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Coinbase reportedly gets approval from U.S. regulators to start listing tokenized securities

Coinbase shared big news Monday that federal regulators are allowing the popular cryptocurrency exchange to proceed with plans to sell cryptocurrency tokens that are deemed securities. Last month, Coinbase acquired  Keystone Capital , a California-based FINRA-registered broker-dealer that operates as an alternative trading system. With the announcement, the SF-based cryptocurrency exchange disclosed that it would still need to get regulatory approval to operate under the Keystone licenses. Today, the Securities and Exchange Commission and Financial Industry Regulatory Authority gave Coinbase just that, Bloomberg reported, approving that deal alongside the acquisitions of Venovate Marketplace and Digital Wealth. Today’s news opens up the scope of Coinbase’s ambitions to the billions of dollars that have been raised in initial coin offerings over the past several months. With permission to trade tokenized securities, Coinbase users could soon have the ability to move beyond the limited cryptocurrency options currently available to be traded on the site’s central exchange which currently just lists Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum and Litecoin. The company announced last week that it was exploring adding five new tokens to its exchange, including Cardano, Basic Attention Token, Stellar Lumens, Zcash and 0x. In a blog post, the company specified that the announcement did not necessarily deem that these tokens were not securities and that classification might vary by jurisdiction.

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Aiming to make billboard advertising more programmatic, Adquick raises $2.1 million

Alexis Ohanian, the co-founder of Initialized Capital and an investor in Adquick , a new service that’s looking to bring billboard advertising into the internet age, bought his last billboard ad just this year. For several years, the Reddit founder had turned to outdoor advertising as a tool to troll politicians and advocate for various positions (and celebrate his famous wife ). The last political billboard, in 2012, was to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act. It was also the impetus for his investment in Adquick. “I’d seen pitches from a number of competitors that were all just static websites on top of the single business,” says Ohanian. What he was looking for, and what he eventually found in Adquick was a company that had managed to map all of the billboard advertising options available in the U.S. and was offering would-be advertisers a way to digitally distribute their ads and book inventory. “For us the reason why it was such an exciting initial investment was because we saw the opportunity and the talent of the team,” Ohanian says. Matthew O’Connor, Adquick’s chief executive previously worked at Instacart and it was there that he and his team first learned about dragging traditional businesses into the online world. “This team had come out of Instacart… they came well recommended by the founders over there,”Ohanian said.

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Putin proposes a joint cybersecurity group with the US to investigate Russian election meddling

Over the course of Monday’s controversial Helsinki summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin pushed an agenda that would ostensibly see the U.S. and Russia working side by side as allies. The two countries make stranger bedfellows than ever as just days prior, Trump’s own Department of Justice indicted 12 Russian intelligence officials for the infamous 2016 Democratic National Committee hack. Nonetheless, the Russian president revived talks of a joint group between the U.S. and Russia dedicated to cybersecurity matters. For anyone with the security interests of the U.S. at heart, such a proposal, which Trump endorsed in a tweet one year ago, would truly be a worst-case scenario outcome of the puzzlingly cozy relationship between the two world leaders. “Once again, President Trump mentioned the issue of the so-called interference of Russia during the American elections and I had to reiterate things I said several times…,” Putin said in Helsinki. “Any specific material, if such things arise, we are ready to analyze together. For instance, we can analyze them through the joint working group on cyber security, the establishment of which we discussed during our previous contacts.” U.S. officially attributes DNC hack to Russia Putin added that Russia favors “continued cooperation in counter-terrorism and maintaining cyber security.” “The most recent example is their operational cooperation within the recently concluded World Football Cup,” Putin said. “In general, the contacts among the special services should be put to a system-wide basis should be brought to a systemic framework. I reminded President Trump about the suggestion to re-establish the working group on anti-terrorism.” Putin & I discussed forming an impenetrable Cyber Security unit so that election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded.. — Donald J.

