Netflix’s ad-supported plan gets support for 1080p quality and two concurrent streams

Netflix is upgrading its ad-supported plan in terms of streaming quality and concurrent streams. The company said users subscribed to this plan will be able to see content in 1080p resolution (up from 720p) with support for two concurrent streams.

These benefits are rolling out to users in Canada and Spain today. People using the ad-supported plans in other 10 markets — including the US — will get these features this month.

“We believe these enhancements will make our offering even more attractive to a broader set of consumers and further strengthen engagement for existing and new subscribers to the ads plan,” the company said in its letter to investors.

Netflix launched the ad-supported plan last November at $6.99 per month and it’s already seeing positive results.

The streaming company said that in the US, it’s earning more average revenue per membership through the ad-supported plan than the standard plan, which costs $15.99 per month.

During the earnings call, Netflix’s CFO Spence Neumann said that the company has rolled out new content to the ad-supported tier in the past quarter bringing it to “95% plus” parity with other higher-priced plans.

He mentioned that the ad-supported plan is also showing beneficial results for the business,

“This [economics of the ad-supported plan] is all at a level that we believe is not just better for our members with a lower priced option but better for our business and we think we could do it with and are doing it in a way that’s, I would say, without being overly specific, think of it as like 50% or more incremental profit contribution to the business,” he said.

According to Insider Intelligence, Netflix will bring in $770 million in ad revenues this year, and this number will grow to $1.9 billion in 2024.

Netflix ad revenue

Netflix ad revenue Image Credits: Insider Intelligence 

The firm expects Netflix to have 170.6 million users (0.5% dip year-on-year) in the US and 682.7 million users globally (5.6% jump year-on-year) by year-end.

The company also unveiled plans of rolling out restrictions on password sharing more broadly this summer. The company registered $8.16 billion in revenue for Q1 2023 — slightly lower than analyst expectations of $8.18 billion.

Netflix’s ad-supported plan gets support for 1080p quality and two concurrent streams by Ivan Mehta originally published on TechCrunch

Amazon-owned MGM makes a viral video show with surveillance footage from Amazon-owned Ring

MGM (which is owned by Amazon) is making a viral video show based on footage from Ring security cameras (also owned by Amazon). The syndicated television show, “Ring Nation,” is poised to be a modern-day, surveillance-tinged spin on “America’s Funniest Home Videos” with Wanda Sykes as host.

According to a report in Deadline, the show will feature Ring footage of “neighbors saving neighbors, marriage proposals, military reunions and silly animals.” Ring is also known for activities like accidentally leaking people’s home addresses and handing over footage to the government without users’ permission.

Between January and July of this year, Amazon shared ring doorbell footage with U.S. authorities 11 times without the device owner’s consent. Ring has been critiqued for working unusually closely with at least 2,200 police departments around the United States, allowing police to request video doorbell camera footage from homeowners through Ring’s Neighbors app. Like Citizen and Nextdoor, the Neighbors app tracks local crime and allows users to comment anonymously — plus, Ring’s police partners can publicly request video footage on the app.

An Amazon-owned police surveillance network is bad enough, but Neighbors users have also faced repeated safety and security issues.

An executive at MGM, Barry Poznick, praised the new show: “From the incredible, to the hilarious and uplifting must-see viral moments from around the country every day, Ring Nation offers something for everyone watching at home.”

But perhaps what viewers at home really want is data privacy.

Ring only started disclosing its connections with law enforcement after fielding demands for transparency from the U.S. government. In a 2019 letter, Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) said that the company’s relationship with police forces raise civil liberties concerns.

“The integration of Ring’s network of cameras with law enforcement offices could easily create a surveillance network that places dangerous burdens on people of color and feeds racial anxieties in local communities,” Sen. Markey wrote. “In light of evidence that existing facial recognition technology disproportionately misidentifies African Americans and Latinos, a product like this has the potential to catalyze racial profiling and harm people of color.”

Amazon bought the smart video doorbell company in 2018 for $1 billion, then bought MGM for $8.5 billion earlier this year. Now, these two investments — which seemingly have nothing to do with each other — are merging to create a late-capitalist dystopian spectacular that we couldn’t have imagined in our worst nightmares. Amazon also just spent $1.7 billion on iRobot, maker of the Roomba vacuum, but we will not dare to imagine how that acquisition may one day inspire a horrifying TV show.

