Google is building a Nexus-branded TV set-top box that could launch in the first half of 2014, according to a report from the Information. The device is running Android, and is apparently doubling as a game console. The Information’s story doesn’t feature many additional details, which is why it’s worth to back up and look at this with some context:
There have been numerous rumors about a Nexus TV device over the last year, including a report by the Wall Street Journal that then-Android boss Andy Rubin showed off such a device at the CES in Las Vegas in January. Around the same time, Bloomberg also reported that LG was building a Nexus-branded Google TV device.
However, Google’s strategy in the living room has clearly undergone changes. Whereas Google initially wanted to conquer the living room with its Google TV platform, it surprised everyone in July by introducing Chromecast, a streaming adapter that closely integrates with smart phone apps. Chromecast has since seen some success: Google hasn’t disclosed any sales figures for the device yet, but it has remained in the Top 3 of most-sold electronics on Amazon.com ever since its introduction.
The second part of that story is Google’s quiet move to abandon the Google TV brand, something we first reported in October. Google and its hardware partners have stopped using Google TV branding, and instead been calling newly introduced devices Android TV, or Android-based smart TVs, with “Google services for TV .”
These new devices are based on a more recent version of Android, and Google is now treating TVs as just another type of Android device. The company is also looking to bring these new generation of Android TV devices to more operators, and most recently signed a deal with France’s SFR to do just that.
Releasing a Nexus-branded TV device would make sense for Google in that context, as it could provide developers with a way to optimize their apps for the big screen without having to deal with any customizations present on devices distributed by other consumer electronics manufacturers or even pay TV operators. However, with the Nexus brand, it would just be that: a device for developers and enthusiasts, while Google’s mainstream consumer business clearly resides elsewhere.
It’s no secret that, statistically speaking, National Football League head coaches should go for it on fourth down more often than they do. The odds have been calculated lots of times, and fans, sports radio hosts and columnists love to point to them when they think a coach made the wrong decision. But overly broad probabilities and Monday-morning quarterbacking are for amateurs thanks to a data-analysis tool from the New York Times.
The paper has created the Fourth Down Bot — a system that analyzes every fourth-down call from every NFL game against years of data involving the same down and distance, and then shares its verdict on each call online, in real time.
As of the most-recent Monday Night Football game on Dec. 2, the Fourth Down Bot (whose feed is presumably manned by one of its co-creators, Brian Burke of Advanced NFL Statistics or New York Times Graphics Editor Kevin Quealy) took to Twitter and occasionally chimed in on calls there, as well.
What’s so cool about the bot’s verdicts is that they’re driven by a pretty intelligent model that’s based on expected points rather than just odds of conversion. Burke and Quealy break down the math in this post, but the gist is that the decision to go for it, punt or kick a field goal needs to take in a variety of factors, such as the opposing team’s field position if you fail and the likelihood they’ll score as a result the decision. Late in the game, the bot is set to base its decisions around the maximizing the chances of winning rather than just getting the most points.
Of course, they note, there are plenty of complicating factors that make the bot fat from perfect in its assessment — weather conditions, relative strength of the teams and a dearth of data about the new NFL overtime format among them.
What’s so interesting about the bot’s mere existence (aside from the big hit it should be among stats-nerd fans) is the effect it, or another project like it, could have on how coaching is done in the NFL. Advances in technology already allow fans and commentators to see every questionable call ad nauseum and in high-definition mere seconds after they occur. Now, thanks to advances in computing, data processing and a medium like Twitter (or the Fourth Down Bot’s specific sites for each team), everyone is also able to access a fairly valid judgment of every potentially game-shifting fourth down. (To be fair, in the Packers-Vikings game above, the bot only disagreed with the Packers coach on 2 of 12 fourth-down attempts, and on 3 attempts it said “It’s complicated.”)
As we’ll discuss in great detail at our Structure Data conference in March, big data has forced corporate executives, from CEOs down to business managers, to rethink how they make decisions and build products. It has already had a major impact in the management ranks of professional sports teams, where advanced analytics play a big role in deciding who’s on the rosters.
Now, perhaps, it can finally crack the toughest eggs of all — NFL coaches and their gut feelings that usually tell them to do the prudent thing while millions of people are screaming “Go for it” at their TVs. With this level of scrutiny and a job requirement to win at all costs, maybe listening to the data a little bit isn’t such a bad idea.
Redwood City-Calif. based live concert streaming platform Evntlive has been acquired by Yahoo. Evntlive announced the acquisition on its website Friday, stating that the service will be discontinued, and that the Evntlive team will join Yahoo Video. The announcement continued:
“When we started EVNTLIVE in early 2012, we set out to change the way that fans engage with live music online by creating an interactive, virtual venue. Since launching our beta service in April 2013, we have live streamed hundreds of performances from amazing artists and festivals to fans all over the world.”
Evntlive was co-founded by former Cisco CTO Judy Estrin, and offered viewers a more immersive live streaming experience of concerts by letting them access multiple camera angles as well as live chats and other interactive features. The company was part of a growing list of startups that is trying to reinvent live music events, with one of the new entrants being Turntable.fm.