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Netflix is falling off a cliff

Netflix didn’t add as many subscribers as expected by a bunch of people on Wall Street who, on a quarterly basis,  govern whether or not it’ll be more valuable than Comcast — and that is probably a bad thing, as it’s one of the primary indicators of its future potential for said finance folk. While it’s still adding subscribers (a lot of them), it fell below the forecasts it set for itself during the second quarter. That’s shaved off more than $10 billion in its market capitalization this afternoon. This comes amid a spending spree by the company, which is looking to create a ton of original content in order to attract a wider audience and lock them into that Netflix ecosystem. That could include shows like  GLOW ,  Jessica Jones ,  3%  or even feature films. But it’s still a tricky situation because it needs to be able to convert shows from that kind of crazy spend schedule into actual subscribers. Here’s the main chart for its subscription growth.: So it’s basically down across the board compared to what it set for itself. And here’s the stock chart: CEOs and executives will normally say they’re focused on delivering long-term value to shareholders, or some variation of that wording, but Netflix is a company that’s been on an absolute tear over the course of the past year. It’s more than doubled in value, overtaking said previously mentioned cable company and signaling that it, too, could be a media consumption empire that will take a decade to unseat like its predecessor. (Though, to be sure, Comcast is going to bundle in Netflix, so this whole situation is kind of weird.) Of course, all of this is certainly not great for the company.

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Uber is being investigated for gender discrimination in a federal probe

As Uber tries to chart a new course, it still can’t manage to outrun news that paints its corporate culture in an ugly light. As  The Wall Street Journal reports , Uber is being investigated by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for gender disparities pertaining to hiring practices and pay. The EEOC probe began in August 2017 and the commission has been interviewing employees and collecting relevant documents since. The EEOC declined to provide details to TechCrunch due to “confidentiality provisions,” adding that details of an EEOC investigation “become public only when the EEOC files a lawsuit, which is typically a last resort.” An Uber spokesperson told TechCrunch that the company has “proactively made a lot of changes in the last 18 months.” Those changes include creating and enacting a new “salary and equity structure,” reforming the way it conducts performance reviews to emphasize high-quality feedback, putting out diversity and inclusion reports and involving more employees in diversity trainings. Uber put out its first diversity and inclusion report in March 2017 and in April of this year updated those numbers , which demonstrate some movement in the right direction, albeit at a glacial pace. In the latest report, the company noted it had increased the percentage of women in its workforce from 36.1 to 38 percent, which isn’t exactly progress to write home about. With new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber is hoping to rewrite its own story, but the company continues to be embroiled in leadership turbulence, like last week’s departure of Chief People Officer Liane Hornsey after an internal investigation into race-based discrimination and last month’s departure of Chief Brand Officer Bozoma Saint John . It’s worth noting that Uber isn’t being singled out by the EEOC, which has also launched recent investigations into age discrimination at Intel and gendered pay discrepancies at Google . Still, for Uber, no news would be good news — even just for a little while.

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Apple’s App Store revenue nearly double that of Google Play in first half of 2018

Apple’s App Store continues to outpace Google Play on revenue. In the first half of the year, the App Store generated nearly double the revenue of Google Play on half the downloads, according to a new report from Sensor Tower out today. In terms of dollars and cents, that’s $22.6 billion in worldwide gross app revenue on the App Store versus $11.8 billion for Google Play – or, 1.9 times more spent on the App Store compared with what was spent on Google Play. This trend is not new. Apple’s iOS store has consistently generated more revenue than its Android counterpart for years due to a number of factors – including the fact that Android users historically have spent less on apps than iOS users, as well as the fact that there are other Android app stores consumer can shop – like the Amazon Appstore or Samsung Store, for example. In addition, Google Play is not available in China, but Apple’s App Store is. Last year, consumer spending on the App Store reached $38.5 billion, again nearly double that of Google Play’s $20.1 billion. As the new figures for the first half of 2018 indicate, consumer spending is up this year. Sensor Tower estimates it has increased by 26.8 percent on iOS compared with the same period in 2017, and it’s up by 29.7 percent on Google Play. The growth in spending can be partly attributed to subscription apps like Netflix, Tencent Video, and even Tinder, as has been previously reported. Subscription-based apps are big businesses these days, having helped to boost app revenue in 2017 by 77 percent to reach $781 million , according to an earlier study. Netflix was also  2017’s top non-game app by revenue , and recently became ranked as the top (non-game) app of all-time by worldwide consumer spend, according to App Annie’s App Store retrospective. Many of the other all-time top apps following Netflix were also subscription-based, including Spotify (#2), Pandora (#3), Tencent Video (#4), Tinder (#5), and HBO NOW (#8), for example. And Netflix is again the top non-game app by consumer spending in the first half of 2018, notes Sensor Tower.

