At some point, the Minnesota Vikings may trade Adrian Peterson.Or they may not.The running back has been the subject of a flurry of rumors lately, with many involving him possibly — or maybe even likely — landing with the Arizona Cardinals.None of that will happen unless the Vikings decide to trade Peterson, though, and Monday ESPN Vikings reporter Ben Goessling said the team really does not want to do that. Derrick Hall satisfied with D-backs’ buying and selling Top Stories Comments Share Your browser does not support the audio element. LISTEN: Larry Fitzgerald Sr.- Minnesota Sports Writer Former Cardinals kicker Phil Dawson retires The 5: Takeaways from the Coyotes’ introduction of Alex Meruelo But Tuesday, a new report surfaced.Vikings quietly going about the business of shopping Adrian Peterson.He has requested-I want out! pic.twitter.com/32LFzCSBiE— Larry Fitzgerald Sr. (@FitzBeatSr) March 17, 2015 Larry Fitzgerald Sr. is, of course, the father of of Arizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald and a well-known reporter based in Minnesota. He joined Bickley and Marotta on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Tuesday to further discuss the situation.“Adrian has just made up his mind that he doesn’t have the kind of support from the ownership group that he wants,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s put his heart and soul into this team from the time they drafted him and he’s in a position to think the way he wants to think, but that’s how he’s thinking.”Vikings brass has reportedly had multiple meetings with Peterson in an effort to smooth things over with their all-time leading rusher. However, it’s very possible they have been unable to do so, and in that case may decide coming up with a trade is the best option for both parties. And if that’s the case, buckle your seatbelt. Grace expects Greinke trade to have emotional impact
State Rep. Al Pscholka congratulates legislative office interns Kyle O’Meara and Kaue Gobbi on receiving the Daniel Rosenthal Legislative Intern and Vernon Ehlers Intern awards. O’Meara won the Rosenthal award and was closely followed by third runner-up Gobbi, who won the Ehlers award.Daniel Rosenthal was one of Michigan State University’s first Legislative Student Intern Program participants in early 1977. After his untimely passing in June of the same year, his family established the award to pay tribute to Daniel’s life and his experience in Lansing. The award has been administered to university students in Michigan for more than 35 years, and is intended to recognize enthusiasm, intelligence, sincerity and dedication to the applicants’ interning experiences.“It was very fulfilling to work in an office representing my hometown,” said O’Meara. “I was very pleased to have been so welcomed by both Representative Pscholka and his staff to help aid them in their tradition of excellent constituent services.”O’Meara, who hails from St. Joseph, will be graduating from the University of Michigan with a bachelor’s degree in public policy and a minor in economics from the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy in May, 2015. Following his graduation, he will be continuing on to Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law.Gobbi—an international student from Brazil—will be graduating in December 2016, with a double-major in international relations and economics from Michigan State University. He plans to pursue a master’s degree in international law following graduation next year.“Interning for Rep. Pscholka has been an enlightening experience,” said Gobbi. “It gave me the opportunity to discover what issues affect the people of Michigan, what goes on inside of the Capitol and the general procedures of the American political system.”Rep. Pscholka said it was a great experience for him and his staff to have such knowledgeable, diverse and driven student interns.“It’s been extremely encouraging to have such outstanding students on staff,” said Rep. Pscholka, R-Stevensville. “They’ve done a great job helping the residents of the 79th District and I wish they weren’t leaving us just yet. Both Kyle and Kaue will leave a lasting impression on my staff and I, and I’m excited to see what great things these two young men do in the future.”O’Meara and Gobbi were recognized for their achievements on the House floor on April 30.###State Rep. Al Pscholka, R-Stevensville, is joined on the House floor by guests Kaue Gobbi, left, and Kyle O’Meara, right, on April 30 in recognition for their achievements as legislative interns. O’Meara won the Daniel Rosenthal Legislative Intern Award and Gobbi won the Vernon Ehlers Intern Award. Categories: News 30Apr Rep. Pscholka congratulates interns on awards, office achievements
Categories: Maturen News 22Jun Governor signs bill package to create consistency for veterans Rep. Maturen: State programs now have uniform definition of a veteranGov. Rick Snyder today signed into law a 21-bill package standardizing who qualifies as a veteran under state law.“The state has a number of laws that concern veterans and, until now, each one offered a differing definition for who was considered a veteran,” said Rep. David Maturen, R-Brady Township, who sponsored a piece of the legislation. “These amendments clarify who qualifies, eliminating the confusion veterans and their families faced in the past.”House Bills 5332-5348 and HBs 5548-5551 create a standard definition of the term “veteran” that is also consistent with the federal definition. The updated wording is “an individual who served in the United States armed forces, including the reserve components, and was discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable.”HB 5333, introduced by Rep. Maturen, who is a U.S Army veteran, amends the Veterans’ Military Pay Act to refer back to the new, clarified definition.The bills are now Public Acts 199-219 of 2016.#####
