Showbiz shares sparkled Monday starting off March with a major market rally around reopening, another vaccine rollout, a stimulus bill and a combo of upbeat earnings and streaming forecasts.
Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, the nation’s third, will ship this week and the possibility of $1.9 trillion flowing into the U.S. economy looks increasingly likely after the House passed a Covid-19 relief bill over the weekend and sent it on to the Senate.
The DJIA surged more than 700 points, or nearly 2.3% and other indexes jumped too with about 95% of all stocks higher today and entertainment a standout from exhibition to TV to live events.
AMC Entertainment shares gained 14% with New York City set to reopen theaters Friday after a year dark. The volatile stock is benefitting in part from renewed love on Reddit where investors have been tipping back into select shares led by GameStop. Other exhibitors saw bumps from Cinemark (up 7%) to Imax and Marcus (up 3%).
Live Nation shares rose nearly 5%. CEO Michael Rapino said Friday during an earnings call — citing conversations with state governors — that “a clear outline” has emerged for a 75% to 100%-capacity reopening for outdoor U.S. events this year. The giant venue operator also sold out tickets to two large U.K. festivals in August (Reading & Leeds and Creamfields) after the British government said large music events could resume at 100% capacity on June 21.
Classic media and entertainment stocks are also buoyant and it may be time to note an ongoing mood shift around companies as they make strides in streaming. Many have also posted better than expected quarterly results in advertising and other metrics after the horrific impact of Covid-19. “But the real catalyst has been the quarterly reporting of OTT subscribers,” said MoffettNathanson analyst Michael Nathanson in a recent report.
Despite a glut of new OTT services, Wall Street appears willing to consider each on the merits, although not assuming by any means that they’ll all survive on their own longer term given the challenging economics. Investors are certainly applauding Discovery after CEO David Zaslav announced 7 million new Discovery+ streaming subscribers since its December launch. The service also had a great write up today by New York Times media columnist Ben Smith. It’s up nearly 10%.
AMC Networks CEO Josh Sapan also impressed the Street Friday, beating earnings estimates, disclosing over 6 million year-end streaming subscribers and anticipating 20-25 million in 2025. Shares are up more than 6%. There’s been some upside confusion between AMC Networks and AMC Entertainment, Nathanson and others noted, but there’s also some genuine enthusiasm. AMC shares had already surged since its last quarterly report in November, Nathanson noted.
He thinks AMC Nets and others have Disney to thank.
“After a massive re-rating of growth equities and Covid winners, this stock [AMC Networks] — and many of their media peers — had been left for dead. Then, in December, after another successful investor day in which Disney laid out its DTC ambitions, the market’s complete shift to sum-of-the-parts valuation methodology at Disney opened the door for investors to try this approach on other companies.”
Nathanson said a “massive re-rating” in Roku has also helped valuations. He called Roku stock “essentially a play on AVOD and the long tail of SVOD players trying to money in the space.” It’s up nearly 5% Monday with a market cap of $52 billion. “If it’s worth that much, what are Pluto, Tubi and Peacock worth?”
Also today, shares of Pluto parent ViacomCBS are up 5% with Paramount+ launching this week. Tubi owner Fox is up 5%. Lionsgate, expanding in streaming with Starz, is up about 7%.
Fubo is up 7% as it prepares to report earnings Tuesday.
It didn’t hurt Monday’s markets that Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffett, the 90-year-old know as the Oracle of Omaha, urged over the weekend in his closely studied annual shareholders letter “never bet against America.”
Game developer Electronic Arts produces shows to expand reach ‘as a media business’
Everyone in esports is a media business these days, including developers like Electronic Arts.
But it’s often easier said than done when the likes of Electronic Arts try to stick the landing. As Todd Sitrin, general manager of competitive gaming entertainment at Electronic Arts explained: “We think of ourselves as a media company and that means trying to think of the best forms of entertainment that are going to make our titles fun to watch by billions of people.”
Sitrin and the team aren’t alone in figuring this out: the pandemic has been a lightbulb moment for consumers, broadcasters and advertisers who realized esports was going to play a key role in the future of sports as traditional games were canceled.
In theory, Electronic Arts’ strategy makes perfect sense. Over the last several years, gaming’s cultural impact has grown markedly, and Electronic Arts tried to capitalize on it with content that resonates, from the Fifa and Madden sports franchises to the Sims and Apex Legends. The reality of doing this, however, is much messier.
The trick is striking a balancing act. Electronic Arts can’t be too heavy-handed — after all, gaming is its own language, and not everyone speaks it. On the other hand, it has to think about how the entertainment properties it does develop bridge the gap between gaming and mainstream culture so it can introduce its brands to a broader market.
