Posted by << Previous PostNext Post >> TORONTO — Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection has announced a dizzying array of new offerings for 2017, including two new Europe itineraries that highlight the best of Munich and Paris.The 10-day ‘Rhine-Main Discovery & Munich’ itinerary introduces the company’s new Jewish heritage programming and exclusive excursions, allowing guests to learn the historic roots of Judaism in Germany spanning from pre-World War II to modern-day culture. As part of the tour, guests will embark on a guided half-day excursion to the Dachau concentration camp in Munich.Also new is the 10-day ‘Paris & Impressions of the Seine’ itinerary, which explores Northern France’s beautiful countryside in a region immortalized by artists like Van Gogh and Monet. On this journey, guests will explore the beaches of Normandy, travel along the Alabaster Coast to UNESCO-designated Le Havre, and visit Étretat, known for its dramatic cliffs and beautiful landscapes.In addition to these two itineraries, Uniworld will implement new policies to its existing all-inclusive guest amenities offered onboard. In 2017, the cruise company will include all port fees in the total cost of the cruise, simplifying the messaging and thus enhancing the overall guest experience. Uniworld will also implement 24-hour room and in-suite butler services, as well as a new onboard Concierge service that will allow guests to personalize their itineraries.More news: War of words between Transat, Group Mach ramps upLastly, there’s a new ship in store for 2017. The S.S. Joie de Vivre, Uniworld’s new French Super Ship, will sail the Seine River on the ‘Paris & Normandy’ itinerary. Built at 125 metres (smaller than the typical 135 metres), the ship will be inaugurated in March and has been permitted to dock in the heart of Paris on the Seine River, making it the first of Uniworld’s Super Ships to do so. The S.S. Joie de Vivre will accommodate a total of 128 guests and feature 54 staterooms, eight Junior Suites and two Royal Suites.“With the addition of two new compelling itineraries, new personalized onboard amenities and a new exquisite ship, Uniworld is excited to enter 2017,” said Ellen Bettridge, president of Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection. “We look forward to sharing all of these new offerings with guests in the coming year.”For more details go to uniworld.com. Wednesday, August 24, 2016 Uniworld announces new itineraries, policies, services and ship for 2017 Travelweek Group Tags: Uniworld Share
I am very pleased to report that Jan and I are alive.On Dec. 29, while swimming at Playa Bejuco – one of the deadliest beaches in Costa Rica, on the central Pacific coast – we were caught in a powerful riptide and swept out to sea. As it turns out, this riptide is responsible for many deaths each year, including, just last year, a group of students. There are no lifeguards, despite the scores of deaths and famous tragedies that have taken place there.One moment we were surf crashing, the next we suddenly realized, to our terror, that we were being sucked out and under with a force that could not be resisted. Life turns on a dime. One second you are immortal, the very next moment it is entirely clear that, barring a miracle, you will be dead in the next short while. Panic swept through me, I could not breathe, and I was drowning. Jan tried to help me, but it was instantly obvious that if she did not let me go she would drown, too. As the current sucked her away from me, we both realized that we were most likely seeing each other for the last time.The ordeal lasted for more than two hours. There was to be no rescue; we were simply swept too far and too fast for anyone to have seen or noticed.In my new incarnation, here in Costa Rica, I am a meditation teacher. On this day, meditation was to be one of the two keys to my survival. My original and unbidden panic, had it lasted, would have killed me, within a minute, maybe less. I was drowning. I was, however, able to still my mind and focus on my breath. Calmed, though clearly understanding that my chances of survival were small, I was able to stay afloat; resurfacing time and time again as I was pulled under and spun about, lungs filling with water and death ever closer. Perhaps, because of this meditative and observing state there was very little “content” to my hours on the water. I understood that I would almost certainly die. I also understood that I am very attached to life. I also knew that it was one attachment that I was unwilling to let go of, at least at this time. What was clear, however, was that as long as I was breathing I was not dead.For the next while, I just focused on breathing and remaining calm. I noted that I was strong. My lungs (ironically for anyone who knows me) were very strong. My heart, slowed