete Seasons 16 – 18 (Food Network)

Til Death Do Us Part: Complete Season 1 (ID)

TRANsitioning: Complete Season 1 (FYI)

The Ant Bully (2006)

Bangkok Dangerous (2008)

Bend It Like Beckham (2003)

Blazing Saddles (1974)

The Book Of Eli (2010)

The Boost (1988)

The Chumscrubber (2005)

Diary of a Hitman (1991)

Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who (2008)

Dr. T. and the Women (2000)

The Eternal (1998)

Free Birds (2013)

The Full Monty (1997)

Fun in Acapulco (1963)

Gator (1976)

Get Smart (2008)

Gods and Monsters (1998)

Gorky Park (1983)

Hud (1963)

Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003)

Kill Bill: Volume 2 (2004)

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)

Let Me In (2010)

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (2008)

The Mexican (2001)

Misery (1990)

Moll Flanders (1996)

Phone Booth (2003)

Repentance (2014)

Risky Business (1983)

Romancing the Stone (1984)

The Jewel of the Nile (1985)

The Sender (1982)

Shirley Valentine (1989)

Spider-Man (2002)

Trapped: The Alex Cooper Story (2019)

Victoria Gotti: My Father’s Daughter (2019)

Who Let The Dogs Out (2019)

The X-Files: I Want to Believe (2008)

Zombieland (2009)

Also Read: Discovery Hires Hulu's Lisa Holme to Lead Streaming Content Strategy

April 3

Future Man: Complete Final Season (Season 3) (Hulu)

Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell: Complete Season 4 (Adult Swim)

Siren: Season 3 Premiere (Freeform)

April 6

Too Cautious Hero: Complete Season 1 (DUBBED) (Funimation)

April 7

No Guns Life: Complete Season 1 (DUBBED) (Funimation)

April 8

Parasite (2019)

April 9

Who Wants to be a Millionaire?: Series Premiere (ABC)

Kono Oto Tomare!: Sounds of Life: Complete Season 2a (DUBBED) (Funimation)

Little Joe (2019)

April 10

Real Housewives of Potomac: Complete Season 4 (Bravo)

April 12

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic: Complete Season 9B (Discovery Family)

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic en Español: Complete Season 9B (Discovery Family)

April 14

The Bachelor: Listen to Your Heart: Series Premiere (ABC)

The Baker and the Beauty: Series Premiere (ABC)

Songland: Season 2 Premiere (NBC)

Vault (2019)

Unlocked (2017)

April 15

Mrs. America: Series Premiere (FX on Hulu)

The Masked Singer: Sing-Along Spectacular: Special (Fox)

A Teacher (2013)

The Messenger (2009)

April 16

What We Do In The Shadows: Season 2 Premiere (FX)

Harry Benson: Shoot First (2016)

April 20

Paranormal Activity 3 (2011)

A Kind Of Murder (2016)

Available April 22

Special-7: Complete Season 1 (DUBBED) (Funimation)

Available April 23

Cunningham (2019)

Available April 24

Abominable (2019)

Available April 29

Footloose (2011)

Available April 30

2020 Billboard Music Awards: Special (NBC)

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Here is everything leaving Hulu in April:

April 30

My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997)

American Buffalo (1996)

Cinderfella (1960)

Girls! Girls! Girls! (1962)

Golden Gate (1994)

The Bellboy (1960)

The Patsy (1964)

The Tenant (1976)

Unforgettable (1996)

Buffalo 66 (1998)

Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter (1974)

Still Smokin’ (1983)

Earth Girls Are Easy (1988)

Judgment Day (1999)

Lord of War (2005)

National Lampoon’s Dirty Movie (2011)

National Lampoon’s Dorm Daze 2: College @ Sea (2006)

Southie (1999)

The Last Stand (2013)

The Last Warrior (2000)

The Man Who Could Cheat Death (1959)

The Spy Next Door (2010)

28 Days Later (2003)

Robin Hood (1991)

Say Anything (1989)

Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason (2004)

Bridget Jones’s Baby (2016)

Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)

For Colored Girls (2010)

John Q (2002)

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

National Lampoon’s European Vacation (1985)

National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)

Vegas Vacation (1997)

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (2008)

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Cyber attacks can hit any organization and even derail its operation on a grand scale. Just recently, ISS World, a facility management service provider with clients in more than 70 countries worldwide, released a statement where it mentions being the victim of a malware attack. ISS World also claims to have contained the attack and identified the root cause of the threat.

All in all, ISS World is lucky in that it was able to address the issue rather quickly. In some cases, it can take weeks or more for affected organizations to thwart sophisticated attacks. Often, the incidents have already jeopardized the victims' entire operations for a while before threat sources are found.

That is primarily the reason why cybersecurity experts stress the importance of proactive defense. Companies not only need to safeguard their operations but their customers and employees as well from the damaging effects of cyber attacks. One way to ensure smooth and unencumbered operations is by scrutinizing every connecting IP address before it's allowed access to one's network with solutions like IP Geolocation API.

How Can IP Address Blocking Help Users Protect Against Cyber Attacks?

Running a global company means that anyone from anywhere in the world can communicate with the employees on its network. But not all so-called "global organizations" engage in business transactions in every country. That said, security teams can restrict access coming from and going to countries where they don't do business.

For instance, a company that only operates in Asia/Pacific, Europe, and the U.S. can avoid threats originating from the Middle East by, at the very least, scrutinizing contact with IP addresses from that area.

Blocking access to entire IP ranges assigned to certain countries is also an option but it can be very limiting for an organization. The company may be missing out on potential partnerships, for example. What if a Middle Eastern-based organization is trying to contact the company for a partnership deal? It may be best then to block IP addresses individually as these are proven guilty of malicious doings. Find out how in the next section.

Case Study: IP Geolocation for Threat Protection

While using an IP geolocation API or lookup is not a cure-all, the product can still reduce an organization's chances of succumbing to a debilitating cyber-attack. For instance, its use can limit unwanted traffic flowing in and out of a user's network.

Your security team members, for example, can begin by identifying the source of a threat, such as an IP address, by looking at your organization's network logs. Say they come across 91[.]214[.]124[.]25 (a malicious IP address as this post will later show) that doesn't coincide with the usual IP addresses found.

Running it through our IP geolocation lookup revealed that the IP address is actually Ukraine-based:

Since your organization, in this hypothetical scenario, doesn't provide services to customers in Ukraine, your team should pay closer attention to it. In fact, while a Ukrainian IP address can access your network non-maliciously, this particular IP address was explicitly cited as an indicator of compromise (IoC) for a CLOP ransomware attack and so needs to be blocked.

* * *

Protecting against cyber attacks requires security teams to analyze and filter traffic that flows through their networks. They should particularly pay attention to suspicious IP addresses and make sure with the help of IP geolocation lookups that every visitor or user is authenticated before being granted access to network-connected files and systems. | 3/11/20

Discovery, Inc. has hired Google’s Neil Chugani to head strategy and operations for its direct-to-consumer business. He is also CFO of its streaming vertical.

Chugani, who will be based at Discovery’s London offices, will report to Discovery CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels. He’ll work closely with Peter Faricy the CEO of Discovery’s global direct-to-consumer business.

Last month, Discovery hired Hulu’s head of content acquisition Lisa Holme, who will also report to Faricy, to lead the company’s streaming content strategy.

Also Read: Why Discovery Won't Sell Content to Peacock, Other Streaming Services

Yes, there are lots of (high-ranking) cooks over there.

Chugani will be responsible for formulating and implementing the financial strategy that will allow the team to meet Discovery’s ambitious growth objectives in the DTC space, according to the company. He will work with all of Discovery’s DTC business units, both in the U.S. and International markets to create consistent strategic, financial, and operational practices.

“We are delighted to welcome Neil to the Discovery team,” Wiedenfels said on Monday. “Neil is a highly respected digital finance leader, whose experience and skills will help us further accelerate our strategic pivot as we make our great content and brands available to our passionate fans across all platforms around the world.” 

Also Read: Discovery Hires Hulu's Lisa Holme to Lead Streaming Content Strategy

“We are thrilled to add another world-class executive to Discovery’s growing direct-to-consumer organization,” Faricy added. “Neil has a strong track record of strong and successful business growth in the tech and media sectors, and we look forward to working with him as Discovery continues to invest in expanding our global direct-to-consumer offerings.” 

Most recently, Chugani was a senior director at Google who held a number of leadership positions at the tech company, which he joined in 2015. Chugani served as the tech company’s CFO for the business and operations of Google and YouTube in Europe, Middle East and Africa, where he played a key role in driving the doubling of revenue in the region over the last five years.

Prior to joining Google, Chugani was group CFO at BBC Worldwide, the commercial and international arm of the BBC, held senior executive positions at Sky, and was a technology and media banker at Goldman Sachs.

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U.S. stock markets sank over coronavirus fears Monday morning, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average sinking 7% and the S&P 500 down 6.6% an hour into trading.

Trading on Wall Street was halted for 15 minutes after they fell more than the daily limit of 5%, triggering circuit breakers. Once trading reopened, the market continued to slide a bit more, but then bounced up about 90 minutes into the trading day, with the Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq all down between 5 and 5.6%.

Experts attribute this plunge to fears over the spread of the coronavirus, as similar falls have taken place in Europe markets as the virus has spread; Australia and Chinese markets have also been hit hard. Compounding matters, a price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia over oil prices sent the oil market crashing down more than 30% — marking the largest single-day drop since 1991.

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Several tech and media stalwarts were unable to avoid being hit by the market plunge on Monday. Disney shares were down nearly 5%, AT&T shares fell about 4%, Netflix’s stock dropped about 4.5%, and Facebook’s shares dropped 5.5%. AMC Entertainment was hit especially hard, with shares falling 12% to about $4 per share early Monday, as concerns grow the global box office will be dented by coronavirus. Shares of Imax also dropped about 5% on Monday morning.

Worldwide, more than 100,000 coronavirus cases have been confirmed; about 3,800 people have died as a result of the outbreak. In the U.S., there have been 22 deaths as of early Monday morning, according to The New York Times.

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Fear of the Coronavirus spreading has prompted closure of numerous events in the gaming world and caused some tech companies to direct their staffs to work from home. But leading gaming executives in Los Angeles say this time that people spend inside could be good for the gaming industry.

On stage at the 2020 Montgomery Summit in Santa Monica, gaming investors and the leaders of Los Angeles’ gaming industry shared what they saw as the possible advantages to the growing epidemic.

“People are indoors and playing more,” noted Gregory Milken, managing director of Santa Monica-based investment firm March Capital Partners and moderator of the panel.

Also Read: Riot Games' Esports Championships in China, Korea Suspended Over Coronavirus Concerns

Hope Cochran, managing director of Seattle-based Madrona Venture Group, which invests in gaming, said she thinks the quarantines will lead people to play more games to pass the time.

“In the casual gaming world, we always have the phrase snow days, we love snow days. Our business analytics would shoot up, there was always big peaks whenever it snowed. I view this as similar for that sector,” Cochran said during the presentation. “When you are at home unexpectedly with not as much on your calendar, the activity (gaming) definitely increases, and those are usually positive monetary days.”

Tech companies including Facebook, Google and Microsoft asked their staff in the Seattle area  Thursday to work from home. Washington state has been severely impacted by the virus so far, with at least 10 deaths in the state. Amazon confirmed Thursday it was directing all its non-warehouse employees to work from home indefinitely, and Sony shuttered three European offices for the week.

Also Read: The Major Hollywood, Sports and Tech Events Canceled in Response to Coronavirus Concerns

All these tech-savvy employees out of the office are a demographic expected to game heavily while they are home.

“I know what would happen if I asked my staff to work remote,” Jon Robinson, chief operating officer of Culver City-based esports organization 100 Thieves, said onstage. “There would be no productivity, and a whole lot of gaming,” Robinson joked.

“I do think people will be playing more, there’s always a hurdle to get over before you can really find yourself connected to a game, and this is a great opportunity for people to find themselves crossing that hurdle,” Ari Segal, chief executive of Los Angeles-based esports team owner Immortals Gaming Club, said onstage at the Summit.

Also Read: Netflix Joins Growing SXSW 2020 Exodus Over Coronavirus Worries

“For all of us that are on the digital side of things, it’s unfortunately a bad thing for the world, but a good thing for consumer entertainment companies,” Segal added.

Other gaming events that require in-person participation, like esports events, are being hit hard by concerns over the virus. Leagues including Riot Games’ Korean and Chinese “League of Legends” Championships are suspending play, citing concern the events could turn into a breeding ground for the virus.

“From what I’ve seen so far, the esports calendar is going to get devastated this year because of coronavirus issues,” Segal said. “That’s been a challenge.”

Also Read: Apple Backs Out of South by Southwest Due to Coronavirus Worries

Segal said he was considering postponing a private event in Los Angeles due to coronavirus concerns.

The coronavirus’ impact on esports could be wide-reaching if investors begin to lose confidence in the business model, which relies on bringing together large teams of players and coaches in often-crowded arenas. While the matches can be live-streamed, teams still have to convene in the same location to play.

