Trading-card craze inspires new reality TV show from maker of ‘Pawn Stars’

May 10, 2021

The market for trading cards and other sports memorabilia, which boomed during the pandemic, is now getting the reality TV treatment, Bloomberg reports.

Brent Montgomery, the producer behind “Pawn Stars,” and Connor Schell, formerly of ESPN, are teaming up to make a show about trading-card impresario Ken Goldin and his company, Goldin Auctions. They’ve met with several streaming services and TV networks about the project, according to people familiar with the situation.

Interest in trading cards has skyrocketed over the past couple of years, fueled by younger people with spare cash treating cards like stocks or bonds, Bloomberg says. They buy cards of younger players they like, in the hopes that the value will increase as that athlete excels.

Goldin’s company has emerged as the leading auction house in the industry. It has already sold more than $150 million worth of merchandise this year, and is in the early stages of a new auction that Goldin believes will generate an additional $50 million or more.

What’s more, Montgomery and Schell believe, Goldin is the kind of outsized personality designed for reality TV. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of sports and memorabilia, and already goes live on Instagram several days a week to open new packs of cards. The proposed reality-TV show has become the subject of a bidding war, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the

Montgomery made a fortune with “Pawn Stars,” which chronicled a quirky family operated pawn shop a couple of miles off the Las Vegas Strip. The success of that show enabled him to sell a majority stake in his company, Leftfield Pictures, to British broadcaster ITV for $360 million.

Now, Bloomberg reports, Montgomery runs a company called Wheelhouse, which produces shows, and invests in media and commerce companies. For help with trading cards, he turned to Schell, who worked on the “30 for 30” documentary series at Walt Disneys ESPN. Schell left ESPN last year to start his own production company with financing from The Chernin Group (TCG).

The Chernin Group has its own connection to Goldin. It agreed to acquire a controlling stake in the auction house earlier this year.

Research contact: @Bloomberg

Britain’s Royal Mail to release stamps that celebrate the music of Paul McCartney

May 7, 2021

Britain’s Royal Mail has revealed the designs of 12 postage stamps honoring Sir Paul McCartney as a music icon a little more than three weeks ahead of the scheduled May 28 issue date, Linn’s Stamp News reports..

Royal Mail also reported that it collaborated with McCartney and his team at MPL Communications in London for this stamp issue—adding that McCartney was personally involved “in the images used and the wider product range created for the issue.”

McCartney was previously commemorated on a set of British stamps as a member of The Beatles (Scott 2420-2426), Linn’s Stamp News notes. That set, issued on January 9, 2007, included six stamps showing iconic Beatles’ album covers and a souvenir sheet of four se-tenant (side-by-side) stamps depicting Beatles’ memorabilia.

The new Paul McCartney set includes eight stamps featuring covers of his albums as a solo artist and with his band Wings, and a souvenir sheet of four stamps showing black-and-white photographs of McCartney in the recording studio.

The stamps mark the 50th anniversary of the release of one of these albums, Ram, as well as the 50th anniversary of the formation of Wings in 1971.

The cover of Ram—the only album credited to both McCartney and his first wife, Linda (1941-98)—is shown on a nondenominated first-class stamp.

Another first-class stamp depicts the cover of Venus and Mars, Wing’s fourth studio album. Released in 1975, the album reached No. 1 in the United Kingdom and the United States.

Two other first-class stamps show the covers of two self-titled albums: McCartney released in 1970; and McCartney II, released 10 years later in 1980.

The cover of McCartney III, released in December 2020, is featured on one of the four £1.70 stamps.

Pictured on the other three £1.70 stamps are the covers of his solo albums Tug of War (1982), Flaming Pie (1997) and Egypt Station (2018),

The souvenir sheet, which is titled “McCartney in the Studio,” includes two first-class stamps and two £1.70 stamps.

In announcing the Paul McCartney set of 12 stamps, David Gold, director of External Affairs and Policy at Royal Mail, said: “Paul McCartney remains a vital figure at the centre of rock and pop — an artist whose legacy is immense, but whose work continues to generate popular attention and critical acclaim. This dedicated stamp issue is a fitting tribute to one of the UK’s much loved and revered musical icons.”

The stamps and a range of collectible products are available for pre-order beginning May 6 from www.royalmail.com/paulmccartney.

