March 8, 2021
The National Football League is ready to sign new rights deals with media partners that could see Amazon.com carrying many games exclusively—and TV networks paying as much as double their current rate, people familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal late last week.
New agreements could be in place within the next few days, the sources said—but some things won’t change immediately. The television deals for the league’s Sunday and Monday franchises with Fox, CBS, NBC, and ESPN are likely to run for as long as 11 years, they said.
ESPN’s deal would go into effect after the 2021-22 season; while the Fox, CBS and NBC agreements would kick in after the 2022-23 season.
A deal with Amazon would result in a significant number of Thursday night games running exclusively on its Prime Video platform—and would represent the league’s deepest foray into streaming, some of the sources told the Journal. Those games wouldn’t be available on traditional television outside of the local markets of the two teams playing, they said.
Amazon has become an aggressive bidder for sports rights, both in America and abroad. The company already has a relationship with the NF—as it has held streaming rights for Thursday night football since 2017. Those games also have been televised by the league-owned NFL Network; and, most recently, by the Fox network, whose parent company shares common ownership with News Corp, the parent company of Wall Street Journal publisher Dow Jones.
If completed, an Amazon deal wouldn’t take effect until after the 2022 season, when Fox’s current pact for Thursday night football expires. Fox is now paying $660 million a season for that package, The Wall Street Journal previously reported. If the Thursday games go to Amazon and there is no other video component beyond the local TV markets of the teams playing, that yearly fee Amazon pays could reach $1 billion, people with knowledge of the discussions said.
Amazon currently pays between $75 million and $100 million to stream Thursday games, a person with knowledge of the deal said. As with Fox, that contract still has two seasons on it. The NFL Network would continue to carry a handful of exclusive Saturday and Thursday games; as its contract with distributors requires it to carry at least five games a season, people familiar with the league’s thinking said.
A deal with Amazon for most Thursday night games would solve a potential problem for the NFL. While Thursday games get strong ratings compared with any other programming, the high price tag was making it a tough sell with broadcasters who already carry NFL packages such as Fox, which analysts and industry insiders estimate loses $250 million a season. Prior to Fox’s deal, CBS and NBC shared Thursday games; and their combined losses were more than $200 million, people familiar with those agreements have said.
A move to put a chunk of NFL games—which typically dominate television ratings—exclusively on a streaming platform isn’t without risk. Amazon carried one game exclusively last year and drew an average audience of fewer than five million, much lower than the typical NFL game on broadcast television or ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.”
The league is trying to strike a balance between embracing new platforms and the revenue they represent while keeping most of its games on traditional television.
Fox’s annual average fee for its Sunday afternoon games is expected to jump to around $2 billion from the current $1.1 billion, the people familiar with those negotiations said. ViacomCBS likely will see its average fee per season of Sunday afternoon games go from $1 billion to the $2 billion range, the people said.
NBC’s streaming service Peacock also will carry one game exclusively and will simulcast NBC’s Sunday night games, the person said.
The fee increases come after a season in which ratings were down for the regular season, playoffs and Super Bowl. Network executives say they believe that the coronavirus pandemic played a large part in the declines and think numbers will improve once normalcy returns.
In addition, CBS, Fox, NBC and ESPN are all facing challenges in holding on to viewers, making live sports ever more important.
Research contact: @WSJ
March 5, 2021
Square, the mobile payments company founded by Dorsey (who also is CEO of Twitter) announced on March 4 that it would acquire a “significant majority” of Tidal, the streaming music service owned by Jay-Z and other artists—including Jay-Z’s wife, Beyoncé, , and singer and entrepreneur Rihanna, who is a client of Jay-Z’s entertainment management company, Roc Nation.
The announcement comes less than two weeks after Jay-Z announced that he would sell 50% of his champagne company, Armand de Brignac—better known as Ace of Spades—to LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton amid a downturn in the entertainment industry caused by the pandemic that has affected some of Jay-Z’s holdings.