That mindset was behind Electronic Arts’ latest community-driven game show “Fifa Face-Off.” The two-part YouTube show concluded last week and pitted celebrities against each other such as Jason Sudeikis (in his Ted Lasso soccer coach character) and Trevor Noah, along with musicians like Becky G, Fifa professionals and influencers.
In each episode, the celebrities and Fifa pros will pair up, select their teams and compete to win a share of a $25,000 prize pool on behalf of the third member of the team: a Fifa player who has been chosen by the community to take part in the event. Some of those match-ups are modeled after the skill-based challenges in the game; others are modified versions of the standard match mode and viewers are able to decide what they watch during the broadcast.
“We’ve taken a mainstream entertainment approach and tried to bring it to gaming so that we can expand our audience,” said Sitrin. “It’s easy to digest in the sense that some of the skill matches three to four minutes as opposed to these gargantuan length games that you sometimes see in other esports broadcasts.”
Not that it’s all focused on the contest: mini-games with additional talent are played throughout the show, while additional viewer contests will run so that those watching it all from home can get involved. For those viewers who don’t necessarily follow esports, the hope is that the show piques their interest. It’s why Electronic Arts have tried to schedule competitive esports events after the broadcast so that casual viewers can see whether they’re interested in becoming fans.
Naturally, Electronic Arts saw an opportunity in the pandemic to expand its content offerings, including a four-episode show, called The Sims Spark’d, where top influencers took part in an in-game reality show last summer. The series generated the second-highest percentage of female viewers compared to all other Eleague shows that aired on the TV network Turner Broadcasting Systems this year, per the developer.
“If you can create content that bridges the gap between gaming and mainstream culture, you are expanding that viewership and introducing your brand to the broader market,” said Doug Scott: chief managing director at gaming entertainment holding company Subnation. “Because pumping out content around Fortnite, Call of Duty, Madden, or the latest, hottest title will only take you so far. To build something that stands out, you really need to look at the adjacent subcultures to the gaming community like fashion, technology, and music, and integrate these into your overall content strategy.”
Even so, Sitrin and his team still have work to do to be able to understand who those casual viewers are.
“We know that our viewership numbers for more entertainment-focused shows tend to bring in more viewers than we would get for a regular esports broadcast but we’re yet to fully understand the makeup of this larger audience,” said Sitrin. “The strategy works but we only have a handful of data points to go on for now.”
Understandably, Sitrin isn’t ready to commercialize Electronic Arts entertainment programming. It won’t be long before he does, however, as the interest is already there, especially from broadcasters.
“The more traditional the broadcaster the more they tend to like the entertainment side of content around esports,” said Sitrin. “This type of content is easier for those broadcasters to understand than professional esports events. For example, Turner Broadcasting Systems worked with us because they saw how wide our content opened up the aperture for new viewers.”
The post Game developer Electronic Arts produces shows to expand reach ‘as a media business’ appeared first on Digiday.
Pingree urges SBA to fix problems with online grant applications for arts, music venues – Portland Press Herald
After a disastrous rollout of a long-awaited government program designed to help music venues and arts presenters whose businesses have been devastated by the pandemic, Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, has signed a letter urging the Small Business Administration to “urgently fix” its broken web portal. The website crashed when it went live April 8, leaving organizations like Opera Maine in limbo.
Caroline Koelker, executive director of Opera Maine, said everyone in her business is frustrated, and “the ridiculous process is insult to injury with all we are dealing with trying to reopen under current circumstances.”
When she tried to access the portal April 8, she was among 14,000 others who had registered to apply for funding, with each uploading scores of supporting pages. “We are spending hours upon hours preparing hundreds of documents that we have to upload,” she said. “I can only imagine when they do reopen, as much as they have tested, when 14,000-plus organizations start to upload hundreds of documents at the same time, I have a hard time believing it’s not going to crash again.”
The portal was still on the fritz Tuesday. A note on the portal said, “Over the next few days, our tech team and vendors remain focused on testing the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant application portal; we aim to reopen the portal by the end of the week of April 18, 2021. As soon as the exact date is confirmed, we will provide advance notice. … Applicants may continue to register for an application portal account.”
Pingree was among more than 160 members of Congress urging the SBA to get its act together.
“With each passing day, more independent businesses are forced to shutter permanently or file for bankruptcy,” read the letter. “Landlords and banks are no longer permitting deferrals and are pressing for immediate payment of past due accounts; businesses are receiving eviction notices; mom-and-pop businesses are being forced to sell. The Administration’s announcement is critical to these businesses as they work to meet existing debt obligations during these unprecedented times.”
