March 20, 2023

Media Decoder Blog: The Breakfast Meeting: Amazon Challenges Netflix, and an Advertiser Turns to Cat Videos is slowly building a library of streaming television shows and movies to rival that of Netflix, much to the satisfaction of media companies like Time Warner and CBS, Brian Stelter writes. Amazon will not unveil its own original shows until fall at the earliest, but it has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to win exclusive Web rights on shows for its Amazon Prime streaming service, like “Downton Abbey” from PBS and “Falling Skies” from TNT. Amazon is a long way from matching Netflix in terms of TV and movie selection, but parts of the media business already see the company as Pepsi to Netflix’s Coke. Other companies, including Google, Sony, Intel and a new venture by Redbox and Verizon, are scrambling for a Snapple or Red Bull.

Watching cat videos online has become a euphemism for wasting time, even if one is not actually watching popular Web felines like Maru or Henri. Advertisers have turned to the genre to sell Litter Genie, a cat-waste receptacle that neutralizes odors, Andrew Adam Newman reports. The third in a series of irreverent music videos promoting the brand has been released on YouTube (the first two videos have over 1 million views apiece.) A gray tabby named Walter is featured in all three videos and a television spot for Litter Genie.

The plot of the television show “Made in Japan” echoes the very real economic angst of that nation, Hiroko Tabuchi explains. The three-part series, broadcast on NHK, focuses on Takumi Electronics, a fictional company whose lead in television and mobile phones has been eclipsed by more nimble upstarts in China and South Korea. So Takumi Electronics turned to manufacturing more efficient lithium-ion batteries, like the actual company GS Yuasa, which made the batteries that have grounded Boeing’s Dreamliner. The show ends with Takumi Electronics teaming up with a Chinese competitor to build safer batteries. The issues with the Dreamliner have yet to be resolved.

ABC won the rights to the first on-camera interview with Amanda Knox, an American college student who was convicted of murdering her housemate in Italy while studying abroad in 2009; the conviction was overturned in 2011. The interview will be conducted by Diane Sawyer, the anchor of ABC’s “World News,” and will air during prime time on April 30, Brian Stelter writes. Ms. Knox’s case attracted a great deal of news coverage because of lurid sexual details attached to the case coupled with her appearance as an attractive girl next door. The interview will coincide with the release of Ms. Knox’s book, “Waiting to be Heard,” published by HarperCollins.

Univision and ABC News are both backing a new channel called Fusion that will target English-speaking Latinos in the United States, Amy Chozick reports. The channel will premiere this summer and will test whether second-generation Latinos want to watch television created specifically for them. But creating a 24-hour cable channel for a relatively narrow audience with many options in English and Spanish is a risky proposition — studies show that English-speaking Latinos tend to watch the same programs as non-Hispanics.

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Bits Blog: HTC Unveils Phones Running Microsoft’s Mobile Software

Jason Mackenzie, president of HTC Americas, said the company was highlighting the new phone's camera.Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times Jason Mackenzie, president of HTC Americas, said the company was highlighting the new phone’s camera.

As the first manufacturer to support Google’s Android software, HTC, the Taiwanese handset maker, was briefly the top American smartphone maker before it was surpassed by Apple and Samsung. Now HTC is pushing another underdog: Microsoft’s Windows Phone software.

In an event on Wednesday, HTC introduced two new smartphones featuring Windows Phone 8, the latest version of Microsoft’s mobile operating system. The phones — Windows Phone 8X and Windows Phone 8S — were deliberately named to raise awareness among consumers that Windows phones even exist in a market that is largely dominated by Apple and Samsung.

“Generally speaking broad consumers aren’t aware of Windows Phone,” said Terry Myerson, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Windows Phone division, in an interview. “We wanted to increase the awareness of Windows Phone by simplifying that message.”

For HTC, a big bet on Windows Phone is risky. The previous version of Microsoft’s mobile software, Windows Phone 7, has been unpopular among consumers, with a tiny morsel of the worldwide mobile operating system market share compared with Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS. But now that Apple has won a verdict against Samsung in its patent suit in the United States, which could put Google’s Android software in jeopardy, there is an opportunity for both HTC and Microsoft to benefit by offering something different.

At the event, HTC and Microsoft focused their discussion on the Windows Phone 8X model, the bigger and more expensive of the two phones, which has a 4.3-inch screen and a wafer-thin body. Jason Mackenzie, president of HTC Americas, said the company was highlighting the design of the phone, especially its front-facing camera. The camera has an 88-degree viewing angle so that multiple people can be seen during a video conferencing call, as opposed to just one person’s face.

Another main feature of the device is its headphone jack, which has integrated a technology, Beats Audio, which will support accessories designed by Beats, the company owned by the rap artist Dr. Dre. The phone will also include software for Beats Audio.

For both HTC and Microsoft, it will be an uphill battle to take on Apple and Samsung. For a brief time, HTC was the top American smartphone maker in the third quarter of 2011, but it was quickly surpassed by Apple and Samsung. Combined, Apple and Samsung now account for 57 percent of the American smartphone market share, and HTC is a distant third with 9.5 percent of the United States market, according to estimates by Gartner.

Microsoft, meanwhile, faces even greater challenges. Its share of the United States mobile operating system market is just 2.5 percent, and about 3 percent globally, according to Canalys, a research firm.

Like Microsoft, HTC, too, thinks it has a marketing problem. In a previous interview, Mr. Mackenzie explained that the company did not have a strong iconic brand for its phones, as Apple does for its iPhone and Samsung does for its Galaxy phones. The “X” in Windows Phone 8X is part of the company’s effort to strengthen branding. HTC sells another flagship phone, the HTC One X.

Mr. Mackenzie said HTC has been working with Microsoft for 15 years and has shipped more Windows phones than any other company. The phone maker was an early supporter of Microsoft’s previous mobile operating system, Windows Mobile. He said the two companies were collaborating on “the single biggest marketing collaboration we’ve ever done” to promote the new phones.

HTC’s new Windows phones will ship in November. The Windows Phone 8X will cost $200 with ATT; the phone will be available on T-Mobile, Verizon and other carriers as well, and pricing will be announced later for those carriers. Pricing for the smaller phone, the Windows Phone 8S, has not been disclosed yet, the companies said.

Making the phone game even more difficult for HTC and Microsoft, Apple introduced its iPhone 5 just last week and has already sold 2 million devices in the first 24 hours it went on sale. But the companies still think they can compete.

“I think these devices will stack up fantastically against the iPhone,” Mr. Myerson said. “I think consumers are looking for much more than another row of icons, and this is a beautiful experience.”

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