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‘Serious concerns’ at FCC threaten to halt Sinclair-Tribune merger

The FCC has been under serious scrutiny by citizens, advocates and politicians alike due to its laissez-faire attitude toward, in particular, the proposed Sinclair Broadcasting merger with Tribune. But the agency is showing some backbone today with a no-nonsense declaration that the merger can’t go through unless a few “serious concerns” are addressed. It’s not the outright disapproval many have recommended, but it’s better than an unconditional green light. In a short memo posted to the agency’s site , FCC Chairman Ajit Pai explained that even under his notoriously (or blessedly, depending on your politics) deregulatory regime, the proposed deal is not acceptable as is. Here it is in full: Based on a thorough review of the record, I have serious concerns about the Sinclair/Tribune transaction. The evidence we’ve received suggests that certain station divestitures that have been proposed to the FCC would allow Sinclair to control those stations in practice, even if not in name, in violation of the law. When the FCC confronts disputed issues like these, the Communications Act does not allow it to approve a transaction. Instead, the law requires the FCC to designate the transaction for a hearing in order to get to the bottom of those disputed issues. For these reasons, I have shared with my colleagues a draft order that would designate issues involving certain proposed divestitures for a hearing in front of an administrative law judge. The issue is that the proposed Sinclair-Tribune merger would result in a company that controls a huge amount of TV stations — far more than is healthy for a single company. This was demonstrated effectively by a viral video demonstrated earlier this year showing news anchors at Sinclair stations reading the exact same script without acknowledging that it was under the direction of their owner.

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Instapaper is leaving Pinterest, two years after being acquired

Back in August of 2016, Pinterest acquired Instapaper , the read-it-later bookmarking service originally built by Marco Arment. Just shy of two years later, Instapaper is going back to being independent. In a blog post published this afternoon , the team clarifies that a new company called “Instant Paper, Inc.” has been formed to oversee Instapaper, and that it’ll largely be made up of the same folks who’ve worked on it since ~2013. Don’t expect much to change, for better or worse — at least, not immediately. The company is waiting three weeks before officially transferring ownership, in order to “give its users fair notice about the change of control with respect to their personal information.” The team doesn’t outline the reasoning for splitting away, but it has many users hoping its newly regained independence means it can become GDPR-compliant sooner than later. Instapaper shut off its services in Europe back in May so they could “make changes in light of GDPR”; two months later, the service remains offline in the EU. Instapaper confirmed this afternoon that GDPR-compliance is still a goal: We're working on GDPR compliance and hope to have the service available to everyone in the EU as soon as we can — InstapaperHelp (@InstapaperHelp) July 16, 2018

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Kapwing is Adobe for the meme generation

Need to resize a video for IGTV? Add subtitles for Twitter? Throw in sound effects for YouTube? Or collage it with other clips for the Instagram feed? Kapwing lets you do all that and more for free from a mobile browser or website. This scrappy new startup is building the vertical video era’s creative suite full of editing tools for every occasion. Pronounced “Ka-pwing,” like the sound of a ricocheted bullet, the company was founded by two former Google Image Search staffers. Now after six months of quiet bootstrapping, it’s announcing a $1.7 million seed round led by Kleiner Perkins. Kapwing hopes to rapidly adapt to shifting memescape and its fragmented media formats, seizing on opportunities like creators needing to turn their long-form landscape videos vertical for Instagram’s recently launched IGTV. The free version slaps a Kapwing.com watermark on all its exports for virality, but users can pay $20 a month to remove it. While sites like Imgur and Imgflip offer lightweight tools for static memes and GIFs, “the tools and community for doing that for video are kinda inaccessible,” says co-founder and CEO Julia Enthoven. “You have something you install on your computer with fancy hardware. You should able to create and riff off of people,” even if you just have your phone, she tells me

