The National Theatre of Great Britain Launches Streaming Service for On-Demand Plays

The National Theatre of Great Britain has launched a new streaming service called National Theatre at Home. The service offers on-demand and pay-per-view access to a range of recorded plays from the National Theatre's past.

What Is the National Theatre of Great Britain?

The National Theatre of Great Britain, known on home turf simply as the National Theatre, opened in 1976 and was founded by Laurence Olivier.

The theater is located on the South Bank of London and houses several auditoriums. It's one of the most popular performing art venues in the country, having staged plays with some of the most beloved actors and creatives in the world.

In 2009, the company formed National Theatre Live, an initiative to broadcast live productions to movie theaters internationally and help make theater more accessible.

What Is National Theatre at Home?

When the coronavirus pandemic hit at the beginning of 2020, the National Theatre had to shut its doors, unable to stage productions safely.

From April to July, the theater broadcast a number of its productions for free on YouTube, including Tom Hiddlestone's Coriolanus and Gillian Anderson's A Streetcar Named Desire. These were a smash hit, amassing millions of views from people across the world.

Now, the National Theatre has launched its own streaming service called National Theatre at Home. It's built using Vimeo OTT, a platform which allows organizations to launch their own video subscription service.

In the UK, the service costs £99.98 a year or £9.98 a month. In the US, it costs $129.99 a year or $12.99 a month.

Signing up for an on-demand subscription grants access to a range of plays from the National Theatre's past, including Amadeus, Othello, Three Sisters, and Yerma. Some of these were broadcast previously via National Theatre Live, while others are being made available for the first time.

Alternatively, plays can be rented for a one-off fee. Once purchased, you can watch the play as much as you want over a three-day period.

Speaking to The Guardian, Rufus Norris, the director of the National Theatre, said that the company had not only received huge demand for such a service, but that the coronavirus pandemic had been a huge financial hit and the theater needed to bring some income in.

He elaborates:

The primary objective, even within that, is that a lot of the money that we bring in is immediately fed back to the artists who made the work and our partner theatres. As we know the freelance artists, on who this industry entirely depends, have been facing huge difficulties at this time so any income we can get to them is going to be crucial.

Watch Theater in the Best Home Environment

Of course, streaming theater is never going to replicate the live experience, but it's the next best thing for now. Until then, you might want to try and build a great home theater so you can watch in the best environment possible.


Hulu Officially Launches Its Watch Party Feature to Everyone

After only being available to some people during a test period, Hulu has officially launched its watch party feature to all subscribers. It means that you can watch any of Hulu's catalog with others remotely in real-time.

The History of Hulu's Watch Parties

Hulu first introduced its watch party feature in May 2020, during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, it was the first large streaming provider to offer it as an inbuilt feature, rather than via an unofficial third-party extension.

With people unable to go to theaters or watch things in person with friends, virtual watch parties are the next best thing to viewing things collaboratively.

At first, the feature was only available to subscribers of Hulu's no-ads plan. It then became available to everyone for a limited ten-day period to coincide with the launch of season two of Hulu's original show Pen15 on September 18.

Hulu then tested the watch party feature with live streams during the November election news coverage.

Now, watch parties are available to everyone, whether you have an ad-supported plan or not.

How to Use Hulu's Watch Parties

You can use the new watch party feature across thousands of on-demand Hulu titles. This includes Hulu original content like The Happiest Season, to films and shows from other distributors like Golden Girls and Family Guy.

To start a watch party, look for the representative icon on each title's details page. You can then share this link with up to seven other Hulu subscribers (who must all be age 18 or older).

During a watch party, the content plays alongside a chat box. Here, you can talk in real-time with everyone else in the watch party. You can even use emojis!

You control the playback individually. That means if you need to pause for a bathroom break, or your internet is struggling to keep up, the content continues to play for everyone else. On your return, you can choose to watch from where you paused or catch up with everyone else.

That's a bit different to how most watch parties work, where you can control playback for everyone. Hulu's approach seems like a better and less invasive way of doing it.

Host Your Own Watch Party

While Hulu was the first, it's no longer the only streaming service to offer a watch party feature. Amazon Prime, Twitch, Plex, and Facebook are just some places that let you host official watch parties.


Amazon Music Unlimited Now Streams Music Videos | MakeUseOf

It recently added wider support for podcasts, along with behind-the-scenes music trivia, and now Amazon Music is adding another feature: music videos.

Watch Music Videos on Amazon Music Unlimited

As reported by Android Police, you can now watch music videos on Amazon Music.

The wrinkle is that you need to be subscribed to the premium Unlimited service, which costs $7.99 a month for Prime members and $9.99 a month otherwise.

