Category Archives: Technology

Full Roku App is Back! (BETA)

To our loyal VidAngel customers,

 

I am coming to the end of my 7th year working on the engineering side of VidAngel, and to say it’s been a difficult road would be putting it mildly. But I don’t need to tell that to  any of you. I know from the hundreds of films and television episodes I’ve watched with my family that the technical experience of finding and viewing content on VidAngel always seems to trend somewhere between glitchy and impossible.

We are on the 6th iteration of trying to make families and the studios happy! We want to focus less on litigation and more on our customers.

Even with the herculean efforts of our technical teams, we realize that over the past few months things have changed for the worse, and it’s because we’ve failed on a couple fundamental tasks:

 

1)    We lost our focus on the transparency you need in order to trust us, and

2)    We have given your feedback about the direction our products are going far less weight than  we should have. 

 

So, as we try to right the ship as an engineering company, I thought it would be helpful to first give a bit of background. We often get questions asking how our technology works, and while every detail is publicly available, it isn’t an easy follow. So let’s change that.

 

For example, in order to watch a Netflix or Amazon title on VidAngel, we have to verify you have the rights, through one of those services, to view it. And in order to verify those rights, our systems need to “talk” with the systems from Amazon or Netflix. This works just like a web browser … in fact, it is a web browser. When you hit the “play” button in VidAngel, we create a web browser in the cloud that uses your specific Netflix or Amazon account to navigate to that title. From there we verify that your subscription is still active,  you’ve paid your rental/purchase fee, you’re in the right geographic location, or any other requirement that might be in place for you to legally be able to watch Amazon and Netflix content (and thus filter it).

 

Neither Amazon or Netflix is in the filtering business, and they have a vested interest in building their apps in ways that work for their goals, needs, and customers, without regard for what effects changes might have on a system like I described above. Changes to their websites may have adverse effects on how VidAngel’s systems communicate with those of Netflix or Amazon.

 

This would not be an issue if we did not always ask Amazon and Netflix if you have access to watch the content. We have taken enormous and continual care to prevent people from watching any title with VidAngel filters when these verifications aren’t rock solid. We know that, if we want the media industry to believe we are fighting for the individual and family right to watch however works best for them, we need to respect the decisions they make about their products and content as well. And this is one of the major reasons why the VidAngel playback experience is often so up-and-down. 

 

This brings us to the middle of March, just several months ago when we were at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. At some point early in that month, Amazon Prime Video deployed a change to their systems that fundamentally altered our ability to verify our customers’ rights to legally watch and filter a title from Amazon’s services. This in no way means that we had been doing anything improper or untoward, or even that we’d been using our cloud browsers to navigate their site incorrectly.It was just a change they needed to make, and we were faced with a choice. We could turn off our Amazon filtering services until we had adjusted them to work with their changes (given that choosing to operate and serve Amazon content without verifying every single user ownership was never an option we would consider), or we could accelerate the rollout of a new product we’d been working on, one that communicated with Amazon and Netflix’s apps through your mobile phone rather than through a browser in the cloud.

 

Out of expediency, we chose the latter option. We had been working on the prototypes for several months already, and we wanted to get it into the hands of our customers as quickly as possible. Our new app is different in many ways, but one of the most crucial differences is that, by using your phone and your home wifi network, we can communicate even more clearly with Netflix and Amazon as to who is requesting to watch and filter a given title. It also opens the door for a wide range of your most requested  features to be developed, like community-based filters, closed caption and multilingual filtering, profile-based “allow/block” lists, and offline, “DVR-like” viewing/filtering. 

 

And this is how we found ourselves, VidAngelists, in a situation where we were offering a beta mobile app, a web app that only worked with Netflix, and some broken television apps that my 6-year-old daughter whined about whenever she discovered, every morning, that she could no longer watch Shrek on her “Rokuangel” (as I force her to call it).

 

We are committed to keeping you as informed as we can about our company’s direction. We also need your feedback to help guide that direction, which leads me to address a second question in my final few paragraphs: how can we at VidAngel take our fingers out of our ears and better listen to our customers?