through meditation, was very regular and strong. My arms (I never once stopped backstroking though often I was going in the wrong direction, as I kept getting turned around) were powerful and filled with strength (though days after I sure have a sore neck and arms). There was no “white light” experience, nor did my relationship to God or life alter in any way.I also had tremendous confidence in Jan. She is ridiculously fit and athletic. She is strong in her will and body. As I floated and stroked, never moving closer to the land (now just a distant tease) I imagined her having made it back to the beach and summoning help. In my mind, I urged her forward, believing her to be my only hope. I was so grateful to have her in my life. Alone, there is no doubt that I would have died. Even were I to perish, it would be with a profound sense of connectedness and knowing that I have been blessed.There was, however, to be another terrible and disheartening moment when after about 40 minutes, I turned my head to see if I could catch sight of shore, and saw, instead, Jan, maybe 20 meters away, terrified and also struggling to live! I could hear her shouting out words of encouragement to me. At one point we drifted quite close to each other. I wanted to say goodbye (for now I was certain that this was it), to tell her how much I loved her, but I felt to do so might frighten her and sap her will. Instead, our eyes remained locked in desperate and silent communication until, once again, we were swept apart.After another long time, I again caught sight of her. She was much closer to shore than I and seemed to be making some progress (though she was still far too focused, in my opinion, on not losing sight of and calling out to me). It was then that several realizations arose that were to save my life. The first, if she could make progress so could I, and, next, that I did not need to make it to shore, just to where I could stand up; about half that distance. I then put all of my efforts into a renewed energetic backstroke, risking exhaustion for this chance at salvation. Jan kept yelling, “Avtar, away from the sun!” But no matter how I tried, every few strokes I would find myself turned around and heading back out to sea. At one point I was close enough to shore to see where our truck was parked: seconds later I could make out nothing beyond a streak of green.Big waves began taking me, crashing over me, spinning me. I was nothing more significant than a grain of sand: and then, and without really understanding, I found myself standing, supported by the gravity of the Earth and sand beneath the current. I was standing! I could move forward toward the shore! If I were not caught by the riptide again, I would survive! As I carefully and most painfully made my way forward, one cautious footstep at a time, I scanned the beach and water for Jan. And what I saw was frightening. Jan was some 20 meters away, standing shoulder deep in water, but facing the wrong way and diving forward into the waves as if to return to the open waters! At first I could not get her attention. Then she noticed me. I was waving my arms and screaming out “Turn around and walk to the beach”. She seemed to hear me then in an awful moment returned to her efforts toward the sea. I realized that she was disoriented and unless something happened she was going to be swept away again. I started to move toward her, all the time realizing that this could mean facing my own death again. My legs were cramped and I could feel the sucking of the undertow. She now turned toward me and calling out to me out of her own fear began making her way to me. Her eyes, when we were finally close enough that I could see them, were the eyes of a helpless child. We clung to each other and carefully started making our way to the shore.There was to be a last moment of fear when the shallows gave way suddenly to a deep area. There were people not 10 meters from where we were. I could feel Jan’s sudden desperation. But there was just no [expletive] way that I was going to be defeated now. The sea had had her chance and I was not about to give her a second chance with either myself or Jan.It was surreal as we waded up to a group of two strong young men and a woman. We were returning from death, they were strangers in another, unperturbed and ordinary life.Later, as we drove away, we both sang along to the music on our vehicle’s sound system; Jan, along with me, for the first time ever. Suddenly, life was not worries, challenges to be overcome, annoyances, chores or the next thing. It was now, this song, singing along, and singing along with this wonderful partner whose love and determination had just saved my life! Avtar is co-founder of Eden Atenas, a meditation center in the Central Valley (www.edenatenas.com/index.html). Facebook Comments No related posts.