Segal said he is watching how investors and potential event sponsors react to the virus’ impact on esports. Sponsorship and brand advertising are huge revenue streams for esports organizations, next to ticket sales and merch.

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“For esports teams and organizations, there’s a tension where certain investors are interested in the fundamentals (while) others want to see top-line growth, (and) the first thing that’s going to be pulled back if there is a coronavirus impact on the economy is speculative sponsorship budgets,” said Segal.

“If those (sponsorship) budgets get pulled back or decrease, all of a sudden certain investors are going to be less bullish on esports investment,” Segal added.

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A business (also known as an enterprise, a company or a firm) is an organizational entity involved in the provision of goods and services to consumers.Businesses serve as a form of economic activity, and are prevalent in capitalist economies, where most of them are privately owned and provide goods and services allocated through a market […]
tdi_60_fee | 3/5/20

The 2020 South by Southwest festival continues to bleed participants, as Apple is now the latest big name to pull out of this year’s event due to concerns about the spread of Coronavirus, a company representative told TheWrap.

The company had planned to debut three new Apple TV+ shows in the festival’s film and television section, and hold a panel discussion of “Little America” with creators Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon. Those events have now all been canceled.

Apple is far from the only major participant to back out of SXSW 2020. Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Vevo, Intel, China Gathering, Mashable, TikTok, SAP, and The Latinx House have also all canceled their festival events and appearances.

Representatives for the South by Southwest festival did not immediately respond to a request for comment from TheWrap, but so far now organizers have maintained that the event will happen as scheduled March 13-22, despite calls to cancel it including a petition that has more than 46,000 signatures.

Also Read: Major Hollywood, Sports and Tech Events Canceled in Response to Coronavirus - So Far

The news follows a wave of entertainment companies enacting strict measures in response to coronavirus. Earlier Wednesday, Sony closed three of its European offices for the rest of the week after an employee was potentially exposed to coronavirus, MGM delayed the release of “James Bond: No Time to Die,” and the 2020 Ultra Music Festival in Miami was canceled.

In addition, talent agency powerhouse CAA has restricted employee travel to “business-critical” only for at least the next two weeks, and the MipTV conference, originally scheduled for March 30-April 2, has been canceled.

THR first reported the news.

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Like the Coronavirus, 5G Dementia seems to be spreading around Washington. The latest manifestation has appeared at the FCC — which is trying its best to make U.S. 5G infrastructure as insecure and primitive as possible. But first, an explanation of how 5G Dementia begins at the top and spreads in the U.S. capitol.

5G Dementia begins with "The Genius” who lounges around White House quarters and emits spontaneous tweets on whatever motivates him at the moment. Somehow, 5G came onto the radar — likely through a favorite television news show. Soon afterwards, someone at the same location dutifully turns the tweet into a Fact Sheet, and then an Executive Order. Then, everyone around town tries to figure how to best advantage themselves in a game of Pile-On. Inevitably, the low hanging fruit by the clueless minions turns to blaming the foreigners for perceived inadequacies or a faux race to win. That then leads to lobbyists trolling for 5G dollars.

The malady quickly spreads to the FCC — a mere 1.8 kilometers away — where they rummage around the regulatory closet for some cards to play in the game. The Commission has a big one — they control the use of radio spectrum, and that has created a multi mega-million dollar jackpot lobbying industry in Washington. It is great, however, for feeding the lobbying narrative of more spectrum brings some perceived 5G supremacy. The FCC also has two smaller cards — it allocates several billion dollars a year out of the Universal Service Fund (USF), and has authority under CALEA (Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act) to impose requirements on communication providers and vendors. CALEA is the 1994 law in the U.S. that requires communication providers and equipment suppliers to have the technical capacity to provide lawful interception (LI) of communications, and the handover of designated customer retained data (RD) to law enforcement pursuant to proper authorization — generally an authoritative warrant. It is a uniform requirement in basically every country in the world.

The "blame the foreigners" and "play-to-win faux races" gambits in Washington traditionally focus on whoever is perceived as ahead of the U.S. It has variously shifted from Europe to Asia over the decades. However, The Genius on high has ramped up jingoism and xenophobia to stratospheric levels and been taking aim at China to bully them into bilateral trade concessions. So, the FCC is now dutifully complying by playing two of its cards together — USF monies and CALEA.

In late November, the FCC on its own accord morphed an existing two-year-old rulemaking proceeding attempting to ban "designated” telecommunication equipment vendors from the U.S. market and compensating carriers with Universal Service Funds, into a CALEA proceeding, and proposed a new CALEA technical standard. As the Commission noted, it was "looking for a source of its [banning] authority," and appeared to believe that CALEA for 5G was such a source.

The FCC proposed a very simplistic new "CALEA 5G standard." It states that a U.S. provider of communication services "must certify...that it does or services [including software] produced or provided by any company designated by the Commission." The rule is found in Appendix B on page 67 of the FCC document. The rest of the information about CALEA is found in paragraphs 35-37 and 132.

The FCC rule covering the "designated company" part is found In Appendix A on page 66. It says that the Commission can "either sua sponte or in response to a petition from an outside party when a company poses a national security threat to the integrity of communications networks or the communications supply chain" deem any company as a national security threat within 31 days. It applies "to any and all equipment or services, including software, produced or provided by a covered company." Once designated, the company is not only out of business in the U.S., but no communication provider within the FCC's jurisdiction can use the company's equipment, services, or software anywhere, domestically or overseas. Thus far, the only companies targeted for designation are "Huawei and ZTE, along with their subsidiaries, parents, and/or affiliates." However, the new fast-track rule remains for others who get out of favour. There is legitimate concern about what the FCC is mindlessly doing here. The entire scheme is rather profound and draconian as well as patently unacceptable under longstanding public international law.

The FCC seriously perverts CALEA

Beginning with the least significant concern — the Commission is unlawfully weaponizing CALEA in a manner never intended. The FCC attempts to assert its authority based on Sec. 105 of the Act, which deals with the administrative process of implementing Lawful Interception (LI) and Retained Data (RD) production orders, combined with Sec. 107 authority dealing with technical requirements and standards when industry standards are deficient.

However, apparently unbeknownst to the FCC, rather significant work over the past six years amongst communication providers, vendors, and law enforcement agencies largely from Western nations were undertaken to develop an array of 5G CALEA technical standards to address the very concerns the FCC raises. The FCC has never participated in any known 5G CALEA industry technical work or forums, and its published documents in the proceeding display a rather astounding lack of understanding about 5G systems. Yet it not only ignores the existing industry standards, but it is also asserting its own CALEA standard that is essentially so vague and technically ludicrous as to be unimplementable.

Not only does the FCC fail to distinguish between the two fundamentally different and compartmentalized 5G provider categories — network and services — it requires those providers to certify that they don't use equipment, services, or software provided by any company the FCC "designates" after 31-day proceedings. In a vast, autonomous, 5G ecosystem of global, extraterritorial, virtualized network architectures and services on demand — using constantly moving and changing equipment, services, software, users, and objects — it is not fathomable how anyone could even begin to undertake such a certification assessment. How would a 5G provider instantiate customer services to other countries or implement 5G home-routed roaming without using designated vendor equipment, services or software? Adding to the complications are the constantly evolving specifications that constitute the basis for 5G. Those specifications advance significantly almost every year with new releases — currently Rel. 15 and progressing rapidly toward Rel. 16. Work on Releases 17 and 18 have begun. The industry and government experts who develop the 5G CALEA standards are constantly working, and evolve them with each new 5G release.

So, the Commission in its self-assumed wisdom and interest in pleasing the tweeter in the White House has substituted its profoundly ill-informed technical requirements for those developed by a diverse set of specialists producing workable solutions over the past six years.

The U.S. ends up with a costly, seriously deficient, insecure 5G infrastructure

To make matters worse, neither the FCC nor any other Federal agency, have promulgated any 5G technical performance or security standards whatsoever for the infrastructure and services provided to the public. Beginning in the 1990s, the FCC began deferring entirely to industry collaborative bodies to develop those standards without any oversight or requirements other than CALEA. Indeed, they went further by essentially eliminating participation in the bodies by staff or analyzing ongoing developments. The belief was that the marketplace would magically sort out these matters and that the "internet economy" would somehow compensate for the deficiencies.

However, over the past several years, as the tectonic shift to 5G began to take place, a considerable array of companies and security agencies in countries throughout the world began to devote significant resources to develop and adopt by consensus, necessary 5G performance and risk mitigation specifications. Chinese vendors have been significantly engaged in that activity — among other things — to meet the extensive security requirements in their own domestic market as well as foreign ones.

Although several years ago, the FCC contemplated adopting 5G infrastructure security requirements, it was stopped by The Genius as part of his deregulatory mania. It is also a matter of record that the FCC has failed to participate in any 5G industry security technical activities, much less established any requirements except for the rather preposterous new CALEA and USF requirements. (See for example, the lack of FCC participation even in the online SA3 (5G security) meeting this week.) As a result, billions of USF monies will be parceled out to buy whatever "non-designated" vendor equipment, services, and software is available.

The only way to legitimately meet the new FCC CALEA 5G requirements would be for U.S. providers and their vendors to develop their own non-standard 5G specifications, at significantly increased prices, and build local 5G enclaves that consumed enormous overhead to constantly verify they were FCC CALEA compliant and not "using" any designated vendor equipment, software, and services for domestic or international communication. This would necessarily include customers connected to their networks as well. Ironically, those U.S. 5G enclaves could otherwise possess all manner of vulnerabilities and be at risk, as there are no other FCC security requirements in its rules.

The U.S. gets left out of the 5G global market

Although The Genius may be pleased, it's not clear what benefit the U.S. public or industry get out of the FCC actions here. The allowable equipment, services, and software will be some weird U.S. version of 5G that is highly specialized for the U.S. domestic market, and probably proprietary. U.S. vendors and providers are already being scared off of participating in global industry standards activities by the Export Administration Regulations (EAR). It is also unclear how extraterritorial home routing roaming could be done, so it would be difficult or impossible for mobile users to roam into or out of the U.S. lest a compliant U.S. provider might invoke equipment, services, or software provided by a designated company. In some ways, it mirrors the new U.S. immigration restrictions and The Wall.

The isolated U.S. version of 5G will be significantly more costly, underperforming, less safe, less innovative, and lack global interoperability. U.S. vendors and service providers pursuing markets in other countries will likely be frozen out of some of them on the basis of reciprocity, or have to operate entirely from abroad in the local domestic markets. In short, the U.S. gets its own stone-age 5G, and its transnational providers get disadvantaged. However, the FCC can have pride in meeting the White House 5G xenophobic mandates to eliminate all touchpoints to anything from Chinese sources.

Of course, this story doesn't stop with China. If The Genius gets angered with Europe, Korea, Japan or any other country and starts tweeting, there might be one of those FCC 31-day proceedings to designate their companies as well. What is ensuing here is basically a purposeful attack on the world's 170-year-old system of public international law of telecommunication and the thousands of people who collaborate globally on the implementing norms and standards. It is being replaced with unilaterally asserted chaos.

Other sovereign nations are unlikely to accept this kind of behavior, and the shunning and retaliatory scenarios are not good. As a former FCC senior staff member, this kind of egregious behavior is dismaying and embarrassing. However, that is the way 5G Dementia goes in Washington these days, and will probably one day be historically explained.

Written by Anthony Rutkowski, Principal, Netmagic Associates LLC | 3/1/20
It would be a foolish U.S. business that tried to sell chlorine-washed chicken in Europe — a region where very different food standards apply. But in the high-tech world of algorithmically assisted hiring, it’s a different story. A number of startups are selling data-driven tech tools designed to comply with U.S. equality laws into the […] | 2/27/20

Disney on Tuesday announced that Bob Iger is stepping down after 15 years as CEO of the media giant, and Bob Chapek will succeed him in the job.

Effective immediately, Iger will assume the role of executive chairman and direct Disney’s creative endeavors, while leading the company’s board to ensure a smooth transition through the end of his contract on Dec. 31, 2021.

Chapek, who most recently served as chairman of Disney’s parks, experiences and consumer products division, has been with the company for 27 years in a variety of roles. He oversaw the Disney’s largest business segment, with operations around the globe and more than 170,000 employees worldwide. In 2018, the parks and resorts segment brought in $20.3 billion in revenue, up 10% from 2017 and nearly 20% from 2016. As CEO, his annual salary will increase to $2.5 million.

Chapek previously served as distribution head for the film studio from 2009 to 2011 before a stint as head of Disney’s consumer products. While he’s not seen as someone with creative chops, one former Disney executive who worked with Chapek praised him for his cost-cutting skills. “What he did in consumer products, what he did at parks is extract good margins out of businesses by reducing costs,” the individual told TheWrap last fall.

Also Read: Disney+ Tops 28 Million Paid Subscribers, Company Beats Q1 Earnings Expectations

Chapek was among the three top Disney executives in the running for the top job, along with Walt Disney Television chairman Peter Rice and Kevin Meyer, who oversees Disney+ and the company’s other streaming services as chairman of direct-to-consumer & international.

Chapek, only the seventh CEO in Disney’s 100-year-plus history, will have big shoes to fill. Since Iger took over in 2005, he’s increased Disney’s net income from $2.5 billion to $13.1 billion as the stock price has ballooned 450%. He capped his final full year with a record seven seven blockbusters that topped $1 billion in ticket sales at the global box office.

