Numlock News: June 9, 2022 • Pizza, LNG, Chargers
By Walt Hickey
Bad news for people frustrated by sky-high real estate costs in cities who have decided to say screw it and move out to the country to get in touch with the land and find yourself: Things are hella expensive out there, too, also that’s a dumb idea. The average sale price of an acre of Iowa farmland was $9,751 in 2021, a massive jump from the $7,559 per acre seen in 2020. The number of auctions was up 65 percent, the number of acres sold at auction were up 106 percent, and the dollar value of those auctions was up 130 percent, according to Farmers National Company. The cause of the price jump is believed to be a cocktail of inflation, high prices for commodities, the invasion of Ukraine and low interest rates.
Netflix’s unexpected subscriber loss in the first quarter of this year has a number of contributing factors, but one of them may actually be a slowdown in sales of smart TVs, the tech-enabled boxes that can make a streaming service like Netflix into a peer or even rival of cable set top boxes. Smart TVs are in about 60 percent of broadband internet-using households, and tend to be the main way that people build their bundle of streaming offerings. From 2019 to 2020, North American smart TV sales increased by 10.8 million, but in 2021 sales began to decline, dropping by 2 million. That’s roughly the way that Netflix’s business fortunes have looked, gaining 6.3 million subscribers in North America in 2020, and only adding 1.3 million in 2021.
Australia is the largest exporter of natural gas as of 2020, when it exported 106.2 billion cubic meters of liquefied natural gas. It’s fair to say Australia is absolutely lousy with natural gas; it accounts for 22 percent of their primary energy consumption, and they’re a huge exporter. That’s why it’s particularly ironic that Australia is now in the midst of a serious natural gas shortage. One reason is that only Western Australia bothered to mandate that gas developers reserve 15 percent of their production for the domestic market, and none of the state governments in Australia’s east actually set any kind of domestic requirement. As a result, the gas continues flowing, just out of the country, not into the domestic market.
Streamers need to have 30 percent local content in major European markets, meaning that they need to have a lot of local offerings in places like France, Germany and the United Kingdom. A new analysis reveals that there may be trouble for Netflix, which has 27 percent local programming in the United Kingdom and Ireland, and is a hair short of the 30 percent threshold in France, Belgium and Switzerland. According to the analysis, in the U.K. they’ve either got to add 408 European titles or remove 953 non-European titles. Meanwhile, Disney+ is only at around the 10 percent European content mark, so buckle up everyone, I hope you’re looking forward to The Bachelor: Luxembourg or So You Think You Can Ceili and The Chase (German Version) and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Also Screw It We’re Introducing Captain Britain and Luca 2.
Apple sold 241 million iPhones in 2021, and 56 million of those phones were sold in Europe. While most other manufacturers are using a standard USB-C port, Apple’s phones use a proprietary charging port, the Lightning connector. In the view of the European Union’s consumer advocates, this sucks, because the lack of interoperability means that there are a whole lot of extra chargers that don’t really need to exist, fueling an e-waste problem that’s only getting worse. That’s why, in a blow to Apple, E.U. lawmakers reached an agreement that would force smartphones sold in the E.U. to have a universal USB-C port by fall 2024. They estimate it’ll cut down on 11,000 metric tons of e-waste annually and save consumers 250 million euros, and I estimate the move will drive a whole lot of traffic to the xkcd Standards comic.
The pizza business has been flirting with catastrophe, as a perfect storm of factors imperil pizza delivery services. It’s a time of challenges: Domino’s, reeling from a lack of drivers and stiff competition from the third-party food delivery apps it has ruthlessly opposed, expects that 2,500 to 3,000 of its stores will have their delivery business handled by call centers rather than the shop itself by the end of the year, and has been aggressively pushing its carryout options, which were up 11.3 percent. It’s so bad that due to staffing challenges, a flurry of store hour reductions and restricted online orders meant that Domino’s says it basically was as if the entire U.S. system was closed for six days of the first quarter of the year.
Climate change and spiraling temperatures will force many schools to implement costly renovations to their ventilation systems, as systems designed for a different climate strain fail to keep temperatures reasonable as more and more hot days emerge. A Government Accountability Office study estimated that 41 percent of public school districts need to update or replace their HVAC system, which breaks out to something like 36,000 schools across the country. Temperature is a big deal for productivity, with studies finding that students performed worse on standardized tests the more hotter-than-80-degrees-Fahrenheit days they had in a given term.
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