State Rep. Holly Hughes (left) and Nancee Privacky testified in support of the bill to improve public safety by allowing flashing advisory signs to be installed on newly manufactured school busesState Rep. Holly Hughes testified Tuesday in the Michigan House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in support of her bill to improve public safety by allowing flashing advisory signs to be installed on newly manufactured school buses.“This bill was brought to my attention because I want to prevent tragedies like the deaths of Bruce Privacky and his sister, Antonia ‘Toni’ Privacky from occurring again. Both were killed in a bus accident in 2011,” said Hughes of Montague. “With the modifications the evidence is pretty clear the new lights on these buses which they are intended to do, is to catch the eyes of the drivers and to prevent accidents from occurring”Hughes said the lights are easy to install and there has been an extensive ten school district study, which has been presented to all school bus drivers in the state of Michigan. Seven other states and two Canadian providences have similar laws. This light modification will help clear up confusion and will cut out illegal passbys and prevent injuries and deaths from vehicle bus crashes.Nancee Privacky and Mac Dashney executive director of the Michigan Association for Pupil Transportation joined Rep. Hughes in support of her bill.“Paul and I cannot express our gratitude enough for all Holly Hughes has done to try to get this bill passed. Although it has been a long road, she has never given up. We hope because of this perseverance, that this bill will be finally passed so that no other family has to endure the pain that we have in losing our only son and daughter, Bruce and Antonia. Beyond that, we want to ensure the safety of all children that ride these busses as well as the motoring public,” said Nancee Privacky.“It is important to communicate with motorists in the best way they can understand in actual words. This sign tells them in actual words what to do, when to do it and why, twice a day, every day,” said Mac Dashney.The biggest risk to schoolchildren is not riding in a school bus but as pedestrians walking to, boarding, and walking from their school buses. A 2006 Michigan State Police study found that one in eight car- school bus crashes happened at school bus stops while children were boarding or exiting a school bus. A 2016 survey taken by the National Directors of State Pupil Transportation indicated Michigan motorists illegally passed school buses 1,031 times per day.Under current law, a school bus must be equipped with both red and amber signal lights. Four red lights must be mounted and spaced. These amber and red lights must have a sufficient intensity to be visible from a distance of no less than 500 feet in normal sunlight.House Bill 4054 remains under the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.### Categories: Hughes News 31May Rep. Hughes bill increases safety measures to school buses
Legislator says business is vital to downtown economy Categories: News,VanderWall News State Rep. Curt VanderWall today said downtown Ludington will benefit from state grants awarded to help the House of Flavors expand its dairy operations.VanderWall, of Ludington, said the company, which is the largest private label packaged ice cream and frozen dessert manufacturer in Michigan, received a $240,000 Michigan Business Development Program grant to assist in its expansion, which is expected to create 30 jobs. He said the company has already invested $30 million into its manufacturing facility to keep up with demand, and will contribute another $1.5 million toward an upgrade to the city’s wastewater treatment plant.In addition, House of Flavors also has been awarded a $100,000 Food and Agriculture Investment Program grant from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD). The money will be used to help House of Flavors make equipment upgrades to expand capacity.“This is a perfect example of how the state can partner with private industry to continue Michigan’s economic growth,” VanderWall said. “We are not only keeping the jobs associated with House of Flavors in Ludington, we are adding jobs to improve the quality of life for more families in the area. Not only is the company creating jobs and contributing to the local economy, it also is investing in the infrastructure of the city so we have more growth opportunity.”The MDARD grant is the first to move through the Food and Agriculture Investment Fund and will aid the House of Flavors in removing a single-serve hardening system and replace it with a spiral operation that can help harden a variety of products at once.“Agriculture is the second largest industry in Michigan, and plays an important role in the Mason County economy,” VanderWall said. “It is encouraging to see one of the nation’s leading producers of ice cream benefit from state grants, because it helps the local agriculture industry grow.”##### 21Nov Rep. VanderWall applauds grants to expand Ludington company
19Apr Children will be protected from child porn under Rep. Iden bill Categories: Iden News,News Measure is part of House plan in response to Larry Nassar scandalState Rep. Brandt Iden this week testified to the House Law and Justice Committee on how children under the age of 12 will get increased protections from child pornography under his legislation.The bill is part of a bipartisan reform plan developed following the House’s inquiry into the recent Larry Nassar scandal.“Child pornography is terrible, especially with what it does to the young children victimized by it,” said Iden, of Oshtemo Township. “What has been almost overlooked after the Nassar scandal was he possessed and tried to get rid of a significant amount of child pornography. This gives us another example of why we must continue to step up the fight against this filth.”Iden’s plan will bring enhanced penalties for producing, distributing or financing child pornography that includes over 100 images, involves sadomasochism or bestiality, or involves a child less than 12 years of age. Individuals who distribute the pornographic material face up to 15 years in prison and a $75,000 fine. Anyone found to produce or finance production of the illegal images may be imprisoned up to 25 years and pay a $125,000 fine.“This disgusting case has shown us what we need to do to better protect our children,” Iden said. “Together, we’re going to do everything we can to prevent another Nassar case from ever happening again here in Michigan.”House Bill 5794 remains under consideration by the committee.