Iger’s contract has been extended three times prior while he’s publicly talked about his plans to vacate the Magic Kingdom, most recently prolonging his retirement to oversee last year’s $71.3 billion acquisition of Fox’s film and TV entertainment assets and the launch of the Disney+ streaming service.

Also Read: Box Office Year In Review: Disney Conquers, But Who Else Had a Good 2019?

“With the successful launch of Disney’s direct-to-consumer businesses and the integration of Twenty-First Century Fox well underway, I believe this is the optimal time to transition to a new CEO,” Iger said in a statement. “I have the utmost confidence in Bob and look forward to working closely with him over the next 22 months as he assumes this new role and delves deeper into Disney’s multifaceted global businesses and operations, while I continue to focus on the company’s creative endeavors.

Chapek added in his own statement, “I am incredibly honored and humbled to assume the role of CEO of what I truly believe is the greatest company in the world, and to lead our exceptionally talented and dedicated cast members and employees.”

He also offered praise for his predecessor. “Bob Iger has built Disney into the most admired and successful media and entertainment company, and I have been lucky to enjoy a front-row seat as a member of his leadership team,” he said. “I share his commitment to creative excellence, technological innovation and international expansion, and I will continue to embrace these same strategic pillars going forward. Everything we have achieved thus far serves as a solid foundation for further creative storytelling, bold innovation and thoughtful risk-taking.”

Also Read: Emma Watts Out as President of Production at Disney-Owned Twentieth Century Studios

During his tenure at the Parks segment, Chapek oversaw the opening of Disney’s first theme park and resort in mainland China, Shanghai Disney Resort; the addition of numerous guest offerings across Disney’s six resort destinations in the U.S., Europe and Asia, including the creation of the new Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge lands at Disneyland and Walt Disney World and the addition of Marvel-inspired attractions around the globe; and the expansion of Disney Cruise Line with the announced construction of three new ships.

From 2011 to 2015, Chapek was President of the former Disney Consumer Products segment, where he drove the technology-led transformation of the Company’s consumer products, retail and publishing operations.

Also Read: Disney CEO Bob Iger's 2019 Pay Drops $18 Million From Prior Year to $47.5 Million

Prior to that, he served as president of distribution for Disney studios and was responsible for overseeing the studios’ overall content distribution strategy across multiple platforms including theatrical exhibition, home entertainment, pay TV, digital entertainment and new media.

He also served as president of Disney’s home entertainment, where he spearheaded the successful “vault strategy” for the Disney’s iconic films and transformed the primary format of home entertainment from DVD to Blu-ray.

“The Board has been actively engaged in succession planning for the past several years, and after consideration of internal and external candidates, we unanimously elected Bob Chapek as the next CEO of The Walt Disney Company,” Disney’s lead independent director Susan Arnold said in a statement. “Mr. Chapek has shown outstanding leadership and a proven ability to deliver strong results across a wide array of businesses, and his tremendous understanding of the breadth and depth of the Company and appreciation for the special connection between Disney and its consumers makes him the perfect choice as the next CEO.

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Paramount Pictures announced on Monday that the release of “Sonic the Hedgehog” in China has been indefinitely postponed as the coronavirus outbreak continues to keep movie theaters and other businesses across the country closed.

“As the whole country and world unite together to fight the outbreak of coronavirus, we would like to express our gratitude and respect to all the medical staff, the rescue personnel, and people in service who provide us with much-needed assistance and support during this time,” read a statement from Paramount.

“Sonic the Hedgehog” has been the most successful film for Paramount in over a year, setting a new record for video game adaptations with a $58 million domestic opening weekend. After two weekends in theaters worldwide, the film has grossed $106.6 million in North America and $203.1 million worldwide.

Also Read: 'Mission: Impossible VII' Halts Production in Italy Due to Coronavirus Outbreak

But release of the film in Asian markets where the SEGA video game icon is well known has been held back by the spread of the coronavirus, which has infected tens of thousands of people in China. Health officials in the country have reported over 77,000 cases with nearly 2,600 people killed. An additional 2,000+ cases have been reported in other countries, with major outbreaks occurring in Italy, Iran, and South Korea.

The coronavirus first began to spread a month ago during the start of the Lunar New Year, a holiday period that is critical to the Chinese economy but especially to movie theaters, which only screen Chinese-produced films by government mandate and see the highest audience turnout during the season. Last year, combined revenue on the first day of Lunar New Year set a new single-day record for the market, and grosses for the entire period came in at approximately $835 million.

Also Read: Coronavirus Lockdown Cripples Chinese Box Office: Will Hollywood Movies Take a Hit?

But in response to advisement from health officials, nearly all of China’s movie theaters have remained closed for the past month, costing exhibitors billions in ticket and concessions revenue. “Sonic the Hedgehog,” which was scheduled for release this Friday, was set to be the first major Hollywood import in China after the Lunar New Year period ended. Aside from “Sonic,” no other Hollywood blockbusters, including Disney’s expected megahit remake of “Mulan,” had received a release date.

The epidemic has also had an impact on Paramount’s production plans, as filming for the seventh “Mission: Impossible” film with Tom Cruise in Italy has been postponed due to an outbreak there this past weekend. More than 200 cases and five deaths have been reported there, the highest of any country in Europe.

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Coronavirus Lockdown Cripples Chinese Box Office: Will Hollywood Movies Take a Hit? | 2/24/20
I would really, really like an oily biscuit with honey and a touch of cinnamon after finishing this film. Please. First Cow is the latest feature made by American filmmaker Kelly Reichardt (of Old Joy, Meek's Cutoff, Night Moves). After initially premiering at the Telluride & New York Film Festivals last fall, it has made an appearance at the Berlin Film Festival this year showing as a European premiere in the main competition section. Set at the beginning of the 19th century in the rural Northwest (mainly in Oregon), the film is about a friendship and successful local business started by two lonely misfits. It's not just a film about a cow, it's not just a film about friends, and it's not just a film about the Northwest frontier. It has so much depth and heart and humility, an entirely wonderful film. I think I loved it, to be fully honest, which even surprises me. As the title indicates, Kelly Reichardt's ...
U.S. venture capital firm Quake Capital is partnering with German telco giant Deutsche Telekom and Mediengruppe RTL Deutschland on a new technology accelerator program focused on 5G immersive entertainment. Based in Cologne, Quake Europe will target seed-level investments in early stage consumer-focused 5G tech ventures in Europe. Deutsche Telekom tech incubator Hubraum is serving as […] | 2/19/20

The continued growth of the games industry has been both a huge surprise and an inevitable certainty: Surprising because very few observers expected it to reach the $180 billion annualized market size it currently boasts, and inevitable because “Fortnite,” “Mario,” “Halo,” “Candy Crush” and Twitch have all become fixtures with audiences in the living room, at the office and on the go.

This year will be critical in the evolution of games. Here are six key trends in the gaming industry to keep an eye on in 2020:

1. Gaming could eclipse the market size of paid TV by 2021 based on current growth trajectories. 
In terms of overall revenue, gaming is now bigger than music and movies combined. Gaming is on track to become the No. 1 entertainment category in the next several years. IDG estimates that gaming reached roughly $180 billion in revenue last year and is on track to exceed $230 billion by 2023. Asia-Pac (led by China, Japan and South Korea) is the biggest overall bucket, followed by North America. But rest of world — led by what we are calling “The Opportunity Markets” of Southeast Asia, Middle East North Africa, Australia/New Zealand, Russia, India, Latin America and Turkey, among others — will post the strongest Compounded Annual Growth Rate in the next 4 years — 13% versus 6% for North America, 9% for Europe and 5% for Asia.

Also Read: 'Sonic the Hedgehog' Breaks Video Game Box Office Record With $58 Million Opening

2. The games market will become more fragmented and more consolidated at the same time.
In other words, there will be growth of cross-play, where a title can be played simultaneously by players of different platforms  (a PS4 “Call of Duty” gamer can play against a friend who has “Call of Duty” for Xbox One). At the same time, there will be growth of siloed walled gardens, where publishers build out their own platforms. The two sub-industries will be able to coexist in 2020.

While these two trends appear to be diametrically opposed to each other, there will be a mix of some new cross-play collaborations above and beyond “Fortnite”/”Minecraft”/”Call of Duty,” while at the same time EA, Ubisoft, Bethesda, Rockstar and others will continue to build out their own siloed platforms to complement their existing external platform partnerships. Sometime in the next 3-4 years, however, IDG believes that there will be a consumer reckoning, whereby having to log into 10+ platform accounts to access all of a gamer’s gaming content will become too cumbersome and cross-play/interoperability will be valued over fragmentation.

3. Gaming represents the next frontier for social media and for traditional media.
Players and viewers spend an increasing amount of time in share of day through game communities. As an example, Netflix’s greatest competitor might not be Disney+ or Hulu. “Fortnite” is a competitive threat, and Netflix said as much last year when the company stated that “Fortnite” was cannibalizing Netflix customers’ screen time. This battle for entertainment share of day is becoming more multi-faceted, and in many fronts of this battle, gaming and esports are winning. When evaluating the games market, it is important to take a community-centric approach. Both competitive and livestreaming platforms are benefiting from this broader trend, and it is reshaping entertainment as we know it.

Also Read: All 46 Video Game Movies Ranked, Including 'Sonic the Hedgehog'

4. Gaming and esports are the new Trojan horse for Gen Z and millennials.
Although there remains a sizable audience and appetite for traditional media and linear TV, those in younger demographics are often discovering content for the first time on Twitch, YouTube and other communities where gaming and esports are primary content drivers. These same audience segments represent the same people that traditional media have termed “cord-cutters,” and the growing share of gaming and esports is beginning to impact traditional media and even traditional sports.

While a streaming viewer of an esports event might hold a different value versus a Super Bowl television viewer, the scale and scope of gaming/esports/livestreaming entertainment can no longer be denied. Even if we split the League of Legends World Championship Series audience in half, since half of the global audience came from China, the remaining half is still pretty in-line with the total audience of this month’s Super Bowl event. And while the growth in viewership for traditional sports events has decelerated and, in some cases, declined year-over-year, the growth in gaming/esports viewership continues apace.

5. Esports is finally growing up and approaching esports 2.0.
In esports 1.0, the ecosystem was beginning to build out, but there was still a focus on short-term opportunities and a more transactional nature to partnerships. Many of the lower-quality companies are beginning to get weeded out of the market, while top-notch esports teams, franchises, brands and leagues are emerging with best practices and credibility to lend long-term strength to this burgeoning market. However, a rising tide does not necessarily lift all boats, and the same can be said in the case of esports.

There will be winners, but there will also be a lot of losers during this consolidation phase, as the market transitions in a flight to quality, with cleaner business models where dollars are tracked more accurately, operating models become more crystallized and less emblematic of the Wild Wild West. The partnership focus will become less transactional and, instead, will emphasize sustainable, long-term relationships.

Also Read: A New Era for Video Game Streaming? Competitors Target Twitch

6. Gaming and esports will benefit this year from a variety of key catalysts.
Next-gen console launches will release sometime in Q4 2020 for both PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X. Although console transitions are always disruptive to some extent, our checks with game developers indicate that there is more seamlessness in building next-gen content this time around versus prior transitions.

Cloud gaming platforms are still finding their footing, but there should be a bit more traction in 2020, although the bigger potential for this market is still a long ways off. VR gaming will also remain on the periphery but begin to establish itself more as we begin to see better VR-focused game content in the form of “Half-Life: Alyx” from Valve, among others. And the most important innovations in the games market will likely come from business model innovations, in addition to content innovations. Anticipate new genre mash-ups but also new ways of monetizing consumers that will provide additional value and engagement to the gaming experience.

Related stories from TheWrap:

'Sonic the Hedgehog' Breaks Video Game Box Office Record With $58 Million Opening

All 46 Video Game Movies Ranked, Including 'Sonic the Hedgehog'

A New Era for Video Game Streaming? Competitors Target Twitch | 2/18/20

Reverse domain name hijacking (RDNH) can be considered a severe threat to any honest-to-goodness small business or your average website owner. It refers to the practice wherein trademark owners attempt to cease a long-time domain's operation by filing a Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy (UDRP) dispute to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). In some cases, these domains already existed even before someone else filed a trademark for them.

Unfortunately, RDNH claims aren't necessarily valid or filed with reason. Gray areas concerning trademarks, common law rights, and rightful domain ownership are constant in most resolutions. However, WHOIS lookup tools can help respondents up their chances of retaining their domains.

The SteveJobs[.]com Case

In December 2019, The Steve Jobs Archive, LLC, a trust run by Steve Jobs's widow, Laurene Powell Jobs, won the right to own the domain name SteveJobs[.]com. It was previously owned by a South Korean national who goes by the name Steve Jobs Kim for nearly two decades. He used the domain to offer consulting services and publish technology-related news.

The National Arbitration Forum (NAF) panel concluded that the name "Steve Jobs" obtained common law trademark protection before the domain was registered. The name, after all, has become synonymous with Apple, Inc. and its commercial activities. NAF also stated in its decision that the respondent might be misleading website visitors into thinking that it represents Steve Jobs and Apple to some degree.

