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Huawei plans to divest budget phone unit Honor: reports – TechCrunch

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Besieged by U.S. tech sanctions, Huawei may be looking to shake up its smartphone business that has taken a hit after losing core semiconductor parts and software services.

The Chinese giant is in talks with Digital China Group to sell parts of Honor, its low-end, budget phone unit, for 15-25 billion yuan ($2.2-3.7 billion), Reuters reported on Wednesday. 

A Hong Kong-listed firm, Digital China is a spin-off from the Legend Group (later Lenovo) and a major distributor and close ally of Huawei.

Smartphone sales and other consumer-facing electronics today make up the bulk of revenue for Huawei, which began by selling telecommunications gear in the late 1980s.

The news came days after a Chinese tech news blogger claimed Huawei is planning to sell Honor. Respected Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo also noted in a report that it’s in Huawei’s benefit to divest Honor so the business could be free of trade restrictions and Huawei gets to focus on high-end phones under its namesake brand.

Sources close to Huawei denied the planned sale of Honor, Tencent News reported last week. A Huawei representative contacted by TechCrunch declined to comment.

Huawei rolled out independent brand Honor in 2011 as Xiaomi’s low-budget phones were taking China by storm. Like Xiaomi, Honor started out by focusing on online sales and young consumers. BBK Group’s Oppo, Vivo and Realme have since made significant inroads into the budget phone market.

Honor’s brand, research and development capabilities and related supply chain management business could be for sale, sources told Reuters. The tech news blogger said Honor will operate and procure independently after the sale.

Other bidders include Xiaomi and TCL, according to Reuters, as well as Gree and BYD, according to the tech news blogger.

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Pakistan un-bans TikTok – TechCrunch

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TikTok returns to Pakistan, Apple launches a music-focused streaming station and SpaceX launches more Starlink satellites. This is your Daily Crunch for October 19, 2020.

The big story: Pakistan un-bans TikTok

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority blocked the video app 11 days ago, over what it described as “immoral,” “obscene” and “vulgar” videos. The authority said today that it’s lifting the ban after negotiating with TikTok management.

“The restoration of TikTok is strictly subject to the condition that the platform will not be used for the spread of vulgarity/indecent content & societal values will not be abused,” it continued.

This isn’t the first time this year the country tried to crack down on digital content. Pakistan announced new internet censorship rules this year, but rescinded them after Facebook, Google and Twitter threatened to leave the country.

The tech giants

Apple launches a US-only music video station, Apple Music TV —  The new music video station offers a free, 24-hour live stream of popular music videos and other music content.

Google Cloud launches Lending DocAI, its first dedicated mortgage industry tool — The tool is meant to help mortgage companies speed up the process of evaluating a borrower’s income and asset documents.

Facebook introduces a new Messenger API with support for Instagram — The update means businesses will be able to integrate Instagram messaging into the applications and workflows they’re already using in-house to manage their Facebook conversations.

Startups, funding and venture capital

SpaceX successfully launches 60 more Starlink satellites, bringing total delivered to orbit to more than 800 — That makes 835 Starlink satellites launched thus far, though not all of those are operational.

Singapore tech-based real estate agency Propseller raises $1.2M seed round — Propseller combines a tech platform with in-house agents to close transactions more quickly.

Ready Set Raise, an accelerator for women built by women, announces third class — Ready Set Raise has changed its programming to be more focused on a “realistic fundraising process” vetted by hundreds of women.

Advice and analysis for Extra Crunch

Are VCs cutting checks in the closing days of the 2020 election? — Several investors told TechCrunch they were split about how they’re making these decisions.

Disney+ UX teardown: Wins, fails and fixes — With the help of Built for Mars founder and UX expert Peter Ramsey, we highlight some of the things Disney+ gets right and things that should be fixed.

Late-stage deals made Q3 2020 a standout VC quarter for US-based startups — Investors backed a record 88 megarounds of $100 million or more.

(Reminder: Extra Crunch is our subscription membership program, which aims to democratize information about startups. You can sign up here.)

Everything else

US charges Russian hackers blamed for Ukraine power outages and the NotPetya ransomware attack — Prosecutors said the group of hackers, who work for the Russian GRU, are behind the “most disruptive and destructive series of computer attacks ever attributed to a single group.”

Stitcher’s podcasts arrive on Pandora with acquisition’s completion — SiriusXM today completed its previously announced $325 million acquisition of podcast platform Stitcher from E.W. Scripps, and has now launched Stitcher’s podcasts on Pandora.

Original Content podcast: It’s hard to resist the silliness of ‘Emily in Paris’ — The show’s Paris is a fantasy, but it’s a fantasy that we’re happy to visit.

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.

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Stitcher’s podcasts arrive on Pandora with acquisition’s completion – TechCrunch

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SiriusXM today completed its previously announced $325 million acquisition of podcast platform Stitcher from E.W. Scripps, and has now launched Stitcher’s podcasts on Pandora across all tiers of the streaming service. The deal brings top Stitcher titles to Pandora, including Freakonomics Radio, My Favorite Murder, SuperSoul Conversations from the Oprah Winfrey Network, Office Ladies, Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend, Literally! with Rob Lowe, LeVar Burton Reads, and WTF with Marc Maron, among others.

