YouTube Gaming adds mobile capture, ‘Fan Funding’ option

Game streaming platform YouTube Gaming is getting a boost with new features that may strike fresh fear into the heart of its major competitor, Twitch.

YouTube announced today that creators on it’s gaming platform will now be able to stream mobile play and accept “Fan Funding” and sponsorships, meaning that users can back their favorite creators financially and unlock access to premium perks like exclusive live chats. Along with new financial and mobile streaming capabilities in the YouTube Gaming platform, the new update improves search capabilities, adds simpler Watch Later bookmarking, and allows users to import existing YouTube subscriptions into the YouTube gaming app.

Mobile streaming is already live and ready to go in the YouTube mobile app–creators will simply hit the “Go Live” toggle that’ll begin the stream, and their phones will tap into the camera and microphone for the picture-in-picture display of their faces as they provide commentary.

Fan Funding and sponsorships, however, are only open to select group of beta creators for now. Theoretically, Fan Funding will look similar to the feature YouTube announced for its creators last year under the same name. Creators who have the Fan Funding feature enabled were able to accept payments via a “Support” button on their channel pages. Sponsorships behave a little bit differently, with recurring monthly payments that give backers access to the aforementioned premium features.

Earlier this year, Twitch teamed up with ChangeTip to allow users to exchange money within the platform, so Fan Funding on YouTube Gaming is something like catching up. But it’s important to understand where the Twitch/YouTube Gaming is likely to be won, and that’s creators. Viewers will probably follow their favorite creators from one platform to another despite interface differences, but creators will likely end up making platform decisions based flexibility, performance, ease-of-use and payment methods.

While the new financial components of YouTube Gaming are brand new and it’s a little early to tell how, exactly, they stack up against Twitch’s in-line ChangeTip commands, YouTube’s effort to keep improving the gaming platform is a pretty clear indication that they intend to keep up the attempt to wrestle viewership away from Twitch. And if YouTube’s release accompanying the update announcement is anything to go by, it’s working pretty well so far. According to the release, YouTube is the most-watched platform for games, with users streaming over 144 billion minutes of gaming content every month. Of course, this includes gaming videos and live streams combined, but the message is clear: YouTube Gaming is serious about winning the game streaming wars.

Amazon will stop selling Apple TVs and Chromecasts. So what?

Although it seems pretty cut and dry, there are folks in tech media that feel Amazon shouldn’t actually stay competitive, as businesses tend to do to survive.
Case in point: Amazon doesn’t like that neither the Apple TV nor Google’s Chromecast provide easy access to its Prime Video service, so it’s taking steps over the next month to stop businesses from selling the products through its website.
“Over the last three years, Prime Video has become an important part of Prime,” Amazon said in an email to employees. “It’s important that the streaming media players we sell interact well with Prime Video in order to avoid customer confusion.”
This means that products which play nice with Amazon’s streaming video service — like most game consoles, Roku’s set-top boxes, and the company’s own FireTV — will remain available on Amazon. Apple and Google are the only ones being booted.
It’s hard to be too upset about this. Could this frustrate Apple and Google? Maybe. Will it be annoying for Amazon Prime customers who expect to be able to purchase anything through the company’s marketplace? A little, I guess. But that’s about it.
But let’s not pretend this is going to hurt Apple or Google that much. Apple has the highest sales per square foot of any retail store in the United States, and it can easily promote its products by emailing the hundreds of millions of people who gave the company their email addresses so they could download stuff from the App Store.
As for Google? Well, running the world’s most popular search engine has its perks. It can also put ads for the Chromecast on YouTube, in Gmail, and basically anywhere else it desires through its advertising platforms. Sure, it won’t offer free two-day shipping, but I doubt most people are in a rush to purchase a new dongle.
Could this be the start of a worrisome trend? Maybe. I guess it would be a problem if Amazon stopped selling e-readers that don’t support the Kindle Store, given that it’s all-but-synonymous with the product category. But those competitive devices are still listed on the company’s site, and that seems unlikely to change any time soon.
At this point, the only entity harmed by this action will be Amazon. It’ll frustrate people who want to make it their one-stop-shop for all things commercial, and it makes the company seem like a petulant child stomping its feet because the other, more popular kids don’t want to play with it. Does that seem like a stable company?
This move reeks of desperation. Amazon might be the biggest online retailer in the United States, but it’s not the only place where people can buy these products. It would’ve been better off allowing them to be listed on its site, if only to keep up its appearances, than to plan the products’ downfall to serve its own selfish purposes.
But we’re only discussing this because of the companies involved. Remove the brands and this becomes a lot less interesting. A retailer pulled some items from its virtual shelves. There are other stores, and luckily for anyone with a decent Internet connection, it only takes a few seconds to visit them and buy those items.
Yawn.

