When you think of the giants of Silicon Valley, Pinterest may not immediately spring to mind.
But with 200 million active users and a recent valuation of $12.3bn (£9bn), the platform that started out in 2012 as a quirky online scrapbook has quietly become a hot commodity for advertisers and investors alike.
Perhaps that’s why Pinterest president Tim Kendall chooses to keep his cool with a daily ice bath.
And the BBC’s Zoe Kleinman found out that’s not his only unusual routine…
Zoe Kleinman: Is it true that you have an ice bath every morning?
Tim Kendall: I now have a freezer on my back deck that I put water into, and now I get into that because the bath with ice wasn’t quite cold enough. So, it continues to escalate.
It’s like people having coffee in the morning. It’s a slightly more extreme version of that.
It gives me a lot of energy, wakes me up, resets my mind and my body. Our days are long and intense and I find that if I do it I feel better throughout the day.
My children love it. They like to talk to me while I’m in it, they ask how much it hurts, they dip their fingers in and then shake and say “Argh, it’s so cold!” They’re pretty entertained by it but I don’t know how long that’s going to last.
I do ask them every once in a while, “Hey, do you want to get in?” And they are very clear that they do not want to get in it.
ZK: You are renowned for always wearing a T-shirt with the word “Focus” on it. You’re wearing one today – what’s that about?
TK: It’s a shirt that I’ve been wearing for almost five years. It’s not the same shirt but it says the same word on it.
It started as a bet with a colleague of mine, seeing who could wear the shirt for longer. He and I kept wearing it and eventually I kept wearing it longer.
The whole point is that we philosophically think that if you do fewer things, you can do those fewer things much better than if you are spread across too many things.
It’s important that we remind ourselves of that. Sometimes I’m not great at focusing but if I put this shirt on every day, in a small part it reminds me that I need to stay focused and remember to say “No” a lot, which I think most people – including myself – are not great at.
ZK: You don’t allow laptops or mobile phones in meetings. Isn’t that unusual for a tech boss?
TK: I don’t stick to my own rules as much as I like to.
I think that in my experience, if you’re having a meeting there’s probably important information – hopefully. If it was set up thoughtfully, the right people are in it and the agenda is right, it should be content you should be paying attention to and if you’re on your phone or on your laptop you are definitely not paying attention to it.
I’ve been in meetings where I’ve been on my laptop and I’ve missed critical information that I needed to hear, so we try to make it somewhat informal but a bit of a rule that we try to to follow, so we’re all engaged with each other.
When you leave the meeting, get back on your laptop, get back on your phone. But when you’re in the meeting, be in the meeting.
The British government has announced its latest plan to keep nasty stuff off the internet: asking companies such as Facebook, Twitter and Google to pay a voluntary levy.
The new Internet Safety Strategy follows Conservative promises earlier this year to tighten up internet safety legislation. However, with the government lacking an overall majority (and having rather a lot else to be thinking about right now), it has now given up on making new laws and has watered down its proposals – for the time being.
First up in the Internet Safety Green Paper is a new social media code of practice aimed at providing a ‘joined-up approach’ to dealing with bullying, intimidating or humiliating online content. The government says it may demand changes in reporting mechanisms and privacy settings as part of this.
It’s also promising an annual internet safety transparency report, and more support for small businesses in building (unspecified) safety features into apps and products from the very start.
But it’s the new levy that’s likely to attract most interest. There’s no indication as to how much it might be, but the money will go ‘to raise awareness and counter internet harms’.
“Behaviour that is unacceptable in real life is unacceptable on a computer screen. We need an approach to the internet that protects everyone without restricting growth and innovation in the digital economy,” said culture secretary Karen Bradley, announcing the new measures this morning.
“Our ideas are ambitious – and rightly so. Collaboratively, government, industry, parents and communities can keep citizens safe online, but only by working together.”
As is usual for this government (breaking encryption without breaking encryption, for example), there’s some confusion between aspiration and achievement.
“We also believe that seeking a global leadership role on online safety will position Britain as a leader in technology that supports online safety,” the document reads.
“We will work closely with the Department for International Trade to ensure that the export potential for this technology is fully realised.”
The UK is, indeed, desperate for its rather heavy-handed views on internet regulation to win support from the rest of the world. However, rather than focusing on the most obviously like-minded nations – China, say, or Russia – it has other plans.
