YouTube may launch a channel store for streaming services, report says

YouTube may be looking to launch an online channel store for streaming services through the YouTube app, positioning itself in direct competition with Amazon, Roku, and Apple, three tech giants that each offer its own streaming subscription hubs.

As reported by the Wall Street Journal, sources say the company has been working on its channel store for 18 months and plans to roll out the offering this fall. YouTube is apparently in talks with several entertainment companies and is discussing sharing subscription revenue with streaming partners.

The company declined to comment to the Wall Street Journal. TechCrunch also reached out to YouTube for comment but has not yet received a response. (We’ll update if that changes.)

If YouTube were to get a marketplace for streaming services, it would make it easier for subscribers to purchase multiple services through a single app. While YouTube TV already offers its subscribers a way to add services like HBO Max to their streaming package, the new channel store would allow consumers to subscribe to separate streaming services through the main YouTube app.

The move makes a lot of sense for YouTube. Instead of spending tons of money on original content (remember YouTube Originals?), the tech company can provide access to other streaming services and still generate revenue. YouTube would act as a middleman between streamer and subscriber, taking a percentage of the subscription fee.

Plus, with around 2 billion viewers a month, a YouTube channel store would be an enticing partner for streaming services that want to reach more subscribers via the popular entertainment app.

YouTube isn’t the only media company looking to make revenue with streaming services. Roku now provides a premium Paramount+ subscription on the Roku Channel. Today, Walmart announced that it partnered with Paramount+ to give Walmart+ subscribers a Paramount+ Essential subscription at no extra cost.

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Walmart+, the retailer’s Prime competitor, will add Paramount+ access as a new perk

Walmart is partnering with Paramount Global to offer its streaming service, Paramount+, to members of Walmart’s own free shipping program and Amazon Prime rival, Walmart+. The deal was first confirmed by The Wall Street Journal on Monday afternoon, following recent news of the retailer’s discussions with major media companies about such an arrangement.

Walmart has now officially announced the news of its agreement but did not say when access to the steaming service would roll out to Walmart+ members.

However, the retailer said the deal will see Walmart+ members gaining access to Paramount+ Essential Plan subscription — an added $59 value — while its own membership pricing would stay the same.

Introduced in September 2020, the $98 per year Walmart+ subscription includes a variety of benefits, including free same-day delivery, fuel discounts, free shipping from, in-home delivery, contact-free checkout with scan & go and early access to deals. Walmart also has a partnership with Spotify to offer members six months of Spotify Premium for free.

In addition to the annual fee, consumers can opt to pay for Walmart+ at a rate of $12.95 per month for the same perks.

Last week, The New York Times reported Walmart had been in discussions with several major media companies about a possible bundle deal with Walmart+. According to The NYT, Walmart had spoken to Paramount, Disney and Comcast about bundling its shipping membership program with either Paramount+, Disney+/ESPN+/Hulu or Peacock, respectively.

The new partnership with Paramount not only provides Walmart with a more competitive offering to rival Amazon Prime — which includes the streaming service Prime Video — it could also help boost lagging Walmart+ subscriptions.

An August 2022 report by Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP) found that Walmart+ membership subscriptions had plateaued and were now on a slight decline on a quarter-over-quarter basis. It said that as of this July, 11 million customers in the U.S. were Walmart+ members, the same as in the April 2022 quarter and up from 9 million customers in the July 2021 quarter. But the report indicated the membership program had yet to grow in 2022.

“For the last three quarters, membership has remained constant at 11 to 11.5 million customers,” noted CIRP co-founder Josh Lowitz. Before this, he added, “Walmart+ membership had increased steadily since Walmart introduced the program in September 2020, with COVID-19 pandemic shoppers signing up.”

Walmart has not officially disclosed how many of its customers are now Walmart+ subscribers. CIRP, however, estimated that Walmart+ penetration was at 25% for the July 22 quarter, meaning 25% of customers reported being a Walmart+ member. This was up from 17% of customers in the July 2021 quarter, the analysts said. (The firm’s forecasts are based on surveys, in this case some 500 U.S. consumers who made purchases during the May-June 2022 period.)

A different study by …read more

Serena Williams’ next act in venture capital is essential in this moment

Lights, camera, another backhand winner down the line. It’s hard to imagine that in two weeks, Serena Williams is playing what could — and most likely will be — her last tennis tournament after 23 Grand Slams and decades of dazzling on center courts.