Meerkat founder: “The novelty of livestreaming wears off”

Video livestreaming app Meerkat is the tech world’s latest darling, but its co-founder isn’t so sure it will outlast the hype.

If you missed the initial Meerkat news wave, here’s a quick overview: It lets you livestream video of whatever you’re doing from your phone whether you’re riding a roller coaster, walking to work, or watching the sunset. I’ve pulled hair out over the challenges of livestreaming video, even with a professional encoding box, so I can tell you that’s some impressive technology.

TechCrunch called it “the livestreaming app Twitter should have built.” Business Insider explained why people are “going crazy” over the app. GeekWire says it makes Twitter “oh so much more fun.” The Wall Street Journal has already written up its backstory.

And although Rubin’s enjoying the coverage, he’s not convinced it will last.

“People get excited by the novelty of live streaming, but it wears off,” Meerkat CEO Ben Rubin cautioned me on Skype from Israel. He motioned his hands in a roller coaster shape while saying, “I’ve seen my product go through word of mouth before and I’ve seen it wear off. I know what that feels like in a week.”

It’s rare that a founder undersells their product’s longevity even as it takes over the tech media consciousness. But Rubin watched the first version of this product, called Yevvo, spread rapidly in places as disparate as South America and Michigan after launching in August 2013. Just as quickly as it caught people’s attention, it died out.

“I’m hearing ‘Don’t believe the hype’ in loops in my head,” Rubin said. Just because everyone signs up for a product doesn’t mean it will continue to grow (See: Ello, Secret, Yo). It can be tough to tell what will stick around.

Although Yevvo may have struggled to sustain people’s interest, perhaps things will be different for the company this time around. For one thing, Meerkat is deeply integrated with Twitter, so your followers know when you go live, tapping into that viral effect.

For another thing, Meerkat allows people to schedule upcoming livestreams. Rubin thinks this feature could be the make-or-break element to keeping people engaged. It lets Twitter followers prepare and teaches wannabe livestreamers to think more carefully about their strategy.

“Introducing scheduling makes it very interesting,” Rubin explained. “When’s the next time you’re going to do something awesome?” Someone might think twice about a boring desk-bound livestream if they’re planning it in advance.

Aside from longevity concerns, Meerkat is dealing with growing pain problems, like Twitter temporarily shutting down its API access and then reversing the decision. “I’m not naïve,” Rubin said, when I asked whether he was worried Twitter could shut down Meerkat’s API access for good. “I’m sure they’ve built in something, I’m sure they’re working on something. They have to be.”

One day later, news broke that Twitter was in talks to acquire a Meerkat competitor. It’s the last piece of news a rival startup wants to hear, but Rubin is trying not to worry. “I don’t see them doing something nasty, but they might and that’s ok,” he said. “We’re just having fun. We’ll see how it goes.” If Twitter blocked the app, there’s other social networks Meerkat could consider trying to build on top of. Rubin thinks Yik Yak would make the most sense since its real-time nature fits live video.

In short, Meerkat is potentially battling two formidable foes: The fast, hype cycle of tech and Twitter. The obstacles loom large, and the Meerkat team clearly hasn’t forgotten that.

They do have one thing going for them though: They’ve failed at this before.

Facebook’s new acquisition should make its videos look better

Facebook is doubling down on video. After publishing its latest video metrics Wednesday, which show staggering growth, the company announced its purchase of QuickFire Networks Thursday.

QuickFire, not exactly a household name, cuts down the amount of bandwidth needed to stream video online, but keeps the quality of the image high. And that’s exactly what it will be doing at Facebook, powering the company’s increasing amount of video content, both in advertising and from its content partners. As Bloomberg pointed out, this will be useful for Facebook push into the developing world where the service’s users might not have as good of internet service.

