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Paramount+ Premium will absorb Showtime and rebrand as ‘Paramount+ With Showtime’

Amid stern competition from other streaming platforms, Paramount Global is combining two of its services. It will fold Showtime into the Premium tier of Paramount+ later this year. The combined offering will be known as “Paramount+ With Showtime.”

Showtime's linear TV network will be rebranded with the same name in the US. As part of the move, some Paramount+ original programs will air on the cable network — so maybe more people will finally recognize the brilliance of The Good Fight.

“Now, with Showtime’s content integrated into our flagship streaming service, and select Paramount+ originals joining the linear offering, Paramount+ will become the definitive multiplatform brand in the streaming space — and the first of its kind to integrate streaming and linear content in this way,” Paramount Global CEO Bob Bakish said in a memo to staff, as Variety reports. "This change will also drive stronger alignment across our domestic and international Paramount+ offerings, as international Paramount+ already includes Showtime content.”

Showtime debuted its own streaming service in 2015, a year after CBS All Access arrived. The latter was rebranded as Paramount+ in 2021. Last year, Paramount Global integrated Showtime content into its namesake streaming service as part of a bundle. Now, it's going a step further by unifying them.

While the move may come as a disappointment to those who are only interested in Showtime's content and aren't sold on Paramount+, the move makes sense from a business perspective. There's a wave of consolidation across the media industry, including in streaming, where HBO Max and Discovery+ will combine in the coming months.

Paramount will look to cut some costs and funnel extra resources into its more successful properties amid the transition. Just as news of the streaming merger broke, it emerged that Showtime has canceled American Gigolo and Let The Right One In (a series based on one of the best films of the last 20 years), while it's reportedly trying to offload a new show called Three Women.

“As a part of Paramount+, we can put more resources into building out the lanes that have made the Showtime brand famous, as well as turning our hit shows into global hit franchises," Chris McCarthy, president and CEO of Showtime and Paramount Media Networks, wrote in a staff memo. "To do this, we will divert investment away from areas that are underperforming and that account for less than 10 percent of our views.”

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/paramount-plus-showtime-merger-premium-plan-cable-network-170551927.html?src=rss

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Amazon is offering a $50 gift card when you buy a year of Microsoft 365 Family

If you've been thinking about adding Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint to your home office, this may be a good day to sign up. Today only, Amazon is offering a 12-month subscription to Microsoft 365 Family bundled with a $50 Amazon gift card for $100. The price of the yearly subscription is usually $100, so you're essentially getting a free gift card for signing up. The deal is only good through the end of the day and the subscription will auto-renew at the end of the year, so set a reminder if you want to cancel before that kicks in.   

Microsoft 365 Family 12-month Subscription + $50 Amazon Gift Card

Microsoft 365 Family 12-month Subscription + $50 Amazon Gift Card

Sign up for a year of Microsoft 365 Family and you'll get a $50 Amazon gift card delivered to your door.

The year-long subscription will come as a digital download and runs on PCs or Macs as well as smartphones and tablets running Apple's iOS or Android OS. It covers up to six people and can run on five devices at the same time, with offline access included. Microsoft 365 is the new branding for the well-known Office software and the Family subscription includes access to Word, Excel, Outlook email and PowerPoint. It also comes with the Microsoft Teams video calling app, which updated last year to include a Live Share feature enabling easier real-time collaboration. You also get Clipchamp video editor, which Microsoft acquired in 2021. Included security add-ons like Microsoft Defender and ransomeware protection will help protect your data and devices. 

Each person gets 1TB of OneDrive personal cloud storage, which not only lets you store a large amount of files in the cloud, it lets you share photos and files with other OneDrive users, across pretty much any device. 

The Microsoft 365 family subscription is activated as a digital download, but the $50 gift card will arrive as a physical card in the mail. And as we said, the deal ends today, so take advantage if you want to add Microsoft's productivity apps to your setup. 

Follow @EngadgetDeals on Twitter and subscribe to the Engadget Deals newsletter for the latest tech deals and buying advice.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/sign-up-for-a-year-of-microsoft-365-family-and-get-a-50-amazon-gift-card-171927611.html?src=rss

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Artifact is an AI-driven news aggregation app from the creators of Instagram

After a few years of staying mostly under the radar, Instagram co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger are back with a new project. It’s an app called Artifact, a name Systrom told Platformer’s Casey Newton is designed to evoke the project’s three tenants: “articles, facts and artificial intelligence.” In short, it’s a news aggregation app driven by a TikTok-like recommendation algorithm.

When you first launch Artifact, you’ll see a central feed populated by stories from publications like The New York Times. As you read more articles, the app will begin personalizing your feed. According to Systrom, the recommendation system Artifact’s team of seven built prioritizes how long you spend reading about certain subjects over clicks and comments. He added Artifact will feature news stories from both left and right-leaning outlets, though the company won’t allow posts that “promote falsehoods."