She announced her retirement in the latest issue of Vogue magazine, writing that she will be “evolving” away from the sport to focus on family and her career as a venture capitalist. Williams founded her own firm, Serena Ventures, in 2014 and raised a $111 million inaugural fund this year to invest in “founders with diverse points of view,” she previously told The New York Times.

When Serena Williams steps from away tennis, she’ll be walking into an arena as white as the one she just left.

LPs include CapitalG, LionTree Partners and Norwest Venture Partners, and with a team of six, the firm’s already invested in 20 companies with that capital, Fortune reported.

In tennis, she and her sister, Venus Williams, helped break the color barrier for Black girls looking to play a sport still associated with whiteness and privilege. Following the trail they blazed includes Naomi Osaka, Madison Keys, Sloane Stephens and countless others preparing for the day when they too can walk into the blinding lights of Arthur Ashe Stadium.

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Layoffs hit HBO Max as 70 employees lose their jobs

The rumored layoffs are coming true: Warner Bros. Discovery, the newly merged parent company to HBO, is cutting personnel costs.

Fourteen percent of staff under HBO and HBO Max chief content officer Casey Bloys will be laid off, impacting 70 employees. The New York Times reports that unscripted and live-action family programming for HBO Max, the streaming service, were most affected. Other cuts impacted HBO Max’s casting, acquisitions and international departments. Unscripted shows that are considered successful are expected to continue.

This restructuring comes after AT&T’s WarnerMedia officially merged with Discovery, Inc. in April. Under terms of the agreement, AT&T received $43 billion in cash and debt. But the company still has a debt load of $53 billion and is trying to cut costs to save $3 billion in 2023.

In major tech mergers, layoffs are expected to eliminate redundancies. But fans of HBO Max programming were enraged by the rumors of these layoffs, which began circulating in earnest a few weeks ago, worrying that original scripted shows like “Hacks,” “Our Flag Means Death” or “The Flight Attendant” would be cancelled. So far, HBO Max’s original scripted shows haven’t been impacted.

It makes sense why fans are concerned, though. As these rumors circulated, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav announced that the company would shelve the DC Comics adaptation “Batgirl,” even though the film was already finished and cost at least $70 million. Zaslav added that the sequel to an animated Scooby Doo movie wouldn’t be released either. To make matters worse, viewers noticed that HBO Max had quietly removed six original movies from its service, which featured talent like Anne Hathaway, Seth Rogen and Cole Sprouse.

It’s already been a rough year for the newly merged media mammoth. Warner Bros. Discovery also pulled the plug on its CNN+ streaming service just one month after launch, costing the company $300 million.

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Bumble experiments with group chats, polls and video calls for its new social networking feature, ‘Hive’

Dating app maker Bumble revealed more of its plans to strengthen its social networking features during last week’s Q2 earnings, which saw the company’s shares slump over its lowered financial outlook despite delivering a revenue beat. Now, new images show what Bumble has been developing as part of the larger revamp of its “Bumble BFF” friend-finding feature — a change that could help the app attract a new audience beyond just young singles. Specifically, Bumble BFF has been testing a new “communities” offering it’s calling “Hive,” which, the images show, may include support for features like group chat, polls and video calls.

Bumble briefly referenced its plans for Hive on its Q2 2022 earnings call with investors, noting Hive was a “next-generation offering” focused on helping people find “platonic connections through small communities.” In other words, a groups product.

“As we have shared before, our approach is built on the insight that people want to find friends, acquaintances and connections through shared struggles and common joys: moving to a new city, navigating parenthood, finding a partner for hiking, or really anything else in between,” founder and CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd told investors.

She noted Bumble had recently expanded its alpha tests of the new Bumble BFF feature to the Greater Toronto area where Bumble users have since created thousands of these online communities known as “Hives.”

Image Credits: Bumble Hives via Watchful

The promise of platonic social networking is one the company believes could help it find engagement beyond the world of online dating. During its tests, Bumble said the weekly average number of sessions for BFF members increased by two-thirds, and their weekly time spent in-app was up 16%.

According to new images released by product intelligence firm Watchful, Bumble’s Hive includes a variety of now-standard social networking features. It shows BFF members can create profiles, join interest groups led by admins, publish posts, engage in group chats, create and respond to polls and more. There’s also an option for group video calls within the “Hives.”

Image Credits: Bumble Hives via Watchful

Video is not entirely new to Bumble, however.

