Archive for September, 2013

Square Competitor Leaf Scores $20 Million Investment From Payments Giant Heartland

September 30, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Leaf CEO Aron Schwarzkopf For a while, it wasn’t clear how payments startup Leaf would get the distribution it needed to compete against Square and others trying to reinvent point-of-sale technologies for small and medium-size businesses. Just this summer, CEO Aron Schwarzkopf said in an interview that his young company had signed on fewer than 1,000 customers. Now we have an answer. The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based startup has raised a $20 million strategic investment from Heartland Payment Systems, a publicly traded payments processing company that does $2 billion in revenue annually. Heartland isn’t Starbucks, the glitzy partner of Square, but it has a huge and valuable base of small-business customers to which it can introduce the Leaf system. Like Square, Leaf makes software that helps small businesses sort, track and analyze their in-store transactions and access that information anywhere from the cloud. But unlike Square and others, Leaf actually makes and sells its own tablet that runs on a custom version of Android so it can control the experience that the merchant gets end-to-end. Yet despite wanting to own how the hardware and software interact, Leaf is attempting to build an open platform that others can build apps on top of. Leaf doesn’t actually process payments and lets its customers choose from several payment processors, including Heartland and some of its competitors. But Heartland CEO Bob Carr said he is a fan of the open approach. “We have done some work in POS before … but it’s not the most modern architecture so we began looking around at good platforms that were consistent with our architecture,” Carr said in an interview. “We looked at many, many competitors of Leaf and felt like Leaf had the best architecture and most importantly had a shared philosophy where they have a platform that allowed merchants to do business with any number of vendors, and some of our competitors, so merchants could get exactly what they wanted.” Earlier this year, before the investment, Heartland signed on as a reseller of the Leaf system. With the investment, Heartland will have even more incentive to sell the system and, if things go well, the company plans to ultimately retire its own point-of-sale product and recommend that its customers switch over to Leaf. For that product handoff to take place, Leaf will have to expand its capabilities to serve different kinds of categories. Right now it is popular with companies that conduct business at a counter, such as cafes and small retail shops. Yet the category of business that is top of mind for Heartland is table-service restaurants, of which Heartland counts more than 60,000 in the U.S. as customers. If Leaf can build the technology to support such businesses, Heartland will feel comfortable recommending the Leaf system to those customers. Carr said that Heartland is also working to integrate some of its payroll technologies into the Leaf POS system

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Verizon Says Software Glitch Let Some Customers Upgrade Phone and Keep Unlimited Plan

September 30, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Verizon said Monday that it was a software glitch rather than a change in policy that recently allowed some customers to get a low-cost phone upgrade while still keeping their unlimited data plan. The carrier confirmed the issue to AllThingsD and said it would honor the unlimited plans of those customers who managed to upgrade while Verizon was working to fix its software. Verizon’s policy has been to allow existing customers to keep their unlimited data plan but only by sticking with their existing device or paying the full unsubsidized cost of any new phone they want to use with the unlimited data plan. However, the company said it fixed the issue earlier on Monday. So if you didn’t get that upgrade already, you are out of luck. “The company no longer offers unlimited data plans and customers who want to retain existing unlimited data plans, must pay full retail price for a replacement phone,” Verizon said. AT&T and Verizon have both moved away from offering unlimited data in favor of plans that charge customers various prices for set amounts of data . Sprint has made a big deal out of maintaining unlimited data options, even promoting recently that customers will be able to keep such plans as long as they stick with Sprint. T-Mobile, which typically offers unlimited data but caps the amount of high-speed data each month, has recently started offering fully unlimited data plans with no speed caps .

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Warners, Chernin Developing Film Set Around Gumball 3000 Race

September 30, 2013  |  Variety  |  No Comments

Warner Bros. and Chernin Entertainment are revving up for the starting line as the two are coming together to develop a film that revolves around the famous British Gumball 3000 race. Chernin Entertainment recently acquired the rights and will produce the film with Warners distributing. The Gumball 3000 is an annual British race that covers... Read more

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Steve, Had, the Time of His Life… (Comic)

September 30, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

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Breaking Bad Finale Draws 10.3 Million Viewers

September 30, 2013  |  Media Week  |  No Comments

After three take-no-prisoners episodes set the stage for the most anticipated series finale in recent memory, Breaking Bad ended on the highest of high notes. In masterfully bringing the narrative in for a landing, creator Vince Gilligan put Breaking Bad in a position to smash its own ratings records. According to Nielsen live-plus-same-day data, AMC’s Breaking Bad delivered a whopping 10.3 million total viewers and a 5.3 rating in the key adults 18-49 demo. That marks a 57 percent improvement over the show’s previous high (6.58 million viewers) and a 56 percent gain versus last week’s high-water mark (3.4 in the demo). The 75-minute episode managed to derail much of the night’s broadcast fare , as ABC and CBS both sustained significant ratings erosion from 9-10:15 p.m. Not only did Breaking Bad hold its own against broadcast dramas The Good Wife and Revenge, but it also went head-to-head with the season premiere of Showtime’s Homeland and the juggernaut that is NBC’s Sunday Night Football. While Breaking Bad has earned a place among TV’s all-time greatest series, the show was the very definition of a slow burner. The strike-shortened Season 1 averaged just 1.23 million viewers, and Season 2 didn’t see a great uptick in deliveries. In fact, the show didn’t crack the 2 million mark until the Season 4 premiere (2.58 million viewers/1.1 rating). But once the end was in sight (and people were able to catch up via Netflix), the ratings began to soar . By the time it returned for its final eight episodes, Breaking Bad was routinely topping itself. Unlike many series that perhaps overstayed their welcome, Gilligan had Breaking Bad plotted out from beginning to end. There was no flab anywhere in the show, and the story just got leaner and meaner as Walter White’s options began to run out.