“We will work through our network of diplomatic missions, to establish new support for our work, including through international institutions such as the UN, EU, Commonwealth, OECD and the Council of Europe,” the Green Paper reads.
It’s coming for your internet too, in other words.
And anybody breathing a sigh of relief that the proposals are effectively meaningless should think again, with the government warning the voluntary levy may at some point be enforced through the law.
“We are currently reviewing the existing regulatory framework,” the Green Paper reads.
“As outlined in the Conservative manifesto, we will consider further steps that may be required to continue to develop and uphold a robust regulatory environment that both supports digital service providers and delivers improved protection to users, including – if necessary – a sanctions regime to ensure compliance.”
Chinese internet stocks have been on fire, so far, this year, beating their American counterparts by a big margin.
The KraneShares SCI China Internet ETF has soared 65.58%, making it the best performing emerging market ETF. Big names that are included in the ETF have fared even better. Alibaba Group has gained 102.73%, Sina Corporation 88.10%, and Tencent 84.47%.
Meanwhile the Powershares QQQ shares have gained just 23.31%.
KraneShares SCI China Internet ETF Top 5 Holdings
KraneShares SCI China Internet ETF
Source: Finance.yahoo.com 10/7/2017
That shouldn’t surprise those who follow China’s online economy, which is the largest and the fastest growing economy in the world, closely. But it should surprise those investors who have been buying into previous rallies of these stocks, and have seen their investments vanish in the aftermath of accounting scandals and heavy-handed government intervention.
The good news for China’s Internet bulls is that things look quite different. Most Internet companies that have posted big gains are profitable. And valuations aren’t as stretched as they were in previous rallies. Tencent’s PE, for instance, is 53.58, Baidu’s 42.92, and Sina’s 28.5. Though,there are exceptions to the rule, like CTRIP.com and Tal Education, which trade at astronomical valuations.
KraneShares SCI China Internet ETF Top 10 Holdings
JD Com Inc.
58 Com Inc.
While most Chinese internet companies have become profitable, they have become smarter, too climbing into the world’s list of smartest companies — as indicated in a recently published MIT Technology Review’s annual listing which surveys both small and large companies based on their ability to innovate and execute.
Two of these companies that made it to the list this year are Tencent (8th position) and Alibaba 41th.
It’s the second time the two companies made to the list — Tencent (TCEHY) occupied the 15th position in 2015, while Alibaba (BABA) occupied the 4th position.
When people think of the dot-com bubble of 2000, they often think of Webvan. The grocery delivery service blew through $800 million, went public and then spectacularly imploded with a forced asset sale. But nearly 20 years later, food delivery has reached new levels of creativity, showing that even when technology companies fail, they still leave a legacy that can lead to success.
Today’s delivery services have used Webvan as a cautionary tale, avoiding the mistakes that brought it down. Webvan tried to sell high-quality foods at “Safeway prices.” Today’s delivery services are either crystal clear about what they’re delivering (think Blue Apron) or they let people choose their own level of price and quality by delivering directly from existing stores and restaurants (think Postmates).
Consumers now can buy virtually anything, from raw ingredients to six-course restaurant fare, with just a few taps on their smartphones. At the same time, the importance Americans put on convenience versus price has grown, and millennials are demanding round-the-clock delivery options. Then there are the new studies linking increased happiness to spending money to save time.
But for some consumers, access to fast, inexpensive delivery has become a quality-of-life issue. In Canada, remote villages depend on Amazon Prime for nonperishable food items. One Native group relies so heavily on Amazon Prime that they claim their village would fall into “pandemonium” if Amazon withdrew the service.
That’s also true of American communities that are underserved by grocery stores and restaurants. In fact, recognizing that online stores can be less expensive and easier to access, the USDA in January announced a pilot program to allow retail food stores to accept SNAP benefits (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) through online transactions. That program should go live in seven states early next year.
Amazon eagerly volunteered to participate in the pilot program, and went a step further. Earlier this year, the behemoth started offering its Prime service at a moderate discount to customers receiving certain types of government aid. Prime membership usually costs $99 annually. But for low-income households, the service can be accessed for $5.99 a month — a $27 savings. Smartly, Walmart wants in on the delivery action — and the more the merrier, as increased competition in the marketplace will produce decidedly pro-consumer effects. (Ironically, Amazon’s grocery delivery service grew out of the ashes of Webvan.)
There’s still plenty of room for this market to grow. Experts peg online penetration of food delivery at roughly 1% despite more than a billion dollars in VC investments.