“I think Roc Nation will be fine,” Jay-Z said in an interview last month about the sale of Armand de Brignac. “Like all entertainment companies, it will eventually recover. You just have to be smart and prudent at a time like this.”
Also last month, Dorsey announced that he and Jay-Z had endowed a Bitcoin trust to support development in India and Africa.
Tidal, which Jay-Z bought in partnership with other artists in 2015 for $56 million, provides members access to music, music videos and exclusive content from artists—but the streaming music industry has been dominated by competitors like Spotify, Apple and Amazon.
In 2017, Jay-Z sold 33% of the company to Sprint for an undisclosed amount. (After a merger, Sprint is now a part of T-Mobile.) Earlier this week, Jay-Z bought back the shares from T-Mobile, and most will be sold to Square as part of the deal.
Dorsey and Jay-Z began to discuss the acquisition “a few months ago,” Jesse Dorogusker, a Square executive who will lead Tidal on an interim basis, told the Times.
“It started as a conversation between the two of them,” he said. “They found that sense of common purpose.”
Research contact: @nytimes
March 4, 2021
A sprawling Palm Beach waterfront property linked to former President Donald Trump has hit the market for $49 million, Fox Business reports.
The property, sitting directly next to Mar-a-Lago’s Beach Club, is owned by a limited liability company tied to the Trump Organization, the family’s business entity, according to property records obtained by the news outlet.
It was last sold in May 2018 for about $18.5 million to the limited liability company, the property records indicate. The company’s mailing address also matches that of the The Trump Organization in New York City, records show.
Now, the eight-bedroom home, spanning roughly 10,455 square feet, is being listed by Lawrence Moens of the Lawrence A. Moens brokerage, according to the Palm Beach Daily News. The home includes a formal living room, a sunroom, a family room, a library, and a balcony with ocean views, according to the local news source.
There is also a patio and swimming pool on the property, which is more than six-tenths of an acre and has 194 feet of beachfront, the Palm Beach Daily News reports. What’s more, the newest homeowners will get certain privileges, including free membership to The Mar-a-Lago Club.
The home is being advertised as an “exclusive listing,” although it doesn’t mention any ties to the Trump family. The listing is described as “a well-known and very important oceanfront estate” that will be readily available for interested homeowners by late spring.
Trump purchased Mar-a-Lago for $10 million in 1985 from the estate of Marjorie Merriweather Post, the owner of General Foods. The 126-room mansion had deteriorated after her death in 1973, when she left it to the U.S. government as a possible presidential vacation home. The government gave it back in 1981.
However, in the early 1990s, the estate was turned into a private club that would be limited to 500 members, including the former president. The initiation fee is now $200,000 and annual dues are $14,000, Fox Business notes.
Research contact: @FoxBusiness
March 3, 2021
In mid-February—while most of his friends and neighbors were struggling with shortages of food and water, historically cold weather, and flooding in their homes—one Texas retailer decided to take a controversial news story and turn it into a commercial “smash hit.”
Carlos De La Fuente, the owner of ABC Party HQ in Dallas, created a piñata inspired by the viral photos of Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) walking through the Cancún International Airport after he and his family left their dog, their home—and his constituents statewide— to vacation in a warmer clime
In the photo, Cruz sported a mask with the Texas flag as he rolled his suitcase. The store created the unique design as the storm forced it to close for six days starting on February 13.
“That’s the reason that I’ve gotten creative and made some piñatas, so that people can come and support,” De La Fuente told NBC News. “I’m always looking for something positive out of negative things so that we can all get a laugh out of it.”
Cruz’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
As for the papier-mâché creations they make themselves, this isn’t the first time the store has highlighted a politician. For example, the store made piñatas of Senator Bernie Sanders’ inauguration meme, which went viral across social media.
“I’m always keeping up with news trends and what’s going on in the world, both positive and negative,” he said.
De La Fuente says he’s received a positive reaction on the piñatas from his community members, whom, he says, are especially supportive of local businesses.
