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Tencent-backed news app Qutoutiao nabs $171M from Alibaba – TechCrunch

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The race to give Chinese users their daily dose of news intensifies as Qutoutiao, a rival to TikTok parent Bytedance, net an installment of sizable backing.

Alibaba is injecting $171 million in a convertible loan to Qutoutiao, the three-year-old news and video aggregation startup, according to an announcement released Thursday. The transaction will convert into about 11.4 million shares of Qutoutiao at a price of $15 per American depositary shares, representing about 4 percent of Qutoutiao. The deal arrived just six months after Qutoutiao raised $84 million in a downsized initial public offering through Nasdaq.

TechCrunch has reached out Qutoutiao for more details on its new funding and will update the story if we hear back.

Qutoutiao, which means “Fun headlines” in Chinese, runs a news app that feeds users content based on their past habit and an e-book reading app for those with a longer attention span. The Shanghai-based company is among a handful of startups alongside ecommerce challenger Pinduoduo that are piling into the largely untapped, smaller cities outside China’s major urban centers of Beijing and Shanghai for growth.

The fresh capital will make Qutoutiao one of the unusual Chinese tech startups with backings from both Alibaba and Tencent, the arch-foes that compete in many realms. The other companies that have enjoyed fundings from both heavyweights include car-hailing service Didi Chuxing and youth-focused media company Bilibili.

Alibaba’s support is also a significant boost for Qutoutiao as it fights a relentless battle with Bytedance, a growing threat to China’s tech veterans. Unlike most of China’s emerging startups, Bytedance has not taken fundings from Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent, collectively known as the “BAT” to acknowledge their dominance in the Chinese internet.

Bytedance has had a history of hostility with social media leader Tencent while it has been more pally with Alibaba the e-commerce giant, which agreed to facilitate ecommerce sales for Bytedance influencers.

Bytedance runs an empire of popular new media products that include short-form video app Douyin and news distribution platform Jinri Toutiao. TikTok, which is the international version of Douyin, is turning heads across the globe including in the United States and has reportedly spurred a Facebook clone.

Battling in the relentless Chinese market has come at huge costs for Qutoutiao, which sees itself spending heavily on marketing to collect and retain users. While its 2018 revenues jumped 484 percent to $440 million, net loss soared to $283 million in the year compared to just $14.3 million in the previous period. But the startup is ready to spend more as it works on a new app that could take on Douyin in China’s blossoming short-form video market.

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Amazon Music teams with Lil Nas X for special holiday concert series

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Amazon Music has teamed up with Lil Nas X to host an upcoming holiday concert series that will include live performances by a variety of artists, including the Foo Fighters and Miley Cirus. The company has teased the upcoming series with a new promo video showing off Lil Nas X as Santa, but you’ll have to wait for December to experience the new series.

The new concert series was announced by the Amazon Music Twitter account, which says that fans can expect live performances by Lil Nas X — who will also be hosting the series — as well as Miley Cyrus, Foo Fighters, and Kiana Lede. In addition to accessing the series on Amazon Music, it’ll also be available to watch on Amazon Prime Video.

The series starts on December 1 and will continue each Tuesday through December 15. According to Amazon, listeners can expect its holiday special — which is called Holiday Plays — to include ‘outlandish sets’ in addition to ‘playful Q&As,’ and ‘intimate performances.’ The series will kick off with a performance by Miley Cyrus.

As well, Lil Nas X will kick off the series with a live performance of his song HOLIDAY. The Foo Fighters will close the concert series with an ‘explosive’ performance, as well, Amazon says.

The event will be filmed at an unnamed historic theater with the goal of providing ‘truly unique and memorable music experiences,’ Amazon explains, ones that will include handmade stage designs unique to each artist, multiple costume changes, and other fun things like snow machines.

Music will include covers of some known Christmas favorites, including the Foo Fighters’ ‘electrified’ version of Run Rudolph Run and Cyrus’s version of Last Christmas. The series will air at 8PM on each Tuesday from December 1 to December 15; fans will be able to access the concert series in the Amazon Music app and Amazon Music on Twitch, plus US subscribers will be able to access it on Prime Video.

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The Roku Channel gets AMC+ as its latest premium option

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Roku, the top streaming platform in the United States, has added another premium video option, enabling users to access the AMC+ platform. The channel addition arrives on Roku devices, including set-top boxes, sticks, and smart TVs, as consumers continue to abandon traditional pay-TV services in favor of streaming.

AMC+ is a subscription from AMC that bundles content from multiple networks/services, including horror service Shudder, IFC Films Unlimited, and Sundance Now — all of this in addition to AMC content like The Walking Dead, of course. AMC+ shouldn’t be confused with AMC Premiere, which doesn’t include things like Shudder.

AMC+ was already available on multiple platforms, including Comcast’s Xfinity, Sling TV, Amazon Prime Channels, Dish, and Apple TV. The latest addition to the list is Roku, which has long dominated the streaming market. The service can be accessed in The Roku Channel, which offers users access to free content in addition to the optional premium platforms.

Roku users have access to a variety of premium subscription options, including HBO, Showtime, Starz, and Epix, as well as options like ‘Nick Hits’ and Noggin for kids, Hallmark Movies Now and Sundance Now, and more niche offerings like Shudder and AcornTV (for international programming).

The Roku Channel is free for anyone to access, including non-Roku users on select other platforms, but the premium subscriptions require users to sign up and pay, of course. AMC+ is priced at $8.99/month for those on The Roku Channel.

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Comcast is about to slap more Internet customers with 1.2TB data cap

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Comcast plans to expand its Internet data cap to customers in states that were previously excluded. The service provider has already implemented the data cap across the majority of states it operates in, but many customers in a dozen states were still given unlimited access to data without extra charges. This change will kick off in January.

In 2016, Comcast expanded its Internet data caps to 27 out of the 39 states in which it operates, mostly excluding the northeast region for reasons assumed to be competition with Verizon’s data cap-free FiOS offering. Fast-forward a few years and things are changing.

The Comcast Xfinity website added an update last week that revealed its 1.2TB data cap will be coming to subscribers in the Northeast, as well as West Virginia, North Carolina, Washington DC, and parts of select other states like Ohio and Virginia where they weren’t previously enforced.

The notice about this change appeared on an Xfinity Internet web page about data — it states:

Starting in March 2021, customers not on an unlimited data plan who exceed 1.2 TB in a month will have a one-time courtesy month credit under the plan applied to their accounts, and will be responsible for any data overage changes after that. Blocks of 50 GB will automatically be added to customers’ accounts for an additional fee of $10 each plus tax. Charges will not exceed $100 each month, no matter how much data a customer uses. *Includes the states of CT, DE, MA, MD, ME, NH, NJ, parts of NC, NY, parts of OH, PA, VA, VT, WV, and the District of Columbia.

Though the change goes into effect on January 2021, subscribers who go over the limit won’t actually be billed the extra charges until March, giving them a chance to get familiar with the change. Likewise, Comcast Internet customers get a single courtesy month every year, meaning if you accidentally go over your limit, you won’t have to pay that initial time — but you will be charged for any other months that go over.

Comcast told Ars Technica that the data cap will only impact ‘a very small number’ of its subscriber and that around 95-percent of its residential Internet customers don’t reach 1.2TB/month. Customers who exceed this limit — through, say, heavy streaming and game downloads — have the option of signing up for unlimited data for an extra $30/month.

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