And the kinds of jobs these companies are creating pay better than any retail or restaurant jobs they might replace. According to a study by the Progressive Policy Institute, the e-commerce sector is growing faster than the retail sector is shrinking. And hourly wages in the digital sector are roughly 29% higher than wages in the physical sector.
The trajectory from Webvan’s demise to the excitement of today’s marketplace shows just how technology is changing our lives in unexpected ways. We need to continue to encourage tech entrepreneurs to start new businesses that can evolve and thrive. Because even when their ideas go bust, they can often lead to real changes that help make the world a better place.
There is growing concern among global net users about fake news online, according to a BBC World Service poll.
It also indicates mounting opposition to governments stepping in with regulation.
In the survey of 18 countries, 79% of respondents said they worried about what was fake and what was real on the internet.
But in only two countries, China and the UK, did a majority want their governments to regulate the internet.
The BBC carried out a similar survey in 2010.
Only 15 countries were covered by both polls. From this subset of respondents, 58% said the internet should never be regulated in the latest survey, up from 51% when the same question was asked seven years ago.
When it came to regulation, 67% of Chinese respondents now liked the idea, while opinion was more finely balanced in the UK, with 53% in favour.
The countries where people were most hostile to regulation were Greece with 84% and Nigeria, where 82% of people opposed the idea.
The survey of more than 16,000 adults was conducted by Globescan between January and April.
Concerns about what is real and what is not on the internet have mounted after a year in which the term fake news has become both commonplace and profitable, with false stories shared on Facebook earning their creators hefty sums through advertising.
Brazilians were most worried about the hazy line between the real and the fake, with 92% reporting some concern. In a number of other developing countries there was a high level of unease, with figures of 90% in Indonesia, 88% in Nigeria and 85% in Kenya.
Germany was the only nation surveyed where a narrow majority – 51% – said they were not worried about this issue. In the run-up to the country’s election there have been determined efforts in Germany to root out fake news.
Globescan’s chairman Doug Miller said: “These poll findings suggest that the era of ‘fake news’ may be as significant in reducing the credibility of on-line information as Edward Snowden’s 2013 National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance revelations were in reducing people’s comfort in expressing their opinions online.”
There is growing anxiety about expressing opinions online. In the 15 countries that have been regularly tracked in this poll, 53% felt unsafe doing this, compared to 49% in 2010.
But there was a marked difference between attitudes in the developed and developing world.
In Nigeria, Peru and China there were big majorities confident about expressing opinions, but in Europe and North America there was far more anxiety, with the French and the Greeks least likely to want to speak freely.
As global use of the internet grows, there also appears to be mounting enthusiasm for it to be seen as something to which everyone should be entitled. 53% of those questioned agreed that access to the internet should be a fundamental right, with much bigger majorities agreeing in Brazil, Greece and India.
The survey highlights some differences between men and women in attitudes to the internet. Men are still more likely to use it, with 78% saying they had been online in the last six months, compared to 71% of women.
And women were somewhat less likely than men to feel safe expressing their views online. That anxiety was most pronounced in developed countries. In France just 14% felt safe, whereas in the UK the figure was 36%, and in the USA 35%.
British women were also more concerned about fake content than men, and were more keen to see some regulation of the internet.
The 2017 general election was the moment when the internet finally delivered on its long-awaited promise of having a big effect, both on how individual people voted and the overall outcome of the election.
A flood of young voters, many of whom had relatively low levels of political knowledge, used the internet to get news about the general election. This was crucial for boosting support for Labour and Jeremy Corbyn, according to new research on the dynamics of the 2017 vote.
In recent years, there has been talk about the power of the internet to affect elections. Ahead of the 2017 general election, some pointed to a growth of pro-Labour websites and online forums as a potentially powerful weapon in Labour’s arsenal.
Our study is one of the first to document how this online activity really did help Jeremy Corbyn and his party.
We’ve found that those who used the internet to get news about the general election were far more likely to have voted Labour. And we observed that those who used the internet less often to gather political news and information were much more likely to vote Conservative.
This relationship is true for the entire electorate and across all age groups.
And it continues to have a strong and positive effect on how people voted, even after we take into account a whole range of factors including age, gender, social class, party identification, how people voted in the referendum and levels of education.
Overall, among all respondents, our research suggests that 16% used the internet “a great deal” to get information about the election, 23% used it “a fair amount”, 23% “not very much” and 38% “not at all” or said they did not know.