“We’re now getting back to opening up,” said De La Fuente, “because the temperatures are there and [we] are ready to get back to work.”
Research contact: @NBCNews
March 2, 2021
Berlin-based Blacklane—an upscale ride-hailing company in which Daimler has invested—rolled out its inner-city services in New York City on March 1—seeking to challenge the black car services of rivals Uber and Lyft, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to reshape the industry, The Wall Street Journal reports.
The firm was founded by Jens Wohltorf and Frank Steuer in 2011. As frequent travelers, they saw a need for a single global professional chauffeur service. They had a vision to create “a smarter way to book and manage rides”—something affordable, reliable, and efficient. Blacklane has grown from a two-man operation in Berlin to an international crew of over 400 people with satellite offices in Singapore, Los Angeles, Dubai, and Brisbane.
Indeed, after New York City, the service is slated to expand to Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, London, Paris, Berlin, Milan, Singapore, Dubai and other locations throughout the month, Wohltorf told Journal.
Blacklane is aiming to serve a narrow part of the ride-hailing market that targets business customers. It uses chauffeur-driven premium or luxury vehicles and offers services such as handling luggage, opening doors for passengers, and other amenities.
The ride-hailing industry was hit hard by the pandemic when lockdowns brought mass transportation to a halt. Uber and Lyft said in February that ride bookings had halved in the fourth quarter, compared with a year earlier.
The industry has adapted the Journal notes: Uber’s food-delivery service helped it weather the trough in its core offering. Blacklane’s new inner-city service is part of a similar effort—using existing drivers who previously only served the airports to offer the same chauffeured service for rides in the cities where they operate.
While Uber and Lyft dominate the broader ride-hailing market, the much-smaller Blacklane initially sought to carve a niche with an app offering chauffeur-driven rides to and from airports, which at latest count was available in 300 cities world-wide.
That business came to a halt when the virus grounded most air travel. So in December, Blacklane started an intercity service in the U.S. to attract business travelers wary of taking crowded trains and short-haul flights. Travelers can book a Blacklane driver for a trip from New York to Boston for $399, about half the cost of an Uber or Lyft ride on the same route.
With the new inner-city service, Blacklane is hoping to attract the same business, safety-conscious audience. It pairs a traditional, luxury limousine service with the convenience of a booking app.
“Being dependent on travel and airports, we were on the front-line of the pandemic,” said Wohltorf, pointing out that a revival of international travel was still on the distant horizon. “But cities are back; they are mobile. There is good recovery of inner-city mobility.”
Mr. Wohltorf and his investors had been targeting a potential initial public offering next year, but they have put off the plan until 2023 at the earliest, he told the Journaln.
“The longer we wait the more valuable we become and the more impact we will have. There is no reason for hectic,” he said.
Research contact: @WSJ
March 1, 2021
On February 25, Twitter announced plans to build a new paid product called Super Follows, Bloomberg reports.
The social network describes Super Follows as a potential subscription product that will enable users to charge their followers for access to special content or experiences—part of a broader effort to diversify Twitter’s revenue sources and give high-profile users a way to make money on the service.
The company first mentioned the new feature during an Analyst Day event—describing it as an “account subscription” that would enable users to charge others on the service for certain content. This could be a number of things, including exclusive tweets, special access to another user’s direct messages or audio conversations, or a paid newsletter, said Twitter’s Product Lead Kayvon Beykpour,. The company plans to release Super Follows “sometime this year.”
According to Bloomberg, Twitter’s shares rose to an all-time high on the product announcement and an upbeat forecast for sales and user growth through 2023. San Francisco-based Twitter recently purchased newsletter startup Revue, and executives have said they are excited about letting newsletter writers build a paying audience on the service. The company is also considering “tipping,” or letting users donate money to people they enjoy following, and charging for Tweetdeck.
“We also think that an audience-funded model, where subscribers can directly fund the content that they value most, is a durable incentive model that aligns the interest of creators and consumers,” said Dantley Davis, Twitter’s chief design officer. Presumably, Twitter would take a cut of the subscription fee.
