Numlock News: April 13, 2020 • Broadway, Cannonball, Monarchs
By Walt Hickey
While live entertainment of all stripes is reeling right now, the future of Broadway as an industry is in question as a global pandemic alters many of the assumptions that undergird its economics. The big long-running shows — your Wicked, Lion King, Phantom of the Opera — are a big reason why Broadway was able to get butts in 14.7 million seats last season, and generate $1.8 billion in revenue. A Broadway show uses up most of its initial audience of New York area theatergoers in six to nine months. If you can get an audience going for it, a show can extend that runway, but usually only a couple of years tops. For the shows that last more than three years, those are fueled predominately by the international audience, global travelers coming to New York specifically. And right now, producers are terrified that audience is in long-term jeopardy, which would throw the economics of the theater business into total whack.
Even on a good day, the Cannonball record is reckless, dangerous, and completely illegal. The record is simple, New York City to Los Angeles as quick as you can. The last time the record was broken was in November, when several men in a souped-up sedan loaded with technical equipment to dodge the fuzz did it in 27 hours, 25 minutes, which for those doing the math on the 2,835-mile meant an average speed of 103 miles per hour on public roads with other people on them. Like I said: reckless, dangerous, completely illegal. Now some daredevils have pulled off a Cannonball that’s making even fans of the usually stupid variety balk: three (maybe four) people drove a white 2019 Audi A8 Sedan from New York on April 4, and arrived at the Portofino Hotel & Marina in Redondo Beach, California 26 hours, 38 minutes later. Obviously, exploiting a national shutdown aided their attempt to smash the record by 45 minutes. Since there’s no governing body for an illegal street race, it’s not like censure is an option.
According to an industry survey, a majority of golf courses in the United States remain open for business. Indeed, online bookings of tee times in the first quarter were up 10 percent from last year, and only a few states in the Midwest, Northeast and Pacific coast have statewide enforced closures. As of April 10, just 45.2 percent of 5,350 U.S. courses surveyed by GolfNow had closed up shop, and as recently as late March that was in the mid-20s percent.
Facebook ads are a bargain right now, with many large advertisers pulling the plug on their planned spends. The cost to put an ad in front of Facebook users 1,000 times was down 15 percent to 20 percent in March compared to February. According to marketing technology company 4C Insights, spending on Facebook and Instagram was up 2 percent in March compared to February despite previous expectations of a 10 percent increase. The cost of 1,000 impressions on Instagram was down 22 percent over the same period, and YouTube saw a 15 percent to 20 percent dip in prices.
Clearly March was going to be a ridiculous month for streaming video apps, and Comscore reports that the month saw a 30 percent year-over-year jump in video demand viewing. The average set-top-box subscribing household accessed, bought, or rented 16 video on demand titles in March, compared to about 12 in March 2019. Streaming video saw a 53 percent increase, which in the final week of March was a 116 percent surge year-over-year in streaming video on demand purchases. The big winner, though, was fitness VOD: transactions for fitness apps and video rentals were up 147 percent in March. Quick, place bets on which of your friends will emerge from this suspiciously swole.
Scientists have found a large ozone hole above the arctic that’s a little less than 1 million square kilometers. This isn’t good — “you have an ozone hole” is not generally considered to be a stellar piece of news — but it’s also not that bad. The Antarctic hole is the real problem, and can reach a size of 20 million to 25 million square kilometers over the course of three to four months annually. The Arctic — which is the one on the top of the planet — typically fares better ozone-wise than the Antarctic. If the hole moves south, people will be at greater risk of sunburn and skin damage, but for now it’s chilling at the pole. The hole is expected to close in mid-April, but everyone please continue to do a good job of not using chlorofluorocarbons, don’t slack off on that. Exceptional progress has been made in reducing the size of the Antarctic hole through decades of global collaboration, and the hole was the smallest it’s been in 35 years in November.
The Mighty Monarch
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a huge agreement that would roll out a national plan to protect the monarch butterfly without adding it to the Endangered Species List. Over 45 companies in energy and transportation will provide habitats for the species, with an anticipated 2.3 million acres projected to enroll in the agreement. The Fish and Wildlife Service determined that the monarch would possibly warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act back in 2014, but this new agreement — where lots of landowners will voluntarily offer up habitats for the critical pollinator, including the milkweed it desperately needs to survive — gets the support conservationists were hoping for without a protracted legal fight.
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