TIME Media

Hulu is Finally Getting Rid of Its Ads—For a Price

Hulu CEO Mike Hopkins

Customers can now pay a bit more to get rid of commercials

One of the biggest complaints Hulu users have leveled against the video-streaming site is its glut of commercials. Now, Hulu is finally offering a solution for customers willing to open their wallets a bit wider.

On Wednesday Hulu announced a new “No Commercials” plan that removes advertisements from almost all of its shows. The new plan will cost about $12 per month, compared to the cheaper Hulu plan that costs $8 per month and features ads throughout shows. Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, which don’t feature ads, cost $9 per month and $8.25 per month (in the form of a $99-per-year subscription), respectively. Netflix also offers a $12/month plan that allows more simultaneous streams to different devices and higher resolution content.

Not every show on the ad-free plan will actually be ad-free. Because of its inability to secure the necessary streaming rights, Hulu will still show a handful of shows with commercials before and after episodes, including Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and New Girl.

The move is the latest aggressive tactic Hulu has taken this year as it tries to shake off its image as an also-ran in the streaming wars. The company signed a big-ticket deal to stream all episodes of Seinfeld in June and in August signed a nonexclusive deal with the pay-TV channel Epix for the rights to hit films like The Hunger Games and Transformers: Age of Extinction.

Hulu now has 9 million subscribers in the United States, compared to Netflix’s 41 million.

TIME Media

Read an 11-Year-Old’s Heartwarming Essay About His Father’s Return From World War II

Cabot Brown
Courtesy of the Brown family Cabot Brown in 1942.

In 1945, TIME published a boy's imagining of his father's return from World War II. Now, 70 years later, here's how it happened

Seventy years ago Wednesday, when the Japanese formally signed the documents that ended World War II aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, many families around the world rejoiced at the prospect that their loved ones who had fought till the end would begin to return home. One boy who would have known that feeling well was Philip Brown, a San Francisco middle-schooler whose father, Lieut. Commander Cabot Brown, had been a medical officer in the Navy.

In May of 1945, TIME had printed a charming short essay that Brown wrote for his English class on the subject “The First Day My Father Is Home.” Now, in honor of the anniversary of V-J day, we’ve learned the story behind how that came to pass:

James “Jim” K. Brown, now 88, recalls that he was 18 years old, sitting at home in San Francisco, where his parents’ friends, TIME’s News Bureau Chief David Hulburd and his Navy aviator brother Jack, had stopped by for dinner and drinks. His 11-year-old little brother Philip came downstairs with his homework, which he shared with the group. “The TIME guy said ‘we’ll publish it,'” Brown says.

Here’s how the writing assignment appeared in the magazine:

My father has been out in the Pacific for about 15 months. In three months he is due home. I wonder what the first day home will be like. This is how I think it will be.

Mom, Steve, Jim and myself will all go down to meet him at the pier. The ship will be late. Many people will be waiting. When it arrives we shall find my father. I would start asking so many questions. Pop would not answer all of them. He would want to forget the war now that he was home. By the time we got home it would be lunch time. He would then eat his first home cook meal in one and a half years. I am sure we shall have a very fancy lunch. After about an hour eating, filling quite full, mom will ask me to get the schoch out and start on the drinks. (Oh Boy.) At about three, pop will want some good old modern music. Then a few friends will come in to welcome him home an a bottle of sckoch. After awhile we shall start getting hungry. (Food!)

Mom says, ‘Let’s go out to dinner and be stylish about it.

After food bed! Oh Boy.

After the issue came out, Brown says, “Some people said how great it was, others were horrified that an 11-year-old boy would know so much about scotch” (even if he misspelled it two different ways in the piece). He says the homecoming went mostly as Philip predicted it would, except the whole family did not have security clearance to meet their father when he disembarked. Only Jim was allowed to go down there because he was in the Navy.

After the war, Cabot would go back to his medical practice, specializing in the treatment of chest diseases and tuberculosis. Philip would go on to college, then work as a merchant marine purser and for American President Lines out of Chicago before he passed away about 15 years ago. Their brother Steve, also mentioned in the letter, would go on to serve in Korea with the Army.

