Disney is chipping away at Netflix’s dominance.
New data shows Netflix, long the king of streaming, is losing attention as subscribers shift to competitors like Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video.
Disney got a boost in attention to its streaming service from “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” a series based on the Marvel Cinematic Universe.Credit…Julie Vrabelova
The cracks are showing in Netflix’s worldwide dominance.
Netflix’s share of worldwide demand interest — a measure of the popularity of its shows created by Parrot and a key barometer of how many new subscribers a streaming service is likely to attract — fell below 50 percent for the first time in the second quarter of the year.
The company’s “lack of new hit original programming and the increased competition from other streamers is going to ultimately have a negative impact on subscriber growth and retention,” Parrot said in a news release.
Netflix relies on creating as many different shows and films for as many different audiences as possible, and the pandemic upset that formula, forcing the shutdown of productions around the world.
The company will announce its second quarter financial results Tuesday afternoon and has already told investors not to expect too much. It set a surprisingly low bar for the quarter when it told Wall Street that it anticipated adding one million new subscribers, a meager uptick to its current total of 207 million customers. (It’s worth noting that lower expectations are easier to beat, and beating expectations by even a hair can boost a company’s stock.)
Disney+ more than doubled its share of demand interest in the second quarter compared with a year ago, and Amazon Prime Video, AppleTV+ and HBO Max are also gaining, according to Parrot.
Even as newer entrants have chipped away at Netflix’s long-held grip, Reed Hastings, Netflix’s co-chief executive, has dismissed the competition as pretenders to the Netflix throne. In April, after Mr. Hastings was asked by investors why the company had missed its expectations for adding new customers in the first quarter, he said, “Of course we’re wondering, ‘Well, wait a second, are we sure it’s not competition?'”
“We really looked through all the data, looking at different regions where new competitors are launched, are not launched,” he continued. “And we just can’t see any difference in our relative growth in those regions, which is what gives us confidence.”
“We’ve been competing with Amazon Prime for 13 years, with Hulu for 14 years,” he added. “It’s always been very competitive with linear TV, too. So there’s no real change that we can detect in the competitive environment. It’s always been high and remains high.”
In other words: If Disney+ is hurting us, we haven’t seen it.
The argument that Netflix has been competing with regular television and other streamers for a long time overlooks the fact that new rivals like Disney+ and AppleTV+ are much cheaper than Netflix (and subscription television). And although those services produce far fewer originals than Netflix, they appear to be getting more bang for their buck.
In the second quarter, Disney+ got a big boost of demand interest from “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” a series based on the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which has thoroughly dominated the box office in recent years. “Loki,” another Marvel spinoff, also helped, according to Parrot.
Amazon Prime Video got a boost in the period with the launch of “Invincible,” an animated superhero series for adults. And AppleTV+ attracted new customers with a trio of originals: “Mosquito Coast,” a drama based on the 1981 novel; “For All Mankind,” a sci-fi series, and “Mythic Quest,” a comedy series that takes place in a game developer studio.
Speaking of, Netflix said this month that it planned to jump into video games. It has hired a gaming executive, Mike Verdu, formerly of Electronic Arts and Facebook, to oversee its development of new games. It’s a potentially significant move for the company, which hasn’t strayed far from its formula of television series and films.
Stocks snapped back on Tuesday, rebounding from Wall Street’s worst day in months, with the S&P 500 recouping all of the previous days losses.
Surging numbers of coronavirus cases, spurred by the Delta variant, had unnerved investors on Monday and introduced a bout of volatility into financial markets. The quickening spread of the virus and the uncertain path of monetary policy have been a reminder that the economic recovery from the pandemic remains rocky.
“Markets are clearly reassessing the risks posed by the new variant,” said Hugh Gimber, a strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management in London. “Nothing has changed in the data, the current vaccines still appear to be very effective at preventing severe illness but the optimism around how smoothly and how quickly the global economy can reopen has faded this week.”
The S&P 500 rose about 1.7 percent on Tuesday, a day after the benchmark fell 1.6 percent in its sharpest decline since mid-May. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 1.8 percent and the Nasdaq composite gained 1.7 percent.
