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Netflix greenlights a tennis docuseries from the ‘Drive to Survive’ team

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Netflix is making a bigger push into sports docuseries following the success of Formula 1: Drive to Survive. We learned this week that a show covering the 2022 PGA Tour and men’s major golf championships is on the way, and now the company has announced a similar show covering the world of top-level tennis is in the works.

All three shows are being produced or co-produced by the same company, Box to Box Films. Netflix says the as-yet-untitled tennis series will devote equal time to men and women. The names of the players involved haven’t been revealed, according to , but given the high-profile names taking part in Drive to Survive and the golf show, expect the tennis series to feature prominent figures.

Netflix has locked in deals with both tennis governing bodies, the ATP and WTA, as well as the organizers of the four Grand Slam tournaments — the biggest events on the tennis calendar. Given that production has started at the Australian Open, the docuseries could start with some major drama.

On Friday, Australian officials once again revoked the visa of Novak Djokovic, the world’s top-ranked men’s player, this time “on health and good order grounds.” Djokovic, who is unvaccinated against COVID-19, said earlier this month that he was granted a medical exemption to travel to Australia and continue his quest for a record 21st men’s Grand Slam singles title. However, questions were raised about the validity of his exemption, and he admitted to making an “error of judgment” by attending public events in December while awaiting the awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test. He tested positive.

Drive to Survive helped to boost the popularity of Formula 1, especially among US viewers. Tennis execs will surely be hoping for a similar effect from the upcoming docuseries. Last year’s US Open drew an average of 796,000 viewers, the second-lowest viewing figures since ESPN secured rights to the tournament in 2015.

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Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass service grows to 25 million subscribers

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Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass service now has 25 million subscribers. That’s up from the 18 million Microsoft previously reported in January last year. The Xbox Game Pass all-you-can-eat catalog of downloadable games — or the “Netflix for video games” as it’s often described — continues to attract new subscribers as Microsoft looks to extend the service.

As Microsoft’s subscriber numbers grow, so does the amount of titles available on Xbox Game Pass. In 2021, Xbox Game Pass added iconic Bethesda games, with 20 in total on the service, including Dishonored, Doom, The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, and Wolfenstein.

Microsoft announced the milestone while revealing its planned $68.7 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard, which will have Activision CEO Bobby Kotick and its 10,000 employees reporting to Phil Spencer.

Microsoft:

The acquisition also bolsters Microsoft’s Game Pass portfolio with plans to launch Activision Blizzard games into Game Pass, which has reached a new milestone of over 25 million subscribers. With Activision Blizzard’s nearly 400 million monthly active players in 190 countries and three billion-dollar franchises, this acquisition will make Game Pass one of the most compelling and diverse lineups of gaming content in the industry. Upon close, Microsoft will have 30 internal game development studios, along with additional publishing and esports production capabilities.

Spencer said in a blog post that “we will offer as many Activision Blizzard games as we can within Xbox Game Pass and PC Game Pass, both new titles and games from Activision Blizzard’s incredible catalog.” There are no specifics, but with the Warcraft, Call of Duty, Diablo, and Candy Crush brands to choose from — to name a few — the service will have a lot of options.

Microsoft has also been chasing sports fans over the past year with the addition of NBA 2K21, Madden NFL 21, NHL 21, and more. Outriders also debuted on Xbox Game Pass last year, and Microsoft added Flight Simulator to the service over the summer. Microsoft also had a big Xbox Game Pass holiday, with Age of Empires IV, Forza Horizon 5, and Halo Infinite launching day one on the service.

Microsoft has also been working on extending where Xbox Game Pass is available, thanks to Xbox Game Streaming. A web version of Xbox Cloud Gaming (formerly Project xCloud) was made widely available to players on iOS and PC last summer, and Microsoft started rolling the service out to Xbox consoles in November. This will allow newer games, like Microsoft Flight Simulator, to be streamed and played on older Xbox consoles too, as the service is fully powered by Xbox Series X hardware.



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Microsoft is buying Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion

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Microsoft just made one of the largest-ever bids for a game studio. The company has announced plans to acquire Activision Blizzard for $95 per share, valuing the all-cash deal at an enormous $68.7 billion. The deal would make the combined entity the “third-largest” game company by revenue, according to Microsoft, and would put titles like Call of Duty and World of Warcraft under the company’s wing. Microsoft plans to add Activision Blizzard games to Game Pass as part of the deal.

