Numlock News: April 8, 2020 • Space Crime, Snacks, WrestleMania
By Walt Hickey
Last weekend, the WWE held its annual marquee event, WrestleMania 36. It was unlike any prior mania: it was over two days, there were no fans in the arena, and the WWE lost a ton of its typical revenue on it. Analysts estimate something like $15 million to $22 million in revenue lost from WrestleMania ticket sales and merchandise sales that didn’t happen, though there were some savings on production costs by not staging it in a stadium. A live event business at its core, the WWE’s operating income projection collapsed from $274 million for 2020 to $194 million. Lots of their revenues are pretty guaranteed — the wrestling promotion will get $456 million for its U.S. television rights alone, something like $9 million a week — but if ratings slip because the fans are absent, this could become a problem. The fans play a critical role in wrestling contests, such as helpfully pointing out that “this is awesome,” or booing when a wrestling match begins to involve the work of John Cena.
Despite disruptions to global supply chains and untold issues in demand, Samsung announced Tuesday that they plan to make an operating profit of 6.4 trillion won, or $5.2 billion, for the first three months of the year, which is up 3 percent year over year. That’s great news for both the South Korean economy — where Samsung is a juggernaut whose fate has outsized ripples on the entire country — but also for companies in general, demonstrating that it is possible to maintain operations. The final numbers from the company will give massive hints about the state of the global tech business, as Samsung makes lots of the chips and displays that go into other companies’ smartphones. But Samsung has a hedge there, as the memory chip business is massive and will boom if Amazon, Microsoft and Google keep investing in data centers.
Federal prosecutors on Monday said that the ex-wife of astronaut Anne McClain had lied to investigators about allegations she made regarding a purported crime that took place in space. In an indictment unsealed this week, Summer Worden was charged with two counts of making false statements to NASA’s Office of Inspector General and the Federal Trade Commission. The claim — that McClain had accessed a bank account from the International Space Station improperly during their divorce — was explosive, but prosecutors determined that Worden never revoked access. Worden denies making any misrepresentations. Listen, this is still good enough to justify a Law & Order: SVU spinoff, or at minimum a limited series.
Lots of countries in the E.U. as well as Japan, South Korea and the U.K. are pushing for a renewable energy source termed “biomass,” and while it hasn’t really caught on in the States, the EPA is considering a rule that would label it carbon neutral. Put simply, biomass is just burning wood. The U.K. and other countries have been offering subsidies to convert coal facilities into wood-burning facilities, but in the U.S. it accounts for just 1 percent of electricity and is no longer profitable. There are advantages: assuming an 11-year growth cycle, burning wood produces 110 grams of carbon dioxide to produce a kilowatt-hour of electricity. That’s hardly carbon-neutral, but compare it to the alternative and the appeal is obvious: coal emits 1,000 grams of CO2 per kilowatt-hour and natural gas makes about 500 grams. When the wood is sourced from lumber mill scraps, it’s arguably better off decomposing into CO2 under power generation conditions than doing the same, just in the wild.
Several car insurance companies will be refunding some premiums to customers given how little they’re driving now. Allstate pays out slightly more than $1 billion per month in auto insurance claims around the U.S., and modeling suggests those claims are down by 85 percent due to the reduction in accidents. With driving down 35 percent to 50 percent, Allstate announced that it’ll refund 15 percent of premiums paid by its customers in April and May, a total of about $600 million across the two months. American Family, a smaller insurer that operates in 19 states, said it’ll kick back $50 per car, a total of about $200 million. Overall, 28 percent of miles driven are by people going to work.
StubHub has been hit with a class action lawsuit from buyers of resold tickets for events that had been cancelled, with the consumers alleging StubHub changed its refund policy. StubHub’s “FanProtect” guarantee of a cash refund had, by mid-March, made way for a coupon valued at 120 percent of the original purchase. By March 25, cash refunds were only being provided to buyers where it was required by law and the SubHub coupon was made the default, according to the suit. StubHub was sold last year by eBay for over $4 billion, so the plaintiffs allege getting funding for the refunds should not be an issue.
While lots of initial stocking up was in rice, beans and basics, all the people who forgot to also buy garlic, shallots, Sazon Goya and chives came to the realization pretty quickly that they didn’t want to live on basics alone. This is America, so processed food is exploding in popularity right now, with frozen dinners selling as quickly as some basics. Conagra Brands — makers of Slim Jims, Birds Eye, Chef Boyardee and other processed foods — registered a 5 percent decline in sales in the quarter ending in late February as consumers continued to shift to fresher ingredients. But since then it’s been a bonanza: shipments are up 50 percent amid a surge in demand for the kind of cuisine that mostly advertises on Nickelodeon. Campbell Soup sales are up 59 percent, Prego Pasta sauce is up 52 percent, and goldfish crackers are up 23 percent.
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