Numlock News: November 6, 2023 • Sunken Treasure, Leap Seconds, Blizzard
By Walt Hickey
Some fun personal news from this past weekend: I got married!
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The NFL is the big draw for television audiences, and the numbers show that there is literally nothing even close to the league when it comes to ad rates. Back during the upfront sales where 85 percent to 90 percent of the NFL ad inventory was sold, Fox managed to get $900,000 per 30-second ad, NBC got $875,000 per 30-second ad, and CBS got $820,000. By comparison, the highest-rated show in primetime is 60 Minutes, and they’re pulling just $120,000 per spot; the average unit cost across all primetime is $56,000 per ad per show. The NFL is such a big deal that the Disney decision to air Monday Night Football on ABC in addition to ESPN is rocking the boat for the entire television ad market, flooding the market with an additional 700 to 800 units that have shattered the value of all the remaining ad blocks for sale on CBS, Fox and NBC. Some of the biggest growth in spending is from the car manufacturers, who have bought $267.4 million worth of NFL ads, up 30 percent year over year.
The Overwatch League, the most expensive attempt to date to organize a professional esports league with 20 franchises which attracted significant investment from established sports industry owners, appears poised to end its current format in light of the anticipated results of an ownership vote to dissolve the league as it is. If the ownership interests vote to dissolve, Activision Blizzard will pay them $120 million, or $6 million per team, after which the teams can decide whether to bail on the game Overwatch entirely, or move on to the next phase of whatever the league becomes. That next evolution appears set to be the Saudi Arabian state-owned company ESL FACEIT Group, which would run the 2024 season of competitive Overwatch, likely looking more like an open-circuit style system than the franchise-based model that made the Overwatch League so innovative from an esports concern upon launch and compelling to watch as it attempted to secure a viable business.
The fallout from the FDA decision to declare that phenylephrine is an ineffective nasal decongestant is still rolling on, as the useless medication is still somehow the market leader in a category in which it is, essentially, useless. Decongestants that contain pseudoephedrine, which actually works really well, were a $542 million business in 2022. By comparison, decongestants that contained the ineffective phenylephrine were a $1.8 billion business last year. The main reason is that pseudoephedrine was exiled to behind the counter of pharmacies was because of the whole “this is really easy to make into meth” situation, and over-the-counter nasal decongestants see huge sales in convenience stores and other non-pharmacy locales.
The International Bureau of Weights and Measures is the institution in charge of making sure all the clocks are right around the world, and given the slight differences between the amount of time it takes the Earth to revolve around the sun and the concept of a year being “365 days, and every fourth year is 366 days,” sometimes that involves implementing a “leap second.” Mostly, this is a computer thing, as all the computers in the world need to have a comparable understanding of what time it is. When a leap second is announced — as it was in 2012 and 2017, when the deviation between radiation-perfect clocks and the actual position of Earth expands beyond 0.9 seconds — adding in an extra second on New Year’s Day can cause organizational issues. The IBWM already plans to eliminate leap seconds entirely by 2035, and a new proposal would instead implement a “leap minute,” where an extra minute would be added every half-century or so. That proposal is opposed by a diverse coalition that includes Russia (the GLONASS satellite navigation network was built for leap seconds, and reworking that is a nonstarter apparently) as well as the Vatican (the Church has had skin in the game on calendars for millennia at this point, as seen with the very concept of a “Gregorian calendar”).
Spotify has proposed a 1,000-stream threshold that must be hit before a song on the platform will receive royalties. The new royalty scheme would go into effect next year, and will require a track to get 1,000 streams within a 12-month period in order to be paid for Spotify playing it. As of 2022, only 37.5 million of Spotify’s then-100 million tracks had reached 1,000 all-time streams, which is an even lower threshold than 1,000 streams in 12 months. That essentially means that Spotify will strip all money going to those lesser-known tracks that Spotify says make up 0.5 percent of the royalty pool, or about $46 million given their 2022 spend. That money will instead go to popular artists rather than the smaller, scrappier musicians.
A new report published by the National Endowment for the Arts suggests that the percentage of Americans who read books for pleasure is continuing to decline. When the survey was run in 2017, 52.7 percent of respondents said they had read one or more books for pleasure in the previous 12 months, a level that has slipped to 48.5 percent of respondents as of their 2022 survey. That four-point decline is double the two-point decline seen between the 2012 (when 54.6 percent said they had) and 2017 surveys. Women are considerably more likely than men to have read a book for pleasure (56.6 percent versus 40 percent). Much of the decline can be attributed to a collapse in older readers; in the demographic aged 55 to 64, the percentage of those who read a book fell from 53.6 percent to 43.6 percent over the past five years.
Colombia is working to recover the contents of a 62-gun Spanish galleon called the San Jose, which is currently at the bottom of the Caribbean Sea. It was sunk by the British in 1708, and was traveling with six years’ worth of silver and gold from mines in Peru. The value of the contents within the ship have been estimated to be between $4 billion and $20 billion, a sum of money that is definitely worth a little government investment in oceanic recovery. The coordinates of the ship are a state secret, and a company called Glocca Morra, which said it found the San Jose in 1981, is suing for half the treasure and seeking $10 billion.
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