Numlock News: September 22, 2023 • Studio Ghibli, Pope Francis, SmackDown
By Walt Hickey
Have a great weekend! Thanks to everyone who preordered my book this week, we’re really running through those fun promo posters so if you want that fun gift make sure to order soon and fill out the form!
NBCUniversal has swiped the weekly WWE event Friday Night SmackDown from Fox in a five-year deal that will put the franchise on USA. The show is a workhorse: It’s the 14th highest-rated entertainment series on television, averages a reliable 785,090 adults ages 18 to 49 per episode, a figure that is up 14 percent year over year despite overall television usage dropping 10 percent. It’ll lose a little bit of reach — USA is in 72.3 million households, 17 million less than Fox — but will now reside on the same network as the Monday night show, WWE Raw. Wrestling in general is a pretty great deal for advertisers, as a 30-second spot has averaged $50,000 to $55,000 during Smackdown, which is well less than the $85,000 per 30-second spot that Shark Tank gets over on ABC, despite the latter show having lower ratings.
Colorado has 53 mountains that are taller than 14,000 feet, and a group of maniacs loves to climb all of those mountains, which are called “fourteeners.” One issue, though, is that seven of the mountains are owned at least in part by private landowners, several mining interests among them, who block access to the trails pleading concern about lawsuits. This has led to some innovative thinking from the hikers: The Conservation Fund, an environmental group, on Wednesday bought 300 acres of Mount Democrat, which is 14,148 feet tall, acreage that includes the trailhead and summit, with the intention of transferring it to the U.S. Forest Service and pursuing some more deals. The fourteeners can be a big business for small towns nearby, and the number of annual visitors to Mount Democrat fell from 25,000 to 8,000 after the landowner closed the trailheads in 2021.
The OneHundredThirtySix Forecast
Everyone has their eyes on the next election, and is monitoring how the changing composition of voters may impact what happens. No, not that one: I mean the next papal election, which will occur upon the demise of the current pontiff Pope Francis. Later this month 18 new voting cardinals selected by the pope will be installed, which would bring the total number of cardinals under the age of 80 to 136 possible voters for a pope. Francis has significantly rebalanced the centers of power within the cardinals; most significantly, the Asia-Pacific region now has 18 percent of voting-age cardinals, up from 9 percent in 2013. Europe is down to 39 percent of voters from 52 percent in 2013, which is still a pretty significant overrepresentation given that Europe has just 21 percent of the world’s Catholics.
Seventeen cities are suing Hyundai and Kia over a wave of auto thefts for their vehicles, which from 2011 to 2021 did not contain the $100 engine immobilizers that prevent vehicles from being hot-wired. Overall, there are 9 million vulnerable vehicles in the U.S., and it’s been a nightmare for cities, with stolen car rates up hundreds of percent in some cities because a screwdriver and a USB cord is all it takes to boost a Kia. In Chicago, 6 percent to 8 percent of all stolen cars were Kias and Hyundais. As of November 2022, that jumped to 48 percent, and as of this past August they still were 35 percent of stolen cars. In Milwaukee, Kia-Hyundais are 52 percent of all car thefts.
Yesterday saw the announcement of a long-awaited media succession announcement, as the aging owner of a massively influential media company has finally decided as to who would succeed him. Not the Murdoch one: Studio Ghibli announced it will sell a controlling 42.3 percent stake in the company to the Japanese broadcaster Nippon Television, a longtime partner. NTV was the first broadcast of Ghibli star director Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind in 1985, and invested in Kiki’s Delivery Service. At 82, Miyazaki has a new film out this year — The Boy and the Heron, previously titled How Do You Live? — and longtime producer Suzuki Toshio is 75. For a while, people wondered if Miyazaki’s son Goro would take on the business, but the younger director has declined because holy crap Miyazaki is a hard act to follow.
Early tracking is in, and the theatrical release of Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour concert film in mid-October is, according to the National Research Group, projected to open to $75 million domestically. That said, the movie has a lot of potential upside, and some forecasters see it potentially hitting in the ballpark of $100 million. The concert film’s distributors are bullish that it can become a phenomenon, given Swift’s centrality to pop culture discourse and the increasingly barren fall slate, as studios punt their movies into 2024 amid the ongoing labor action. The top-grossing concert film ever was Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, which made $73 million domestically, and the This Is It Michael Jackson documentary and concert made a little less domestically but $181.9 million globally. Those numbers are looking beatable.
A borehole first dug in 2006 on the outskirts of Folschviller in France has attracted significant industrial attention with the possible discovery of a massive amount of dissolved hydrogen among the methane. Hydrogen is seen as a possible green energy source, aiding in industrial and transit applications where batteries or electricity might not work. At 1,100 meters down, there’s a 14 percent concentration of dissolved hydrogen, and at 3,000 meters down it’s estimated to be as high as 90 percent. That’s led researchers to estimate that Lorraine in eastern France might sit on 46 million tons of naturally produced hydrogen, one of the largest deposits in the world. Given it’s the French we’re talking about here, everyone expects them to rename the most abundant element in the universe to “Lorraine,” and get mad when anyone else tries to sell their Lorraine at market just because it’s not from the Lorraine region of France.
This week in the Sunday edition, I spoke to Ernie Smith, writer of the brilliant Tedium newsletter and who wrote “Google Extends Chromebook Life by 2 Years After Right-to-Repair Campaign for Motherboard.” Ernie is such a good read; if you’re not already subscribed to Tedium I really must insist, he’s one of the best at covering fascinating tech and history stories that absolutely no one is covering.
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