WELCOME BACK TO STREAMING SHOCKERS
Welcome back to a new edition of The Weekender… where streaming services are slowly becoming their cable TV parents, and New York City is more than just a great place to buy bagels – it is also the best place to be a millionaire. Also, Fox News faces the $787.5 million music, and the FBI busts a Chinese “secret police station” in New York City’s Chinatown intended to support Beijing’s targeting of political dissidents. Plus, Elon Musk shakes up Twitter (again), and the snacks we love just got a lot cuter. Everything in The Weekender is as bite-sized as the newest Twinkie and just as delicious. Scroll below.
Streaming Services: To Add More or Ad More?
Like a child to their parents, streaming services today closely resemble the cable bundles they sought to replace. Although streaming services rose to glory because they broke the traditional entertainment model by offering greater choice, lower prices, and fewer ads, it appears as though streamers are reverting to the ways of the old. This lean towards pre-streaming practices makes sense for companies like Netflix and Hulu because those tactics are still profitable. As subscription growth has plateaued, streamers felt the pressure to introduce ad tiers, raise prices, maintain live streaming services, and cut costs to keep streaming viable. Clearly, the cable model is still alive and well. As the average cable TV package runs you back $83 on average, subscribing to the largest streaming services will cost anywhere between $55 and $86 per month, disproving the bright-eyed thought that streaming services would remain cheaper than cable. Hulu has live TV and ad tiers built into their services. Netflix is working to crack down on password-sharing to maintain its bottom line, even if the move garners mixed reviews. If you remember when Netflix would mail DVDs directly to your door, you likely know what came next: an online oasis away from the annoyances of cable TV. For several years following the introduction of streaming services, we were spared everything wrong with cable. Over a decade later, the industry has reverted to the familiar methods of the past rather than innovating to find a new, more profitable and consumer-friendly path forward. While streaming handily overtook cable services because their initial model was far more agreeable to consumers, will something new overtake streamers? Read more at Axios.
New York is Winning in Wealth
The Big Apple: big lights, big dreams, and big wealth. A report by Henley & Partners and New World Wealth ranks New York as the wealthiest city on the planet, with 340,000 millionaires. The fast-paced city also has the highest number of centimillionaires in the world–people with a net worth of $100 million or more in investable assets—followed by the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles, which are also on the top 10 list of wealthiest cities, ranking third and sixth. The other cities include Tokyo, London, Singapore, Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, and Sydney. However, in 2022, the world’s ultra-wealthy shed a combined $10 trillion, or 10%, from their net worth, which was driven by global economic uncertainty, the energy crisis, and the war in Ukraine, according to a report by property consultancy Kight Frank. Aside from New York ranking number one in wealth, a big takeaway from this report is that eight out of the top 10 cities are in the Pacific Rim. The United States has three of the top 10, and China also has three (including Hong Kong), which is a considerable amount of millionaires for a “communist” country. No other country besides the U.S. and China has multiple cities on the list, highlighting the economic competition between the two countries—even more so, considering that six out of the top 10 cities are on the eastern half of the Pacific Rim. Read more at The National News.
Does Twitter have the X-factor? Owner, Elon Musk seems to think it does. While the social media platform on users’ phones and computers still has the branding, Twitter Inc. no longer exists. It is now incorporated in Delaware and merged into X Corp, a privately held company incorporated in Nevada. The company’s principal place of business remains in San Francisco, where Twitter is based. The information on the recent filings about the change prompted online speculation that it is part of Musk’s plan to use his acquisition of Twitter to help create “X, the everything app.” Musk’s history with the letter goes back to his former online banking startup, X.com, which later became Paypal after merging with another firm. According to corporate-law specialists, moving the company from Delaware to Nevada has broader business implications. Nevada’s laws grant a company’s management and its officers more discretion and protection. Musk also has other business ventures in Nevada, including Tesla Inc., the electric-vehicle maker, and The Boring Co., Musk’s tunneling company. In the meantime, don’t worry: the popular bluebird won’t fly off the app, even if the legacy blue checkmarks do. Read more at The Wall Street Journal.
Calories Just Got Cuter
The snack industry’s newest strategy? Small snacks, big profit. The year 2023 has seen the biggest names in snacks who are rolling out miniature versions of their most beloved treats. From tiny Twinkies to baby Trix and quarter-sized Doritos, General Mills Inc., Hostess Brands Inc., and PepsiCo Inc. are some of the companies looking to cash in on the cropping down. The initial idea was to create versions of their flagship products to entice consumers on the go for a quick snack amidst busy days, but it has subsequently turned into a frenzy for all things small. At an initial glance, it’s a smart move because cuteness sells. One of the most potent examples is YouTube content creator TinyHamsterOfficial, who racks up millions of views on videos of him creating mini versions of popular meals to feed his hamster. Companies like General Mills are always looking for new marketing tactics to stir interest in products that have been on shelves for years, some since the 1950s. In January of this year, General Mills released tiny renditions of Trix, Reese’s Puffs, and Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereals alongside a series of mini-branded accessories, which sold out in roughly two hours. While these products have been performing at the checkout counter, tinier foods—often intended for children—can pose a risk, as denoted by how many parents reported finding mini cereals in their child’s nose. Ironically, it appears that the craze about all tiny things is actually huge, and big supermarket brands are cashing in on foods that apparently are made for the family in “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.” Read more at The Wall Street Journal.