Curt Dale Clark, artistic director at Maine State Music Theatre in Brunswick, echoed that sentiment and expressed resignation in an email, calling the process frustrating and the prospects for meaningful assistance “becoming unrealistic the longer it takes.”
Koelker said arts groups and for-profit venue operators are waiting for the go-ahead to apply again, and most are prepared to revise their documents based on changes to the application process. They are hoping for clear communication and instructions, and people are worried if they make a small procedural mistake their application will be disqualified. It’s stressful and frustrating, she said.
“We are all sitting with all hands on deck ready to modify the documents,” Koelker said. “We are all really concerned the money will go quickly, and because it’s been such a debacle they won’t be as ready to add more funds as they otherwise might have been. That would be the worst possible outcome. … Everybody is just scared.”
Anita Stewart, executive and artistic director at Portland Stage Company, is trusting that things will be better when the portal goes live again. “What is hard is the SBA has never had to deal with trying to manage this sort of a program ever,” she wrote in an email. “It shows. I’m trusting they will take a deep breath, listen to people about what they need to do to make it work better and retry. It did not help they had every single performing arts venue and organization logging on at exactly the same time to try to enter their system. It was a disaster waiting to happen.”
Pingree is chair of the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, which oversees funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and other cultural agencies.
The letter also urges the SBA to establish open lines of communication and provide clear guidance to applicants.
“We also respectfully request you continue outreach to potential applicants and finalize guidance that will inform applicants of the precise requirements for eligibility and grant amount. We continue to urge SBA to implement a technical corrections process so reviewers may seek additional information if a submission is rejected due to an obvious technical error,” Pingree and her colleagues wrote. “This is consistent with the review opportunity provided under other federal grant programs and would ensure that eligible applications are not excluded due to an inadvertent failure to comply with a technical requirement of the application process.”
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Media & the Arts: Guard Your Heart and Mind
The Facts of Life Series: Media and the Arts
Our modern world is awash in media. It is everywhere. And it’s in everything. Not only is it in the familiar venues of the news media, television, the movies and the internet. Now, it is in our pockets and cars at the press of button. And, it has expanded our methods for communicating, shopping, doing business and meeting, even visiting and educating.
But, no one in their right mind doesn’t have some reservations about this. Doesn’t feel some degree of loss as a result of media’s ubiquity. No reasonable reflective person isn’t at least slightly uneasy about how it infiltrates and alters our daily lives and thinking. And, its omnipresence and immediacy almost preclude thoughtful deliberation and critical reflection.
For one thing, media makes maintaining boundaries difficult, regardless of our interests, responsibilities and relationships. Boundaries between our public lives and our private lives. Boundaries between work and home. Boundaries between the greater culture and the culture of our families. Boundaries between the dominant cultural philosophies and moralities and our more religious personal beliefs and morals. And, this invasive and relentless ubiquity requires many of us to be equally relentless in understanding and evaluating these influences and protecting our personal lives from these influential and insidious incursions.
For in our modern media moment, we are beset by a cultural assault on almost every level and in almost every facet of our lives. Probably the most important assault is on the very idea of truth and how we can know and prove such truth. Truth that is knowable and provable. Objective truth. Factual truth. Truth in the old-fashioned sense. The actual and factual, provable metaphysical and moral truths of our faith. The truths of our faith and our Western cultural heritage. This is why we must monitor and limit our personal exposure and resist and restrict much of the content we encounter through our personal use of such media.
For media’s inherent nature and its frequent use in our lives makes us vulnerable to worldly and wayward influences. And, these ideas and influences are not typically edifying and enlightening. Rarely do they offer information and ideas in harmony with reason and our Catholic orthodoxy and morality. Often, they promote faulty ideas antithetical to our truths or they distort words, concepts and ideas in subtle ways that contradict the rules of reason and the substance of our faith.
Because of this daily explicit and implicit assault, our reason and our commonsense, as well as our Catholic truths, are threatened in almost every venue, in almost every way, almost all the time. If you are skeptical about this, think long and hard about the basic truths of Catholicism and their grounding in reason, revelation and science. For the more thoroughly you understand the sum and substance of orthodox Catholicism’s first principles, its primary ideas and the rigor and rationality of its method, the clearer you will see the cultural camouflage concealing these aggressive assaults and their many egregious effects.
For the fundamental truths of Catholic orthodoxy are not too obscure or terribly complicated. But, they do require a degree of deliberate thought and clear, logical thinking, both of which our modern media deny, prevent or confuse. And, many of these deleterious effects are not deliberately so.