 

Our television casting feature, a core feature of our new mobile apps, is something I’m very passionate about. Casting was what brought me to VidAngel, and after 6 and a half years, when we rolled out our new casting technology that can  talk to any family’s devices, I remember saying to myself, “This is incredible. Why would anyone ever want to install an app on their Roku or Apple TV again? You can do it all from your phone!” Yet now, with hindsight that’s 20/20, I realize I wasn’t really seeing the forest for the trees. Many of you don’t want to use the phone as your remote. Whether it’s because you’re like me and have younger kids who want to start their own shows, or you have teenagers who you can’t trust to set their filters properly, or you just want to relax on the couch, distraction free while your phone is in the other room, we hear your complaints. Thank you for your feedback over the past few months and telling us how important your specific VidAngel viewing experience is.

 

With that said, we’ve made a monumental push over the past few weeks and are now able to release two significant new(ish) products:

 

1)    An updated, still-a-work-in-progress-but-getting-there, version of the VidAngel Roku app that can work with your mobile device. This way you can, after a one-time sync between the two devices, browse, search, and watch on Roku the way you’ve always done in the past, with full access sans your mobile phone, you can find out more details at https://www.vidangel.com/roku and 

2)  A new chrome extension that will restore full access to enable your computer to connect to streaming services (no mobile syncing required!) and watch right in a browser.

 

Additionally, we are already hard at work to bring the same new features to the AppleTVs, FireTVs, and Android TVs out there.

 

Your patience is much appreciated, but even more so we appreciate your trust. We want to continue to make entertainment good for your home, and we can only do that once we’ve proven we deserve a place in  your home in the first place. 

 

Jarom McDonald

VP of Research and Innovation

VidAngel

Letter to Shareholders

May 5, 2020

 

Friends of VidAngel,

VidAngel exists to help you make entertainment good for your home. 

What is good for each of our homes is a personal choice. We’ve long known the motto “Be our guest.” At VidAngel, we believe “We’re your guest.” 

After all, it’s your home.

You choose how to watch. In 2013, we started developing software that was essentially a pre-programmed streaming remote. We have now gone through 6 successive attempts to build your skipping software. In each iteration, we hit a wall. We were sued over iteration number four, struggled through bankruptcy, and today Disney continues to oppose iteration number 6. We’re continuing to push through that for you, and in the meantime, we’re providing access to arguably the most exciting content of the COVID-19 era, produced by Netflix, Amazon and other streaming services. Watch however the BLEEP you want.

You choose what we make. In 2017, armed with the data around the skip choices families are making, we launched Dry Bar Comedy. Over 300 comedians have now performed, fine-tuning their sets to the audience and receiving  bonuses for better serving you. Additionally, with the help of 19,000 of you, we funded, produced, and distributed the award-winning dramatic series The Chosen

And you have responded. In April 2020, our business generated 5X the revenue of our skipping software pre-injunction. Dry Bar has over 2 billion views. The Chosen is offered globally, in dozens of languages, has tens of millions of views, and millions of dollars in revenue via its own app. It has been the #1 series on VidAngel for months. 

We hear you. 

Five. Times. Revenue.

 

So what’s next?

After emerging from bankruptcy (we hope during the June 18, 2020 confirmation hearing), we plan to raise up to $50 million to grow VidAngel. 

Our goal with these funds will be:

  1. Give our loyal investors, without whom we would not exist today, a chance to liquidate some of their shares (some people may need cash due to COVID-19 and won’t be able to wait for a potentially larger return). 
  2. Back many more creator projects, like The Chosen and Dry Bar Comedy, by building creator tools for:
    • – daily financial reporting and monthly payments (currently quarterly)
    • – better audience interaction (e.g. live streams, merchandise, uploads, notifications)
    • – creator cross-promotion (i.e. a simple way for The Chosen and Dry Bar to promote new creators’ projects with their massive audiences)
  3. Build better control over more content, allowing you, for example, to:
    • – find the very best content to watch or the best future content to back (rather than the primary focus being on skipping objectionable content)
    • – say exactly what kids are allowed to browse (specific list of approved titles with pre-set skips)
    • – watch with skips without having to wait for us to tag it (say hello to SkipBot and community made skips)

Thank you for trusting VidAngel as a guest in your home. We aim to build an entertainment company that centers around your kingdom, not ours. The best days are yet ahead.