Spotify starts selling live music tickets to fans directly

Spotify has launched a new site to sell fans tickets to live gigs directly from its platform instead of redirecting users to partners like Ticketmaster and Eventbrite. The company’s new website lists upcoming concerts and lets users purchase tickets to these shows through debit or credit card; users need to have a Spotify account to buy tickets, though.

The company hasn’t officially announced the launch of its ticketing platform, but Chris Messina first noted about the site being available for the public to book tickets earlier today.

The site lists gigs that are available to book on the home page, and under the My Events section, users can see their past and upcoming ticket bookings. Currently, the Spotify Tickets site lists gigs for artists like Limbeck, Crow, Annie DiRusso, Four Years Strong, and TOKiMONSTA that are performing in the U.S. in the coming months.


The Spotify Tickets home page Image Credits: Spotify

The company revamped its in-app live event discovery page in June with better gig discovery for events around the user’s local area. Until now, Spotify used its ticketing partners like Ticketmaster, AXS, DICE, Eventbrite, and See Tickets to list these events; for ticket booking, it used to link out to these partners from the event page. With the launch of its ticketing platform, this may change. While currently, events listed on the Spotify Tickets site are not available on the Live events page, the company’s support page says: “Some tickets listed there [on the Live Events page] are available for purchase directly from Spotify.” Tickets directly sold through Spotify are also not currently listed on the artist page. We have asked the firm if it plans to list directly ticketed events on the Live Events page and artists’ pages.

Spotify ticketing site’s legal section says that the company only acts as a ticketing agent and takes a booking fee. It also mentions that it can be selling tickets on behalf of “third parties which can include venues, event promoters, fan clubs, and artists, as their disclosed ticketing agent”. We have asked the company for details on what cut — if any — it takes from ticket sales, and how this differs from affiliate fees it earns from its third-party ticketing partnerships.

Notably, some venues listed on the Spotify Ticket page come under the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA), a U.S.-based organization representing independent venues. So the company might be currently avoiding venues that are under Ticketmaster owner Live Nation’s distribution. Live Nation has been accused of monopolistic practices regarding ticket distribution with lawmakers asking President Joe Biden to launch an investigation into the ticket distribution firm last year.

In a blog published in June, Spotify’s product manager for Live Events Discovery Sam Sheridan said that while people were engaging with artists on the app, they left the platform to find events for their live performances. With the revamped live events feed and the ticketing platform, the company is trying to solve the discovery problem and earn some money through ticket booking directly or as an affiliate partner. Last year, the company also experimented with selling tickets to virtual pre-recorded concerts due to the pandemic. The company has been under constant scrutiny for not paying artists enough from streaming, so with this new initiative, Spotify could argue that it will drive more ticket sales for artists.

Spotify’s ticketing platform launch comes days after TikTok partnered with Ticketmaster to let users discover concerts and other live events. In February, Snap struck a similar partnership with the ticket booking platform to power event discovery through Snap Minis — third-party party programs on Snapchat.

Walmart is reportedly looking at deals with streaming services

Walmart’s membership program Walmart+ may bundle with a streaming service. The report comes from the New York Times and sparks conversation about the strange idea of the retail giant entering the streaming world. Sources told the outlet that Walmart was in talks with major media companies such as Paramount (Paramount+), Disney (Disney+, ESPN+, Hulu) and Comcast (Peacock).

Given the rivalry with Amazon and its Prime membership program, Walmart exploring a streaming deal could give it an opportunity to attempt its own service that is similar to Amazon Prime. The company declined to comment to TechCrunch.

While it remains unconfirmed that Paramount+, Disney+ or Peacock could strike an agreement with the company, it would be an interesting development in the streaming landscape. The idea isn’t far-fetched either, as a Walmart+ membership, which is $12.95 per month, provides members a free six-month subscription to Spotify Premium, on top of free delivery and discounted gas prices.

Wireless providers such as Verizon and T-Mobile have also struck deals with streaming services, offering similar bundles to customers. Verizon offers The Disney Bundle (Disney+, ESPN+, Hulu) to users with select Verizon Unlimited plans. T-Mobile gives customers access to Netflix and a year of Apple TV+ and Paramount+. AT&T recently re-extended its agreement with Warner Bros. Discovery, giving customers the ability to watch HBO Max with their plans.

