Numlock News: March 20, 2020 • Iditarod, Blastoff, Drive-Ins
By Walt Hickey
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Cross The Streams
Netflix has agreed to a request from EU officials to reduce the quality of its streaming video as networks across the continent are strained due to much higher-than-typical use. A 2019 report measured that video accounts for 60 percent of data delivered by internet providers to consumers, so the bulk of it. Netflix accounted for about 12 percent of total internet traffic and Google (because of YouTube) accounted for 12 percent. Netflix will reduce the bitrate for the next 30 days, with the effect of slimming its traffic footprint in Europe by about 25 percent. Given my experience with Netflix original shows, I can only assume this quality drop-off will start at about episode 7 of a 13-episode season.
Early Wednesday, 10 dogs led by K2 and Bark won the Iditarod sled dog race across Alaska, with the crew of dogs taking nine days, 10 hours, 37 minutes and 47 seconds to complete the 1,000 mile race. Thomas Waerner, a 47-year-old Norway resident, was also there, but mostly hung back on the sled so let’s take a moment to focus on the true winners here. This year 57 teams participated, which was the second smallest field in 20 years, and 11 mushers quit over the course of the race in what I can only imagine was a grievous disappointment to the approximately 110 dogs that were counting on them.
Once cast aside as a relic of a bygone age, the drive-in theater business is doing great right now, with moviegoers locked out of the standard cinemas and social isolation being the name of the game. As of October, there were 305 drive-in theaters with a total of 549 screens, down from 447 locations and 684 screens in 1999. The decades have been hard on the theaters, which knew the cold meaning of “new distribution format” well before the Net had Flix: the peak for drive-ins was in 1958, when there were 4,063 drive-in screens around the country.
Chris Cassidy will blast off next week from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan en route to the International Space Station, one of three astronauts who have pretty impeccable timing to say the least. The two Russians originally slated to accompany him were scratched from the flight, with two new cosmonauts filling in. Typically, liftoff entails families, bosses and dozens in a room watching them prep, but this time it’ll be a little thinner as a precaution.
Pick Up The Check
The restaurant industry in the United States has been decimated, and the damage is enormous. There are 15.6 million people who work in one million restaurants in the United States, and this year sales were expected to be $899 billion. Over the next three months, the National Restaurant Association expects sales to decline $225 billion. Given that rent is the largest fixed cost, kitchens are left to negotiate with landlords or pray for a government mandated rent or eviction moratorium. With between five and seven million hospitality workers expected to be out of a job in the next three months, it’s also seen by some in the industry as an opportunity to re-evaluate some previously held assumptions, such as the tip-based compensation, complete lack of safety net or insurance for many employees, and tenuous work setup that defines the business.
I don’t know how this happened either, but Trolls World Tour is rapidly looking to be the most interesting movie of 2020. Not entirely due to the fundamental mystery of whether the pop Trolls will be able to pull off their gambit of uniting the various tribes, no, but because it’s going to be an incredible experiment in how much money a studio can make releasing something direct-to-consumers rather than in a cinema. The first Trolls made $46.6 million in its domestic opening in November 2016, another time in society when absolutely nothing interesting was happening. The new movie had been predicted to open to somewhere between $17 million and $25 million in its first weekend. Since Universal is taking the fairly unprecedented step of releasing the film for rental for about 20 bucks, it will be an experiment to see how important movie theaters really are. So everyone will be watching — or at least fast-forwarding to the parts where the My Brother, My Brother and Me guys appear — to see how it goes down.
This year, U.S. corn farmers are projected to plant 94.63 million acres, up 4.9 million from 2019, and the third-highest planting on record. That would imply a harvest of 15.37 billion bushels, which would be the largest ever and an increase over last year of 1.68 billion. Soybean acreage is also projected to increase by 7.6 million to 83.74 million acres, though wheat is projected to drop by 693,000 to 44.5 million acres, an all-time low since the numbers started being tracked in 1919.
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