🎢 NBCUniversal’s $2.1B park empire - The Hustle
The Hustle

🎢 NBCUniversal’s $2.1B park empire

Plus: A viral boating app, Korean influencers, a “messy home,” interactive art, “corecore” vs. Dada, and more.

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NASA is sending a spacecraft to study Psyche, an asteroid roughly the size of Massachusetts that may contain $10 quintillion worth of iron.

In today’s email:

  • D&D: How Wizards of the Coast failed its charisma check.
  • Chart: NBCUniversal’s roller coaster revenue.
  • Digits: A viral boating app, virtual influencers, and more.
  • Around the web: “Corecore” and Dada, an interactive art exhibit, an adorable friendship, and more cool internet finds.

🎧 On the go? Listen to today’s 10-minute podcast to hear about the booming theme park industry, Southwest’s software update, a pharmacist shortage, and MrBeast’s latest act of charity.

The big idea

The ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ debacle, explained

For years, “Dungeons & Dragons” fans have been able to create new content freely. They got really mad when that almost changed.
Juliet Bennett Ryla

Recently, “Dungeons & Dragons” players embarked on their biggest quest yet: convincing Wizards of the Coast (WotC) not to upset the game’s decades-old cottage industry.

The backstory

“Dungeons & Dragons” — currently owned by WotC, a division of Hasbro — has been around since 1974, but has enjoyed a modern resurgence thanks to:

  • The game’s easier-to-learn fifth-edition rule book, released in 2014.
  • Pop culture, like Netflix’s “Stranger Things,” and livestreams like “Critical Role.”
  • The pandemic, during which players flocked to online sessions. In 2020, the game generated a record $816m in revenue.

But it almost made a big mistake

In December, WotC CEO Cynthia Williams reportedly described D&D as “under-monetized.” Shortly after, a proposed update to its open gaming license (OGL) leaked online.

The OGL dates back to 2000, and allows creators to make and sell products, like custom adventures or maps, using D&D’s framework.

It incentivizes players to create content, as opposed to competing games, and is part of D&D’s lasting popularity.

But the proposed OGL would have imposed royalties on big earners, required creators to submit financial reports, and given WotC the right to use OGL content as it pleased, among other changes.

Players got really, really mad…

… signing an open letter against the update, and threatening boycotts, while other game studios announced their own OGLs.

The backlash was so intense that WotC apologized and completely reversed course on Friday, and added its entire system to a Creative Commons license, so it can be used freely with attribution.

Huzzah? Well, an important lesson was learned about upsetting an extremely loyal fan base — but what lasting impact this mess will have on D&D’s RPG throne remains to be seen.


Tidying-up queen Marie Kondo admitted that, following the birth of her third child, her home is now “messy.” These days, she’s focusing on family to spark joy.


Kicking off today: Hermes’ trademark case against artist Mason Rothschild, who sold 100 images of its famous Birkin bags as NFTs.

Wow: MrBeast, YouTube’s biggest creator, paid for 1k people who had lost their vision to have corrective surgery.

Careful: Australian authorities are looking for a cylinder of radioactive material that fell off a truck. Standing near it would be like getting 10 X-rays/hour.

Text to music: Google AI system MusicLM was trained on 280k hours of music to compose songs from complex textual descriptions.

Florida’s hot: VC funding in the Sunshine State totaled $9.7B in 2022, up 25% from 2021. California, New York, and Massachusetts all saw declines.

Mmm? Hormel Foods and Modist Brewing Co. partnered on a limited-edition chili cheese beer, available for $24 per four-pack.

CVS and Walmart will cut pharmacy hours, citing a pharmacist shortage. Walmart will close most of its ~4.6k US pharmacies at 7pm as opposed to 9pm.

Candy hearts: Americans intend to spend $25.9B on Valentine’s Day this year, compared to $23.9B last year.

Southwest Airlines is testing updated scheduling software following its holiday meltdown that caused 16.7k+ canceled flights.

The FDA will conduct a study on the best way to list nutritional info on front-of-pack food labels, a practice that may be required for food manufacturers in the future.

AI master class: We rounded up our best resources on ChatGPT in one place for easy listening. Check out The Business of AI playlist for fresh insights and lo-fi jams to kick off your week.


The Hustle founder Sam Parr shares four tips for coming up with a $10m business idea. Need we say more? Didn’t think so. Read (and listen) to your heart’s content here.

Singdhi Sokpo

NBCUniversal’s theme parks biz is on the up

A good theme park can help weather a recession and losses in streaming.
Jacob Cohen

Chances are, when you think about Comcast, the first thing that comes to mind probably isn’t a log flume.

But the telecom company has a hot theme parks business where revenue — which increased ~12% YoY to $2.1B in Q4 2022 — is far beyond even its pre-pandemic numbers, per Variety.

Today, Comcast’s NBCUniversal operates theme parks in the US, Tokyo, Singapore, and Beijing.

  • Planned expansions include a Super Nintendo World in California, a $1B Epic Universe in Orlando, and smaller children’s and horror concept parks in Texas and Las Vegas.

Theme parks are often regarded as recession-proof businesses. For companies like Comcast and Disney, they also provide cash that helps weather losses in their streaming units.

These conglomerates are also becoming increasingly good at monetizing visitors.

  • While these parks offer much more than they did in 1960, Zack’s fantastic analysis on Disneyland’s rising prices found the cost of parking has jumped 11.9k% since then, or 13.5x the rate of inflation.

Last year, per capita spending at US Disney parks was up 40% from 2019.


Digits: A viral boating app, virtual influencers, and more

Plus: Solar retailers, washboard sales, and low-budget horror surprises.
Jacob Cohen

1) Skinamarink, a Canadian analog horror film, has grossed $1.8m+ at the box office despite a production budget of just $15k. The plot: “Two children wake up in the middle of the night to find their father is missing, and all the windows and doors in their home have vanished.”

2) The Columbus Washboard Co., America’s last, now sells ~11k washboards annually, down from millions in the 1940s. Apparently, sales jumped 57% in 2020 during peak pandemic mayhem, and percussionists make up 40% of sales.

3) This neat visual report argues we should focus our solar efforts on the roofs of big-box retailers, of which there are ~21.4k in the Western US. If solar panels were installed on their rooftops, they’d generate 31m+ megawatt-hours of energy output — enough to power 3m homes.

4) On Jan. 14, Megan Foulk shared her 62-year-old dad Jeff’s boating app on TikTok in a bid to attract downloads. The clip blew up, garnering ~24.4m views, and the app, Argo Navigation, has since topped the app store.

5) One of the hottest areas of metaverse content in development is that of virtual influencers, ~70% of whom are Korean. Tech firms there are pouring resources into things like virtual K-pop bands.


🚙 On this day: In 1920, Jujiro Matsuda founded a cork business in Hiroshima, Japan, that later became auto company Mazda.

📱 That’s interesting: TikTok’s “corecore,” and how it relates to Dadaism.

🧐 Useful: There are plenty of sites for condensing URLs. Here’s one for figuring out where that TinyURL link leads before you click it.

🖼 Art: The Rijksmuseum’s interactive Johannes Vermeer exhibit, narrated by Stephen Fry.

🐾 Aww: And now, a big friend and a little friend.


Complete the resignation: “I __ this __ing job.” (Link)

How did you like today’s email?
Today’s email was brought to you by Jacob Cohen, Juliet Bennett Rylah, and Rob Litterst.
Editing by: Mark “Elf Bard” Dent.

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