Music videos have their own section within the app and can be surfaced through search results or on artists pages. Amazon will also curate playlists to help discovery.

When listening to a song that has an uploaded music video, you can use a toggle to switch to the music video.

It's not known how many music videos Amazon Music has, though you can expect the company will keep building out its catalog.

Music videos are not an innovation when it comes to streaming platforms. YouTube Music, Tidal, and Apple Music have all supported them for a long time.

If music videos are important to you, Spotify might be a service to avoid, as it's one of the few big ones that doesn't support them, instead choosing to invest its time into podcasts.


HBO Max to Support 4K With Wonder Woman 1984 | MakeUseOf

While Wonder Woman 1984 will show in some theaters, the upcoming film will also launch on HBO Max in the US. When it does, it'll be the first piece of content on the service to stream in 4K.

Wonder Woman 1984 to Stream in 4K

Wonder Woman 1984, the sequel to the 2017 original starring Gal Gadot, was due to premier exclusively in theaters. However, the coronavirus pandemic put pay to that.

After being delayed multiple times, distributor Warner Bros. conceded to also launch the film on HBO Max in the US, assuming that many consumers would choose to avoid public gathering in a theater.

When the news came, some were concerned that HBO Max wasn't up to snuff. Wonder Woman 1984 seems like the type of film that deserves the largest screen and highest definition possible.

Happily, director Patty Jenkins took to Twitter to announce that Wonder Woman 1984 would be the first film on HBO Max to be available in 4K Ultra HD, HDR 10, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos.

As per Warner Media's press release, the high definition viewing experience will be possible "on supported devices including Apple TV 4K, Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K, Amazon Fire TV Cube and 4K Fire TV Edition smart TVs, Chromecast Ultra, AT&T TV and supported Android TV devices".

Then, in 2021, HBO Max will expand these capabilities, supporting more devices and offering a wider selection of films and TV series in 4K.

If Wonder Woman 1984 doesn't sound like your cup of tea, HBO Max has launched a Holiday Wonderland section to keep you entertained during the festive period.


Your Personal 2020 Spotify Wrapped Has Arrived | MakeUseOf

This year's Spotify Wrapped experience is now available for everyone. In what has become an annual tradition, Wrapped gives you insights into your listening habits for the year.

Find Out Your 2020 Listening Habits

As previously reported, Spotify recently revealed worldwide listening habits with the announcement that Bad Bunny was the most streamed artist for 2020.

While that data is interesting, it's always more exciting to see data about what your listening habits were.

That's why it's great that Spotify has now launched its 2020 Wrapped experience. This gives you personalized insight into what songs you listened to most, who your favorite artists were, and how long you spent jamming.

While in previous years Wrapped has been available for desktop, this year the personalized experience is exclusive to iOS and Android. To launch it, open Spotify and tap the Wrapped banner at the top of the home screen.

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Presented in a story format, there are a few new features within Wrapped this year.

There are quizzes that let you predict your top artist, podcast, and which decade you streamed the most.

You'll also see your top song's journey through the year, finding out when you first listened to it and when you clocked that 100th play.

There's also a larger focus on podcasts. You'll discover what your most binge-worthy podcast was, along with how many minutes you spent listening.

Once you've finished the Wrapped story, you can then share images to social media that list details like your top artists, top songs, minutes listened, and top genre.

Listen to Wrapped 2020 Playlists

Alongside the personalized data, Spotify also produces various playlists based on your listening habits: Your Top Songs 2020 (those you listened to the most), Missed Hits (those that others listened to which you didn't), and On Record (a mixed media experience of music and podcasts).

The new Wrapped section also features plenty of playlists that contain the best songs of 2020 across all genres, along with the greatest new podcasts from the year.

Plus, even if you're not a Spotify user, you can still visit the Spotify Wrapped page on desktop or mobile to view the global data and check out the playlists.

How to Manage Your Spotify Playlists

Spotify Wrapped 2020 has produced loads of new playlists for you to dive into. If they all feel a bit overwhelming, be sure to follow our tips on how to manage your Spotify playlists and keep your music organized.


Netflix Now Uses an Algorithm to Age Rate Content | MakeUseOf

In partnership with the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), Netflix now has a UK rage rating for everything on its platform. While some of those ratings were pre-existing, many come from a brand-new algorithm.

How Has Netflix Age Rated Everything?

As reported by the BBC, everything on the UK version of Netflix now comes with an age rating thanks to a partnership with the BBFC.

The BBFC was founded in 1912 and is the primary organization that classifies films released theatrically and physically in the UK.

