Numlock News: November 26, 2019 • Ohio, TI-84, Super Bowl Ads
By Walt Hickey
A little advance warning, Numlock is off Thursday and Friday in observation of Black Friday and Black Friday Eve.
eBay sold StubHub for $4.05 billion, and if there is any justice in this world they really got soaked on the service fee, the convenience fee and the fulfillment fee. The buyer was Viagogo, a slightly smaller company that also resells tickets but does so predominantly outside the United States, in Europe and the U.K. This move combines the two largest secondary markets for tickets, and I’m sure the average consumer will in no way be harmed by this horizontal market consolidation. eBay has owned StubHub since 2007, and the ticket reseller accounted for 14 percent of the company’s $2.6 billion in revenue in the third quarter.
Extreme weather is increasingly seen as an economic liability, and a desire to get additional weather data beyond that provided by NOAA has turned into a $7 billion private weather forecasting industry. AccuWeather, Earth Networks, and the Weather Co. — the latter a spin-off of the technical assets of The Weather Channel and now owned by IBM — are just some indie firms getting in on the weather game. NOAA remains the sole authorized issuer of severe weather watches and warnings, but the new batch of private sector competition means that the federal government soon may no longer be the sole source of the raw data that has fueled forecasts from local TV to agricultural to aviation.
In April, Ohio lawmakers eliminated the need for front license plates. This was cited as a cost saving measure: it’ll save $1.4 million annually since the state won’t have to make and mail twice as many plates. Sure, there are consequences of convenience: local governments are poised to lose up to $240,000 annually in fines and court costs as they get less effective at tracking speeders or red light runners. Though the change goes into effect next July, some are trying to roll the measure back, and they have the backing of not only police groups but also large rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft. In their view, a fairly crucial component of the rideshare experience is correctly locating the car you’re supposed to be in, and they argue that Ohio — plus the 19 other states that require a rear license plate alone — undermine that.
Texas Instruments has sold the TI graphing calculator in a fundamentally unchanged state for more than a decade, but the price hasn’t noticed: a TI-83+ in 2006 cost about $90, and today it sells for $105, despite the fact that computing technology has taken a substantive leap. Calculators make up less than 3 percent of Texas Instruments’ revenue, but their margins are believed to be considerable. Analysts put the cost to produce a TI-84 Plus at something like $15 to $20, with at least a 50 percent markup conservatively. A PC manufacturer, by contrast, is looking at margins below 3 percent. This markup is passed on to students who need the calculators for standardized testing, and the reality is grim: DonorsChoose, a popular crowdfunding site, has 2,002 active projects trying to get a hold of TI-83 and TI-84 graphic calculators, just the tip of the iceberg of 35,578 such requests posted. Only 26,855 were funded, for $17,938,242.
This Thanksgiving is poised to be the biggest such travel day since 2005. Air travel will hit a record 31.6 million passengers, who paid an average of $491 per ticket, up from $478 last year. The current forecast is that aircraft will be 87.6 percent full, the highest level in a decade. Traffic on the highways will be terrible: 18 percent of U.S. travelers will drive alone this year, up from 15 percent last year, which means more vehicles on the road and thus a rougher traffic situation.
Super Bowl Ads
And they’re gone: Fox has sold every single available advertising slot for the 2020 Super Bowl, the first time since 2013 that it hasn’t gone down to the wire to move that ad time. A 30-second spot has gone for north of $5 million and up to $5.6 million, which is 107 percent higher than the equivalent ad spot in 2008, when a 30-second spot sold for $2.7 million. The Super Bowl is huge and can alter the entire math of a broadcaster’s balance sheet. Earlier this year, Comcast revealed they made $423 million from the 2018 Super Bowl, and CBS said that its first quarter ad revenue was up 18 percent thanks to the 2019 game.
American drivers are getting older, as new vehicles soar in prices, younger people gravitate toward cities, and the cars themselves last longer. In 2007, 45 percent of the buyers of new light-duty vehicles were under the age of 45. In 2017, that figure stood at just 28 percent. The percentage of new vehicle buyers over the age of 65 has jumped from 13 percent in 2007 to 27 percent in 2017. Furthermore, a lower percentage of Americans aged 16 to 59 have a drivers license compared to levels seen in 2001.
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