However, those who use the internet more often were significantly more likely to vote Labour. Sixty-one per cent of those who used the internet “a great deal” to gather news about the general election opted for Labour, compared with only 21% who voted Conservative.
Conversely, 56% who said they used the internet “not at all” voted Conservative, while 30% opted for Labour.
How much people use the internet also correlates with voting patterns among older people. Again, those who said they use the internet a great deal were strongly pro-Labour and pro-Jeremy Corbyn.
These effects involve a combination of two factors: “mobilisation” (things that influence people to turn out and vote) and “persuasion” (things that influence their choice of party). Turnout among people aged 18-29 was up by an estimated 19% on the previous general election in 2015.
Our data shows that both the decision to vote and the choices these young people made at the polls were associated with the volume of news about the election that they consumed online.
Another effect that we find relates to how knowledgeable people are about politics. In our surveys, we tested people’s political knowledge by asking if eight randomly selected statements were true or false and then counted the number of correct answers.
The statements included assertions like: “The minimum voting age for UK general elections is now 16 years of age,” and “The chancellor of the Exchequer is responsible for setting interest rates in the UK.”
Though internet usage and political knowledge are only slightly linked, it is clear that, after rigorous statistical tests, how knowledgeable people are about politics had significant effects on how they voted.
If survey respondents were frequent internet users but did not know much about politics they tended to vote Labour. In contrast, if they weren’t internet savvy but knew a fair bit about politics, they tended to vote Conservative.
These effects held across all age groups for both Labour and the Conservatives, with the exception of pensioners in the case of the Tories. This means that those effects weren’t caused by the age of the respondent, which at first sight is the obvious explanation for differences in internet usage among the voters.
Put simply, political knowledge continues to have a strong effect on Labour and Conservative voting even after we take statistical account of all of “the usual suspects” that are used to explain voting – such as social class, age, gender income, people’s “left-right” placement and how they voted in the 2016 referendum.
The effects of internet usage and political knowledge work strongly through voters’ images of the party leaders. Even after we take account of a whole host of other things, like age and income, people with low political knowledge who used the internet to get their election news tended to like Jeremy Corbyn and dislike Theresa May.
For example, among those who said they used the internet “a great deal”, the average score for Jeremy Corbyn on a 0 (“really dislike”) to 10 (“really like”) scale is 6.4, whereas among those who said they did not use the internet at all, his average score is much lower, only 3.4.
The pattern for Theresa May is the opposite: her average score among those who used the internet a great deal is 2.9, whereas among those who did not use the net, her average is considerably higher, at 5.3.
For Jeremy Corbyn, political knowledge, the survey suggests, has a negative effect on feelings about the Labour leader while internet usage has a positive effect. For Theresa May, political knowledge has a positive effect on feelings about the Conservative Party leader while internet usage has a negative effect.
In contrast, people with high political knowledge who did not use the internet for general election news liked Mrs May and disliked Mr Corbyn.
About this piece
This analysis piece was commissioned by the BBC from experts working for outside organisations.
The Equifax security breach may have exposed private information belonging to almost half the U.S. population, so you should definitely pay attention.
Credit reporting agencies work differently from other data companies, so while you may never have dealt with Equifax, their servers were still likely to have your data.
Here are some tips to help you protect yourself from consumer protection expert Bob Sullivan, an NBC News contributor and man behind The Red Tape Chronicles. Sullivan has more tips on his site.
Equifax has set up an online registry you can check using your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number, but it doesn’t offer satisfying results (check back in later this month!). There are also questions about an arbitration clause and what you’re really getting from its offer of free ID theft protection. There’s no harm in waiting a week or two while all that shakes out.
Get a copy of your credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com and mark your calendar to get another one in about three months.
Be on the lookout: Watch your mail for anything suspicious. Check your bank accounts at least weekly for signs of fraud. Listen closely when applying for a loan or a government benefit for signs that someone else might be using your Social Security number. Get your annual Social Security benefits statement online and look for anything unusual.
Consider putting a security freeze on all your accounts — the most serious but most proactive step you can take. But take this step with great care. If you plan to shop for a car loan or a home loan any time soon, you probably shouldn’t do this, because security freezes lock credit report files so no one — not even you — can open a new credit account in your name.
Freezes also generally cost money (the rules vary by state; Trans Union has a grid showing you the varying fee levels by state and consumer criteria), and they can be a hassle, because when it comes time to get a mortgage or an auto loan, consumers sometimes don’t remember the procedure to “thaw” their reports.
