Apple TV+, now one year old, looks poised for growth

Apple TV+ got off to a slow start, but Apple’s position allows for that — and it’s had a great deal to celebrate of late.

When Apple TV officially launched on November 1, 2019, Apple’s long-awaited streaming TV service appeared underwhelming to many observers, a view that stuck well into 2020.

Of the shows that arrived at launch from Apple TV+, none were really cultural breakthroughs, nor were any of the series that followed in the months afterward. Sure, Apple TV+ could point to some creative successes in its first few months, but nothing that really made any real headway.

Nothing Apple put on Apple TV+ made as much of an impact as The Mandalorian, the Star Wars-associated show that Disney+ launched right out of the gate. Competition from new streaming services proliferated throughout the spring and summer of 2020, and when the coronavirus led to millions of households being stuck at home, it was Netflix’s Tiger King that dominated the cultural conversation, not anything on Apple TV+.

However, Apple TV+ has benefited from an impressive hot streak of good news throughout the spring and summer of 2020. It had a couple of series break through, it acquired some impressive movies and shows, and it’s gotten into business with some major talents. And after a pause due to the pandemic, production has resumed on several of the service’s important shows.

Heading into year two, Apple TV+ suddenly looks to be on the upswing.

Jacob and Ted

They may not be Mandalorian-sized hits, but Apple appears to have broken through in 2020 with a pair of shows. Defending Jacob, the mystery and legal procedural starring Captain America actor Chris Evans, was seen as the most popular show for Apple TV+ in the early going.

Chris Evans and Jaeden Martell on 'Defending Jacob'

Chris Evans and Jaeden Martell on “Defending Jacob”

Defending Jacob, unfortunately for Apple, was a limited series, one that ended in such a way that future seasons are practically impossible. However, that’s far from the case with Apple’s other success, Ted Lasso.

Apple TV+, in its first year, got into business with A-list stars, Oscar winners, and creators of great accomplishment. But the show that connected like no other is a half-hour comedy starring a former Saturday Night Live performer and occasional movie actor, about an American football coach leading a soccer club in England.

Ted Lasso, which is based on a series of TV commercials from when NBC started broadcasting the English Premier League in 2013, is undeniably connecting with audiences, due in part to its ethos of unrelenting optimism. Tim Cook said as much, on Apple’s quarterly earnings call on October 29.

“Apple TV+ continues to impress, from fan favorites like Ted Lasso, which has won a worldwide audience with its hopeful tone during challenging times, to critical and award praise, including a Primetime Emmy for Billy Crudup in The Morning Show,” Cook said on the call, which otherwise was light on new information about Apple TV+.

Ted Lasso not only received a second season, but it’s also been renewed for a third, becoming the second Apple TV+ series, after Dickinson, to get a second renewal.

Ratings? What ratings?

The cast of

The cast of “Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet”

As is often the case with measures of streaming TV audiences, there are no “official” figures in terms of viewership for Apple TV+ shows. Apple has never released them — nor has it released any subscriber numbers. There are no neutral arbiters with universally accepted authoritative numbers about the size of such audiences.

Nielsen recently began releasing weekly ratings figures for streaming TV shows, although Apple TV+ has not yet been included in those ratings. There are, however, various third party research firms and other websites that put out such data.

The “streaming TV guide” Realgood, in early October, released a ranking of the most-watched Apple TV+ shows in the third quarter, which listed Ted Lasso as the most watched series on the platform, with 18.4 percent of the total share of streams. The Morning Show was second, with 15.8 percent, and Defending Jacob third with 10.4 percent. They were followed by See, Mythic Quest, Home Before Dark, Servant, For All Mankind, Central Park, and Little America.

Apple rival Disney+ may have had a big hit with The Mandalorian, which returned at the end of October with its second season, but aside from the one-shot movie Hamilton, Disney’s service hasn’t had another original hit since.

Analyst Rich Greenfield of Lightshed Management, who covers the streaming media world extensively, said on Twitter in early October that “Apple TV+ has meaningfully outperformed Disney+ in year one in terms of original programming, [especially] programming for anyone over the age of 10. [Eddy Cue] and the Apple TV Plus team do not get enough credit, [especially] with no catalog or history in content production.”