Ordering information also is available from Royal Mail, Tallents House, 21 S. Gyle Crescent, Edinburgh, EH12 9PB, Scotland—or from Royal Mail’s agency in the United States is Interpost, Box 400, Hewlett, NY 11557.

Research contact: @LinnsStampNews

Twitter acquires Scroll, an ad-free news reader

May 5, 2021

Twitter  has announced the acquisition of Scroll, an ad-free news product—and word is that the social media giant expects to pull the service into a new subscription offering being planned, Ad Age reports.

To date, the app, which launched in January 2020, has offered subscribers the opportunity to get ad-free access to hundreds of websites, for $5 per month.

Scroll works with a handful of publishers—among them, Vox Media, BuzzFeed News, Business Insider, The Atlantic, and USA Today—and offers stories from those publishers to paying customers. It does not block ads; rather, it works with its expanding group of publishers to take the ads down in exchange for a slice of the subscription fee.

Scroll keeps 30% of the subscription fee and distributes the other 70% to the participating sites, based on which articles users view.

Scroll will temporarily halt new subscribers while its 13-person team joins the social media company, Twitter said on May 4 in a blog post. Deal terms weren’t disclosed. Scroll, which has offices in New York City and Portland, is backed by investors including Union Square Ventures.

Twitter has spoken publicly about its interest in selling a subscription product, and is considering a number of options. The San Francisco-based company also recently acquired Revue, a newsletter startup, with plans to make money from subscriptions. Twitter envisions the two products working together, and says users may one day pay to read newsletters or stories from certain publishers directly on Twitter without any ads.

“For every other platform, journalism is dispensable,” wrote Scroll CEO Tony Haile in a blog post. “If journalism were to disappear tomorrow their business would carry on much as before. Twitter is the only large platform whose success is deeply intertwined with a sustainable journalism ecosystem.”

The social media company is looking for ways to expand business outside of digital advertising, which makes up the bulk of revenue. Advertising can be inconsistent and Twitter said last week that ad sales got off to a slow start in 2021 thanks in part to civil unrest in the United States and delayed public events, like Hollywood’s Academy Awards presentation. A subscription business would offer a more steady and predictable revenue stream. Scroll is Twitter’s sixth deal in the past six months.

Research contact: @adage

Verizon to sell Yahoo, AOL to Apollo for $5 billion

May 4, 2021

Apollo Global Management has agreed to pay about $5 billion to acquire Yahoo and AOL from Verizon Communications, as the wireless company exits its ill-fated foray into the media business, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The private-equity firm, based in New York City, is paying $4.25 billion in cash for a 90% share of the media assets. Verizon, also headquartered in the Big Apple,  will keep a 10% stake and $750 million of additional preferred stock in the new company, called Yahoo, that will be formed to operate the business.

The Wall Street Journal earlier had reported the potential sale of Verizon’s media assets to ApolloVerizon Media—which mostly struggled to grow against Alphabet’s Google as well as Facebook, generated $7 billion in revenue last year.

zon’s positioning of the media business as a complement to its core mobile business—aimed at helping it to add subscribers and reduce the number of people who quit—held it back from pursuing some opportunities to maximize the value of each asset, executives at the private-equity firm said, according to the Journal.

For example, Yahoo has been a popular platform for sports betting, but isn’t formally licensed to host gambling. Apollo, however, is licensed in more than 200 jurisdictions for gambling.

Apollo’s strategy for the business revolves around getting more revenue from each of its 900 million active monthly users. 

“This is a typical Apollo deal in that these are very iconic, industry leading, businesses, but they need a little tender loving care,” David Sambur, the firm’s co-head of private equity, said in an interview.

Verizon Media’s revenue has increased more than 10% over the past two quarters, helped by rebounding demand from advertisers looking to tap an online shopping boom during the coronavirus pandemic. Digital-ad sales are expected to accelerate in the coming months, as consumers start spending more cash on travel and other activities.

Other suitors previously showed interest in buying off certain pieces of the media

For Apollo, buying the entire portfolio means needing to have a view on how to run each of the diverse properties. The firm specializes in doing such complex deals and has focused on boosting growth at other internet companies it owns, including online-photo-services company Shutterfly.

Verizon Chief Executive Hans Vestberg said in an interview that the company’s long-term strategy to provide “network-as-a-service” to customers over fiber-optic and cellular connections made the media business a better fit under new owners. He portrayed the sale as an outcome years in the making.

