Amazon to Stream Mr. Rogers Neighborhood in Twitch Marathon

Amazon’s Twitch streaming-video service usually deals in video-game related content, but it has also been experimenting for some time with streaming TV shows, and on Thursday it announced its latest experiment: A Mr. Rogers Neighborhood marathon.

The broadcast or live-streaming of the landmark PBS show will start on May 15th at 12 noon Pacific Time, and will end on June 3. Twitch says it will stream 886 episodes of the children’s show, which it called “the most comprehensive collection of episodes available, including many that have only aired once and are unavailable elsewhere online.”

Amazon said the stream will begin with host and creator Fred Rogers’ testimony in 1969 before a Senate committee, in which he talked about the value of public television. Twitch will also run a fundraising campaign alongside the broadcast, asking viewers to donate.

“The Twitch community has not only embraced content which goes beyond gaming, they want more of it,” Bill Moorier, head of creative at Twitch, said in a statement. “We were drawn to Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood because Fred Rogers was a positive voice in fostering inclusivity and diversity. While his show was geared toward children, his messages have universal appeal.”

Most of the content on Twitch consists of gamers playing new video games while other users watch and/or interact with them online. Anyone can set up a channel and stream themselves.

One of Twitch’s first experiments in non-game content was when the service streamed all the episodes of The Joy of Painting, a cult TV show hosted by Bob Ross, also on PBS. The company discovered that there was a huge untapped interest in seeing re-runs of the show, which consisted solely of Bob Ross painting his trademark landscapes.

From there, Twitch moved on to other classic TV shows like Julia Child’s The French Chef, and earlier this year it broadcast a marathon of the ’80s show Power Rangers, streaming 831 episodes from the show’s 23 seasons over 17 days.

Twitch’s move into TV content mirrors its parent company’s ventures in a similar direction. Amazon has been aggressively bidding for the rights to movies and TV shows for its Prime Video service, which is now available in more than 200 countries.

The online retailer just recently acquired the rights to stream NFL Thursday Night Football games online for $50 million, rights that were previously held by Twitter. And Amazon also bought the rights to a car show hosted by the team behind Top Gear after they severed ties with the BBC.

From Amazon’s point of view, all of this video content helps drive demand for its Prime subscription service. The company has also started using the Twitch community as a test market for new shows, and has talked about experimenting with “choose your own adventure” shows in which viewers help determine the outcome. —

Twitch has more than 100 million registered users, 10 million of whom are active every day, and it streams over 4 billion hours of video a year. It began as an offshoot of, a one-man video startup founded by Justin Kan. Amazon acquired Twitch in 2014 for almost $1 billion.

New York Times Rolls Out a Kids Edition as Part of a Print Push

Even as it focuses more of its efforts online, the New York Times is still trying to think of ways to get more out of the old-fashioned print edition as well, and the paper’s latest experiment is a special print edition designed to appeal to kids.

The special section will be delivered to subscribers and newsstands this Sunday, alongside the usual weekend version of the newspaper, editor Caitlin Roper told Women’s Wear Daily. The section is aimed at children between 9 and 12.

The kids’ edition mimics the layout of the traditional paper, with sections devoted to sports, national news, science and opinion.

Stories include advice from famed New York lawyer Alan Dershowitz about how to win an argument with your parents, an article on how to win a spelling bee, an interview with a NASA engineer about building aerodynamically superior paper airplane and tips on making your own crossword puzzle.

Roper told WWD that the section is part of an effort the Times has been making to give its print subscribers exclusive or bonus content, to make them feel that they are important, even as the company spends more and more of its time on digital content.

“If you think about digital subscribers, they get graphics and video and 360 and all kinds of things,” Roper said. “But home delivery print subscribers and newsstand customers don’t get that. So a lot of this concept is about being innovative in print.”

Late last year, the Times offered subscribers a special print-only edition it called the Puzzle Spectacular, which included a variety of puzzles plus the largest crossword in the paper’s history. The paper said the project was “part of an on-going initiative at The New York Times to reimagine the uses of the print newspaper in ways that delight our readers.”

Never one to miss an opportunity to pitch the paper’s reputation in these troubled times, the kids’ edition also has an advertisement for the New York Times itself.