What’s in the Apple TV+ pipeline?

Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert

Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert

This fall, in addition to its original shows, Apple has released the A24 collaboration On the Rocks, an acclaimed Bill Murray movie from director Sofia Coppola that’s garnered Oscar buzz, and also Bruce Springsteen’s Letter to You, an exceptionally well-mounted making-of documentary about The Boss’ new album. The latter, which had a tie-in with the new Apple Music TV, shows the potential of what Apple TV+ can do with music-oriented programming.

The good news for Apple TV+ has also come from announcements about future projects and talent deals. Throughout the summer and fall, seemingly not a week has gone by without Apple announcing a major deal of some kind.

Apple has acquired some movies that had been slated for theatrical releases pre-pandemic, most notably Tom Hanks’ Greyhound, while it also landed Emancipation, a historical thriller with Will Smith that’s set to arrive in 2021.

Apple landed Killers of the Flower Moon, Martin Scorsese’s next film, back in May, and announced a separate first-look deal with Scorsese’s production company in August.

Leonardo DiCaprio, Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro, of

Leonardo DiCaprio, Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro, of “Killers of the Flower Moon”

The many-time Emmy winner Julia Louis-Dreyfus, A-list movie star Leonardo DiCaprio, and the acclaimed actor Idris Elba are among other huge names who have signed productions deals with Apple this year. Apple also recently signed up movie stars Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne to star in a comedy series called Platonic.

Then, at the end of October, Apple announced that it will host Jon Stewart’s TV comeback, signing a deal to produce a current events series hosted by the former Daily Show host, as well as other shows Stewart will produce. If Stewart, with his new show, can capture the zeitgeist at anywhere near the level he did back in his Comedy Central days, that’s big news for Apple.

Apple’s penchant for talent-friendliness can have its pitfalls. Its documentary series Dear was essentially about famous people being told by fans how awesome they are, in a way that wasn’t the slightest bit entertaining or illuminating. Some shows, like Amazing Stories with Steven Spielberg and Little Voice with J.J. Abrams, invoked a particular big name in their marketing, while those people ended up having little to do with the series creatively.

But clearly, Apple has money to wave at creators. There’s no reason to think these big-name talent deals won’t continue, and it also appears those creators have gotten some freedom.

There were fears around the time of Apple TV+’s launch that it would avoid controversial or adult content, or amount to an “expensive NBC,” as was reportedly joked about internally.

The shows, so far, have included some amounts of violence and sexuality, and with projects on the way from the likes of Martin Scorsese and Seth Rogen, there’s likely more of that on the way. While a least a couple of shows have seen showrunners replaced, including The Morning Show, there have been no stories reported from behind the scenes suggesting Apple was heavy-handed with its influence in the executive suite when it comes to content.

Filling things out

Apple TV+'s

Apple TV+’s “Long Way Up”

A major knock on Apple TV+ when it launched was that it offered subscribers so much less than its rivals did. While Disney+ had the back catalogs of Disney animation, Pixar, Star Wars, Marvel, and more available at launch, Apple TV+ had only its handful of originals. The newer services, especially HBO Max, have also arrived with massive back catalogs of classic movies.

A year on, that’s started to change. There is, of course, more original content from Apple that’s been added over time. There were also reports in May that Apple had begun talks to add older back catalog content to the service.

There’s been no major move in that regard yet, although when Apple debuted the Ewan McGregor docuseries Long Way Up, it also obtained the rights to the two previous seasons of the series, which had been produced elsewhere. This also happened with Apple’s recent deal for the rights to the Peanuts holiday specials.

The potential for additional catalog content is something to watch for Apple TV+ as it enters Year 2.

Apple doesn’t have to depend on Apple TV+

Disney+

Disney+

Despite the catalog deficit, there is one big advantage Apple has over several of its streaming counterparts, such as Disney+, HBO Max and Peacock, one that’s become especially clear of late. Apple’s future, as a company, doesn’t depend in any way on its streaming service’s success.

Whether caused by the pandemic or longer-term troubles, many of Apple TV+’s rivals have their core businesses collapsing around them and need to lean on streaming to promise themselves a future.

