Spotify’s Head of Original Video and Podcasts, Tom Calderone, Departs

Spotify's Head of Original Video and Podcasts, Tom Calderone, Departs


  • Spotify will focus its video efforts around Rap Caviar
  • Music industry executives would like Spotify’s video efforts to focus on
  • Spotify has over 60 million paying subscribers

Spotify is parting ways with Tom Calderone, the head of original video and podcasts, after the music-streaming company’s initial round of programs failed to catch on with audiences.

The online pioneer confirmed Calderone’s departure in an email Thursday. Spotify will focus its video efforts around Rap Caviar, the service’s most popular playlist, Rock This and other features, a spokesman said.

With the move, Spotify is narrowing its video ambitions. Calderone, the former head of cable network VH1, commissioned a dozen series from producers including Tim Robbins and Russell Simmons. He also oversaw podcasts, an area of growing importance at the world’s largest paid music service. Now the company is making clearer that it wants videos on the service to stay closer to the music industry.

While Spotify has known for some time it wants to offer more programming beyond music, the company has struggled to settle on a strategy.

Before YouTube, Hulu or Sony introduced online TV services, Spotify tried to assemble a bundle of TV channels for a live video service in Europe. The company abandoned those plans after failing to line up all the channels it wanted for the right price, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Spotify also licensed short-form videos from Vice Media Inc., Viacom’s Comedy Central and Walt Disney Co.’s ESPN in 2015. Then in 2016, the company hired Calderone to oversee an in-house studio. He led Viacom’s VH1 during its heyday and quickly ordered shows including Simmons’s “Traffic Jams,” where musicians composed a song while stuck in traffic and performed the it on reaching their destination.

Despite those efforts, video never been featured prominently within Spotify, a source of frustration for many partners. No series has broken out.

Music industry executives would like Spotify’s video efforts to focus on music. That would bring more attention to their artists and new releases, and not divert royalty-generating listeners to other content. Thanks to Spotify, the music business is growing for the first time in almost two decades and record labels aren’t especially keen to see the company diversify into other forms of entertainment.

And of late, Spotify has tested seeding playlists with music videos and short documentaries, including Rap Caviar.

While Spotify is still formulating a video strategy, its investment in podcasting continues to grow. The company has purchased advertising in popular shows Reply All and The Bill Simmons Podcast, and plans to announce a new slate of original podcasts soon.

The company is planning to go public later this year or early next, and just reached a new long-term deal with Warner Music Group, the third-largest record label.

With more than 60 million paying subscribers for the music service, Spotify has commissioned non-music content to increase the amount of time users spend with the app and keep them from leaving to watch video on YouTube or Facebook. Non-music programming also benefits the company by reducing the share of sales it must hand over to music rights holders.


Samsung’s new Gear 360 camera is way cheaper than the original

Image result for Samsung's new Gear 360 camera is way cheaper than the originalGet your wallet out because you’ll finally be able to buy Samsung’s new Gear 360 camera starting tomorrow, May 25.

The smaller, more powerful second-generation 360-degree camera will cost $230, which makes it far more affordable than the original’s $350 launch price. You’ll be able to pick up the camera from Samsung, Best Buy, Amazon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon, and U.S. Cellular.

Even better is the promotion Samsung’s running: buy a Galaxy S8/S8+ between May 25 and June 19 and you can nab the new camera for only $50.

Though the new Gear 360 is designed to work best with the Galaxy S8/S8+, Samsung smartly added iOS support this time around, opening the camera up to many more users.

Livestreaming to various platforms (Facebook, YouTube, and Samsung VR), real 4K resolution recording, longer battery life, and the camera’s new handle/body all contribute to a better 360 shooting experience.

Despite some shortcomings, we praised the original Gear 360 for its sleek looks and effortless connectivity and recording capabilities.

A year ago Samsung was one of the first with a consumer 360 camera and the only one to really nail down the basics, but there’s tons of competition now. Every company from Kodak to Garmin have one. And if they don’t yet (like GoPro), they will.

The $230 price, however, gives the new Gear 360 an edge; most comparable consumer 360 cameras cost $300 or more.

If you’re new to 360 cameras, here are a few examples of the kind of 360 photos and videos you can shoot with the Gear 360:

Discovered I could fly yesterday while testing the Samsung Gear 360. (This is a 360 degree photo. Please look around.)


Netflix adds a screensaver to its TV apps to promote its original content

Netflix quietly launched a new discovery feature this week aimed at promoting its original programming to users who are watching via an app on their television. Now, when you leave the Netflix application idle, a screensaver will eventually appear displaying a rotating selection of Netflix’s Originals.

The company didn’t make a formal announcement about the new addition, which seemingly confused some users who didn’t expect to see this.

View image on Twitter

View image on Twitter

View image on Twitter

View image on Twitter

Netflix confirmed with TechCrunch that the screensaver rolled out globally to the TV experience this Tuesday, though it had been tested prior to now. It features the cover art for Netflix programming, including movies and TV shows.

