Streaming Stick Thrilla and Netflix’s Cliffhanger
👋 Lots happening! With interest rate hikes and a normalizing economic environment, tech investors are panicking (Nasdaq 100 Index Fear/Greed indicator has fallen the lowest since 2020🥲). This week we have some big moves in the streaming space, Meta outlines its big supercomputer vision, Peloton gets derailed and a Canadian AI pre-clinical drug discovery company, BenchSci, receives series C funding.
Don’t forget that nominations are open for our Expert Circle!
Analytics, Digital, Design In Action
Streaming Stick Thrilla and Netflix’s Cliffhanger
Illustration: by Martin Gee, Vulture
One week ago, many people in North America have received Netflix’s notification on the monthly subscription price increase by $1 to $2 US per month, which is just a sneak peek of the intensified streaming war.
To many people’s surprise, Google is developing a low-end Chromecast with Google TV. This sets up Chromecast to duke it out with Roku and Amazon in the arena of streaming sticks.
Internally known as “Boreal,” the new streaming adapter could be marketed as “Chromecast HD with Google TV”. Notably, Google had quite the beef with Roku last year, and at least some of that was tied to Roku's refusal to add AV1 decode to its future hardware due to cost.
The benefits of AV1 are obvious. Remembering last year when we turned 100% online during lockdowns, our increased internet use forced companies to cap streaming quality to ensure the network is running smoothly. Switching to AV1 decoding leads to a 30% data requirement reduction for the same video quality compared to VP9, and the saving is translated to higher resolutions for us to enjoy our 4K TV.
While streaming has become a staple in our lives, conglomerates like Google and Amazon are fighting with pioneer specialist Roku.
While a core business for the likes of Roku, Boreal is akin to Google’s broader advertising business as the hardware piece of streaming sticks is merely loss leaders for the core advertising potential of the streaming apps the sticks enable.
Meanwhile, streaming stalwart Netflix failed to impress in its latest earnings call, falling to a 22-month in valuation as it gave a subscriber outlook last week that was weaker than expected. Specifically, Netflix forecasts it would only add 2.5M subscribers compared to the roughly 4M anticipated by the market.
Meta introduced its AI Research SuperCluster, which it believes is among the fastest AI supercomputers running today and will be the fastest in the world once fully built out in mid-2022.
RSC will be used to train a range of systems across Meta’s businesses: from content moderation algorithms used to detect hate speech on Facebook and Instagram to augmented reality features that will one day be available in the company’s future AR hardware - which dovetails well into Meta’s Metaverse ideals.
Peloton Hits Pause
Peloton is temporarily halting production of its connected fitness products as consumer demand wanes and the company looks to control costs. Peloton has been grappling with a post-lockdown world and it has tried to bring more customers by cutting prices.
However, Peloton has been mired by low morale, product recalls, and even negative portrayal in two TV shows. Time will tell if Peloton was strictly a lockdown-driven company or a durable leader in interactive entertainment.
Local Flavor: Accelerated Drug Pre-clinical Discovery
BenchSci, an AI medicine discovery startup from Toronto, Canada, announced a $63 million Series C (USD 50 Million) funding round led by Inovia Capital and TCV, with participation from existing investors. BenchSci’s AI-powered platform has onboarded 16 top-20 pharmaceutical companies and over 4500 research centers worldwide to forward drug discovery.
BenchSci’s technology works like a scientist who extracts information from past publications and pharmaceutical companies’ internal databases to understand the relationships between biological entities. BenchSci’s solution aims to “target inefficiencies and unnecessary spend” in preclinical scientific research and pushes life-saving drugs to millions faster.
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