The ad is a version of the “Truth Is Hard” campaign that the newspaper has been running in a number of locations since President Donald Trump started waging an all-out war against the mainstream media, including regular comments about “fake news” and the “failing New York Times.”

Part of the Times‘ interest in making its print subscribers and readers feel special likely stems from the fact that it still makes a considerable amount of money from print.

The paper’s digital business is growing quickly, and the amount of money it makes from digital susbcriptions is almost making up for the decline in revenue from print advertising. But despite all of its efforts, the print edition still accounts for more than 50% of the company’s revenue.

Facebook Tweaks News Feed to Crack Down on “Low Quality” Sites

Facebook said on Wednesday that it is rolling out an update to its news-feed algorithm that is designed to reduce the visibility of sites offering what it calls a “low quality” experience.

The social network said the tweaks to the algorithm are part of its ongoing efforts to fight misinformation and misleading advertising. It has made a number of changes to the news-feed over the past year aimed at both news publishers and advertisers who don’t meet its standards.

In a recent essay, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg talked about how he wants the social network to help in the creation of what he called “informed communities.”

Part of what’s required to do that, he said, is ensuring that the information users get on the social network is accurate. The essay was seen by many observers as a sign that Facebook was taking seriously some of the criticism of its role in distributing “fake news.”

In a blog post, the company said it has heard from users that “they are disappointed when they click on a link that leads to a web page containing little substantive content, and that is covered in disruptive, shocking or malicious ads.”


The algorithm update means the news feed will contain fewer of these kinds of posts, Facebook said. However, the company didn’t give a lot of detail on what it considers to be “substantive content,” or how that term will be defined by the algorithm.

Earlier this year, Facebook made tweaks to the algorithm that it said were designed to promote “authentic” content. But it didn’t give many details about what that consisted of either, except to say that the algorithm had been trained to recognize it.

Based on the description of what it is targeting, it looks like the network is aiming at sites that consist primarily of clickbait articles and ads like “Six Tips to be Amazing in Bed.” Reducing their visibility will make it harder for them to monetize their traffic, the company said.

As with many algorithm updates, it’s not clear how many of these kinds of ads a page has to use or display before it is defined as offering a low-quality experience.

In a blog post aimed at publishers, the social network warned that they should be careful not to have a “disproportionate volume of ads related to content” on their pages. It also warned that those who use sexually suggestive ads could be impacted, and those who use pop-up ads and interstitials (which take over a user’s screen while a page is loading).

Some publishers have complained that they are reduced to using such ads because Google and Facebook have taken over most of the digital advertising market, and made it difficult for publishers to make money from their content without resorting to such methods.

Last year, Facebook announced that it was going after advertisers who relied on spammy or misleading ads, in an attempt to reduce the economic incentives of those publishers, and it said the latest news-feed update is a follow-up to those efforts.

The social network said it looked at hundreds of thousands of web pages to determine what kinds of characteristics these low-quality pages share, and then trained its artificial intelligence software to find new pages with similar characteristics.

Website publishers and news sites should “continue posting stories their audiences will like,” Facebook advised, but those who have the kind of low-quality experience it is targeting should expect to see a decline in traffic. Those who have a higher quality offering “may see a small increase in traffic” as a result of the changes, it said.

Here’s Why Snap Shares Went Into Free Fall After Its Results Came Out

The first earnings report after a closely-watched tech IPO is always a nerve-wracking experience, but the response to Snap’s first quarterly results on Wednesday went beyond just nervousness and crossed over into shock-and-awe territory.

Snap’s share price plummeted by more than 24% following the release of its results, taking the stock to within a hair of $17, the price at which it issued its first shares in **. In all, the company lost almost $4 billion in stock-market valuation in less than an hour.

Why so much negativity? The video-messaging app maker was expected to lose a lot of money in its first quarter, and many analysts were also prepared for it to show slower growth in daily average users. But the results were even worse than expected.

In total, Snap lost $2.2 billion in the quarter, on revenues of just **. That means it lost ** for every dollar of revenue it made during its first three months as a public company. And user growth was **, significantly lower than in the preceding quarter or the same quarter a year ago.

As many other newly-public stocks have discovered, when you have a market cap of ** billion, even a small miss is seen as a huge red flag. And the user numbers likely fueled concern about competition from Facebook and Instagram eating into Snap’s market share.

