Numlock News: August 19, 2022 • Kilimanjaro, Sake, Balrogs
By Walt Hickey
Have a great weekend!
Lord of the Rings
Embracer Group, a large publishing group that already owns a massive stockpile of IP, has bought the rights to The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit that had previously been owned by the Saul Zaentz Company for the past half century. The precise figure isn’t known, but Embracer bought up five acquisitions yesterday, one of which was the Tolkien properties, for a grand total of $577 million up front. This means that the company controls all the movies, video games, board games and merch rights.
Television spending from large cryptocurrency companies hit a high of $84.5 million in February, timed to both sky-high prices for crypto as well as large advertising events in the Super Bowl. Well, times have changed, and the crypto winter has made those once ubiquitous ads dry up. In July, those same large crypto companies spent just $36,000 on television advertising, according to iSpot.
The Tanzania Telecommunications Corporation announced that it has now installed a broadband high-speed internet network for smartphone up to 3,720 meters high on Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. The summit itself, at 5,895 meters, will have internet connectivity by the end of the year. This follows Everest, where the first call from the summit was placed in 2007 from a Chinese phone mast. From a practical perspective, this will make it easier to phone for rescue teams, and also get accurate weather conditions in real-time, though rescue teams have argued in the past that over-reliance on flukey technology like phone navigation has actually caused serious problems for climbers. Nevertheless, the 35,000 climbers attempting the summit each year will get to tweet about their climb that much quicker.
Japan’s government tax authority is launching a new campaign to try to get young people drinking more sake. Amid an aging population and shifting social trends, booze consumption is way down in Japan, with the average adult drinking 100 liters of alcohol in 1995 but just 75 liters per adult as of 2020. While “public health” or whatever probably stands to gain, this program isn’t running out of the public health authority; it’s running out of the tax authority, and the reason is simple: In 1980, 5 percent of government revenue came from the alcohol tax, but in 2020 that stands at just 1.7 percent.
The Federal Trade Commission released a report this week about COPA laws, which allow hospitals that want to merge to avoid federal antitrust laws in exchange for states being able to increase regulations on the hospitals. They’re a problem because while it’s nice that states get a bite at the apple when it comes to hemming in price controls, it offers a glide path toward local health care monopolies. For instance, two hospitals in Syracuse, New York — SUNY Upstate and Crouse — are applying for a COPA, but if granted, the ensuing behemoth would control 71 percent of the health care market in Syracuse and slash the number of hospital systems in the area down to two, which could reduce patient choice and raise health care costs.
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power and House of the Dragon are both coming out soon, and America is ready. A new poll found that 15 percent of respondents are interested in House of the Dragon, HBO’s new and expensive Game of Thrones spinoff. Furthermore, 18 percent of respondents were “very interested” in the new Amazon show adapting the appendices of The Lord of the Rings books, a certainly shocking statistic for any child who ever read the appendices of The Lord of the Rings books on a public school bus in 2002 and saw the ensuing social deterioration. Yes, this nerd stuff is thoroughly mainstream, a complicated time for someone who, and I’m being strictly hypothetical here, spent any significant part of their fleeting and irrecoverable youth arguing over whether Balrogs canonically had wings.
The benchmark price of eggs in the U.S. is down to $2.16 a dozen last week, down 37 percent from the record high $3.38 a dozen in mid-July. The retail rates follow these benchmarks, so they should be reflected at grocery stores shortly with prices dropping by a dollar a dozen or so within the next few weeks. The cause for the spike in the price of eggs was an avian flu that ravaged the U.S. population, killing 30 million commercial and wild birds, and the successful recent moves to repopulate the hens. The downward trend in prices is expected to continue.
The past two weeks have seen a two-parter Sunday interview with the one and only Frank Pallotta of CNN Business, one of my favorite people to talk to about the state of the film industry. First, I talked to Frank about the cautious optimism at the box office and the old-school style Hollywood movie success he’s seeing in movies like Top Gun. Second, we talked all about streaming and how the China equation has changed. They’re both great conversations, and Frank can be found on Twitter and at CNN Business.
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