Numlock News: April 19, 2019 • MoviePass, Quakes, A Billion Birds
By Walt Hickey
Have a wonderful weekend!
MoviePass was the first mover in the monthly theater subscription business, but based on the latest numbers — and the success of later entrants like AMC Stubs — this is looking way more like a “second mouse gets the cheese” situation than an “early bird gets the worm” one. Once boasting over 3 million subscribers, according to new internal data MoviePass has plummeted to about 225,000 paying subscribers. After a series of pivots, pricing shifts, and increasingly hilarious stock splits, the company has managed to squander an initial lead in the market and screw over loads of shareholders. The parent company stock saw a recent low of $0.0035 per share, down from $1,060 last April.
The for-profit college bubble has popped. Over the past five years, about 20 college campuses have closed every month, the overwhelming majority of which — 88 percent — were for-profit institutions. In the past six years, 2,300 students were displaced by public universities closing, 80,000 were displaced by private non-profit universities closing, and a devastating 451,000 students at for-profit colleges were displaced as a result of those businesses folding. Enrollments in for-profit schools is falling drastically, all while enrollment at public and non-profit colleges remains unchanged. Think of this as the millennials taking a bullet for Gen Z so they won’t have to deal with this crap.
Very Helpful Wiretaps
The smart speaker market — projected to reach $7 billion this year — has begun to take over American homes, with smart speakers in 24 percent of homes today according to Nielsen, up from 7 percent in 2017. That’s projected to rise to 55 percent by 2022. The most common request for smart speakers is to play music, with Nielsen finding that 90 percent of owners use their devices to play music, eclipsing the 81 percent who use it to listen to traffic or weather and the 68 percent who use it to set alarms or timers, or to listen to news. I use my device for the basic stuff: listen to some playlists after repeating the name thirteen times, program it to unleash a cacophonous and punishing soundscape to ensure I wake up after nights out, and most importantly as a physical reminder that AI is a janky system duct taped together by a bunch of overworked improvisers out West with essentially no hope of replacing human contact for the foreseeable future.
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Between April 19 and May 7 over 1 billion birds will fly over the Gulf of Mexico to their spring breeding grounds in North America, half of the 2.1 billion estimated birds to traverse the journey over the course of the entire spring. Over 100 species of shorebirds form this fleet every year, migrating 2,700 kilometers in a three-week window. At peak, there will be 26,000 birds per kilometer of airspace. They form a mass so intimidating that they show up on weather radars. If you live in the south and are getting tired of all the damn bugs, I kid you not when I say that the single most voracious air force on the planet is incoming.
Two-thirds of India’s population is under the age of 35, and an estimated 15 million first-time voters aged 18 and 19 will be up for grabs in the forthcoming Indian election. As it stands, incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi is considered the favorite, and recent incidents regarding Hindu nationalism following a clash with Pakistan seem to have put him in favorable territory. However, the myriad issues in the world’s largest democracy — a younger electorate less focused on caste and religion, more focused on women’s safety, the environment and jobs — mean this is anywhere but decided.
From 2008 to 2017, Southern California experienced 1.81 million temblors, a tenfold increase from the 180,000 seismic events noted in the original catalog of Southern California earthquakes. That new estimate is based on a seismic analysis looking for tinier quakes, the kind of teeny tiny seismic event that can slip under the radar — well, Richter — in usual monitoring. This means that California experiences an earthquake approximately once every three minutes. I am going to remember this fact and tell it to every dear friend who leaves New York for L.A. or S.F., an event which happens constantly.
Netflix is the undisputed king of streaming, but rival Hulu has been making some serious moves to consolidate ownership and boasts a diverse array of revenue streams that competitors are becoming increasingly envious of. Despite some price tiers, Netflix basically offers one product — access to its streaming service. By comparison Hulu offers three: a $45 per month live TV service, a $12 per month ad-free video on demand streaming service, and a $6 per month version of that service that’s supported by ads. What’s really, really interesting is that Hulu is the rare company seriously making bank on ads. Though it costs the consumer $6 per month, Hulu makes $15 per subscriber each month, mainly because it’s able to sell high cost ads, which reaped the firm $1.5 billion last year.
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