Instagram has copied virtually all of the major aspects of the Snapchat service over the past year, and has seen fairly dramatic growth in its user base — it recently announced that it added more than ** million users, which is larger than Snap’s entire user base.

Most of Snap’s $2.2 billion loss was a result of stock-option grants that the company gave to its employees, including ** to CEO Evan Spiegel. But the figure was still massive, and represents a real drain on the balance sheet.

The weak user growth is even more of a concern. Snap likes to talk about the engagement levels that its app generates, with users spending an average of about 30 minutes every day on the service, and more than 3 billion “snaps” being uploaded every day. But what many investors like is growth.

The number of daily average users did grow, but the growth rate was smaller than it has been in every preceding quarter, and that’s not the kind of trend that analysts or investors want to see.

In the fourth quarter, for example, daily users grew by **. In the third quarter of last year they grew by **, and in the quarter prior to that they rose by **. The growth in the latest quarter looks especially bad when compared with the same quarter a year earlier, when the user base rose by **.

The company focused on a number of positive aspects of the quarter, not surprisingly. It noted that revenue rose by more than 280% compared with a year earlier, and said it has seen “significant progress” in advertising revenue as a result of launching an automated ad service.

Snap also pointed out that its operating costs fell, in part because it renegotiated its contracts with Google and Amazon, which host most of the videos and images uploaded by Snapchat users.

“I feel we have executed well on our priorities for this quarter, and that we have a strong foundation as we build our business,” CEO and co-founder Evan Spiegel said during some fairly brief comments on the company’s conference call with analysts.

In response to a question about the company’s losses and revenue growth, ** said that Snap is “still in investment mode,” and wouldn’t be sacrificing that to meet any short-term goals. “We are managing this company for the long term,” he said, adding that analysts shouldn’t expect any kind of revenue guidance from Snap in the near future.

Spiegel: pleased with results, engagement, 3B snaps every time… still have a lot of work to do; 156M DAU in the quarter, up 54% globally… search product is exciting, long tail of content, really is a story for everything, surfaces stories by machine learning… significant progress in automating our ad platform… feel we have executed well on our priorities for this quarter, strong foundation as we build our business

Imran Khan: Users spent over 30 minutes per day on average, unique content, friends and family and premium publishers, informed and connected through Our Stories, expert teams curate Snaps around breaking news, entertainment and sports… 250,000 submissions from users around the Oscars which we curated, 21 million global unique viewers… expanded our Discover offering, 55 global partners; custom analysis with Nielsen, 45% of 18-34 year olds are reached every day… engage an audience that research shows is difficult to reach… cornerstone of a great advertising businesss…

Started ad strategy with big brands, Universal more than doubled their spend with us, Snap ads with attachments provide for engagement — can swipe up to view the full trailer or buy a ticket without having to leave Snap… 300% increase in app installs for a client… clients see more time spent by users who come in via Snap, and also higher rates of conversion to purchase… tens of thousands of advertisers using our geo-targeted filters; API and auction in Q4, working hard to scale for advertisers of all sizes… serving some of the largest brands in 24 countries

Drew: Revenues up 286% year over year, strong ad demand, $128.7 in North America, up 259%… 86% of revenues was sold by Snap; hosting costs fell due to new contracts with Google and Amazon… total cost of revenue down 6%… business remains “in investment mode,” nominal losses increased in the quarter — strong balance sheet

Spiegel says company deliberately didn’t do “growth hacking” things like allowing users to add everyone from their address book automatically, focusing more on creativity than DAU growth (dig at Instagram); excited about the momentum… talk about DAU’s in terms of removing some friction for things like filters, people like looking like a puppy (awkward laugh)… we are running the company for the long term, says Drew, so won’t be any revenue guidance coming from Snap… $8 million in revenue from Spectacles… seasonal events in Q4 says Drew, Olympics was a nice bump, college football partnerships, bit of election upside… early adopters are seeing great results from Discover, says Spiegel… Snapchat Shows, video content created just for Snap, not repurposed from the Internet, episodes drawing audiences of over 8 million, excited about that

How Much Is a Facebook Share Worth for Publishers?