Twitter executives also talked about the need to move fast—pointing out that the company historically has moved too slowly when it comes to launching and testing new products. “We agree we’ve been slow,” Co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey said to start the event. “If you compare us to our peers on the market, this is especially stark.”
In addition to goals around revenue and user growth, Twitter also said it wants to “double development velocity” by 2023, which means “doubling the number of features shipped per employee.”
Research contact: @Bloomberg
Febraury 26, 2021
Next fall, you’re cordially invited to Mr. Potato Head’s wedding. He’s marrying his partner of many years, another Potato Head. And they promise it’s going to be the party of the year, with—you guessed it—plenty of spuds on the menu.
On the surface, it may seem like a subtle shift, but it is designed to break away from traditional gender norms, particularly when it comes to creating Potato Head families—which is how toddlers frequently play with the toy, according to Hasbro’s research. But when the new brand is unveiled, kids will have a blank slate to create same-sex families or single-parent families. It’s a prime example of the way heritage toy brands are evolving to stay relevant in the 21st century.
Hasbro launched Mr. Potato Head in 1952 for the princely sum of $0.98 (or $10 in today’s currency). Back then, families had to supply their own real potato, which kids could then turn into little people thanks to plastic pieces in the box, such as hands, feet, and eyes, and accessories such as a pipe, and felt pieces that were meant to be mustaches.
The following year, Mrs. Potato Head launched with feminized accessories, such as hair bows and red high heels. The Potato Heads were the first toys to be marketed directly to kids, that strategy worked like gangbusters: More than one million kits were sold in the first year.
The enduring success of Potato Head comes down to its sheer silliness, Kimberly Boyd, an SVP and GM at Hasbro who works on the Potato Head brand told Fast Company. The idea of a potato person with an enormous mustache is universally hilarious, particularly to the sensibilities of small children. But after that initial laugh, Boyd says that kids continue to engage with the toy because it provides a canvas onto which they can project their own experiences.
“The sweet spot for the toy is two to three years old,” she says. “Kids like dressing up the toy, then playing out scenarios from their life. This often takes the form of creating little potato families, because they’re learning what it means to be in a family.”
Over the decades, the Potato Head brand has explicitly played into this tendency to create families. It has sold Mr. Potato Head family sets, with a male and a female character, along with smaller potato children. In 2012, Hasbro celebrated the 60th wedding anniversary of Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head with a boxed set featuring the couple.
But eight years later, the brand wants to stop leaning so heavily into this traditional family structure. “Culture has evolved,” she says. “Kids want to be able to represent their own experiences. The way the brand currently exists—with the “Mr.” and “Mrs.”—is limiting when it comes to both gender identity and family structure.”
The brand’s solution is to drop the gendered honorific title altogether. This means the toys don’t impose a fixed notion of gender identity or expression, freeing kids to do whatever feels most natural to them: A girl potato might want to wear pants and a boy potato might wear earrings.
Hasbro also will sell boxed sets that don’t present a normative family structure. This approach is clever because it allows kids to project their own ideas about gender, sexuality, and family onto the toy, without necessarily offending parents that have more conservative notions about family.
Research contact: @FastCompany
Febraury 25, 2021
Few things have changed less during the course of this century than this nation’s fleet of postal delivery vehicles.
The familiar squat, box-like vans—produced from 1987 through 1994, and in service ever since— have a steering wheel on the right, to make it easier for drivers to reach out and put mail in curbside mail boxes. They have few creature comforts—certainly not air conditioning.
Overall, they were designed to be rugged, not flashy. They have lived up to their name, the Grumman LLV, for long lasting vehicle.
Indeed, says CNN, this ubiquitous fleet of 200,000 vehicles has been around longer than such common features of modern life as smartphones, online shopping, social media, streaming services, or Google. About 70% of them are between 25 and 32 years old.
