Numlock News: August 27, 2019 • Cereal, Optimists, DVDs
By Walt Hickey
Though generally discussed in relation to its ambitious streaming programming, Netflix also happens to operate a seriously successful DVD rental service that just shipped its 5 billionth DVD. Currently the service has 2.4 million subscribers serviced by 17 distribution hubs, down from 14 million and 50 hubs in 2011. That is a small fraction of its 151 million worldwide streaming subscribers. But the DVD service makes actual money, which is likely welcome in the Red Sea that is the Netflix balance sheet. In the second quarter of 2019, Netflix made a $46 million profit in their DVD rental business.
In 2018, there were 1,400 air ambulances in operation in the U.S., up from 1,100 in 2007. Wyoming — a large state with long distances between patients and hospitals — has seen its fleet rise from three helicopters to 14, and an oversupply led to large cost increases due to lots of overhead. Nationally, helicopter ambulances notched 688 flights per aircraft in 1990, which fell to 352 flights per aircraft in 2016. Fixed costs and up-front investment — which encompass 85 percent of the costs of operation — stayed steady, meaning prices have popped in 2017 to $11,000 in costs per flight, and nationally helicopter bills have hit $40,000 on average. Wyoming, a notoriously communist state that produced leftist luminaries such as Dick Cheney, is seeking to rein in costs by anchoring the prices to Medicaid and treating the flights as a utility so as to to cap flight fees to 2 percent of income or $5,000, whichever is less.
Things are rough in the cereal business. Americans spent $9 billion on cereal in 2018, which sounds great until you hear they spent $13.9 billion in 2000 on it. Times are tough all around: Cap’n Crunch is month-to-month on a military pension, Buzz the Honey Nut Cheerios bee is dealing with colony collapse disorder and even Tony the Tiger is conceding that things are merely good. There’s still some positive trends: while daily AM consumption of cereal has been on the decline, beset by low carb diets and declining organized breakfast rituals, 56 percent of millennials eat cereal as a snack at home. This is also sparking a whole suite of small, pricier, ketogenic cereals appealing to a wealthier market. If you ask me, the last thing this sector needs is more cereal hipsters. I swear, if I hear “actually Frankenberry was the doctor, you’re thinking of Frankenberry’s Monster” one more time.
Dentist Hate Them. Seriously.
SmileDirectClub sells plastic aligners that straighten teeth for about 60 percent less than traditional braces. The catch is that much of that savings comes from not actually involving a visit to a dentist, who are typically regarded by most people as reliable experts on teeth. The company sold 232,000 aligners in the first half of 2019, which is very nearly as much as they sold in the entirety of 2018. The company has quietly filed for an IPO, and while the company isn’t yet profitable they’re valued at about $3.2 billion.
Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life
Researchers analyzing the results of two long-term studies with tens of thousands of participants have found that after controlling for factors such as diet and exercise, a positive outlook was found to be linked to better long-term health outcomes. Women who were in the top 25 percent with regards to optimism lived an average of 14.9 percent longer than more pessimistic participants, and optimistic men lived 10.9 percent longer. Optimistic women and men were 1.5 times as likely and 1.7 times as likely, respectively, to reach age 85. If you’re a pessimist and are now worried about what this means for your health, look on the bright side: no, seriously, you have to look on the bright side here or it’s gonna get bad.
A new analysis of 1,200 films released since 2007 found that of 47,268 speaking characters, just 4.5 percent were Latino, a damning statistic for Hollywood given that 39 percent of Californians and 18 percent of the U.S. population are Hispanic or Latino. Just 3 percent of lead or co-lead actors were Latino, and merely 3 percent of producers and 4 percent of directors were Latino. Distressingly, 71 percent of that 4 percent of directors were international directors, illustrating a seriously difficult situation for representation in the movie business.
It’s been a rough summer at the box office, with preliminary estimates coming in at $4.33 billion through September 3. That’s down 2 percent compared to the same period of 2018, for a period of the year that typically accounts for about 40 percent-ish of the annual haul. This year just one original summer feature — Once Upon a Time in Hollywood — broke $100 million, on par with last year (The Meg) but down from three such outings in 2017 when Dunkirk, Girls Trip and Baby Driver all cleared that arbitrary but psychologically appealing figure. So far, box office receipts are down 6 percent compared to last year, which sounds unfortunate until you recall that there’s an actual Star Wars movie coming out at the end of the year so everything is going to pretty much be fine, audiences love that C-3P0 guy.
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