Numlock News: March 22, 2019
By Walt Hickey
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Kunxun is a two-month old female wolfdog and is China’s first cloned police puppy. Her DNA came from Huahuangma, a veteran dog with a record of multiple solved cases, so I imagine Kunxun is under all sorts of pressure right now with a reputation that precedes here. The cost of the cloned dog — 380,000 yuan, or about $56,000 — is worth it because it’s undeniably more consistent than attempting to breed a new generation with that degree of skill. In 2007, South Korea became the first country to introduce cloned dogs for security work. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a billion dollars to make by writing a movie about the top bomb-sniffing dog on the force, a jaded and tough crime fighting vet, who gets partnered up with the new rookie on the force who just happens to be… herself?
A shortage of a tiny electronic component is causing major headaches for hardware manufacturers. A multi-layer ceramic capacitor — MLCC — costs half a penny and is abundant in basically every major piece of hardware produced these days. A GoPro Hero 5 has 326 capacitors, an iPhone 6S has 500, an iPhone X has 1,000 and a Tesla Model 3 has 9,200. But demand for the essential part has vastly outstripped supply, with a shortage declared by a major distributor in 2018 that is projected to last through 2020, with MLCC orders backed up for almost a year. Scaling up production isn’t that simple — build too much new production capacity and you’re sitting on a glut, which drives prices down on a part that already comes on razor-thin margins.
The annual NCAA men’s basketball tournament makes up a fairly ridiculous percentage of the total income of the NCAA. As big as college football seems, as big as the rest of college sports appear, it’s March Madness that keeps the (ha) not-for-profit in the black. The $804 million the NCAA will get for broadcasting rights this year plus other revenues associated with the event make up about 80 percent of the $1.1 billion in revenue the NCAA clears. That television contract will rise to an estimated $873 million by 2023, a $69 million rise of which $0 will go to the actual players.
Hollywood Is Having An Episode
The Writer’s Guild and the talent agencies are still wrangling over their agreements ahead of what could turn into a major labor action if there’s a failure to reach an agreement. The writers, broadly, see a massive conflict of interest in their representatives working for the same company that produces the projects they are paid to work on, while the agencies have spent the past decades orchestrating “packaging deals” as a synergistic way to bring in more revenues overall. We’ve now hit the “competing studies” phase of the standoff. UTA, one agency, released a study saying TV writer clients made $3,374 more per episode on shows that were packaged versus shows that were not packaged. The writers countered with evidence that overall wages are flat, pointing out that a writer with a producer credit on a half hour comedy in its first season made $15,000 per episode in 1999, or $23,400 today, while last year the median fee for a writer in the same position was $16,000. It’s a pretty fascinating look behind the scenes at how television is made, but the deadline is fast approaching and could get ugly.
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Last Sunday, I spoke to the Urban Institute’s Eugene Steuerle all about how the way America thinks about aging is actively hurting the way we develop policy. He can be found at his blog, The Government We Deserve.
The percentage of original movie and series titles on Netflix’s American service has jumped considerably from 4 percent of the catalog in 2016 to 11 percent at the end of last year. Compare that with Hulu and Amazon, for whom originals account for 1 percent of their catalogs, but also with HBO Go and Showtime Anytime, where 35 percent and 15 percent respectively are original. In 2016, 25 percent of titles released on Netflix were made in-house, a figure that since rose to 51 percent, meaning that, yes, Netflix’s gazillion dollar money fire is indeed producing content. Still, Netflix has a ton of exposure to the whims of the major studios it now is directly competing with: 30 percent of the content on Netflix comes from one of those majors, all of whom are in some stage of developing their own exclusive streaming service.
Scott Roxborough, The Hollywood Reporter
The Uniqlo brand is a juggernaut in Japan but is still attempting to break in stateside. The brand of clothing staples has over 800 stores in Japan and accounts for about 6.5 percent of the total Japanese apparel market. The company’s owner is the richest person in Japan. Its attempts to move into the U.S. have not gone off without a hit: the company aimed to have $10 billion in sales from 200 U.S. stores by 2020, but now operates 50 stores at a loss. Still, the international push is getting returns: operating income outside of Japan grew 62 percent in 2018, as the company has been regrouping in urban markets rather than using locations in malls to take a stab at the house that Gap built.
Gillian B. White, The Atlantic
The college admissions scandal that gripped the nation did a great job of reminding people how unpleasant the whole transition from high school to college could be, while also distracting from some of the more potent issues in higher ed. About 90 percent of young people have some interaction with college. The real issue isn’t about the admission so much as the exit. Only about 60 percent of four-year college students graduate within six years. Only 30 percent of community college students — who get a degree in two years — graduate within six years. That’s a bigger story than funny business in admissions at a few snooty schools, and a concerning driver of the student debt bubble.
Nicholas Lemann, The New Yorker
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