Developing…

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Garmin announces revamped Fenix 7 and Epix smartwatches

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Despite being leaked to hell and back, the Garmin Fenix 7 series was a no-show at CES 2022. That’s because Garmin decided to wait until today to separately announce its revamped outdoors GPS smartwatches. On top of an updated flagship Fenix 7 lineup, Garmin is also launching the Epix — a rugged outdoors smartwatch with an always-on color display.

Some things with the new Fenix 7 smartwatches will be familiar to Garmin fans. There are still three sizes: the 42mm Fenix 7S, the 47mm Fenix 7, and the whopping 51mm Fenix 7X. The Fenix 7S and 7 will come in “regular” versions made of fiber-reinforced polymer, but there are also Solar Editions and Sapphire Solar Editions for all three models. Additionally, the Sapphire Solar Editions upgrade the materials to titanium and a sapphire display for extra durability.

As the names suggest, Garmin is also adding solar charging capabilities to all three sizes. Garmin says that compared to the Fenix 6X Pro, these watches have 54 percent more solar surface area — and that purportedly translates to longer battery life. With GPS enabled, Garmin says the max battery for the 7S is 90 hours and 162 hours with solar charging. The numbers jump up for the 7 from 136 hours to 289 hours with solar. For the 7X, Garmin says you’ll get 213 hours or 578 hours with solar. Of course, these are all estimates, and what you actually get will heavily depend on your individual usage.

The Fenix 7 watches will all support every major satellite system but also add the L5 frequency range for better accuracy in “challenging GPS environments.” L5 is one of three “modernized” GPS signals for civilian use that, according to the US government, have “higher power, greater bandwidth, and advanced signal design.” The lineup also gets touchscreen capabilities — but don’t worry, Garmin isn’t getting rid of button controls. (In fact, it’s actually adding button guards to the start and stop button to minimize accidental presses.) The idea is to offer multiple ways of navigating through menus, such as scrolling through your settings or zooming in on GPS maps.

You can also opt for a red light, and a “strobe mode” that matches a runner’s cadence.
Image: Garmin

The 7X also has a shiny new hands-free LED flashlight feature with adjustable red or white light to help multi-sport athletes see, and be seen, during nighttime activities. Garmin says it’s activated via a double-tap and works for both left-handed and right-handed users. It has an optional strobe mode, where the flashlight matches a runner’s cadence, too. Basically, it’ll flash red when your arm swings down and white when it swings up. Garmin says it functions like head and tail lights on cars so that others have a better sense of which direction a person is headed.

For software, Garmin’s adding a Real-Time Stamina tool to help you compare the potential stamina you’d have at moderate intensity versus your stamina at your current effort level. The company’s also adding a new mapping feature called Up Ahead, which tells users the location of aid stations, elevation climbs, water, and other points of interest on a particular course.

Meanwhile, Garmin’s finally refreshing its Epix smartwatch, seven years after it was first introduced in 2015. The new Epix is basically what you’d get if you took the Fenix 7 and asked, “What if I swapped out the transflective screen for a 1.3-inch always-on AMOLED display?” It comes in three 47mm models and includes many of the same features as the Fenix 7 like buttons, touchscreens, and Real-Time Stamina. The main difference between the two lineups is the Epix doesn’t have the new LED flashlight or support solar charging. As for battery life, Garmin claims the Epix can last up to 16 days on a single charge — and an impressive six days with the always-on display enabled.

The new Epix lineup adds a 1.3-inch, always-on color touchscreen display
Image: Garmin

Both smartwatch lineups also support push notifications, Garmin Pay, music storage, and safety features. They also come with the usual Garmin health features, like heart rate monitoring, respiration, stress tracking, body battery, fitness age, and sleep tracking.

The Fenix 7 series cost a pretty penny, but that’s par for the course for Garmin’s flagship GPS smartwatches. While it depends on which materials and models you opt for, the Garmin Fenix 7S and 7 start at $699.99 and go up to $899.99. Meanwhile, the 7X models range from $899.99 to $999.99. The Epix is similarly priced, as Garmin considers it a premium multisport GPS watch. It costs $899.99 for the slate and steel model and $999.99 for the white and black titanium models.



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