 

Onward,

Neal Harmon

Co-founder and CEO

 

Click here for VidAngel’s SEC Reports

VUDU Family Play Mode

Last week, Walmart’s VUDU announced a new feature called “Family Play Mode” which automatically skips sex, violence, profanity, and drug use in 500 movies. This is the most significant development in parental and family content skipping since we launched VidAngel in 2013. 

Here is what we know so far:

– They offer Disney content

– They are supporting modern streaming devices like iOS, Android, XBOX One and a few smart TVs 

– They offer 500 PG and PG-13 titles

Some backlash:

– Filmmaker discussion boards online have exploded in shock and anger.

– Commenters across social media are predicting that Family Play will be shut down by pressure from the DGA.

– When Sony announced a similar initiative back in 2017, they were attacked by the Directors Guild of America and leading Hollywood content-makers. Eventually, due to significant pressure, took “Clean Version” down.

We congratulate VUDU and Walmart on being the first major player to catch the vision of skipping. 

How you can help Senator Mike Lee update the Family Movie Act

Senator Mike Lee is preparing to introduce an update to the Family Movie Act in the Senate. This important message from the CEO of VidAngel, Neal Harmon, and a letter from the President of the Parents Television Council, Tim Winter, explains how you can help.


Video Message from VidAngel:
(Can’t see the video? Click here.)


Letter from Parents Television Council:

As a parent, nothing is more important than protecting a child’s innocence.

And, as a veteran of the entertainment industry, the truth is that there are many in Hollywood who are actively engaged in creating content that strips that innocence away from our kids, damaging lives forever.

You know this already, that’s why you use and support VidAngel, because its incredible content filtering technology protects your family. The Parents Television Council wants to protect your right to filter out the graphic sex, violence and profanity that is so pervasive in today’s media, but I need your help.

Hollywood is fighting to remove your parental right to use content filtering technology for modern streaming devices.  They’ve convinced judges that you shouldn’t be able to use modern technologies to protect your family from material that you find harmful or offensive.

If we don’t act now, and if we don’t act together, we may lose that right forever. Please contact your senator to support your right to filter explicit content.

Legislation is being considered in Washington DC that will block the negative forces in Hollywood from taking away your right to use filtering technologies like VidAngel.  If that legislative remedy is to succeed, we need bipartisan support from the most influential legislators. That’s why your senator needs to hear from you today.

HOW YOU CAN PROTECT KIDS RIGHT NOW.  Please click on the link and send your personal plea to your Senator so that your rights to filter content are protected. It will only take a minute or two, but it will help you and your family for decades to come.

With urgent thanks,

Tim Winter

President

Parents Television Council

More Ways to Connect!

Hi VidAngel Fans,

We’re excited to announce that we’ve got three new ways for our subscribers to connect and filter. You can now enjoy and filter content from Starz, Showtime, and CBS All Access through Amazon Prime Video Channels.

All three of these premium channels have special pricing available on Amazon until July 28th, so now is the perfect time to subscribe and enjoy! 

Starz customers will be able to filter dozens of titles on VidAngel including Outlander (all four seasons!), Venom, Spider-Man Homecoming, and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.

If you’re not signed up for Starz through Amazon, click here to get started. 

If you’re like us, you’ve been giddy to see The Twilight Zone for a while now. Well the wait is over! In addition to The Twilight Zone, CBS All Access customers will be able to filter great shows like Star Trek: Discovery (will be posted within a couple days), Blue Bloods, and many others (including Star Trek: Picard when it comes out in a few months).

Since many of these shows are new to us, our Filter Team is working like crazy to catch us up, so if there’s a show you’re excited to see, head to our website and vote on what we should filter next (to vote, just search for the title you’d like to see and click the “request filters” button).

If you’re not signed up for CBS All Access through Amazon, click here to get started. Important note: you’ll need the commercial free version to be able to connect to VidAngel.

Last but not least, Showtime customers can now filter popular shows like Billions (which was one of our most requested titles), Baby Driver, I Feel Pretty, Adrift, Den of Thieves, and many more.

