Numlock News: April 4, 2019 • Game of Thrones, Alcopops, Buffetts
By Walt Hickey
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You Win Or You Have Slightly Fewer Subscribers
With Game of Thrones’ final season inbound, HBO is less than 10 hours of content away from losing their biggest show. Unlike every inhabitant of Westeros north of The Neck, they’re not really bracing for the end of the world. Carriage fees average $7.77 per month, and HBO Now hit 7 million U.S. subscribers in 2018, a year which is worth noting did not actually involve any new Game of Thrones. And while a Morning Consult survey found 48 percent of respondents subscribed to a streaming service just to watch one show, it’s not like Game of Thrones is going anywhere after the end of the show. Only 16 percent of HBO subscribers said they were subbed just to watch a single show, and who knows, maybe some of those people just freaking love Arli$$.
Strong drinks are all the rage, with demand for particularly boozy beverages outpacing demand for the light beers and boozy punch of Gen Z’s forefathers. Sales of alcopop — the sugary pre-made drinks like hard lemonades or whatever the hell is used to make Smirnoff Ice — with alcohol by volume 6 percent or higher was up 4.7 percent to hit $1.14 billion last year. Meanwhile, alcopops with ABV lower than 6 percent saw sales decline 3.6 percent. Craft beer revenue is up 14 percent for beer above 7 percent ABV, but up less than 1 percent for beer less than that. Spiked seltzers, which unlike alcopops have low sugar and low-ish alcohol, have blasted on to the scene growing 169 percent and hitting $488 million last year. Alcopops are a larger and larger chunk of the market. Like I’ve been saying for nearly a decade now, Four Loko was ahead of its time, and I do not regret chipping my tooth during that Super Bowl if it means I was an industry pioneer.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made a classic election-season tactical error by ticking off a bunch of farmers. His attempts to contain inflation by capping sugar prices has screwed over sugarcane farmers, who are owed a collective $3 billion. Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra make 75 percent of India’s sugar and are home to 25 million sugar farmers, a group of constituents that are a fairly important voting bloc in the upcoming elections. Trying to woo a voting bloc that is owed $3 billion is hard. It’s basically like trying to win the Iowa Caucuses on a “Corn sucks, but not as much as University of Iowa football sucks” platform.
Bouncin In The Club Where The Heat Is On
Miami Beach and Amsterdam are both areas that are low-lying and will face enormous challenges from climate change. The difference is that while the Dutch have spent billions preparing, Miami has spent millions. The sea level in Miami has risen 10 inches since 1900 after 2,000 years of no change. The sea is projected to rise between 13 and 34 inches by 2050, and by 2100 it could be closer to six feet. And while you can raise the buildings or the streets, Miami Beach is not Venice. By 2030, the Union of Concerned Scientists forecasts 50 days of sunny day flooding per year. By 2045, they project 250 days of flooding. I’m no climatologist, but with only 365 of those to go around in a given year, I’m getting the sense that may pose some issues.
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All You Could Have Eaten
As with many extinctions, too often the demise of a species happens so imperceptibly that you only truly notice what is lost when it’s too late. So too is the case with the American all-you-can-eat buffet, felled by razor thin margins and the ability of sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor to immortalize the brushes with food-borne illnesses that view a chafing dish of cantaloupe as a Petri dish. Where once, 305 Ponderosa Steakhouses roamed the countryside, today their number stands humbled at 75, and its parent company is bankrupt three times over. Old Country Buffet’s sales were down 37.5 percent in 2017. Only privately-held Golden Corral, with its 500 locations and 100 year survival plan, continues to thrive in a restaurant economy that turned its back on the lukewarm trough-based serving strategy.
Demand for big rig trucks has tanked. In March, the order for 15,700 Class 8 trucks by North American freight carriers was 6.7 percent lower than February and 66 percent lower than the orders in March of 2018, according to preliminary estimates. Trucking companies made massive buys in 2018, but the real issue is that the backlog of orders means that even a truck bought tomorrow won’t arrive for nine months. Truck manufacturers have a backlog of 397,000 orders, prompting many buyers just to chill out and read the room for a little while rather than buy those Christmas presents early.
The language around energy storage tech can sometimes venture into the “step three, someone dramatically remakes battery technology” territory, but the reality is the lithium-ion battery isn’t going anywhere. It’s versatility is a huge advantage and prices have plummeted, averaging $1,160 per kilowatt-hour in 2010, but dropping to $176 per kilowatt-hour last year, with potential for a sub-$100 pricing in 2024. Automakers lust for a breakthrough that could go 500 miles on a charge, and Toyota’s throwing $13.9 billion into battery innovation and for its investment has more patents for solid-state batteries than anyone else. Even so, lithium-ion battery production is going in one direction — up, with 302.2 gigawatt-hours of annual production capacity right now and another 603.8 gigawatt-hours planned in the next five years alone.
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