No related posts. The Costa Rican government helped negotiate an agreement for increased plantain production from indigenous groups in the Talamanca region in southern Limón.The government made the announcement Tuesday, noting that the year-long agreement aimed to build a growing industry for an economically struggling region in the south Caribbean. The agreement between Talamanca farmers and Camino del Sol, an agri-business based in the interior city of Cartago, calls for a purchase of at least 15,000 kilograms of plantains per week for a year.William Barrantes, the president of the government’s National Production Council, said the agreement will help to grow an industry that could make Costa Rica a worldwide exporter in plantains.“If the industry in Costa Rica has a market such as North America, Europe or Asia and there are many more possibilities for demand, we can channel and plan a better product,” Barrantes said.Barrantes said the country currently imports some plantains from places like Panama and Nicaragua.Barrantes said the plantains will be bought at a set price above market value, though they were still negotiating the price. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations reported the current wholesale plantain price is approximately $113 per 1,000 kilograms. The deal could guarantee at least $618,000 in income to Talamanca farmers over the next year, according to these figures.The Costa Rican Agriculture and Livestock Ministry reported a domestic production of 90,000 tons in 2010, the most recent data available.Manuel Hurtado, a representative from the agricultural workers in Talamanca, said the set price was crucial to avoid the problems of past fluctuations.“It’s a way to guarantee so much, for the producers, for the industry, from a serious commitment to protect a serious product,” Hurtado said in an interview.Talamanca is often considered one of the poorest cantons in Costa Rica. In 2011 it had the second lowest human development index of all 81 Costa Rican cantons, according to a study from the United Nations Development Program. In 2009 Talamanca came in last.The canton celebrated the plantain crop in a festival last Saturday. Facebook Comments
The vote was a test for Poland’s two major political forces, represented by Komorowski and Duda, ahead of the country’s parliamentary election in the fall. Duda’s Law and Justice party backs a mix of national pride, Catholic values and social welfare programs and is more conservative than the current government. They both advocate a stern stance toward Russia and support neighboring Ukraine in its conflict with Moscow.Komorowski, who has served as president since 2010 and made harmony his trademark, called for a debate with Duda and vowed to urgently present new reforms. Thousands of young people emigrate and seek jobs abroad as Poland’s jobless rate remains well above 10 percent and earnings are much below the EU average.“The result of the exit poll is a serious warning for the entire team in power,” Komorowski said. “We should listen to the voters, because it’s evidently necessary to mobilize all rational forces in Poland.”He appealed for energy and cooperation with the “large group of voters evidently disillusioned and waiting for fast, much faster change and modernization.”A beaming Duda appealed to voters for more support in the runoff. WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Nationalist opposition candidate Andrzej Duda made a surprisingly strong showing Sunday in the first round of Poland’s presidential election, apparently forcing a runoff with incumbent Bronislaw Komorowski who faces a tough re-election campaign, according to exit poll results.Duda, who is no fan of the European Union, was predicted to receive 34.5 percent of the vote to Komorowski’s 33.1 percent, according to the IPSOS exit poll released by the private TVN24 and the state-run PAP news agency. The poll results suggest rising dissatisfaction with the ruling pro-EU establishment led by the center-right and pro-business Civic Platform party, which has been in power since 2007. Komorowski was a member but left in order to be a non-aligned president. The dissatisfaction was also reflected in the unexpectedly high support — 20.5 percent of the vote — predicted for punk rock star Pawel Kukiz, an anti-establishment candidate critical of the government.Official results could be announced late Monday, the State Electoral Commission said.The results mean that Komorowski is in “gigantic trouble and must fight very hard to survive” in the May 24 runoff, said political analyst Antoni Dudek.“The fact that (Komorowski) comes from the Civic Platform and defended all their decisions and never protested on any key issue has worked against him,” Dudek said. “He also lost a lot by a poor campaign start and by underestimating the opponent.”He said Duda is a “dynamic candidate who has had a very good campaign,” and could do well in the runoff by drawing support from Kukiz’s voters. The exit polls indicate that the combined total for Duda and Kukiz tops 50 percent. Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Comments Share New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies The vital role family plays in society “We want to have a dignified life in a safe Poland, which needs to be mended in many areas,” Duda said. “Today this primarily means a change at the presidential office.”“We will win,” he said.The exit poll forecast that no candidate would win more than 50 percent of the votes needed to avoid a runoff. It put turnout at 48.8 percent of Poland’s more than 30.2 million voters.Eight other candidates received single-digit support in the exit poll, including the main left-wing candidate, former actress and TV commentator Magdalena Ogorek, who had a mere 2.4 percent, reflecting the decline of the Democratic Left Alliance that she represented, the successor to the once powerful communist party.With most power in the hands of Poland’s prime minister and the government, the presidency has largely ceremonial duties but the president is the commander in chief of the armed forces and has the power to propose and veto legislation.Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski greets supporters during a meeting ending his campaign ahead of a Sunday’s presidential election, Warsaw, Poland, Friday, May 8, 2015. Komorowski, who his running for his second term and right wing candidate Andrzej Duda are the main contenders in the upcoming vote. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz) Sponsored Stories Top Stories 3 international destinations to visit in 2019 New Year’s resolution: don’t spend another year in a kitchen you don’t like
Source = e-Travel Blackboard: J.L Cheeky photos of British Airways flight attendants lifting up their skirts have surfaced on a porn website, just weeks before a proposed union strike over pay and working conditions.The pictures show cabin crew in BA’s distinctive red, white and blue uniforms exposing their bare bums and suspended stockings.According to The Sun, the pictures were taken by staff “fooling around” on an aircraft so they could send the pictures to their friends.”They were never intended to get out and it would never have occurred to the girls they would end up on a porn site” a source told the newspaper.British Airways said Thursday it would launch an investigation into any employees found posing for such snaps.However, BA said there was no evidence any of the girls snapped in the pictures actually work for BA.