In the future, the app will also feature a social component. Systrom and Krieger plan to roll out a feed that will highlight articles from users you follow, alongside their commentary on that content. Additionally, you’ll be able to privately discuss posts through a direct-message inbox. At the moment, Systrom and Krieger are funding the project with their own money. They say Artifact represents a first attempt to imagine what the next generation of social apps could look like. If you want to give what they created a try, you can join a waiting list for the app’s iOS and Android beta. Systrom said the team plans to invite new users quickly.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/artifact-is-an-ai-driven-news-aggregation-app-from-the-creators-of-instagram-180544336.html?src=rss

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Vrbo’s Super Bowl ‘risk scores’ are basically pre-crime for house parties

As the Super Bowl approaches, Airbnb rival Vrbo announced its use of “unauthorized event prevention technology,” algorithms that try to avoid house parties at rental properties. Similar to a credit system, the tech generates a risk score for each booking, giving hosts a chance to call it off.

The Expedia-owned company will score renters based on their length of stay, lead time, number of guests and other factors. Vrbo is careful to add that it doesn’t use demographical information (race, sex, gender, age and so on) to evaluate risk. If a renter triggers a warning, Vrbo sends the host an email alert, giving them the option to cancel without a penalty; guests also receive a message reminding them of the policy.

Although Vrbo is rolling out the new system nationally, it recently conducted a yearlong pilot test in the Phoenix area, where Super Bowl LVII takes place on February 12th. The trial allegedly prevented over 500 unauthorized bookings in the US, saving hosts $2.5 million in cleanup and repairs. Vrbo will also restrict same-day bookings, team up with noise-monitoring and neighborhood watch services and share data with Airbnb about troublesome renters.

The new system will automatically apply to all US bookings. Vrbo says fewer than 0.25 percent of all weekend bookings in the US have led to party-related complaints.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/vrbo-super-bowl-house-party-risk-score-193020734.html?src=rss

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‘Westworld’ will soon stream for free on Roku and Tubi after leaving HBO Max

Westworld fans who've been mourning the show's disappearance from HBO Max will soon have another way to watch it. Warner Bros. Discovery is bringing free, ad-supported streaming (aka FAST) channels to Roku and Tubi in the coming months. One of those channels, called WB TV Series, will feature premium shows such as Westworld, Raised by Wolves, The Nevers and The Time Traveler’s Wife. WBD yanked all of those shows from HBO Max in December.

WB TV Series, and two other channels focused on reality and family-friendly shows, will debut on Tubi as soon as February 1st, according to Variety. Eleven more FAST channels from WBD are coming to the platform soon, including ones centered around baking competition series, classic movies from the late 20th century and true crime shows. The channels will arrive on the Roku Channel this spring. All told, WBD is bringing more than 2,000 hours of shows and movies to both platforms.

Meanwhile, WBD is preparing to merge HBO Max and Discovery+, a move that's slated to start in the US this spring. The company hasn't announced the name for the combined service just yet, but at one point the frontrunner was reportedly just "Max."

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/westworld-roku-tubi-warner-bros-discovery-ad-supported-channels-183905525.html?src=rss

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EU wind and solar energy production overtook gas last year

Energy generated from solar and wind power reportedly overtook natural gas in the European Union (EU) for the first time last year. The data comes from UK clean-energy think tank Ember (via Bloomberg), which projects the gap to grow.

Solar and wind energy rose to an all-time high of 22 percent of the EU’s 2022 electricity use. Meanwhile, Ember projects fossil-fuel generation to drop by 20 percent this year — with gas falling the fastest.

The shifts stem largely from reducing reliance on gas and coal after Russia invaded Ukraine. President Vladimir Putin ordered the cutoff of natural gas exports to the EU as retaliation for Western sanctions. Ember says the resulting high costs helped lower energy demand by around eight percent in Q4 2022 compared to the same quarter the previous year.

“There is now a focus on rapidly cutting gas demand — at the same time as phasing out coal,’’ the report said. “This means a massive scale-up in clean energy is on its way.” It expects nuclear power to remain flat in 2023, with a planned phase-out of German nuclear reactors canceling out a ramp-up from France. However, it projects hydropower to rise by around 40 terawatt-hours this year following a severe drought in 2022.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/solar-wind-energy-eu-fossil-fuels-191730995.html?src=rss

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Peacock stops offering its free tier to new subscribers

Peacock has stopped offerings its free tier to new customers. As first reported by The Streamable, potential subscribers who visit Peacock’s website will now only see two ways to access the platform: Peacock Premium and Premium Plus. Either way, if you’re new to Peacock, you’ll need to pay to access the service’s library of content. According to The Streamable, the free tier still exists but is only available to current users who cancel their Premium subscription or those who had access to a paid tier for free (for example, Cox internet customers). NBCUniversal did not immediately respond to Engadget’s comment request.

The Streamable reports the removal is the result of a strategy shift within the company. NBCUniversal plans to release approximately 100,000 hours of new content to Peacock Premium through the end of 2023, including live sports content from the Premier League and Women’s World Cup. The platform’s subscriber total grew to 20 million in 2022, up from 9 million the year before. However, Peacock has yet to generate a profit for NBCUniversal owner Comcast. The company expects the service to start inching toward profitability in 2024. Presumably, it hopes to accelerate that timeline by doubling down on Peacock's Premium tiers. 

