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Data Sheet—Apple, Disney and Amazon’s Streaming Battle: Who Has the Best Sci-Fi Shows?

May 3, 2019, 12:01 PM UTC

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Get your popcorn ready. If this is the golden age of television, it’s the platinum, supersonic, nirvana age of science fiction and fantasy TV shows. Last year’s Emmys included nominations (and few winners) from HBO’s Westworld, Hulu’s Handmaid’s Tale, and BBC’s Orphan Black. There’s also Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle, CBS’s revived Star Trek franchise, and the cult hit The Expanse, which was cancelled by the Syfy network only to be scooped up by Amazon. Oh yeah, and HBO has some show about dragons and ice zombies.

It’s definitely not Hulu or Netflix. Hulu seems only to have on tap a handful of animated shows based on characters from Marvel Comics, like Howard the Duck. Netflix has done virtually nothing original in the genre of science fiction, though it has some closely-related fantasy and horror shows. Should we count The OA or Stranger Things? Maybe. In a similar vein, coming soon is Superman Henry Cavill in The Witcher, a monster hunter from the novels of Andrzej Sapkowski.

Then there’s the current owner of Marvel, Disney, and what is planned for the new Disney+ service. The company is obviously leaning hard on the comic book universe plus all the Star Wars spinoffs it can manage. Variety reports Loki and Scarlet Witch from the MCU are getting their own streaming shows, while a live action program related to Star Wars is on the way called The Mandalorian, set after the fall of the first empire.

Still, nothing super-impressive. That leaves it to Apple and Amazon–and they have taken up the sci-fi programming challenge with gusto.

Apple’s massive slate includes Steven Spielberg’s revived Amazing Stories, the post-apocalyptic tale See starring Aquaman’s Jason Momoa, a fictitious history about the space race called For All Mankind from Battlestar Galactica reboot producer Ronald D. Moore, as well as a yet-unnamed big budget sci-fi show from producers Simon Kinberg and David Weil. Apple also bought the rights to make the Terry Gilliam movie Time Bandits into a show and grabbed perhaps the grand daddy of all sci-fi properties, novelist Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series. Not many details about who’s attached yet.

Amazon wended it way into the hearts of science fiction TV fans last year when it grabbed The Expanse and promised at least a fourth season, coming later this year. The minions of Jeff Bezos have also been busy the past few years collecting the rights to many cherished sci-fi novels, including Larry Niven’s Ringworld, Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, and Greg Rucka’s comic book Lazarus. And don’t forget they got the rights to make spinoff properties set in the world of Lord of the Rings and Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, too.

For now, let’s call it a tie between Apple and Amazon. Have a great weekend.

Aaron Pressman


Paint it black. Worse than a cancelled Rolling Stones tour, ticket seller Eventbrite disappointed Wall Street with revenue growing just 9% to $81 million in the first quarter. Its shares, already down 13% in 2019, plunged another 27%. At the opposite end of the stock market spectrum, fake meat maker Beyond Meat priced its initial public offering at $25 a share and saw the stock more than double to close at $65.75 in its first day of trading on Thursday.

Ruby Tuesday. But speaking of Mick Jagger and his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame career, the World Video Game Hall of Fame in Rochester, N.Y., announced its fifth class of inductees. Super Mario Kart and Mortal Kombat weren't a surprise. Neither was the 1976 text-based game Colossal Cave Adventure. But Microsoft Solitaire? Really?

Tumbling dice. The Oracle of Omaha, legendary investor Warren Buffett, says his company Berkshire Hathaway has finally invested in shares of Amazon, only 22 years after it went public. Buffett admitted on CNBC that he'd been “an idiot for not buying” earlier. They will never have to express that regret at SoftBank Group's Vision Fund, which seems to buy into every major startup. Now the company is considering taking the fund public. What's the model? "The hope is to create a smaller version of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway," the Wall Street Journal reports.

Sympathy for the devil. A bunch of far-right wing chatterboxes including Alex Jones and Milo Yiannopoulos plus religious leader Louis Farrakhan got the boot from Facebook on Thursday. “We’ve always banned individuals or organizations that promote or engage in violence and hate, regardless of ideology,” the company said in a statement. Meanwhile, Facebook is also said to be talking to dozens of potential financial and e-commerce partners about a new digital currency payments system dubbed Project Libra.

It's all over now. It was the first $1 billion purchase of former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, but now blogging site Tumblr is barely expected to fetch 12 figures. Verizon wants to sell Tumblr as it restructures its digital media division built from the remains of faded titans Yahoo and AOL.

(Friday's headline reference explainer)


A few longer reads that I came across this week that may be appealing for your weekend reading pleasure:

The Race to Develop the Moon (The New Yorker)
For science, profit, and pride, China, the U.S., and private companies are hunting for resources on the lunar surface.

The New Rules of Travel (Outside)
Seventeen essential strategies for how to make your adventuring more fun, affordable, and hassle-free.

The Ruthless, Secretive, and Sometimes Seedy World of Hedge Fund Private Investigators
(Institutional Investor)
Seasoned professionals acknowledge off the record what they won’t acknowledge on: That the field is awash in unscrupulous characters who stretch the outer bounds of legality and morality, individuals willing to secretly record targets, pay off sources, hack, and steal, all covered by what one due diligence researcher calls an attitude of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Are the hyper-specialist shops of Berlin the future of retail? (The Guardian)
One shop sells nothing but buttons, another sells only liquorice, and another is ‘the world’s first textile butcher shop’. In the age of Amazon, it seems the way to thrive is to specialise.


A study this week pointed out a macabre if unavoidable fact about our social media-drenched era: eventually, the pages of the dead will outnumber those of the living. We're still grappling with death online. A few weeks ago, we excerpted an essay by Don Reisinger about his exploration of his late father's Facebook presence. Today, an equally poignant piece comes from Boston College senior Kyleigh Leddy, who won the New York Times Modern Love college essay contest. It's about Leddy's memories of her long missing sister, refreshed by frequent visits to Facebook:

On Facebook, my sister’s words are preserved, frozen like a photograph. And her photographs remain, too, marking the stages of her young life. You can view them chronologically, scrolling to see a giggling girl in a pink Patagonia fleece become an 18-year-old model with a disposable camera and a goofy smile. You can watch her tan legs grow long, her hair become blonder and curled, her freckles scatter into constellations across her nose. You can see the seed of rebellion sprouting into an idea, her green eyes alive and wild.


How One Company Is Using A.I. to Increase Security for a Christchurch Mosque By Emma Hinchliffe

Why Tesla Slashed Its Solar Panel Prices By Don Reisinger

A Teen Grapples With Race By Ellen McGirt


Some Norwegian fisherman got an unexpected surprise when they spotted a beluga whale swimming around their boat last week. Upon closer inspection, the white whale was wearing a harness that read “Equipment St. Petersburg,” sparking speculation that the beluga was perhaps a trained spy for Russia.

Regardless, Norwegian fisheries authorities now want to help the beluga move away from the port at Tufjord on the Arctic island of Rolvsøya. Residents of Tufjord aren't eager for the creature to leave. They've started a poll to name it (in this story from Norwegian broadcaster NRK). It's in Norwegian, but you know how to use Google Translate.

This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman. Find past issues, and sign up for other Fortune newsletters.