* Netflix Inc. raised the price for new U.S. streaming customers on Jan. 15, news that proceeded a jump of more than 5% in the company's stock price in morning trading. Netflix posted new streaming plan prices on its website, revealing that plans will start at $8.99 per month for its Basic plan, up from $7.99 previously. The company's Standard plan now costs $12.99 per month, up from $10.99, while the 4K Premium plan will cost $15.99 per month, up from $13.99.
* Analysts said recent strategic announcements indicate Netflix Inc. executives recognize that volatile market conditions and rising interest rates make the prospect of issuing more debt a less tenable strategy for the company in 2019. In the first two weeks of the year, the company hired a new CFO, reclassified certain expenses and announced a price hike on U.S. streaming subscribers.
* Verizon Communications Inc. will offer ad-free access to Apple Music to subscribers with Beyond Unlimited and Above Unlimited plans, starting Jan. 17. Customers who opt for the Go Unlimited plan will get six months of the Apple Inc. music service free, according to a news release.
* A confluence of issues bogged down the worldwide PC market in 2018, including a shortage of Intel Corp. chips and trade tensions between U.S. and China. But a turnaround is in sight, with slight growth in worldwide PC shipments projected for 2019, research reports and analysts said.
* The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld a $439.8 million ruling in VirnetX Holding Corp's patent case against Apple. The judgment awarded to VirnetX included a jury verdict, willful infringement, interest, costs and attorneys fees, following the previously disclosed jury trial and verdict in the amount of $302.4 million, according to a news release.
* Digital operations management company PagerDuty Inc. has confidentially filed for an initial public offering, Bloomberg News reports, citing two sources with knowledge of the matter. The San Francisco-based company tapped Morgan Stanley to lead the planned market debut.
* Snap Inc. CFO Tim Stone is leaving the company to pursue other opportunities. Stone's decision to resign is not linked to any disagreement with Snap regarding accounting, strategy, management, operations, policies or regulatory matters, the company said in an SEC filing.
* Facebook Inc.'s Instagram platform took action against 17 services for spamming after being notified by TechCrunch.com. The services were selling fake followers or automated notification spam to attract followers for people on Instagram, according to the report. In a statement, Instagram said it has banned the accounts and also removed the ads from the platform.
* Facebook will introduce stricter advertising rules in order to curb election interference in India, Nigeria, Ukraine and the European Union, company executives told Reuters in an interview. With elections scheduled to take place in these locations this year, the new advertising rules and features would allow only local advertisers to run electoral ads and offer greater transparency into who is running the ads, according to the report.
* Hargray Communications Group Inc. struck a deal to buy Alabama assets of USA Communications LLC, a cable provider serving Pell City, Ala., and surrounding areas, for an undisclosed sum. The transaction, expected to close early this year, will add additional residential and commercial customers to Hargray's expanding network in the southeastern U.S., the company said.
* Viacom Inc. has shed nearly 20 jobs across its entertainment group, representing less than 2% of the group's workforce, Deadline.com reports, citing a person with knowledge of the matter. The job cuts mostly affected Paramount Network (US), according to the report.
* Sofia Coppola is directing "On the Rocks," a movie starring Bill Murray, for Apple, according to a report by TechCrunch.com. "On the Rocks" is the first movie to be produced under the tech giant's partnership with entertainment company A24 Films.
* Netflix green-lighted comedy series "Grace and Frankie" for a sixth season, days before the debut of its fifth season on Jan. 18, Broadcasting & Cable reports. The sixth season will premiere on the streaming service in 2020.
* Google LLC's YouTube updated its external guidelines to ban videos of dangerous challenges and pranks on the platform. In a post on the company's website, YouTube said pranks such as the Tide pod challenge or the Fire challenge that can cause death and/or have caused death will not be allowed to be shown on the video platform.
* Roku Inc. has removed the InfoWars channel from its platform after receiving complaints from "concerned parties," the company said in a tweet. Content from conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his media company Infowars has been pulled from other social media platforms as well.
The day ahead
Early morning futures indicators pointed to a higher opening for the U.S. market.
In Asia, Hang Seng increased 0.27% to 26,902.10, while the Nikkei 225 decreased 0.55% to 20,442.75.
In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 decreased 0.51% to 6,859.68 and the Euronext 100 was up 0.03% to 934.88.
On the macro front
The MBA Mortgage applications report, the Housing market index report, the EIA petroleum status report and the Beige book 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.
Hires and Fires Asia-Pacific: Huawei sacks employee arrested over suspected spying; CBS appoints China head: Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. fired its employee suspected of spying for the Chinese government, while CBS Corp. appointed an executive to grow the company's business in China.
The Daily Dose Asia-Pacific: Google understated revenue in Japan; SoftBank to lead US$700M funding in Katerra: Google Japan failed to declare about ¥3.5 billion in income for 2015 by shifting locally derived ad revenue to Google Singapore's office, while SoftBank Group Corp. plans to lead a US$700 million funding round in California-based construction company Katerra.
The Daily Dose Europe: Sky to offer NBCU streaming service; German court dismisses Apple, Qualcomm suit: NBCUniversal Media LLC's upcoming streaming service will be available on Sky PLC in 2020, while a German court dismissed Qualcomm Inc.'s patent suit against Apple.
The Program Guide: HBO to air Michael Jackson documentary; 'Criminal Minds' to end after season 15: "Criminal Minds" will end after season 15 on CBS (US), while HBO (US) and Channel 4 will debut "Leaving Neverland," a two-part documentary chronicling two young boys who were befriended by pop legend Michael Jackson.
Multichannel Trends: Assessing cord cutting in college towns: Legacy multichannel subscriptions across 10 college towns have declined at a 4.1% CAGR in the last four years.
Economics of Internet: OTT roundup, Q4'18: Service launches dominated over-the-top headlines in the fourth quarter of 2018, with a trio of news-related offerings from CBS, FOX (US) and NBC (US) making their debut.
Economics of TV & Film: Kagan box office report, week 1: The domestic box office got off to a slow start in 2019 after a record 2018. Total box office gross in the first week was down 5.3% from $308.9 million in 2018 to $292.5 million in 2019.
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