Alright, guys. This should keep you busy for the weekend. Don’t worry, though. We’re not done yet. Keep an eye out in the coming weeks for more exciting announcements.

Happy Filtering,

Team VidAngel

Happy New Year from VidAngel! Overview of 2018

VidAngel Supporters,

As the fireworks subside celebrating the New Year, it’s time to reflect what we’ve accomplished together at VidAngel in 2018.

 

The Chosen – closing at midnight tonight – over $8 million* so far!

The Hollywood Reporter and CBN have both published great stories about breaking the all-time record for crowdfunding on any media project. 

Finally, today is the final day The Chosen will accept investment agreements.  It is conducting an unprecedented 6-hour live streamed marathon tonight beginning at 9pm EST. Join the live stream to ask the director anything you want and have your questions answered in real time.

*Amount raised is an estimate that includes subscriptions and founders’ contribution, however not all such amounts have been accepted or closed, and some subscriptions may not be accepted.

 

 

Dry Bar Comedy – Over 1 BILLION views

Our hit comedy series grew explosively in 2018, propelling VidAngel to cash flow positive and prompting a national tour for 2019.  It’s hard to describe what a live night at Dry Bar is like so make sure you experience it when it comes to your town.

 

Here are some of Dry Bar Comedy’s 2018 highlights:

 

  • 1) Top-10 Title on VidAngel. Four or five of the most popular titles on VidAngel are consistently Dry Bar Comedy specials (competing with Stranger Things, Jack Ryan and Game of Thrones). We don’t show them in the most popular category on the app anymore because they were dominating the section. But they are still the most popular.
  • 2) 4 Million Followers. More social media followers than Brian Regan, Jim Gaffigan, Jerry Seinfeld, and Dave Chapelle combined.
  • 3) Sirius XM Radio Deal. We partnered with SiriusXM radio to allow people to listen to Dry Bar Comedy on satellite radio. Listen to it on channel 98.
  • 4) Audio Apps. Do you have one of those home devices? Here are some commands to test the new Dry Bar Comedy audio apps on your home device or cell phone (these are in EARLY testing, so we look forward to your feedback):
    • “hey Google” followed by “Ask Dry Bar Comedy for jokes”
    • “Alexa” is currently reviewing our app. When it is approved, you can use the same phrase as Google.
    • “Siri” followed by “Play Dry Bar Comedy”
  • 5) Cash Flow Positive. We invested millions into Dry Bar Comedy and now, as we start Season 4 next week, it’s generating millions in revenue. And almost all of January tapings sold out weeks in advance.

 

VidAngel Studios

We are in the final stages of FINRA and the SEC regulatory approval for a crowd-funding portal that will allow everyone to support numerous crowd-funded media projects such as The Chosen.  There are a number of projects that we haven’t been able to announce yet. However, we plan to officially launch the crowd-funding platform for VidAngel Studios early this year.

Legal Battle  #SaveFiltering

The stay (that we were afforded thanks to Chapter 11) has been lifted on the Disney lawsuit and we’re back at it in the courts as a much healthier company. In 2017 we did about $2.7 million (and suffered decreasing cash reserves every month) but in 2018 we did over $7.5 million (and our cash reserves began increasing again).  What is most astounding is that we achieved that while filtering only half the content we previously offered on VidAngel!

 

We plan to fight for the right to filter all content on modern devices until we are confident that the future of filtering is secure.  Even without filtering for Disney/Fox/WB content, it is no longer all or nothing because the rest of VidAngel’s business is thriving. And we will continue to ask Congress to clarify the law as we grow.

 

Finally, we also hope to emerge from Chapter 11 soon, maybe even this year.

 

Happy New Year!

Thank you for all your support. Without your help, we wouldn’t be able to continue fighting to make entertainment good for your home. 2018 was a great year and we expect 2019 to be even better.

 

We hope to see you any time on The Chosen 6-hour live stream tonight at 6pm PST or 9pm EST

 

Onward and upward,


Neal Harmon, Co-founder and CEO

Quality over Quantity – VidAngel’s Take on Autoplay

In an effort to serve the needs of families over the needs of VidAngel, we have decided to give families the option to easily turn off the upcoming VidAngel “autoplay-the-next-episode” feature. Here’s why.