Media companies have been hitching their wagons to Facebook’s star for some time now, seduced by the thought of the social network’s audience of 1.8 billion people, and of how much it would be worth to them if just a tiny fraction liked or shared their content.

But how much are those likes and shares worth in terms of actual revenue for a publisher? That’s a question that has been somewhat difficult to answer.

A group of researchers at Kaleida, a data-analytics service that was co-founded by several former employees of The Guardian newspaper in the UK, took a look at that question recently from the point of view of a single media company that uses their platform.

“Facebook, Google, Twitter and all the rest are always selling the idea that they drive a lot of traffic to publishers’ web sites and, therefore, publishers can’t afford not to work with them,” Kaleida CEO Matt McAlister wrote in a blog post. “If that’s the starting point then there’s a very important question to ask: How much is that traffic worth?”


To try and answer that question, the company looked at the total number of page-views and social-media referrals from Facebook for one of its publishing clients, for a single day in April of this year (the client was not identified by name).

McAlister admits in his description of the research that a single publisher’s traffic on a single day is not much data, and there is the risk that it isn’t broad enough to generate any firm conclusions. But it is still an interesting look at Facebook’s value.

First, the researchers tried to determine whether organic sharing of Facebook posts was correlated with the traffic to those posts on the publisher’s website, and they found that it was. Although Google also drove a lot of traffic to the site, Facebook was much more of a factor than the search giant, and significantly more so than Twitter.


It’s worth pointing out that not everyone has found that Facebook shares correlate to traffic. The online publisher Refinery29, for example, looked at a similar question and found that the articles that got the most shares weren’t necessarily the ones with the highest traffic.

Chartbeat, meanwhile — an analytics company that caters to publishers — found after some of its own research in 2014 that “there is no relationship whatsoever between the amount a piece of content is shared and the amount of attention an average reader will give that content.” Nor did heavily shared articles correlate to large amounts of traffic.

In order to refine its results, McAlister says the Kaleida team threw out any articles that got less than 100 shares. They did the same with any articles that got more than 10,000 shares, on the assumption that these were aberrations of some kind, or driven by external factors.

That left a group of articles that got between 80 and 10,000 shares on Facebook. These articles got a total of 240,000 shares in the aggregate, and drove a total of 1.1 million page views. Based on that math, Kaleida says, a single share on Facebook is worth about 4.5 page views.

Most publishers make money from their pages via advertising, which is measured on a “cost per thousand” or CPM basis, so the company used an average CPM of $10 to compute a total dollar value. Using that metric, the publisher in question would have made about $10,000 in advertising revenue from the traffic generated by those Facebook share referrals.

So what’s the bottom line? According to Kaleida, a single share on Facebook is worth roughly 4 cents to a publisher like its client.

There are all kinds of caveats that can be applied to the company’s research, of course, since it is based on a single day and a single client’s output, and there is still much debate about whether shares actually correlate to website traffic or monetization.

As McAlister admits, there are also other reasons why publishers want their content to appear on Facebook, including branding and overall awareness, as well as the potential for interaction with readers. Facebook is also paying some publishers to produce video.

But when it comes to actual revenue that publishers can expect to generate from Facebook’s social activity, Kaleida says four cents is the average for a single share on the social network — and that’s for sites that have $10 CPMs, which many do not. For them, the number will be even smaller.

This Could Finally be the End of the Line for Pandora Media

The music-industry graveyard is full of once-hot digital players who fell on hard times due to the changing economics of the business over the past decade or so, and they could soon be joined by one of the earliest music startups: Pandora Media.

The struggling music-streaming service has come so close to disappearing so many times over the past couple of years that it seems to have nine lives, so it’s possible that it will somehow manage to soldier on. But there are signs that this could finally be the end of the line.

On Monday, the company said that it is exploring “strategic alternatives,” which is thinly disguised code for “we are looking for a buyer.” The stock [fortune-stock symbol=”P”] is down by 24% this year, and it has lost more than 75% of its market value since 2014.

Pandora has been for sale before, although not officially. It was said to be looking for acquirers early last year, and reportedly had talks with Amazon and satellite-music operator Sirius XM. But then founder Tim Westergren returned to take up the reins as CEO, and said that a sale wasn’t in the cards.

