Apple video service may charge $10 each for HBO, Showtime and Starz

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Apple’s video service event is just hours away, but there are still a few rumors making the rounds — including, apparently, pricing. Wall Street Journal contacts claim Apple has been negotiating to offer subscriptions to channels “such as” HBO, Showtime and Starz for $10 each through its new TV app, which would also include Apple’s original programming. In that light, it would be closer to Amazon’s Prime Video Channels, where the focus is on convenient access to third party services.

The expected news service, meanwhile would reportedly cost $10 per month and provide access to more than 200-plus magazines (such as Glamour and People) as well as newspapers. It would amount to an extended version of Texture in that sense. Apple might have a particular focus in mind, too. The WSJ‘s sources understand that Apple will focus primarily on that paper’s “general news, politics and lifestyles” rather than its traditional business news, and that the outlet will hire more reporters to “help feed” Apple’s service.

Provided this is what Apple announces on March 25th, it’s potentially a good deal. HBO Now, for instance, charges $15 per month by itself. If the services are comparable, you might be saving a third on the price. Whether or not it’s compelling beyond that is another story. Apple will have to show that its mix of originals and third parties is enough to justify another subscription or two on top of existing streaming heavyweights like Amazon and Netflix.

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Apple could charge $9.99 per month each for HBO, Showtime and Starz

The Wall Street Journal has published a report on Apple’s media push. The company is about to unveil a new video streaming service and an Apple News subscription on Monday.

According to The WSJ, you’ll be able to subscribe to multiple content packages to increase the video library in a new app called Apple TV — it’s unclear if this app is going to replace the existing Apple TV app.

The service would work more or less like Amazon Prime Video Channels. Users will be able to subscribe to HBO, Showtime or Starz for a monthly fee. The WSJ says that these three partners would charge $9.99 per month each.

According to a previous report from CNBC, it differs from the existing Apple TV app as you won’t be redirected to another app. Everything will be available within a single app.

Controlling the experience from start to finish would be a great advantage for users. As many people now suffer from subscription fatigue, Apple would be able to centralize all your content subscriptions in a single app. You could tick and untick options depending on your needs.

But some companies probably don’t want to partner with Apple. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll find Netflix or Amazon Prime Video content in the Apple TV app. Those services also want to control the experience from start to finish. It’s also easier to gather data analytics when subscribers are using your own app.

Apple should open up the Apple TV app to other platforms. Just like you can play music on Apple Music on Android, a Sonos speaker or an Amazon Echo speaker, Apple is working on apps for smart TVs. The company has already launched iTunes Store apps on Samsung TVs, so it wouldn’t be a big surprise.

The company has also spent a ton of money on original content for its own service. Details are still thin on this front. Many of those shows might not be ready for Monday. Do you have to pay to access Apple’s content too? How much? We’ll find out on Monday.

When it comes to Apple News, The WSJ says that content from 200 magazines and newspapers will be available for $9.99 per month. The Wall Street Journal confirms a New York Times report that said that The Wall Street Journal was part of the subscription.

Apple is also monitoring the App Store to detect popular apps according to multiple metrics, The WSJ says. Sure, Apple runs the App Store. But Facebook faced a public outcry when people realized that Facebook was monitoring popular apps with a VPN app called Onavo.

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Apple’s original TV shows reportedly won’t be free — plus $9.99 for HBO, Starz, Showtime

Tomorrow, Apple will unveil its strategy for services in an event that is expected to reveal its Apple News subscription and its television streaming platform. According to a lengthy report from The Wall Street Journal, it sounds like the company has been negotiating with premium channels HBO, Showtime, and Starz to offer a standardized $9.99 monthly subscription each, will reportedly charge $9.99 for its news service, and will likely charge for access to its original content, which had been widely reported that it would make free to Apple users.

