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Some thoughts from Disney’s investor day at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, Calif., Thursday, where the entertainment behemoth announced its new Disney+ streaming service will debut Nov. 12th in the U.S. at $6.99 a month or $69.99 a year:
* Disney executives didn’t once utter the words Apple or Netflix (thanks, seatmate Dominic Patten of Deadline, for pointing that out to me). But their entire three-and-a-half-hour presentation could be read as a primal scream that Disney isn’t afraid of its Silicon Valley competitor/partners. When Disney CEO Robert Iger said that the new service is built on a platform “that no content or technology company can rival,” and when his possible successor Kevin Mayer, head of the company’s direct-to-consumer and international business, referenced “brands that matter more than ever” and Disney’s “evergreen library,” there was no question to whom they were comparing their own company.
* Disney’s rollout of its new streaming service will be a landmark case study in a legacy business attempting, with a show of force, to defend its turf. Disney boldly projected 60 million to 90 million worldwide subscribers to the service by 2025, fewer than Netflix’s customers today, but an impressive number considering the app currently has none.
* Disney will experience unquestioned pain with its new strategy. It will forgo considerable revenue from Netflix by no longer making its content available on the streaming pioneer. It presumably also will eventually pull from services like Amazon and YouTube its content currently available for rent or purchase. At the same time, Disney isn’t risking everything. With a few exceptions, it will still debut major films first in theaters and then bring them exclusively to Disney+. For example, Jennifer Lee, chief creative officer of Walt Disney Studios, said the much anticipated Frozen II film, to be released this summer, will stream exclusively on Disney+ “once it’s done with its theatrical release.” (A spoiler alert/tease from a clip played at the event: Lovable snowman Olaf tells loving royal sister Anna, “I don’t think Elsa’s okay.”)
* A few more things: A Phineas and Ferb movie (yes!). A bevy of behind-the-scenes documentaries to bolster Disney+’s offering; Iger’s avowal that he really will retire when his contract expires in 2021: “The board has been engaged in a succession process. They feel they’ll be able to identify my successor in a timely basis.” Mayer’s suggestion that Disney “likely” will bundle Disney+, ESPN+, and Hulu into a package deal. How much the Disney+ app looks exactly like every other streamer’s user interface. That Pete Docter, the writer-turned-chief-creative-officer of Pixar—dressed in jeans, a white t-shirt, and an untucked flannel, in contrast to the variations of blue suits with open-collar white or blue shirts worn by nearly every other male Disney executive—was easily the best presenter of the day.
It’s an extremely exciting time when multi-billion-dollar global corporations compete vigorously and viciously for the great benefit of consumers and professional storytellers.
Hip hop. Adam may have had the magic touch in yesterday’s essay. Software startup PagerDuty flew 59% in its stock market debut on Thursday, pumping its valuation up to almost $3 billion. In the world of private fundraising, online used car seller Shift raised $40 million as it it positions for an IPO in the next two or three years.
Fiery depths. The commercial space race witnessed a triumph and a tragedy on Thursday. The Israeli moon lander Beresheet crashed as it attempted to touch down on the lunar surface. But SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket successfully launched a Saudi Arabian communications satellite into space and then landed all three of its reusable booster stages back on the Earth.
Follow on. After getting severely dinged by European regulators for alleged anticompetitive acts, Google is now facing lawsuits from private companies seeking additional damages. German online shopping comparison site Idealo internet GmbH sued the search giant and wants $565 million.
High frequency. The White House and the Federal Communications Commission on Friday will announce plans to speed the transition to faster 5G networks. The plan will include a $20 billion fund to support deployment in rural areas and the scheduling of a previously announced spectrum license auction, Axios reports.
Try something new. The $39 billion Harvard University endowment fund has suffered from poor performance in recent years. Now the fund is delving into digital currencies, buying about $12 million worth of tokens from a startup called Blockstack.
FOR YOUR WEEKEND READING PLEASURE
A few longer reads that I came across this week that may be appealing for your weekend reading pleasure:
Foxconn is Confusing the Hell Out of Wisconsin (The Verge)
Last summer, Foxconn announced a barrage of new projects in Wisconsin — so we went looking for them.
How Spotify Saved the Music Industry (But Not Necessarily Musicians) (Freakonomics)
Daniel Ek, a 23-year-old Swede who grew up on pirated music, made the record labels an offer they couldn’t refuse: a legal platform to stream all the world’s music. Spotify reversed the labels’ fortunes, made Ek rich, and thrilled millions of music fans. But what has it done for all those musicians stuck in the long tail?
The Man Behind Huawei (The Los Angeles Times)
Standing on Huawei Technologies Co.’s sprawling new campus near Shenzhen, it’s hard to conceive that Ren Zhengfei, backed by five friends of friends, could have single-handedly turned his tiny start-up into a technology-driven colossus.
How Game of Thrones Changed Television (The Financial Times)
The much-anticipated final season arrives this weekend — but can the show’s formula be repeated?
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
It’s almost summer. At least I think it is. Here in Boston, it’s still pretty cold and blustery. But we’re looking forward to warmer days and, of course, ice cream. These days, when you head to the supermarket to pick up a frozen treat, you’re often confronted with a dizzying array of choices. How did the market come to be overwhelmed with what Charlotte Druckman, writing for the web site Eater, calls “ultra-premium, super-artisanal, impossibly indie ice cream”? The history goes back almost 20 years:
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
4 Takeaways From Jeff Bezos’ Annual Amazon Shareholder Letter By Chris Morris
Uber’s IPO Filing Shows How Much of a Lead It Has on Rival Lyft By Danielle Abril
CBS’s Susan Zirinsky on the #MeToo Movement: ‘This Will Never Be Over’ By Emma Hinchliffe
BEFORE YOU GO
Ms. Chloe Jones of Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, took to Facebook recently to post some boasts and taunts. “Do you guys do pickup or delivery?? 😂😂😂😂,” she wrote to the Greene County Sheriff’s Office, after discovering she was on their “Top Ten Wanted” list. Getting into a battle with commenters on her post, Jones eventually revealed her whereabouts and was shortly thereafter arrested. Is there an emoji for foolish boasting via emoji?