Trading in government bonds was volatile, with the yield on 10-year U.S. Treasury notes falling sharply before recovering to about 1.20 percent. On Monday, the yield had tumbled 10 basis points to 1.19 percent, its lowest point since February.
Stocks are taking their cue from the bond market at the moment, Mr. Gimbler said, adding that he expected bond yields to rise again. “Ultimately, a 10-year Treasury yield at 1.2 percent or even lower is not consistent with strength of the global economy today,” he said.
The Stoxx Europe 600, which tumbled 2.3 percent on Monday — the worst day this year — rose about 0.5 percent. Asian markets closed lower on Tuesday, following the drop on Wall Street the previous day.
The British pound fell 0.4 percent against the U.S. dollar to its lowest level since January. On Monday, the government lifted most of its coronavirus restrictions in England but still urged caution as the country reported nearly 40,000 new cases. The same day, the State Department and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S. both told Americans to avoid traveling to Britain.
Mr. Gimbler said Britain was a test case that would “challenge the thesis that a widely vaccinated population can reopen without restrictions.” Therefore traders will be paying close attention to what happens there.
“Although bargain hunters will be sniffing around, nervousness is still largely the sentiment rippling through the markets, as concerns are growing that higher infection rates will bring about a fresh economic slowdown,” Susannah Streeter, an analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, wrote in a note.
Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, Calif. The company told employees that the return-to-office date could shift further depending on the spread of the virus.Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times
Apple pushed back its return-to-office plans by at least a month in response to the recent surge in coronavirus cases, which has been fueled by the spread of the Delta variant.
The company told employees on Monday that they are now expected to return to the office as early as Oct. 1 instead of early September. The company said that the date could shift further depending on the spread of the virus, and that it would give employees at least a month’s notice before they are expected to return, according to an email Apple sent to employees, which was viewed by The New York Times.
“As the situation continues to evolve, we’re committed to the same measured approach that we have taken all along,” the email said.
Some employees, such as those who build hardware, have already returned to Apple’s offices. At the beginning of the pandemic, Apple closed many of its retail stores, but those have since reopened. Apple’s return-to-work policies apply to all of its offices, including those in California, Texas and New York.
Apple declined to comment further. The company had 147,000 full-time employees as of September. Bloomberg earlier reported the changed return-to-office date.
Like many companies, Apple has delayed its employees’ return date several times, but it is one of the first major corporations to respond to the Delta variant spread.
Throughout the pandemic, Silicon Valley has been at the forefront of the trend toward remote work, with tech companies like Twitter and Facebook among the first to order their employees to work from home in early 2020. Many tech companies also eventually decided to make remote work permanent.
But Apple has been more resistant to lose its in-person office culture, which has caused some friction among employees who want to continue working from home. An internal Slack channel called “Remote Work Advocates” has grown to about 6,500 employees from roughly 1,800 in June, according to Cher Scarlett, an Apple security engineer who has helped write letters to management from the group.
In June, about 1,800 workers signed a letter to Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, that said forcing employees back into the office would cause some people to leave the company. On Monday, some employees in the Slack group posted a second letter to send to management that proposed more flexible remote-work arrangements. Tech news sites The Verge and Recode previously reported on the letters.
“Basically, everybody wanted to feel heard and to have more transparency and flexibility, like we’re seeing in other companies of Apple’s size,” Ms. Scarlett said.
The filming of “The Ladder” in Alaska. Hollywood’s major unions agreed on Monday night to a short-term plan to relax some pandemic protocols on production sets.Credit…Dustin Safranek/Ketchikan Daily News, via Associated Press
Hollywood’s major unions agreed Monday night to a short-term plan that would allow studios to require everyone on a production set to be vaccinated.
The agreement, which will be in effect through the end of September, will also relax some pandemic protocols on production sets, even as the Delta variant climbs and Los Angeles County puts a mask mandate for indoor settings back in place. Studios will be able to decrease the rate of regular coronavirus testing and loosen mask mandates in outdoor settings.