Among the experts who went up in arms about the decision was domain and intellectual property rights lawyer Paul Keating. In a post, he argued that the respondent never used the domain in bad faith and has owned it for years. He also stressed that Steve Jobs never used his name to represent any Apple goods and services or never treated his name as a brand during his lifetime.

RDNH cases are known for being extremely tricky. In many instances, exceptions to UDRP and World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) restrictions are made to resolve disputes. As such, decisions are often subjective and possibly at the expense of the "little guy." But are respondents utterly helpless in such a case?

How a WHOIS Lookup Tool Can Help

WHOIS lookup tools provide a means for cyber investigators and rightful domain owners to uncover ill motives from claimants and protect themselves from RDNH. Such tools allow them to look up available WHOIS records to reveal information associated with a domain. Below are some other uses of WHOIS lookup tools:

  1. Conducting background checks on domain owners: A WHOIS lookup tool can be used to run background checks on claimants in the event of disputes. It reveals an owner's company and contact details that can be used to build a profile and prove the use of the domain in bad faith, for example.
  2. Validating potential business partners and acquirers: A study revealed that 59% of companies claim they suffered a breach due to a third party in 2018. Cyber risk assessors, business executives, and companies can rely on WHOIS API to perform due diligence on third-party vendors they plan to do business with or potential buyers of their organizations.
  3. Supporting cyber investigations: WHOIS lookup tools support e-discovery as well as digital forensics and incident response (DFIR) processes. Security researchers can use it for hunting down cybercriminals and gain an in-depth understanding of their infrastructure. They can also use it together with endpoint protection and detection tools to prevent malicious entities from interacting with their network.

Fighting Back RDNH with Strong Evidence

Going back to the SteveJobs[.]com case, Kim could have questioned (if he has not) the legitimacy of the trust's claims by looking into its background. The trust is a relatively new company (it was incorporated in 2015), as records from a public database show.


Kim could have also pointed out that his domain has been up way before the foundation decided to use it. Here's a snapshot of domain's details which we've retrieved with the tool. As you can see, Kim's domain was registered 16 years before the trust's founding date.

Meanwhile, the company only obtained the trademark for "Steve Jobs" in South Korea in 2018. This only goes to show that it did not own the mark when the domain was created in 1999. The company also applied for the name and mark in several countries such as Mexico, China, Singapore, Canada, and Australia during the same year. Some of its applications are still pending.

Source: WIPO Global Brand Database

Additionally, Kim could have used WHOIS history records to provide further evidence of the disputed domain's fair usage using a web archive capturing tool like Wayback Machine. He has, after all, consistently renewed its ownership and paid for its maintenance. Kim also did not attempt to hide any of his registration details, nameservers, and other pertinent WHOIS records, as most cybersquatters do.

Unfortunately for Kim, his appeals did not work. But while it's easy to assume that respondents battling it out with a massive brand name or entity like Apple or Steve Jobs are destined to fail, that's not always the case. In 2017, two brothers, Vincenzo and Giacomo Barbato, won the right to use the name "Steve Jobs" for their fashion line in the European Union. A simple WIPO search also reveals other trademark owners of the world-famous visionary's name.

* * *

Protecting one's brand marks on top of running a business is undeniably tough. WHOIS lookup tools like WHOIS API, along with other domain research and monitoring tools, can help you build your defense against unjust RDNH disputes as well as bolster your organization's cybersecurity posture. | 2/16/20

Last month INHOPE, a global trade association of child abuse reporting hotlines, rejected a joint call from Prostasia Foundation, the National Coalition Against Censorship, Article 19, and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, that its members should stop treating cartoons as if they were images of child sexual abuse. As our joint letter pointed out, INHOPE's conflation of offensive artwork with actual abuse images has resulted in the misdirection of police resources against artists and fans — predominantly LGBTQ+ people and women — rather than towards the apprehension of those who abuse real children.

INHOPE is not a child protection organization, but an industry association for organizations and agencies that provide censorship services to government and private industry. Its Articles of Association are surprisingly explicit about this: its objective is to "facilitate and promote the work of INHOPE Member Hotlines, whose work is to eradicate illegal content, primarily child sexual abuse material, on the internet" [emphasis added].

It executes this mission by collecting personal information of those who share images that are reported to it (which can include a name, email address, phone number, and IP address), and sharing this information among its member hotlines and with police. Again, it is explicit about this, acknowledging that its "core business revolves around the exchange of sensitive data." INHOPE members have actively lobbied to weaken European privacy rules so that they can maintain these data collection practices, while refusing to accept a compromise allowing continued scanning for actual child abuse images.

Such data collection is clearly justifiable when it is limited to actual sexual abuse images. But INHOPE's data collection isn't limited to this. It siphons up reports of all manner of reports that its members declare to be illegal in their country, and (with one exception mentioned below) gives them another "once-over" to determine whether they are illegal worldwide, only in the reporting or hosting country, or not at all, before forwarding them to INTERPOL. Even if this assessment leads to a determination that the images are lawful, INHOPE doesn't delete them. Inexplicably, it instead classifies them as "Other Child-Related Content," retains them in a database, and sends them to law enforcement for what it describes as "documentation purposes."

Images reported by NCMEC, the American hotline, undergo even less vetting. Despite being an INHOPE member, NCMEC doesn't utilize the services of INHOPE analysts, but directly shares reported images and associated personal information with law enforcement agencies around the world. According to Swiss authorities, up to 90% of these images are later found to be lawful.

INHOPE chose to mischaracterize our call as being grounded in a misunderstanding of the fact that some countries do prohibit artistic sexual representations of minors by law. But our letter explicitly acknowledged that fact, by calling on INHOPE to establish a policy for its members that "artistic images should not be added to image hash lists that INHOPE members maintain, and should not be reported to authorities, unless required by the law where the hotline operates” [emphasis added].

There are indeed some countries in which lawmakers do ill-advisedly use the same laws to criminalize the dissemination of offensive art as they use to prohibit the image-based abuse of real children. But the risks of an international organization allowing national authorities to act as gatekeepers of the images that it it treats as child abuse and reports to INTERPOL should be obvious.

For example, Canada's overbroad child pornography laws have recently drawn public attention over the much-criticised prosecution of an author and publisher for a novel that includes a brief scene of child sexual abuse in its retelling of the story of Hansel and Gretel. The Canadian Center for Child Protection, one of only two INHOPE members that proactively searches for illegal material, was responsible for the arrest of a a 17 girl for posting artwork to her blog, when it reported her to authorities in Costa Rica where such artwork is also illegal.

In other countries where cartoon images are illegal, criminal laws are used to disproportionately target and criminalize LGBTQ+ people and women. An example given in our letter was the case of a Russian trans woman who was arrested over cartoon images and sentenced to imprisonment in a men's prison.

Russia's INHOPE member the Friendly Runet Foundation encourages people to report if they are "exasperated by the on-line materials transgressing morality," and boasts that it was "created at the direct participation and works in close partnership with the Department "K" of the Russian ministry of Interior." This terminology, and the hotline's association with the ministry that criminalized "gay propaganda," is understood by Russian citizens as an attack on LGBTQ+ people's speech. It is noted that no LGBTQ+ representatives are included on INHOPE's Advisory Board. 

INHOPE can't do anything, directly, about unjust national laws that conflate artistic images with child abuse. INHOPE and its members also can't do much to prevent conservative members of the public from reporting non-actionable content (although one member has taken steps to address this problem). That's why we are directly targeting the public with our "Don't report it, block it” information campaign, to stem such false reports at the source.

But what INHOPE can do is to decide what to do with reports that it receives about artistic content. Passing them to law enforcement authorities, using a censorship and surveillance infrastructure that was established to deal with real images of child sexual abuse, isn't its only option here. Neither is it necessary to place those who share such images in the crosshairs of police, especially in countries that have unjust laws or repressive governments.

In 2019, we held a seminar with Internet companies and experts to discuss more proportionate ways of dealing with content such as child nudity, child modeling, and artistic images, that doesn't rise to the legal of child abuse, but which can still be triggering or offensive, or harmful when shared in the wrong context. Through a multi-stakeholder process, this resulted in the development of a set of principles for sexual content moderation and child protection that were launched at last year's Internet Governance Forum.

INHOPE already has a Code of Practice that its members are required to comply with. To be clear, some INHOPE members already do have good practices, and Britain's Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) is one of these: although cartoon images are unlawful in the United Kingdom and the IWF is mandated to accept reports about them, it doesn't include these reports in its hash lists of abuse images, nor share them with foreign police. Our joint letter invited INHOPE to take the opportunity to amend its Code of Practice to apply similar standards to its other members. Its decision not to consider this doesn't reflect well on the organization.

Internet reporting hotlines are selling a product to law enforcement authorities: a censorship service for which actual images of child abuse are only the selling point. This can be a lucrative gig; NCMEC alone received $33 million from the United States government in 2018. Therefore, as a business proposition, it makes sense for INHOPE and its members to ask few questions about the scope of the censorship services their governments call upon them to provide. Conversely, since almost no federal money is being allocated towards abuse prevention, there is little incentive for them to invest in prevention interventions that could reduce abuse in the long run.

But these perverse incentives are leading it down a dangerous path. It's time for us to call this censorship cartel to account, and to demand that it consider the human rights of the innocent people who are being hurt by its approach. The plain fact is that INHOPE doesn't represent the voices of experts who work on child sexual abuse prevention, it represents the law enforcement sector. By refusing to curtail its activities to place the censorship of artistic images outside its remit, INHOPE has lost the moral authority that provides the only justification for its sweeping and dangerous powers.

Written by Jeremy Malcolm, Executive Director, Prostasia Foundation | 2/14/20
Europe has emerged as a key region for hatching and scaling fintech companies, and today one of the bigger hopefuls is announcing a large round of funding, from a mix of strategic investors, to keep growing its business. Fenergo, a startup from Dublin that builds solutions for banks and other financial management companies to help […] | 2/12/20

After the disappointing “Birds of Prey” opening last week, movie theaters and studios are hoping for better returns during the Valentine’s/Presidents’ Day weekend, which will see the DC Comics movie attempt a rebound against a varied slate of new releases led by the Paramount family film “Sonic the Hedgehog.”

“Sonic” will be the No. 1 film on this 4-day weekend as both Paramount and independent trackers are projecting an extended opening total in the low $40 million range. While that would be a decent start for this $95 million-budgeted CGI/live-action hybrid, Paramount is aiming much higher than decent, and the studio likely hopes for a theatrical run strong enough to merit a sequel.

“It was a really rough 2019 for Paramount, and that’s in good part because they just don’t have enough reliable franchises,” said Exhibitor Relations analyst Jeff Bock. “If ‘Sonic’ can become popular with families and overseas audiences, it could really help them build a more consistent movie slate that won’t have as many long slumps like we saw last year.”

Also Read: Here's How 'Birds of Prey' Could Rebound From a Weak Box Office Opening

There was a time when it seemed like “Sonic” was headed for disaster. When the film’s first trailer was released last April ahead of a then-scheduled November release, Sonic fans, critics and even the uninitiated mocked the character’s eerily human-looking design so thoroughly that Paramount moved back the release to February to make time for a total redesign of the character. The new design turned out much closer to the character’s video game appearance, and when a second trailer was released, reception among kids and “Sonic” fans was far more positive.

That trailer was followed by one of the biggest marketing campaigns for a Paramount release in recent years, with billboards, commercials, and bus ads prominently featuring Sonic’s makeover. But the blue hedgehog wasn’t alone. The campaign has also heavily pushed Jim Carrey, who plays Sonic’s nemesis Dr. Robotnik. The past decade saw Carrey take a big step back from the slapstick roles that made him a big star in the 90s and 2000s, with the one exception being a return to one of his most famous roles with “Dumb and Dumber To” in 2014.

Also Read: Jim Carrey on 'Sonic' Redesign Forced by Fans: 'It's Either Going to Be a Good Thing or a Bad Thing'

The Robotnik footage shown in the trailers have teased a return to the Carrey of old, which might lure in moviegoers who aren’t fans of Sonic but who grew up watching Carrey 25 years ago and are nostalgic for his brand of humor. If demographic breakdowns this weekend show a stronger than expected turnout from non-family audiences over the age of 35, that might be a reason why.

“Sonic the Hedgehog” will also release in 41 countries overseas, including in South America, Australia, and much of Europe. But China and Japan, the Asian markets where Sonic is most popular, are still to come. But even if word of mouth is positive both domestically and internationally this weekend, Paramount could see overseas numbers sag if the coronavirus crisis persists by the time “Sonic” is released in Chinese theaters on February 28.

China’s government has ordered the closure of almost every theater in the country as part of an effort to contain the virus that has as of this writing killed over 1,000 people. The lockdown began during the Lunar New Year holiday when many Chinese films come out, and those films have had their theatrical releases indefinitely postponed. Even if theaters are back in business by the time “Sonic” is supposed to be released in China, it’s quite likely that it will have to compete with an extremely jammed market filled with local fare like “Detective Chinatown 3,” reducing how much money it might make in Asia. That will be something both Paramount and analysts will have to keep in mind when it comes time to look at the overall theatrical performance and determine whether we will see a “Sonic 2” in the future.