While digital streaming services aren't required to have content classified by the BBFC, Netflix have voluntarily chosen to do so.

Netflix's employees watched everything on the service, tagging scenes unsuitable for young children: sex, violence, swearing, and so on.

All of this data was then fed into an algorithm. This can now be used to detect those types of scenes in new content and automatically assign an age rating.

Putting everything into the hands of an algorithm is never going to be perfect, especially when the data has been fed in by humans in the first place. However, the monumental task of having age ratings on over 10,000 pieces of content can only be applauded.

What Are the Benefits of Age Ratings?

In a statement, Netflix director of Ratings Policy and Compliance Jessica Stansfield said:

We wanted our members to see the same trusted age ratings on our service as they recognise from cinema and DVD - to simplify the process of choosing content, however they watch.

The aim is to allow parents to better control the content that their children watch. According to the BBFC, its research shows that 85% of parents and 95% of teenagers want age ratings on streaming platforms.

The UK's Digital and Culture Minister praised the partnership, saying that the move will help children avoid age-inappropriate content and that other streaming services are urged to follow suit.

Indeed, the BBFC is currently in talks with 21 other streaming services and social media sites to achieve similar to what they have with Netflix. That list includes Sky Store, Curzon Home, and BFI Player.

Currently, this algorithm has only been applied to Netflix's UK catalog. It could be expected to roll out worldwide, though each country uses a different age classification system.

Video Games Have Age Ratings Too

Movies and TV shows aren't the only entertainment that have age ratings. Video games receive them too, and if you're a parent it's important to know what they mean.


Quibi Is Officially Dead | MakeUseOf

Quibi was a short-form streaming service that boasted top tier talent in a bid to draw people to its platform. Sadly, it wasn't enough to keep it afloat, and Quibi has now officially closed its doors.

Quibi Is Now Permanently Closed

As previously reported, Quibi was due to close in early December. The company wasted no time following that promise, as the service has now officially shut down on December 1, 2020.

Despite billions pumped into the service from investors like Disney and Sony Pictures Entertainment, not enough people signed up to Quibi for it to recuperate its costs.

According to research firm Kantar, Quibi had 710,000 subscribers in the third quarter of 2020, which marked a 400,000 drop from the previous quarter.

Although the Quibi website is still live, the links to download the Android or iOS app have been removed. While those apps can still be found on the respective stores, you will receive an error message if you try to sign in. As such, you cannot access any Quibi content.

Quibi didn't own the exclusive rights to many of its shows, but it's currently trying to sell those it did elsewhere.

Why Did Quibi Fail?

Quibi's premise of bite sized content to be consumed on smartphones was interesting, but it suffered from a lack of features, poor value for money, and launched at a time when many were stuck indoors and with access to traditional devices like TVs.



Spotify Streaming Trends Were Very Different in 2020 | MakeUseOf

Every year is different, but none more so in recent history than 2020. It's a time when our lives have been turned upside down. Routines and plans went out the window.

The coronavirus pandemic has impacted every corner of our lives. That also includes our music streaming habits, as Spotify has revealed in its wrap of 2020.

Who Was Most Streamed in 2020?

Each year, Spotify analyzes what everyone has been listening to globally. This year is no different, with the report published on For the Record.

In 2020, the most streamed artist globally was Bad Bunny. The Puerto Rican rapper racked up over 8.3 billion streams thanks to his album YHLQMDLG that released in February.

Following him on the list are Drake, J Balvin, Juice WRLD, and The Weeknd.

The Weeknd also took the crown for the most streamed song, which was Blinding Lights with nearly 1.6 billion streams.

Representing female artists is Billie Eilish, who was the most streamed female artist for a second year. Coming up the rear are Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, Dua Lipa, and Halsey.

Spotify continued to make a push into the podcast world---it now has over 1.9 million podcasts for you to listen to.

The most popular podcast of the year was The Joe Rogan Experience, which Spotify bought exclusive rights to, alongside shows like TED Talks Daily, The Daily, and The Michelle Obama Podcast.

The most popular podcast categories were Society & Culture, Comedy, and Lifestyle & Health.

With many of us stuck at home, and many no longer working from an office, listening habits changed alongside.

Spotify reports that there was an increase in nostalgia-themed and work-from-home-themed playlists---in fact, the latter saw a 1,400% rise.

More people were streaming from home and using different devices to do it. The number of people using game consoles to stream increased 55% this year when compared to last.

The impact of the Black Lives Matter movement was also felt in music streaming. Spotify's Black Lives Matter playlist received 64 million streams and 65,000 users created their own playlists around the theme.

More people listened to podcasts for the first time this year too, with the biggest growth in the 18 to 24-year-old range. The most popular time to listen was between the early hours of 6am to 9am.