As for Jim, a Harvard graduate who now lives in the Osborn Retirement Community in Rye, N.Y., he worked as a pharmacist’s mate in the Navy in Oakland and at the naval hospital on Mare Island from Aug. 3, 1944, to July 3, 1946. He did not go on to pursue a career in medicine, retiring as a research director at The Conference Board, a nonprofit that conducts business and economic research.

When asked if he thought “the greatest generation” was an apt nickname for those who served in World War II, he displayed the same forthright tone that got his younger brother published all those years ago: “There was a draft after all,” he said, “so I don’t know if the number that served reflects the greatness of our generation—or just obeying the law.”

See the original layout from 1945, here in the TIME Vault: Oh, Boy!

TIME Media

Pandora Is Going Ad-Free for One Day Only

Pandora
Bloomberg/Getty Images

It's a 10th birthday celebration for the company

For one glorious day Pandora users will be able to listen to as many tunes as they want without being interrupted by ads. The Internet radio platform is celebrating its 10th anniversary with “Listener Love Day,” which will remove commercials from the service for 24 hours starting at midnight EDT on Wednesday, Sept. 9.

Despite an onslaught of competition from streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, and iTunes Radio, Pandora has managed to steadily increase its user base and now boasts close to 80 million monthly listeners. The company is encouraging people to check out its “10×10” playlist as well, which features the 10 songs that have received the most thumbs-up over the last decade.

Listeners who decide they prefer the ad-free Pandora can sign up for Pandora One, which costs $4.99 per month to excise ads from the service.

TIME Apple

Apple May Be Taking On Netflix and Amazon

Here's the latest rumor out of Cupertino

Apple has been meeting with Hollywood executives about producing original content like Netflix and Amazon do, Variety reports.

Apple is planning to begin hiring for the project “in the coming months,” with operations slated to get underway within a year, unnamed sources told the publication.

Still, there remain far more unknowns than knows. It’s unclear whether Apple would produce movies, TV shows or both, or if the company would produce content in-house or work with outside producers, like Netflix does. It’s also uncertain how Apple might monetize its content.

Another interesting nugget in Variety’s report is that Apple was among the parties involved in the bidding war for British automotive TV show Top Gear’s stars, who recently left the BBC and eventually found a new home at Amazon.

The latest rumor comes just a few months after Apple launched its music streaming service, Apple Music.

TIME Thailand

Australian Journalist and Colleague Cleared of Charges in Thai Navy Defamation Case

Morison and Sidasathian, reporters for the Phuketwan news website, speak to media as they arrive to a criminal court in Phuket
Reuters Phuketwan journalists Alan Morison, right, and Chutima Sidasathian speak to media as they arrive to a criminal court in Phuket on April 17, 2014

Amnesty International called the verdict "a welcome move for freedom of expression"

An Australian journalist and his Thai colleague have been cleared of defamation charges brought after they reported accusations that some officials in the Thai navy were complicit in human trafficking.

Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathian, of the Phuketwan news website based on the Thai tourist island of Phuket, faced a possible jail sentence after they quoted an excerpt from a 2013 Reuters special report on human trafficking that subsequently won the news agency a Pulitzer prize.

The line quoted an anonymous trafficker saying certain Thai navy officers profited from turning a blind eye to people smuggling.

A Phuket court acquitted both the journalists of defamation and breaching the Computer Crimes Act on Tuesday morning, reports the BBC.

Neither Reuters nor the two award-winning journalists who penned the original story faced any charges, leading to press freedom advocates to accuse the Thai navy of attempting to muzzle the media by making an example of relatively low-level players.

Reuters has also faced criticism for distancing itself from the case, though the news agency released a statement Tuesday welcoming the verdict. “We are pleased at the Court’s verdict in the case today and Reuters wholeheartedly supports the principles of a free press,” said the statement.

TIME Media

Facebook to Crack Down on Online Video Piracy

The company is trying to stop the practice known as "freebooting"

Facebook is finally responding to ongoing complaints that it’s too easy rip other people’s videos and repost them on the social network. In a blog post Thursday, the company announced it was taking several steps to curtail the practice, which is known as “freebooting.”

Facebook said it is working on new video matching technology that will let creators identify freebooted versions of their videos across the social network. “Our matching tool will evaluate millions of video uploads quickly and accurately, and when matches are surfaced, publishers will be able to report them to us for removal,” the company wrote.

