* Apple Inc. has bought Laserlike, a machine learning startup, for an undisclosed amount, The Information reports. The acquisition is expected to help the tech giant bolster its artificial intelligence efforts, including its Siri virtual assistant.
* Two weeks ago, almost no one expected CNN (US) boss Jeff Zucker to be among the key presenters at March Madness Media Day, including, by his own admission, Zucker himself. But on March 12, the newly minted head of news and sports for WarnerMedia found himself facing a barrage of questions about the company's sports programming future.
* Apple's hiring efforts suggest it is looking to develop a 5G modem for its iPhone and other hardware. With a homegrown cellular modem, Apple would get control of designing key parts that comprise the guts of its mobile devices and cut some costs.
* Alphabet Inc.'s Google LLC removed 2.3 billion "bad" ads in 2018 for violating new and existing policies, according to an official blog post. The numbers included about 207,000 ads for ticket resellers, more than 531,000 ads for bail bonds and roughly 58.8 million phishing ads.
* Share prices of AMC Networks Inc., Viacom Inc. and Discovery Inc. dropped after AT&T Inc.'s DIRECTV NOW dropped channels from these companies from new streaming packages, Broadcasting & Cable reports. AT&T has announced two new video packages that include premium access to HBO (US).
Internet & Advertising
* Federal prosecutors are investigating Facebook Inc.'s data-sharing arrangements with at least two prominent manufacturers of smartphones and other devices, The New York Times reports, citing two sources with knowledge of the matter. A grand jury in New York has summoned records from the companies, which are among more than 150 companies, including Apple, Amazon.com Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Sony Corp., which had struck data sharing deals with Facebook.
* Amazon.com's Fire TV is adding Apple Music service to its lineup, TechCrunch.com reports. Subscribers can now access Apple Music's catalog of songs by using Alexa.
* Twitter Inc. is launching a camera feature that allows users to post videos and pictures in a swipe, Keith Coleman, Twitter's vice president of product, said in a tweet. The new feature is intended to make it easier for users to capture nearby events.
* In more Google news, the company is shuttering its Spotlight Stories immersive entertainment unit, Variety reports, citing email sent out by Spotlight Stories Executive Producer Karen Dufilho. Google has allowed the virtual reality film division's staffers to look for positions elsewhere in the company.
* Instagram Inc.'s photo-sharing social platform has restored access for users after facing downtime for several hours, the company confirmed in a tweet. Facebook said in a tweet that it was working to restore access to the social networking platform and confirmed that the issue was not related to a denial-of-service attack.
* In related news, Google will launch a new policy manager in April to help advertisers comply with its policies. The new offering would allow users to monitor policy restrictions of ads, keywords and extensions across the entire account, according to a company post.
* Jay Rolls, chief technology officer at Charter Communications Inc., will be exiting the company this spring because of personal reasons, Multichannel News reports, citing a company statement. Rolls joined the company in 2011 from Cox Communications Inc.
* Verizon Communications Inc. has become the first U.S. wireless operator to offer 5G mobile phone service. "The earliest adopters will likely be willing to pay more," New Street Research telecom analyst Jonathan Chaplin said.
The day ahead
Early morning futures indicators pointed to a lower opening for the U.S. market.
In Asia, the Hang Seng was up 0.15% to 28,851.39. The Nikkei 225 fell 0.02% to 21,287.02.
In Europe around midday, the FTSE 100 was up 0.48% to 7,193.54 and the Euronext 100 was 0.53% higher at 1,033.03.
On the macrofront
The jobless claims report, the import and export prices report, the new home sales report, the EIA natural gas report, the Fed balance sheet and the money supply report are due out today.
Click here to read about today's financial markets, setting out the factors driving stocks, bonds and currencies around the world ahead of the New York open.
The Daily Dose Europe: RTL plans €350M SVOD investment; Rakuten TV may expand to Europe: RTL Group is looking to invest about €350 million in subscription video-on-demand services in the next three years, while Rakuten Inc. is planning to expand its Rakuten TV service to 42 countries in Europe.
The Daily Dose Asia-Pacific: SoftBank to invest US$1.6B more in Didi; Naspers eyeing deals in India: SoftBank Group Corp. is investing again in Didi Chuxing Technology Co. Ltd. despite the Chinese ride-hailing app's losses in 2018, while Naspers Ltd. is eyeing deals in India in its push to find investments that can replicate the success of its backing for Tencent Holdings Ltd..
Hires and Fires: Former FCC commissioner joins DISH board; Harte Hanks director resigns: Kathleen Abernathy, a former FCC commissioner, joined DISH Network Corp.'s board, while Martin Reidy resigned as a member of Harte Hanks Inc.'s board.
Technology: Cable STB shipments decrease in 2018, facing more headwinds in 2019: Cable set-top box shipments continued to decline in 2018, as demand by cable TV operators has slowed across almost all geographic regions.
Wireless Investor: Handicapping the odds for some players' strategies in the 24 GHz auction: The second opportunity to handicap the value of millimeter wave spectrum in the era of 5G networks is about to start with the 24 GHz auction. And the FCC will be organizing at least three more millimeter wave auctions during 2019.
Economics of Networks: Yankees agree to buy back YES with Sinclair Broadcast Group, Amazon: Kagan assesses the partnership of the Yankees, Amazon and Sinclair as a smart alliance that will act as a hybrid in the local sports rights space.
Multichannel Trends: Broadband-only homes skyrocket in 2018, validating top MSOs' connectivity pivot: Net gains set a new record, topping the previous year's tally by 22%.
Economics of Advertising: Star India shuts down linear networks in the US: On Jan. 5, Star India Pvt. Ltd. pulled the plug on its linear TV channel portfolio in the U.S., which includes non-Nielsen Holdings PLC-rated networks Star Plus and Star Bharat, as it has shifted to a digital-only strategy via over-the-top platform Hotstar.
Economics of Internet: Broadcast networks, cablenets keep pace in a brave new digital world: Digital competition for linear TV stalwarts such as ABC (US), CBS (US), CNN, ESPN (US), FOX (US) and NBC (US) continues to intensify, but most leading networks managed to hold their own in 2018, reaching monthly digital audiences of about 15 million to 45 million viewers.
Global Multichannel: Fiber thrives in developing Southeast Asian markets: Fiber is catching up in Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar, as it covers more than 50% of the countries' broadband market share as of 2018.
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