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Police case filed against Netflix executives in India over ‘A Suitable Boy’ kissing scene

Netflix, which has invested more than $500 million to gain a foothold in India in recent years, is slowly finding out what all could upset some people in the world’s second-largest internet market: Apparently everything.
A police case has been filed this week against two top executives of the American streaming service in India after a leader of the governing party objected to some scenes in a TV series.
The show, “A Suitable Boy,” is an adaptation of the award-winning novel by Indian author Vikram Seth that follows the life of a young girl. It has a scene in which …

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Original Content podcast: ‘The Crown’ introduces its Princess Diana

“The Crown,” Netflix’s lavish historical drama about the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, has returned for a fourth season that focuses on Elizabeth’s relationship with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and on Prince Charles’ troubled marriage to Diana, Princess of Wales.

We’ve had conflicting opinions about the show’s past seasons, and the new season hasn’t exactly settled those disagreements, as we explain on the latest episode of the Original Content podcast.

Anthony and (especially) Jordan remain fans of the show, and they found season four to be particularly compelling. Yes, the monarchy is a little ridiculous and “The Crown” does have a tendency to simplify real-world events, but its retelling of the Charles-Diana relationship is heartbreaking, and it also takes the time to show some of the damage wrought by Thatcher’s policies.

Darrell, on the other hand, remains a skeptic, with little patience for all the attention paid to the royal family. He was particularly exasperated by the show’s deviation from historical reality, and by performances (particularly Gillian Anderson as Thatcher) that felt more like cheesy, “Saturday Night Live”-style imitations.

In addition to reviewing the show, we also discuss this week’s announcement that “Wonder Woman 1984” will be premiering in both theaters and on HBO Max on December 25.

You can listen to our review in the player below, subscribe using Apple Podcasts or find us in your podcast player of choice. If you like the show, please let us know by leaving a review on Apple. You can also follow us on Twitter or send us feedback directly. (Or suggest shows and movies for us to review!)

If you’d like to skip ahead, here’s how the episode breaks down:
0:00 Intro
0:30 “Wonder Woman 1984” discussion
10:45 “The Crown” Season 4 review (mild spoilers)

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Original Content podcast: ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ is the historical chess drama we need right now

On paper, “The Queen’s Gambit” might not sound like a compelling drama: Based on a novel by Walter Tevis, the Netflix series tells the story of Beth Harmon as she rises through the world of competitive chess, eventually taking on the world champion from the Soviet Union.

But on the latest episode of the Original Content podcast, your hosts are unanimous in their love for the series. We talk a bit about some of the flaws (a setup-heavy first episode, the unsatisfying treatment of Beth’s friend Jolene), but for the most part, we’re happy to spend our time praising the show.

Some of that has to do with the period setting — “The Queen’s Gambit” traces Beth’s life through the 1950s and ’60s, with some delightfully retro sets and costumes, along with a clear-eyed approach towards the condescension and sexism that Beth faces in her early matches.

At the same time, it’s Beth (played by Anya Taylor-Joy) who pulls you through all eight episodes as they depict her complex relationship with her foster mother, her struggles with substance abuse and her friendships with other chess players. While Beth has a handful traits you’ll recognize from other difficult geniuses portrayed on-screen, she’s ultimately too complex to boil down to a single idea or logline.

And while you don’t need to know much about chess to enjoy “The Queen’s Gambit,” the show’s focus on character and personality allows it to depict competitive chess in a way that is, in fact, thrilling.

You can listen to our review in the player below, subscribe using Apple Podcasts or find us in your podcast player of choice. If you like the show, please let us know by leaving a review on Apple. You can also follow us on Twitter or send us feedback directly. (Or suggest shows and movies for us to review!)

f you’d like to skip ahead, here’s how the episode breaks down:
0:00 Intro
4:28 “The Queen’s Gambit” review
34:11 “The Queen’s Gambit” spoiler discussion

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Daily Crunch: Netflix tests a linear video channel

Netflix takes an old-fashioned approach for its latest feature, Amazon plans a new data center in India and we review the PlayStation 5. This is your Daily Crunch for November 6, 2020.