Also Read: Coronavirus Lockdown Cripples Chinese Box Office: Will Hollywood Movies Take a Hit?

Directed by Jeff Fowler, “Sonic the Hedgehog” follows the SEGA video game icon (voiced by Ben Schwartz) as he flees his world and arrives on Earth to hide from those who want to take his super-speed powers. But after an accidental encounter with a small-town Montana sheriff (James Marsden,) Sonic’s presence is exposed to the world, and he must team up with the cop to avoid being hunted down by the evil Dr. Robotnik. Tika Sumpter also stars in the film, which was written by Pat Casey and Josh Miller.

In addition to “Sonic,” two other wide releases will try to bring in Valentine’s Day couples looking for a date movie: the Sony/Blumhouse horror film “Fantasy Island” and the Universal romance “The Photograph.”

“Fantasy Island” is a dark take on the classic Ricardo Montalban TV series, starring Michael Peña in Montalban’s role as Mr. Roarke, the owner of a mysterious remote island that offers to make the wishes of its visitors come true. But for Roarke’s visitors, those granted wishes soon turn into nightmares, forcing them to figure out the island’s secrets if they want to make it out alive. Directed by Jeff Wadlow, the film is projected to earn a 4-day opening of around $18 million against a reported budget of $7 million. Sony is projecting a $13-15 million start.

“The Photograph” stars LaKeith Stanfield as a journalist who forms an unexpected relationship with the estranged daughter (Issa Rae) of a recently deceased photographer he is writing a story on. Lil Rel Howrey, Rob Morgan and Courtney B. Vance also star in the film, which was written and directed by Stella Meghie. The film has a reported budget of $16 million and is projected to earn a 4-day opening weekend of $12-14 million.

None of this weekend’s new releases had a critics score on Rotten Tomatoes at time of writing.

Related stories from TheWrap:

New 'Sonic the Hedgehog' Design Wins Over Rebellious Fans: 'All Is Forgiven'

Jim Carrey on 'Sonic' Redesign Forced by Fans: 'It's Either Going to Be a Good Thing or a Bad Thing'

'Sonic the Hedgehog' Director Vows to Change Character Design After Fan Backlash | 2/12/20
Revolut, the European banking and money transfer app that now claims over 10 million customers, has partnered with open banking API provider TrueLayer to add bank account aggregation features to its app. The new functionality means that Revolut’s U.K. customers — both consumer and business — can now connect their external U.K. bank accounts to […] | 2/11/20

Disney confirmed this month what many people already expected:  A lot of people have already signed up for Disney+.

To be exact, 26.5 million people during the fourth quarter started paying for the new service — which comes with a long list of classic Disney movies and shows, as well as new series like “The Mandalorian.” And since the start of 2020, Disney has added another 2 million subscribers, bringing its stalwart service to 28.6 million subscribers overall. That’s excluding viewers using a free yearlong trial thanks to Disney’s partnership with Verizon.

But how does that stack up against Netflix — the top dog in streaming — and Disney’s other competitors?

TheWrap asked Ampere Analysis, a London-based entertainment research firm, to help paint an up-to-date picture of the U.S. streaming market, after Disney chief Bob Iger said the “vast majority” of its subscribers came from the United States. (Disney+ also launched in a handful of international markets — Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand — back in November; it’s expected to roll out to several European countries in the near future.)

Here’s how the top streaming services compare when looking at their domestic performance:

HBO Now comes in at about 8 million subscribers; Disney+ is at 28.6 million customers; Hulu, which is owned by Disney, is up 30.4 million subscribers; Amazon Prime Video, according to Ampere’s data, has 42.2 million accounts watching its shows in the U.S.; and Netflix leads the pack with 61 million domestic subscribers.

There are a few things worth pointing out, including Prime Video’s performance. Amazon has been notoriously reticent to share any viewer data, although it did recently reveal, during its Q4 earnings report, that it now had 150 million global Prime members. Because Prime membership offers a myriad of perks beyond access to original content like “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and “Fleabag,” comparing Prime viewing data with other services should be taken with a grain of salt; these members aren’t just signing up to watch Amazon original content, typically. And assuming most of those memberships stem from the U.S.,  it looks like a majority of Prime customers haven’t been compelled to watch Amazon’s shows.

Hulu, meanwhile, crossed the 30 million subscriber mark due, in part, to Disney’s bundling it with Disney+ and ESPN+ for $12.99 per month. The bundle also proved important for Disney’s early streaming success; average revenue per user for Disney+ was $5.56, or about 20% less than the $6.99 monthly cost for Disney+ on its own — indicating a healthy amount of its subscribers opted for its bundle package.

Netflix is pushing towards a saturation point at home, with the company adding less than 600,000 domestic subscribers last quarter. With its formidable cushion in the U.S., Netflix has increasingly looked towards padding its international lead, as well. Netflix has started to produce more original series aimed outside the U.S., with 368 non-English language original series dedicated towards its international subscribers last year — up nearly 40% from 2018.

Conspicuously missing from this graph is Apple TV+. Despite launching in November, Apple offered few details on its new streaming service when it reported its earnings last week. Even with CEO Tim Cook saying it was off to a “rousing start,” Apple decided against sharing any update on its subscriber count. Later in the same earnings call, though, Apple CFO Luca Maestri seemed to contradict Cook, saying Apple TV+ “didn’t have a material impact” on its services business.

The question moving forward will be can Disney — or any of the other services — close the gap with Netflix in the U.S.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Why Disney+ Proves the Streaming Bundle Works

Disney+ Tops 28 Million Paid Subscribers, Company Beats Q1 Earnings Expectations

Why AVOD Services Like Xumo Stand to Benefit With Rise of SVOD Offerings Like Disney+ | 2/10/20

Most of us, when we go to a website and see the little lock at the top of the browser, don't think twice and trust that we are communicating with the right company or organization. However, this is no longer the case because of a rather radical development that has largely occurred without notice or intervention by almost everyone. The web now has its own rapidly spreading version of CallerID spoofing that is about to get worse.

Thirty-five years ago, the National Security Agency working with the private sector, developed what has proven the most important and widely used means for digital identity trust. It is known as the Public Key Infrastructure digital certificate or "PKI cert" for short and was specified in a global intergovernmental standard known as ITU-T X.509.

The idea was simple. Any organization that wants to be trusted goes to a special provider known as a public Certificate Authority (CA) who is supposed to verify certain essential identity basics, and then issue a unique, encrypted key — the PKI cert — to the organization with its identity information securely contained. The platform was approved by all the world's governments and became the basis for trusted digital identity globally. Europe added further trust features through an ETSI Electronic Signatures and Infrastructures standards group.

Then came the World Wide Web with sites all over the world as a kind of universal user interface to billions of people. The problem was that users couldn't trust who was actually running the websites. So a little over ten years ago, the five companies which produce most of the world's web browsers got together with most of the CAs to develop a standard for vetting organization identity for trusted website certificates and display that information in a little lock icon that appears at the top of the browser. They collaborate and reach agreements through an organization known as the CA/Browser Forum. The activity has very far-reaching, fundamental cybersecurity consequences as they control who gets trusted, how verification occurs, and how that trust is provided to billions of users around the world.

Until relatively recently, as required by well-established global standards and practices, the PKI certs had some substantial vetting of an organization's identity, which was then coded into the certificates and displayed to end-users in the browser lock. There was even a high trust certificated known as an "extended validation certificate" that turned the lock green in most browsers and displayed the validated name.

However, starting in 2013, several parties started up a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation in Silicon Valley (Internet Security Research Group) to dramatically disrupt the digital identity world by issuing free, zero-trust, instant certificates with no organization identity vetting. These so-called Domain Certificates were then marketed commercially beginning in 2016 under the registered trademark Let's Encrypt® and browser vendors were asked to recognize them as a trusted CA. If you see one of these Let's Encrypt certificates (identified as "DST Root CA X3) and click on the lock, the Subject Organization identity information is completely missing and simply says "unknown." It is caveat emptor.

The tactic proved enormously successful as the organization itself described in a highly detailed, tell-all paper presented in a London conference made public last December. As they note in the paper, it "has grown to become the world's largest HTTPS CA… and by January 2019, it had issued over 538 million certificates..." The paper also documents how Let's Encrypt has had a profound effect on the CA market — now dominating it with 57% of the certificates. "Let's Encrypt has seen rapidly growing adoption among top million sites since its launch, while most other CAs have not." They also describe how they used the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) to leverage their activities. The commercial opportunity was further facilitated through sponsors who make tax-exempt contributions to the organization's $3.5 million reported 2018 income - some of whom then market the certificates as part of their business offerings.

The paper also admits that "important security challenges remain." The cybersecurity impacts arise — because with zero validation, anyone with interest in spoofing, hiding their identity, or otherwise exploiting security flaws can do so — and indeed have.

Legal and public policy concerns

Although Let's Encrypt has a small section in its December paper describing the "legal environment," it doesn't even begin to treat the major national security, public policy, public safety, antitrust, tort liability, law enforcement, IRS, consumer protection dimensions that have gone with virtually no notice or discussion. Perhaps the most central concern can be summed up by four questions: who gets to decide who is trusted, with what level of vetting, with what manner of notice to end users, and who bears the consequences.

The challenge of digital identity trust was largely solved 35 years ago through a comprehensive, visionary Reagan Administration initiative known as Secure Data Network Systems (SDNS) that in fact was responsible for today's X.509 PKI environment. However, all the required public-private administrative and identity vetting actions necessary to successfully implement the platform were eliminated a decade later by the Clinton-Gore Administration in the belief that Silicon-Valley itself could handle everything and grow the information economy.

As a result, we have inherited today a world of rampant cybersecurity and societal problems stemming from an inability to trust anything online, and where some of the most important identity trust decisions for most of the world's population are made by a handful of firms and organizations with no oversight or control or consequences. It seems long overdue for a concerted global public-private effort to significantly improve digital identity trust for the web and all the giga-objects and services that will constitute the new 5G virtualised communications ecosystem. Potential sweeteners for Silicon Valley with government involvement is the relief from the potentially enormous antitrust, consumer protection, and tort liability consequences.

Written by Anthony Rutkowski, Principal, Netmagic Associates LLC | 2/9/20

The last few weeks have shown that n avigating Latino identity is a minefield that can set off an explosion at any moment in American culture. Such as: Is Antonio Banderas Latino or not?

This and other hot-button debates — including the unalloyed joy at Shakira and JLo performing at the Super Bowl — expose the complexity of what it means to be Latinx. These heated discussions drive home why Hollywood desperately needs gatekeepers who understand what these cultural firestorms are really about.

That’s because the unspoken rules regarding Latino identity shift depending on the context. (We can’t even agree on what to call ourselves, but that’s a topic for another time.)

Let me break down the firestorms of the past month as a way to unpack the lessons embedded within.

1. Antonio Banderas: Colonist or Hollywood trailblazer for Latinos?

Exactly on queue, on the morning Oscar nominations were announced last month, outrage among Latinxers erupted on social media. Aside from widespread frustration with JLo’s nomination snub, despite her head-turning role in “Hustlers,” debate raged over Banderas’ nomination for his leading role in Pedro Almodóvar’s “Pain and Glory.”

The rub? For some, Banderas, who was born in Spain, does not represent diversity in Hollywood. The outrage at the suggestion that his nomination was a small win for all Latinos was so strong, one would think Banderas makes it a habit of waking up in the morning and dressing in Spanish conquistador armor before heading to Hollywood meetings. Others within the Latinx community dismissed the debate as divisive — a win for someone with Spanish-speaking roots should be a win for all.

That awkward moment when Antonio Banderas, a white man from Spain, is included with Cynthia Erivo in @CTVNews’s #OscarNoms report. Antonio Banderas, just like Catherine Zeta Jones, is a white European. #OscarsSoWhite

— Alfonso Martin Espina Opiniano (@alfonsoespina) January 13, 2020

That awkward moment when Antonio Banderas, a white man from Spain, is included with Cynthia Erivo in @CTVNews’s #OscarNoms report. Antonio Banderas, just like Catherine Zeta Jones, is a white European. #OscarsSoWhite

— Alfonso Martin Espina Opiniano (@alfonsoespina) January 13, 2020

Perhaps a more constructive conversation would be examining how Hollywood’s executive elite perceives Banderas. Have studio heads historically seen him as one of their own, a slam dunk for quintessential Hollywood roles? Or has Banderas, in his 30+ years in Hollywood, too been perceived as an “other” in those closed-door, career-defining conversations by gatekeepers?

The response to Banderas’ nomination among the Latinx community should have come as no surprise: The entertainment industry would do well in trying to understand the nuances of representation.

Mexican director Alfonso Cuarónlast year captured the ongoing struggle about the lack of representation of U.S. born Latinos in an interview with media company Remezcla.

“There is so much talk about diversity, and I mean some progress has been made, but definitely the Hispanic Americans — and specifically Chicanos — are really, really badly represented still,” Cuarón said after winning an Oscar for the feature film “Roma.” “It’s amazing, you know? It’s a huge percentage of the population.”