To make up for the removal, Peacock is offering a promotion to new subscribers. You can get an annual subscription to the ad-supported Premium tier for $30, down from $50 normally. We'll update this article with more information when we hear back from NBCUniversal.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/peacock-stops-offering-its-free-tier-to-new-subscribers-195856662.html?src=rss

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343 is reportedly ‘starting from scratch’ on Halo development after layoffs

343 Industries and Halo may be here to stay despite Microsoft's mass layoffs, but that doesn't mean it's business as usual for the franchise. Bloomberg sources claim 343 is effectively restarting Halo development between multiple changes that include the loss of "at least" 95 jobs, including directors and key contractors. Notably, the studio is reportedly switching to Epic's Unreal Engine after both a leadership shuffle and struggling with its aging in-house platform (Slipspace) — it's even breaking from its familiar story-driven gameplay, according to the tipsters.

The 343 team is understood to be using Unreal for an unannounced game, nicknamed "Tatanka," developed with the help of long-time ally Certain Affinity. It was originally built as a battle royale title but might "evolve" into other forms, the sources say. While some at 343 are supposedly worried Unreal might affect how Halo feels to play, Slipspace's glitches and hard-to-use tech have apparently held back multiplayer features in Halo Infinite that include past favorites like Assault and Extraction.

Many of the laid off workers were crafting game prototypes in Unreal rather than producing new missions for Halo Infinite, Bloomberg says. 343 had considered switching engines for the past decade, the insiders claim, but it wasn't until studio lead Bonnie Ross and engine overseer David Berger left in late 2022 that the company committed to the change. Pierre Hintze, who replaced Ross, is said to have focused the company on "greenlighting" new tech while expanding Infinite.

Microsoft has declined to comment. A revamped strategy wouldn't be surprising even without layoffs. While Infinite was well-received on launch, delayed modes, seasons and even a cancelled split-screen mode haven't helped its reputation. 343 has also played a role in some of the Halo series' less-than-stellar projects, including the problematic Halo: Master Chief Collection and offshoots like Halo Wars 2. A fresh start isn't guaranteed to reinvigorate the sci-fi shooter, but it may address lingering concerns.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/343-industries-halo-unreal-engine-202439779.html?src=rss

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Twitter is killing off co-authored tweets after less than a year

Twitter has quietly killed off a feature that allowed users to publish co-authored tweets. The company enabled CoTweets on "select" accounts last July in the US, Canada and Korea, but the feature never made it beyond the experimental stage. As of today, you'll no longer be able to post CoTweets.

"We’re sad to say that the current experiment is coming to an end," Twitter wrote on an updated support page. "Already existing CoTweets will be viewable for one more month at which point they will revert to retweets." 

If you invited someone to CoTweet with you, that tweet will remain on your account, according to Mashable. For those who were invited to co-author a tweet, CoTweets will soon appear as retweets from the other person's account. All clear on that? Swell.

This may not completely be the end of CoTweets. "We’re still looking for ways to implement this feature moving forward," Twitter said. So, it could return at some point.

It's unlikely to be high on Twitter's list of priorities, however, particularly given that some 80 percent of employees have left the company since Elon Musk took over in late October. A recent report suggested Twitter now has fewer than 550 full-time engineers, who may have their hands full with other things.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/twitter-cotweets-removed-203823878.html?src=rss

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PayPal is laying off 2,000 employees

PayPal is about to become the latest tech company to lay off a substantial part of its workforce. The payments firm announced Tuesday plans to cut approximately 2,000 employees, a number that equates to about seven percent of its total staff. According to PayPal president and CEO Dan Schulman, the layoffs will occur over the next few weeks, with some parts of the company affected more than others.

“We will treat our departing colleagues with the utmost respect and empathy, provide them with generous packages, engage in consultation where required and support them with their transitions,” Schulman said. “I want to express my personal appreciation for the meaningful contributions they have made to PayPal.”

The company joins a growing list of tech companies that have announced layoffs in recent months. Earlier this month, Google disclosed plans to lay off 12,000 employees, or about around six percent of its global workforce. Before that, Microsoft said it would cut 10,000 jobs. Schulman, like his counterparts at Microsoft, Google and other tech firms, blamed PayPal's layoffs on the “challenging macro-economic environment” the company finds itself in recently. “While we have made substantial progress in right-sizing our cost structure, and focused our resources on our core strategic priorities, we have more work to do,” he said.

It’s worth noting the US economy has not entered into a recession yet. At 3.5 percent, the national unemployment rate is at a 50-year low, and the gross domestic product grew over the last quarters. Turning specifically to PayPal, the company beat Wall Street expectations during its most recent earnings call, with revenue and income increasing by 11 percent and 7 percent year on year, respectively.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/paypal-is-laying-off-2000-employees-212108119.html?src=rss

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