Tuesday, June 18, 2019

News Briefs

Displaying 111 - 120 of 3620
  • Wednesday, Apr. 10, 2019
Discovery says new Chip and Joanna Gaines network to debut next year
In this March 29, 2016, file photo, Joanna and Chip Gaines pose for a portrait in New York. The lifestyle team of Chip and Joanna Gaines will launch their own Discovery-affiliated television network in the summer of 2020. (Photo by Brian Ach/Invision/AP, File)
NEW YORK (AP) -- 

The lifestyle team of Chip and Joanna Gaines will launch their own Discovery-affiliated television network in the summer of 2020.

Discovery CEO David Zaslav announced the Gaines' channel Wednesday prior to a sales presentation to advertisers. There's no name yet. It will replace the current DIY network, which is seen in about 52 million homes in the United States.

No programming was revealed, except for reruns of "Fixer Upper," the HGTV series that launched the Gaines' media career in Waco, Texas. Discovery said topics that will be covered include community, home, garden, food and wellness.

Allison Page, who currently runs HGTV, will be president of the joint venture between Discovery and Magnolia, the Gaines' company. There are also plans for a dedicated app and subscription streaming service.

  • Wednesday, Apr. 10, 2019
Algorithms predict who will be left standing in “Game of Thrones”
A "Game of Thrones" algorithms study page
MUNICH -- 

Shortly before the curtain drops on the hit HBO show “Game of Thrones” (GoT), students attending a computer science seminar at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) embarked on an unusual scientific mission: predicting which character has the best chance to sit the coveted Iron Throne. 

Students at the Technical University of Munich developed an application that scours the web for data about Game of Thrones, then crunches the numbers using a set of artificial intelligence algorithms that they created to predict the survival chances of each of the Game of Thrones characters. 

Back in 2016 and just before the airing of Season 6, students of the same course created an algorithm that accurately predicted Jon Snow’s resurrection. 

Similar algorithms are used in medicine and finance

The algorithms developed now by the students predicts that Daenerys Targaryen has the highest chance (99%) of surviving the harrowing GoT world. Her Hand of the King, Tyrion Lannister, also has a promising 97% survival rate. 

Survival rates are predicted using longevity analysis – a technique similar to scientific studies that examine the effects of treatments and complications on cancer patients. For the full list of characters and their survival chances, click here.

Savvy GoT fans can get an in-depth look into the main reasons for the algorithm’s predictions. For instance, being born in Winterfell to the House of Stark as well as only being married once seems to increase the chances of Sansa Stark to be eliminated in the upcoming season; her predicted likelihood of death is 73%. 

Fans interested in exploring the differences between the plot of the TV show and the story told by the books underlying the TV series, can find a side by side comparison of details about characters, including age, status (dead vs. alive) and longevity prospects. 

Popular series drives passionate learning
The work on the survival chances algorithm is part of a JavaScript seminar given each semester at the Technical University of Munich computer science department. During the course, students learn how to design, develop and deploy intelligent computer systems.

Lead mentor of the class, Dr. Guy Yachdav commented that “while the task of predicting survival chances for Game of Thrones characters relies on data taken from the world of fantasy, the exact same Artificial Intelligence techniques are used in the real world and are having a powerful impact on our everyday lives.” 

Professor Burkhard Rost heading the Chair for Bioinformatics at TUM’s Informatics faculty said, “The combination of passion and teaching is a brilliant way to create new tools that matter. In our course at TUM we found a fun way to teach students how to use this technology and prepare them to build the next big thing once they graduate.”

  • Wednesday, Apr. 10, 2019
Netflix launches comedy channel on SiriusXM
In this March 30, 2019 file photo, Chris Rock presents the award for outstanding comedy series at the 50th annual NAACP Image Awards at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)
NEW YORK (AP) -- 

Netflix is launching its first audio venture that will feature the video streaming service's comedy programming on SiriusXM.