Share24TweetShare8Email32 SharesSeptember 17, 2015; Morning Call (Harrisburg, PA) and Fox 32 (Chicago, IL)Pennsylvania and Illinois still have no budgets and limited authority to disburse funds more than 80 days into a “new” year. While their governors and legislatures spar over who is at fault and how to reach an agreement on a spending plan, local governments and nonprofit organizations continue their struggle to keep schools and social services operating.In Pennsylvania, the Morning Call reported that the state has withheld $1.2 billion in tax money from 500 school districts, with an extra $717 million to be withheld by the end of the month. Bernadette Bianchi, executive director of the Pennsylvania Council of Children, Family and Youth Services, a statewide umbrella organization for 110 nonprofits and private entities that serve at-risk youth and families, including Children’s Home of Easton, KidsPeace National Centers in Schnecksville and Valley Youth House in Allentown, said Tuesday that she is not aware of any cases in which member providers have actually suspended services. But, she added, “That’s only been because of the commitment of the private provider community to continue serving these children.”Attempting to force the state to pay for services as they are provided, the Council sued Governor Tom Wolf and the Department of Human Services in Commonwealth Court. The suit asks the court to compel the administration to declare the groups’ foster care, child welfare, and juvenile justice programs “essential services,” which would allow the release of state and federal tax money due them under contracts. (Under Pennsylvania law, the state, despite the lack of budget, can disburse funds for services it considers “essential.”)According to the Patriot-News,The suit has its genesis in Wolf’s post-budget veto listing of certain services that would continue to receive funding. That has kept all public safety, and most medical assistance and welfare programs funded, as well as all government offices, state parks and other state facilities open.But most aid to other entities like schools and county governments, or funding that is ultimately routed to third-party service providers, like these child welfare services, has been stopped with the start of the new fiscal year on July 1st.The state legislature is currently working on a short-term budget bill that would authorize funding through October. Governor Wolf has opposed the effort to provide short-term funding, wishing instead to negotiate a complete budget agreement. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that on Wednesday, the governor expressed frustration that the concessions he offered, which he hoped would facilitate agreement on a state budget, were ignored:“Today, I put on the table historic reforms on pensions and liquor…two things that they say are very important to them. And what do I get in return? Nothing. I got nothing on [natural gas] severance tax. Nothing. I got nothing on education. Nothing. I got nothing on property tax relief. And I got nothing…on how we are actually going to balance this budget.”The situation in Illinois is even bleaker. The budget gap needing to be spanned by new revenues or service cuts is about $4 billion, but Governor Bruce Rauner and the state’s legislative leaders seem more interested in holding each other responsible for the harm being done by the impasse then in working toward a solution.While that battle of wills continues, a report recently released by the Fiscal Policy Center at Voices for Illinois Children detailed the impact of the lack of a budget is having on the state’s social service infrastructure and those they serve.The harm is widespread—ranging from afterschool programs and autism services to conservation police and support services for seniors. Our state’s most vulnerable people, including children, people with disabilities, and seniors, are especially threatened by this inaction.Many providers of these critical services have been instructed by state agencies to continue to provide services at the level of the last fiscal year (which ended June 30). Others have been issued new contracts with lower service levels. In either case, outside of consent decrees and federal pass-through funds, zero state dollars are being spent on many critical state priorities.Who is left standing at the end of this is completely in the hands of the Governor Rauner and the General Assembly. To prevent further damage to children, families, and communities, lawmakers and the governor need to take responsibility for funding our state’s priorities by restoring the revenue we need to fully fund a year-long budget.According to Reboot Illinois.com, at a recent senate hearing on the impact of the budget crisis, State Senator Daniel Biss, chair of the Senate Human Services Committee, said, “There’s no ambiguity about who’s bearing the brunt of the consequence, and that’s people who have the least voice in the political process and who are the most vulnerable. It’s really a situation that all of us should find deeply, personally unacceptable and that we need to resolve quickly.”The committee also released a copy of a letter from Comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger, who informed members that state is carrying a bill backlog of nearly $6 billion. Even with that backlog, and absent a budget, Fox32 in Chicago reported Wednesday that Munger’s office determined that “early intervention services, provided to children up to age three, should have been paid for under a previously issued consent decree that requires some social services be funded.” Meanwhile, hundreds of other