The big story: Netflix tests a linear video channel

Today in surprising product strategies: Netflix is testing a linear channel in France called Netflix Direct, according to Variety.

To be clear, it’s not a regular TV channel but rather something you access on Netflix’s website. But like a broadcast or cable channel, it ditches streaming’s on-demand side. Instead, you watch whatever movie or TV show is playing right now.

Netflix previously tested a Shuffle button, so apparently it’s very interested in exploring a viewer experience where you just turn the TV on and veg out. The service says it’s testing this in France because “many viewers like the idea of programming that doesn’t require them to choose what they are going to watch.”

The tech giants

Review: Sony’s PlayStation 5 is here, but next-generation gaming is still on its way — Devin Coldewey writes that the new generation of consoles is both a hard and an easy sell.

Amazon to invest $2.8 billion to build its second data center region in India — The investment will allow Amazon to launch an AWS Cloud region in Hyderabad by mid-2022.

Steve Bannon’s show pulled off Twitter and YouTube over calls for violence — Bannon had his show suspended from Twitter and an episode removed by YouTube after calling for violence against FBI director Christopher Wray and Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Startups, funding and venture capital

Challenger bank Starling is out raising a new £200M funding round — Having raised £363 million to date, including a £100 million state-aid grant, Starling now boasts 1.9 million customers.

Chinese autonomous vehicle startup Pony.ai hits $5.3 billion valuation — The company has raised more than $1 billion since its founding, including $400 million from Toyota.

Provizio closes $6.2M seed round for its car safety platform using sensors and AI — The startup has a “five-dimensional” sensory platform that supposedly perceives, predicts and prevents car accidents in real time and beyond the line-of-sight.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

Startups making meat alternatives are gaining traction worldwide — New partnerships with global chains like McDonald’s in Hong Kong, the launch of test kitchens in Israel and new financing rounds for startups in Sydney and Singapore point to abounding opportunities.

Software companies are reporting a pretty good third quarter — It’s great news for startups looking for capital heading into 2021.

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

Everything else

Europe urges e-commerce platforms to share data in fight against coronavirus scams — The concern here is not only consumers being ripped off, but also the real risk of harm if people buy a product that does not actually protect them as claimed.

Elon Musk’s Tesla tequila will run you $250 a bottle — Sure, why not.

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.

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Disney+ UX teardown: Wins, fails and fixes

Disney announced earlier this month that it’s going all-in on streaming media.

As part of this new strategy, the company is undergoing a major reorganisation of its media and entertainment business that will focus on developing productions that will debut on its streaming and broadcast services.

This will include merging the company’s media businesses, ads and distribution, and Disney+ divisions so that they’ll now operate under the same business unit.

As TechCrunch’s Jonathan Shieber reports, Disney’s announcement follows a significant change to its release schedule to address new realities, including a collapsing theatrical release business; production issues; and the runaway success of its Disney+ streaming service — all caused or accelerated by the national failure to effectively address the COVID-19 pandemic.

So what better time than now to give Disney+ the Extra Crunch user experience teardown treatment. With the help of Built for Mars founder and UX expert Peter Ramsey, we highlight some of the things Disney+ gets right and things that should be fixed. They include zero distractions while signing up, “the power of percentages,” and the importance of designing for trackpad, mouse and touch outside of native applications.

Zero distractions while signing up

If the user is trying to complete a very specific task — such as making a payment — don’t distract them. They’re experiencing event-driven behaviour.

The win: Disney have almost entirely removed any kind of distractions when signing up. This includes the header and footer. They want you to stay on-task.

Image Credits: Disney+

Steve O’Hear: This seems like a very easy win but one we don’t see as often as perhaps we should. Am I right that most sign-up flows aren’t this distraction-free and why do you think that is?

Peter Ramsey: Yeah, it’s such an easy win. Sometimes you see sign-up screens that have Google Adwords on it, and I think, “You’re risking the user getting distracted and leaving for what, half a penny?” If I had to guess why more companies don’t utilise this technique, it’s probably just because they don’t want to deal with the technical hassle of hiding a bunch of elements.