For now the new tool will be available as a beta version to a small group of media companies, multi-channel networks and indivdiaul creators. Facebook plans to roll the tool out to larger audience over time. The company said it is also improving its current procedures to remove copyright-infringing content more efficiently.

Freebooting has caused an increasingly loud contingent of YouTube stars to complain that Facebook wasn’t properly addressing the problem. A blog post by Hank Green, a popular vlogger and co-founder of the video conference VidCon, claimed that Facebook’s policies encouraged the theft of creators’ videos.

TIME Media

This Is the Next Battleground for Netflix and Amazon

Gaby Hoffmann, Jeffrey Tambor, Jill Soloway
Richard Shotwell—Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP From left, Gaby Hoffmann, Jeffrey Tambor, and Jill Soloway speak onstage during the "Transparent" panel at the Amazon 2014 Summer TCA on Saturday, July 12, 2014, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

The streaming wars continue to go global

Amazon and Netflix will soon be squaring off in a new Asian battleground. On Wednesday Amazon announced that it will bring its Prime Instant Video service to Japan in September. Netflix has had long-announced plans to roll out its own streaming service in the country on Sept. 2.

Amazon’s Japanese offering will include dramas, anime and variety shows popular in both the U.S. and Japan. Original shows like “Transparent” will also be available.

Amazon, which already offers Prime subscriptions in Japan, will have a significant price advantage. Amazon Prime costs ¥3900 (about $32) per year, or about $2.71 per month. Netflix will have multiple tiers starting at ¥650, or about $5.40 per month.

It reminans to be seen whether either service will find substantial success in the country. Hulu launched in the country in 2011 but ended up selling off its Japanese streaming business to the Nippon TV television network in 2014.

TIME Video Games

YouTube’s New Video Game Feature Is Finally Launching

YouTube Gaming will take on Amazon's Twitch

Google’s answer to the Amazon-owned live-streaming juggernaut Twitch is about to launch. YouTube Gaming, a new video game-focused vertical announced earlier this summer, is expected to launch sometime Wednesday, according to the BBC.

The new website and app will better organize the massive amount of gaming content that already resides on YouTube. More than 25,000 titles will have dedicated pages that gather the best live streams and videos related to each individual game in one place. The site will also have its own dedicated search results, making it easier to find gaming-related content.

The main attraction, though, is likely to be the livestreams, which YouTube says will be front and center in the new app. The Google-owned video site has been beefing up its livestreaming capabilities this year by boosting streams to 60 frames per second and enabling smoother fast-forwarding.

Gaming has become a key part of the online video scene in recent years. YouTube’s most-followed star is PewDiePie, a twentysomething Swedish gamer who commentates over popular games as he plays them in a format known as “Let’s Play.” Meanwhile, Twitch has become the go-to among gaming fans looking to watch live action or recordings of particular matches. Google was reportedly interested in snapping up Twitch last year to fulfill its live-streaming needs, but Amazon bought the company for $970 million last August instead.

YouTube Gaming will be available in the U.S. and the U.K. when it launches.

TIME natural disaster

Witness to a Disaster: Journalists Recall Covering Hurricane Katrina

A writer and a photographer who covered the disaster for TIME in 2005 reflect on the experience

In the days leading up to Aug. 29, 2005, the world was watching the Gulf Coast. On that day—ten years ago this weekend—Hurricane Katrina made landfall. It brought winds as strong as 125 mph, nearly a foot of rain, and a 25- to 28-ft. storm surge that destroyed levees in Louisiana, leaving thousands of New Orleans residents underwater and puncturing the soul of the south.

One of those people watching the gathering clouds was Chris Usher, who was at the time a freelance photographer covering the White House for TIME. He told his editor that he would be going down to the Gulf Coast whether the magazine wanted or not. She asked him to please wait, not to put himself in the storm’s way—but he wouldn’t listen.

“I was like, ‘No! I’ve got to be there when it happens, before it happens,'” he now recalls.

Usher packed up his “war-wagon”—a 1985 Toyota Land Cruiser equipped with a lift kit and a roof rack—and headed out. The very next day, he was driving on Interstate 55 in Jackson, Miss., when the storm hit. Driving through the weak side of the storm, he witnessed trees falling and heavy rain, but nothing about the journey hinted at the type of devastation he’d soon witness in New Orleans and in parts of Mississippi.

