AT&T and Discovery Are Reportedly in Talks to Combine Content to Take on Disney and Netflix

Illustration for article titled AT&T and Discovery Are Reportedly in Talks to Combine Content to Take on Disney and Netflix

Photo: Saul Loeb (Getty Images)

AT&T and Discovery Inc. may soon join forces to improve their chances against leading competitors like Netflix and Disney in the streaming wars. According to multiple reports, the two companies are in talks to merge Discovery’s reality TV empire with AT&T’s catalog of cable channels and other media holdings to create a new entertainment entity.

Advertisement

AT&T and Discovery are in the advanced stages of negotiations and an agreement could be reached by Monday, sources told the Wall Street Journal on Sunday. So far, the companies have discussed several major players in AT&T’s WarnerMedia division, including CNN and its TNT and TBS cable channels. If they make a deal, AT&T shareholders would own a big stake in the new entity, according to the outlet. People familiar with the negotiations told Bloomberg a deal could be announced as soon as this week.

Tipsters that spoke with both outlets didn’t reveal terms of a potential deal and cautioned that these talks could still fall apart before an agreement is reached. Both AT&T and Discovery have declined to comment on the matter.

One thing’s for sure, the two certainly have enough content to market a joint venture. AT&T’s cable empire includes CNN, HBO, Cartoon Network, TruTV, and Cinemax, among others, along with the movie roster of Warner Bros. studio. Meanwhile, Discovery’s offerings include Food Network, TLC, and HGTV—some of the most binge-worthy trash TV that cable has to offer (and I say that affectionately).

AT&T’s existing streaming channel, HBO Max, has steadily gained subscribers since its debut last May despite its chaotic rollout, but it hasn’t seen the same explosive growth as Disney+ did in its first year. Discovery’s streaming service, Discovery+, is also fairly new on the scene, and both face steep competition from long-established services like Netflix. So teaming up could certainly give them an edge.

On the other hand, AT&T could be shooting itself in the foot here. It already plans to roll out a cheaper, ad-supported tier of HBO Max in June, which could deter existing subscribers from sticking with their more expensive plan. If people can also watch their favorite WarnerMedia programming on another streaming service like Discovery+, that’s one more reason for them to quit paying full price for HBO Max. It’s like AT&T is determined to undermine its own sales pitch.

Doctor Who Audio Adventure Starring John Barrowman and David Tennant Canceled

John Barrowman as Jack Harkness in Torchwood.

John Barrowman as Jack Harkness in Torchwood.
Image: BBC America

It’s only been two days since the Doctor Who immersive experience Time Fracture announced actor John Barrowman’s role as Jack Harkness would be removed from the exhibition. Now, another upcoming Barrowman project has disappeared. The audio adventure publisher Big Finish has canceled the upcoming series Torchwood: Absent Friends, which would have reunited Harkness and the Tenth Doctor, played by David Tennant.

Advertisement

Big Finish’s announcement was succinct, and did not give any reason for the cancelation: “Big Finish has taken the decision to remove Torchwood: Absent Friends from the Monthly Range release schedule and has no plans to publish this title at this time.” However, this obviously stems from the resurfaced 2014 convention video of Noel Clarke—currently in the news for some awful allegations of sexual harassment—where it was discussed how Barrowman would take his penis out during the production of Doctor Who. Barrowman made an official response, saying these events were “only ever intended in good humour to entertain colleagues on set and backstage” and “with the benefit of hindsight, I understand that upset may have been caused by my exuberant behaviour and I have apologised for this previously. Since my apology in November 2008, my understanding and behaviour have also changed.”

The 2008 apology he refers to came after he dropped his pants during a live BBC Radio 1 broadcast where he and the hosts were discussing Barrowman’s predilections for exposing himself. Clarke had left Doctor Who before that point, but they did both made appearances in the 2008 episode and season four finale, “Journey’s End.” While many cast and crewmembers have long discussed Barrowman’s behavior, it is worth noting as far as we know, there have been no new allegations against the actor since his original public apology and an admonishment from then Doctor Who executive producer Julie Gardner.


For more, make sure you’re following us on our Instagram @io9dotcom.

TCL’s First Absolutely Massive TVs Are Officially Here

Illustration for article titled TCL's First Absolutely Massive TVs Are Officially Here

Image: TCL

After being teased at CES earlier this year, TCL has officially announced pricing and availability for its monster 80-inch-plus displays. You know, for those of us who want our screens to effectively take up an entire wall in our homes.