 

Netflix, Facebook, and YouTube go to great lengths to keep users on their websites for the longest time possible. They spend millions ensuring that every feature of their products is habit-forming (see Hooked: How to build Habit-Forming Products).

 

Thanks to Netflix’s autoplay, bedtime at my house is a battle. As the evening episode of “When Calls the Heart” ends, our girls fight to keep Mom or Dad away from the remote so that the next episode will begin. As parents, we usually find the autoplay feature to be a hindrance, not a help.

Netflix Autoplay: Next Episode Playing in 9 seconds

 

Has the Netflix autoplay feature had a net-positive impact on our world’s happiness and productivity? At VidAngel, we are hesitant to take a similar strategy.

 

Personally, I find media to be a good servant, but a bad master. I value media, not when it consumes my every minute, but when it helps me achieve my other life goals, such as:

 

  • – Love (seeing examples of healthy and unhealthy relationships)
  • – Learning (seeing examples of those who have been where I am, or where I want to go)
  • – Empathy (understanding those whose experiences are different from my own)
  • – Laughter (cultivating a light-hearted life)
  • – Or a Nap (resting easy without worrying that the little ones are getting into trouble)

 

Tristan Harris, founder of Time Well Spent,  also believes that media is a bad master. He argues that, rather than incentivizing binge watching and “show[ing] whatever keeps us scrolling”, the tech and media industry must instead begin “to put our best interests first.”

 

I want VidAngel to put the needs of families ahead of the needs of VidAngel. Meaning that customers who, like myself, wish to consume their media in moderation should not feel pressured to binge watch against their better judgment.

 

Although our team is currently working on an autoplay-next-episode feature for those who have asked for it, we have decided to use VidAngel to help achieve our media goals as families rather than simply copying Netflix’s.  Hence, our tech team will provide an easily available “disable autoplay” button. That’s something I’d like as a parent. We’ll also make it super easy to “enable autoplay” for those who are in the mood to binge. It’s up to you.

 

What do you think? Please share your thoughts or parental feature requests below in the comments. What would you love to have as a feature to your favorite family media app?

 

Even though the average American watches five hours of TV per day, we’re ok if VidAngel families get quality rather than quantity on their media experiences. Watch however the BLEEP you want.

Neal Harmon, Co-founder and Father of Eight 🙂

How VidAngel’s New Service Works

How VidAngel’s New Service Works

Amazon Fire TV and Android TV Apps

They’re finally here! Since we launched in June, Amazon Fire TV and Android TV have been among the most requested apps. We hear you!

After lots of hard work and some courageous bug fighting, we’re happy to announce that the VidAngel apps for Amazon Fire TV and Android TV are now publicly available! You can find them on the Amazon Appstore and Google Play starting today.

Now you can watch & filter your favorite streaming accounts however the bleep you want right from the comfort of your couch!

We’re excited to get these into your hands and look forward to your feedback on how we can improve.

Best,

Caleb Allen

President Intern and All Things Android

Amazon and Netflix both fully operational

VidAngel Customers,

We’re pleased to announce that Netflix is again working properly.

In addition, all of the following outstanding issues have been resolved:

  1. Descriptive messages when a video won’t play (like you’ve reached your screen limit, etc).
  2. Netflix PIN for Parental Controls
  3. Netflix auto-select non-child profile
  4. App interface for confirmation codes for Amazon.
  5. Amazon PIN for Parental Controls
  6. Amazon 2-Factor Authentication

Hooray, now you don’t have to turn off parental controls on Netflix or Amazon to use VidAngel!

Existing free trials that started before 6am MST on July 5, 2017 will be extended until the morning of August 5, 2017.

Now, that the system is humming smoothly, the next thirty days will be 100 percent focused on publishing a ton of new content.

Happy filtering,

Neal Harmon, CEO

VidAngel

 

VidAngel is not affiliated with or sponsored by Amazon, HBO or Netflix. Amazon, Amazon Prime, and Amazon Instant Video are registered trademarks of Amazon Technologies, Inc. Netflix is a registered trademark of Netflix, Inc. HBO is a registered trademark of Home Box Office, Inc