social service agencies have still not been paid.Moreover, according to a report by the online version of the Northern Star, Northern Illinois University’s campus newspaper, the Illinois Department of Central Management Services “announced it is no longer able pay for state employee insurance claims without a state budget, a decision that could leave nearly 150,000 people to pay out of pocket for health care costs. […] Under self-insured plans, Illinois subsidizes claims made by members, a responsibility that may now fall on members alone unless their employers or medical providers foot the bill until a budget is determined.”While Illinois has been able to provide funding to local school districts across the State this has not ensured a full school year for the more than 400,000 students served by Chicago Public Schools. The district is currently operating with a budget that is counting on $500 million in new state funding that is yet to be approved and remains one of the issues in the middle of the budget standoff. How the district will manage if a budget agreement does not include these funds is not clear but it is safe to say it will not be good for Chicago’s children.When the smoke clears and budget deals are reached, the full cost of these impasses will become clear—and that cost may be met by the closing of critically needed agencies and schools. And it will be their clients and students who will feel the long-term consequences. One wonders how deeply governors and legislators realize this as they try to win their battles.—Marty LevineShare24TweetShare8Email32 Shares
Share53TweetShareEmail53 SharesBy Felix Engelhardt [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia CommonsMarch 23, 2017; The ConversationTo paraphrase former Massachusetts governor and presidential aspirant Mitt Romney, now “rivers are people, too.” That’s the conclusion of two nations widely disparate in cultural norms and geographic location, India and New Zealand. Both have endowed select riparian bodies with certain rights of persons.India’s Uttarakhand high court on Monday, March 20, 2017, ruled that the highly polluted Ganga and Yamuna rivers, sacred in the Hindu faith, have the legal rights of humans in an attempt to craft a legal framework to foment their cleaning and preservation. The Whanganui River (Te Awa Tupua) in New Zealand has been endowed with legal personhood by legislation that is the culmination of years of negotiations under the Treaty of Waitangi between local Māori and the New Zealand government, a formal declaration respecting the intimate bond between the Māori and the river.Essentially, these rivers have been granted standing to sue in court, which is not an equivalent to human rights but a subset that’s ideally capable of staving off further ecological harm by letting them protect themselves through legal action. Letting natural bodies seek redress for wrongs has effect only when an actual person is appointed as guardian to represent its interests and where both the guardian and users understand their respective rights and responsibilities. However, perhaps most important (and tenuous) of all, what is needed here are a sure pot of money and independence from government institutions—accessible funds to pay for the expensive costs of lawyers and litigation and the means of protecting itself when, as will often occur, that protection runs afoul of the political interests of government.While the concept of legal rights of personhood for bodies in nature sounds noble and powerful, the meaningfulness of those pronounced rights is demonstrated by the quality of the established legal mechanisms playing out in the real world of competing interests. New Zealand’s system may be more robust and better thought out; it establishes a guardianship of two members—one appointed by the Whanganui Iwi (local Māori people), and the other by the New Zealand government—and funds have been set aside for health maintenance of the river. However, water rights are not covered, which may prove significant, since the Tongariro Power Scheme, a hydroelectric project operated by Genesis Energy NZ, draws substantial volume. In contrast, the Uttarakhand state high court has drawn a protection scheme by ruling that the two treasured rivers, the Ganga and Yamuna, are to be treated as minors by law and will be parented in effect by three entities: the director general of the Namami Gange project, and the Uttarakhand chief secretary and advocate general. As opposed to the eight years spent carefully crafting a hierarchy to support the rights of the river in New Zealand, the Uttarakhand high court has ordered boards charged with cleaning and maintaining the two sacred rivers to be established in eight weeks.This notion of legal personification is not new; it has been brewing among environmental protection advocates for decades. In 1972, legal scholar Christopher Stone’s groundbreaking article “Should Trees Have Standing—Toward Legal Rights for Natural Objects” was published, and as far as Western jurisprudence is concerned, Stone innovatively argued that to protect nature, it must not be viewed as a commodity or resources to be mined, bought and sold, but should be empowered with the same legal protections and access to the courts that actual persons ideally enjoy. Kiana Herold, in “The Rights of Nature: Indigenous Philosophies Reframing Law,” discussed Stone’s article’s thesis:Under capitalist economic logic, many externalities that negatively impact the environment are not registered when calculating the cost of an action. Transforming nature legally from mere property to a rights-holding entity would force byproduct