Advertisement

TCL’s so-called XL Collection for 85-inch displays and above is its first for frankly outrageously large screens—the kind that essentially turn your home into a private movie theater. This year, the company will debut three 85-inch models: an 8K TV, a 4K QLED model (85R745) that’s powered by Roku, and a 4K 4-Series (85R435) that will also run on the Roku OS.

All of these are great options for cinephiles, of course (though I’m not totally convinced that anyone actually needs an 8K TV, given that 8K content is virtually nonexistent at this stage). For any ambitious gamers eyeing the XL Collection, you’ll want to consider the QLED, which comes equipped with 120Hz HDMI input support, Variable Refresh Rate, and THX Certified Game Mode.

Now, you may be asking yourself why on earth would you need a screen this large. Surely 65 inches is plenty of screen to replicate a cinematic experience, right? TCL pointed to streaming and vertical integration as a big, big reason to invest in a gargantuan display.

“Even though we’re finally seeing theaters open up, people have discovered the joy and simplicity of watching blockbuster movies at home,” Chris Larson, TCL Senior Vice President, said in a statement. “TCL’s XL Collection represents this next stage in the TV industry—large-size, powerful televisions that deliver premier movie-going experiences in the comfort and safety of your own living room—and we’re excited for users to get back that cinematic magic. Being one of only three global TV brands with full vertical integration, TCL continues to expand its big-screen production capacity to make the largest television screens with best-in-class imaging technology more accessible than ever.”

I’m going to be honest, that doesn’t sound too great for theaters that are already fighting to stay alive post-pandemic. But it’s true, TCL has made its XL collection very, very attractive to anyone who does prefer their cinematic experience take place from the comfort of their own living room couch. The 85-inch 4K QLED model retails for $3,000, which might be a little steep for some folks. But the 85-inch 4K 4-Series is priced at just $1,600—a steal if size alone is among the top priorities on your TV features wishlist.

No word yet on what the 85-inch OD Zero mini-LED powered 8K TV is going to cost yet. That one will go on sale later this year. It’s probably safe to expect it will cost you a pretty penny, though.

Advertisement

John Barrowman Removed From Doctor Who Immersive Experience in Wake of Allegations

A cyborg Dalek (far left) menaces four characters, including John Barrowman's Captain Jack Harkness, in a scene from "Revolution of the Daleks".

John Barrowman returning as Jack Harkness in the 2021 Doctor Who special “Revolution of the Daleks.”
Image: BBC

After actor Noel Clarke was accused by over 20 women of engaging in repeated incidents of sexual harassment on set and off during his career—including his time playing Mickey Smith on Doctor Who—fellow co-star John Barrowman was also embroiled in accusations of inappropriate sexual behavior. Now, it seems like the BBC is starting to take some action against Barrowman’s recent resurgence in the series.

Advertisement

The Radio Times reports that scenes Barrowman recently filmed for Doctor Who: Time Fracture—an in-person “Immersive Experience” exhibition currently set to begin in the UK later this month, following the country lifting covid-19 lockdown restrictions—will no longer be included in the final experience. “Immersive Everywhere have taken the decision to remove this pre record from Doctor Who: Time Fracture,” a newly added comment in the FAQ for Time Fracture’s website reads, under the headline “What’s happening with Captain Jack Harkness and Torchwood in the show?” It continues, “We will continue to include content that pays tribute to this brilliant show that is Torchwood so as not to disappoint its fans, and are working on an exciting storyline to be announced soon.”

Recently, Barrowman was embroiled in the allegations surrounding Clarke’s history of sexual harassment accusations when a clip of both actors at a fan convention in 2014—appearing alongside actresses Camille Couduri and Annette Badlandwent viral, which discussed Barrowman’s alleged frequent exposure of his genitals on the set of the show, framed as pranks. Following a report by the Guardian about allegations against Clarke specific to his time on Doctor Who, Barrowman released a brief statement to the paper about his own incidents, for which the actor was eventually reprimanded on-set for in 2008. The article reads: “Barrowman said his ‘high-spirited behaviour’ was ‘only ever intended in good humour to entertain colleagues on set and backstage,’ ‘With the benefit of hindsight, I understand that upset may have been caused by my exuberant behaviour and I have apologised for this previously,’ he added. ‘Since my apology in November 2008, my understanding and behaviour have also changed.’”