Evntlive raised a total of $2.3 million in funding, with investors including Vint Cerf, Yogen Dalal, Dave House and others.
Yahoo has been on a bit of an acquisition spree under CEO Marissa Mayer, who has tried to get a stronger foothold in the video space, and previously tried to acquire French video platform DailyMotion, only to be rebuffed by French regulators.
Hisense is the latest to drop the Google TV brand for its new generation of Android-based TV devices. The company announced this week that it is building a new TV set dubbed the H6 SMART TV that features “the latest Google services for TV powered by Android 4.2.2″ (hat tip to Engadget). The H6 will come in 40-inch, 50-inch, and 55-inch, and Hisense is also building a new set-top-box dubbed the Pulse PRO, which will replace the Hisense Pulse Google TT box. We reported first in October that Google was phasing out the Google TV brand as it merges the platform with Android.
The opening of the Young Turks 24-hour “Turk-a-thon,” which began live-streaming on YouTube on Thursday, 6 PM ET/3 PM PT, might have normally started with the sort of fireworks and dramatic music appropriate to a major live event. But instead, things began with its host, a solemn, angry Cenk Uygur, admitting that they’d maybe wanted to open things with a little more bombast, then eulogizing legendary humanitarian Nelson Mandela, whose death had been announced less than two hours prior.
Uygur worked off rough notes to express his love and admiration for Mandela’s legacy, and the opening 10 minutes were a tone-perfect encapsulation of the topical, informal yet informed style that has made The Young Turks one of YouTube’s most popular news brands.
This comes on the eve of the show’s return to a purely independent state, courtesy of a crowdfunding campaign launched in October. Turning to Indiegogo, the show asked fans for the cash to build a new studio for the flagship Uygur-hosted series and other TYT Network shows; the “Turk-a-thon” was timed to correspond with the end of the campaign.
It’s an important milestone for TYT, due to its past relationship with Current, which two years ago brought Uygur and his team to the cable channel for an hour-long live news program.
While airing on Current, however, TYT maintained ownership over its brand and continued to produce YouTube-original videos.
Thus when Al Jazeera acquired Current earlier this year, the show was able to continue posting daily to its official YouTube channel as an independent entity — though its new status required a change of location. From the Indiegogo campaign page:
We recently moved out of [the] Current TV studios where we have called home the last two years… We want to build a quality TV ready studio that will stand up to all the other mainstream networks out there. A space that TYT can proudly call home, from where we will continue to deliver the truth the way we’ve always done it – independent and unfiltered… We are starting from scratch and we would like to invite you to build it with us.
Before the marathon began, the campaign had surpassed its original goal of $250,000, and was aiming to reach a stretch goal of $350,000, which would allow them to afford a second studio for additional shows and flexibility. As of writing, with 14 hours left to go, the campaign was at $347,000.
The 24-hour marathon, hosted from the new (currently unadorned) studio, will include appearances by other TYT network talent and, according to the official announcement, fan interaction, “trips down memory lane” and drinking. Things will wrap up Friday afternoon — tune in then to see some very tired hosts.
Google may own online ads but it still needs to figure out mobile, and it’s betting YieldMo can help
Google’s dominance in online advertising is no secret — it controls an estimated 40 percent of the $42-billion market — and it has a similar share of the mobile ad market. But traditional tools like AdSense aren’t doing as well in mobile as they are on the desktop, which helps explain why Google Ventures just invested in a competitor to AdSense by leading an $8-million financing round in a New York-based mobile advertising startup called YieldMo.
According to YieldMo founder Mike Yavonditte, the search giant is so eager to figure out how advertising can be improved for mobile apps and websites that when he visited Google Ventures to describe what YieldMo does with advertising, “they basically said yes on the spot.”
While much of the mobile advertising market consists of ad networks and exchanges — which produce low-margin, commoditized banner and display ads — Yavonditte says YieldMo works directly with publishers and advertisers (including media outlets like Reuters and the New York Daily News) to create custom advertising units for specific spots on specific pages, and then tests and changes them on the fly by watching how readers interact with them.
This kind of A/B testing can improve monetization by orders of magnitude, the YieldMo founder says. With the New York Daily News, for example, Yavonditte said the company’s advertising is generating “three to four times the CPM (cost per thousand) that they were getting with their own banner ads.” And advertiser Rosetta Stone told the company its ads performed better than either Google’s or Facebook’s during Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
YieldMo isn’t Yavonditte’s first foray into advertising, nor his first attempt at competing with Google: a previous company he ran called Quigo offered sponsored links, much like AdSense, and managed to compete well enough with Google that AOL acquired it in 2007 for $361 million. Yavonditte said many of his former colleagues from Quigo are now working at YieldMo.
The startup, which was launched last year, has raised $12 million in total (including the latest round) from investors such as Union Square Ventures and Rhodium.
Post and thumbnail images courtesy of Shutterstock / Eldorado3D