environmental effects of production to factor into cost calculations. Under this framework, nature would be better protected.Herold also cited Ecuador’s innovative 2008 Constitution that established the rights of nature such that, “Under Ecuadorian law, people can now sue on the ecosystem’s behalf, without it being connected to a direct human injury.” Herold’s central point was that man and nature are equals and fully integrated according to many indigenous cultures, not requiring law to rescue the environment from degradation and commodification. Herold cites the harmonious “Sumak Kawsay” concept of the Quechua, or Kichwa, people of Ecuador as an example of something that predates codified protection: “The Kichwa notion of ‘Sumak Kawsay,’ or ‘buen vivir’ in Spanish, translates roughly to good living in English. It expresses the idea of harmonious, balanced living among people and nature.”There is no accident that law is catching up to tradition, as perhaps the earth is reaching a tipping point of inhabitability due to the noxious practices of industry and mercantilism, which are normally no friends of nature. Allowing three rivers to hire lawyers won’t change much of the perverse progress of commerce, but it may be a start.—Louis AltmanShare53TweetShareEmail53 Shares
Share29TweetShare3Email32 Shares“Minimum Wage Rally at Atwater’s by Jay Baker at Catonsville, MD.” Maryland GovPics.July 18, 2017; NPREarlier this month, NPQ wrote about the trend among states and cities of passing new workers’ rights laws. Now, we’re seeing some states rolling back city laws that raised the minimum wage. Covering the story for NPR’s All Things Considered, Yuki Noguchi said, “State legislatures and city halls are battling over who gets to set the minimum wage, and increasingly, the states are winning.”The federal minimum wage hasn’t been raised since 2009. Over the last few years, dozens of city and county governments have passed minimum wage ordinances. So far, 27 states have passed laws requiring cities to abide by statewide wage minimums. The most recent to do so, Missouri, will roll back a $10-an-hour minimum wage to $7.70 an hour, to take effect next month. Iowa just rolled back wage increases in the spring.Brooks Rainwater of the National League of Cities said, “People within cities, where the cost of living oftentimes can be higher, needed a raise, and city leaders have responded to that.” However, he notes that states are undermining city governments on this and other worker issues, including paid sick leave.Business groups argue that “complying with disparate city laws is too complex, and that the additional costs would force them to curtail hiring which, in turn, hurts workers.” But we’ve all heard this argument before. One would think businesses are actually concerned with not hurting workers.Compared to cities, state legislatures tend to reflect the wider conservative interests in a state, and business groups are making their cases there. Pat White, president of the central labor council for the AFL-CIO in St. Louis, calls this hypocritical, “given how [states] chafe against similar efforts at the federal government to control states.”Rainwater said, “There used to be a shared value around this concept of local control, you know, whether a conservative or a liberal, the idea that the representative closest to the people would be able to decide many of these fundamental questions…Why have them even run for office, if they’re not allowed to govern their own area?”Attorneys representing cities are challenging these preemption laws in court, but they face an uphill battle, according to Rainwater, as cities have little legal recourse. “A big challenge here is, cities aren’t enumerated within the constitutional powers, so they are, in effect, creations of the state.”St. Louis janitorial worker Cynthia Sanders, who will face a wage decrease next month when Missouri’s roll back goes into effect, said, “I’m just scared for everybody, because it’s a sad, sad situation, and I don’t understand how it’s legal.” But the issue has galvanized her. She said, “We’re mad enough to really, really fight now.”—Cyndi SuarezShare29TweetShare3Email32 Shares
Orange is to close down its Orange Sport channels at the end of June and will offer Al Jazeera’s Be In Sport 1 and 2 channels to its subscribers in their place after striking a deal with the Qatar-based broadcaster.Orange said it had chosen Al Jazeera as its partner after holding discussions with the broadcaster and alternative providers Canal Plus and Media365. Orange will also distribute a news sports channel from Media365 and is in talks with Canal Plus to pass on some of the sports rights held by Orange. The telco said it had also held talks with Media365 and Canal Plus to secure employment for a number of those who worked for Orange Sport.“By focusing its strategy on its core business, Orange intends to draw on the power of its networks to distribute rich and diversified content and thus to propose the best content on all Orange TV platforms, whether PC, mobile or tablet, in response to new digital uses,” the company said in a statement.Orange Sport has about 400,000 subscribers, who will be offered the option to sign up to Be In Sport 1 and 2 from May 24. Be In Sport 1 is expected to launch at the beginning of June.According to local press, Orange has signed up to distribute Al Jazeera’s channels for four years. Orange’s Orange Sport Info channel will continue to be broadcast until the middle of September, after which it will be replaced by Media365’s channel, which will be offered as part of the telco’s premium sports package alongside Be In Sport.
