Alexa Brand Voices, WWE Purchase Interest, Business TWITCH?


Amazon had a busy week with Goldman Sachs small business loans, the impact of the Coronavirus began to hit Sellers and not just cause issues for HQ operations. The company also got to pay some tax (except no-one knows quite how much) and the cardboard abuser also closed above $1 trillion on Tuesday, the first time which also caused a flurry of stories. Amazon is doing incredibly well but competitors aren’t standing still. Walmart and brands that are further afield are working in front of and behind the scenes on thwarting Amazon’s posturing. Alexa remains one area that these moves are unlikely to make any difference in.

Amazon announced that it is working with its AI division to build custom text-to-speech voices for their Alexa skills. Agencies and audio shops went into overdrive with hot takes and updating pitch decks. The Verge have more details.

The brand voices are offered through Amazon Polly, an AWS service that previously supplied neural network-based text-to-speech services for companies to use to add realistic voices to their applications. Now, though, Amazon is offering its neutral network-based TTS technology to create custom voices for a specific brand based on recordings of voices of an actor or actress picked by the brand in partnership with Amazon. It’s similar technology to what Amazon used to make the Samuel L. Jackson Alexa voice that it introduced in September. Jackson didn’t record every single phrase that he can say as Alexa — instead, he recorded audio of his voice that Amazon’s neural text-to-speech models can translate into natural-sounding responses.

The Verge

Speculation on the TWITCH service offering the technology behind it to businesses was met with interest this week. The big news? The move would make Amazon even more profitable and the move wouldn’t be particularly challenging or expensive. The Information broke the story and Engadget added more on the story.

Further underscoring why Amazon might make this move is the fact that Twitch isn’t bringing in nearly as much ad revenue as Amazon expected. The Information says it was expected to bring in about $300 million in revenue in 2019, far short of an internal forecast of $500 to $600 million. That’s apparently not enough to make the service profitable, though Amazon can certainly afford to keep it going right now. But taking a money-loser and turning it into a big business product would certainly make Amazon’s investment worth it. There’s no timetable for when this potential streaming product might become available, or even if Amazon has fully decided to go in this direction. But between Twitch’s relative lack of ad revenue and the attractiveness of its technology, there are some sound business reasons for Amazon to make this move. That’s even without taking into account how competitive the game-streaming space is becoming — plenty of big gaming stars have abandoned Twitch for other platforms, something that could make Amazon even more interested in finding a new way to make money from the service.


In lighter news, Amazon may be going to the mat for WWE pay-per-view rights. Yup, WWE is still a thing. As poor earnings were announced, Analysts were predicting Amazon is set to be the frontrunner. Newsweek has more details.

The report also states that shutting down the WWE Network completely is not part of any current strategy. In fact, WWE continues working on the multi-tiered version of the Network, but there is still no timetable for its launch. WWE stock plummeted after the news of Barrios and Wilson’s ousting, taking out more than $1 billion of the company’s market value. The stocks opened Friday at $44.85, less than the $48.88 it dropped to after news of Barrios and Wilson firing went public. One business analyst believes that the combination of the low stock price and the WWE’s willingness to sell the rights of its pay-per-views to major streaming services could offer an opportunity for Amazon to swoop in. Needham analyst Laura Martin told CNBC that Amazon could purchase the rights to WWE’s content for its Amazon Prime streaming service. This would also potentially put president Jeff Bezos in the driver’s seat to purchase the company when the McMahon’s are ready. “We believe that such a licensing deal would put AMZN in the best spot to purchase all of WWE, whenever the family is ready to exit,” Martin said. “Vince McMahon is currently 74 years old, going on 50.”


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