The companies on Wednesday announced "Netflix Is A Joke Radio" will feature highlights from such comedians as Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, Ricky Gervais, Sarah Silverman, Jerry Seinfeld and Wanda Sykes. The channel also will feature segments from future stand-up specials and clips from Netflix's comedy talk shows.

The channel plans to introduce a daily show featuring celebrity guests and comedians.

Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos says the service is excited to celebrate the art of comedy.

SiriusXM president Scott Greenstein says the service is eager to offer subscribers access to Netflix's "star-studded library, new specials and original live shows."

The programming will launch on SiriusXM Channel 93 on Monday.

  • Tuesday, Apr. 9, 2019
Nice Shoes opens new Chicago outpost
Nice Shoes (l-r) EP Tara Holmes, sr. colorist Ron Sudul and color assistant Alex Frankland
CHICAGO -- 

NYC-based creative studio Nice Shoes has expanded in the Midwest, opening its first stand-alone space in Chicago’s River North district. The studio will be led by sr. colorist Ron Sudul and color assistant Alex Frankland, and be supported by executive producer Tara Holmes and producer Serena Bove, who will be splitting their time between the NYC and Chicago studios.

Having previously operated out of a shared space in Chicago, Nice Shoes launches its own quarters on the heels of an influx of work from the Midwest region, with a steady flow of projects from local clients such as mcgarrybowen, EnergyBBDO, and We Are Unlimited. The space, which is larger than the former shared space, will allow the studio to scale based on project needs and allow for Nice Shoes’ global roster of colorist talent to work out of the studio.

Sudul has been with Nice Shoes since its inception, spending nearly two decades in the NYC headquarters experiencing the evolution of the brand as it continued to adapt with industry shifts. Nice Shoes sent him to Chicago in 2014 to launch the studio’s Midwest presence. His passion for perfecting imagery has brought him into contact with such recording artists as Kanye West and Beyoncé, collaborating with the power duo on experimental pieces with looks that shatter the boundaries of traditional music videos. Sudul has also worked on a range of spots for brands such as AT&T, Givenchy, IBM, UPS, Starbucks, GE, Dunkin’ Donuts, Coca-Cola, MTV and Chase. 

  • Tuesday, Apr. 9, 2019
VFX Legion extends reach, opens studio in British Columbia
James David Hattin
BURBANK, Calif. -- 

VFX Legion, the Burbank-based visual effects company, has launched a studio in British Columbia, Canada. The new division accesses the province’s substantial tax rebates, and the diverse roster of senior artists needed to efficiently craft the high-quality photo-realistic visual effects that feature films and episodic television shows demand.

Although the expansion to B.C. marks the first time that VFX Legion has established a presence outside of L.A., it has been a global company since founder and creative director James David Hattin opened its doors in 2013. With a next-generation pipeline at its core, Legion can render an artist’s location irrelevant, thus establishing its Kelowna, B.C. studio as a creative hub.

The company kicks off the new venture with a skilled roster of in-house talent, along with a scalable collective of specialized visual effects artists based beyond commuting distance to its studio.  Hattin is currently finalizing the signing of a head of production/sr. VFX supervisor to helm the B.C. operation as Legion continues to solidify new relationships with top-tier talent based throughout the whole of the province.

“British Columbia’s dense pool of experienced artists makes it an ideal location for VFX Legion’s first foray into a tax haven,” said Hattin, the architect of the company’s pipeline. “It enables us to take optimum advantage of our infrastructure’s capabilities and bring some of B.C.’s most creative and experienced visual effects artists into our fold.”

Hattin continued, “The impetus behind the launch of VFX Legion was the need for a new generation of visual effects companies with state-of-the-art capabilities, ensuring that establishing a presence in B.C., or any region offering tax incentives, doesn’t come at the cost of limited access to top-tier talent.” 

