Hasbro + Tupac, Netflix human curators, Audible sued, & more

Can Tupac transition from hologram to a kids cartoon? We may soon find out, after toy company Hasbro acquired the rights to the back catalog of Tupac and other rappers. Read on for my takes on this and other culture-tech news…

What You Need To Know 👀

  1. Netflix tests human-driven curation with launch of ‘Collections’ 📺

Netflix is testing a human curation feature named “collections,” currently only available on iOS devices. TechCrunch reports:

“While Netflix today already offers thematic suggestions of things to watch, based on your Netflix viewing history, Collections aren’t only based on themes. According to Netflix, the titles are curated by experts on the company’s creative teams, and are organized into these collections based on similar factors — like genre, tone, story line and character traits.”

Image: Jeff Higgins

My take: I love the sound of this feature, particularly if it is extended to enable all Netflix users to create their own “collections” (which are basically lists, like Twitter’s criminally under-promoted Lists). The movie app IMDb has a lists feature too, which I’ve used in the past – although just checking it again now, it’s no longer easy to find the lists of other people. IMDb surfaces “Featured Lists” when you start searching for content, but it’s a shame to see it hidden away now. Anyway, I hope Netflix pursues the Collections feature, because if we’ve learned anything in this era of social media, it’s that algorithms aren’t delivering enough niche, left-field or unique content. That’s what human curators are best at!

  1. Top U.S. publishers sue Amazon’s Audible for copyright infringement 📚

The Verge reports:

“Some of the world’s largest book publishers have jointly filed a lawsuit against Amazon-owned audiobook company Audible today over a new, controversial speech-to-text feature the literary industry claims is a violation of copyright law.

The lawsuit, filed in the Southern District Court of New York, includes the Big Five: Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster.”

My take: Audible’s position is that the automated transcription is done by artificial intelligence, so therefore it doesn’t impinge on copyright. In a statement, Audible said that the feature “is not and was never intended to be a book.” That may be so, but if you’re doing something that so upsets publishers and writers – i.e. the people who create the content your business is profiting from – surely Audible should respect that and back down. Amazon/Audible knows full well how difficult it is to make a living writing books these days, so this strikes me as an arrogant and unnecessary thing for them to do. Just get the right license and do right by creators, Audible.

  1. Neil Gaiman VR Experience ‘Wolves in the Walls’ Wins Primetime Emmy 🐺

I particularly liked this explanation by Variety:

“…Shamash and Billington told Variety earlier this year that the story didn’t embrace interactivity for interactivity’s sake, and that it didn’t let viewers dictate the narrative. Shamash explained that the focus was on Lucy, and her decisions, as opposed to decisions that viewers may make for her. “This is her quest, her journey,” she said.”

My take: As I noted in a previous newsletter, I’m skeptical of interactive ‘choose your own adventure’ style tv shows. But based on the above description of the Gaiman VR experience, this is interactivity done the right way. Clearly there is a satisfying story arc penned by Gaiman, a visionary storyteller. In addition there is an ingenious method of interacting with the characters, without disrupting the arc. The viewer does not make choices for the main character, Lucy. Instead the viewer follows along with Lucy “as her imaginary friend.”

  1. Toy giant Hasbro acquires TV, movie & music company eOne for $4 billion 🎹

Tim Ingham in Music Business Worldwide analyses the massive deal:

“Entertainment One’s Family & Brands division, which includes the likes of kids’ TV favorites Peppa Pig and PJ Masks, drove US $2.4bn in retail revenues in 2018, so you can instantly see why toy maker Hasbro would commercially benefit from owning the core IP behind these massive sales.

The same cannot be said for other eOne assets like Death Row Records, home to classic albums from the likes of Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre and Tupac Shakur.”

My take: Ingham speculates that Hasbro will sell off the bulk of eOne’s music assets. But I don’t know, how about a new series of cartoons with Snoop, Dr Dre and Tupac as the main characters? I’m only half kidding…Tupac has already been a hologram and in general rappers are compelling characters. Even as minor characters, they’d be must-watch tv. I can see the PJ Masks team enlisting Tupac to help fight the ninjalinos on one of their nighttime capers (yes I have a toddler, so I actually watch this stuff).

Data Points 📊

  • Zenith Media Consumption Report, via What’s New in Publishing: The daily time media consumers worldwide will spend on the internet this year is forecasted to hit 170 minutes daily. 📱

  • eMarketer via Forbes: Netflix’s Dominance In U.S. Wanes As Hulu, Amazon Gain Subscribers 📺

  • Publishing Perspectives: Wattpad Jumps to 80 Million Users, A 23-Percent Rise in Active Users over 2018 📚

  • PBS NewsHour: ‘Old Town Road’ is a surprise megahit. Math can explain why. (“Nowadays, you are either No. 1 from the start or essentially never.”) 📻

  • Bloomberg: In August, sports news site the Athletic crossed 600,000 subscribers. “We’ll end the year somewhere close to a million.” 🗞️

Tweet of the day 🐦

Freelance artist Moozua sees an opportunity in the Hasbro-eOne deal:

That’s the Monday update, hope you found it useful! Coming up Wednesday is this week’s in-depth analysis post, which will be made public to help get the word out to non-subscribers. Your early support of Cybercultural is much appreciated. 🙏