“Every day, I would walk amongst all of the wreckage and it was just insane. The smells—that’s one that you kind of wipe out and forget about, the smells, especially as it wore on, because I spent three weeks covering it, every day,” he says. “The first couple of days, you know, ‘So what?’ But then, in Gulfport, [Miss.], there were a whole bunch of semi-box containers, filled with chicken that got loose and that was rotting everywhere.”

Meanwhile, TIME’s Brian Bennett—who had reported from post-Sept. 11 conflict zones for TIME and had, at that point, recently returned from a stint as Baghdad bureau chief—was back in Washington, D.C. When Bennett heard reports that journalists on the ground were having difficulty accessing New Orleans, he called around to some helicopter rescue units he’d flown with in Iraq to see if any would let him tag along. A unit in Florida invited him to join them if he could make it to Jackson, Miss. That was how, a few days after the storm had swept through New Orleans, he found himself approaching the city by air. It was immediately clear that something was wrong. “Instead of streets you saw canals,” he recalls. “There was water in a lot of places and there was a lot of roof damage, a lot of debris, no car traffic, the streets were empty.”

Stories with Bennett’s reporting and Usher’s photographs populated the pages of TIME and TIME.com in the days and weeks that followed. In one, Bennett wrote that the helicopter crew wasn’t the only thing the experience shared with his time covering a mission near the Persian Gulf rather than the Gulf of Mexico. Seeing New Orleans was like seeing “Baghdad on the Bayou”:

The scene looks like a war zone, houses blown to splinters, cars abandoned on the roads, crowds of huddled refugees escaping a fallen city. It also smells like a war zone. Flying over the neighborhoods where water reaches the eaves of most houses, my nostrils burn with the fumes of diesel fuel, which swirls in rainbow iridescence in the fetid eddies below. It’s the dry areas of the city that smell the worst, where the water poured in fast and receded. There, the smell is unmistakably of death — the rotting contents of abandoned refrigerators, and the corpses of the drowned.

The scene on the ground is worse. We land on a patch of dry ground at New Orleans Lakefront Airport. For days, rescue teams like this one have been doggedly shuttling survivors from the putrid streets of the city to this desolate airstrip. Hundreds and hundreds of refugees plucked from parking garages, apartment buildings, highway overpasses, the roofs of their homes, whatever high ground they could find, are now stuck standing on the dark runway, waiting for someone to take them somewhere, anywhere but here.

Bennett, who is now a writer at the Los Angeles Times, quickly realized that the landscape of the city would be changed for many years to come. “It was really difficult to see these people’s homes destroyed, emptied out by the tide, these floodwaters that came in and swept out all their belongings, the mold taking over their homes and the places they’d lived for generations in some cases,” he says. On a visit to New Orleans last year, his prediction was proved true: though some neighborhoods seem untouched, he says that other places—even where rebuilding has happened—are just not the same.

For Usher, the emotional impact of covering the devastation was overwhelming. “In a weird way, I was very numb at first and then I was very highly engaged in it and it was draining,” he says. “Especially when you come up on something that’s kind of identifiable—maybe a family photo…or stuffed doll. And then you go ‘Man, that was some little girl’s favorite doll, what happened to her?'”

Even when he returned home after three weeks in New Orleans, feeling that his numbness meant he could no longer do the story justice, the experience made him want to continue documenting the lives of Katrina survivors. He and his wife spent the past decade traveling across the country, finding survivors of Katrina where they were and sharing their stories—particularly the less inherently dramatic ones, the stories that got less attention but might resonate with a larger number of people. The images he’s captured will be on display at a gallery in New Orleans this fall.

“Everyone goes for the jugular when it’s coverage. You want bang for the buck. You want that typical person who’s in the trailer and is not getting FEMA help and whatever. But there’s another side,” he says. “There’s always another side.”

(With reporting by Lily Rothman)

Read next: New Orleans, Here & Now

TIME Media

This Is Facebook’s Biggest Problem With Video Right Now

Video creators say it's costing them big bucks

Every year, YouTube creator Devin Graham makes his own version of a summer blockbuster: a live-action recreation of the high-flying parkour jumps in the video game series Assassin’s Creed. The elaborate short films regularly garner tens of millions of views for Graham’s production company, Devin Super Tramp, and can cost upwards of $50,000 each to produce.

