The daily download on the business of technology.
Welcome to the midweek news hump. Aaron in for Adam today.
On Monday came the news that Netflix was buying Millarworld, an upstart comic book publisher founded by former Marvel star writer Mark Millar. Way back then, it seemed like another smart move in owning more source material for original programming. Amid the commentary, independent analyst Jan Dawson noted that the acquisition was also a hedge against the day that Netflix’s deal with Disney for Marvel-based movies expired. “Perhaps Netflix has already had signals…that (Disney) won’t renew,” he wrote.
Well, it didn’t take long for Dawson’s take to look extremely smart. On Tuesday night, perhaps wanting to make sure his company’s poor current results weren’t the big story, Disney CEO Robert Iger announced that plans were underway to create a Netflix-like streaming service using all of Disney’s many assets. And, oh yeah, Disney would be exercising an option in 2019 to terminate its deal putting much of that content on Netflix. Iger called the move “an extremely important, very, very significant strategic shift.”
The initial reaction, as it often is, was one of overreaction. The “kill Netflix” headlines were just being written as Netflix’s stock quickly dropped 5% or more.
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But, as already seems to be the case, there’s plenty of room in the future of TV for multiple great video services. Just like we once had HBO and Cinemax and Starz on our cable box, now we can have Netflix and Amazon Prime Video and, eventually, Disney on our Roku boxes. And like in the prior era, those services that succeed will do so with a mix of original content and enough filler that they’ve licensed from others to keep customers satisfied.
One great trick of the old world, the universal listing of all shows across all channels, has yet to make it to the new world, however. I’d dearly like to know if that movie that my kids are about to buy or rent on one service is already available, perhaps for free, on another service. Right now there’s no way to do that other than a cumbersome search using each service’s individual search bars. Apple, TiVo, and others are trying to sign everyone up for universal search but there’s a long, long way to go.
Burning a hole in his pocket. They gave Japan’s richest man almost $100 billion to invest and darned if he isn’t going to spend it all in record time. Softbank Group founder and CEO Masayoshi Son is expected to put another $1 billion of his “Vision Fund” to work, buying a stake in sports e-commerce site Fanatics. CNBC has a list of prior moves, including putting $4 billion in Nvidia stock and $200 million in farm startup Plenty, though it’s now in need of an update.
Worth it? All those tax incentives that Wisconsin gave Foxconn in return for building a plant in the state won’t pay off for at least 25 years. The state won’t make back the $3 billion incentive package that lured the Chinese manufacturer until 2042, the state’s non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau concluded.
More struggle. The controversy over fired Google engineer James Damore’s sexist manifesto continued to burn bright. The alt-right took up Damore as its latest cause célèbre, and Julian Assange offered the author a job at Wikileaks. Damore says he’s filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board. At Google, executives worked to undue the damage. YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, writing at Fortune.com, defended the firing. “Every day, companies take action against employees who make unlawful statements about co-workers, or create hostile work environments,” she wrote.
Instant gratification. Maybe we won’t have to wait a few extra weeks to get the hottest new iPhone model after all. After rumors of delays, KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo now says the super-duper iPhone will be on time with other new models next month but will come in only three colors: black, silver and gold. Sorry, rose gold fans. Longtime Apple watcher John Gruber adds another tidbit. He doesn’t think the cheaper new models will be called the iPhone 7S and 7S Plus. He sees a line up of iPhone 8, 8 Plus, and 8 Pro or perhaps no numbers at all.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
So many gadgets, so many chargers. You might think that with the proliferation of smartphones, smartwatches, tablets, and every other smart thing you now have in your house, not to mention the portable battery packs you carry to recharge on the go, that electricity usage has gone up.
Actually, just the opposite, tech news site Recode discovered. Power hungry desktop computers and old-fashioned fat screen TV sets used far more electricity than laptops and newer flat screen TVs, for example. Power use had risen sharply from 1990 to 2010, but has since dipped 3%, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Carvana, the Amazon of Used Cars, Just Bought a Competitor by Kirsten Korosec
How Major League Baseball Is Disney’s Secret Weapon Against Netflix by John Patrick Pullen
The 4 Biggest Questions About the HBO Game of Thrones Hack by Aric Jenkins
Beyond Bitcoin: Overstock Lets Customers Pay With More Than 40 Alt Coins by Jeff John Roberts
Lifestage, the Facebook App You Didn’t Know Existed, Has Met Its End by Natasha Bach and David Meyer
BEFORE YOU GO
The Internet Archive is an invaluable research tool and store of culture. Now the site is adding digitized versions of music from old 78 RPM records. Have a hankering for a scratchy, original 1949 version of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” sung by Esther Williams and Ricardo Montalban? You got it.