Numlock News: December 1, 2022 • Elton John, Douyin, GRExit
By Walt Hickey
New York area readers! I’m hosting a show at Caveat in NYC on December 15th. It’s a live play of the TTRPG game I designed for Insider’s “Red, White and Gray” project and it should be a ton of fun. We’ve got some excellent guests lined up; buy tickets here, I would love to see you there! There’s also a livestream option for out of town folks.
Can, In Fact, Buy You Love
Elton John was the top-grossing stadium act of October with just eight shows alone, grossing $49,597,863 in the last leg of his final North American tour. He’s been the second-top grossing act in seven of the first nine months of 2022, always contending even as other acts grabbed the top spot. The Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour has already passed $700 million in grosses, and that’s poised to rise as it continues on through Australia and Europe.
Strange World, the animated Disney fantasy adventure feature, disappointed at the box office, bringing in $12 million over the weekend. It’s the latest flop of a very specific genre: the high-concept fantasy animated adventure story produced by Disney. Other famous entries in this genre include space pirate adventure Treasure Planet, which dropped 20 years ago and also failed to make over $20 million at the Thanksgiving box office, and 2001’s Atlantis: The Lost Empire, which also underwhelmed among audiences. And while the retrospective analysis of those films has revived some of their reputation, the reality remains that Disney’s got a longstanding issue with making money from fantastical adventure tales in animation. I wouldn’t pin it all on the animation division, though, as John Carter can assure you.
Pay To Play
Google and iHeartMedia have agreed to pay $9.4 million in penalties to settle a lawsuit brought by the FTC alleging false advertising over the Pixel 4 phone. The FTC and four states say that in 2019 and 2020, iHeartMedia on-air radio personalities gave firsthand accounts shilling the Pixel 4, a phone that they were not in fact provided and allegedly did not ever use. However, given the first-person nature of the testimonials that ran — according to the FTC — almost 29,000 times, that’s a gigantic no-no.
Based on an analysis of the currently settled state legislature election results, at least 2,376 women won elections in November or are in seats not for reelection in state houses across the country, the largest cohort of women in state legislatures ever. That beat the previous record of 2,307 women in statehouses, and now means that women hold 32 percent of seats in state legislatures. That number may change, as there are 59 races with women contending that are as yet too close to call. Women hold a majority of the seats now in two states, Nevada and Colorado.
An analysis of Ph.D. programs across eight disciplines at the 50 top-ranked U.S. universities found that only 3 percent require applicants to submit a GRE General Test score, which is down from 84 percent as recently as four years ago. Only an additional 5 percent of programs “strongly recommend” a GRE score, while 36 percent explicitly state that GRE scores won’t actually be accepted or reviewed during admissions. The balance have the GRE as optional. While the movement to shift away from mandatory GRE scores began in the life sciences niche of higher ed, now it’s found all over academia. The number of GRE tests even taken annually is down to something like half of the typical level before 2018.
Livestreams shilling online goods is a major chunk of the e-commerce world in China, accounting for some 14 percent of total online retail sales. It’s independent stars operating their own QVC-esque niches and often making a serious killing in the process. ByteDance, which owns TikTok internationally and domestic version Douyin at home, had a goal of hitting $200 billion in e-commerce this year, but it’s not particularly obvious where the market is right now. One issue is that e-commerce videos do worse on Douyin when there are lots of e-commerce videos in the feed; when more than 10 percent of the traffic in a video feed was dedicated to e-commerce, user retention and time on the platform fell, and as a result Douyin’s already cranked down the ratio of such livestreams surfaced by the algorithm from 30 percent to 20 percent.
Name Image Likeness
The NCAA decision to allow athletes to profit off of their names, images and likenesses and embark on brand sponsorships and deals while still playing at the collegiate level has had some serious downstream impacts. It’s also given high school athletes the green light to ink lucrative deals before they’re even in college. And because the endorsement economy is already developed, that means that the industry is already assigning hypothetical valuations to high school players before they even set foot on college turf. It’s why basketball player Bronny James already has a projected annual NIL value of $7.5 million — then again you can probably guess who his dad is — and why Isidore Newman High School quarterback Arch Manning has a projected annual value of $3.4 million (but again, guess who the uncles are). Yes, this is definitely a development that will make enthusiastic parents of high school athletes way more normal about the competition and officiating of high school sports.
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