The power of percentages

Only use percentages when it makes sense. 80% off sounds like a lot, but 3% doesn’t. Percentages can be a great way of making a discount seem larger than it actually is, but sometimes it can have the reverse effect. This is because people are generally bad at accurately estimating discounts. “What’s 13% off £78?”

The fail: If you sign up to a year of Disney+, then you’re offered 16% free. But 16% isn’t easy to calculate in your head — so people guess. And sometimes, their guesses may be less than the actual value of the discount.

The fix: In this instance, it would be far more compelling (and require less mental arithmetic), if it was marketed as “60 days free.” Sixty days is both easy to understand and easy to assign value to.

Image Credits: Disney+

Percentages may be harder to process or evaluate in isolation as an end user but they are easy to compare with each other i.e., we all know 25% off is better than 10% off. Aren’t you advocating obscuring the actual saving in favour of what sounds better on a case-by-case basis and therefore actually working against the end user? Of course I’m playing devils advocate a little here.

So, it’s actually a really complex dilemma, and there’s no “easy” answer — this would probably make a great dinner time conversation. Yes, if you’re offering two discounts, then a percentage may be the easiest way for people to compare them.

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Original Content podcast: It’s hard to resist the silliness of ‘Emily in Paris’

“Emily in Paris,” a new series on Netflix, has provoked skeptical responses from actual Parisians who are happy to point out the abundant clichés in its story of a young American (played by Lily Collins) who takes a last-minute transfer to a marketing agency in Paris.

Some fairly obvious culture clash moments ensue, along with equally implausible storylines where Emily’s extremely basic ideas about social media are treated as controversial and groundbreaking by her employer.

And yet, as we discuss on the latest episode of the Original Content podcast, we actually found the show delightful — or at the very least, highly watchable.

Yes, the show’s Paris is a fantasy, but it’s a fantasy that we’re happy to visit, particularly now. Yes, most of the show’s characters are basically cartoons, but they’re entertaining and fun cartoons. And at the end of the day, we’re all suckers for a slick, escapist romantic comedy, which is exactly what “Emily in Paris” delivers.

You can listen to our review in the player below, subscribe using Apple Podcasts or find us in your podcast player of choice. If you like the show, please let us know by leaving a review on Apple. You can also follow us on Twitter or send us feedback directly. (Or suggest shows and movies for us to review!)

And if you’d like to skip ahead, here’s how the episode breaks down:
0:00 Intro
0:31 “Emily in Paris” review
30:43 “Emily in Paris” spoiler discussion

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How Roblox completely transformed its tech stack

And now has full control of its technological destiny

Picture yourself in the role of CIO at Roblox in 2017.

At that point, the gaming platform and publishing system that launched in 2005 was growing fast, but its underlying technology was aging, consisting of a single data center in Chicago and a bunch of third-party partners, including AWS, all running bare metal (nonvirtualized) servers. At a time when users have precious little patience for outages, your uptime was just two nines, or less than 99% (five nines is considered optimal).

Unbelievably, Roblox was popular in spite of this, but the company’s leadership knew it couldn’t continue with performance like that, especially as it was rapidly gaining in popularity. The company needed to call in the technology cavalry, which is essentially what it did when it hired Dan Williams in 2017.

Williams has a history of solving these kinds of intractable infrastructure issues, with a background that includes a gig at Facebook between 2007 and 2011, where he worked on the technology to help the young social network scale to millions of users. Later, he worked at Dropbox, where he helped build a new internal network, leading the company’s move away from AWS, a major undertaking involving moving more than 500 petabytes of data.

When Roblox approached him in mid-2017, he jumped at the chance to take on another major infrastructure challenge. While they are still in the midst of the transition to a new modern tech stack today, we sat down with Williams to learn how he put the company on the road to a cloud-native, microservices-focused system with its own network of worldwide edge data centers.

Scoping the problem

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