Appear TV will use IBC to demonstrate its multiscreen and OTT systems fully for the first time.The Appear TV multiscreen solution is based on the company’s modular chassis headend concept. The Appear TV solution will utilise second-generation encoding and transcoding technology to solve the challenges of transcoding large numbers of services much more efficiently and at a higher quality level than has been possible before, according to the company. Modules for multiscreen include content acquisition, pre-processing, HW-based encoding and transcoding, segmentation and adaptive bit-rate streaming, protection and delivery.“Our customers tell us that multiscreen is becoming a must have, those that have launched with first generation solutions also tell us they have not always met operational efficiency and quality of service expectations,” said Carl Walter-Holst, CEO, Appear TV. “We’re meeting these issues head on by the IBC launch of our hardware-based multiscreen offering that can co-exist with existing headends solutions or be deployed with everything required from content acquisition through to content delivery in a broadcast quality headend chassis.”Appear TV will be exhibiting at IBC on Stand 1.C61
LG Smart TVThe number of TV sets that are connected to the web will reach 759 million by 2018, accounting for 26.8% of global TV sets, according to a new study by Digital TV Research. The Connected TV Forecasts report, which covers 40 countries, anticipates a “massive boom” in connected televisions, with this figure due to climb from 115 million TVs connected to the web at the end of 2010 and the 307 million at the end of 2013 – representing just 5.1% and 12.4% of TVs respectively.“Connected TV is undergoing the largest upheaval in its short history. The introduction of affordable devices such as Google’s Chromecast and Sky’s Now TV are shaking up the market, with connected TV set manufacturers already reducing their prices as a reaction to this increased rivalry. The introduction of three next-generation games consoles adds further competition,” said Simon Murray, principal analyst at Digital TV Research.The research predicts that installed smart TV sets will overtake games consoles connected to the web during 2013, and will account for 259 million, or 34%, of the 2018 total connected sets.The number of connected games consoles will rise to 176 million by 2018, double the 2012 total, according to the study. It predicts the number of TVs connected via streaming set-top boxes and devices like Google’s Chromecast stick will reach 126 million in 2018, up from only 4 million in 2010.Connectivity via operator-provided pay TV set-top boxes is expected to reach 117 by end-2018, while connected Blu-ray players will account for 81 million connections by 2018.“Connected TV is becoming more international. The US will still command a third of connected TV sets by end-2013, but this proportion will fall to 23.5% by 2018. China will climb from 6.6% of the 2013 total to 16.4% by 2018,” said the report.
Private equity group Kohlberg Kravis Roberts has agreed to acquire western Balkans cable operator SBB/Telemach from Mid Europa Partners.The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of next year, subject to local regulatory approval.According to Mid Europa Partners, the transaction delivered a tripling of its investment in the operator and represents the largest private-equity exit in the former Yugoslavia. Mid Europa acquired Serbian pay TV operator SBB in 2007 and supported its organic and acquisition growth across the region to six countries. SBB has acquired 18 businesses that form United Group, with about 1.8 million revenue generating units across Serbia, Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and Macedonia.The executive management team led by founder Dragan Šolak will remain in place and retain a substantial stake in SBB/Telemach Group“This transaction validates our strong conviction that the region offers attractive investment opportunities and demonstrates Mid Europa’s ability to create value through our intimate knowledge of regional markets and our hands-on ownership approach,” said Robert Knorr, Senior Partner of Mid Europa who leads Mid Europa’s investments in south-eastern Europe. “We have taken a national champion and transformed it into a pan-regional leader and best in class operator by global standards – a success story that was made possible through the combination of a strong business, operating in an attractive region, an exceptional management team, and the flawless execution of a complex buy and build and organic regional expansion strategy.”Henrik Kraft, Member of KKR and head of KKR’s telecoms and technology team in Europe said: “We look forward to partnering with Dragan Šolak and his team. They have built a strong and sophisticated TV and communications platform and we are excited to support the company in its further growth.”