Research contact: @WSJ

Swipe right: A new real estate brand is treating home buying like dating

May 3, 2021

Casa Blanca—a new app that enables users to sort through profiles in hopes of finding the perfect match—just released its first ad campaign, Adweek reports.

But, instead of presenting you with singles in your area and competing in the crowded market of dating sites like Tinder and Bumble, the brand is delving into a different type of matchmaking through a personalized, design-first approach to the home-buying process.

“Designed with personalized match-making technology powered by a simple swipe left or right, the Casa Blanca app helps more people find their dream home,” the company’s website claims, adding that, “The only real estate app that eliminates the middle man and gives buyers up to 1% cash back on their final purchase price, Casa Blanca streamlines and sorts listings based on user preferences and lifestyle priorities, introducing them to refined home choices.”

Casa Blanca worked with the app,  Rent Antler, to create a lifestyle campaign that will run on social and digital platforms, which the brand hopes will capture its purpose of disrupting the market through a direct-to-consumer approach to real estate, Adweek notes 

The brand is setting itself apart from the competition by offering curated recommendations for buyers, who may be used to staring at the same few properties that match their price point on other platforms, says CEO and Co-founder Hannah Bomze. 

“We wanted to create a platform similar to Bumble, where if you don’t like something, you don’t have to keep seeing it over and over again,” she explains.“We ask very specific questions about your style, and the more you swipe left and right, the more we can make visual recommendations for you.”

The bottom line: Casa Blanca’s target audience is first-time buyers, and Bomze hopes that its lighthearted content—including testimonials from new homeowners on its Instagram page—can make the real estate process feel less arduous and more inviting.

“Instead of a traditional real estate brand showing you pictures of people’s empty homes, we’re showing you who lives in this space, why they chose it and what their life looks like,” Bomze said. “We are trying to bring more personalization and customization to a process that has been very transactional.”

Research contact: @Adweek

Biden signs law that makes sesame the ninth major food allergen

April 29, 2021

President Joe Biden has signed into law a new measure that designates sesame as the ninth major food allergy and ramps up allergy research—enacting a bipartisan attempt to address marked growth in certain deadly allergies, The Washington Post reports.

The Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education and Research (Faster) Act (H.R. 2117) passed the Senate in March and the House of Representatives this month.

According to the Post, the need is clear: In the past two decades, life-threatening childhood food allergies have risen steadily, growing by about 4% per year to afflict 32 million Americans, according to research by Northwestern University, McKinsey & Company, and Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), a nonprofit.

Studies estimate that the costs borne by American families—for medical bills, buying special foods, or forgoing full-time employment to care for a child with a food allergy — total $24.8 billion annually.

There are several strong theories to explain the uptick, Jonathan Spergel, chief of the Allergies Department at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, tells the post—but one stands out: In 2000, a small study suggested that if parents delayed the introduction of potentially allergenic foods, kids were less likely to develop those allergies.

That guidance was wrong, with subsequent studies revealing the exact opposite: Early, careful introduction of these foods lessens the risk of serious allergy. But the damage was done, as the American Academy of Pediatrics, parenting magazines; and parents, themselves, advocated for postponing the introduction of these potentially dangerous foods.

Even in the face of strong new evidence, a 2020 survey of pediatricians found that only 29% were implementing early introduction of allergens.

The new law attempts to change that. According to Lisa Gable, chief executive of FARE, 1.6 million Americans have sesame allergies. This law will require foods containing sesame to be clearly labeled by January 2023.

But perhaps more significant, the Globe reports, the legislation says the Department of Health and Human Services must prioritize regular reviews of promising food allergy treatments and research.

And this research will, for the first time, have an outlet for wide dissemination via the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The Department of Health and Human Services and the Agriculture Department have issued the dietary guidelines every five years since 1980, but about babies and toddlers they’ve been mum until 2020. The guidelines are the road map for how the government administers school lunches and food assistance programs, and they often influence how food manufacturers formulate their products so they can participate in those programs, which buy $100 billion worth of food a year.

The 2020 guidelines contained three paragraphs about introducing infants to potentially allergenic foods — babies at high risk of peanut allergy should be introduced at 4 to 6 months; cow’s milk as a beverage by one year—and stated that “there is no evidence that delaying introduction of allergenic foods, beyond when other complementary foods are introduced, helps to prevent food allergy.”