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Mipcom: Dustin Hoffman, Judi Dench Lead Red Arrow Slate

September 30, 2013  |  Variety  |  No Comments

MADRID, Spain — A family movie starring Dustin Hoffman and Judi Dench heads a stellar lineup for Red Arrow International at TV mart Mipcom, which kicks off next week. Hoffman and Dench take the lead roles in “Roald Dahl’s Esio Trot,” which is one of more than 60 new programs in Red Arrow’s catalog in... Read more

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Settle With Friends? Zynga and Bang With Friends End Trademark Dispute.

September 30, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Sometimes, even the rockiest of relationships end up parting ways amicably. Social gaming giant Zynga and the makers of Bang With Friends, the casual sex matchmaking application, have reached a settlement on Monday, according to a court filing, ending an ongoing trademark infringement case initiated by Zynga earlier this summer. The case was centered upon the latter company’s name, which Zynga had alleged was chosen with “Zynga’s game trademarks fully in mind,” according to the initial lawsuit filing. Zynga’s With Friends franchise is one of its most popular, composed of hits such as Words With Friends and Scramble With Friends, among others. “Zynga Inc. and Bang With Friends, Inc. are pleased that they have reached an amicable resolution of their dispute,” a Zynga spokesperson told AllThingsD . “Although the terms of the settlement are confidential, Bang With Friends, Inc. acknowledges the trademark rights that Zynga has in its With Friends marks and will be changing its corporate name and rebranding its services in the near future.” “Details on the next version of Bang With Friends can be found at TheNextBang.com ,” the spokesperson said. A spokesperson from TheNextBang did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The case is similar to those of many other tech companies going after smaller companies which seem to glean some notoriety by mimicking the titular language of popular franchises. Instagram and Facebook, for instance, have recently pursued litigation against smaller outfits with “Insta” and “Gram” in their titles.

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Breaking Bad May Have Dented Broadcast’s Sunday Dramas

September 30, 2013  |  Media Week  |  No Comments

While the national cable ratings won’t be in until later this afternoon, the early broadcast numbers suggest that a significant cohort of viewers may have ditched the networks in favor of the Breaking Bad finale. According to Nielsen fast national data, Sunday night’s scripted dramas were down across the board. Returning for a third season at 8 p.m., ABC’s Once Upon a Time delivered 8.45 million viewers and a 2.6 in the 18-49 demo, down 33 percent from a year-ago 3.3 rating. Lead-out Revenge averaged 8.04 million viewers and a 2.4 in the dollar demo, down 25 percent from last season’s 3.2, while newcomer Betrayal sagged badly at 10 p.m., drawing just 5.29 million viewers and a 1.5 rating. (By comparison, the short-lived 666 Park Avenue bowed last September in the same time slot with a relatively strong 2.1 rating.) Betrayal is the season’s second lowest-rated series premiere, trailing only ABC’s Tuesday night drama Lucky 7 (4.43 million viewers, 1.3 rating). Critics who’ve weighed in on Betrayal say the show fails to live up to its billing as a guilty pleasure .

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Joan Baez, Patti Smith, Carey Mulligan, Oscar Isaac Celebrate the Music of ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’

September 30, 2013  |  Variety  |  No Comments

“The Great Folk Scare” is how the late singer-songwriter Dave Van Ronk jokingly referred to the 1960s American folk music revival. But there was nothing to fear Sept. 29 at Manhattan’s Town Hall, where a who’s-who of folkies past and present gathered to celebrate the sounds of the Coen Brothers’ “Inside Llewyn Davis.” Entitled “Another... Read more

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Delta to Equip Its 11,000 Pilots With Microsoft Surface 2 Tablets

September 30, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Delta said on Monday that it plans to buy Surface 2 tablets using the Microsoft hardware to replace paper flight books for the airline’s 11,000 pilots. The deployment will start later this year with pilots of 757 and 767 aircraft, with the goal to have all cockpits paperless by the end of next year. The Surface tablets will contain charts, reference documents and other information. Delta estimates that it can save $13 million in fuel costs by replacing the paper manuals. American Airlines has been making a similar move, but using Apple iPads . Delta has already been betting on Microsoft’s mobile technology. The airline is equipping its 19,000 flight attendants with Nokia Windows Phones running Microsoft’s Dynamics software to handle customer purchases.

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