Mia JurkeLithuanian cable operator Cgates has acquired regional operator Kava as part of a strategy by Cgates’ ultimate majority owner, Swedish investment group East Capital Explorer, to create a pan-Baltic cable operation.Kava has about 20,000 customers in Lithuania and passes about 100,000 households with a modern fibre network across the cities of Vilnius, Klaipéda, Šiauliai and Panevéžys.Cgates’ network coverage has hitherto been restricted to the capital Vilnius, where it has about 120,000 pay TV customers and 70,000 internet subscribers. Cgates posted revenues of €15.8 million last year.Cgates is owned by Estonian cable operator Starman, in which East Capital Explorer has a 68% stake. The Kava acquisition will be debt-funded.The deal, which is subject to approval by the Lithuanian regulatory authorities, is seen as a stage in further consolidation in the cable market in the Baltic States. Starman completed the acquisition of Cgates in a deal that valued the latter at €56 million in February, with East Capital Explorer increasing its stake in the Estonian operator through a €22.5 million contribution from 51% to 63% at the same time. Starman is focusing on upgrading Cgates products and on leading consolidation and exporting its know-how to the Lithuanian market.“Cgates’ acquisition of Kava is another step in the creation of a leading pan-Baltic cable TV and broadband Internet player, with Starman and Cgates as strong platforms in Estonia and Lithuania. This is a business with clear scale benefits for operators with strong product offerings and efficient networks, and we will continue to leverage on that,” said Mia Jurke, CEO of East Capital Explorer.“Cgates is now becoming a nationwide operator, which is a milestone in our strategy for the company. The acquisition of Kava will increase the company’s household coverage by 30% and thereby strengthen its position in the market. Cgates is already a strong number two, but it is still a fragmented market with many growth opportunities,” said Gert Tiivas, chairman of Starman.
Sports channel ESPN has struck a four-year agreement with the International Cricket Council to broadcast digital on-demand highlights of all ICC events to be staged between the 2016-2019 period in the UK and Ireland.The agreement will allow ESPN to show in-progress, pre-match and post-match highlights across all ESPN branded websites and mobile apps.The package includes the digital rights to the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup 2016, ICC World Twenty20 India 2016, ICC Champions Trophy 2017, ICC Women’s World Cup 2017, ICC U19 Cricket World Cup 2018, ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier, ICC Women’s World Twenty20 2018 and the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019. As part of the deal, ESPNcricinfo, the channel’s cricket website, and UK sport website ESPN.co.uk, will feature near-live highlight clips through ESPN’s live match scorecard service. The in-play content will be complemented by full match highlights, up to five minutes in length, as well pre and post-event content provided by the ICC.Charly Classen, vice-president and general manager, ESPN, Europe, Middle East and Africa, said: “We are extremely proud of our coverage of international and domestic cricket, and are delighted we can expand that coverage with near-live in-match clips and full post-match highlights from the biggest tournaments in the sport. We are thrilled to expand on our longstanding relationship with the International Cricket Council in the UK and Republic of Ireland. With these highlights alongside our ball-by-ball coverage, ESPN will be offering cricket fans the perfect way to follow all of the action from the upcoming ICC World T20 and beyond.”
Vodafone Portugal has struck a deal with Google to integrate payment for Google Play content via its customers’ mobile phone bills.The agreement means that Vodafone Portugal customers with Android devices will be able to make purchases via Google Play that will be added to their monthly bills, avoiding the need to pay by credit card.To promote the service, Vodafone is offering a 10% discount on purchases made via the Google store until January 31.The company said that the deal reinforced its position as one of Google’s main partners in the Portuguese market.
YouTube reportedly is due to axe 30-second unskippable ads from next year to focus on its other advertising formats.A spokesperson for Google confirmed the move to the BBC, claiming that from 2018 onwards the video service will “focus instead on formats that work well for both users and advertisers.”Currently non-skippable video ads, which must be watched before a video can be viewed, can be up to 30 seconds in length – though 15 or 20 variants also exist depending on regional standards. These ads can appear before, during or after the main video.YouTube offers content creators a variety of other ad formats, including non-skippable ads of up to six seconds, skippable video ads that can be closed after 5 seconds, and semi-transparent overlay ads that appear in the lower 20% portion of a video.News of the 30-second unskippable ad cull was reported first by advertising trade magazine, Campaign, last week.
YouTube now has 1.5 billion monthly viewers thanks in part to a surge in big-screen viewing, according to company stats.Speaking on parent company Alphabet’s second quarter earnings call, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said that people are watching an average of 60 minutes a day of YouTube on their phones and tablets.However, he added that YouTube’s “fastest growing stream” is in the living room, and said: “YouTube watch time on TV screens has nearly doubled year-on-year”.“This quarter we unveiled six new ad supported YouTube originals from celebrities including Ellen DeGeneres and Kevin Hart, and YouTube creators like Rhett and Link,” said Pichai. “Advertiser feedback on these new shows has been extremely positive.”“Last week our Live TV service YouTube TV [also] had a [rollout in] ten new metro areas across America tripling the markets where it’s available in just four months.”The comments came as Alphabet reported a big surge in revenues, but a year-on-year drop in profits due to its recent European Commission anti-trust fine. Excluding this, profits would have also been up.Overall for the quarter ended June 30, 2017, Alphabet reported a 21% year-on-year jump in revenues to US$26.0 billion.Net income came to US$3.52, down from US$4.88 billion a year earlier owing to the impact of the US$2.7 billion European Commission fine, which was accrued in Q2 2017.The EC charged Google with abusing its dominance as search engine by giving “illegal advantage to own comparison shopping service,” putting it breach of EU antitrust rules.
