August 26, 2021
Photo: Vienna Reyes via Unsplash
Good morning, and welcome to Protocol Next Up. This week: Real Madrid is embracing ad-supported streaming and Facebook has put Oculus Quest cameras into its new AR glasses.
Also, save the date: Please join me for Future of Voice, a free online event exploring what's new and what's next for voice — featuring Pandora Senior Product Manager Ananya Sharan, Sonos VP Joseph Dureau and Xandra CEO Zach Johnson — on Sept. 9 at 12 p.m. PT. RSVP Now.
North American Real Madrid fans have a new way of watching their favorite soccer club: Last week, Roku began streaming a free 24/7 Real Madrid TV channel on its streaming adapters and smart TVs. The channel will feature up to three matches of the famed soccer club per week, as well as live press conferences, training sessions, behind-the-scenes footage and more. And it's not a Roku exclusive: Fox-owned Tubi will launch Real Madrid TV as part of its new Tubi Sports vertical soon, and the channel is slated to launch on Pluto TV as well as Samsung devices in the near future as well.
Sports programming was supposed to be the lone holdout in a world that rapidly transitions to streaming; the thing that saves the cable bundle, or at least some semblance of it. And it definitely wasn't supposed to be free. So how is something like Real Madrid TV even possible?
So Real Madrid TV is meant to be a funnel. It will cater to casual soccer viewers, with the goal of turning them into hardcore fans who may eventually pay for access to even more programming. "When you want to reach a lot of people, that's how you do it," Opeka said. "You don't put it behind a paywall."
Such channels have been a massive success story ever since TV manufacturers like Samsung and LG began adding them directly to their program guides. And while some of the early free, ad-supported streaming channels — known as FAST channels among industry insiders — were just random B-movie playlists, the quality of programming has increased a lot in recent months.
One reason sports has been so slow to streaming: TV contracts often last for many years. But with audiences moving to streaming in droves, Opeka argued that it's only a matter of time before some of the major streaming services snap up most of those rights; at that point, free services like Tubi and the Roku Channel could effectively become a replacement for basic cable or broadcast TV, and stream a subset of games, while the rest is part of a paid bundle.
Once sports fully transition to streaming, traditional pay TV bundles are poised to collapse like a game of Jenga, he said. "It's the last brick in the tower to be pulled out."
"Leisure defaulted to TV for decades. It no longer does." — Matthew Ball, brilliant as usual, on why Netflix is entering gaming.
"It's very relevant to us and our future plans." — Valve product designer Greg Coomer, when asked about plans for a standalone VR headset.
Ransomware victims paid over $416 million worth of cryptocurrency to attackers in 2020, more than quadrupling 2019 totals. As of July 2021, we know that ransomware attackers have taken in at least $210 million worth of cryptocurrency from victims. Shouldn't we just ban crypto? The answer is no. Cryptocurrency is actually instrumental in fighting ransomware.
It's been close to a year since Facebook first announced Project Aria, a research effort to test smart glasses with a small group of employees. The idea: collect a bunch of data to figure out what kind of sensors are required in future devices, executives said at the time.
There haven't been many public updates on the project in recent months, aside from a redacted FCC filing. Now, we are getting a first look at how the Project Aria device actually works, thanks to newly published regulatory documents that include the device user manual.
Project Aria's Gemini glasses are clearly still an experimental device, and not meant for consumer use. However, the existence of a privacy mode, a relatively simple UI and the companion mobile app are all things that may find their way into future consumer products, including the smart glasses that Facebook is building in partnership with Ray-Ban.
The biggest surprise is perhaps that Facebook used the Quest's camera sensors for these glasses. This could have been a choice of convenience, but using four of these sensors could also be a sign that Facebook is already testing visual SLAM for future device iterations that will enable full 3D AR experiences.
A version of this story first appeared on Protocol.com.
Any chance you might be in San Francisco, Bristol or Cardiff in the coming days? Then you might want to check out "Wallace & Gromit: Fix Up The City," a new city-wide AR experience featuring none other than, you guessed it, Wallace and Gromit. I haven't had a chance to try it myself yet, but this Animation Magazine story makes it sound like a lot of fun. Now where can I get some Stilton?
Thanks for reading — see you next week!