At the moment, 1 billion videos are viewed a day on average on the social network, which is nearly one for every 1.35 billion Facebook users. Across the world, each person on Facebook posts an average of 75 percent more videos than they did a year ago. In the United States alone that number jumps to 94 percent. And across the world, 65 percent of that video consumption is happening on mobile. Facebook’s need for cutting edge video streaming technology will only increase as this trend continues.

From QuickFire’s announcement about the acquisition, it sounds like some members of the team will move on while others will join Facebook.

WatchESPN goes down during the Rose Bowl

WatchESPN, a service that allows cable subscribers to stream live sporting events on devices like Apple TV, Roku, Xbox, and iPhone and iPad, has been serving error messages instead of streaming live video on Thursday. The outage happened during the Rose Bowl, one of the most anticipated college football games of the year and the first of three college football playoff games streaming on WatchESPN.

Upset Oregon and Florida State fans aired their displeasure on Twitter.

Timothy Burke at Deadspin speculates that the issue has something to do with ESPN’s playlist, and that it’s not a content delivery network problem. This incident isn’t the first time WatchESPN has gone down under high strain.

[company]ESPN[/company] is aware of the issue and says it’s been “largely resolved on all platforms.” I can watch the stream in a browser, although I’m still having trouble connecting on Apple TV.

One thing is clear: If your team ends up making the championship, and you actually want to watch it, you might want to find a friend with cable.

How to watch The Interview on Apple TV, Roku, iPad and iPhone

The Interview got a surprise online release Wednesday just in time for the holidays — but watching it on the device of your choice can be a challenge. Case in point: Google is releasing it for rent and purchase on both YouTube and Play in the U.S., but Apple is sitting on the sidelines, leaving Apple TV and iPad owners wondering what to do. And Microsoft is streaming it on its Xbox console — but how can you watch it on Roku’s streaming boxes?

For answers, check our guide below:

Apple TV

(Note: Five days after Sony began allowing online sales of The Interview, Apple agreed to offer the movie over iTunes. It is now available for rent and purchase on Apple TV.)

There doesn’t seem to be any way of buying or renting the film directly on Apple TV (if you’ve found a way, please let us know in the comments), but you can purchase it on YouTube Movies on the web from a PC or Mac and then stream it to your Apple TV, though you may have to go through a few configuration steps.

  • First, make sure that you have the right version of the YouTube app available to you. Only third-generation Apple TVs have the new YouTube app, which offers access to paid content. You won’t be able to access YouTube rentals if you have a first- or second-generation device. If you are unsure, check how the YouTube app looks like on your Apple TV, and compare it to the screenshots on this page.
  • If your Apple TV YouTube app isn’t linked to your YouTube or Google accounts, you’ll have to manually connect them by going into the sign-in option in the settings tab. You’ll get an 8-digit code, which you then enter on YouTube’s activation page. Your YouTube preferences should now show up in Apple TV.
  • You have to purchase or rent the movie from the YouTube or Google Play. If you’ve never bought anything from Google Play or YouTube before you’ll have to enter your credit card info, but if you already have a Google Wallet account, you’re set.
  • Now go to the Apple TV app, go to the MyYouTube tab, and then scroll down to the purchases section. Your movie should be right there.

iPhone and iPad

The process is much easier on iOS devices as long as you have the YouTube app or Google Play Movies & TV app. As with Apple TV you can’t buy The Interview directly from either app, but if you purchase it on the web from either Google Play or YouTube, you’ll find it available on either iOS app once logged in with your Google ID (In YouTube, you’ll see it under the purchases tab).

Roku

Roku owners can access the movie through the YouTube app, provided they have one of the current-generation Roku models that actually carries that app (check here for a complete list). As with Apple TV, you’ll have to rent or buy the movie online first, then make sure to link your accounts to sign in to the YouTube app on Roku. After that, your purchases and rentals should show up in the purchases section. Alternatively, you can also use the new Google Play Movies app on Roku.

This post was updated at 4:05pm with more information on accessing paid YouTube rentals on Apple TV.

Janko Roettgers contributed to this post.