Disney recently announced a reorganization meant to reorient their entire company around its streaming strategy. AT&T is clearly depending heavily on the success of HBO Max. Comcast, owner of Peacock, is losing cable subscribers at a significant rate.

Apple, on the other hand, has core businesses that are doing much better. It doesn’t own theme parks, a movie studio, a cable or satellite business, or other such declining assets. Therefore, Apple isn’t in a position where it has to use Apple TV+ to paper over failures in other areas of its business.

In addition, as evidenced by that yearlong spree of production deals, Apple doesn’t appear to be holding back on spending when it comes to Apple TV+.

Apple TV+: Year 2

Hailee Steinfeld as Emily Dickinson on Apple TV+'s

Hailee Steinfeld as Emily Dickinson on Apple TV+’s “Dickinson”

While production was delayed for several months on most Apple TV+ shows, many of them are back before the cameras. Dickinson will debut its second season in January, with The Morning Show and other launch shows likely to return at some point in 2021.

Most of the first batch of shows were renewed by Apple, with other big series, such the high-budget adaption of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation and the Tom Hanks/Steven Spielberg-produced Masters of the Air, are also on the way in year 2, with the latter getting production underway in the spring.

Apple TV+ hasn’t yet matched, say, Netflix when it comes to audience size or cultural ubiquity. But there’s no doubt, after one year, that the service is ahead of where Netflix was a year after it launched its streaming service.

From popular shows to talent deals to a robust pipeline, every indication is that its future is bright. And, even if the near-term is dim, Apple has the patience and wherewithal to wait out the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

You can start a venture fund if you’re not rich; here’s how

For years — decades, even — there was little question about whether you could become a venture capitalist if you weren’t comfortable financially. You couldn’t. The people and institutions that invest in venture funds want to know that fund managers have their own “skin in the game,” so they’ve long required a sizable check from the investor’s own pocket before jumping aboard. Think 2% to 3% of the fund’s total assets, which often equates to millions of dollars.

In fact, five years ago, I wrote that the real obstacle to becoming a venture capitalist has less to do with gender than with financial inequality. I focused then on women, who are paid less (especially Black and Hispanic women), and who possess less wealth. But the same is true of anyone of lesser means.

Consider that one or two partners trying to raise a $50 million debut fund have to come up with $1.5 million. They’ll collect management fees off that $50 million fund — the standard is 2% annually for the fund’s investment period — but they have to use that $1 million per year to pay for everyone’s salaries, along with rent, auditing, legal costs and back-office administration fees. That doesn’t leave much, which is why having something to start with helps.

Thankfully, things are changing, with more ways to help aspiring VCs raise that initial capital commitment. None of these approaches can guarantee success in raising a fund, but they’re paths that other VCs have effectively used in the past when starting out.

1.) Find investors, i.e. limited partners, who are willing to take less than 3% and maybe even less than 1% of the overall fund size being targeted. You’ll likely find fewer investors as that “commit” shrinks. But for example Joanna Rupp, who runs the $1.1 billion private equity portfolio for the University of Chicago’s endowment, suggests that both she and other managers she knows are willing to be flexible based on the “specific situation of the GP.”

Says Rupp, “I think there are industry ‘norms,’ but we haven’t required a [general partner] commitment from younger GPs when we have felt that they don’t have the financial means.”

Bob Raynard, founder of the fund administration firm Standish Management, echoes the sentiment, saying that a smaller general partner commitment in exchange for special investor economics is also fairly common. “You might see a reduced management fee for the LP for helping them or reduced carry or both, and that has been done for years.”

2.) Learn more about what are called management fee offsets, which investors in venture funds often determine to be reasonable. These aren’t uncommon, says Michael Kim of Cendana Capital, a firm that has stakes in dozens of seed stage funds, because they also offer tax advantages (though the IRS has talked about doing away with these).

How do these work? Say your “commit” was $1 million over 10 years (the standard life of a fund). Instead of trying to come up with $1 million that you presumably don’t have, you can offset up to 80% of that, putting in $200,000 instead but reducing your management fees by that same amount over time so that it’s a wash and you’re still getting credit for the entire $1 million. You’re basically converting fee income into the investment you’re supposed to make.

