Numlock News: January 24, 2023 • Puppies, Podcasts, Pickleball
By Walt Hickey
The big ice roads in Alaska — the ones that have television shows — are in service to the oil extraction and mining industries predominantly, but networks of resident-supported ice roads connecting remote areas cut off from major population centers are a staple of Alaskan life. For instance, over the past several years, come winter the iced over Kuskokwim River is plowed into a road, maintained by three plow trucks and three graders for about $300,000. Costs are up — fuel costs $9 a gallon up there, and the markers that delineate the road have doubled in price to $32 this year — and for the past decade that’s been an issue as maintenance costs had been covered by donations from businesses, residents, city and tribal governments, and companies, at times literally passing a hat to compensate plow drivers. Last year, the state legislature began giving crews grants to maintain, and the federal infrastructure bill passed in 2021 allowed the state to fund Safe Ice Roads for Alaska, which funds entities up to $500,000.
Since 2010, 440 cities, counties and states have prohibited the sale of dogs in an attempt to curtail exploitative and unsafe puppy mill operations. It’s had an impact: The number of USDA-licensed breeders in the wholesale pet trade is down from 4,604 in 2008 to 2,916 in 2022, the average number of dogs at such operations is down from 87 dogs per facility in 2012 to 57 dogs per facility in 2022, and the number of pet stores selling dogs is down from 900 in 2016 to 600 now. States have led the way here, especially some states that had serious issues; Missouri was once the puppy mill capitol of the country, but a series of policy changes that capped the number of breeding dogs and required more space per dog saw the number of puppies sold from licensed breeders drop from
265,379 in 2009 to 100,701 in 2021.
ESPN has taken the bait, and has cut a deal to broadcast eight pickleball recap shows on ESPN2 and stream over 200 hours of live coverage of eight events from the Association of Pickleball Professionals. Over 4.8 million people in the U.S. play the sport, and the wager for some broadcaster is, will they watch it? Or, more specifically, is the center of the Venn diagram of “avid pickleball player” and “person who is sufficiently tech savvy to set up a streaming service to stream their favorite sport, pickleball” enough subscription revenue to sustain a viable industry.
Some traffic cameras in New York City have a new gadget on them, sound meters capable of identifying the cars and motorcycles that have been customized to remove the muffler systems from them to make incredibly loud noises, or as we call them here in scenic Astoria, Queens, fart cars. At least 71 drivers have been hit with tickets regarding noise violations during the pilot program, and the Department of Environmental Protection plans to expand the implementation. Vehicle owners face fines of $800 for a first offense and then up to $2,625 if they ignore the third-offense hearing.
The Last Of Us on HBO is already a critical and commercial hit, an exemplary adaptation in what had long been considered an impossible genre of video game adaptations. That said, Americans have begun to reject the idea that Hollywood does a cruddy job of adapting games, with 16 percent of adults saying Hollywood was very good at it and a further 34 percent saying they were somewhat good at it. That rehabilitation comes on the heels of a number of successful-by-some-metrics adaptations that include Sonic the Hedgehog, Tomb Raider, Uncharted and Detective Pikachu. Finally, the market is ready for the horror adaptation from the twisted mind of Walter Hickey, a gritty serpentine survival story where our hero is relentlessly pursued by a series of revenants and must decide to do the unthinkable to live another day. See Pac-Man coming Fall 2024, dumped off on some streaming service near you.
Television production in Los Angeles was down 24 percent year over year in the final quarter of 2022, a sign of cutbacks at the many streaming services that until recently were gaping maws for new content. While television production was down overall on the year — FilmLA counted 16,778 days of shooting, which was down 9.6 percent — it appears that television commercial shoots are way down as companies trim ad spending. Year over year, commercial shooting days were down 34 percent in the fourth quarter of last year.
According to podcast search engine Listen Notes, there were 1,109,000 new podcasts launched in 2020. That would appear to be a high-water mark for the industry, as the figure fell to 729,000 podcasts in 2021 and a mere 219,000 in the year 2022, lower even than the 2019 level and down an estimated 80 percent from 2020. This is, on one hand, a reflection of the undeniable boom in podcasts during the early months of the pandemic, but the reversal is rough and can be seen quarter to quarter last year, with just 44,000 new podcasts launched in Q4 of 2022, down from 67,000 launched in Q1. One other reason may be that there are new podcasts, but they’re just inhabiting the feeds (and assuming the audience) of existing ones. Episodes are down just 13 percent from 2020 to 2022, bearing that out. Another detail is that it’s a bloodbath out there: Of every podcast that stopped publishing since 2010, 78 percent of them died in 2020 or 2021.
Thanks to the paid subscribers to Numlock News who make this possible. Subscribers guarantee this stays ad-free, and get a special Sunday edition. Consider becoming a full subscriber today.