The arrangement was agreed on by the Directors Guild of America, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, along with the studios as represented by the Alliance of Motion Pictures and Television Producers.
The parties said they would continue monitoring Covid-19 developments and “will consider further modifications.”
Jeff Bezos, third from left, with fellow astronauts Oliver Daemen, Mark Bezos and Wally Funk during a press conference following the flight.Credit…Joe Raedle/Getty Images
From groceries and streaming subscriptions to web servers and Alexa, Amazon has become one of the most powerful economic forces in the world. And after Jeff Bezos returned from his brief flight to space on Tuesday in a rocket built by his private space company, Blue Origin, he made remarks that drew attention to the vast wealth the company had created for him.
“I also want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer because you guys paid for all of this,” Mr. Bezos said during a news conference after his spaceflight.
Mr. Bezos’ comment prompted swift critical reactions, including from a member of the House of Representatives who serves on the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee.
“Space travel isn’t a tax-free holiday for the wealthy,” said Representative Earl Blumenauer, Democrat of Oregon. “We pay taxes on plane tickets. Billionaires flying into space — producing no scientific value — should do the same, and then some!”
Mr. Blumenauer expressed concerns about the environmental effects of such space tourist flights. He said he had introduced legislation he called the Securing Protections Against Carbon Emissions (SPACE) Tax Act, aiming to make passengers on such flights pay a tax to offset their pollution impact.
He wasn’t alone in connecting Mr. Bezos’ spaceflight with concerns about how Amazon’s business practices have affected his company’s employees as well as small businesses.
“While Jeff Bezos is all over the news for paying to go to space, let’s not forget the reality he has created here on Earth,” Representative Nydia Velazquez, Democrat of New York, said on Twitter. She added the hashtag #WealthTaxNow on Tuesday morning and included a link to an article about how much Amazon’s employees had been paid.
While those congressional Democrats offered criticism, the message from the White House was more welcoming.
“This is a moment of American exceptionalism,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said when asked about the flight during a Tuesday news conference.
The New Shepard rocket lifting off from its launch pad on Tuesday.Credit…Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Jeff Bezos, the billionaire founder of Amazon, strapped into a capsule built by his rocket company, Blue Origin, and successfully blasted off into space on Tuesday morning, reaching an altitude of more than 60 miles above West Texas before safely landing.
Last week, Richard Branson earning his astronaut wings after riding a space plane from Virgin Galactic, a company he founded 14 years ago, to an altitude of more than 50 miles above the skies of New Mexico.
Here’s what we know about Mr. Bezos’s trip:
New Shepard, the Blue Origin spacecraft, is named after Alan Shepard, the first American in space.
The New Shepard crew includes Mr. Bezos’s brother, Mark; Oliver Daemen, an 18-year-old student from the Netherlands; and Mary Wallace Funk, a pilot who in the 1960s was among a group of women who passed the same rigorous criteria that NASA used for selecting astronauts.
For the first flight, Blue Origin auctioned off one of the seats with the proceeds going to Mr. Bezos’ space-focused nonprofit, Club for the Future. The winning bid was $28 million.
Space start-up founders and investors see Mr. Bezos’s and Mr. Branson’s suborbital flights driving additional interest to the space industry.
Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon said Democrats were proposing changes to the “pass-through” tax deduction because “many Main Street small-business owners are excluded.”Credit…Sarahbeth Maney/The New York Times
Senate Finance Committee Democrats moved on Tuesday to sharply limit the number of businesses eligible for a generous tax break in the 2017 tax cuts that congressional Republicans passed and that President Donald J. Trump signed into law.
They unveiled a measure that takes aim at “pass through” businesses like law firms, real estate trusts, family farms and other companies that are taxed at the owner’s individual income tax rate. The 2017 law granted those businesses a 20 percent deduction.
Democrats want that deduction limited to traditional small businesses and plan to include their effort in the $3.5 trillion economic bill that President Biden has proposed.