3.) Use your existing portfolio companies as collateral. Kim has had at least two managers whose brands have come to be highly regarded launch a fund not with a “commit” but rather by bringing to the table stakes in startups they’d funded as angel investors.

In both of these cases, it was a great deal for Kim, who says the companies were quickly marked up. For the fund managers’ part, it meant not having to put more of their own money into the funds.

4.) Make a deal with wealthier friends if you can. When Kim launched his fund of funds to invest in venture managers after working for years as a VC himself, he raised $1 million in working capital from six friends to get it off the ground. The money gave Kim, who had a mortgage at the time and young children, enough runway for two years. Obviously, your friends have to be willing to gamble on you, but sweeteners certainly help, too. In Kim’s case, he gave his friends a percentage of Cendana’s economics in perpetuity.

5.) Get a bank loan. Rupp said she would be uncomfortable if a GP’s commit was being funded through a bank loan for several reasons, including that there’s no guarantee a fund manager will make money on his or her fund, a loan adds risk on top of risk, and because should a manager need liquidity related to that loan, he or she might sell a strongly performing position too early.

That said, loans aren’t uncommon, says Raynard. He says banks with venture capital relationships like Silicon Valley bank and First Republic are typically happy to lend a fund manager a line of credit to help him or her to make capital calls, though he says it does depend on who else is involved with the fund. “As long as it’s a diverse group of LPs,” the banks are comfortable moving forward in exchange for winning over a new fund’s business, he suggests.

6.) Consider the merits of so-called front loading. This is a technique with which “more creating LPs can sometimes get comfortable,” says Kim. It’s also how investor Chris Sacca, now a billionaire, got started when he first turned to fund management. How does it work? Say a fund manager is getting paid a 2.5% management fee over the life of a 10-year fund. Over that decade, that amounts to 25% of the fund. Typically, management fees decline over time, to 2% and even slightly lower because you are typically no longer actively managing it but rather managing out the bets you’ve made in the first few years.

Some beginning managers blend that management fee — say it’s 20% over the fund’s duration — and pay themselves a higher percentage — say 5% for each of its first three years — until by the end of the fund’s life, the manager is receiving no management fee for it at all.

Without carry, that could mean no income if you aren’t yet seeing profits from your investments. But presumably — especially given pacing in recent years — you, the general partner, have raised another fund by the time that happens so have resources coming in from that second fund.

These are just a few of the ways to get started. There are other paths to take, too, notes Lo Toney of Plexo Capital — which, like Cendana Capital — has stakes in many venture funds. Just one of these is to structure to use a self-directed IRA to finance that GP “commit.” Another is to sell a portion of the management company or to sell a greater percentage of future profits and to use those proceeds, though VCs Charles Hudson of Precursor Ventures and Eva Ho of Fika Ventures avoided that path and suggested that first-time managers do the same if they can.

Either way, suggests Toney, a former partner with the Alphabet’s venture arm, GV, it’s important to know  one’s options but keep in mind, too, that what you start with may ultimately prove irrelevant.

Said Toney via email this week: “I have not seen any data on the front end of a VC’s career that wealth indicates future success.”

Judge blocks Trump plan to ban TikTok on Nov. 12

TikTokA federal judge sided with three TikTok stars who argued that President Trump’s executive order to ban TikTok infringes on their First Amendment rights.Judge Wendy Beetlestone of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on Friday issued a preliminary injunction halting the impending ban, scheduled to take effect on Nov. 12, saying that the three plaintiffs in the case “have demonstrated a clear likelihood of irreparable harm,” reports Variety.In the order, Beetlestone writes that as the government’s “own descriptions of the national security threat posed by the TikTok app are phrased in the hypothetical” she could not find that “the risk presented by the government outweighs the public interest in enjoining” the ban.

Read more…

TikTok stars got a judge to block Trump’s TikTok ban

TikTok has won another battle in its fight against the Trump administration’s ban of its video-sharing app in the U.S. — or, more accurately in this case, the TikTok community won a battle. On Friday, a federal judge in Pennsylvania has issued an injunction that blocked the restrictions that would have otherwise blocked TikTok from operating in the U.S. on November 12.