Before Westergren returned, Pandora made a last-ditch attempt to reinvent itself in late 2015 by spending $75 million to buy Rdio, a highly-regarded but financially bankrupt streaming service.

The purchase was part of a plan to move away from the company’s roots as a digital radio provider (which meant lower costs but also restricted the service’s flexibility) and to build a subscription business to replace its previous advertising-based model, which had stalled.

In March, the company launched a $9.99-a-month streaming service to try and compete with the giants of the industry — Apple Music, Google Play and Spotify.

The results, however, have so far been fairly unimpressive, at least from a financial perspective. In the most recent quarter, Pandora lost another $132 million, and the company said it is likely to lose another $120 million in the current quarter. Last year, it lost $340 million. That’s more than half a billion dollars in losses in 18 months.

For most streaming music companies, including Spotify, the cost of paying music companies for licensing rights makes it virtually impossible to make much money. Spotify pays out about 85% of its revenue in the form of licensing fees and lost almost $200 million in 2015.

The math in Pandora’s case has actually gotten worse instead of better. Because of the way the music business is structured, it paid less when it was defined as a “streaming radio” provider (radio services have to abide by certain rules, which restrict the amount of control users have over what they listen to).

Since it acquired Rdio and launched its Pandora Premium streaming service, the company has had to cut deals directly with the record labels (radio services pay a set fee that is established by a licensing board). So its costs have actually increased.

Revenues rose in the latest quarter by 6%, which was better than most analysts expected, and the number of Pandora subscribers climbed by about 20% to 4.7 million. But the number of hours those subscribers spent listening to music on the service fell, and the number of active listeners also dropped, as it has done repeatedly over the past few quarters.

At a time when Apple Music — which is less than two years old — has more than 20 million paying subscribers, and Spotify has 50 million, Pandora’s 4.7 million subscribers look fairly unimpressive. They might make a nice addition for someone else’s existing business, but it’s probably not enough for the company to survive on its own.

Meanwhile, the pressure on the company to sell has ratcheted upwards, driven in part by Corvex Management, a hedge fund (run by Keith Meister, former right-hand man to corporate raider Carl Icahn) that acquired a 9.9% stake in Pandora in May of last year and has been pushing for a sale.

The financial pressure could intensify even further if the company can’t find a buyer. It announced on Monday that it has agreed to raise $150 million from legendary hedge fund Kohlberg Kravis Roberts in order to fund its operations, via a preferred share issue.

Those preferred shares give KKR a significant amount of leverage over the company, including a seat on the board of directors, and they will also force Pandora to pay the fund a dividend of at least 7.5% every quarter until the shares are bought out or converted into common shares.

As for who might be interested in acquiring Pandora, the number one name on most lists is Sirius, which has made several overtures. The satellite provider first approached Pandora in early 2016 with an offer that was close to $15 a share, and then returned later in the year with another offer, but no deal was forthcoming.

Here’s Why Facebook Is Trying So Hard to Fight Fake News in Europe

After deleting more than 30,000 fake accounts in advance of the recent French election, Facebook is now engaged in a very similar campaign in Britain, getting rid of thousands of fake accounts and warning users about the issue of fake news in a series of newspaper ads.

It seems the company has come around to the idea that “fake news” campaigns might actually be able to influence elections, after initially denying that this was the case in the U.S. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at first said fake news was a minuscule problem, and called the suggestion that it might have affected the election “a pretty crazy idea.”

But the company’s behavior in France and the UK isn’t evidence of some kind of religious conversion on Zuckerberg’s part when it comes to the dangers of fake news. It’s more about the political pressure that Facebook is feeling on the issue from the European Community.

The giant social network has been under fire for some time now in a number of different EU countries, especially Germany, for its role in spreading not just fake news but hate speech and offensive behavior of various kinds. In that context, the French and British campaigns seem mostly designed to make it look as though Facebook takes the issue seriously.

The German cabinet has approved legislation that would fine large platforms like Facebook as much as $50 million if they fail to remove fake news or hate speech quickly enough. The bill is not yet law, but it is supported by a number of senior German politicians.

In Britain, meanwhile, some believe that social networks like Facebook and Twitter and their distribution of fake news articles helped to sway the so-called “Brexit” vote in favor of having Britain leave the European Union.