Categories: Cole News State Rep. Triston Cole, of Mancelona, Tuesday visited the autonomous vehicle facility at Mcity in Ann Arbor with the Michigan House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to discuss the new technology for drivers.State Rep. Triston Cole (center) with the Michigan House and Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.Huei Peng and Carrie Morton of Mcity discussed research and outlined the vision of how autonomous vehicles will revolutionize transportation.Laurel Champion, COO of the American Center for Mobility (ACM), discussed the focus on testing and connectivity of autonomous vehicles.“I’m excited with the direction transportation is going with autonomous vehicles,” said Rep. Cole, who chairs the House committee. “Autonomous vehicles should be able to lower freight transportation costs and reduce the amount of land needed for parking. Technology is moving fast and there will be significant breakthroughs in transportation in the near future.”Mcity has created a public-private partnership to work on connected and automated mobility systems. There are more than 65 industry partners with $16 million invested in research and over 100 students involved in Mcity activities on the University of Michigan campus.The American Center for Mobility is a non-profit testing and product development facility for future transportation development. The facility is located at the historic 335-acre Willow Run site in Ypsilanti Township in southeast Michigan.An automated vehicle uses a variety of sensors to collect data about the surrounding environment. Maps and GPS help guide the vehicle. Onboard computers analyze the data collected by the sensors, as well as the mapping data, to determine the best course.### 23Aug Rep. Cole visits autonomous vehicle facility to discuss revolutionary technology
Categories: Daire Rendon News,News State Rep. Daire Rendon, who serves on the House Committee on Commerce and Trade, this week toured a Canadian National Railway autoport facility with other state legislators in an effort to highlight the state’s vital methods of moving product to final market.Legislators were shown on Tuesday the inner-workings of a vehicle processing and transshipment plant that handles finished automobiles from General Motors’ Lansing Delta Township Assembly.Established in 2006 and located in Charlotte, Michigan, the autoport works hand in hand with GM as an origin facility to move automobiles from the finishing plant to where they are needed for sale. The tour included a viewing of the facility’s rail yard, where vehicles are staged in lots, loaded into freight cars and taken to distributors.“I was impressed with the vast undertaking that goes into getting these vehicles from assembly line to lots and driveways across the country from right here in Michigan,” said Rendon, of Lake City. “Having these facilities do business here in our state means more job prospects for our residents and a boost for our local and state economies.”The House Committee on Commerce and Trade is scheduled to hold a joint hearing with the Senate Commerce Committee on Oct. 3 to discuss how Michigan can further improve in the shipping industry.PHOTO INFORMATION: State Rep. Daire Rendon (right) of Lake City stands with state Reps. Eric Leutheuser (left) of Hillsdale and Erika Geiss (center) of Taylor during a legislative tour of a Canadian National Railway autoport facility in Charlotte, Michigan on Tuesday. The facility takes finished vehicles from the nearby Lansing Delta Township General Motors Assembly plant and transports them via rail or truck to distributors and final market destinations. 28Sep Rep. Rendon joins fellow legislators for tour of vehicle shipment facility PHOTO INFORMATION: A rail car loaded with vehicles sits in line at a Canadian National Railway autoport facility in Charlotte, Michigan. The finished vehicles are driven manually into the rail cars via ramps and later moved by train to distributors so they can be placed in the possession of dealers. State Rep. Daire Rendon of Lake City toured the facility with other members of the House Committee on Commerce and Trade on Tuesday.