Why Hollywood darling “American Dirt” turned to ash

Before copies even hit the bookshelves, the Mexican migrant novel by Jeanine Cummins unleashed the wrath of many Mexican Americans and other Latinos for what has been described as the book’s unsophisticated narrative — a tale laced with stereotypes, clichés and a hollow understanding of the journey to cross the border.

Imperative Entertainment, the production company behind Clint Eastwood’s “The Mule,” acquired the rights to the novel after a publishing bidding war resulted in a seven-figure sum for Cummins. In the author’s note, Cummins now famously says she wished “someone slightly browner than me” had written the novel, before conceding she had the “capacity” to be some sort of a cultural bridge, presumably because her husband was an undocumented immigrant (from Ireland, it was later known) and her grandmother is Puerto Rican.

Barnes & Noble

Did Hollywood jump before doing its due diligence? How we tell the important stories of our time is just as important as deciding what stories to tell.

The “American Dirt” controversy reminds me of a time early in my career when I was tapped by newsroom editors as a lead writer to help chronicle California’s changing demographics. I was being dispatched to the border to tell the story of the explosive population growth among Latinos, which for the first time was more a result of births than of immigration.

Barely out of college from my hometown of Miami — where Latinos dominate every layer of business, politics and culture — I felt the assignment was all wrong. So I mustered up the courage to ask for a meeting with editors to discuss the direction of the story.

Journalists, as with entertainment execs, are fans of storytelling extremes — when, in fact, most of our daily lives are lived within the gritty, ambiguous in-between. My twenty-something self sat in a chair inside a small office, flanked by three veteran journalists, all white men. I proceeded to explain what I saw as flaws of the story idea.

Latinos, it seemed from our conversation, were something to observe through a fishbowl. “Why do Latinos have so many babies? Let’s go see them in the wild,” it felt as though they were asking.

When I pushed back, one of the journalists who was standing inside of the cramped office asked if I felt as though I was “too close to the story” and couldn’t be impartial.

Would it be better, he asked, “if a Bavarian wrote it?” He was the said Bavarian.

I’m not exactly sure how I managed to pick up my metaphorical mouth from the floor and continue my pitch, but it remains a moment of pride that I walked out of that office with a completely different assignment of my own choosing. I would spend several months reporting and writing — alone, without the Bavarian.

It helped that I came to the meeting prepared, having spent hours analyzing census and private polling data. I found that if you look deeper at the trends over time, Latinos across generations very much begin to resemble white America when it comes to birth rates.

So I set out and found the perfect family (who hadn’t settled on the poverty-stricken border) from which to tell a generational story that begins at the Rio Grande, migrates to California’s crop-picking fields and finishes (or begins again) on college campuses.

It’s too late to change the immigrant tale at the center of “American Dirt,” though its publisher, Flatiron Books, backpedaled on its marketing push and book tour after the fervent backlash:

“We should never have claimed that it was a novel that defined the immigrant experience; we should not have said that Jeanine’s husband was an undocumented immigrant while not specifying that he was from Ireland…” the statement read. “We can now see how insensitive those and other decisions were, and we regret them.”

Does it come as a surprise that Latinos made up just 3 percent of the publishing workforce in 2018, according to a 2019 Publisher’s Weekly study?

No, not really.

3. How Shakira and JLo’s performance united Latinos

“I’ve often wondered why Latinos, particularly considering our share of the population, have struggled to make the same headway in Hollywood as African Americans and Asian Americans.

Then I think about some of the complicated conversations with my friends. For context: I’m the daughter of Cuban immigrants; my husband is second-generation California Mexican American; our friends are a mix of children and grandchildren of Mexican, Peruvian, Argentinian and European immigrants; and several also proudly represent Boyle Heights and East L.A.

On a recent night, we went from debating the Banderas nomination to discussing the Latino director of some obscure film. The assumption was that he was of Mexican heritage. Then we Googled his name.

“Oh, he’s Puerto Rican,” my friend, a self-described Chicana, said.

“You sound disappointed,” I responded, as her shoulders slightly slumped.

“I thought he was Mexican.”

In that disappointment lies the crux of why what Shakira and JLo did Sunday night felt so significant. For 12 minutes, these power women brought pan-ethnic Latinos together, forcing us to forget our differences and instead focus on our shared culture, experience and love of Spanglish.

We were one. And when JLo draped herself in a feathered Puerto Rican flag, Latinos collectively cheered, regardless of what country our parents or grandparents immigrated from; whether or not we speak Spanish; and no matter if we identify as Latinx or not.

Because in the context of making entertainment history on the most significant of stages, Latino identity transcended divisions.

So, yes, Latinos can gripe about whether a Banderas Oscar nomination counts toward Latino representation — and still see ourselves in “Pain and Glory.” We can tear apart the immigrant story central to “American Dirt” — and still demand more stories about the struggles south of the border. We can wear our different nationalities as badges of honor — and still come together as one when our culture is center stage.

Rather than see us as too difficult to understand, Hollywood should value us for being complicated and dynamic and flawed — a true American story.

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Lost City of Gold: How Hollywood Can Win Latinx Audiences

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It may look like the year of subscription video on demand (SVOD). But for Xumo CEO Colin Petrie-Norris, the growing list of subscription services only means ad-supported streaming is about to take off.

Petrie-Norris doesn’t see SVOD and AVOD as an either-or proposition. Instead, he sees the launch of several high-profile streaming services – including Disney+, Apple TV+ and upcoming HBO Max, Peacock and Quibi — as a boost to ad-supported streaming in a rising tides lifts all boats fashion. For Petrie-Norris, who runs Xumo from the company’s Irvine, California headquarters, ad-supported streaming will only stand out more as viewers continue to grapple with having to for half a dozen streaming services. The thinking goes: If free, ad-supported shows worked for the TV industry for decades, why can’t it work in the streaming age — especially when customers are being asked to spend more each year on the best-known streaming services?

“AVOD will benefit and grow off the back off the subscription [services]. They will drive people to streaming, and AVOD will be the beneficiary,” he said. “As long as we can get the quality right. People are not tolerant of people just barfing ads up all over the place — it needs to be something worth me giving you an hour of my time. So quality, linear AVOD is where there will be growth.”

That’s where Xumo comes in, he believes. The company offers 10,000 free movies and shows, as well 190 channels, including Fox Sports, ABC News, and channels dedicated to series like “Family Feud” and “Forensic Files”. To get that content to the masses, Xumo has an app, but it’s best known for is its partnerships with smart TV makers like LG, where customers will plug in their TVs and see Xumo’s list of channels automatically installed. After signing new deals with Sony and Panasonic in January, Petrie-Norris said, “over 90% of all smart TVs now carry Xumo’s service in some way, shape or form.”

Also Read: How Will We Know Who's Winning Streaming War if Every Service Counts Views Differently?

Overall, the AVOD market is growing exponentially. Ad-revenue hit $3.8 billion last year, according to Magna Global estimates, marking a 39% increase from 2018, and in 2020, the industry is expected to increase another 31% to hit $5 billion in sales. That’s still well short of the $70 billion advertisers spend on old school TV ads each year, but Petrie-Norris is betting as more people use AVOD services, and more data is collected, companies will continue to shift their ad dollars towards AVOD.

AVOD’s rise has made several mainstay companies acquisition targets of late. Pluto TV, which also offers an array of ad-supported channels, was scooped up last year by Viacom for $340 million, and Comcast was reported last month to be in talks with Xumo about a possible buyout. Petrie-Norris didn’t have much to say about it when asked by TheWrap, only adding the company was “exploring” the best ways to expand its business. But it makes sense why Comcast would at least be interested, with a potential deal allowing Xumo to support Peacock on the technical side.

With that as a backdrop, TheWrap recently caught up with Petrie-Norris to talk about the state of ad-supported streaming. The conversation has been lightly edited for clarity:

Why do you think viewers are starting to look more towards ad-supported services like Xumo, Pluto TV and Tubi, to name a few?

There is an infusion of new [paid] streaming services, and many customers are asking if paying for 4 services — Disney+, Amazon, Netflix, Quibi — is for them. There’s this question of, “what is the right number of services?” And the gateway to adding more paid services is getting higher. Adding the first 1,2 or 3 is fine, but on the 4th, consumers — I believe — are asking questions. Contrast that with AVOD, where I don’t even need to give you an email address to sign up for Xumo. If you stay or come back, it’s purely on the basis of the quality of the content and the value we’ve created for you. We’re asking you to watch some ads, but we’re providing great content.

When I started Xumo [in 2011,] ad-supported services were — and I use the term because I have ginger hair — the ginger-headed stepchild of the content industry. (Laughs) That’s not the case anymore.

If that was the case, then why did you go that route? 

Something happened with curation. Just having AVOD video isn’t enough. When you present a consumer with a big sea of thumbnails, they’ll check out and say, I’ll just go watch “The Mandalorian.” But when you curate channels based on interests, it gives viewers a reason to stick around, instead of just watching for 3 minutes and bailing. It was the way we presented [the content] that gave us more opportunities to show ads without overwhelming [the viewer.]

How do you serve ads to viewers who are becoming more and more used to not seeing ads? When I go to VidCon, for instance, most people 20 and younger say they never watch ads. 

The answer is, it’s highly dynamic. It’s not a one-sized fits all ad-strategy. It’s not just showing two pre-roll ads before a movie. It could be different the first time you come to our service compared to the second time you watch Xumo. It might be different at prime time versus noon. What we’ve built is not just an ad platform that has a classic 30 seconds of ads for every 10 minutes of content; it’s varying; it’s dynamic, to optimize the yield we get, to make sure those viewers come back the next day. We actually sometimes make sub-optimal decisions where we might make less money in the moment; maybe we don’t show [the viewer] that 90-second pharmaceutical ad, again. We might hold back on an extra ad because we know if we do, then they’ll come back again and watch more next week. That’s the smart engine we’ve built.

Can you tell me more about the new deals you have with Sony and Panasonic? 

Their smart TV carries us as a natural feature, where you get your local tuned-in TV channels but you also get 190 Xumo channels right in the same guide. You don’t need to go to the App Store — it’s built into the operating system of the TV in a very clever and unique way.

Xumo specializes in these services where somebody will come in and say, “I have a big consumer base. I have devices that can carry an IP video signal, but we don’t know much about how to sell the ads. Or how you license the content, manage the content and its discovery.” So they’ll come in and say we’ll interface with you; we’ll open our APIs, just build and plug-in the service and then you run it for us.

It’s a rev-share arrangement, so we both share in the risks and share in the upsides.

And what’s that rev-share agreement look like? 

The rev-share is a 3-way rev share, typically. The content partners, they take a rev share, the device manufacturer, which carries the service to the consumer, takes a rev share, and then we take the remainder.

And it works very well, because you have three groups who have a vested interest in making sure it’s discoverable, high-quality content. It’s hard when you start off with a rev share, because a rev share of nothing is nothing. (Laughs) Once we had our first few deals and got this engine running, you can get very reliable, very considerable revenues from the service, and we’ve de-risked it for people. We can predict and model out the yield per user per device pretty accurately now.

The addition of Sony is a major new partner. We’re starting with the U.S. first with Sony, but will go onto a global product, starting with many of the similar markets LG is present in — Western Europe, Latin America. We tend to go to markets that have a big enough online ad industry, which can sustain a video service. Xumo is now a global service. It started off in Irvine 8 years ago, and now with markets we’re available in, close to 700-800 million people can now access it. You still need to buy the TV, but that’s still a pretty big footprint we’re operating in.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Why Peacock's Bet on Ad-Supported Streaming Could Be Genius Move

Hollywood Experts' Predictions for 2020: Netflix Gets Acquired, Apple TV+ Flops

Too Many Streamers, Too Many Shows: How Minnow App Hopes to Solve the Discoverability Problem | 2/4/20
European pay TV company Sky is planning to go net zero carbon by 2030 by transforming the way it does business, the company announced on Tuesday. In order to achieve that goal it will implement a sweeping range of green initiatives that will impact everything from the way its programs are produced to the relationships […] | 2/4/20

Ben Smith, editor in chief of BuzzFeed News for the last eight years, announced Tuesday he is exiting to join the New York Times as a media columnist.

“It’s been the privilege of my life to do this job, in its many iterations, for more than eight years,” he wrote in a letter first sent to staff. “The notion that BuzzFeed could play a major role in shaping global news, and the news business — from tweets to streaming shows — sounded crazy in 2012. Now it’s just a fact, the product of most of all of your hard work, creativity, aggressiveness, and judgment.”

The New York Times issued a tweet through its communications department shortly after he posted the announcement: “We are excited to announce that Ben Smith (@buzzfeedben), a relentless innovator who helped change the shape of modern journalism, is becoming our new media columnist.”

Also Read: BuzzFeed Editor Says CNN's Russian Dossier Report Led to Release of Documents

In his staff announcement, Smith wrote, “The newsroom and the company as a whole are now in a strong position. We have a CEO who fundamentally believes in news and has proven again and again that he’ll stand up for the toughest stories, about anyone, and colleagues across the organization who share that view.”