Conservative MP Damian Collins is running a parliamentary inquiry in the UK that is investigating the problem of fake news, which he said was a threat to “the integrity of democracy,” and he suggested in recent interviews with British media outlets that Facebook was not doing enough.

It’s not just news that British political observers have suspicions about. There have also been suggestions that the Leave side of the campaign also used Facebook-centric data tools such as Cambridge Analytica to compile psychographic profiles of users, and then target them with ads to try and sway their votes in a particular direction.

The firm, which is owned by billionaire Trump supporter Richard Mercer, has been accused of doing something similar during the U.S. election campaign, a strategy that was reportedly master-minded by Donald Trump’s senior adviser (and son-in-law) Jared Kushner.

In France, it appeared that some organized efforts were under way to try and influence the outcome of the election, after thousands of documents relating to centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron were leaked in an anonymous Internet dump by unknown parties. The Macron campaign warned that some of the documents in the dump were forgeries.

The dump seemed calculated to do as much damage as possible, since it occurred just before a 44-hour communications ban that prevented all parties and candidates from talking about the election. But for a variety of reasons, the French press didn’t pay as much attention to the leaks as U.S. media outlets did to similar leaks about Hillary Clinton.

According to the New York Times, one mitigating factor was that France doesn’t have a tradition of tabloid-style press outlets jumping on such material, nor does it have any right-wing outlets like Fox News that might have seen it as an opportunity to hurt the opposition.

Britain, however, has a robust and enthusiastic tabloid press, one that is arguably even more interested in the whiff of political scandal than any U.S. outlet. And given the fact that many believe fake news helped push the country out of the EU, there will no doubt be plenty of attention given to whether Facebook is the source of similar election-related fake news.

Although it came too late to be much help with the U.S. election, Facebook admitted in a recent research report that there were signs of co-ordinated attempts to affect the U.S. presidential campaign through the distribution of fake news about both political parties.

In some cases, the social network’s security team said that this behavior wasn’t even directed at raising doubts or perpetuating myths about a specific candidate or party, but was intended to sow discord and confusion about the outcome of the election in general.

“We identified malicious actors on Facebook who, via inauthentic accounts, actively engaged across the political spectrum,” the report said, “with the apparent intent of increasing tensions between supporters of these groups and fracturing their supportive base.”

Here’s Why Sinclair Is Willing to Pay $3.9B for Tribune Media

It didn’t take long for the Federal Communication Commission’s loosening of TV ownership rules to have an impact on the marketplace. Sinclair, the largest owner of local TV stations in the U.S., said Monday it has agreed to acquire Tribune Media for $3.9 billion.

Sinclair’s eagerness to merge Tribune’s assets with its own can be seen in the premium it was willing to pay for the smaller company. The company’s current bid is about 25% higher than Tribune’s average trading price earlier this year, before takeover talk caused it to spike.

21st Century Fox was also said to be considering an offer, in partnership with the hedge fund Blackstone Group, and Nexstar, another large owner of local TV stations, was rumored to be interested in acquiring the company as well.

There are two main things that Sinclair gains from a Tribune acquisition: One is reach and the other is influence, both in political terms and when it comes to the evolution of the TV industry.

In terms of reach, Sinclair already owns 173 local TV stations that serve about 80 different local markets, but the Tribune deal will broaden its footprint. The deal will also add some strategically important affiliates in major markets like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

Once the merger is complete, Sinclair will add 42 stations in all. That includes 14 Fox Network affiliates, 12 CW affiliates, and several affiliates of the other major networks: Six CBS stations, three ABC stations and two NBC affiliates. It also gets ownership of a cable channel, WGN America, and a 31% stake in the Food Network.

The new affiliates will give Sinclair additional leverage in negotiations with the national networks, who pay affiliates significant fees to carry their channels. Fox’s interest in Tribune was said to be at least partly defensive, because it didn’t want another player like Sinclair to have even more clout.

On top of that, a broader network with more affiliate stations will also give Sinclair more heft when it comes to influencing new digital deals as well.

With more new streaming services like Hulu’s recent offering, YouTube TV and others entering the marketplace, cable networks are looking to negotiate deals to have their content included. The more network-affiliated stations a company like Sinclair has, the more weight it can it can bring to bear on such discussions to get access to those deals.