Share6Tweet9ShareEmail15 Shares“Number 10,” by YoppyFebruary 27, 2018; US News & World ReportEveryone loves top 10 lists. They offer bragging rights for everything from ice cream to individual states. While the methodologies used to compile the data vary from source to source, and the accuracy and validity of such rankings are debatable, lists like these can spotlight important issues that deserve further consideration. This is the case for US News & World Report’s education rankings, which can help us understand the impact when states don’t invest in higher education.Interestingly, according to US News, there’s a surprising disconnect between how well states operate their primary and secondary educational programs and the quality of their higher education:States with otherwise strong education systems show up at the bottom of the charts for higher education. When it comes to tuition and fees, the top education states are decidedly the poorest performers: Four of the top 10 states for education overall are in the bottom 10 for average tuition and required fees for public four-year institutions for in-state students. Vermont, which ranks eighth overall in education, is dead last.States with the best educational systems also found that their children ended their college years with the highest amount of accumulated debt.Of the states ranked in the top 10 for education, half rank in the bottom half of states for low debt at graduation, including New Hampshire, which comes in 49th despite ranking fourth for education overall, and Massachusetts, which ranks 44th in low debt at graduation despite ranking No. 1 in education overall.C.J. Libassi, a higher education policy analyst at the Center for American Progress, explained this somewhat counterintuitive outcome to US News:High school performance is generally correlated with state median income. You could imagine as states get richer, students do better in a K-12 system. Richer students are also more likely to go to private and nonprofit colleges, which are typically more expensive. Really, what you’re picking up there is the chance that students who graduate from good K-12 schools, go to more expensive schools of higher education.The findings of US News are consistent with other recent looks at college debt. An Urban Institute study found that “households in the top quartile of the income distribution, with incomes above $81,140 in 2016, held about half of all outstanding education debt. The top 10 percent of households, with incomes of $144,720 or higher, held 24 percent of the debt.”It may seem quite appropriate‚ even progressive, that richer families have the largest loan balances as their children finish their college educations. Digging deeper, though, there’s more for policymakers to worry about. According to Libassi, “The folks who face the most dire consequence for taking out debt are generally not the people who take out the most debt, but those who take out the least and don’t finish.”If a state provides affordable higher education, that can help ameliorate the problems associated with taking on debt. and the best way to accomplish this is for states to invest in the quality of their higher education systems, have the programs needed to ensure students are successful, and keep their tuitions at reasonable levels.US News’ data set shows that even in wealthy states, this investment has not been there.Overall state funding for public two- and four-year colleges in the 2017 school year was nearly $9 billion below what it was a decade ago in 2008, prior to the Great Recession, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities—a funding decline that’s contributed to higher tuition, among other things. As a result, tuition at four-year public colleges has risen by an average of $2,484, or about 35 percent, since 2008 school year.The impact of this shrinking investment falls most heavily on those families who are lower down the economic pyramid, who rely on the benefits of higher education to spring them into better-paying careers. This, we ought to worry about—no matter where our state falls on US News’ education rankings.—Martin LevineShare6Tweet9ShareEmail15 Shares
FremantleMedia’s strong 2011 lifted the results of its parent company RTL.The production and distribution division of the pan-European broadcaster posted revenue of €1.4 billion, a 12.3% increase year on year as The X Factor launched in the US and seven new territories. It posted EBITA profit of €143 million, a 2.1% year-on-year increase. The numbers include results from acquired companies Radical Media and Ludia for the first time.FremantleMedia accounted for 24.8% of RTL’s overall 2011 revenue figure of €5.8 billion, which compared with €5.5 billion in the 2010 financial year. RTL profit was up 0.2% at €1.1 billion.Outgoing CEO Gerhard Zeiler said that 2012 has got off to a better than expected start but still said that there is not enough visibilty to give guidance for the rest of the year. “Looking at January and February 2012 we can say that the negative development many had feared did not happen,” Zeiler said. “Given the high volatility of the various TV advertising markets throughout Europe, and the very short-term bookings cycle, it is not possible to give full-year guidance at the moment.”