But their days are finally numbered. A contract with Oshkosh Defense, a unit of Oshkosh Corp. Under the contract between 50,000 and 165,000 new postal trucks will be produced over a period of ten years. Oshkosh initially will receive $482 million to initiate engineering efforts to finalize the production vehicle design, and for tooling and factory build-out activities that are necessary prior to vehicle production.
As for the design of the new van, it has a low engine compartment and hood; and a very high windshield. It looks like a duck’s head, complete with bill. The back is tall enough for a letter carrier to stand in.
And, according to CNN, the vehicles will have more cargo space than current vehicles—enabling USPS to deliver more packages, a growing and profitable part of its business, rather than traditional letters, a segment that’s shrinking.
Many but not all of the Next Generation Delivery Vehicles(NGDVs) will be electric vehicles. With electric vehicle changing at a fast pace and the vehicles designed to last decades, the contract calls for the electric versions to able to be retrofitted to keep pace with advances.
The rest will be what the USPS says will be high efficiency traditional gasoline engines. The precise mix between EVs and internal combustion engines has not been set. But the mix has already elicited criticism from environmentalists.
“The USPS NGDVs should be electrified as a matter of urgency,” Robbie Diamond, president of Securing America’s Future Energy, or SAFE, told CNN. “This contract is a golden opportunity to stimulate the domestic EV market and supply chain, and a commitment to electrifying the NGDV would provide a clear incentive for further domestic EV industry development.”
The vehicles have also been in the works for years. USPS has been working on the project with potential suppliers since 2016.
Research contact: @CNN
February 24, 2021
The School of Fashion at The New School’s Parsons School of Design—in collaboration with WWD, a leading source of news for the fashion, beauty, and retail industries; and the New York-based education platform Yellowbrick—announced on February 23 the availability of a new online certificate program called Fashion Business Essentials.
According to the press release from the three organizations, “The program will offer a deep exploration into the innovation and changes happening across the Fashion business—including effective uses of information technology, strategic business planning, decision-making, planning management, brand development, and effective communications within organizations.”
Learners who complete the program will earn a non-credit Completion Certificate from Parsons and will gain a full understanding of key roles, skills, and functions to be successful in the fashion industry. All course materials and instruction will be provided online, enabling students to complete lessons at their own pace and fit the course into their daily lives.
The program offers more than 15 hours of instruction and project time offered across five modules” “Entrepreneurship and the Fashion System,” “Managing Fashion Production,” “Fashion Branding,” “Marketing Strategies,” and “Retailing and Distribution.”
Instruction will come from Parsons faculty, along with fashion insiders and experts. Instructors include Keanan Duffty, director of Fashion Programs, Parsons; Khary Simon, VP at The Premiere Group, Parsons Faculty; Jasmine Young, VP of Operations at Ami Colé; Sydney Price, founder & CEO, The Knew Purpose, Parsons Faculty; Rick Helfenbein, Retail & Fashion Industry Consultant, former president and CEO of the American Apparel & Footwear Association; and many more.
“The fashion industry has endured many challenges over the past year and we see its recovery as an opportunity to bring more diverse voices into the ranks,” said Ben Barry, Dean of the School of Fashion at The New School’s Parsons School of Design. “In this program, we’re building opportunities for talent who hail from non-traditional backgrounds in the fashion industry, and we’re furthering our mission to change the fashion education experience for the better.”
“WWD has been covering the Fashion industry since 1910, and few if any years have been more disruptive to the industry than 2020 was. However, where there’s disruption, there’s opportunity,” added Amanda Smith, president of Fairchild Media. “This is a chance for a whole new generation of talent to join us in reimagining the industry in bigger and better ways. By partnering with Parsons and Yellowbrick, we’re helping educate the next generation and we’re excited to tap our staff’s extensive knowledge in providing that education.”