It’s true that the site he created doesn’t back away from stories: Back in 2017, Smith took to the New York Times op-ed page to explain why his site published the infamous “golden shower” dossier from British counterintelligence specialist Christopher Steele that featured unverified allegations about Donald Trump and his supposed ties to Russia.

Smith claimed BuzzFeed “spent weeks with reporters in the United States and Europe trying to confirm or disprove specific claims.”

BuzzFeed is edging closer to profitability, according to the Wall Street Journal, but had a rough 2019. In April, the site confirmed it would no longer include a regular reporter in the White House travel pool that accompanies the president on trips at home and abroad. The development comes amid broader cost concerns and financial pressures the company has faced in recent months. Earlier in the year, there were layoffs of about 15% of the site’s staff.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Tucker Carlson Confronts BuzzFeed Boss Ben Smith: 'You Just Don't Like Trump' (Video)

BuzzFeed's Ben Smith, CNN's Brian Stelter Face Off Over Published Trump Memo (Video)

Here's Why BuzzFeed's Ben Smith Published the 'Golden Showers' Dossier | 1/28/20

On the 5th of November 2019, the release of the first of ITU's Measuring Digital Development series coincided with Freedom House's unveiling of its Freedom on Net 2019 report. This serendipity prompted me to write this blog note after carefully examining both reports.

On one hand, ITU's analytical publication, with its new friendly format, emphasizes that Internet use continues to spread, warning however that the digital gender gap is widening. The estimated 4.1 billion people using the Internet in 2019 reflect a 5.3 per cent increase, confirming the trend of slowing global growth rates. More men than women use the Internet in every region of the world except the Americas, which has near-parity, and 97 percent of the world population now lives within reach of a mobile cellular signal, reveals the report, offering interesting snapshots of other important ICT indicators. With its global and regional perspectives, ITU's Facts and Figures 2019 also recalls that most of the offline population (46 percent of the world population) lives in the least developed countries, with Europe and Africa having the highest and lowest Internet usage rates, respectively.

On the other hand, the Freedom on the Net 2019 focusing on 'the Crisis of Social Media' comments that the Internet, once a liberating technology, has opened new conduits for surveillance and electoral manipulation. Internet Freedom Declines outnumber gains for the ninth consecutive year with Ethiopia recording the largest gains in 2019 following the election of a new Prime Minister Dr Abiy Ahmed, winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, who loosened restrictions on the Internet and unblocked 260 websites. "Digital platforms are the new battleground for democracy and Internet freedom is increasingly imperiled by the tools and tactics of digital authoritarianism” notes the report recalling that of the 65 countries assessed, 33 have been on an overall decline since June 2018. The future of Internet freedom rests on our ability to fix social media, predicts the report offering a series of recommendations to 'fairly' regulate a technology now pervasive in business, politics, and personal lives.

The more we connect the world, the less free it becomes?

Time to pick the Good from the Bad and the Ugly

At the multilateral level, narratives advocating the Good of connecting the next 46 percent to accelerate the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals are necessary more than ever but no longer sufficient. Containing the Bad and Repressing the Ugly is more and more critically needed to ensure a higher aggregate contribution of the growth of the Internet to the interconnected goals of the 2030 Agenda.

It is time for multilateral and other actors to acknowledge that neither the utopian hopes and optimistic narratives, nor the dystopian fears and pessimistic discourses reflect the evolving and more complex uses of the Internet witnessed in our current era. The rise of Social Media Platforms and Frontier Technologies (Artificial Intelligence, Advanced Biometrics etcetera) are reportedly posing new challenges to human rights and to values that are enshrined in the United Nations organizations serving as guiding principles for international civil servants in all their actions. The future of privacy, free expression, and democratic governance rest on policy choices and actions made or not today.

New perspectives are needed from scholars, intergovernmental bodies, policy makers and technologists when pursuing their respective missions, seeking for a deeper understanding of nuanced issues beyond just technological advancements. This could be achieved through innovative forms of partnerships driving thinking and advocating practices so that digital advancements are informed, with evidence, by their holistic social and human impacts when addressing developmental challenges outlined in the 2030 Agenda.

Measuring Success of actions to connect the next billion (and the remaining 46 percent of the world) could go beyond connectivity related quantitative assessments and consider the extent of which lives and freedom have improved with Digital Development.

Key findings of both reports are summarized below.

On the growth of Internet use :

  • Internet usage keeps growing, but barriers lie ahead. Some 4.1 billion people are now online, but in developing countries, women's Internet use is falling behind. Affordability and lack of digital skills remain some of the key barriers.
  • Most of the offline population lives in least developed countries. An estimated 3.6 billion people remain offline, with the majority of the unconnected living in the Least Developed Countries where an average of just two out of every ten people are online.
  • The digital gender gap is growing fast in developing countries. More men than women use the Internet in every region of the world except the Americas, which has near-parity. Wide gender gap in mobile phone ownership often coupled with a wide gender gap in Internet use.
  • Mobile-broadband subscriptions continue to grow strongly. ITU data show that 97 per cent of the world population now lives within reach of a mobile cellular signal and 93 per cent within reach of a 3G (or higher) network.
  • Almost the entire world population lives within reach of a mobile network. ITU data show that 97 per cent of the world population now lives within reach of a mobile cellular signal and 93 per cent within reach of a 3G (or higher) network.
  • Computers no longer needed to access the Internet at home
  • Bandwidth growing fast, but with regional differences
  • Lack of ICT skills a barrier to effective Internet use
  • Broadband still expensive in LDCs

On the decline of Internet freedom

  • Declines outnumber gains for the ninth consecutive year. Since June 2018, 33 of the 65 countries assessed in Freedom on the Net experienced a deterioration in internet freedom. The biggest score declines took place in Sudan and Kazakhstan, followed by Brazil, Bangladesh, and Zimbabwe. Improvements were measured in 16 countries, with Ethiopia recording the largest gains.
  • Internet freedom declines in the United States. US law enforcement and immigration agencies increasingly monitored social media and conducted warrantless searches of travelers' electronic devices, with little oversight or transparency.
  • China is the world's worst abuser of internet freedom for the fourth consecutive year. Censorship reached unprecedented extremes in China as the government enhanced its information controls ahead of the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre and in the face of persistent anti-government protests in Hong Kong.
  • Digital platforms are the new battleground for democracy. Domestic state and partisan actors used propaganda and disinformation to distort the online landscape during elections in at least 24 countries over the past year, making it by far the most popular tactic for digital election interference.
  • Governments harness big data for social media surveillance. In at least 40 out of 65 countries, authorities have instituted advanced social media monitoring programs. These sophisticated mass surveillance systems can quickly map users' relationships; assign a meaning to their social media posts; and infer their past, present, or future locations.
  • Free expression is under assault. A record high of 47 out of 65 countries featured arrests of users for political, social, or religious speech. Individuals endured physical violence in retribution for their online activities in at least 31 countries.
  • Authorities normalize blanket shutdowns as a policy tool. Social media and communication applications were blocked in at least 20 countries, and telecommunications networks were suspended in 17 countries.
  • More governments enlist bots and fake accounts to manipulate social media. Political leaders employed individuals to surreptitiously shape online opinions and harass opponents in 38 of the 65 countries covered in this report — another new high.

The two reports can be downloaded here:
Facts and figures 2019 — Measuring digital development
Freedom on the Net 2019 – The Crisis of Social Media

Written by Kitaw Yayehyirad Kitaw | 1/24/20
YouTube has tapped ViacomCBS Networks International exec Alex Okosi as managing director of emerging markets in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), the company announced Tuesday. Okosi will be responsible for running YouTube’s business and partnership teams in Russia, the Middle East, and Africa, and will report to the head of YouTube EMEA, Cécile […] | 1/23/20
Bolt, the billion-dollar startup out of Estonia that’s building a ride-hailing, scooter and food delivery business across Europe and Africa, has picked up a tranche of funding in its bid to take on Uber and the rest in the world of on-demand transportation. The company has picked up €50 million (about $56 million) from the European […] | 1/16/20

There is a difference, of course, between asserting a claim that cannot possibly succeed in an administrative proceeding under the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) and being unprepared to prove a claim that may have merit with the right evidence. Still, there is also an overlapping similarity in that complainants are either shockingly unfamiliar with UDRP procedures and jurisprudence (and should have retained counsel who are) or know they have no actionable claim but plow ahead anyway perhaps in the hope their abuse of the proceedings will not be noticed.

The Panels' exasperation is evident, to take a couple of examples, in Adventure SAS v. Mike Robinson, BlackHawk Paramotors USA Inc., D2019-2489 (WIPO December 12, 2019) involving a dispute over a soured distributorship in which it noted that "those responsible for the drafting of the Complaint [Complainant was represented by counsel] and/or the person who authorized the filing of the Complaint knew that the Complaint should not succeed because on any fair reading of the available facts the Respondent registered the Domain Name in good faith." In Nalli Chinnasami Chetty v. Anthony Nalli, FourPoints Multimedia Corp., D2019-2642 (WIPO December 18, 2019) () the "Complainant and its counsel also provided no evidentiary support whatsoever to support their argument that the Respondent must have registered and used the disputed domain name in bad faith… ]T]hey [also] completely ignored the requirements set out in the Policy for establishing bad faith registration and use of a domain name [and] disregarded precedent and unfavorable facts in concluding that the webpage (which makes no connection whatsoever to the Complainant) was an attempt to misappropriate its trademark reputation, and offered no more than unsupported allegations."

The consensus as to what is expected of complainants (implicit in Adventure SAS and Nelli has been expressed succinctly in a number of memorable decisions: "[Complainant] should at least be minimally versed" and "[i]t is no excuse that a party or its representative is unfamiliar with clear Policy precedent, much less the clear language of the Policy and the Rules themselves" [D2012-1555], or "the deficiencies [of proof] must have been obvious to anyone remotely familiar with the Policy" [D2016-0126], or "[i]t is no excuse that Complainant may not be familiar with clear Policy precedent, the Policy, or the Rules" [D2012-2455].

The gamut of mark owners included in these rebukes ranges from the confused (mistaking the UDRP as a trademark court), through the clueless (who ought to have known otherwise) through the hapless (insofar as marshaling proof) to the manipulative (alleging bad faith when the facts contradict the allegations). The "confused" can be forgiven since while domain names are central to their complaint, the claim actually sounds in trademark infringement. The "clueless" are generally not forgiven; they should have known better.

Recent examples of the confused are: Altiplano Voyage v. Terra Holding Ltd. / Pierre Boyer, D2019-2141 (WIPO November 12, 2019) () and Taffo SRL v. Contact Privacy Inc. Customer 0141464573 / Agenzia Funebre Taffo di Taffo G. & C. SAS Societa/Ditta, D2019-2266 (WIPO November 19, 2019) (>). As a general rule, where domain names are incidental to the offense the claim is outside UDRP's subject matter jurisdiction which is limited to claims of cybersquatting.

In Altiplano Voyage, the Panel notes that "this case presents a more nuanced trademark dispute (at least on the papers presented) than that for which the Policy is equipped." The Panel also comments on Complainant's evidentiary deficiencies. In Taffo, the Panel "incidentally notes that the Policy is designed to resolve standard cases of abusive domain name registrations, while the present one is a complex trademark matter that will be more appropriately handled by the Court of Rome before which an Ordinary Proceeding is already pending." If there is a remedy at all it must be for trademark infringement.

The "clueless" are mark owners whose rights postdate the registration of challenged domain names. They have no claim for cybersquatting under the UDRP (even though they have standing to maintain the proceeding), and no statutory claim or even standing under the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA). The possibility that this kind of "clueless" is not clueless at all but deliberately abusive of the administrative proceeding cannot be discounted and is commonly dealt with as such.

A number of recent UDRP decisions illuminate how mark owners attempt to justify their complaints. There is no remedy because owing to the timing of mark owners' right, there can be no actionable violation. In Advice Group S.P.A. v. Privacy Administrator, Anonymize, Inc. / Michele Dinoia, Macrosten LTD, D2019-2441 (WIPO December 2, 2019) () the Panel explains that the "Respondent acquired the Domain Name some two years before the Complainant obtained a trademark, and nine months before the Complainant even filed its trademark application.") In another case, Gary Chupik v. Shant Sarkuni, FA1910001868583 (Forum November 18, 2019) () Complainant tried another, equally unpersuasive maneuver by applying for a trademark, strangely believing (one supposes) that having a trademark is conclusive of a right to the corresponding domain name:

a. the disputed domain name was registered on April 18, 2017;

b. Complainant made unsolicited offers to purchase the disputed domain name which were rejected by Respondent;

c. Complainant filed his trademark applications with the USPTO on January 30, 2019, after his offers to purchase the disputed domain name were rejected;

d. the filing of the Complaint on or about October 28, 2019.

Complainant appears to have believed that because "he made an offer to purchase the disputed domain name from Respondent" and because the "Respondent refused to sell the disputed domain name to him for the highest price that he was willing to offer" that he had asserted a claim for cybersquatting. The Panel found the conduct sanctionable: "In the circumstances, this Panel finds that Complainant, being aware that he was not entitled to succeed, nonetheless brought this Complaint with the hope that he may secure the transfer of the disputed domain name, after he had failed to purchase same in open commercial arms-length negotiations."