VFX Legion’s capabilities build on Hattin’s 20+ years of experience as a tech-savvy lead talent helming visual effects teams for Hollywood’s episodic television shows and blockbuster films. The hands-on creative supervises and collaborates with the company’s LA and B.C.-based artists, as well as its worldwide network of talent, working in real-time as a single unit through every phase of production.

Shonda Rhimes’ high-profile series, Scandal (ABC), entrusted Legion to handle all its visual effects needs for three seasons, through last year’s finale.  Currently, How to Get Away with Murder (ABC), Madam Secretary (CBS), and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (CW), are a few of the shows that continue to return to work with the company’s team season after season.  Hardcore Henry, Sinister 2, Insidious 3, Asura, 12 Strong and Superfly are among Legion’s feature film credits.

British Columbia is the first of a series of regions offering tax incentives where VFX Legion plans to put down stakes.  Hattin is in the process of assembling a core team of artists in New York, and plans are in the works to launch a division in the state.

  • Monday, Apr. 8, 2019
Univision unloads Gizmodo, The Onion to private equity firm
In this June 14, 2006, file photo a journalist holds a microphone bearing the Univision logo in Los Angeles. Univision is selling Gizmodo, The Onion and other English-language sites to the private equity firm Great Hill Partners. Terms were not disclosed. The Spanish-language broadcaster bought much of what was then known as Gawker Media for $135 million in 2016 after the gossipy, confrontational media company lost a privacy suit against Hulk Hogan.(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)
NEW YORK (AP) -- 

Univision has sold tech site Gizmodo, satirical-news hub The Onion and other English-language sites to the private equity firm Great Hill Partners. Terms were not disclosed.

The Spanish-language broadcaster bought much of what was then known as Gawker Media for $135 million in 2016 after the gossipy, confrontational media company lost a privacy suit against Hulk Hogan. (The original Gawker.com has a different owner. It is being relaunched by another digital media company, Bustle.)

Just a few years ago, Univision was investing in English-language digital sites aimed at young people. It had bought The Onion in January 2016 and African-American news site The Root in 2015.

But the strategy didn't turn out well. The sites were not profitable and the company has refocused on Spanish TV. Univision, based in New York, put them up for sale last summer.

Several digital-media companies have recently run into trouble. For example, BuzzFeed laid off workers to help it become profitable, while Mic sold itself to Bustle after firing most of its employees. The online-ad business is dominated by tech giants Google and Facebook. Amazon is also encroaching on that space.

Great Hill said Monday that it's calling its new media company "G/O Media." The collection of sites also includes the female-focused Jezebel, sports site Deadspin and pop-culture site "A.V. Club." James Spanfeller, a digital-media veteran who is the former Forbes.com CEO, will lead the company and is also a "significant" investor in it.

Great Hill has previously invested in media companies, including Ziff Davis, the publisher of PCMag.com, which it sold in 2012.

  • Monday, Apr. 8, 2019
Court frees acclaimed Russian director from house arrest
In this image taken from video, Russian theatre and film director Kirill Serebrennikov, center, reacts during a court hearing in Moscow, Russia, Monday, April 8, 2019. The Moscow City Court on Monday overturned a district court's decision to extend house arrest for Kirill Serebrennikov, and ordered him freed on his own recognizance until his trial. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)
MOSCOW (AP) -- 

An acclaimed Russian theater and film director was freed from house arrest Monday, a verdict that follows longtime calls for his release from prominent cultural figures worldwide.

The Moscow City Court overturned a district court's decision to extend the house arrest for Kirill Serebrennikov, and ordered him freed on his own recognizance and requested that he not leave the Russian capital pending completion of his trial. Two of his associates were also freed from house arrest.

Serebrennikov has been under house arrest for nearly 20 months on charges of embezzling 133 million rubles (about $2 million) of state funding for a theater project. He has rejected the accusations as absurd, and many in Russia saw the charges as punishment for his anti-establishment views.

Speaking to reporters after the court's verdict, Serebrennikov said he would push for his acquittal.