Previous dietary guidelines did not contain suggestions for the introduction of allergenic foods.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Pfizer’s new at-home pill to treat COVID could be available by the end of this year

April 28, 2021

Pfizer’s experimental oral drug to treat COVID-19 at the first sign of illness could be available by the end of the year, CEO Albert Bourla told CNBC on Tuesday, April 27.

In March, the company—which developed the first FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccine in the United States in cooperation with German drugmaker BioNTech—began an early-stage clinical trial testing a new antiviral therapy for COVID. The drug is part of a class of medicines called protease inhibitors and works by inhibiting an enzyme that the virus needs to replicate in human cells.

Protease inhibitors are used to treat other viral pathogens, such as HIV and hepatitis C.

If clinical trials go well and the Food and Drug Administration approves it, the drug could be distributed nationwide by year-end, Bourla told CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

Health experts say the drug, taken by mouth, could be a gamechanger because people newly infected with the virus could use it outside of hospitals. Researchers hope the medication will keep the disease from progressing and prevent hospital trips.

In addition to the drug, Pfizer is still testing its vaccine in 6-month to 11-year-old children. Vaccinating children is crucial to ending the pandemic, public health officials and infectious disease experts say.

Earlier this month, the company asked the FDA to expand its vaccine authorization to adolescents ages 12 to 15 after the shot was found to be 100% effective in a study.

Bourla told CNBC on Tuesday he is “very optimistic” that the FDA will approve the use of the shot in adolescents.

Research contact: @CNBC

Heineken responds perfectly to the implosion of the European Super League

April 27, 2021

In America, the XFL is the most iconic example of a football league that couldn’t go the distance: After its eight teams engaged in just five weeks of play in its inaugural 2020 season, the league’s operations slowly came to a halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic—leading to bankruptcy.

But, Adweek reports, the XFL feels like an enduring cultural institution compared to the European Super League, an audacious concept that lasted a mere 60 hours in late April before imploding spectacularly.

Now, brewmaker and soccer sponsor Heineken and its advertising agency Publicis have cheekily marked the misguided attempt at a new soccer league with an Instagram post that bears a simple warning: Don’t drink and start a league.

The social post was created through Publicis Italy and the agency’s dedicated Heineken group, Le Pub.

As a longtime sponsor of the UEFA Champions League, Heineken obviously had a clear side in the debate, but it’s also one that the brand could rest comfortably knowing that its sense of humor would be shared by most fans.

Indeed, according to Adweek, the Instagram post developed by Publicis has received more than 12,800 likes in its first six hours, with comments consistently describing the response as “brilliant” and “genius.”

Research contact: @Adweek

Latest buzz: Genetically modified mosquito startup raises $6.8 million in venture capital

April 26, 2021

Oxitec— a U.S.-owned startup with headquarters and R&D facilities in the U.K., just a few miles from Oxford University—has raised US$6.8 million in venture capital from the Wellcome Trust, one of the world’s largest chqritable foundations, Axios reports.

The company is generating buzz worldwide for its insect-based biological solutions for controlling pests that transmit disease, destroy crops, and harm livestock.

In its latest headline-making news, Oxitec will start releasing a total of 12,000 genetically modified,  non-biting male mosquitos from boxes into the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District to mate with the local biting female mosquitoes over  a period of 12 weeks.

The female offspring of these encounters cannot survive, the company says—making it possible to control the local population of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. The Aedes aegypti mosquito makes up about 4 percent of the mosquito population in the Florida Keys—but is responsible for virtually all mosquito-borne diseases transmitted to humans. This species of mosquito transmits dengue, Zika, yellow fever, and other human diseases; and can transmit heartworm and other potentially deadly diseases to pets and animals.

According to Axios, Oxitec is one of the world’s most controversial startup—even though everyone applauds its mission of reducing instances of mosquito-borne diseases.

Oxitec already has released more than a billion bugs, including in Brazil and the Cayman Islands—and, last year, the EPA and state officials approved field tests in the Florida Keys.

In the the Brazilian city of Indaiatuba, Oxitec’s genetically modified mosquito suppressed disease-carrying Aedes aegypti by up to 95%* in urban, dengue-prone environments following just 13 weeks of treatment, as compared to untreated control sites in the same city.

It’s a novel solution to human disease spread—particularly where native mosquitoes are increasingly resistant to insecticides—but many locals are concerned about how this will impact the broader ecosystem.

Research contact: @axios