Other recent Complainants represented by counsel (who ought to have known better!): Pet Life LLC v. ROBERT RIESS / blue streak marketing llc, FA181000181087 (Forum November 11, 2019) ( registered more than 5 years after registration of domain name) and Glovoapp23, S.L. v. Wang Shun, D2019-1986 (WIPO September 30, 2019) ( registered 17 years before trademark right). Complainants in both these cases were sanctioned for asserting claims they could not possibly prove.

The second group, those I call hapless, may have meritorious claims, but either lack proof or have not marshaled what they need to establish bad faith. The inference with deficiency of evidence is that if no proof is offered, no proof exists. The point is illustrated in Assurity Life Insurance Company v. DOMAIN MAY BE FOR SALE, CHECK AFTERNIC.COM Domain Admin / Whois Foundation, FA1911001872882 (Forum December 21, 2019) (): "Complainant asserts both registered and common law trademark rights. Complainant owns several USPTO registrations but none earlier in time than ... March 21, 2006 and so even its filing date postdates the registration of the domain name [May 2004]." However, in this case.

Complainant's assertion of common law rights is premised, not on proof of public awareness and reputation, but on the above statement, which in turn rests on the claim of first use in commerce date of June 12, 1996, shown in Reg. No. 3,070,343. That date is provided to the USPTO by a trademark applicant. There is no proof of a common law trademark by May 2004 when the domain name was registered.

One of the questions here which the Panel frames as a preclusion issue can also be thought of as a credibility issue: if Complainant really believed it had a claim, why did it wait so long to assert it. The Panel noted that "although opinions have differed as to whether the equitable doctrine of laches applies to UPRP proceedings, it has been recognized [that is, the consensus among panelists is] that delay in bringing proceedings is likely to place a higher burden on a complainant attempting to prove a state of affairs long ago." The same point is also made in NovAtel Inc. v. Registration Private, Domains By Proxy, LLC / Domain Admin,, D2019-1939 (WIPO October 4, 2019) ( and DK Company Vejle A/S v. Cody Favre, C4 Squared, D2019-2676 (WIPO December 17, 2019) (). In NovAtel, "[w]hile the Complainant asserts that its NOVATEL trademark has been in use since 1992, it provides no evidence as to how widely the mark was known at that time or, more importantly, in 2007." In DK Company Veile, the Panel explains that

[t]he difficulty with that case is that the Complainant has provided no information as to the size or reputation of its business, and such limited evidence as it does provide indicates its business is entirely European. The Complainant says that its CASUAL FRIDAY trademark is "widely known" in the European Union but provides no evidence to substantiate that assertion. There is nothing before the Panel to suggest that a United States retailer would have had any knowledge of the Complainant or, had it carried out searches, would have found any reason to conclude it could not adopt the words as part of a name for use in the United States.

In failing to produce supporting evidence necessary to establish common law rights or the repute of a mark at the time of the registration of the domain name or any other indicia of consumer recognition, the inference must be that it has none. The consensus is as the Panel states in Adventure SAS, namely that "the natural inference in the absence of any evidence to the contrary would be that the Respondent registered the Domain Name in good faith."

The third group, less hapless I think because they simply do not have enough information until the response is filed, are mark owners complaining of domain names held or used by commercial businesses offering bona fide goods or services (distinguishing these respondents from investors reselling domain names). Two recent examples are Lexon v. Registration Private, Domains By Proxy, LLC / Surety Management, D2019-2365 (WIPO December 12, 2019) () in which Respondent offered proof that "the Disputed Domain Name was acquired as part of a legitimate business transaction when the Respondent purchased the Lexon Surety company and its trademarks"; and DSN Software, Inc. v. Rob Bay, FA1910001865961 (Forum December 10, 2019) () in which the descriptive phrase identified the services Respondent offered.

Included in the hapless group are complainants whose marks are composed of common words, descriptive or common phrases, and arbitrary letters (to distinguish marks composed of coined words or nationally or international famous). These strings are notoriously hard to prove domain names were not registered for their semantic (rather than trademark) values. In Service Spring Corp. v. hao wang, D2018-2422 (WIPO December 17, 2019) () the "Complainant submits that bad faith should be inferred from (i) the Respondent's use of a privacy service, (ii) the Respondent's provision of incomplete address details in the WhoIs record and (iii) the Respondent's failure to respond to the Complainant's cease and desist letters," but these factors, even if considered, are not conclusive of liability; they do not add up to bad faith.

One final note, a reminder, that these cases rejecting claims of cybersquatting represent less than 10% of all disputes that go to award. To the extent that strings of words are common in the language community, unsurprising and common expressions, descriptive phrases, not clearly associated with any one commercial user there is a corresponding increase in the evidentiary demand for proof of bad faith registration; bad faith use alone does not prove cybersquatting under the UDRP if there is no proof of bad faith registration.

Written by Gerald M. Levine, Intellectual Property, Arbitrator/Mediator at Levine Samuel LLP | 1/13/20
The US plan to impose a 100% tax on European wines will be as bad for business as Prohibition, the industry says. | 1/10/20

Don Savant, a former executive at IMAX Corporation, will be named CEO of CJ 4DPlex Americas, the US subsidiary of the Korean conglomerate responsible for the 4DX movie theater technology, the company announced Monday.

Savant will be responsible for growing both the 4DX and ScreenX formats in the Americas while also collaborating with movie studios to adapt films to the premium formats.

In 2019, CJ expanded its two formats to over 1000 locations nationwide. In that time, the 4DX format also saw a 41% increase at the box office compared to 2018. Further, the ScreenX technology, which is a 270-degree viewing experience, nearly tripled its revenue last year.

Also Read: 2018 Box Office Is Even Breaking Records for 4DX Theaters

“I am incredibly excited to join CJ 4DPLEX, and the CJ Group. I had worked with CJ CGV Cinemas for 18 years at IMAX. Their commitment to the development of the overall cinema experience and the film business worldwide created a deep and lasting impression with me and I am thrilled to be part of an organization committed to innovation and excellence,” Savant said in a statement.

“Don has a proven track record of growing premium theater concepts globally and will help continue our record-breaking growth for both 4DX and ScreenX. His has an excellent reputation among exhibitors and the overall entertainment industry, and we are excited to have him oversee our presence in the Americas and take it to the next level,” Jong Ryul Kim, CEO of CJ 4DPlex, said in a statement.

Savant previously spent 19 years at IMAX Corporation and was most recently president of global sales between 2016 and 2018, at which time he helped expand the company’s footprint with the development of 730 new theater locations in North America, Europe, India, China and Asia. He also helped establish China as the company’s largest market, leading to the IPO of IMAX China with a valuation of over $1.45 billion.

Also Read: IMAX Sets New Company Box Office Record on Eve of 'Rise of Skywalker' Release

Prior to IMAX, Savant was the senior vice president of sales and marketing at Iwerks Entertainment in Burbank, California, where he launched the company’s first 4D theaters.

Savant is a board member APPlife Digital Solutions Inc., a business incubator and portfolio manager that invests in and creates e-commerce and cloud-based solutions. He is also an active member of his community, having set up the Savant Fellowship with his wife Elizabeth at the UCLA Center for Autism Research & Treatment.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Box Office Year In Review: Disney Conquers, But Who Else Had a Good 2019?

International Box Office Estimated to Top $30 Billion for First Time Ever

How 'Avengers: Endgame' Capped a Decade of Change for Movie Theaters | 1/6/20

HBO is out with its list of everything new coming to HBO in January, and everything leaving.

Highlights include “The New Pope,” out Jan. 13. Starring Jude Law, it’s a continuation of the 2016 series “The Young Pope.”

There’s also “The Outsider,” out Jan. 12. Based on Stephen King’s bestselling novel, it stars Jason Bateman, Cynthia Erivo and Ben Mendelsohn.

“Avenue 5,” about a luxury space-traveling company, is out Jan. 19, along with season 10 of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

Here’s the full list for January:

Jan. 1
American Animals
Casi famoso (Almost Famous) (2019)
Vaca (2018)
Another Stakeout (1993)
Arthur (1981)
Arthur 2: On the Rocks (1988)
Cat People (1982)
College (2008)
Fast Five (Extended Version) (2011)
Filly Brown (2013)
Galaxy of Terror (1981)
Head Office (1986)
The Hitcher (1986)
Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer (2011)
Les Misérables (2012)
Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (2012)
Mr. Holland’s Opus (1996)
Odd Jobs (1986)
The Odd Couple II (1998)
Rock the Kasbah (1991)
The Russia House (1990)
Scary Movie 3 (2003)
Seventh Son (3015)
The Shooting (1967)
Shutter Island (2010)
Spanglish (2004)
Stakeout (1987)
Sweet Dreams (1985)
Switch (1991)
Teeth (2008)
The Thing About My Folks (2005)
Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974)

Jan. 2

Jan. 3
The Aftermath
Niña errante (Wandering Girl) (2018)

Jan. 5

Jan. 6
Mamon – Series Premiere

Jan. 7
The Little Stranger

Jan. 11
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

Jan. 12
The Outsider – Series Premiere

Jan. 13
The New Pope – Season Premiere

Jan. 17
Tejano (2018)

Jan. 18
Real Time With Bill Maher – Season 18 Premiere
Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Jan. 19
Avenue 5 – Series Premiere

Jan. 19
Curb Your Enthusiasm – Season 10 Premiere

Jan. 25
The Curse of La Llorona


Jan. 12
Elektra (Director’s Cut) (2005)

Jan. 17
Getaway (2013)

Jan. 31
Amelie (2001)
Arachnophobia (1990)
Big Business (1988)
Bringing Down the House (2003)
Calendar Girls (2003)
Conan the Barbarian (1982)
Conan the Destroyer (1984)
Conviction (2010)
Deliver Us From Eva (2003)
The Dilemma (2011)
Dreamer: Inspired By a True Story (2005)
Ever After: A Cinderella Story (1998)
Going the Distance (2010)
The Hate U Give (2018)
Honey (2003)
In Her Shoes (2005)
The Jackal (1997)
Just Like Heaven (2005)
Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011)
Life As We Know It (2010)
Me, Myself & Irene (2000)
The Old Man & The Gun (2018)
Out Cold (2002)
Paddington 2 (2018)
Red Sparrow (2018)
Rescue Dawn (2007)
Robin Hood (2018)
Search Party (2016)
Signs (2002)
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004)
Stay Alive (2006)
Thoroughbreds (2018)
Wild Hogs (2007)

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The economy of Europe comprises more than 731 million people in 48 different states. Like other continents, the wealth of Europe's states varies, although the poorest are well above the poorest states of other continents in terms of GDP and living standards. The difference in wealth across Europe can be seen in a rough East-West divide. Whilst Western European states all have high GDPs and living standards, many of Eastern Europe's economies are still rising from the collapse of the communist Soviet Union and former Yugoslavia. Throughout this article "Europe" and derivatives of the word are taken to include selected states whose territory is only partly in Europe – such as Turkey, Azerbaijan, and the Russian Federation – and states that are geographically in Asia, bordering Europe – such as Armenia and Cyprus. Europe was the first continent to industrialize – led by the United Kingdom in the 18th century – and as a result, it has become the richest continent in the world today and the nominal GDP in 2010 is $19.920 trillion (32.4% of the World). Europe's largest national economy is that of Germany, which ranks fourth globally in nominal GDP, and fifth in purchasing power parity (PPP) GDP; followed by France, ranking fifth globally in nominal GDP, followed by the United Kingdom, ranking sixth globally in nominal GDP, followed by Italy, which ranks seventh globally in nominal GDP, then by Russia ranking tenth globally in nominal GDP. These 5 countries are all ranking in the world's top 10, therefore European economies account for half of the 10 wealthiest ones. The end of World War II has since brought European countries closer together, culminating in the formation of the European Union (EU) and in 1999, the introduction of a unified currency – the euro. European Union as a whole is, by far, the wealthiest and largest economy in the world, topping the US by more than 2.000 billions at a time of great economic slowdown– see List of countries by GDP. In 2009 Europe remained the world's wealthiest region. Its $32,7 trillion in assets under management represented more than one-third of the world’s wealth. Unlike North America ($29,3 trillion) it was one of few regions where wealth surpassed its precrisis year-end peak. Of the top 500 largest corporations measured by revenue, 184 have their headquarters in Europe. 161 are located in the EU, 15 in Switzerland, 6 in Russia, 1 in Turkey, 1 in Norway. 19 out of the top 26 nations in the world with the highest nominal GDP per capita are in Europe as of 2010. nr 1 Monaco $203,900 nr 2 Liechtenstein $136,864 nr 3 Luxembourg $104.390 nr 4 Norway $84,543 nr 6 Switzerland $67,074 nr 7 Denmark $55,112 nr 8 San Marino $50,670 nr 10 Sweden $47,667 nr 13 Netherlands 46,418 nr 15 Ireland $45,642 nr 16 Austria $43,723 nr 17 Finland $43,133 nr 19 Belgium $42,596 nr 21 Andorra $41,130 nr 22 France $40,591 nr 23 Germany $40,511 nr 24 Iceland $39,562 nr 25 UK $36,298 nr 26 Italy $33,828

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