The BBC has launched a camera-mounted device that lets programme makers to link multiple cameras and move HD content over a standard internet network.Developed by the corporation’s R&D department and launched commercially for the first time today at the NAB show in Las Vegas, Stagebox is designed to let programme makers replace expensive broadcast-specific equipment with standard IT hardware, such as wireless routers, switches and network cabling.“There are some clear and compelling benefits to IP production, as programme makers can stream professional quality footage to any gallery or post-production team with an internet connection in real-time, wherever they may be,” said BBC technology transfer manager Nick Pinks.As part of the BBC’s public service remit, R&D is responsible for pioneering the future of broadcast technology and Stagebox “represents an important step forward in programme making,” the corporation said.
The climax of this year’s Wimbledon men’s tennis final sparked a twitter frenzy, with more than 120,000 messages per minute sent on the micro-blogging network – a bigger spike than was recorded during last summer’s Olympic games.According to official Twitter stats, traffic on the site peaked during the dying moments of the game at 17.25 BST when 120,000 tweets per-minute were logged – beating the 116,000 tweets per-minute logged during the Spice Girls’ performance in the London Olympics opening ceremony, which was the largest spike of last year’s games.“Over the last 12 hours alone, the Wimbledon final has been mentioned more than 3.4 million times on Twitter, according to Lewis Wiltshire, Twitter UK’s head of sport, in a blog post published yesterday.Victor Andy Murray’s “Can’t believe what’s just happened!!!!!!!” tweet, sent shortly after the match concluded, has also now been retweeted more than 89,000 times and favourite more than 68,000 times.At 1.9 million followers, Murray added more than 131,000 followers over the last day, and saw a 20% increase in follower numbers over the course of the championships, Twitter said.
European Union officials have raided the offices of Deutsche Telekom, Orange and Telefónica as part of an investigation into whether the telecos are restricting access to the internet to companies that offer services using large amounts of data. The raids, which began last week, are part of a competition investigation by the EU into “a number of telecommunications companies” in several EU countries over potential abuse of an alleged dominant market position. The EU did not name the companies it was investigating.Deutsche Telekom has strenously denied abusing its position. Orange and Telefónica have said they are cooperating with the investigation.
Some 56% of Europeans said they would be likely to buy an Ultra High Definition TV in the next two years, according to new research by Strategy Analytics. The Ultra HDTV survey – which polled 4,000 people across France, Germany, Italy and the UK – found that 15% of respondents said they would be very likely to buy an Ultra HDTV and 41% somewhat likely to buy in the two-year window, with intention to buy peaking among 25-34 year-olds.The research added that two thirds of “higher income” households would be willing to go Ultra HD, with this term holding much higher awareness than 4K TV or UHD.“The outlook for Ultra HD is positive, assuming that it meets consumers’ performance and value expectations. In any case our research confirms that many people are still interested in improving their big screen television experience,” said Strategy Analytics principal analyst, David Mercer.
Russian independent factual channel Dozhd has begun broadcasting on SES’s Astra 4A satellite at 5° East, complementing its coverage via the Yamal 300K satellite at 90° East.Dozhd said it would make its signal available free-to-air for the first one or two months of broadcasting. Carriage on Astra 4A gives the channel coverage over gthe European part of Russia, and means that subscribers to Russian pay TV services Tricolor TV and NTV+ will be able to view the satellite with minimum reconfiguration of their reception equipment.The satellite launch follows the removal of Dozhd from most Russian pay TV services at the start of this year after it briefly aired the results of a poll, seen as controversial, about the wartime siege of Leningrad, now St Petersburg, on its website. The channel, seen as one of the few remaining independent media outlets in Russia, has been struggling to stay on air since.