YouTube’s new TV-style offering, for example, is only available in markets where its major network partners have affiliates, who provide local channels as part of the package.

And then there’s the question of political influence. Sinclair chairman David Smith, son of the company’s founder, is a supporter of Donald Trump and is seen by many industry watchers as prepared to use his chain’s reach to help promote conservative causes and viewpoints.

During the presidential election campaign, for example, Trump adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner told a group of executives that the Trump campaign had cut a deal with Sinclair for access to the candidate, in return for what he described as “fairer” coverage.

The company later denied that the arrangement was struck in return for more favorable or preferential treatment of Trump. According to Sinclair, all it did was agree to show uncut video of interviews with the candidate, something it said it offered to other candidates as well.

The Sinclair-Tribune deal was made possible in part because the FCC recently revised its ownership rules to make it easier for TV-station conglomerates to acquire more stations without running afoul of market-share caps.

In addition to industry and/or political influence, industry watchers say Smith also wanted the Tribune deal in part because he believes he can build a digital interactive-services business on top of the company’s existing traditional broadcast network.

In effect, Smith wants to go into competition with digital media players like Google, and he wants to use the bandwidth and network access of all those local TV stations to do it. The plan is based on new TV industry standards that will allow it to offer digital entertainment and advertising services, and also collect data on users.

“The Tribune stations are highly complementary to Sinclair’s existing footprint and will create a leading nationwide media platform that includes our country’s largest markets,” Smith said in a statement. “The acquisition will enable Sinclair to build ATSC 3.0 (Next Generation Broadcast Platform) advanced services [and] scale emerging networks.”

YouTube in a Race With Facebook, Netflix and Amazon Over the Future of TV

One of the biggest shifts currently underway in media is the race to re-invent television, and to thereby get access to the billions of dollars in advertising TV still captures. And Google has made it clear that YouTube intends to be a major factor in that race.

YouTube has made a number of changes aimed at beefing up the professional side of its video offerings, including the launch of a subscription service called YouTube Red. On Thursday, it unveiled another major step — one that will bring into even more direct conflict with Facebook and Amazon, both of which also have their sights set on dominating the future of TV.

The giant video platform announced at an event for advertisers in New York that it is launching a total of 40 new TV-style shows, many of which will feature not the usual homegrown talents that live on YouTube, but actual celebrities from traditional TV and Hollywood movies.

The initial slate of seven shows will include unscripted material from actors, talk-show hosts, musicians and comedians such as Ellen DeGeneres, Katy Perry, Demi Lovato, Ludacris and Kevin Hart. Other shows will be fronted by YouTube stars including The Slow-Mo Guys, who specialize in filming things that are being blown up at super-slow-motion speeds.

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki made a point of saying the new offerings — all of which will be supported by advertising, rather than a subscription paywall like YouTube Red — shouldn’t be taken as a sign that the service is turning its back on its user-generated past.

“YouTube is not TV and we never will be,” Wojcicki said. “The platform that you all helped create represents something bigger.” But it’s clear that YouTube has its sights set on being much more than just a platform for unknowns to make their mark with wisecracks or ad-hoc skits. It very much wants to be a conduit for more traditional fare as well.

The launch of this new stable of offerings means that YouTube is effectively taking three different routes towards getting more serious about TV, including Red — which carries content from YouTube stars such as PewDiePie and the Fine brothers — and YouTube TV, which launched earlier this year and offers a cable-style package of traditional channels such as ESPN, NBC and Fox.

Facebook has also made a number of moves towards getting more serious about TV, including steps that appear to be moving it away from the short-form, user-generated content that is popular on Facebook Live, and more toward longer-form, more traditional fare.

Last year, the giant social network hired Ricky Van Veen, one of the co-founders of the video site CollegeHumor, and assigned him to license or fund the creation of what sounds a lot like TV-style entertainment content, including comedy shows.

Some of this is going to bring both YouTube and Facebook into conflict with Netflix, which has been spending billions to license TV shows, movies and other content such as comedy shows and “reality TV.” According to some industry watchers, the price of this kind of entertainment has been climbing because Netflix has such deep pockets and is willing to pay.

