Numlock News: January 4, 2022 • David Bowie, The Postal Service, Dire Straits
By Walt Hickey
He's in the best-selling show
The estate of David Bowie sold the entire publishing catalog of the late musician to Warner Chappell Music for a reported $250 million. The sale includes the songs from the 26 studio albums made over Bowie’s lifetime, tracks from soundtracks that were released as singles, two studio albums from Bowie’s supergroup Tin Machine, and a posthumous album Toy coming out this week. In practice, all this means is indie movie directors attempting to license a song to end their quirky movie or musical or trailer or period television episode or postmodern cartoon just need to cc: a new guy on the request email.
Facebook is banning advertisers who target users based on their health conditions in an attempt to get rid of ads that are gross-looking or off-putting on the platform. It’s a move that’s been pushed by patient privacy advocates for a while, as sensitive matters of health that Facebook’s algorithm intuited through, say, donations to cancer charities or visits to medical websites have long been fair game but as of January are off the table. There is a problem with the sweeping ban, though. Biomedical research depends on using advertising to recruit people for clinical trials, and a lack of participants will slow the progress of developing new treatments. All told, clinical trials recruit about 3 million participants a year, and insiders estimated that about half of trials rely on Facebook advertisements to find and enroll candidates.
Ready To Launch
Last year saw 144 attempts at an orbital launch worldwide, of which 133 were successful. That would be enough to break the record both for most attempts at an orbital launch in a single year, previously held by 1967 with 139 launch attempts, as well as the most successful launches in a given year, previously held by 1976, which featured 125 successful orbital launches. It’s a sign of the changing economics and incentives of the space industry. From 2000 to 2010, Earth was averaging fewer than 70 orbital launches a year. Since then, China’s state space program and commercial operator SpaceX’s Falcon 9 have been responsible for a large increase in orbital launches over the past decade.
The Denver Broncos show all the signs of a team bound for sale, but there is a potential complication. In 1984, Pat Bowlen purchased the Denver Broncos from Edgar Kaiser. Bowlen died in 2019 and placed the team in a trust controlled by his children and his brother, an already complicated situation given the internal familial dynamics. But there’s a kink in the plan: An aptly-named Canadian holding company named ROFR Holdings Ltd. claims that they have a Right of First Refusal, as ROFR Holdings is owned by an Arizona businessman and none other than the estate of Edgar Kaiser, which contends that a condition of the sale 37 years ago involved a right of first refusal. The Broncos are now suing ROFR Holdings and arguing that the rights were not legally transferred from Kaiser to the holding company. At stake is an enormous amount of money; if there is such a right, it’ll probably lower the final sale price, and bidders who would need to spend millions in legal and banking fees just to assemble a credible bid might not want to mess with the situation if someone else can just swoop in and swipe the deal out from under them. It’s basically like Succession, only if Waystar was fourth in the AFC West and ATN was withering under the offense of Pat Shurmur.
Such Great Heights
The United States Postal Service is back, people, successfully recovering from the logistical nightmares of last year. According to ShipMatrix, the USPS has 96.9 percent of shipments delivered on time during a two-week period in December, a massive improvement over last year when a third of first-class mail was late. Since then, the USPS installed 112 new package sorting machines, moved 60,000 pre-career employees to career employees, hired 40,000 seasonal employees and leased more space. During the December 12 to 21 period, FedEx and UPS saw on-time delivery rates of about 90 percent.
Paramount Network’s Yellowstone finished out its fourth season Sunday with 10.4 million viewers on average, more than double the 4.5 million of season 1 and a turnout that cements the show as the most popular series on cable. The path that the show took to the top was completely unconventional, and has executives trying to find ways to replicate it. It had the most initial success in the least-populated television markets, the markets Nielsen categorizes as “D markets,” where in 2018 it was the fourth-most popular show among the 25 to 54 demo. That same year in the "A markets” like New York and Los Angeles, the show wasn’t even in the top 50. While things have evened out — both A markets and D markets are each responsible for 28 percent of the show’s audience as of season 4 — the viewership composition is far more geographically spread than, say, HBO’s flagship Succession, which gets 73 percent of its audience from the largest markets and very few from the D markets.
The nation of Sri Lanka is facing down the threat of bankruptcy, with inflation hitting 11.1 percent in November and 500,000 people falling beneath the poverty line in the past two years. Tourism accounted for north of 10 percent of Sri Lanka’s GDP and employed around 200,000 people, and the pandemic cratered that. Further, the country owes China $5 billion in debt, and took another $1 billion loan last year to help weather its financial crisis, a major chunk of the $7.3 billion owed in loans foreign and domestic. Unfortunately, as of November the country had $1.6 billion in available foreign currency reserves, a figure that an opposition member of parliament said will hit -$437 million by next January.
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