Disney+ subscribers surge as Netflix stumbles

Disney shares were up more than 6 percent in after-market trades that followed release of the earnings figures. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 11 August 2022

Disney+ subscribers surge as Netflix stumbles

SAN FRANCISCO: The Disney+ streaming service saw its number of paying subscribers leap beyond expectations in the last quarter, as rival Netflix’s client count ebbed, results showed Wednesday.
The number of people subscribing to Disney+ topped 152 million, up some 31 percent from the same period a year earlier, the entertainment giant said in an earnings report.
Disney’s bottom line was also boosted by rising revenue from its theme parks, which showed signs of recovering from stifled attendance during the pandemic.
Better-that-expected earnings reported by Disney came as many of the tech titans that flourished during the pandemic curb costs in the face of inflation and people get back to living life in the real world instead of online.
Disney shares were up more than 6 percent in after-market trades that followed release of the earnings figures.
“We had an excellent quarter, with our world-class creative and business teams powering outstanding performance at our domestic theme parks, big increases in live-sports viewership, and significant subscriber growth at our streaming services,” said Disney chief executive Bob Chapek.
The 14.4 million Disney+ subscribers added in the recently ended quarter raised the overall number of subscriptions to its streaming services, which include Hulu and ESPN+, to 221 million, Chapek added.
The overall number of subscribers to Disney streaming services topped those of Netflix for the first time.
“Investors will breathe a sigh of relief from Disney’s robust fiscal (quarterly) earnings,” said Insider Intelligence principal analyst Paul Verna.
“The streaming figures will be seen as an indicator of the health of the market, especially after lackluster subscriber figures from Netflix and Comcast.”
Disney also announced that an ad-subsidized version of its streaming television subscription service will be offered in the United States starting December 8 at a monthly price $3 less than the ad-free offering.
Taking a page from Netflix’s playbook, Disney has been investing in shows created in places outside the United States.
The company plans to “step up” investments in such local original content, Chapek said, pointing out a film concert and docu-series focused on South Korean music sensation BTS.
He expressed confidence in Disney theater films in the works, including an eagerly anticipated “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” addition to its Marvel superhero line-up.
A trailer for the Black Panther film logged more than 170 million views in the 24 hours after its release, Chapek said.
“Disney still faces economic uncertainty and intense competition, but performance should at least temporarily put to rest some of Wall Street’s gloomier perceptions about the company, and more broadly about the entertainment industry,” said Paul Verna, an analyst at Insider Intelligence.
Rival Netflix has reported losing subscribers for two quarters in a row, as the streaming giant battles fierce competition and viewer belt tightening, though the firm assured investors of better days ahead.
The loss of 970,000 paying customers in the most recent quarter was less than expected, leaving Netflix with just shy of 221 million subscribers.
“Our challenge and opportunity is to accelerate our revenue and membership growth... and to better monetize our big audience,” the firm said in its earnings report.
After years of amassing subscribers, Netflix lost 200,000 customers worldwide in the first quarter compared to the end of 2021.
Netflix said in its earnings report that it had expected to gain a million paid subscribers in the current quarter.
Netflix executives have made it clear the company will get tougher on sharing logins and passwords, which allow many to access the platform’s content without paying.
In an effort to draw new subscribers, Netflix said it will work with Microsoft to launch a cheaper subscription plan that includes advertisements.
The ad-supported offering will be in addition to the three account options already available, with the cheapest plan coming in at $10 per month in the United States.


Saudi advertising agency wins big at Cresta Awards 

Updated 07 October 2022

Saudi advertising agency wins big at Cresta Awards 

  • Leo Burnett Riyadh picks up 10 prizes for its work for client Ikea
  • Middle East region collects 36 awards at event to celebrate creativity in advertising and marketing

DUBAI: Leo Burnett Riyadh was the big winner at this year’s Cresta Awards ceremony, an annual event held to recognize creativity in advertising and marketing.

The agency collected five silver and five bronze awards in various categories — including Print Craft, Print and Out-of-Home, and The Media Magic Award — for its campaigns for client Ikea.

The Middle East region as a whole won 36 awards in the competition, which saw entries from more than 70 countries.

A total of 347 entries were shortlisted, of which 58 were from the Middle East.

The UAE was also a big winner thanks to its push toward digitization and innovation.

The UAE Government Media Office picked up two silver and seven bronze awards for its three campaigns: “The Donation Plate,” which promotes the “100 Million Meals” scheme, “The Warm Winter Livestream” tourism campaign and “The Visitor from the Future” for the Dubai Museum of the Future.

Advertising agency Saatchi and Saatchi MEA won one gold, one silver and four bronze awards for its “Empty Plates” campaign for the UAE Government Media Office.

Horizon FCB Dubai picked up four gold, two silver and two bronze awards for its “Breakchains with Blockchain” campaign for the Children of Female Prisoners’ Association.

In Egypt, thousands of women are sent to prison every year for being unable to repay loans often worth only a few hundred dollars.