The company also told investors it has been testing both video and audio in select markets as a way to enhance member profiles with “richer and more dynamic” content. This could additionally help Bumble better compete against a growing number of video-focused dating apps, like Snack, S’More, Desti and others.

Image Credits: Bumble Hives via Watchful

More broadly, Bumble’s latest updates aim to address the shift among younger, Gen Z users who are inclined to embrace apps that allow them to socially “hang out” online — like livestreaming app …read more

The phishing catch of the day is Twillio (and other TC news)

This week on the TechCrunch Podcast Natasha Mascarenhas is back to talk about VC-backed aperitif company Haus being forced to sell. Then we’re joined by Carly page to talk about a recent phishing campaign that targeted Twilio and many other internet companies. And as always, we’ll catch you up on the tech news you may have missed this week.

Articles from the episode:

Other news from the week:

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Signal says 1,900 users’ phone numbers exposed by Twilio breach

End-to-end encrypted messaging app Signal says attackers accessed the phone numbers and SMS verification codes for almost 2,000 users as part of the breach at communications giant Twilio last week.

Twilio, which provides phone number verification services to Signal, said on August 8 that malicious actors accessed the data of 125 customers after successfully phishing multiple employees. Twilio did not say who the customers were, but they are likely to include large organizations after Signal on Monday confirmed that it was one of those victims.

Signal said in a blog post Monday that it would notify about 1,900 users whose phone numbers or SMS verification codes were stolen when attackers gained access to Twilio’s customer support console.

“For about 1,900 users, an attacker could have attempted to re-register their number to another device or learned that their number was registered to Signal,” the messaging giant said. “Among the 1,900 phone numbers, the attacker explicitly searched for three numbers, and we’ve received a report from one of those three users that their account was re-registered.”

While this didn’t give the attacker access to message history, which Signal doesn’t store, or contact lists and profile information, which is protected by the user’s security PIN, Signal said “in the case that an attacker was able to re-register an account, they could send and receive Signal messages from that phone number.”

For those affected, the company says it will unregister Signal on all devices that the user is currently using — or that an attacker registered them to — and will require users to re-register Signal with their phone number on their preferred device. Signal also advises users to switch on registration lock, a feature that prevents an account from being re-registered on another device without the user’s security PIN.

Although the Twilio breach impacts a fraction of Signal’s 40 million-plus users, users have long bemoaned how Signal — considered one of the most secure messaging apps — requires users to register a phone number to create an account. Other end-to-end encryption apps, such as Wire, allow users to sign up with a username. While Signal has slowly moved to end its reliance on phone numbers, such as with the introduction of Signal PINs in 2020, this incident will likely reignite calls for it to move faster.

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SoftBank, Sequoia China back this ERP startup enabling China’s online exporters

Thanks to cross-border e-commerce platforms, China continues to be a major exporter of consumer goods for the world in the online shopping age. It’s not just marketplaces like Amazon and AliExpress that are enabling Chinese businesses to sell abroad. Behind the scene, a group of startups are making the software that allows exporters to more easily figure out what to sell and how to sell.

Dianxiaomi, roughly translated as ‘shop assistant’, is one of these ecommerce SaaS providers. The company just secured $110 million in a Series D funding round led by SoftBank Vision Fund II and Sequoia Capital China. Other prominent investors, including Tiger Global Management, GGV Capital, and Huaxing Growth Capital, also participated.

The financing lifts the company’s total investment to $210 million in 2022 alone.

Dianxiaomi is strategically located in Shenzhen, the capital of export-oriented ecommerce activity in China. The city that’s home to Huawei, Tencent, and DJI is also known to house the most Amazon sellers in the world.

Dianxiaomi started out with a convenient tool that allowed sellers to list their products already sold on Taobao, Alibaba’s marketplace for Chinese consumers, on Wish with “one click”, said its founder and CEO Du Jianyin, a former R&D engineer at Baidu, in an interview.

From there, Dianxiaomi went on to create a suite of enterprise resource planning (ERP) software for Chinese vendors on Wish, Amazon, eBay, AliExpress, Shopee, Lazada and the like. The target users are small and medium-sized sellers with 5,000 orders per day or less, the company told TechCrunch.

The SaaS provider itself is expanding overseas as well. It’s launched localized ERP products for sellers in Southeast Asia and Latin America, respectively. Globally, it claims to be serving 1.5 million users and has partnered with some 50 ecommerce platforms. In Southeast Asia, it has amassed 430,000 users that are selling within the booming region.