"I would only be happy when this nightmare ends completely and we prove our innocence," he said.

Serebrennikov added that he would quickly return to work at his Gogol Center theater.

"It's going to be difficult psychologically, but we have so much work to do," he said.

Serebrennikov's ballet about dancer Rudolf Nureyev premiered in Moscow's Bolshoi Theater when he was already under house arrest, and his film "Leto" (Summer) about the country's Soviet-era rock scene was shown at the Cannes Film Festival last year despite his absence.

Top members of the Russian artistic community have continuously appealed to President Vladimir Putin to set Serebrennikov free, and many prominent international artistic figures have joined the call.

Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, refrained from comment on the court's decision to free Serebrennikov.

Serebrennikov's productions, ranging from drama to opera and movies, have mocked official lies, corruption and growing social conservatism.

They have been criticized by hard-line politicians and conservative activists, and his arrest in August 2017 has raised fears of a return to Soviet-style censorship.

Serebrennikov's backers have argued that Serebrennikov fell victim to arcane bureaucratic rules that make it very difficult for any director to make theater productions without breaching some of the convoluted official norms.

Mikhail Fedotov, head of the presidential human rights council, hailed the court's ruling as "long overdue" in remarks carried by the Interfax news agency, adding that Serebrennikov shouldn't have been under house arrest in the first place.

  • Monday, Apr. 8, 2019
U.K. plan steps up global crackdown on social media
In this April 18, 2017 file photo, conference workers speak in front of a demo booth at Facebook's annual F8 developer conference, in San Jose, Calif. The U.K. for the first time on Monday April 8, 2019, proposed direct regulation of social media companies, with senior executives potentially facing fines if they fail to block damaging content such as terrorist propaganda or images of child abuse. (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)
LONDON (AP) -- 

The U.K. unveiled plans on Monday to vastly increase government oversight of social media companies, with a first of its kind watchdog that could fine executives or even ban companies if they fail to block content such as terrorist propaganda or images of child abuse.

As concerns mount globally over how to monitor internet material without stifling free speech, the British proposal reflects a push by some countries - particularly in Europe but also Australia and New Zealand - to give regulators more power.

The British plans would create a statutory "duty of care" for social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter to protect people who use their sites. The plan, which includes an independent regulator funded by a levy on internet companies, will be open for public comment for three months before the government publishes draft legislation.

"No one in the world has done this before, and it's important that we get it right," Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright told the BBC.

While the United States has largely relied on market forces to regulate content in a country where free speech is revered, governments in Europe have signaled they are willing to take on the tech companies to block harmful content and prevent extremists from using the internet to fan the flames of hatred.

Britain will consider imposing financial penalties similar to those in the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation, which permit fines of up to 4% of a company's annual worldwide revenue, Wright said. In extreme cases, the government may also seek the power to fine individual company directors and prevent companies from operating in the U.K.

Criticism of social media sites has grown amid concerns that extremists like the so-called Islamic State group or far-right political groups are using them to recruit young people, pedophiles are using the technology to groom victims and young people are sharing dangerous information about self-harm and suicide.

Australian last week made it a crime for social media platforms not to quickly remove "abhorrent violent material." The crime would be punishable by three years in prison and a fine of 10.5 million Australian dollars ($7.5 million), or 10% of the platform's annual turnover, whichever is larger.

After the March 15 mosque shootings that killed 50 and wounded of 50 more, New Zealand's Privacy Commissioner wants his country to follow Australia's lead.

European Union lawmakers are set to vote later Monday on a legislative proposal requiring internet companies to remove terrorist content within one hour of being notified by authorities, or face penalties worth up to 4 percent of revenue if they don't comply.

The bill has been controversial, with some lawmakers and digital rights groups criticizing the one-hour rule. They say it places a much bigger burden on smaller internet companies than on tech giants like Facebook and Google, which have greater resources.

British Home Secretary Sajid Javid, whose department collaborated on the U.K. proposal unveiled Monday, criticized tech firms for failing to act despite repeated calls for action against harmful content.