This year’s version, set in London and published in July, has only received 2.5 million views on YouTube to date. But that’s not because people have suddenly grown tired of watching acrobats perform heart-stopping leaps across buildings. It’s because many people are seeing Graham’s videos on Facebook first, where they’re often posted without his consent. That’s a big problem for Graham, because unlike the official YouTube clips, the unlicensed Facebook uploads don’t put any money in his pocket.

“It does dramatically affect us as filmmakers, people doing what they love to do and as a full-on film production company,” says Graham.

This practice, which online video creators are calling “freebooting,” is taking off on Facebook, helping spur the site’s massive video growth. The social network is now attracting more than 4 billion video views per day, up from just one billion in September. It’s unclear how many of these views are coming from copyright-infringing content, but a recent study by ad agency Ogilvy and video analytics firm Tubular Labs found that about 72.5% of the top 1,000 Facebook videos in May were re-uploaded from other sources, an easy task with freely-available software.

Online video creators, who make money by selling advertising against their content, are increasingly frustrated with the problem. In June, George Strompolos, CEO of the multichannel network Fullscreen, said on Twitter that pirated versions of Fullscreen creators’ videos were racking up more than 50 million views on Facebook. This month, Hank Green, longtime YouTube vlogger and co-founder of the online video conference VidCon, penned a diatribe against Facebook’s video policies, arguing that the social network’s preference for Facebook-native videos in its News Feed algorithm encourages theft of creators’ YouTube videos.

It’s a little inexcusable that Facebook, a company with a market cap of $260 BILLION [sic], launched their video platform with no system to protect independent rights holders,” Green wrote.

YouTube itself faced similar issues in its earliest days, with users easily able to upload and search for pirated versions of television shows to the site for free. Viacom sued YouTube for more than $1 billion in 2007 for copyright infringement, shorty after the video site had been bought by Google. The case was eventually settled out of court, but it helped spur YouTube to create Content ID, a copyright-flagging system that lets rights holders either remove unlicensed copies of their content or monetize those unauthorized videos by selling ads against them. YouTube has made more than $1 billion in payments to more than 8,000 rights holders using the Content ID system so far.

Green and other YouTube creators are now calling on Facebook to create a similar copyright-flagging system. It’s been the online video natives adept at making viral content who have been most hurt by freebooting, as Facebook Page owners lift videos of adorable animals, extreme sports and other highly-shareable content to boost their own social media audiences. Collectively, these creators helped YouTube generate an estimated $5.6 billion in advertising revenue in 2013, and the biggest stars now rake in millions of dollars per year. But they still lack the clout of the traditional media giants who initially compelled YouTube to clean up its act.

“Facebook pages aren’t stealing content that advertisers would even think of as copyrighted because it’s not made by legacy media,” Green told TIME in an interview. “That’s part of why this has been such an easy thing for Facebook to get away with for so long. It doesn’t feel like copyrighted content. But it is, and it’s a big deal for the creators who do this professionally and have their content being stolen every day and getting tens of millions of views.”

In an emailed statement, a Facebook spokesperson said the company uses a system called Audible Magic to identify copyright-infringing videos. The social network also has a system whereby users can flag individual freebooted videos, though by the time a video has been removed it has often already garnered millions of views. Users who make repeated IP violations may also see their accounts suspended. Facebook also says it’s working on new features “to help [intellectual property] owners identify and manage potential infringing content.” Details could be announced later this summer.

The pressure to create a more comprehensive system is likely to increase as Facebook courts more video creators and begins sharing ad revenue with them. In July the social network announced that it’s launching a revenue-sharing program with select video partners including the NBA, Funny or Die and Hearst. “Media companies don’t create content to have it ripped by somebody else and not receive their rightful share of revenue or data from that,” says Rich Raddon, co-founder of the digital media rights management company ZEFR.

For now, creators are simply waiting for a better solution to arrive as they continue to depend on their fans to help them spot unlicensed copies of their videos. “All of a sudden we’re competing against our own video for views,” says Graham. “It’s a real struggle.”

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