Working with global artists, Horizon FCB and the association created non-fungible tokens, each designed to tell the story of a woman sent to prison and priced at the amount it would cost to free her.

Among the other winners were Impact BBDO Dubai, which picked up a Grand Prix in the Print and OOH category and a gold award in the Ambient and Experiential category for its “The Elections Edition” campaign for Lebanese newspaper An-Nahar.

The Film House Doha won a bronze award in the Brand Content category for its “Unparalleled” campaign.
 


Prince Harry launches legal action against UK media group

Updated 06 October 2022

Prince Harry launches legal action against UK media group

  • ANL, also the publisher of The Mail On Sunday and MailOnline, said on Thursday it "utterly and unambiguously" rejected the allegations
  • There have been a number of damages claims over unlawful activity at newspapers in the wake of Britain's phone-hacking scandal

LONDON: Britain’s Prince Harry and singer Elton John are among six public figures suing the publisher of the Daily Mail over alleged unlawful information-gathering at its titles.
The others taking part in the legal action are actresses Liz Hurley and Sadie Frost, John’s husband David Furnish and Doreen Lawrence, the mother of murder victim Stephen Lawrence, the domestic PA news agency said in a report.
The six had “become aware of compelling and highly distressing evidence that they have been the victims of abhorrent criminal activity and gross breaches of privacy” by Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL), a statement by law firm Hamlins acting for the group said.
ANL, also the publisher of The Mail On Sunday and MailOnline, said on Thursday it “utterly and unambiguously” rejected the allegations.
Lawrence, whose son was killed in a racially-motivated attack in south London in 1993, had also lodged a claim against Rupert Murdoch-owned News Group Newspapers, publisher of various titles including The Sun and the now-defunct News Of The World.
The details of that claim are not known, but it is understood also to relate to misuse of private information.
The statement about the legal action against ANL released by Hamlins claimed that the unlawful acts alleged to have taken place included the hiring of private investigators to secretly place listening devices inside cars and homes and the recording of private phone conversations.
It also alleged that payments were made to police “with corrupt links to private investigators” for sensitive information, that medical information was “obtained by deception” and that bank accounts and financial information was accessed “through illicit means and manipulation.”
Hamlins is representing Harry and Frost, while the other claimants are represented by law firm Gunnercooke.
There have been a number of damages claims over unlawful activity at newspapers in the wake of Britain’s phone-hacking scandal.
That resulted in the closure of the Murdoch-owned News of the World.
While most of those claims have now been settled, this is the first claim to be brought against ANL.
News Group Newspapers (NGN) settled claims relating to the News Of The World, while never admitting any liability over claims made in relation to The Sun.
Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) has settled claims relating to its titles, including The People and The Sunday Mirror.
Both publishers are currently facing further claims, and have recently made attempts to bring the long-running litigation to an end.
A spokesman for Associated Newspapers said it “utterly and unambiguously” refuted “these preposterous smears which appear to be nothing more than a pre-planned and orchestrated attempt to drag the Mail titles into the phone hacking scandal concerning articles up to 30 years old.
“These unsubstantiated and highly defamatory claims, based on no credible evidence, appear to be simply a fishing expedition by claimants and their lawyers, some of whom have already pursued cases elsewhere.”


Google’s Russian subsidiary files lawsuit against state bailiffs

Updated 06 October 2022

Google’s Russian subsidiary files lawsuit against state bailiffs

  • Company's subsidiary filed for bankruptcy in June following the seizure of its bank account by authorities

MOSCOW: Google’s Russian subsidiary has filed a lawsuit against Russian state bailiffs, court documents show, in a year that has seen the unit file for bankruptcy in Russia and have more than 7.7 billion roubles ($127 million) in funds seized.
Alphabet Inc.’s Google declined to comment.
In May, Russian bailiffs seized funds from Google that it had been ordered to pay late last year. A month earlier, Tsargrad, a Russian Orthodox television channel blocked by YouTube, said bailiffs had seized 1 billion roubles from Google.
Google’s subsidiary filed for bankruptcy in June after saying that authorities had seized its bank account, making it impossible to pay staff and vendors.
Court documents published on Oct. 4 showed the Moscow Arbitration Court had accepted an application from Google LLC dated Sept. 30 and would consider the case.
The court listed the Moscow department of Russia’s Federal Bailiffs Service and one of its senior officials as the defendants.
Russia’s Federal Bailiffs Service did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The RIA news agency reported in August that the same Moscow court had rejected Google’s demand that the 1 billion roubles seized in the Tsargrad case be returned, with the TV channel still unable to access all Google services.
Tsargrad TV is owned by businessman Konstantin Malofeev, who was sanctioned by the United States and European Union in 2014 over accusations that he funded pro-Moscow separatists fighting in Ukraine, something he denies. Russia considers such Western sanctions illegal.
Tsargrad TV had no immediate comment.