US digital advertising revenues grew 23% year-on-year in the first half of 2018 to reach US$49.5 billion, according to the IAB’s latest Internet Advertising Revenue Report.The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) study, produced with PwC US, claims that advertisers spent more on digital media in H1 2018 than they have in the first half of any other year.Search ads, banner ads and digital video ads – across both mobile and desktop – were the three biggest revenue drivers, accounting for US$22.8 billion, US$15.7 billion and US$7.0 billion of US digital ad revenues respectively.Digital video ad revenues were up 35% from a year ago and accounted for 14.2% of the total digital ad market in the US. Within this category, 60% video ad revenue was attributed to mobile video.Overall, advertisers spent US$30.9 billion on mobile media in the first half of 2018, up 42% from US$21.8 billion over the same period last year. IAB estimates that mobile now accounts for 63% of all digital ad revenue, up from 54% in H1 2017, and continues to be “the internet’s leading ad platform”.“There is no question that digital advertising is top-of-mind with brand marketers,” said Anna Bager, executive vice president of industry initiatives, IAB. “Video is front and centre, experiencing a surge – especially on mobile devices. Other formats, like digital audio and social media are seeing spikes and are ripe for further growth.”Sue Hogan, senior vice president, research and measurement, IAB, added: “Half-year digital advertising spend in 2018 outpaced the last few years. Typically, first half revenue trends lower than second half. That we’ve seen 23% percent growth this year from January through June, while simultaneously witnessing the continued decline in ad spend on traditional media, indicates that the industry dollars – which were slow to follow actual consumer behaviour – are now aligning appropriately.”
Spotify CEO Daniel Ek has said that the future of the streaming service is audio, not just music, as the company announced the acquisition of two podcasting companies, Gimlet Media and Anchor.Daniel EkOutlining his overall vision for the company, Ek said that he wants to bring radio listening to Spotify and deepen engagement with users. “This opportunity starts with the next phase of growth in audio – podcasting.”“Consumers spend roughly the same amount of time on video as they do on audio,” said Ek. “Video is about a trillion-dollar market and the music and radio industry is worth around a hundred billion dollars. I always come back to the same question: are our eyes really worth 10 times more than our ears? I firmly believe this is not the case.”The comments came as Spotify announced it has acquired independent podcast producer Gimlet Media and podcast creation and publishing service Anchor. The deals, which were agreed for undisclosed terms, are expected to close this quarter.Anchor, which allows users to record and upload podcasts to a range of platforms – including Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts – said via social media that the acquisition will not change how users create, host, distribute, and monetise their podcasts with Anchor.Reply All, one of Gimlet Media’s podcasts, also took to Twitter to assure listeners that “nothing is changing about our distribution,” claiming that the show will remain on Apple Podcasts.However, from a strategic standpoint, Ek did point out the benefits of having “unique programming” on Spotify, stating that it prompts people who previously thought Spotify was not right for them to give it a try.Referring to the acquisitions specifically, Ek said: “These companies are best-in-class and together we will offer differentiated and original content. Gimlet and Anchor will position us to become the leading platform for podcast creators around the world and the leading producer of podcasts.”He added: “As we expand deeper into audio, especially with original content, we will scale our entire business, creating leverage in the model through subscriptions and ads. This is why we feel it is prudent to invest now to capture the opportunity ahead.”Spotify claims to be the second-largest podcasting platform and Ek said that the company’s podcast users spend almost twice the time on the platform and more time listening to music.Spotify’s renewed focus on the audio space follows previous experimentation in video, with the music streaming company agreeing deals with companies like Disney/ABC, NBCUniversal and Viacom back in 2015 to package clips and full episodes of television programming. A year later it also launched a 12-strong slate of original programmes, focused on music and pop culture.Last year Spotify appointed Condé Nast’s president of entertainment, Dawn Ostroff, as its chief content officer to oversee partnerships across music, audio and video. It then hired Condé Nast Entertainment’s acting president, Sahar Elhabashi, as VP of content business some five months later.Read Ek’s full ‘Audio-First’ post on Spotify’s For the Record news section by clicking here.