Apple is widely expected to unveil its original content efforts tomorrow, and the WSJ says that it will show off footage from some of its forthcoming TV programs at its event, and that sources tell it that Apple will charge a fee for that programming. Those shows will live on a new TV app that is described as a “Netflix killer,” and will offer up an easy way for users to sign up for subscriptions to premium channels such as HBO, Showtime, and Starz.

The company has worked to entice said networks to its service, through which Apple will sell subscriptions at a standardized $9.99 monthly rate for each one. If accurate, that’ll be a discount for channels like HBO and Showtime, which respectively charge $15 and $10.99 a month. Starz charges $8.99 a month. Netflix will not be part of the platform. The report notes that Apple had attempted to partner with Disney to launch a streaming service, and when that didn’t pan out, thought about acquiring either Disney or Netflix.

Apple has reportedly been negotiating with manufacturers to bring the service to Roku and smart TVs, which could allow the company to bring its programming to a wider range of customers. In a surprise move earlier this year, Apple announced that it was bringing iTunes to a number of smart TVs, which should allow Apple to bring its programming to new customers. Apple has already used this strategy for Apple Music, allowing users to stream music on Amazon Echo speakers and Fire TVs.

In addition to its streaming TV efforts, Apple will reportedly charge $9.99 for its new Apple News service, described as a “Netflix for news.” That app will allow users to access a range of publications for a single monthly fee, although some major publishers, like The New York Times and The Washington Post don’t plan to take part. Last year, Apple purchased digital magazine service Texture, which offered up readers access to 200 magazines for the same price. The company will also reportedly announce a gaming subscription service that will bundle iOS games for users during Monday’s event.

The WSJ also details Apple’s push into services, which comes after the company reported its first drop in revenue in January in a decade. It describes Apple CEO Tim Cook beginning to push “the services strategy hard in late 2017,” in an effort to shift the company in that direction, comparing it to Steve Jobs’ effort to shift the company into manufacturing mobile devices like the iPod, iPhone, and iPad. The company faces stiff competition from rival device manufacturers around the world, while the market for content and services has continued to grow in recent years.

Last week, the Motion Picture Association of America reported that streaming television subscriptions surpassed cable subscriptions, and that the market for home entertainment has grew by 24 percent and 34 percent in the US and global markets, respectively. But, as Apple jumps into the original content market, it likewise faces numerous competitors, such as Amazon, Disney, NBCUniversal, and Netflix, all of which are producing their own exclusive content, or are in the process of launching platforms of their own.

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Leaked Microsoft Edge browser confirms new features

The new look of the Microsoft Edge browser got out.
The new look of the Microsoft Edge browser got out.
Image: Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Microsoft’s Edge browser is coming out soon with a Google Chromium-powered revamp and an online leak showed all the features.

The Verge reported the leak Sunday on various online forums and sharing sites. A public preview is expected soon, but so far only media outlets have gotten a look at the Edge’s new open source-powered browser. 

Chrome extension support, eventual compatibility on Mac, and even dark mode (although that feature is only in testing) are some of the features users are excited about for the Windows browser. The Verge confirmed favorites syncing and other interface customization.

The new look and ground-up rebuild for Microsoft’s three-year-old browser is a hot topic, especially with Chrome, Safari, and Firefox leading as the top browsers. Microsoft also technically still has its Internet Explorer browser, though it would rather you find a more robust browser to rely on.

This just might give Edge the edge it needs.

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Girl on the Third Floor is a skin-crawling horror movie about home improvement

Welcome to Cheat Sheet, our breakdown-style reviews of festival films, VR previews, and other special-event releases. This review comes from the 2019 SXSW Interactive Festival.

It’s hard finding new ways to haunt a house. And Girl on the Third Floor, a horror film that premiered at 2019’s SXSW Interactive Festival, doesn’t make a point of trying. It hits the classic beats of the genre, largely established by Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House: a protagonist with a troubled past moves into a grand but dilapidated old home with a dark secret, then finds a malevolent force dredging up his personal demons.