Musk, Twitter could reach deal to end court battle, close buyout soon

Updated 06 October 2022

Musk, Twitter could reach deal to end court battle, close buyout soon

  • Billionaire, after a surprising U-turn on Monday, pledged to finish his proposed $44 billion takeover of Twitter

WILMINGTON: Elon Musk and Twitter Inc. may reach an agreement to end their litigation in coming days, clearing the way for the world’s richest person to close his $44 billion deal for the social media firm, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters.
Musk, who is also chief executive officer of electric car maker Tesla Inc, proposed to Twitter late on Monday he would change course and abide by his April agreement to buy the company for $54.20 per share, if Twitter dropped its litigation against him.
In their effort to end the litigation, the two sides agreed to postpone the billionaire’s deposition in court scheduled for Thursday, the source said on Wednesday, but negotiations are continuing with a full resolution expected to take more time.
However, Twitter’s legal team was yet to accept any agreement and Chancellor Kathaleen McCormick, the judge on Delaware’s Court of Chancery, earlier in the day said she was preparing for the looming trial.
“The parties have not filed a stipulation to stay this action, nor has any party moved for a stay. I, therefore, continue to press on toward our trial set to begin on Oct. 17, 2022,” McCormick wrote in a Wednesday court filing.
Musk’s proposal on Monday included a condition that the deal closing was pending the receipt of debt financing. The potential agreement would likely remove that condition, said the source, who requested anonymity as the discussions are confidential.
Twitter’s legal team and lawyers for Musk updated the judge on Tuesday with their attempts to overcome mutual distrust and find a process for closing the deal.
Two firms that were interested in partly financing the deal, Apollo Global Management Inc. and Sixth Street Partners, had ended talks to provide up to a combined $1 billion, two sources told Reuters.
An attorney representing a proposed class action against Musk on behalf of Twitter shareholders said in a letter to McCormick that Musk should be required to make a “substantial deposit” in case he again reneges on his commitment to close. He should also be liable for interest delaying the closing of the deal, said the letter from attorney Michael Hanrahan.
Representatives of Musk and Twitter held several unsuccessful talks in recent weeks about a possible price cut to his $44 billion deal to buy the social media platform before he reversed course on Monday, the New York Times reported on Wednesday.
Musk initially sought a discount of as much as 30 percent, according to the report, which was later narrowed to about 10 percent and ultimately rejected by Twitter.
A DISTRACTION
It is not clear what led the Musk legal team to offer to settle, but his scheduled deposition on Thursday in Austin, Texas, was expected to include some tough questioning, which could have given Twitter leverage in talks to close the deal.
Shares of Twitter closed 1.3 percent lower at $51.30 on Wednesday. The stock on Tuesday hit its highest level since Musk and Twitter agreed in April that he would buy the company for $54.20 per share.
Tesla stock ended down 3.5 percent on Wednesday as investors worry that Musk may have to sell more shares in the electric carmaker to fund the Twitter deal and that Twitter could be a distraction for the entrepreneur.
Musk sold $15.4 billion worth of Tesla stock this year, but analysts said he may have to raise an additional $2 billion to $3 billion provided that the rest of his financing remains unchanged.
Musk said in July he was walking away from the takeover agreement because he discovered Twitter had allegedly misled him about the amount of fake accounts, among other claims.
Part of Musk’s case was based on allegations by Twitter whistleblower Peiter “Mudge” Zatko that became public in August, and Musk’s legal team on Wednesday rejected the idea that they had inappropriate talks with Zatko or spoken with him before his concerns became public.
Twitter’s legal team has wanted to investigate if Alex Spiro, a lawyer from legal firm Quinn Emanuel, who has led the case for Musk, communicated with the whistleblower as early as May.
Twitter lawyers were suspicious that Zatko sent an anonymous May 6 email to Spiro. The sender claimed to be a former Twitter employee, offered information about the company and suggested communicating by alternate means.
Spiro said in a filing with the court on Wednesday he never read the email until Twitter brought it to his attention and it appeared to be someone seeking a job. Spiro also said he was unaware of the existence of Zatko’s allegations before they became public on Aug. 23.


Myanmar court hands Japanese journalist 10-year prison term

Updated 06 October 2022

Myanmar court hands Japanese journalist 10-year prison term

  • Toru Kubota was arrested after filming an anti-government protest in July
  • Incitement is a catch-all political law covering activities deemed to cause unrest

BANGKOK: A court in military-ruled Myanmar has handed a 10-year prison sentence to a Japanese journalist who was arrested after filming an anti-government protest in July, a Japanese diplomat said Thursday.
Tetsuo Kitada, deputy chief of mission of the Japanese Embassy, said Toru Kubota was sentenced Wednesday to seven years for violating the electronic transactions law and three years for incitement, which would be served concurrently.
The electronic transactions law covers offenses that involve spreading false or provocative information. Incitement is a catch-all political law covering activities deemed to cause unrest.
Kubota was arrested on July 30 by plainclothes police in Yangon, the country’s largest city, after taking photos and videos of a flash protest against Myanmar’s 2021 takeover by the military.