Though it was billed as a small-business break, Democrats on the Finance Committee say 61 percent of the 2017 benefit has gone to the top 1 percent of earners. Under the 2017 measure, a rich business partner at the highest income tax rate, 37 percent, saw a cut of 7.4 percentage points.
“Half the benefit of the pass-through deduction goes to millionaires, and because the benefit is so skewed toward the top, many Main Street small-business owners are excluded,” Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, the Finance Committee chairman, said in a statement.
Under the revised tax break, complicated categories and calculations to determine which partnerships, limited liability companies and other pass-through businesses qualify would be ditched, opening the deduction potentially to more businesses. But the deduction would be phased out for individuals earning more than $400,000, the income under which Mr. Biden has vowed not to raise taxes.
The committee did not immediately say how much the income cap would save the Treasury, but it could be substantial — without greatly reducing the number of businesses claiming the deduction. By the panel’s estimate, small-business owners with incomes under $200,000 have made up 80 percent of taxpayers who claimed the deduction, but 52.4 percent of the revenue lost to the Treasury went to millionaires and billionaires.
Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that tax savings under the existing break for taxpayers earning more than $500,000 would total around $36.9 billion in 2024 alone.
The measure is the first of what will be a slew of measures that would pay for social and environmental spending by raising taxes on the rich and on wealthy corporations. Because those measures will go through a budget process called reconciliation, they can pass the Senate without any Republican support — if all Democrats and their two independent allies stay united.
“It’s going to make the policy more fair and less complex for middle-class business owners, while also raising billions for priorities like child care, education and health care,” Mr. Wyden said.
The pandemic has been receding as life returns to normal for many Americans. But the government relief programs that helped support Americans over the last year are now fading away.
The federal legislative packages were worth trillions of dollars, creating a temporary safety net that provided help for people dealing with lockdowns, job losses and worse. Many of the most far-reaching protections, including eviction moratoriums and expanded unemployment benefits, are about to expire. Provisions affecting student loans, food stamps and more are scheduled to follow in the coming months.
It’s not all bad: This month, millions of households are receiving the first of six monthly payments that are part of an expanded child tax credit. But if you rely on any of the programs that are going away, this is an anxious time.
Fortunately, there’s still help out there — and The New York Times’s Tara Siegel Bernard and Ron Lieber report on how you can find it.
The headquarters of Dentsu, a Japanese advertising company, in Tokyo.Credit…Eugene Hoshiko/Associated Press
TOKYO — While the Olympics may be celebrated as a showcase of athletic feats and global harmony, they have also become a multibillion-dollar marketing opportunity for the world’s most famous brands.
No company was better positioned to scoop up the immense profits from this bonanza than Dentsu, an advertising goliath hard-wired into nearly every major institution in Japan.
As a gatekeeper to the world’s third-largest economy, the company has become a major figure in international sports. It played a prominent role in Tokyo’s Olympic bid, then was named the Games’ exclusive advertising partner, bringing in a record-shattering $3.6 billion from Japanese sponsors.
But the pandemic has played havoc with the company’s plans, and presented a serious test of its skill at message control.
The advertising campaigns and promotional events that sponsors usually mount in the months before the Olympics have been canceled or pared down. And now, with the Games about to begin, Toyota said that it would not run Olympics-themed television ads in Japan during the event, reflecting its unpopularity in the host nation.
Still, even with its challenges, Dentsu remains an unparalleled force in Japan, an invisible hand behind an Olympics that would not have come to Tokyo without its efforts.
Dentsu was one of the first ad agencies to recognize how international sporting events could raise clients’ profiles abroad and help them break into new markets. Its ties to the Olympics stretch back to 1964, when it handled public relations for the first Tokyo Games. It led the bid for the 1998 Nagano Winter Games, and was the natural choice to spearhead the effort to bring the Olympics back to Tokyo.
“If you’re going to do sports marketing business in Japan, they’re kind of your first and last stop, to be honest. They hold a lot of the cards,” said Terrence Burns, a sports consultant and former International Olympic Committee executive.
Today in the On Tech newsletter, we look at the pros and cons of using Apple’s AirTag tracking device to find lost pets.