This particular lawsuit was not led by TikTok itself, but rather a group of TikTok creators who use the app to engage with their million-plus followers.

According to the court documents, plaintiff Douglas Marland has 2.7 million followers on the app; Alec Chambers has 1.8 million followers; and Cosette Rinab has 2.3 million followers. The creators argued – successfully as it turns out — that they would lose access to their followers in the event of a ban, as well as the “professional opportunities afforded by TikTok.” In other words, they’d lose their brand sponsorships — meaning, their income.

This is not the first time that the U.S. courts have sided with TikTok to block the Trump administration’s proposed ban over the Chinese-owned video sharing app. Last month, a D.C. judge blocked the ban that would have removed the app from being listed in U.S. app stores run by Apple and Google.

That ruling had not, however, stopped the Nov. 12 ban that would have blocked companies from providing internet hosting services that would have allowed TikTok to continue to operate in the U.S.

The Trump administration had moved to block the TikTok app from operating in the U.S. due to its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, claiming it was a national security threat. The core argument from the judge in this ruling was the “Government’s own descriptions of the national security threat posed by the TikTok app are phrased in the hypothetical.”

That hypothetical risk was unable to be stated by the Government, the Judge argued, to be such a risk that it outweighed the public interest. The interest, in this case, was the over 100 million users of TikTok and the creators like Marland, Chambers and Rinab that utilized it to spread “informational materials,” which allowed the Judge to rule that the ban would shut down a platform for expressive activity.

“We are deeply moved by the outpouring of support from our creators, who have worked to protect their rights to expression, their careers, and to help small businesses, particularly during the pandemic,” said Vanessa Pappas, Interim Global Head of TikTok, in a statement. “We stand behind our community as they share their voices, and we are committed to continuing to provide a home for them to do so,” she added.

The TikTok community coming to the rescue on this one aspect of the overall TikTok picture just elevates this whole story. Though the company has been relatively quiet through this whole process, Pappas has thanked the community several times for its outpouring of support. Though there were some initial waves of ‘grief’ on the app with creators frantically recommending people follow them on other platforms, that has morphed over time into more of a ‘let’s band together’ vibe. This activity coalesced around a big swell in voting advocacy on the platform, where many creators are too young to actually participate but view voting messaging as their way to participate.

TikTok has remained active in the product department through the whole mess, shipping elections guides and trying to ban Qanon conspiracy spread. Even as Pakistan banned and then un-banned the app.

Cough-scrutinizing AI shows major promise as an early warning system for COVID-19

Asymptomatic spread of COVID-19 is a huge contributor to the pandemic, but of course if there are no symptoms, how can anyone tell they should isolate or get a test? MIT research has found that hidden in the sound of coughs is a pattern that subtly, but reliably, marks a person as likely to be in the early stages of infection. It could make for a much-needed early warning system for the virus.

The sound of one’s cough can be very revealing, as doctors have known for many years. AI models have been built to detect conditions like pneumonia, asthma, and even neuromuscular diseases, all of which alter how a person coughs in different ways.

Before the pandemic, researcher Brian Subirana had shown that coughs may even help predict Alzheimer’s — mirroring results from IBM research published just a week ago. More recently, Subirana thought if the AI was capable of telling so much from so little, perhaps COVID-19 might be something it could suss out as well. In fact, he isn’t the first to think so.

He and his team set up a site where people could contribute coughs, and ended up assembling “the largest research cough dataset that we know of.” Thousands of samples were used to train up the AI model, which they document in an open access IEEE journal.

The model seems to have detected subtle patterns in vocal strength, sentiment, lung and respiratory performance, and muscular degradation, to the point where it was able to identify 100 percent of coughs by asymptomatic COVID-19 carriers and 98.5 percent of symptomatic ones, with a specificity of 83 and 94 percent respectively, meaning it doesn’t have large numbers of false positives or negatives.

“We think this shows that the way you produce sound, changes when you have COVID, even if you’re asymptomatic,” said Subirana of the surprising finding. However he cautioned that although the system was good at detecting non-healthy coughs, it should not be used as a diagnosis tool for people with symptoms but unsure of the underlying cause.