Spotify Tips and Tricks

It won't be long before Spotify Wrapped is released for your personal music habits. It's an annual tradition!

Until then, be sure to check out the best Spotify tips and tricks so that you can get the most from the service.


HBO Max Launches Holiday Wonderland Section for Christmas Viewing

To say 2020 hasn't been the best year is an understatement. If you're looking forward to settling down to some festive viewing this holiday season, HBO Max has you sorted.

The streaming service has announced the launch of its special Holiday Wonderland section, which collates together over 200 hours of viewing.

What Is HBO Max's Holiday Wonderland?

On December 1, 2020, HBO Max will launch its Holiday Wonderland section.

This is a spotlight page that showcases a jolly collection of series and films themed around the festive season.

The streaming service claims that whether you've been feeling "holly jolly" or "bah humbug", it has over 200 hours of curated holiday movies and episodes to suit your mood.

While much of this content is already available on HBO Max, the Holiday Wonderland section pops everything together in one convenient location.

What Can I Watch On Holiday Wonderland?

If you visit the Holiday Wonderland section, you'll find that the movies and TV shows have been collected into different themes.

There's the overtly festive hits like Last Christmas, The Family Man, and The Bishop's Wife, alongside films that are set at Christmas like Shazam, Die Hard, and Lethal Weapon.

The little ones will be kept entertained with animated classics like A Flintstone Family Christmas and Scooby-Doo! Haunted Holidays, plus live-action flicks like Get Santa and The Wizard of Oz.

Also, HBO Max's reboots of The Crow and Spawn will land at the beginning of December, so there's still something new to watch if you're not in the holiday mood.

Wonder Woman 1984 Debuts on HBO Max

HBO Max will be hoping that the launch of its Holiday Wonderland hub keeps people glued to the platform over the holiday season, just in time for the launch of Wonder Woman 1984 on Christmas Day.

While the movie was originally intended for theatrical release, it has been delayed repeatedly due to the coronavirus pandemic. Eventually, the distributors relented and agreed to an HBO Max launch in the US.

Said Toby Emmerich, Chairman of Warner Bros. Pictures Group, of the situation:

We appreciate how patient audiences have been and given the great anticipation around Wonder Woman 1984 we are grateful to be able to make this terrifically entertaining movie widely available in these challenging times.

Get HBO Max on Amazon Fire TV

If you've been on the fence about HBO Max, the new Holiday Wonderland section might be a good time to sign up and get some festive cheer. Plus, HBO Max is now available on Amazon Fire TV, so it's easier than ever to join.


Streaming Services May Have to Meet Content Quota in Australia

Proposed changes to the law in Australia could see services like Netflix, Disney+, and Amazon Prime be required to produce a percentage of their content within Australia.

What Is the Australian Government Proposing?

As reported by The Sydney Morning Herald, the Australian government are proposing a change to the country's media regulations.

This is being launched by Federal Communications and Arts Minister Paul Fletcher, who says that the impact COVID-19 has had on the economy has accelerated the need for regulations to support the local TV industry.

The government are concerned that the dominance of streaming services is having a negative impact on the quantity of content that can be produced on home territory.

The government paper outlines that streaming services must invest a percentage of their Australian revenue in local content. This includes commissions, co-productions, or acquisitions of content.

Speaking of the proposals, Fletcher said:

What we are proposing would rebalance Australia's media regulations so that the industry can continue to support jobs, connect communities, and keep Australian stories on our screens regardless of whether they prefer to watch free-to-air television, subscription television or video-on-demand services.

The paper doesn't specify what percentage would be required, though a 2017 federal inquiry laid down a suggestion that streaming services invest 10% of local revenue back into new Australian content.

Netflix were singled out as a large acquirer of Australian content already, and may potentially already meet requirements. However, other streaming services like Amazon Prime, Apple TV+, and Disney+ also operate in the territory.

How Will Streaming Services React?

As you might imagine, streaming services are unlikely to be pleased at the idea that they should be mandated as to how they spend their money.

In fact, a number of services including Netflix and Disney+ submitted a joint statement to the Australian government earlier in the year, stating that they "already make a significant contribution to Australia's screen production industry" and that "we strongly believe that there is no market failure to address".

For you as a subscriber, more variety in content is only a good thing. It means more global productions that provide an interesting insight into Australian life.

Watch Netflix With Friends Across the Globe

It doesn't matter if you're in America and your friend is in Australia. You can still watch Netflix together. That's because there are a number of websites and apps that let you host watch parties, so you can all view the same thing simultaneously and chat as you watch.