On Pandora, the podcasts will be indexed using the company’s proprietary Podcast Genome Project technology. This system leverages  automated technology — like natural language processing, collaborative filtering, and other machine learning approaches — then combines that with human curation to make personalized recommendations to podcast listeners on Pandora’s app.

The podcasts will also continue to be available in the Stitcher app in North America, the company says.

The Stitcher acquisition brought with it several key assets, including its own mobile listening app, which includes a premium tier of exclusives, and the Midroll Media network for podcast advertising. Stitcher also creates its own original programs and runs multiple content networks, via Earwolf.

That means SirusXM gained thousands of top podcasts with the deal’s closure. The company also now claims it has the “largest addressable audience in North America” across all categories of digital audio, including music, sports, talk, and podcasts thanks to the combination of satellite radio service SiriusXM, streaming app Pandora, and now Stitcher.

The company believes the deal will help it to attract more creators to its platform, thanks to the enhanced production, marketing, and distribution capabilities it offers, following the deal’s close. Advertisers, meanwhile, will be able to more precisely target podcasts for better ad efficiency, and will gain access to improved measurements, says SiriusXM.

In terms of Stitcher’s execs, CEO Erik Diehn will now report to Scott Greenstein, President and Chief Content Officer of SiriusXM, who also oversees content at Pandora. Stitcher’s Chief Revenue Officer, Sarah van Mosel, will report directly to John Trimble, Chief Advertising Revenue Officer of SiriusXM.

“We are deepening our position in podcasting, the fastest-growing sector in digital audio, and with completion of this transaction, our vision is taking shape,” said SiriusXM CEO Jim Meyer, in a statement about the deal’s completion. “With Stitcher and its varied assets, we are now a one-stop shop able to meet the needs of podcast creators, publishers and advertisers, while also providing listeners with access to great shows, series and programming.”

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, which disrupted many consumer trends and accelerated others, podcasting still remains one of the fast-growing digital audio industries. Podcast downloads returned to pre-COVID levels this summer, and Spotify reported that podcast consumption more doubled in Q2 and nearly a quarter (21%) of its active users now listen to podcasts.

Stitcher was not SiriusXM’s first acquisition focused on podcasts or ad technologies. It also bought podcast management platform Simplecast this June, and before that, it acquired AdsWizz for $66.3 million to power Pandora’s advertising efforts.

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Apple launches a U.S.-only music video station, Apple Music TV – TechCrunch

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Apple is expanding its investment in music with today’s launch of “Apple Music TV.” The new music video station offers a free, 24-hour livestream of popular music videos and other music content, including, exclusive video premieres, curated music video blocks, live shows, fan events, chart countdowns and guest appearances.

The service doesn’t have its own dedicated app, but is instead offered as a new feature within two of Apple’s existing entertainment apps. At launch, you can watch Apple Music TV from within the Browse tab of either the Apple Music app or the Apple TV app. (Accessible via apple.co/AppleMusicTV).

While Apple Music is a paid subscription service, Apple Music TV will be free to users in the U.S., the company says.

To kick off its launch, Apple Music TV today began with a countdown of the top 100 most-streamed songs ever across all of Apple Music, based on U.S. data.,

During brief tests of the new service, we found it to be a fairly basic (if uncensored) experience. The video stream only offered artist and song details at the beginning, instead of as the music played. It also didn’t take advantage of the integration with Apple Music to offer additional features to paying subscribers — like being able to favorite the song or add it to a playlist, for instance.

The stream would stop when the Apple Music app was closed, as it didn’t support background play.

Image Credits: Apple

There also weren’t any on-screen tools to share what you were watching via a social media post. You had to dig to find the “share” button under the three-dot, “more” menu. This would give you a link to tweet, but wouldn’t pre-fill it with text or hashtags, like the artist name or song.

While listening, you could stop the livestream and then return after a short pause. But after a bit, the stream would disconnect and the thumbnail of the paused music video reverts to the placeholder Apple Music TV image. When live, the text and icons will be shown in red. They revert to white when you’ve disconnected, as a visual cue.

Despite its simplicity, Apple Music TV gives Apple an immediate new home for its music-related original content, which over the years has included exclusive interviews, concert films, and more. It also provides Apple with another advantage with it goes to negotiate with artists for their premieres, as it introduces additional platform for reaching an artist’s fans — not only with the premiere itself, but by offering artists blocks of airtime leading up to their next debut that they can use to promote their releases.

The new station can also leverage content produced for the Apple Music 1 (formerly Beats 1) radio station, as it goes about running these promotions.

For example, on Thursday, October 22, Apple Music TV will promote the upcoming release of Bruce Springsteen’s “Letter to You” with music video blocks featuring his greatest videos, plus as exclusive interview with Zane Lowe, and a special livestream fan event.

Fridays, meanwhile, will focus on new music. This Friday, October 23, at 9 AM PT Apple Music TV will showcase two new exclusive video premieres – Joji’s “777” and SAINt JHN’s “Gorgeous.”

Apple Music TV’s biggest advantage, of course, is the fact that it’s freely accessible to millions of Apple device owners.

But it may struggle for traction as it lacks the features that make other livestream fan events or premieres engaging — like group chats or direct interactions with creators.

Instead, it’s more like a traditional TV broadcast — even MTV-like — compared with other online destinations where artists today connect with fans and promote their albums, like YouTube, VEVO, or more recently, Facebook, which just this year launched music videos.

Apple didn’t say if it planned to expand the new station outside the U.S.

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