Opening Pandora’s Fox
The founders of the United States understood how media impacts our society and, therefore, enshrined the freedom of the press in the First Amendment of the Constitution. The news we read, sources from which we gather information, and reporters we trust all play a critical role in shaping our value system and how we view the world. On Tuesday, April 18, a landmark case between Fox News and Dominion Voting Systems ended as the two sides agreed to a $787.5 million settlement, just shy of half of the $1.6 billion Dominion sought. The defamation suit alleged Fox News frequently aired false claims that Dominion played a role in “stealing” the 2020 Presidential election. The Washington Post compiled some of the claims made about Dominion by Fox News anchors and guests over the past several years. Axios reports that Fox News settled with Dominion moments before opening statements were set to begin inside a Delaware courtroom, effectively preventing Fox News executives from taking the stand. Although testimonies will not be made, the legal discovery procedures reportedly uncovered documentation that showed Fox News knowingly and willingly catered to defunct conspiracy theories regarding the 2020 election. Internal messages and emails reveal that while program hosts and executives knew the election claims were false, they feared Trump-supporting viewers would watch other networks rather than Fox News if they contradicted the claims. Per the settlement, Fox News will not be required to make an on-air public apology, and how the case impacts journalism remains to be seen. The Dominion suit is only the first of three cases Fox News faces on the issue. The other cases include a $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit brought by Smartmatic, an election technology company, and former Fox producer Abby Grossberg, who claims Fox tried to influence her pre-trial discovery testimony for the Dominion suit. The final component for Fox News will be to reconcile its shareholders, who could sue the network for damage to assets the allegations caused. Read more in The Washington Post.
Another Spy Bites the Dust in an FBI Bust
Another Chinese spy effort went down the drain as United States federal agents arrested two New York residents for allegedly operating a Chinese “secret police station” in the Chinatown district of Manhattan, which prosecutors said was part of a crackdown on Beijing’s alleged targeting of dissidents. U.S. citizens Lu Jianwang and Chen Jinping face charges of conspiring to act as agents of China’s government without informing U.S. authorities and obstruction of justice. They were released on bond following an initial appearance in Brooklyn federal court. The Department of Justice has been ramping up probes into something called “transnational repression” by U.S. adversaries like China to intimidate political opponents living in America. This week prosecutors unveiled charges against 34 Chinese officials for allegedly operating a “troll farm” and harassing dissidents online and on social media. A 2022 investigation published by the Safeguard Defenders reports that China set up overseas “service stations” that illegally worked with Chinese police to pressure fugitives to return to the country. A former Zoom Video Communications Inc. executive has also been accused of having a secret operation inside the company when hacking Zoom sessions and conference calls. Unfortunately, it looks like China’s spying won’t stop anytime soon. The Chinese military is gearing up to deploy a high-altitude spy drone that travels at least three times the speed of sound. This development could strengthen China’s ability to conduct surveillance operations. Read more at Reuters.
- 13,981: The number of times The Phantom of the Opera was performed on Broadway. The longest-running Broadway show closed this week after being open for over 35 years.
- $255 million: The amount of money that Quarterback Jalen Hurts will make in his five-year contract with the Philidelphia Eagles. This contract will make Hurts the highest-paid NFL player in history.
- 10: The number of years since the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. This year’s marathon brought new successes with the first nonbinary division and a new record in the men’s wheelchair division.
- $195,00: The monthly rent of Trump’s Palm Beach Mansion. After the mansion did not sell, according to the listing, the Trump family hopes to rent the water-front property adjacent to the Mar-a-Largo club.
- 11: The jersey number worn by a pizza delivery man who tripped a suspect in a high-speed road chase. Cocco’s Pizzaria’s employee Tyler assisted Brookhaven, Pennsylvania, police by tripping a suspect while carrying a pizza to a customer.
- 327: The number of people that accounted for almost one-third of shoplifting arrests in New York City last year. According to Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell, the criminals had been arrested and rearrested more than 6,000 times.
- 1: The number of states that have approved a full ban on TikTok. Montana is the first state to approve a full ban of the social media app on personal devices following public controversy about the app providing sensitive information to China.
- $200 billion: The amount that companies in the U.S. invested in manufacturing projects since the government passed two pieces of legislation—the Inflation Reduction Act and the CHIPS Act—that offer subsidies for certain manufacturing investments. The amount committed to clean tech and semiconductor projects is nearly double the number made to those sectors in 2021 and up almost 20x from 2019.
A toddler earned the title of one of the tiniest White House intruders after he squeezed through the metal fencing on the north side of the executive mansion. https://t.co/D1bcaHob4o
— AP Oddities (@AP_Oddities) April 18, 2023