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Skype 8.0 launches on desktop with HD video, and soon encryption & call recording

Skype’s redesign launched last year was met with mixed reviews, but the company is forging ahead by rolling out a number of its new features to other platforms, including the desktop . Microsoft today is launching Skype version 8.0 that will replace version 7.0 (aka Skype classic), the latter which will no longer function after September 1, 2018. The new release introduces a variety of features, including HD video and screen-sharing in calls, support for @mentions in chats, a chat media gallery, file and media sharing up to 300 MB, and more. It will also add several more features this summer, including most notably, supported for encrypted audio calls, texts, and file sharing as well as built-in call recording. The 8.0 release follows on the update to Skype desktop that rolled out last fall,  largely focusing on upgrading the visual elements of new design, like the color-coding in chat messages and “reaction” emojis. This release also included the chat media gallery and file sharing support, which are touted as new today, but may have already hit your desktop. Although Skype still has some 300 million monthly users , it no longer appears to be growing. While once a must-have app for communication, Skype has faced increased competition over the years from the likes of Apple’s FaceTime, and other apps for texting and calls, like Messenger and WhatsApp, among others, plus new communication apps for business, like Slack. To better compete, Microsoft gave Skype a facelift starting last year, which introduced a number of social features seemingly aimed at a younger user base, including its own take on Stories. Today’s desktop release focuses again on consumer-friendly features, with the added support of HD (1080px video) video calls which can include up to 24 people, as well as the Twitter-inspired @mentions. Later this summer, Microsoft says Skype will add support for profile invites (to invite friends to join you on Skype), read receipts for messages, group links for chats and calls, and other features. The most significant of the forthcoming additions includes an end-to-end encrypted experience where Skype audio calls, text messages, and shared files like images, audio and video, and secured with the industry standard Signal Protocol. Messages and notifications in these conversations will also be hidden in the chat list to keep the communication private. And, at long last, Skype is adding built-in call recording. Many Skype users today use third-party add-ons in order to record calls – something that should have prompted Skype to react years ago by making this a native option.

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Klang gets $8.95M for an MMO sim sitting atop Improbable’s dev platform

Berlin-based games studio Klang , which is building a massive multiplayer online simulation called Seed utilizing Improbable’s virtual world builder platform, has just bagged $8.95M in Series A funding to support development of the forthcoming title. The funding is led by veteran European VC firm Northzone . It follows a seed raise for Seed, finalized in March 2018, and led by Makers Fund, with participation by firstminute capital, Neoteny, Mosaic Ventures, and Novator — bringing the total funding raised for the project to $13.95M. The studio was founded in 2013, and originally based in Reykjavík, Iceland, before relocating to Berlin. Klang’s original backers include Greylock Partners, Joi Ito, and David Helgason, as well as original investors London Venture Partners. The latest tranche of funding will be used to expand its dev team and for continued production on Seed which is in pre-alpha at this stage — with no release date announced yet. Nor is there a confirmed pricing model. We understand the team is looking at a variety of ideas at this stage, such as tying the pricing to the costs of simulating the entities. They have released the below teaser showing the pre-alpha build of the game — which is described as a persistent simulation where players are tasked with colonizing an alien planet, managing multiple characters in real-time and interacting with characters managed by other human players they encounter in the game space. The persistent element refers to the game engine maintaining character activity after the player has logged off — supporting an unbroken simulation. Klang touts its founders’ three decades of combined experience working on MMOs  EVE Online  and  Dust 514, and now being rolled into designing and developing the large, player-driven world they’re building with Seed. Meanwhile London-based Improbable bagged a whopping $502M for its virtual world builder SpatialOS  just over a year ago. The dev platform lets developers design and build massively detailed environments — to offer what it bills as a new form of simulation on a massive scale — doing this by utilizing distributed cloud computing infrastructure and machine learning technology to run a swarm of  hundreds of game engines so it can support a more expansive virtual world vs software running off of  a single engine or server. Northzone partner Paul Murphy, who is leading the investment in Klang, told us: “It is unusual to raise for a specific title, and we are for all intents and purposes investing in Klang as a studio. We are very excited about the team and the creative potential of the studio