I asked Subirana for a bit more clarity on this point.

“The tool is detecting features that allow it to discriminate the subjects that have COVID from the ones that don’t,” he wrote in an email. “Previous research has shown you can pick up other conditions too. One could design a system that would discriminate between many conditions but our focus was on picking out COVID from the rest.”

For the statistics-minded out there, the incredibly high success rate may raise some red flags. Machine learning models are great at a lot of things, but 100 percent isn’t a number you see a lot, and when you do you start thinking of other ways it might have been produced by accident. No doubt the findings will need to be proven on other datasets and verified by other researchers, but it’s also possible that there’s simply a reliable tell in COVID-induced coughs that a computer listening system can hear quite easily.

The team is collaborating with several hospitals to build a more diverse dataset, but is also working with a private company to put together an app to distribute the tool for wider use, if it can get FDA approval.

Apple ordered to pay VirnetX $503M for infringing patents

A federal jury on Friday calculated Apple owes VirnetX $502.8 million for infringing on the patent holdings company’s intellectual property, the latest in a string of verdicts related to the serial filer.

The most recent verdict in Apple’s long-running legal war with VirnetX was handed down by a jury hearing the case in the patent holder-friendly U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.

In this particular complaint, VirnetX once again brandished its VPN on Demand IP, claiming Apple’s FaceTime protocol infringed on the invention. VirnetX initially asked for $700 million, while Apple argued a more reasonable royalty rate of 19 cents per unit would produce $113 million, reports Bloomberg. The jury landed on 84 cents per unit, the report said.

Today’s decision follows a partially successful appeal from Apple that found iPhone to infringe on two patents relating to the secure telecommunications technology. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit vacated infringement findings on two other patents, sending the case back to Texas.

VirnetX first filed against Apple in 2010, alleging infringement of four patents related to VPN on Demand technology. A federal jury ordered Apple to pay $625 million in 2016, but the decision was tossed out by a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit judge. That effectively split the case into two retrials.

Apple acknowledges AirPods Pro issues, will replace those that crackle and rattle

Are your AirPods Pro earbuds making weird noises? You’re not imagining it — and you’re not the only one.

Just a few months after Apple started shipping AirPods Pro, some users started noticing that one or both of their earbuds were rattling or crackling. The noises would reportedly get worse whenever the user moved, and would sometimes only develop after months of use.

Apple didn’t say too much about it at first, but would usually replace crackling earbuds if you took the time to hit up support. A few folks here at TechCrunch have had the rattle rear its head on our own AirPods Pro buds… only to have it pop up again in the replacements.

It seems the problem has become widespread enough for an official acknowledgement: today Apple launched an “AirPods Pro Service Program” (as first pointed out by Mark Gurman) specifically for swapping out crackling buds.

A newly published support page outlines the potential symptoms:

  • Crackling or static sounds that increase in loud environments, with exercise or while talking on the phone
  • Active Noise Cancellation not working as expected, such as a loss of bass sound, or an increase in background sounds, such as street or airplane noise

Apple notes that only units made before October 2020 are affected, suggesting they’ve fixed the issue in units now coming off the line. The support page repeatedly says faulty units will be “replaced” rather than “repaired” — so for the most part, it sounds like turnaround should be pretty quick.

Apple denies Pennsylvania ballot verification app days before election

Apple on Friday rejected an app designed to ensure ballots are being correctly counted in Pennsylvania, saying the software violates App Store privacy guidelines.

As noted by The Information, Apple’s decision arrives amid attempts to narrow ballot counting rules in battleground states, a strategy that could impact the outcome of the coming presidential election.Drive Turnout, which was approved by Google for distribution on Android, allows users to identify Pennsylvania residents in their iPhone Contacts and Facebook accounts by syncing those databases with the app. The software then conducts a ballot status check using publicly available information from the Pennsylvania state website. The site allows anyone to search for ballot status if they have a voter’s name, date of birth and county of residence. Users are able to reach out to contacts whose votes are in jeopardy of not being counted.

Read more…

AirPods Pro service program covers sound, noise cancellation issues

Apple on Friday initiated a service program for AirPods Pro models that exhibit sound reproduction issues or noise cancellation problems, offering free repair of affected units.