“I met with John and reprimanded him,” Julie Gardner, former Doctor Who and Torchwood executive producer said in a statement to the Guardian, “[and made] it clear to both John and his agent that behaviour of this kind would not be tolerated… To my knowledge, John’s inappropriate behaviour stopped thereafter.”

After a long absence from the series since the end of Torchwood with the 2011 series Miracle Day, the actor returned to Doctor Who as Captain Jack Harkness in season 12 last year. After making an appearance in “Fugitive of the Judoon,” Barrowman played a starring role alongside current Doctor Jodie Whittaker in the 2021 New Year’s Day special, “Revolution of the Daleks,” leaving open the possibility for future appearances in the series. The actor also currently reprises his role as Harkness in officially licensed Doctor Who and Torchwood audio drama series at Big Finish. The decision to remove the actor from a current project at least seems to indicate that the BBC is looking at Doctor Who’s relationship with the actor in a different light for the moment. But for now, what this means for Barrowman’s future relationship with Doctor Who beyond his removal from Time Fracture remains to be seen.

Update: A previous version of this article identified one of the two actresses in a video as Tracy Ann Olbermann, where as it is in fact Annette Badland, who appeared in Doctor Who’s first revived season in 2005 as a member of the alien Slitheen race. io9 regrets the error.


For more, make sure you’re following us on our Instagram @io9dotcom

Advertisement

Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Metalocalypse, and The Venture Bros. Are All Getting New Movies

Characters from Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Metalocalypse, and The Venture Bros. will soon be seen again in a trio of Adult Swim movies.

Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Metalocalypse, and The Venture Bros. are all getting new movies.
Image: Adult Swim

Some of your favorite weird, unforgettable animated shows are coming back in a major way. Adult Swim just announced it’s producing feature length films based on Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Metalocalypse and The Venture Bros.

Advertisement

The films will first be released on Blu-ray and VOD then, 90 days later, premiere on HBO Max and Adult Swim. So while you won’t get to see them in theaters, a big dose of corporate synergy is what’s bringing the titles back to life.

“Leveraging the power of WarnerMedia allows us to deliver original content to our amazingly dedicated and not-shy fans, while also giving our talented series creators an opportunity to tell stories in new and interesting ways,” Adult Swim president Michael Ouweleen said in a press release.

That same press release had brief descriptions of what each movie will be about, along with their key creative teams. Metalocalypse has the longest description:

The power-hungry TRIBUNAL unveils their secret and deadly “Falconback Project” as the world grows in embattled chaos and the menacing Doomstar breaches the Earth’s atmosphere while the mysterious and twisted dissent of a band member threatens the future of Dethklok. Picking up directly after the heroic rescue of Toki Wartooth: Can Dethklok choose between their egos and the greater good of the world to embark on a gauntlet of dangers that will try their very souls and finally write the song that will be their salvation? The new movie is created by Brendon Small and Tommy Blancha. The movie soundtrack will be released on WaterTower Music.

The Venture Bros. is shorter but still very specific:

Doc’s latest invention will either bankrupt the Ventures or launch them to new heights, as Hank searches for himself, Dean searches for Hank, The Monarch searches for answers, and a mysterious woman from their pasts threatens to bring their entire world crashing down on them. The Venture Bros. is created, written and executive produced by Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer.

Advertisement

And Aqua Teen Hunger Force is the most vague, which is kind of fitting:

A continuation of the hit animated series, fans will find out what happens next with Frylock, Meatwad and Master Shake, who consider themselves crime fighters, but the truth is they never fight crime. Aqua Teen Hunger Force is created by Matt Maiellaro and Dave Willis and follows the strange everyday lives of three human-sized food products living in New Jersey.

Advertisement

No word on release dates for any of these, but you have to assume sometime next year at the earliest.


For more, make sure you’re following us on our Instagram @io9dotcom.

Advertisement

A Hacker Gang Has Been Trying to Extort D.C. Police for $4 Million

Illustration for article titled A Hacker Gang Has Been Trying to Extort D.C. Police for $4 Million

Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP (Getty Images)

A ransomware gang, Babuk Locker, has been attempting to extort the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington D.C. for $4 million, but negotiations between the cops and the criminals recently collapsed, leaked documents appear to show.

Advertisement

Several weeks ago, the cybercriminal group announced that it had stolen the MPD’s data—some 250GB that included thousands of pages of sensitive internal documents, including disciplinary files on officers, and intelligence on local gang activity and informant programs. The police department later confirmed that it had been hacked.