French pay TV operator Orange has inked a volume deal with Hollywood studio Sony Pictures Television.The deal, between SPT and OCS gives the French package of pay TV channels SPT-distributed series including Amazon Prime Instant Video hit Transparent and another show from the streaming service, Mozart in the Jungle.OCS also gets exclusive pay TV rights to SPT-produced comic-book adaptation Powers, the first ever original series for the PlayStation gaming platformThe agreement also cover features, giving OCS movies including White House Down, Captain Phillips and Equalizer.Serge Laroye, president of OCS and executive VP, content direction at Orange, said: “This agreement with Sony Pictures Television adds significantly and qualitatively to the content for our 100% cinema and TV series offer and confirms our position as a premium service.”Mike Wald, executive VP, international distribution for Sony Pictures Television said: “This new partnership with OCS secures significant distribution of our world class film and TV content in one of our most important markets.”He added: “We hope to expand this partnership to even greater levels in the near future.”Sony and Orange said the deal was ‘multiyear’ without specifying the exact length.
Marco PatuanoTelecom Italia is close to striking an agreement with Mediaset to distribute the latter’s premium services on its platform, according to local press.Telecom Italia CEO Marco Patuano told Italian press that a partnership was “logical” and that the telco had set a goal of becoming an open platform for the distribution of content to end users. Telecom Italia already has a deal in place with Mediaset rival Sky to distribute its content. That agreement provides for the distribution of Sky content via the TIM Sky service to set-tops distributed by the telco to its customers. Patuano said that the deal with Sky was working well and results would be revealed as part of the company’s second quarter financials.Italian press reported earlier this week Mediaset had earlier rejected a €1.1 billion offer from Sky to acquire Mediaset Premium, the group’s pay TV arm – in which Telefónica holds an 11.1% stake – on the grounds that this was insufficient to compensate for giving Sky free rein in the Italian pay TV market.Telecom Italia’s Patuano also told journalists that Telecom Italia’s management would meet with Vivendi in the coming days to discuss the next steps after Vivendi became the telco’s largest single shareholder with a 15% stake following its sale of Brazilian telco GVT to Telefónica.Separately, JP Morgan has acquired a 7% stake in Telecom Italia from Telefónica as part of a wider financing agreement with the Spanish telecom operator. The move makes the bank the Italian telco’s second largest shareholder after Vivendi.
Investing in content will “give customers more reasons to come back to SFR” and will provide new opportunities to increase revenue by charging more for bundles, according to Altice CEO Michel Combes. Combes, speaking to analysts after the cable and telecom group posted disappointing Q3 financials at the end of last week, partly due to SFR’s poor performance, said that content would “help improve brand perception” of the French multi-play operator, in tandem with the move to use the Altice brand for all services.Combes said that content would provide “a more differentiated service” that would bring customers back to the service, despite “some damage to the SFR brand” as a result of “historical under-investment” prior to Altice taking the company over.“We are seeing churn reduction among customers taking content bundles. Our own surveys show customers value content more and more when choosing their plan and we are also seeing record audience share on our own free-to-air channels,” he said.Combes said that the combined audience share of SFR’s own channels among its customer base was 12%, adding that this showed the channels were “a meaningful part of customers bundles” even though much of the content that Altice has invested in has yet to be made available to its customers.Combes said the content investment would provide additional revenues through the wholesaling of channels to third-party operators as well as the launch of apps such as SFR Sport. “Overall, we expect that these content investments will help us return to growth on a sustainable basis,” he said.Combes said that Altice was following a similar strategy in Portugal, where its proposed acquisition of the country’s leading commercial broadcaster, Media Capital, has attracted a wave of criticism from rivals.He said that the Media Capital acquisition would “support [Altice’s] expansion into media in a very similar way” to its acquisition of NextRadioTV in France.Combes said that Altice was “one of the largest foreign investors in Portugal” and was “committed to support the wider economy there”.He said that Media Capital offered opportunities in free-to-air broadcasting through “investing in programming, adding new free-to-air channels and marketing the content already produced internationally, particularly in Altice markets”, and added that Altice wanted to “create an international content production hub” in Portugal on the model of the existing Altice Labs technology hub.In a nod to the regulatory review of the Media Capital deal, Combes said the deal would “safeguard Portuguese media employment, innovation and pluralism” at a time when the media sector was under unprecedented pressure.“We don’t think there is a viable alternative for Media Capital going forward,” he said.Separately, Altice USA has struck a deal with US mobile telco Sprint to enable the US cable arm of Altice to sell mobile telecom services over Sprint’s network.Sprint will provide Altice USA with access to its full MVNO model, allowing Altice USA to connect its network to the Sprint Nationwide network and have control over the Altice USA mobile features, functionality, and customer experience. In exchange, Altice USA will support Sprint’s network densification efforts via Altice’s fixed broadband network, allowing the mobile operator to “establish a differentiated network operating model” going forward.The move follows the collapse of talks between Sprint’s majority owner Softbank Group to merge the mobile telco with rival T-Mobile US.