This also wouldn’t be Walmart’s first time trying to get into the streaming market. The company bought on-demand video service Vudu in 2010 but it could not keep up with its competitors and sold Vudu to Comcast-owned Fandango in 2020. Walmart has also invested in Eko, an interactive video company.

Roku partnered with Walmart in June, a deal that brought shoppable ads to the streaming platform and united Roku’s 61.3 million subscribers with a retailer that reported a total revenue of $141.6 billion in Q1 2022.

Spotify’s Soundtrap app for musicians introduces live collaboration and auto save

Spotify’s digital audio workstation (DAW) platform Soundtrap is introducing new features for musicians, including live collaboration, auto-save and comments. The firm said the first two features are under an opt-in beta so artists will have to manually enable these features.

The company is rolling out the comments feature to all users starting today. This will allow people working on a project to leave notes on different parts of the track for remote collaborates. It’s a bit like the Google Docs comments feature for editors.

Image Credits: Spotify

Soundtrap is also introducing two new test features: live collaboration and auto-save. The company noted with a live collaboration function, musicians can work on a project from any device in real-time. The collaborators will have to enable this feature before creating a new project for a music track or a podcast. What’s more, the auto-save options will remove the need for artists working on the project to manually save these changes.

While these features will launch under a public beta today, the company said it plans to launch a stable version later this year. Soundtrap has to manage lags and latency for the real-time collaboration feature so musicians don’t feel out of beat. The platform will compete with other DAWs like Soundation’s Collab Live, which introduced a synchronized collaboration feature in 2020.

Spotify acquired Soundtrap in 2017, and since it has introduced many features like a cloud-based podcast studio and collaborative voice notes for songwriters. Earlier this year, the Sweden-based company launched Soundtrap-powered music streaming in the online platform game Roblox.

Last month, Chris Messina noted Spotify might be testing a feature to bring Soundtrap features to its main app. We have asked the company for a comment on the test, and we’ll update the story if we hear back. He also noted the live collaboration feature of Soundtrap last week before the official announcement today.

‘Selling Sunset’ star Christine Quinn’s brokerage debuts new crypto credit scoring platform

For fans of both reality television and web3 (hopefully that group includes more than just this reporter), Christine Quinn’s move to leave the Oppenheim Group and co-found a brokerage with her husband to serve the crypto-rich was quite the bombshell. Now, RealOpen CMO Quinn and CEO Christian Dumontet, who married Quinn in a swan-filled soiree on Selling Sunset season three, have finally shared some long-awaited juicy details about their company’s product roadmap (!!!).

The pair sat down for an exclusive interview with TechCrunch to discuss RealOpen’s latest product, RealScore, a crypto credit scoring system for buyers and sellers of luxury real estate. Their brokerage primarily serves high-net-worth clients who want to purchase property using cryptocurrency. The RealScore software they have developed serves as a tool for both parties in a transaction to assess the strength of an offer, taking into account the mix of tokens used in the offer and attempting to predict their volatility, according to Dumontet, who previously founded and bootstrapped Foodler and sold it to Grubhub for over $50 million in 2017.

Before we got into how RealScore works, Quinn explained why a client would want to buy a house using crypto instead of cash in the first place. Crypto “whales” who hold a significant portion of their wealth in digital currency prefer to move fast in business, and buying property is no exception, Quinn said.

Christine Quinn and Christian Dumontet, co-founders of crypto real estate company RealOpen

RealOpen co-founders Christine Quinn and Christian Dumontet Image Credits: Photo by Gotham/GC Images)

“I’m finding a lot of clients who actually want to close quickly because of the volatility [of crypto],” she said. “Because of that, we can choose the day, down to the minute, that they want to do so. We live in an instant gratification generation where people want things quickly. With a traditional home mortgage, you’re looking at a four-week close, or it could be longer sometimes [due to] inspection contingencies.”

Some of Quinn’s clients value speed so highly that they are okay with just seeing a property over FaceTime before agreeing to move forward with a deal, she said.

“I’ve seen people who have said, I’m good with the contingencies, I don’t care if there are termites or if I have to fix the chimney,” Quinn added.