Since then, Babuk has been attempting to extort the agency, threatening to leak sensitive internal documents if cops did not pay them. About two weeks ago, the gang leaked a limited amount of data to the web, publishing personnel files on a select number of current or former MPD officers.

On Tuesday, an apparent communication breakdown between both groups resulted in a much larger tranche of the MPD’s data being leaked to the web, a 22.7GB file.

In a statement posted to their leak site, the criminals said:

“The negotiations reached a dead end, the amount we were offered does not suit us, we are posting 20 more personal files on officers, you can download this archive, the password will be released tomorrow. if during tomorrow they do not raise the price, we will release all the data.”

The criminals also posted screenshots of what appear to be conversations between themselves and police, giving an apparent window into how ransom negotiations went. The screenshots show that the hackers asked for $4 million in exchange for the data, but police claimed they were only willing to pay $100,000.

At one point, Babuk delivered a sober, dead-eyed address to the police department, claiming to only have monetary interests—not political ones. On April 28, the gang said:

BABUK: We want to inform you that we are not interested in the international politics and other issues between governments, conflicts, e.t.c. Our offer for you is to pay us for deletion of the information that we have collected plus we issue a warning statement on the website for other individuals not to intrude to the US government institutions. How does it sound to you?

Advertisement

After days of back and forth between the criminal group and the cops, the police negotiator seemed to signal a willingness to pay for the data, though not the allotted $4 million. A message dated May 10 goes as follows:

PD: Our proposal is an offer to pay $100,000 to prevent the release of the stolen data. If this offer is not acceptable, then it seems our conversation is complete. I think we both understand the consequences of not reaching an agreement. We are okay with that outcome.

BABUK: This is unacceptable on our side. Follow our web-site at midnight.

Not long after that, data from the police department began leaking out onto the group’s website. A spokesperson for the police department did not immediately return a request for comment from Gizmodo. We will update this story if we hear back.

Advertisement

A New Stranger Things 4 Teaser Reminds Us Eleven Isn’t the Only Powerful Being

Curiouser and curiouser.

Curiouser and curiouser.
Screenshot: Netflix

Hard to believe it’s been almost two years since we spent time with the kids from Hawkins, Indiana on Netflix’s Stranger Things. Harder to believe still that it was over a year ago Netflix released the first teaser for the upcoming fourth season, which saw Sheriff Hopper (David Harbour) in Russia, just where we assumed he was at the end of last season.

Advertisement

A lot has happened in the world since that, of course, but it seems the streamer is ready to give us some more. Wednesday we saw this cryptic video flashing a few, weird images with the message “Due to technical difficulties, Hawkins National Laboratory will be closed until further notice. We will be back in service tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. ET.” That time has come and here’s what the Hawkins National Laboratory has in store.

We always knew there were more test subjects, one appeared in the series and a few have been explored in the Dark Horse comics, but this is a curious look at what may be to come to be sure. Will the others want to help our Stranger Things gang or will they be working against them. Right now everyone thinks Hopper is dead, but now that we know he’d been captured and brought to Russia, we’re sure they’ll be some rescue attempt made. The Byers were leaving Hawkins at the end of last season, with a powerless Eleven in tow, opening up the show to a much wider world. Oh, and something like the Demogorgon was back despite the kids saving the world yet again. There’s going to be plenty of ground to cover when Stranger Things 4 is back in the coming months.


For more, make sure you’re following us on our Instagram @io9dotcom.

The Flash Is Losing Two Key Cast Members

Carlos Valdes as Cisco Ramon/Mecha-Vibe and Grant Gustin as the Flash in season seven episode “Fear Me.”

Carlos Valdes as Cisco Ramon/Mecha-Vibe and Grant Gustin as the Flash in season seven episode “Fear Me.”
Image: Katie Yu/The CW

Currently in its seventh season—with an eighth on the way—the CW’s The Flash shows no signs of, uh, slowing down. But the Arrowverse series will soon have to contend with the departure of two actors who’ve been a part of the show since its 2014 debut: Carlos Valdes and Tom Cavanagh.

Advertisement

Both have played different characters (or different variations on the same character, because comic books) since The Flash began, but Valdes has primarily played Cisco Ramon while Cavanagh has been mostly, but not always, Harrison Wells. According to Deadline, Valdes’ last appearance as a series regular will be the season seven finale, while Cavanagh—who was originally slated to depart the series after season six before covid-19 disrupted production schedules across the industry—has been both a series regular and guest star this season, and “his final appearance this season is being kept a surprise,” according to Deadline.