Instead of trying to push narrative limits, Girl on the Third Floor uses predictability to generate suspense. It draws the audience through each step of the protagonist’s inevitable downfall, delivering copious foreshadowing and jump scares with simple practical effects. Marbles, mucus, and doorbells have never been so ominous.

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What’s the genre?

Focused, slow-burn haunted-house story. First-time writer and director Travis Stevens is a longtime producer of genre films, including 68 Kill, Big Ass Spider!, and Buster’s Mal Heart, and he apparently wrote the script specifically for the house where it’s filmed — very loosely based on actual reports of hauntings there.

What’s it about?

A man tries to remodel a house full of ghosts. The endeavor ends poorly.

More specifically, Don Koch (played by former pro wrestler Phillip “CM Punk” Brooks) is a recovering alcoholic with a pregnant wife (Trieste Kelly Dunn) and a burgeoning mid-life crisis. Don is jobless and recovering from legal trouble, and while his wife supports them with her own successful business, he buys a run-down house in the suburbs and moves in to repair it. But despite his best efforts, the pipes spout tarry filth, the walls secrete viscous goo, and marbles seemingly appear spontaneously around closets and stairs.

As if this weren’t enough of a red flag, his new neighbors offer veiled warnings — “that house just seems to be bad news to straight men,” remarks a local bartender. His meaning soon becomes clear to the audience, if not to Don. A mysterious, seductive young woman starts hanging around the house, and after a one-night stand with Don, she refuses to stay away. Meanwhile, his renovations keep revealing hidden rooms and crevices, hinting at the house’s past.

What’s it really about?

Girl on the Third Floor ties the common “haunted-house renovation” trope — seen most recently in Netflix’s Hill House adaptation — to the gendered subtext of construction work. The film makes clear that Don is trying to reclaim a lost sense of masculine power and usefulness to offset his unemployment, which pushes him to refuse his wife’s pleas to hire help. In turn, he uses his self-imposed suffering as an excuse to behave badly, reasoning that he’s “earned” some vices with his hard work.

This doesn’t make Don a monster — he’s an affable guy who seems to genuinely love his wife. But it’s easy for the house to prey on his flaws, driving him toward arrogance, entitlement, and eventually doom.

Is it good?

Girl on the Third Floor’s ending might jar some people, since there’s an abrupt stylistic shift and some exposition that almost raises more questions than it answers. But it also offers catharsis in a restrained, sometimes skin-crawlingly tense story.

Rather than just being an excuse to get a character into a haunted location, Don’s repairs actually occupy large parts of the movie — if you need to fix a hole in drywall, Girl on the Third Floor isn’t a bad tutorial. The house’s fundamental, supernatural rottenness comes across from the first minutes of the film, long before we know what’s wrong with it. It lays a foundation for progressively weirder phenomena, building to grotesque surrealism at the climax.

Watching the methodical repairs also gives the audience a simple way to connect with Don, who’s objectively a scumbag, but still a sympathetic one. Brooks is down-to-earth and charismatic in the role, and he plays Don as a believably nice tough guy who’s still fatally insecure — more a tragic figure than a creep getting his comeuppance.

Don’s likability makes the film’s exploration of gender more nuanced than it might sound. Girl on the Third Floor is essentially about toxic masculinity and women’s rage, two topics that have recently made the pop-cultural rounds. But it’s mostly about a character falling into a trap because of his own weaknesses, which happen to fit some ugly masculine stereotypes. And thanks to a distinctive soundtrack from Big Black founder Steve Albini, some excellent low-tech visual tricks, and a knack for scares that are startling even when they’re not surprising, the whole saga is exactly as creepy as it ought to be.

What should it be rated?

Girl on the Third Floor deserves an R rating primarily for gore — which gets deployed relatively judiciously, but hits hard when it does hit.

How can I actually watch it?

Girl on the Third Floor doesn’t appear to have firm distribution plans, but if it’s like some of the films Stevens has produced, it could get a limited theatrical launch combined with a video-on-demand release — or it could always get picked up by a streaming service.

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