The company plans to open offices in Indonesia, Malaysia, and the U.K., where it looks to build a team of 20-100 staff to carry out customer service, operations, and other tasks in each country.

Landing in Southeast Asia is an obvious choice for many Chinese entrepreneurs, who see similar opportunities in the region as they did in their home market a decade ago.

“At its rapid growth rate, [Southeast Asia] is a bit like China from ten years ago. Second, the region is culturally similar with a big ethnically Chinese population, who can help promote the products. And third, orders from Southeast Asia have been growing at over 100% a year,” the CEO noted in the interview.

The financing for Dianxiaomi is one of the few deals that SoftBank has sealed this year in China, which for long was a major destination for the investment powerhouse. But amid a slowing economy and regulatory uncertainties, the company said last year that it would take a more “cautious” approach to backing Chinese startups.

In January, SoftBank and Sequoia Capital China injected funding into a similar venture called Shoplazza, a Canada- and …read more

5 things you may have missed in Disney’s latest earnings

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The Walt Disney Company announced better-than-expected results last week when it unveiled its earnings for the second quarter of 2022 (the company’s third fiscal quarter.)

The data point that caught the most attention? That total Disney DTC subscriptions — including Disney+, but also Hulu and ESPN+ — reached 221.1 million.

Many headlines subsequently focused on Disney’s overall streaming subscription tally now being higher than Netflix’s. This focus is understandable — who doesn’t love a rivalry? But it’s also notable because their numbers are trending in the opposite direction.

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As you may remember, Netflix lost almost 970,000 net subscribers during the three-month period ended June 30. That was less than anticipated in April, when it predicted a net loss of 2 million subscribers. And its 220.67 million subscriber count isn’t very far from Disney’s. But the contrast between their fates is still headline-grabbing, for good reason.

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Helbiz reports revenue increase but dwindling cash reserves

Helbiz started out as a shared micromobility company but has since expanded to include ghost kitchens, media streaming and, most recently, a taxi service. The company reported its second-quarter earnings Monday after the bell. The startup was the first scooter operator to go public via the SPAC route, and many in the industry wish it wasn’t so after consistently meh earnings reports.

Since Helbiz’s public debut in August 2021, its earnings reports have shown a company that burns through dwindling cash reserves, doesn’t pull in enough revenue to make up for its high costs of operations and keeps pivoting away from core operations into new, and sometimes strange, business units.

While Helbiz’s revenue has increased slightly quarter over quarter and year over year, Monday’s report tells a similar story.

Before we dig into the financials, a little context. In late June, Helbiz signed a letter of intent to buy Wheels, another shared micromobility operator, by the end of the year. In the midst of this, there were multiple times when Helbiz employees in U.S. and Serbian offices had to wait for delayed payments. Sources told TechCrunch that aside from late paychecks, Helbiz is suffering from chronically late scooter shipments and a general lack of company structure.

Despite lackluster earnings, Helbiz’s stock is trading higher than its public market rival Bird, which also announced earnings today. Today, at $1.43 after hours, Helbiz is up 12.6%. That is largely attributable to Helbiz CEO Salvatore Palella’s acquisition of 252,636 shares of the company at an average price of $3 — a transaction that is valued at $757,908. Also, that number is still a far cry from the $10.92 at which Helbiz opened.

Helbiz’s Q2 2022 Financials

Helbiz closed out the second quarter with $4.4 million in revenue, which is up 46% from the same period last year and 33% from last quarter. Mobility, or shared micromobility rides, made up more than half of the second quarter’s total revenue at $2.7 million, up from $1.6 million in Q1.

Helbiz reported around 1.2 million rides in Q2, which is nearly double its Q1 rides, but only a slight increase YoY. Unlike Bird, Helbiz doesn’t appear to report the number of vehicles it has on the ground, nor its rides per vehicle per day.

The remaining $1.7 million in revenue came from “the incremental contribution from Media and Kitchen,” said Helbiz chief financial officer Giulio Profumo in a statement.

During Q3 2021, Helbiz launched Helbiz Live, a sports streaming platform that is currently showing Italy’s Series B soccer, NCAA football and basketball, and MLB games. Helbiz expects to generate $6 million during the first Series B season, some of which must have already been realized in Q2 2022.

Around the same time that Helbiz launched Live, it also introduced Helbiz Kitchen, a ghost kitchen delivery service. The company was coy about how much revenue the new service has brought in, but Kitchen apparently delivered …read more