Tom Cavanagh as Nash Wells in the season seven premiere.

Tom Cavanagh as Nash Wells in the season seven premiere.
Image: Katie Yu/The CW

In a statement to Deadline, The Flash executive producer and showrunner Eric Wallace showered praise on the actors, while hinting it might not be the last fans see of them, despite today’s announcement: “Both are incredible talents who created beloved characters that fans and audiences around the world have come to love. Which is why we are happily keeping the door open for return appearances.”

A new episode of The Flash airs tonight on the CW.


For more, make sure you’re following us on our Instagram @io9dotcom.

The Flash Is Losing 2 Key Cast Members

Carlos Valdes as Cisco Ramon/Mecha-Vibe and Grant Gustin as the Flash in season seven episode “Fear Me.”

Carlos Valdes as Cisco Ramon/Mecha-Vibe and Grant Gustin as the Flash in season seven episode “Fear Me.”
Image: Katie Yu/The CW

Currently in its seventh season—with an eighth on the way—the CW’s The Flash shows no signs of, uh, slowing down. But the Arrowverse series will soon have to contend with the departure of two actors who’ve been a part of the show since its 2014 debut: Carlos Valdes and Tom Cavanagh.

Advertisement

Both have played different characters (or different variations on the same character, because comic books) since The Flash began, but Valdes has primarily played Cisco Ramon while Cavanagh has been mostly, but not always, Harrison Wells. According to Deadline, Valdes’ last appearance as a series regular will be the season seven finale, while Cavanagh—who was originally slated to depart the series after season six before covid-19 disrupted production schedules across the industry—has been both a series regular and guest star this season, and “his final appearance this season is being kept a surprise,” according to Deadline.

Tom Cavanagh as Nash Wells in the season seven premiere.

Tom Cavanagh as Nash Wells in the season seven premiere.
Image: Katie Yu/The CW

In a statement to Deadline, The Flash executive producer and showrunner Eric Wallace showered praise on the actors, while hinting it might not be the last fans see of them, despite today’s announcement: “Both are incredible talents who created beloved characters that fans and audiences around the world have come to love. Which is why we are happily keeping the door open for return appearances.”

A new episode of The Flash airs tonight on the CW.


For more, make sure you’re following us on our Instagram @io9dotcom.

Slow-mo Footage Reveals the Unique Way Plasma TVs Displayed a Single Frame of Video

As fun as it is to watch things go boom in slow motion, high-speed cameras are more useful as educational and research tools, revealing phenomena that are otherwise imperceptible to the naked human eye, like the weird way old plasma TVs would display a single frame of video by flashing various parts of the image in multiple passes.

Advertisement

This isn’t the first time The Slow Mo Guys have pointed their high-speed cameras at a TV screen. In a video from 2018, they compared how modern LCD and OLED TVs display video—drawing images from the top of a screen to the bottom—to how old CRTs would generate each frame by drawing images line-by-line and pixel-by-pixel while relying on human persistence of vision to create a full image in our minds.

Somewhere between those technologies, we got TVs featuring plasma display panels which offered a lot of the same benefits that modern OLED screens do over LCDs. The on-screen pixels were made up of tiny cells filled with an ionized gas that self-illuminated when electricity was applied. As a result, plasma TVs didn’t need backlights nor suffer from issues like light leak, resulting in excellent contrast ratios and black levels that were darker than LCD TVs could muster. But plasma TVs actually worked a lot differently when generating images than LCDs, OLEDs, and even CRTs do, as The Slow Mo Guys discovered in their latest video that uses high-speed photography to reveal how 3D TVs functioned.

Instead of turning on every self-emissive pixel at the same time—which would be blinding—plasma display panels would instead illuminate different areas of the screen in fast pulses, up to 10 times for each frame, to quickly build up what the human brain would perceive as a single solid image. In the case of the plasma TV The Slow Mo Guys photographed, it was marketed as a 480Hz display which meant that while it actually operated at 60Hz, every frame generated was made up of eight shorter pulses.

Unlike with an LCD or OLED TV, at no point does slow-mo footage of a plasma display reveal an entire frame, but it’s the only way to see how this unique technology actually worked. As much as home theater enthusiasts loved plasma TVs, which were some of the first big-screen flat sets available, they’re a technology that’s no longer available thanks to improvements in LCD TVs, but mostly because OLED screens offer the same benefits with less power usage, slimmer profiles, and lighter sets that are much easier to hang on a wall.