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Netflix experiments with promoting its shows on the login screen

Netflix is testing a new way to promote its original shows – right on the login screen. A company spokesperson confirmed the streaming service is currently experimenting with a different login screen experience which replaces the black background behind users’ names and profile thumbnails with full-screen photos promoting a Netflix Original series or special, like “BoJack Horseman,” “Orange is the New Black,” “Dark,” “My Next Guest…”, “13 Reasons Why,” and several others. We first noticed the change on a TV connected to a Roku media player and on a Fire TV, but Netflix says the test is running “for TV,” which means those on other TV platforms may see the promoted shows as well. (Our Roku TV, however, had the same black background on the login screen, we should note.) The promoted shows aren’t necessarily those Netflix thinks you’d like – it’s just a rotating selection of popular originals. Every time you return to the Netflix login screen, it will have refreshed the photo that’s displayed. After cycling in and out of the Netflix app several times on our TV, we found the image selection to be fairly random – sometimes the promoted show would repeat a couple of times before a new show hopped in to take its place. Netflix will likely decide whether or not to move forward with the change to the login screen based on how well this new promotional effort works to actually increases viewership of its originals. While it makes sense to better utilize this space, I’m not sold on having ads for adult-oriented shows appearing on the same login screen that’s used by a child. The ads themselves (so far) have not been inappropriate, but it doesn’t seem like a good fit for multi-person households and families. For example, I now have to explain to a school-ager why they can’t watch that funny-looking cartoon, “BoJack Horseman.” Meanwhile, when I was logging in to watch more grown-up fare, I saw an ad for the new “Trolls” kids’ show. Uh, okay.  That said, this is still a much less intrusive way to advertise Netflix shows, compared with putting promos at the beginning of a show, like HBO does.

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The final season of ‘Unreal’ debuts on Hulu

Unreal , the critically acclaimed series that takes viewers behind the scenes of fictional reality TV show  Everlasting , has moved to Hulu . Today’s announcement confirms earlier reports that Hulu was negotiating with A+E Studios to get first dibs on Unreal ‘s fourth and final season. The show’s first three seasons aired on Lifetime, with the third season recently wrapping up just a few months ago, in April. Now all eight episodes of Season 4 are live on Hulu — a departure from the streaming service’s standard approach of releasing just one or two episodes of its original shows each week. Unreal once again stars Shiri Appleby as Rachel and Constance Zimmer as Quinn, producers who return to Everlasting for an “All Stars” season that brings back old contestants. While Unreal’s cable audience has been declining steadily , Hulu says its viewers have embraced the show — it’s not releasing total audience numbers, but apparently the average viewer binges three to four episodes of the show in one session and usually completes a full season in “a matter of days.” “UnREAL has captivated audiences on Hulu since season one, so when this opportunity came to us, we knew we couldn’t miss out,” said Hulu’s senior vice president of content Craig Erwich in the announcement. “This is a unique way to both satisfy fans of the show, while also continuing to introduce it to new audiences.”

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Amazon puts its own devices on sale early for Prime Day