Called the “AirPods Pro Service Program for Sound Issues,” Apple’s repair initiative covers a limited number of devices manufactured before October 2020.

In a post detailing the program, Apple says it discovered a “small percentage” of AirPods Pro devices exhibit so-called “sound issues” that result in crackling or static sounds, as well as Active Noise Cancellation faults.

According to the support document, offending sounds might increase in loud environments, while a user is exercising or during phone conversations. A number of users have for complained about similar problems since the first firmware update for the headphones was released late last year, saying popping or crackling noises present when ANC is activated. Others have complained of humming noises or distorted audio. It is not clear if current program is designed to address those exact issues.

As for ANC, the program covers apparent faults such as a loss of bass or an unexpected increase in background sounds like airplane noise.

Those impacted can take their AirPods Pro unit to Apple or an Apple Authorized Service Provider for free service. Coverage includes replacement of individual earbuds or a complete set, depending on results of an authorized examination.

The program covers affected AirPods Pro for two years after first retail sale, Apple says. The company notes no other AirPods models are covered by the repair initiative.

Daily Crunch: Under Armour is selling MyFitnessPal

Under Armour gives up on one of its big acquisitions, Uber Eats faces complaints over its free delivery policy for Black restaurants and Facebook takes another step to limit QAnon-related content. This is your Daily Crunch for October 30, 2020.

The big story: Under Armour is selling MyFitnessPal

Five years after Under Armour acquired MyFitnessPal for $475 million, it’s selling the diet- and exercise-tracking app to investment firm Francisco Partners for $345 million. It’s also shutting down the Endomondo platform, which it acquired at the same time.

Under Armour says it’s making these moves so that it can focus its brand on its “target consumer – the Focused Performer.” However, the diminished price suggested there may be more going on here, perhaps the business likely suffering as companies like Peloton and Apple (with its upcoming Fitness+ service) hog the spotlight in the casual fitness category.

It’s also worth noting that Under Armour isn’t completely giving up on digital products — it will continue operating the MapMyFitness platform, including MapMyRun and MapMyRide.

The tech giants

Uber Eats faces discrimination allegations over free delivery from Black-owned restaurants — Uber says it has received more than 8,500 demands for arbitration as a result of it ditching delivery fees for some Black-owned restaurants via Uber Eats.

Facebook is limiting distribution of ‘save our children’ hashtag over QAnon ties — Over the past several months, these terms have provided a kind of innocuous cover for the popular online conspiracy theory.

Reliance Jio Platforms tops 400M subscribers, explores expanding services outside of India — The Facebook- and Google-backed telecom operator said its finances have improved, despite the pandemic.

Startups, funding and venture capital

Daimler invests in lidar company Luminar in push to bring autonomous trucks to highways — Luminar will also become a publicly traded company through its merger with special purpose acquisition company Gores Metropoulos.

Nestlé acquires healthy meal startup Freshly for up to $1.5B — Founded in 2015, Freshly is a New York City-based startup that delivers healthy meals to your home in weekly orders, which can then be prepared in a few minutes via microwave or oven.

B8ta remains bullish on IRL shopping with new acquisition — B8ta offers shelf space to unique digital products.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

New GV partner Terri Burns has a simple investment thesis: Gen Z — Burns is the firm’s youngest partner and the first Black woman to hold the role.

Is the Great 2020 Tech Rally slowing? — What happens if COVID-19, unrest and hyped valuations collide?

(Reminder: Extra Crunch is our membership program, which aims to democratize information about startups. You can sign up here.)

Everything else

Teachers are leaving schools. Will they come to startups next? — Teacher departures are a loss for public schools, but an opportunity for startups racing to win a share of the changing teacher economy.

Big tech’s ‘blackbox’ algorithms face regulatory oversight under EU plan — Major internet platforms will be required to open up their algorithms to regulatory oversight under proposals European lawmakers are set to introduce next month.

AOL founder Steve Case, involved early in Section 230, says it’s time to change it — “Having more of a dialogue between the innovators and the policymakers is actually going to be critical in this internet third wave,” Case told us.

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