Buyers pay RealOpen’s sellers in cash, which means they have to convert their crypto into dollars before closing a transaction, Dumontet explained. But they usually can’t wait until the last minute to liquidate their funds, because sellers need to be able to evaluate the buyer’s ability to pay before agreeing to the transaction, which can be complicated if the buyer holds crypto at the time of making the offer. For the buyer, converting crypto to cash triggers a taxable event that “can’t be undone,” Dumontet explained.

“The process of shopping for a home can take months if they’re looking at various properties. If it’s one of the more particular buyers, they’ve lost participation in the crypto market. They may have an excess of cash because they want to buy a property at price X, but they want to have a buffer above that because they’re not quite sure what the property prices are and what the seller will accept,” he said.

That’s where RealScore comes in — it is essentially the software engine that powers RealOpen’s brokerage. By using RealScore, buyers can defer converting their crypto into cash until the very instant the transaction closes without having to explain to a seller what the value of their offer is beforehand, according to Dumontet.

The platform allows buyers and sellers to see algorithmic predictions about the likelihood of price movement across the various crypto assets involved in a transaction based on historical data, Dumontet explained. The RealScore for an offer is calculated using correlation coefficients that illustrate how different types of digital currencies are related, helping a buyer decide if they should diversify the mix of assets that make up their offer and when to formally extend one, he said.

Ultimately, this allows both parties to come to a shared understanding of an offer, which often results in a quicker transaction process, Quinn added, noting that RealOpen can complete “Know Your Customer” (KYC) diligence on a customer in a matter of minutes and close a transaction in a single day. RealScore’s analytics can also be a helpful tool for Quinn and Dumontet to use to motivate buyers who were already considering purchasing a specific property to take the leap.

A screenshot of a mock-up of RealScore's platform

A mock-up of RealScore’s crypto credit scoring platform Image Credits: RealScore

“It gives us an opportunity to go to our clients and say, hey, actually, right now is a really good time if you want to do that transaction. So it helps us as well so that we have a universal language between our clients,” Quinn said.

Quinn said the RealOpen platform has over $150 million worth of exclusive listings, primarily in Miami, which has emerged as a hub for cryptocurrency. Outside of Miami, Quinn said, RealOpen’s crypto focus has attracted a strong pipeline of listings from sellers all over the world.

The brokerage contracts with a network of ~50 local agents licensed in each jurisdiction, Dumontet added. The company employs three full-time engineers and has a four-person management team including the co-founders, he said.

While RealOpen’s main focus is on buyers in the crypto world, the RealScore platform can also help both parties assess all-cash offers. Since the company officially launched in April 2022, it has closed just under a dozen transactions for its customers, Quinn said, though she did not share details on how many of those offers included crypto.

RealOpen says it can facilitate transactions in all cryptocurrencies, though Dumontet noted that bitcoin, ethereum and stablecoins are the most popular choices among buyers. Both Quinn and Dumontet, who was an early adopter of crypto in 2013 when Foodler began accepting payments in Bitcoin, said they are confident that the asset class is here to stay.

Next up on RealOpen’s product roadmap are features tailored toward people looking to buy investment properties using crypto, not just homes they themselves will occupy, Dumontet said.

“If you look at the traditional [real estate platforms such as] Zillow and Redfin, the user interface is all the same. You input your parameters, price range, geographies, bedrooms, bathrooms, house type, and then you see your list and go from there … But when you think about asset diversification, real estate is an excellent investment. It’s got leverage, and interest rate arbitrage, which you don’t see on other types of assets,” he added.

Quinn, meanwhile, hinted at even bigger long-term ambitions for RealOpen, saying she hopes to eventually diversify beyond real estate and bridge digital assets with all sorts of physical goods.

“One of my girlfriends is actually a diamond dealer. She’s the one who designed my ring, and she said, ‘a lot of my clients have tons of cryptocurrency, and they would love to buy diamonds for their wife, how can I do this?’ And I said, well, the process is exactly the same, as it is for people who want to buy cars and stuff like that,” Quinn said.

All eyes will certainly be on Quinn as she continues building the venture that pulled her away from the television series and brokerage that brought her massive fame, but in her usual style, she seems confident that she is up for the challenge.

“I think the Oppenheim Group will not exist in seven years. It can only scale for so long. Sotheby’s, Berkshire Hathaway, I think those will be around forever, but I think boutique brokerages will be a thing of the past. So for me, it was just all about getting on the forefront,” Quinn said of starting RealOpen.

