My favorite line in Michal Lev-Ram’s feature in the May issue of Fortune on TV-streaming service Hulu is when she calls them the “oh, yeah, I forgot about them” player that nevertheless has 12 million subscribers, a $6 billion valuation, and the complicated support of its entertainment-conglomerate owners.
Disney, Fox, NBCUniversal (part of Comcast), and Time Warner (which is selling itself to AT&T) keep Hulu alive for a simple reason. They hope that by supporting a service with the usability of Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, and iTunes they can somehow stave off competition from those technology-first, content-second monsters.
It’s a tangled web that Hulu weaves. On the one hand, it wants to be the cool kid of video streaming. On the other hand, it wants for its owners to be able to make money off their legacy networks for as long as possible. It’s a tech- and entertainment-industry version of the military adage that the best defense is a good offense.
Is that strategy working? There’s no easy answer to that. It’s working well enough that the owners want to keep investing. They’ve also supported Hulu’s effort to start a first-of-its-kind live TV streaming offering. If it succeeds it will offer live programming over the Internet that currently is beamed only via broadcast or cable. Fortune’s Lev-Ram breaks down just how Hulu plans to do this without annoying the cable partners who account for so much revenue for Hulu’s owners.
At the very least, it seems less likely anyone is going to forget about Hulu anytime soon. (And if nostalgia is your thing, you might enjoy this early take on Hulu from nine years ago.)
I loved this David Leonhardt column from last week on the virtues of making time for quiet, non-digital reflection. I’ve written about this subject before, and I’ve also made reference to my version of 96-year-old George Shultz’s technique. I like to rise before my family, make the coffee, and sit quietly at my kitchen table reading the (print) newspaper—all before turning to any digital screens. I find I do my best critical thinking of the day then. I recommend the experience highly.
BITS AND BYTES
Alphabet’s Waymo wants the leader of Uber’s self-driving car team taken off the job. It asked the federal judge in charge of the companies’ ongoing intellectual property dispute to bar Anthony Levandowski—a former Google executive it believes stole thousands of proprietary documents—from working on the project while the case plays out. The two are fighting over the design of LiDAR sensors, which help guide driverless vehicles. (Fortune, Wall Street Journal)
Apple is hiring satellite experts. Two Google executives—spacecraft designer John Fenwick and satellite engineer Michael Trela—both left for a new Apple hardware project, reports Bloomberg. The story suggests they’re spearheading a project focused on satellite broadband communications and image collection, an initiative that may also involve Boeing. The companies in question are characteristically mum. (Bloomberg)
That time when Tim Cook summoned Travis Kalanick for a chat. Uber’s CEO is known for taking risks—and his company’s alleged practice of keeping tabs on former app users apparently earned a rebuke from Apple’s chief back in 2015, reports The New York Times in an extensive feature about Kalanick’s leadership style. Uber issued a statement saying that tracking smartphones is a common fraud-prevention practice, but the company denies keeping tabs on former accountholders after they’ve deleted its app. (New York Times, Fortune)
The Quora question-and-answer community closes big funding round. The startup has raised $85 million in a round led by Collaborative Fund and Y Combinator’s Continuity Fund—the money will help Quora develop its advertising services. The new infusion apparently values the company at around $1.8 billion. (TechCrunch, VentureBeat)
Jack Ma predicts decades of ‘pain’ occasioned by Internet disruption. The Alibaba chairman’s warning, which came over the weekend at a Chinese conference on entrepreneurship, centered on the commercial and social impacts of artificial intelligence and robotics. (Fortune, Bloomberg)
There’s controversy over IBM CEO Ginni Rometty’s executive compensation. The company will ask shareholders to approve a package that it values at around $33 million at its annual meeting on Tuesday. In an unusual move, respected proxy adviser Institutional Shareholder Services says their vote should be “No.” Why? Because it believes the method that IBM used to account for Rometty’s stock options understates their total value and that she will actually be paid far more than what’s being suggested. (Bloomberg)
Test flights for electric cars are getting off the ground. Kitty Hawk, the startup backed by Google founder Larry Page, is testing its prototype over a lake in Northern California. German startup Lilium is also spreading its wings, based on a video released late last week. (New York Times, Fortune)
Early reviews for Samsung’s latest smartphone are mostly positive. In particular, critics are praising the device’s larger display. (Fortune)
The mixed-up M&A message of Verizon’s CEO. Lowell McAdam spent much of the past two years explaining why he didn’t need to acquire a big media company as part of his diversification strategy for the telecommunications giant. Then last week, he tore up the old playbook and invited the heads of CBS, NBC, and ABC to give him a call.
Investors and analysts were left a bit stunned and unsure quite how seriously to take McAdam’s new tack. Fortune’s Aaron Pressman weighs in on the confusion.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
This Major Change Is Coming to Computer Design, Says Head of Amazon Alexa, by Jeff John Roberts
A Computer Is Deciding Which Movies You’re Going to Watch Next, by Tom Huddleston, Jr.
VR Pioneer Palmer Luckey Returns to the Public Eye, by David Z. Morris
ONE MORE THING
The weekend march for science was born on Reddit. Why thousands of scientists and tech industry workers are protesting the Trump administration’s extensive cuts to federal research programs. (Associated Press, Quartz, TechCrunch)