Meet the Netflix new boss, same as the old boss

July 17, 2020, 1:20 PM UTC

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There was a quaint time when Hollywood companies feared the encroachment of Silicon Valley on their domain. The time of fear is nearly over because the transition is complete. Netflix on Thursday promoted its content chief Ted Sarandos to co-CEO alongside co-founder Reed Hastings. The Northern California company now officially is a TV- and film-production outfit with good technology, a superior business model, and more-ruthless-than-average operators.

Sarandos has been running content for years, pumping first old then new productions into the mail-order-then-streaming engine the nerds up north built for him. If Sarandos stood out from his Hollywood peers, it was through how he trained agents and their clients to accept payment for their services rather than take a cut from the content’s performance. Other than when it suits promotional purposes, Netflix doesn’t report viewership. And it’s impossible to attribute revenue generated from a particular property. But it can promise a potential audience of closing in on 200 million subscribers. (Netflix certainly knows how buzzy titles drive signups and promote retention, and it spends accordingly on marketing.)

The company’s stock plummeted because of a light subscriber growth forecast after it reported earnings Thursday. That’s what healthy, happy, productive people in a pandemic call a success problem.


I belatedly noticed that at the end of May, TikTok executive Liu Zhen left the company, which media attributed to TikTok’s efforts to Americanize its management. Those include the hiring of ex-Disney bigwig Kevin Mayer as CEO. Liu worked at Uber before TikTok parent Bytedance and is a cousin of Didi Chuxing president Jean Liu.


Fortune‘s Jen Wieczner has written a great explanation of fintech’s role in the PPP program.


Watching this hilarious yet tragic video, I couldn’t help thinking about Trump apologist Peter Thiel’s 2016 plea that people take the reality TV star seriously but not literally. It’s clear that many people have taken his downplaying of the importance of wearing masks, never mind the miraculously disappearing coronavirus, seriously and literally. The results are obvious.

Adam Lashinsky


This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman.


Feeling grateful, doubling all payments. The unknown hacker or hackers who penetrated Twitter's security did not steal user passwords, so you do not need to reset yours, Twitter says. The FBI says, what the heck happened? Ace security reporter Brian Krebs says he already has sources pointing to a 21-year-old hacker in the U.K. as the possible culprit. Meanwhile, in the next big hack/a hack that hasn't become public yet, the Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency on Thursday issued an emergency directive warning about a major vulnerability called SIGRed in Microsoft's Windows server software.

You send $1,000. Hey Siri, are you cementing the dominance of big tech companies? The European Union opened an antitrust probe of digital voice assistants like Apple's Siri, Amazon Alexa, and Google's Assistant. The concern seems to be over interoperability with smart home devices and apps. “We see interoperability is of the essence if this market is to remain open and contestable,” EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said.

I send back $2,000. Even $1.5 trillion companies have to stay lean and mean. Despite its booming stock price, Microsoft is trimming its ranks. The software giant cut about 1,000 jobs, or less than 1% of its workforce, this week, Business Insider reports.

Only doing this for the next 30 minutes. On Wall Street, some good news, as cloud banking software developer nCino started trading after its IPO and nearly tripled in price. The 195% one-day gain was the largest for any U.S. tech company going public since the Internet bubble, Renaissance Capital reports. Wait, I thought this was supposed to be good news. Hmm.


Writing a novel isn't easy. OneZero columnist Angela Lashbrook found a semi-low-tech way to help. She bought a “portable word processor” called the AlphaSmart that has a keyboard and a six-line greyscale screen. It doesn't do much besides let her write.

The AlphaSmart gives me the perfect amount of power over my environment. Because it isn’t connected to the internet, I’m not tempted to check Twitter when a scene gets particularly tough. But I’m not chained to it, either; if I want, I can get up and walk into the other room where I’ve stashed my laptop. Once I’m sitting at the AlphaSmart, though, I might as well get to work. It’s either that or stare into space.

“I wrote so much of my first book on the AlphaSmart, and it really became part of my creative process,” says Alexis Henderson, author of The Year of the Witching, which comes out on July 21. She says she appreciates that the AlphaSmart is distraction-free and that the device’s simplicity, as well as its lack of a cursor, forces her to keep moving forward instead of going back and fiddling with what she’s already written. “I love that I can just throw it in my tote bag and go to the park. I’m kind of forced to write, because if I bring only my AlphaSmart, there’s nothing else that I can do except write.”


A few long reads I came across this week:

Google’s secretive ATAP lab is imagining the future of smart devices (Fast Company)
The consumer-electronics research arm has been quiet for years—but it’s also been busy. Its new mission: Make Google hardware as smart as Google software.

This Woman Inspired One of the First Hit Video Games by Mapping the World’s Longest Cave (OneZero)
Patricia Crowther’s ex-husband coded her cave maps into one of the first hit adventure games in the 1970s, and she had no idea.

How to Plan a Space Mission (The New Yorker)
At NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, scientists learn what it takes to leave the Earth behind.

The Last Reporter in Town Had One Big Question for His Rich Boss (New York Times)
His newspaper has withered under a hedge fund. His industry was in turmoil even before a pandemic. But Evan Brandt won’t stop chronicling his town.

The Man Whose Surveillance Camera Sparked a National Uprising (Level)
Rashad West went from hardworking teen to college athlete to restaurant owner by the age of 26. Then he single-handedly proved that George Floyd was not resisting arrest.


Democrats tweet the most, but individual Republicans get more engagement: How social media use differs across the aisle By Danielle Abril

T-Mobile just added a free feature that gives extra protection against robocalls By Aaron Pressman

Abigail Disney slams Disney World’s reopening as coronavirus cases spike in Florida By Aric Jenkins

What U.S. companies should consider following the bombshell EU Privacy Shield ruling By David Meyer

Are you willing to pay for news? The future of journalism may depend on it By Jennifer Hoewe and Brett Sherrick

Are people really fleeing cities because of COVID? Here’s what the data shows By Jeff John Roberts

(Some of these stories require a subscription to access. Thank you for supporting our journalism.)


British Airways is retiring all of the Boeing 747s in its fleet, as one of the most iconic aircraft in history slowly disappears from our skies. You may have thought this was a recent phenomenon, but Quartz's David Yanofsky wrote his great ode to the plane, The 747 is going extinct, back in 2014! I only took two trips on a 747 but one of them was on Air Force One, so that's pretty cool. Fare thee well, 747, and if forever, still forever, fare thee well.

Aaron Pressman


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