"That is why we are forcing these firms to clean up their act once and for all," Javid said.

Critics say the end result could be that Google and Facebook end up becoming the web's censors. Others suggested the rules could stifle innovation and strengthen the dominance of technology giants because smaller firms won't have the money to comply with such regulation.

"We worry that this attempt at controlling the Internet will entrench big tech players, stymie innovation, and lead to press censorship through the back door," the London-based Adam Smith Institute, a free-market think tank, said in a statement.

As governments press to have the tech giants take on moral accountability, the challenge for the companies will be to translate that idea into the software, said Mark Skilton, a professor of practice at Warwick Business School. Politicians and technical experts need to work on the "shared problem" of providing guidance and control that is not excessively intrusive, he said.

"Issuing large fines and hitting companies with bigger legal threats is taking a 20th century bullwhip approach to a problem that requires a nuanced solution," he said. "It needs machine learning tools to manage the 21st century problems of the internet, combined with the courage and foresight to establish independent frameworks that preserve the freedoms societies enjoy in the physical world, as well as the online one."

Facebook's U.K. head of public policy, Rebecca Stimson, said the goal of the new rules should be to protect society while also supporting innovation and freedom of speech.

"These are complex issues to get right and we look forward to working with the government and Parliament to ensure new regulations are effective," she said.

Wright insisted the regulator would be expected to take account of freedom of speech while balancing against preventing harm.

"What we're talking about here is user-generated content, what people put online, and companies that facilitate access to that kind of material," he said. "So this is not about journalism. This is about an unregulated space that we need to control better to keep people safer."

Kelvin Chan in London contributed to this report.

  • Sunday, Apr. 7, 2019
Netflix teases upcoming Beyonce special "Homecoming"
In this Feb. 19, 2017. file photo, Beyonce sits at court side during the second half of the NBA All-Star basketball game in New Orleans. Netflix on Sunday, April 7, 2019 posted on its social media channels a yellow image with the word “Homecoming” across it. The only other information was a date: April 17. That’s when Netflix is expected to premiere a Beyonce special that may feature her performances at last year’s Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. (AP Photo/Max Becherer, File)
NEW YORK (AP) -- 

It took just one word for Netflix to send Beyonce fans into a full-on freak out.

The streaming giant on Sunday posted on its social media channels a yellow image with the word "Homecoming" across it. The only other information was a date: April 17.

That's when Netflix is expected to premiere a Beyonce special that may feature her performances at last year's Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Though Netflix declined to share any more information, the font and color and of the announcement was the same as Beyonce's was for her Coachella appearance.

Beyonce also last year launched a scholarship program dubbed the Homecoming Scholars Award Program.

The singer is known for debuting new work shrouded in secrecy. No details were announced before her 2016 HBO special "Lemonade."

  • Friday, Apr. 5, 2019
Lionsgate chair: "The sky is not falling in Hollywood"
Joe Drake, chairman of the Lionsgate Motion Picture Group, addresses the audience during the Lionsgate presentation at CinemaCon 2019, the official convention of the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) at Caesars Palace, Thursday, April 4, 2019, in Las Vegas. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
LAS VEGAS (AP) -- 

Lionsgate's motion picture group chairman Joe Drake says the sky is not falling in Hollywood and the feature film business is not dead. It's certainly a message that the audience of movie theater owners and exhibitors wanted to hear at the final Hollywood studio presentation at CinemaCon.

The studio on Thursday announced a multi-platform deal with Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg's Point Grey Pictures and a new banner for faith-based films called Kingdom. It also offered a first look at Rian Johnson's crackling Agatha Christie-style whodunit "Knives Out," with Daniel Craig, Chris Evans and Ana de Armas.

The studio brought out stars like Halle Berry, of "John Wick 3," Jamie Lee Curtis of "Knives Out" and Charlize Theron of "Long Shot" to promote its slate.

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