For the inherent nature of the media form and format for presenting and conveying the particular ideas of a given program’s content, whether it is straight news, a documentary or some form of entertainment, is image based and rapidly experienced without any personal control. Simply by the means through which ideas are conveyed, critical analysis is often precluded.
For our fear of missing the full range of the news or any given talk show causes us to miss the point of the deep ideas underlying most news programming and their media outlets. The sheer pace of images, the brevity of the content that is presented, the illusion of factual news and truth rife with the implicit bias of our modern culture and the explicit political and socio-cultural bent of most major media outlets, all color the content they communicate and the meaning they imply.
Contrast that rapidity to the process of reading books or longer articles, where the ideas and content are dealt with in detail and in depth. Here, the pacing of your exposure is under your complete control. Pausing for reflective analysis or to reread some expository content allows for greater comprehension of the information and ideas, as well as a critical conceptual review of its rational and political, its metaphysical and moral legitimacy. Nowadays, with all our media exposure, the old proverb about “you can’t be too careful about what you read” becomes all the more prescient.
Not only is the pacing of such programming a problem in and of itself, it also often conveys what appears to be settled truths or objective facts, when all that is really present is a theory or an opinion with a mere morsel of actual, substantive data wrapped in the guise of factual certainty. As a direct effect, now media outlets are generally categorized by their interpretive inclinations and bias and are situated along some continuum from liberal to conservative. Again, this proves the inherent problems and predispositions of media.
Now, regardless of the objective truths and factual certainties of any given story or event, the primary truth of media is that truth is a partisan product, not a matter of fact. Perception is the modern standard now, for now truth is first, last and always a matter of personal perception. And, when perception is primary, debate and discussion, criticism and correction are all but precluded. For truth is a matter of perception, not a matter of fact.
Not only is this true of news and talk shows, documentaries and discussion formats and programming, it is also true in fictional stories, movies, even television series. For there is always a lesson or an issue explored in these more dramatic media formats. It is inherent in the dramatic action of such programs. This is what the media business refers to as the “take away”—the lesson examined, explored, learned through the dramatic process of the story and through the nature of the given genre.
For some character, institution, even idea must be the hero, the protagonist, the truth, just as there must be a villain, an antagonist, a fallacy. For there is always a deliberate “take away,” even if it is “the truth that there is no truth.” The truth that “one opinion is as good as another.” The truth that “judgement is wrong.” That “tolerance is “the only one, true virtue.”
For this innate aspect of media, be it fictional or factual, means not only should we be “careful” about what we expose ourselves to, but we should be even more circumspect about what media we expose our young and adolescent children to, as well. For they are more vulnerable by virtue of their naivete and innocence, their impressionability and their nascent rationality to critically evaluate the ideas and the takeaway of their media experiences. We must be wise and err on the side of caution, rather than presume the absence of contradictory content to our Catholic worldview.
Such media inevitably convey ideas despite their appeal to our senses and their latent or direct appeal to our minds. Just think of popular music. Music stimulates our senses and conveys an attitude, an emotion, even a drama. And, the use of right thinking and reason’s role in our Catholic faith will help you be more discerning in your media activities and more sophisticated in your discernment of the lyrical content. For lyrics are often a more explicit appeal to faulty and flawed ideas and morals than the musical mood does on its own.
Catchy musical hooks and resonant choruses of such pop compositions often frame or set up the message of the lyrics. And, popular music since the Fifties has had a strong element of modern ideas of revolt, revolution and rejection of the status quo, tradition and truth. Again, you can’t be too careful what you listen to and so should your children.
So, limiting engagement with media is important whether you are young or old. Spending time developing your sophistication with the rudiments of the rational basis of our faith and its metaphysical and moral aspects is a requisite reality. Until you expand your facility with the rational and revelatory basis of Catholic orthodoxy and its concomitant truths, you should be a cautious consumer of secular media of all types and decidedly protective of the children in your charge.
Failing to be cautious and prudent, you may be accidentally undermining your own efforts to raise your children in full accord with our Catholic truth. And, you may inadvertently compromise your own understanding of the fullness of the Catholic worldview and your growth and maturity as a disciple.
So, be cautious. Spend the time in study and reflection. Read rigorously and regularly the Church’s teaching and sound Catholic commentators. For edification in media, the arts and your reading are crucial to your growth. For nowadays, you cannot be too careful about what you read or what you watch or what you hear.
We also recommend Mr. Cronin’s latest book, The World According to God: The Whole Truth About Life and Living. It is available from your favorite bookstore and through Sophia Institute Press.
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