Streaming royalties are broken, Rashida Tlaib thinks Congress can fix them

There’s never been an easy time to be a musician, but for many in and around the industry, the 21st century has presented one calamity after another for those hoping to make a living through music. The turn of the century saw record labels implode at a staggering rate, and it would be some time before some salvation arrived in the form of streaming services, which finally offered an effective method to monetize music listening.

Examined in the harsh light of day, however, a major question emerges: Who, precisely, do these services benefit? According to the Record Industry Association of America, streaming comprised 83% of all recorded music revenue in the U.S., as of 2020. Calculating the amount of revenue an artist makes per stream can be a complex task.

Different rights holders strike different deals, and you’ve got a lot of cooks vying for that money, including publishers, distributors and labels. The commonly accepted figure for Spotify is that somewhere between $0.003 and $0.005 is paid out to artists for every stream. The figure varies widely from service to service, though it’s generally fractions of a cent. Apple, notably, revealed last April that it pays around a penny per stream — a generous figure by streaming industry standards.

Revenue rates have, of course, been a common complaint among musicians for more than a decade, but like so many other labor issues, things have come to a head during the pandemic. Two-plus years of limited or no touring have brought concerns into sharp relief. In late-2020, the Union of Musicians and Allied Workers (UMAW) launched the Justice at Spotify campaign to raise awareness of the issue.

“With the entire live music ecosystem in jeopardy due to the coronavirus pandemic, music workers are more reliant on streaming income than ever,” the org noted at the time. “We are calling on Spotify to deliver increased royalty payments, transparency in their practices, and to stop fighting artists.”

The union would ultimately find a sympathetic ear in Congress in the form of Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib. Last week, reports surfaced that the congresswoman was putting together a resolution aimed at establishing a royalty program to provide musicians adequate compensation via royalties on per-stream basis. “It was a meeting with the Union of Musicians and Allied Workers,” Tlaib tells TechCrunch. “One of the things that continued to come up was what could Congress do in supporting their efforts to be protected and also for musicians to be fairly compensated for their work. To have respect in this field, especially from so many folks in the industry that continue to monopolize and so forth. They did an amazing job, came to us with this proposal and taught my team and I so much about the ins and outs of how it works right now.”

Tlaib says her team worked closely with the UMAW on penning a draft of the resolution. “We do the same thing with our housing bills, trying to address economic divide in our country. We let them lead us. I’m working for them, helping them and advocating on their behalf. They’re teaching me so much about the monopolization in the industry, and how Spotify specifically is acting in bad faith in many ways.”

Musician and UMAW member/organizer (and musician/newsletter writer) Damon Krukowski said in a statement to TechCrunch:

Currently, music streaming is building wealth for streaming platforms at the expense of musicians. UMAW is working to redress that imbalance. Rep Tlaib’s proposed legislation would guarantee a minimum payment from platforms direct to the musicians who play on streamed recordings. The infrastructure for such payments already exists, because they are already required of satellite radio. This same principle needs to be applied to streaming, for fairness and for the sustainability of recorded music.

Tlaib’s resolution would employ the nonprofit royalties group SoundExchange, as well as the Copyright Royalty Board, to calculate and distribute royalties. The two bodies already serve a similar function for webcasting and satellite radio. This would, effectively, operate under a complementary model, tailored to streaming.

With news of the resolution surfacing in late July, word has gotten out around the industry. Tlaib said she’d not yet spoken with Spotify directly, explaining, “I understand they’re aware.” She adds, “My priority is not the corporations. It probably never will be. They have their lawyers, they have their lobbyists, they have their resources to put out ads and gaslighting people to say all the things they say will happen when we continue to push this thing forward. My priority is that is doing everything right and is not being traded fairly in this market.”

TechCrunch reached out to Spotify for the story, but has yet to receive comment. CEO Daniel Ek made waves in the past for suggesting that the streaming model simple couldn’t — or wouldn’t — support musicians as record sales had done in the past. “Some artists that used to do well in the past may not do well in this future landscape,” he said in a July 2019 interview, “where you can’t record music once every three to four years and think that’s going to be enough.”

Tlaib’s resolution has begun to pick up steam among House colleagues. Most recently New York Rep. — and fellow Squad member — Jamaal Bowman has lent his support to the draft, which is still waiting review by the House Legislative Counsel.

