No, the cable bundle isn’t dead. It’s more like an aging dictator who’s starting to show signs of weakness. Those around it, meanwhile, are already agitating for change.
In the last few months in particular, there has been growing evidence of this revolution. After tiptoeing around the demise of the bundle for years, Disney CEO Bob Iger is finally taking bigger steps to ensure his company’s viability, with or without the traditional cable bundle. On Tuesday, during its quarterly earnings call with investors, the Mouse House announced it is paying $1 billion to acquire a 33% stake in BAMTech, the streaming platform built by Major League Baseball over the last decade and a half.
The goal? To launch a direct-to-consumer, subscription sports service. Unfortunately, at least initially the new offering will not include current content from ESPN’s cable network. That said, the announcement is still a significant step toward an inevitable direction.
And that’s not all. Online-only companies, which have far less to lose from the downfall of the once-mighty bundle, are about to make much more aggressive moves.
It has been reported that Google’s YouTube will launch a live TV service sometime next year. Hulu, meanwhile, has already announced its plans to do so. (The latter streaming service is co-owned by Disney and Comcast, among others, which is as good of an example as any of their need to hedge their bets.)
Online-only bundles will bring certain live television offerings to the Internet for a lower subscription fee than the traditional cable bundle. They will likely feature subpar content at their start. For companies like Disney, they will also likely have leaner profit margins than the traditional cable bundle. But they are inevitable. You can try to beat ’em or join ’em, but at some point, companies like Disney won’t be able to do both.
BITS & BYTES
Intel spends real money on artificial intelligence. It’s paying an undisclosed sum—one report pegs the price at more than $400 million—to acquire Nervana Systems. The two-year-old startup is working on a customized chip for machine learning applications. (Fortune, Recode, Wall Street Journal)
Facebook declares war on ad blockers. The social network is redesigning how advertisements are displayed so they look the same as other content and won’t be hidden. At the same time, it has promised to make its algorithms better so people will be less annoyed by what they see. One big brand taking a step back from the latter approach is Procter & Gamble, which plans to spend less on targeted Facebook ads. (Fortune, New York Times, Wall Street Journal)
Big banks pledge to share cyber-crime intelligence. A group of eight financial services giants that reportedly includes Bank of America, Citigroup, J.P. Morgan Chase, and Goldman Sachs is setting up a formal network so they can swap knowledge about security threats more quickly. (Wall Street Journal)
Oracle builds defense against account fraud claims. In a Tuesday court filing, the software giant formally denied charges by a former finance manager that it improperly reported revenue for its cloud services and application sales. Svetlana Blackburn was fired last fall, and Oracle has described her whistleblower lawsuit as retaliatory. (IDG News Service)
Turn your drone a little to the left. Can’t see your co-workers on an important videoconference? Google is building the cameras into drones. (Quartz)
PEOPLE & CULTURE
Marketo’s co-founder tries his hand at another marketing startup. Jon Miller has raised a $22 million Series B for his latest venture, called Engagio. Its focus is on automating targeted, business-to-business interactions. (Fortune)
Former Yahoo CTO joins big data software firm as CEO. It’s old home week. Ashfaq Munshi is joining startup Pepperdata, which was founded by two other ex-Yahoos, Sean Suchter and Chad Carson. (Fortune)
Cybersecurity software firm Okta hires first CIO. Mark Settle has more than 25 years of experience, including leadership positions at Arrow Electronics and Visa. He also brings an insider’s view of how to use cloud services. (Okta)
SAP names new sales chief for SuccessFactors cloud unit. Kerry Sain, whose official title is chief revenue officer, was previously CEO at a human resources cloud startup owned by Aetna. (SAP)
ComScore replaces CEO, CFO. The well-known Internet and entertainment research firm is six months into an accounting probe that began after its acquisition of Rentrak, a media measurement and analytics service. (Bloomberg)
WATCH FOR IT
Unease lingers over Alibaba accounting practices. The huge Chinese e-commerce company is expected to show a 48% rise in first-quarter income to about $4.5 billion when it reports its latest financials on Thursday. But investors are worried about an SEC investigation into how some of its affiliates keep their books. (Wall Street Journal)
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Why Big Data Firm MapR Is Putting More Cash in the Bank,
by Heather Clancy
What Snapchat Was Doing at the Black Hat Cybersecurity Conference,
by Robert Hackett
Here’s What It’ll Take for Apple’s Stock to Rebound, by Lucinda Shen
How Google Is Trying to Make Virtual Reality Safely Social,
by David Meyer
Twitter Opens Moments to Select Celebrities and Brands—and Soon Everyone, by Mathew Ingram
ONE MORE THING
Pilots, start your engines. Negotiating tiny flying machines around aerial obstacles at 80 miles per hour is harder than it looks. Welcome to the fast-growing world of drone racing. (Time)