There is no option to disable the feature nor configure any settings related to it — like how long before it appears after the screen remains idle, for example.

Right now, the screensaver is focused on Netflix Originals, instead of other featured programming, popular content or new releases. The idea here is to better promote Netflix’s original content that users may not be as familiar with — perhaps because they aren’t titles from traditional television, or blockbuster movies, or because they feature unknown actors.

The company did not confirm a detailed device lineup, but users have already reported seeing it on a variety of streaming players and TVs, including Android TV, Fire TV, Mi Box, Xbox One, PlayStation, Roku, various smart TVs and more.

According to Netflix, however, the screensaver feature is broadly available across all of Netflix’s TV apps, with the exception of some older and legacy devices.


Netflix Says Working on Bringing Original Content to India

Netflix Says Working on Bringing Original Content to India

The US-based on-demand streaming website Netflix arrived in the country five months ago and after facing initial hiccups, is geared up to overturn the viewing habits of Indians by acquiring recent Bollywood titles, memorable classic titles and the best of regional cinema (Tamil, Gujarati, Punjabi and Marathi), a top Netflix executive has said.

“It’s early days in India and there’s still much to learn and discover so that we can keep making the Netflix experience better. We are pleased with how consumers in India are discovering Netflix. They like the fact that we are a flat-fee unlimited viewing commercial-free experience, can cancel any time without commitments,” Jessica Lee, head of communications for Asia, Netflix, told IANS in an e-mail interview.

“They can watch as much as they want, any time, anywhere on nearly any internet-connected screen. For now, we quickly see that the shows Indians love are very much similar to what we see in other markets and the top ones are Netflix Originals like ‘Master of None’, ‘Narcos,’ ‘Marvel’s Daredevil’ and ‘Marvel’s Jessica Jones,” Lee added.

Operating in over 190 countries, Netflix has just announced its first original series from the country based on the best-selling novel “Sacred Games” by Indian author Vikram Chandra.

Shot on location in India, this Hindi-English series will be produced in partnership with Phantom Films, one of India’s leading production houses and will be available to Netflix members globally upon completion.

“In 2016, we plan to spend about $5 billion on programing rights including many original and licensed titles around the world. That includes more than 30 new Netflix original series (or seasons of existing series). Most of these will be available to our members everywhere, including India, exclusively on Netflix. That’s more than one full new season of a series every other week,” Lee informed.

Netflix has nearly 34 million international subscribers against 47 million in the US.

At present, video content contributes approximately 40 percent of the total mobile data traffic in India. Various industry estimates predict a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 83 percent for over-the-top (OTT) video content demand in the next five years in the country.

“We are expanding our original film initiative, launching more than 10 films exclusively on Netflix in 2016. We also are adding more kids programming and documentaries. Our goal is to bring Indian cinema to not only all regions of India but to the world so you’ll find Indian film titles in all countries in which Netflix exists, accessible to all our over 81 million members,” noted Lee.

“For example, ‘Brahman Naman’, a coming-of-age comedy by celebrated Indian director ‘Q’ (Qaushiq Mukherjee), will soon be available globally only on Netflix,” she added.

According to Lee, many of their originals are licensed on a global basis and are available everywhere for members to watch.

Some examples include “Marvel’s Daredevil” and “Marvel’s Jessica Jones”, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” “Grace and Frankie,” “Master of None” and “Narcos and Marco Polo”.

“For documentary lovers, we have ‘What Happened, Miss Simone?,’ the docu-series ‘Chef’s Table,’ ‘Making a Murderer,’ and the Oscar-nominated ‘Virunga’, among others. On the film side, we have ‘Beasts of No Nation’ and ‘The Ridiculous Six’. And for kids, Netflix has dozens of original series including ‘The Adventures of Puss ‘n Boots’ and ‘Dragons: Race to the Edge’ and the upcoming family show ‘Fuller House,’ Lee told IANS.

Refuting reports that the Indian viewers want to watch NetFlix USA and not Netflix India for more content, she said: “In March 2016, If you look at the top 10 shows in the US over the last 12 months, 90 per cent of those are available globally or near globally. If you expand that out to the top 20, it’s 75 per cent. So you do have access to most of the most popular shows on the US service and we are continually working for a global catalogue that erases remaining differences”.

“The aim is to offer a fully global service with a global catalogue so no one has to wait for the hottest new show or movie,” she stated, adding that the world of content licensing has however been very fragmented and regionalised.

“It will take some time, several years at least, to get to an offering that’s the same everywhere. Until then, we strive to offer a compelling service everywhere by licensing the best of TV and film available,” Lee added.

Netflix is also trying to block virtual private networks (VPNs) globally, including for India, which people are joining to access banned content while staying away from the preying eyes of surveilling agencies.

“Using VPNs or proxies to virtually cross borders violates Netflix’s terms of use because of licensing restrictions on TV shows and movies. People will always try and find a way to get the content they want no matter the technological barriers. We recognise that, and that’s why we are trying to offer our content to members globally at the exact same time,” she told IANS.

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Tags: Apps, Home entertainment, Internet, Netflix