Tlaib tells TechCrunch she believes such legislation could also gain bipartisan support in Congress.

“I think what happens is folks don’t realize that many of the people impacted by what’s happening are in all congressional districts. I don’t think you could go to any district that either isn’t impacted by it or doesn’t understand how incredibly unfair it is. I know that we’ll be able — especially with the work the Union of Musicians and Allied Workers is doing outside of Congress — to make this a viable piece of legislation.”

Tlaib’s own district — which includes Western Detroit — can certainly lay claim to that impact.

“Detroit is a global music capital in the world: Motown, techno, jazz, gospel. I wanted to honor that, and respect that incredible work, which played a huge role in movement work,” she said. “Music has been a huge part in my growing up in the social justice movement. It was a way to bring folks together in trying to understand not only the human pain, but the possibility of ‘better.’ When I think of these amazing musicians coming together like this, it’s incredibly inspiring. And why not? Why don’t they deserve Spotify and other major folks in the industry to pay them what they deserve?”

Get ready for a HBO Max – Discovery+ mashup app in 2023

The headline of Warner Bros. Discovery’s earnings call was something a lot of people dreaded: HBO Max and Discovery+ are merging into a new service. The company will roll out this new offering — which doesn’t have a name yet — for U.S.-based consumers in the summer of 2023, with LatAm expansion later that year, and the European market launch in 2024.

The firm aims to merge different offerings like acclaimed scripted shows such as “Succession,” “Euphoria,” and the upcoming “House of Dragons” from HBO Max and unscripted shows such as “90 Day Fiancé” and “Fixer Upper,” under one service.

Warner Bros. Discovery will start this merger process by cross-posting content on both services. Discovery+ will start showing CNN originals starting this month under a new tab, and HBO Max will gain some reality shows from Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia Network starting September 30.

The company also admitted that both HBO Max and Discovery had shortcomings from a product perspective, with the aim of the new product being to address those issues.

HBO Max app has a notorious reputation of being a buggy app with many issues:  the app freeze and crashing on Roku; unable to remember subtitle settings on Apple TV; and content being inaccessible at times. The HBO Max’s app ratings — 3.7 on the Google Play Store and just 2.8 on the Apple App Store — are reflective of customers experiencing multiple issues. In an interview with Protocol in April, HBO Max’s product head Sarah Lyons admitted that the company hurried out its apps despite knowing they were buggy in 2020.

On the other hand, the Discovery+ app’s performance is good, but it doesn’t have features like offline viewing and parental controls.

“HBO Max has a competitive feature set, but has had performance and customer issues. Discovery+ has best-in-class performance and consumer ratings, but more limited features. Our combined service will focus on delivering the best of both, market-leading features with world-class performance,” Jean-Briac Perrette, the firm’s CEO and president for global streaming and gaming, said on the earnings call.

The company mentioned that apart from the merger of existing services, it’s also exploring an ad-supported free offering for people who don’t want to pay subscription money. The firm will reveal more details about this plan at its investor day later this year. Notably, rival streaming company Netflix will also introduce an ad-supported version of its service next year.

Over the last few days, HBO Max has been facing a lot of criticism for silently pulling down titles from its service and canceling high-budget projects like “Batgirl”.

The announcement of the HBO Max-Discovery+ merger confirms a report by The Wrap about a major streaming strategy shakeup at Warner Bros. Discovery that might result in layoffs days before the earnings result. However, the company didn’t mention any people-related restructuring during its earnings call. We have asked the company for a comment, and we’ll update the story if we hear back.

Apart from the big app merge, Warner Bros. Discovery announced that it has 92 million combined subscribers — 76.8 million from HBO and HBO Max and 24 million from Discovery+. The firm registered $9.8 billion in revenue, well short of analysts’ estimate of $11.91 billion.

‘Lightyear’ streams today, the first Pixar film on Disney+ with scenes in IMAX’s Expanded Aspect Ratio

“Lightyear” was the first Pixar movie in two years to make it to theaters. A month and a half later, it finally hits the streaming platform Disney+. Today, August 3, subscribers can watch the “Toy Story” spin-off at home. Of note, this is the first Disney and Pixar animated film on Disney+ with scenes in IMAX’s Expanded Aspect Ratio.