“Fashion occupies a special place among creative industries, as expressed to us by the thousands of learners who have come through our Fashion and Streetwear programs,” said Rob Kingyens, president and CEO of Yellowbrick. “For learners who are dedicated to learning all they can, we wanted to create a next-level educational experience that highlights the intricacies of this massive and inspiring industry. By tapping the passion and expertise of Parsons and WWD staff, we’re now able to help fashion professionals and businesses advance in this exciting industry.”
Beginning February 23, visitors to www.yellowbrick.co/FashionBusiness can sign up for an exclusive preview of the program. The first group of students will be admitted to Fashion Business Essentials later this month.
Research contact: @ParsonsSchool
February 23, 2021
Today, it has millions of users, a valuation of roughly $1 billion and a ton of buzz—which only got louder this month when Tesla CEO Elon Musk invited Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin to join him on Clubhouse for a drop-in audio chat. (Putin still is thinking it over.)
What’s more, The New York Times’ Steven Kurutz reports, Musk recently joined Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg for a conversation on Clubhouse—and their joint appearance caused such a stir that the platform nearly crashed.
Still, it remains a small club, so to speak—certainly when compared with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. If you’ve heard about it, and want to know what the fuss is about, Kurutz provides a primer, as follows:
What is it? Clubhouse is social networking app that enables users to gather in audio chat rooms to discuss various topics, whether it’s sports, wellness, art or why Bitcoin is headed to $87,000. Rooms are usually divided into two groups—those who are talking and those who are listening (participants can see a list of everyone who is in a conversation, and the numbers sometimes run into the thousands).
Unlike Twitter, Clubhouse is a closed, hierarchical platform: A moderator oversees discussions and has the ability to let someone chime in or to kick out the unruly. In addition to the “clubs” sorted by topic, two or more users can join together and start their own chat room, the Times notes.
The app was unveiled last spring by two tech industry veterans, Paul Davison and Rohan Seth. Their prototype of a podcasting app seemed too much like a broadcast, so they added a feature that enabled users to join the conversation. Clubhouse has been variously likened to a podcast with audience participation; the 2021 version of AOL’s Instant Messager; and an old-fashioned party line.
The focus on audio, rather than text, photos, or videos is a differentiator and part of the appeal. Delia Cai, of the newsletter Deez Links, wrote of her experience on the app: “It felt spontaneous, low-commitment, and blessedly did not involve turning any kind of camera on.”
Who is on it? As its name suggests, Clubhouse is built on exclusivity: You have to be invited in by an existing user. Early members of the club include Silicon Valley venture capitalists (Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz, both early investors in the app), web-savvy entrepreneurs (Mark Cuban, Tim Ferriss), a smattering of performers and cultural influencers (Tiffany Haddish, Drake, Virgil Abloh) and people with random claims to fame (Vanilla Ice, Roger Stone).
According to the Times’ Kurutz, Clubhouse has been criticized by some for its male-dominated, bro-y energy (though plenty of women are on the platform, too). Its open information exchange has also made it popular with users from countries with repressive governments. China blocked Clubhouse this month. Right now, the app, which is still in the beta stage, has the rare (and likely fleeting) feeling of a small world. It’s still a surprise when you bump someone you know, or when, say, Senator Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) pops up in a chat room.
What happens on it? Clubhouse can at times reflect Silicon Valley’s relentless focus on personal optimization. Networking, weight training, retiring early, pitching investors and Bitcoin, Bitcoin, Bitcoin—the hustle culture is real and present. But there is also a huge theater scene, with staged plays—and a dating scene, too. And conversations are often free-form, meandering, and completely unscripted. That unpolished quality is part of the charm.
How can you get an invite? Clubhouse is currently available only on iOS. Each person invited to join is, in turn, given invitations to hand out (users who are active on the platform are granted more invites). So try hitting up a friend or colleague already on the app.
f that fails, you may be able to buy your way in: Invitations are going for between $30 and $20,000 on eBay. (But be aware that Clubhouse lacks some of the privacy filters of other platforms.)Or you can wait, Kurutz advises. The Clubhouse website suggests the app will open up to a wider audience, or everyone, in time.
Research contact: @nytimes