Amazon is kicking off today’s Prime Day a bit early. Although its annual sale technically begins at 12 PM PT / 3 PM ET this afternoon, it put its own devices on sale 12 hours early. The company is marking down its Alexa-enabled products like Echo, Fire TV, and Fire tablets, as well as its home security products like the Cloud Cam and more recently acquired Ring Video Doorbell. The retailer has also released a list of Prime Day deals, which encompasses other Amazon product discounts, as well as those from other manufacturers. This year’s Prime Day promises to be the largest yet, both in terms of the number of deals and the length of the sale itself, which has been stretched to 36 hours. Prime members will be able to shop over 1 million deals worldwide in an expanded number of international markets outside the U.S. That’s up from over 100,000 deals just two years ago, the retailer noted. The Amazon devices on sale now include the following: Save $20 on Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote, only $19.99 Save $110 on Toshiba 50-inch 4K Ultra HD Fire TV Edition, only $289.99 Save $30 on Echo Spot, only $99.99 Save $30 on Echo (Second Generation), only $69.99 Save $20 on Echo Dot Kids Edition, only $59.99 Save $100 on Echo Look, only $99.99 Save $60 on Amazon Cloud Cam, only $59.99 Save $75 on Ring Video Doorbell Pro, only $174 Save $30 on Fire HD8 tablet with Alexa, only $49.99 Save $30 on Fire HD 8 tablet and new Show Mode Charging Dock bundle, only $79.99 Eligible Prime members get 10% back on select Amazon devices, including Echo, Fire TV, and Kindle, when they shop on Prime Day using the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Card or Amazon Prime Store Card Prime members new to Amazon Music Unlimited can six months free of the premium music streaming service with purchase of select Amazon Echo devices during Prime Day Amazon heavily discounts its own devices on Prime Day, so you can be sure these are pretty good deals. For example, the lowest price on the Fire TV Stick before today was $24.99 – now it’s $19.99. The Fire TV (Pendant) is also $10 less than it was during its biggest price drop. And even the brand-new Fire TV Cube has been marked down from $119.99 to $89.99. If you bundle it with a Cloud Cam, you can save $90 off both. Though oddly not in Amazon’s advertised list above, the Echo Dot is on sale, too. The smaller Echo speaker was last year’s best seller on Prime Day, and Amazon is clearly hoping to repeat history by marking down the Dot again. Last year, it was $34.99 on Prime Day, now it’s $29.99  – and one of the better deals to be found

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Roku unveils $200 wireless speakers made for Roku TV

Roku is getting into the speaker business with today’s announcement of Roku TV Wireless Speakers. Mark Ely, the company’s vice president of product management, said Roku is trying to address a growing consumer problem — the fact that as TVs get thinner, you end up buying “this beautiful TV, but it sounds bad.” To address this, you may end up purchasing a soundbar or creating a more elaborate home theater setup, but Ely argued that many consumers find this process confusing and intimidating. So as the name suggests, Roku has created wireless speakers specifically for Roku TVs , the company’s lineup of partner-built smart TVs. Ely described them as speakers that deliver “really premium sound in a really compact package,” and at an affordable price. (They’re about seven inches tall and weigh four pounds each, he said.) Roku says it should be easy to pair these speakers wirelessly with a Roku TV using Roku Connect, and since the company controls both the video and audio experience, it can ensure that they’re sync’d up perfectly, without lag. To minimize those moments when you’re frantically reaching for the remote to adjust the volume, the speakers also come with Automatic Volume Leveling to lower the sound in particularly loud scenes and boost the sounds when it gets too quiet. Ely said the product takes advantage of Roku’s acquisition last year of Danish audio startup Dynastrom : “The goal has been to have audio be a real center of excellence for the company.” “Our fundamental belief here is that by delivering a better sound experience, you get a better entertainment streaming experience,” he added. The speakers will also come with a new remote called the Roku Touch, which is designed to emphasize voice controls without fully giving up the benefits of a regular remote — you can press-and-hold to deliver voice commands, but it still has buttons for playback control and others that you can preset. Smart speakers from big tech companies like Apple and Amazon are seen as one main ways to get into the voice-powered home assistant market. Roku has its own voice assistant (which it’s  making available to manufacturing partners ), but Ely and Director of Consumer PR Seana Norvell said it’s really focused on understanding your entertainment needs — rather than, say, telling you the weather or helping you order products online. While Roku says the speakers will ship in late October at a price of $199.99, they’re available for pre-order now, with pricing at $149.99 until July 23, and then $179.99 until October 15. Ely said the company is only selling the speakers from the Roku website , at least initially, because that allows it to “market directly to Roku TV customers” while ensuring that other Roku customers (namely, those who have a Roku streaming device but not a Roku TV) don’t end up buying these speakers, which won’t work for them.

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