With IMAX Enhanced, the film comes with IMAX’s exclusive Expanded Aspect Ratio, which gives audiences up to 26% more picture for major sequences of the film, with no special equipment needed. This means more of the action is visible on your screen.

Angus MacLane, who directed the film, said in a statement, “We are thrilled that Disney and Pixar’s ‘Lightyear’ is the first IMAX Enhanced animated film launching on Disney+. Leveraging IMAX’s technology throughout the filmmaking process allowed us to create an elevated viewing experience for ‘Lightyear’ fans in theaters, at home, and beyond.”

“Lightyear” joins 15 Marvel titles that are available in IMAX Enhanced on Disney+. These include “Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings,” “Avengers: Endgame, Eternals,” “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” and more.

The animated film stars Chris Evans as space ranger Buzz Lightyear from Andy’s favorite movie that he watched as a child. Unlike the rest of the “Toy Story” franchise, “Lightyear” tells the origin story of human Buzz and explores him trying to find a way back home after being stranded on a hostile planet with his commander and crew. He accidentally time jumps 62 years into the future, where the planet is taken over by the evil Emperor Zurg (James Brolin) and his robot army.

There was a lot of confusion about how “Lightyear” connects to the four other films in the “Toy Story” series. This could explain why the new movie wasn’t the success Pixar was expecting. It essentially became a box office failure, only earning $222.4 million worldwide, about $20 million above its reported budget. In comparison, “Toy Story 3” and “Toy Story 4” earned over $1 billion at the box office.

Hopefully, “Lightyear” will have more success on Disney+ than in theaters, especially since it will have scenes in IMAX’s Expanded Aspect Ratio.

TikTok Music’s trademarks spotted in multiple countries, hinting toward global launch plans

ByteDance may be preparing for a global launch of TikTok Music service, according to trademarks filed in several countries found by TechCrunch. The China-based conglomerate has filed TikTok Music trademark in countries like the U.K., Singapore, New Zealand, Mexico, Malaysia and Costa Rica.

This comes after a Business Insider report last week, which pointed toward a “TikTok Music” trademark filing in the U.S. ByteDance had also filed another trademark in Australia under a similar name.

All of these trademark filings include similar text about the application’s functionality of listening to music, creating playlists, commenting on songs and participating in karaoke.

The trademark application says it would allow “users to purchase, play, share, download music, songs, albums, lyrics, quotes, create, recommend, share his/her playlists, lyrics, quotes, take, edit and upload photographs as the cover of playlists, comment on music, songs and albums.”

ByteDance already operates a music streaming service called Resso in India, Brazil and Indonesia, and a former ByteDance employee told us it had previously considered bringing this service to more markets under a “TikTok Music” title. Specifically, it had been considering launches in mature markets like the U.K. and Australia, the source said.

Resso has identical features to the ones described above, with TikTok-like vertical scrolling to go through songs, the ability to change cover photos for playlists, lyrics displayed on the lock screen, and comments on songs and albums.

Since its launch in 2020, Resso has seen solid progress in its existing markets, mobile data indicates. According to analytics firm Sensor Tower, the company saw 42.3 million downloads from the App Store and Google Play from January to May this year — growth of 19% year over year for the same period. The music streaming app has had 184 million overall lifetime downloads, as well.

TikTok, meanwhile, has had a major impact on the music industry with many hits being driven by different viral videos on the platform. A report released by the company last year suggested that 175 songs that trended on the short-video platform ended up on the Billboard 100 chart. In addition, a recent report published by a U.K.-based music investor noted that songs that are popular on TikTok drive additional views on YouTube and streams on other music streaming platforms, like Spotify. Record labels are also benefitting from TikTok’s success in the music sector. Reports estimate that TikTok paid $179 million to recorded music right owners in 2021.

ByteDance would want to grab all that traffic and streaming money from its own music service, and its recently launched music marketing and distribution platform SoundOn. Last week the company launched a pre-release feature so the artists can “leak” their songs to the TikTok audience before the official release.

The launch of TikTok Music would mean an additional revenue stream for ByteDance and a complete music solution service that can offer artists solutions to publish their songs through SoundOn, market them on TikTok and get people to listen to whole songs on TikTok Music/Resso. This service would directly compete with music streaming giants like Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer and Pandora.

We have reached out to ByteDance for a comment.