The UK government has formally proposed that the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) be the regulator for the age verification of online pornography in the UK.Matt HancockThe government said that the BBCFC has “unparalleled expertise in classifying content” and has a proven track record of interpreting and implementing legislation as the authority for age ratings under the Video Recordings Act.“One of the missions of age verification is to harness the freedom of the internet while mitigating its harms,” said digital minister, Matt Hancock.“Offline, as a society we protect children from viewing inappropriate adult material by ensuring pornography is sold responsibly using appropriate age checks. It is now time that the online world follows suit.”BBFC chief executive officer, David Austin, said: “The BBFC’s primary aim is to protect children and other vulnerable groups from harmful content and we are therefore pleased to accept the government’s proposed designation.”“Age-verification barriers will help to prevent children accessing or stumbling across pornographic content online. The UK is leading the way with this age-verification regime and will set an international precedent in child protection.”The UK moved to introduce age verification checks for adult websites after signing in the Digital Economy Act in July of this year. The new rules on online pornography are expected to come into force by April 2018.Before the BBFC is officially designated as the age-verification regulator the selection must be approved by parliament.
Polish public broadcaster TVP has launched its own subscription video-on-demand service, Strefa Abo, providing about 150 movies and series for a monthly fee.The service includes archive content from the BBC, such as Allo Allo, War and Peace, House of Cards and Pride and Prejudice, as well as Polish series and other international series.Maciej Stanecki, board member at TVP, said that the group’s vod.tvp.pl site, which was launched two years ago, counted over 3.2 million unique users in March this year and 48.6 million page views. He said that TVP had a record number of sports broadcasts, series and films on the site, with further growth expected during the forthcoming World Cup football tournament in Russia.Stanecki said that Strefa Abo – Subscriber Zone – would enable it to build a stronger relationship with its viewers.The service is available free of charge for the first 14 days, after which a monthly fee of PLN9.99 (€2.36) applies. Netflix in Poland is priced at PLN34 by way of comparison. Some groups, such as elderly and disabled viewers, will be able to access the service for free, according to Stanecki.TVP has said it will make new titles available on the service every quarter.
Netflix’s US subscriber additions are beginning to slow and the cost of adding new customers has “rocketed” in recent years, according to Ampere Analysis.The research firm estimates that in its home market, Netflix’s marketing costs for acquiring subscribers has grown from around US$60 per person between 2013 and 2015 to roughly US$100 per new subscriber today.This compares to a relatively flat rate of US$40-US$45 per customer in its international markets according to the report, which focuses on Netflix’s “significant investment in marketing”.Ampere said that Netflix spent close to US$1.3bn on advertising its streaming products in 2017, split roughly equally between its domestic and international markets, with 14% of its expenditure going on marketing-related costs.It added that domestic additions are beginning to slow as Netflix saturates its home market meaning that each marketing dollar corresponds to an ever-decreasing number of new subscribers. In the US it estimates that Netflix takes 11 months to achieve payback on net new domestic customers.“With declining domestic growth rates and spiralling acquisition costs, Netflix faces a very real set of challenges if it is to continue to command such a strong position,” said Ampere Analysis research director, Richard Broughton.“Our research show that while Netflix can continue to enjoy relatively low acquisition costs for international subscribers and a buoyant market keen to embrace SVOD, it cannot afford to take its eye off the ball in the domestic market, even momentarily. Its ability to grow ARPU will be critically important to manage long term growth – domestically and abroad.”