And then there’s Amazon. The online-retailing giant has pockets that are at least as deep as those at Facebook and Netflix, and it has shown signs of wanting to aggressively move into the market.

Amazon has outbid Netflix and other players such as HBO for the rights to premier movie and TV offerings at leading industry events like the Sundance Film Festival, and it recently expanded Amazon Prime Video into more than 200 countries, which puts it head-to-head with Netflix. It has also reportedly been looking to launch a cable-style TV package.

One strength Amazon has is that it already operates an existing subscription service, Amazon Prime, that generates a significant amount of revenue for the company without video. Even if the TV shows and movies it licenses or produces don’t get huge ratings, if they help convince more people to sign up for a Prime subscription, then Amazon wins.

Facebook and Google, however, are theoretically more reliant on the advertising revenue that they will be able to generate from their video offerings, although they both obviously have giant businesses that spin off huge amounts of cash. It will be interesting to see who gains the upper hand as the world of digital TV continues to evolve.

Here’s What’s Disturbing About the FBI Director’s Comments on WikiLeaks

As the federal Justice Department considers possible espionage charges against WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange for leaking classified documents, the director of the FBI made it clear he doesn’t believe that what the group does should qualify as “legitimate” journalism.

A number of First Amendment activists and media experts have said that charging Assange for his role in the distribution of leaked documents would threaten the practice of journalism in the U.S. The fact that WikiLeaks receives classified information from anonymous sources and publishes it is no different than what the New York Times does, they argue.

FBI director James Comey, however, said in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday that he believes there are critical differences in what WikiLeaks does and what “legitimate” journalists do in the pursuit of such information.

And what are those differences? For one thing, Comey said that American journalists who receive or obtain classified intelligence usually call the government before publishing it, in order to ensure that people named in the documents aren’t put in danger. “This activity I’m talking about with WikiLeaks involves no such considerations whatsoever,” he said.

Juslian Assange, however, responded to this charge on Twitter, saying the FBI director was not telling the truth. “James Comey just mislead the Senate while under oath when said Wikileaks ‘doesn’t call us’,” Assange wrote. “We did over #Vault7 and I know he knows it.”

Vault 7 was the name given to a large dump of data that WikiLeaks started releasing in March that detailed many of the CIA’s hacking and surveillance techniques. ** also confirmed on Twitter that WikiLeaks reached out to the government before releasing the documents, and that it also did so in other cases such as the diplomatic cable leak in **.

Comey also argued that “legitimate” news-gathering is aimed at educating the public about an important issue. What WikiLeaks did, he said, was simply “intelligence porn,” since it involved “just pushing out information about sources and methods without regard to interests.”

The problem that the FBI director’s comments raise is the same one that is raised by the Justice Department’s interest in possibly charging Assange with espionage: Namely, how is the government supposed to differentiate between what WikiLeaks does in such cases, and what “legitimate” media organizations like the New York Times do?

The idea that WikiLeaks doesn’t check with government or care about the safety of those named in the documents it leaks doesn’t really hold water, as Assange and others have pointed out.

So that leaves Comey’s definition of what legitimate news-gathering outlets do vs. what WikiLeaks does. In other words, the argument that legitimate journalism has a specific educational purpose, targeting at a specific issue, whereas what WikiLeaks does is simply “intelligence porn,” releasing reams of documents with little regard for what they are about.

This argument also fails, however. Comey appears to be saying that a “data dump,” in which all kinds of documents or material are released at once, can’t qualify as legitimate journalism.

But if this was the case, then articles written by the New York Times and the Washington Post and other news outlets based on the diplomatic cables wouldn’t qualify as journalism, unless they confined themselves to a single issue that they were trying to “educate the public” about. That’s a pretty restrictive definition of “legitimate” journalism.

The harder the government and its agents try to define journalism in such a way that it implicates WikiLeaks but not a traditional entity like the New York Times, the more disturbing their efforts become, and the more the lines between the two continue to blur.

The risk remains that the Justice Department will pursue its case against Assange and WikiLeaks for ideological reasons, and that in the process it will try to finesse the distinction between the group and journalism — and this will provide even more ammunition for the government to go after legitimate journalists whose work it disagrees with.