📺 ESPN is in a bind


October 12, 2021

The Hustle

A Canadian woman was sleeping peacefully when a meteorite crashed through her ceiling and landed on her pillow. The woman’s insurance company isn’t sure if the damage is covered by her policy because it’s never had such a claim before.

As for the woman, she plans to keep the space rock as a reminder to never take life for granted.

Today’s rundown:

  • Bundle drama: What’s the future for ESPN and streaming?
  • Boo: The big money and wild numbers behind Halloween
  • Big perks: Cities are offering $10k+ in cash to attract remote workers

Let’s do it.

The Big Idea
touchdown dance

Disney is all-in on streaming, but ESPN can’t kick cable

In the last decade, ~25m Americans have ditched the cable bundle. During that time, streaming has exploded:

  • Netflix has grown to ~209m subscribers
  • Disney+ now has 116m subscribers
  • Hulu has reached ~43m subscribers

But one Disney property is still clinging to the cable model: ESPN.

Live sports is keeping the cable bundle alive…

… and ESPN is one of the biggest holders of sports media rights. This gives the firm leverage when dealing with cable providers, and a massive one-two punch for revenue:

  1. ESPN pulls in ~$10/mo per cable subscriber (compared with <$1 for most channels). In 2021, this will amount to ~$7.9B, per research group Kagan.
  2. ESPN can also charge a premium for advertising during live sports coverage, which is expected to net ~$2.35B in 2021.

ESPN’s cash fuels content investments for Disney+ and Hulu

Which is why the company is still cool with cable — at least for now. Some analysts expect 25m more Americans to cut the cord in the next 4-5 years, which could force ESPN to reconsider streaming.

Even so, ESPN has other concerns about the streaming model, including:

  • Uncertainty around consumer willingness to pay for an a la carte sports bundle
  • Higher churn rates from subscribers that sign up for high-profile events
  • Password sharing among users that could stunt subscriber numbers

There’s also the question of whether Gen Z will share the same interest in live sports as previous generations – but given how much Gen Z loves the ’90s, ESPN could be sitting on a gold mine with old SportsCenter reruns.

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SNIPPETS

Walmart + ‘Squid Game’: Netflix teamed up with Walmart to sell exclusive products from its shows in a digital storefront. #ecommerce-retail

Self-driving strides: Tesla started its wider release of its “full self-driving” update. #clean-energy

Less news in the feed: Facebook’s spokesman, Nick Clegg, announced plans to show less politics and more friends in the news feed on “Meet the Press.” #privacy

Digital dollars: The Brazilian government launched Pix, a digital payment platform, a year ago, and it now has 110m users. #fintech-cryptocurrency

New weather app: Microsoft developed a framework called DeepMC that combines machine learning and AI to predict local weather accurately. #big-tech

Spooky Spending
Halloween spending infographic

Halloween is back. Here’s how people are spending this year.

The pandemic shut down most activities last year, resulting in a boo-ring Halloween.

So, it’s no surprise that consumers are expected to drop a record $10.14B on the holiday this year, according to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey. That’s up from $8.05B in 2020.

How do folks plan to celebrate in 2021?

Per a consumer survey from Coresight Research:

  • 49.5% say they’ll hand or leave out candy for trick-or-treaters
  • 42.5% plan to decorate their homes
  • ~36% plan to either attend or host a party
  • 34.5% plan to wear a costume
  • 32.1% intend to carve pumpkins or do other home activities
  • 25.8% will let their kids go trick-or-treating — a 9.9-point increase from last year’s 15.9%

What are the hot costumes this year?

NRF learned the most popular Halloween costumes for adults this year include witches (4.6m), vampires, (1.6m), and ghosts (1.4m).

But NRF also conducted its survey in early September, before “Squid Game” launched on Netflix and caused a 7,800% sales spike for white Vans (damn, Daniel), a 62% uptick in searches for red boiler suits, and millions of views on TikTok costume tutorials.

What’s your Halloween costume this year?

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WFH (from anywhere)
remote worker

US cities are putting up cash (and free coffee) to attract remote workers

Fast-food chains have long doled out perks to attract customers (who doesn’t want to spend $100+ on Chipotle burrito bowls to get one for free?).

Now US cities are getting into the act: According to the Wall Street Journal, there are 24+ community incentive programs to attract remote workers.

The perks on offer run the gamut

Curated by a service called MakeMyMove, they include:

  • Topeka, Kansas: Up to $10k in cash
  • Stillwater, Oklahoma: $5k toward a home purchase + an annual $2k stipend for coffee + free martial arts classes
  • The Shoals, Alabama: Up to $10k reimbursement (for housing and relocation expenses)

This isn’t the first time cities have offered perks to attract people. One major difference is that previous incentive schemes mostly aimed to attract corporations, not individuals.

There is some friction, though

  • Geographical limitations (e.g., Bemidji, Minnesota, requires applicants to be at least 60 miles away)
  • The top dollar perks typically go to homeowners, longer stays, and higher salaries (there’s also a minimum salary requirement)
  • Local residents may balk at paying people to move into town

Either way, remote work is here to stay. The Ladders — a job site — notes that remote job listings paying >$80k make up 15% of all listings, vs. 4% at the end of 2019.

To really woo these workers, cities might have to start breaking out free burrito bowls.

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AROUND THE WEB

🍻 On this day: In 1810, Prince Regent Ludwig of Bavaria and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen were married in Munich. The festivities that followed would evolve into Oktoberfest.

🌋 That’s cool: Last month’s Drone Photo Awards showcase some jaw-dropping images, like an erupting volcano, a bloat of hippos, and a green football field hidden in an icy seascape.

🖼️ Useful: Remove.bg will take out the background of your photos, perfect for when you need a new profile pic without showing off your home decor, too.

📛 How to: Are you bad with names? Here are some tips to help remember them.

🌀 That’s interesting: The Saildrone is a remote-controlled vessel that can withstand a hurricane, gathering images and data from inside for scientific research.

🎃 Haha: The Bostwick family knows how to do Halloween right with elaborate synchronized light shows. Here’s one set to Rob Zombie’s “Dragula.”

Meme of the day

To be fair, LeBron is pretty great… (Source: Pinterest)

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