Facebook and Google are taking aim at advertisers by disabling their abilities to pinpoint users interested in anti-Semitic subjects and other hate-filled content.
Facebook’s restriction comes after news organization ProPublica said Thursdayit paid $30 to have its articles specifically promoted to users who expressed interest in the topics “Jew hater,” “How to burn jews” or “History of ‘why jews ruin the world.'”
It reportedly took Facebook no more than 15 minutes to approve all three of the targeted ads.
Facebook enabled advertisers to reach people with anti-Semitic views 2:11
ProPublica said the anti-Semitic categories were created by an algorithm and they were removed by Facebook after the company was made aware. The media outlet added that its test exposed that such anti-Semitic targeting could happen, although it was not clear if it was actually occurring.
Facebook, as part of its review, noted in a post Thursday that it saw a “small percentage” of users entering “offensive responses” in their education or employer fields on their profiles. That allowed ProPublica to go after such users with anti-Semitic subjects — not through an algorithm.
“ProPublica surfaced that these offensive education and employer fields were showing up in our ads interface as targetable audiences for campaigns. We immediately removed them,” Facebook said. “Given that the number of people in these segments was incredibly low, an extremely small number of people were targeted in these campaigns.”
A Facebook executive reiterated in a statement that hate speech is not permitted on the platform and it bars advertisers from discriminating against people based on religion and other attributes.
Related: Facebook Is Hiring 3,000 More People to Keep the Network in Check
“However, there are times where content is surfaced on our platform that violates our standards. In this case, we’ve removed the associated targeting fields in question,” said Rob Leathern, Facebook’s product management director. “We know we have more work to do, so we’re also building new guardrails in our product and review processes to prevent other issues like this from happening in the future.”
In a follow-up statement, Facebook added that it had removed self-reported targeting fields in user profiles “until we have the right processes in place to help prevent this issue.We want Facebook to be a safe place for people and businesses, and we’ll continue to do everything we can to keep hate off Facebook.”
ProPublica said it was able to direct its Facebook ads to almost 2,300 people who expressed interest in certain anti-Semitic categories, but also widened its audience to include those who mentioned the “Schutzstaffel,” a paramilitary organization under Adolf Hitler and the “NaziParty.”
View image on Twitter
Replying to @JuliaAngwin
This is what automated anti-semitism looks like:
2:28 AM – Sep 15, 2017
Twitter Ads info and privacy
When the news outlet looked for analogous advertising categories for other religions, such as “Muslim haters,” it said “Facebook didn’t have them.”
In a similar move, Google announced Friday it had “turned off” potentially offensive wordings in its keyword suggestions tool, which is made available to advertisers who want to reach a certain audience.
Sridhar Ramaswamy, Google’s senior vice president of ads, said in a statement that it had previously rejected certain keywords, but “we didn’t catch all these offensive suggestions. That’s not good enough and we’re not making excuses.”
BuzzFeed News first reported Friday that Google’s ad platform — the world’s largest of its kind — had automatically provided keyword phrases such as “black people ruin neighborhoods,” “the evil jew” and “jewish control of banks.”
But just because a keyword is suggested to an advertiser doesn’t mean a targeted ad will be approved, and Google removes ads that violate its terms of service.
Related: Russian Operation Spent $100K on Issues Ads During 2016 Campaign
The search giant has previously changed its algorithm after people spoke out about how typing in certain racist and anti-Semitic phrases in the search bar resulted in autopopulated offensive terms.
Facebook ads were under scrutiny earlier this month as well after the company told Washington lawmakers investigating alleged Russian meddling in last year’s election it found a Russian firm had spent $100,000 on targeted ads.
While those ads didn’t prop up any specific candidate, they focused on polarizing social issues, including gay rights, immigration and race, Facebook’s chief security officer said in a post.
Earlier this year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company was hiring about 3,000 people to combat the problem of harmful content on the popular site, including shutting down hate speech and child exploitation. The announcement came after users posted controversial
Google has unveiled a massive online collection of U.S. Latino art, culture and history. The exhibit created by the Google Cultural Institute is titled Google Arts & Culture: Latino Cultures in the US, and it showcases collections such as “Celebrating our Latinidad”, “Freedom Tower, Tower of Hope” and “LGBTQ + Collections”. It was unveiled Thursday.
Some of the collections explore Hispanic experiences in 20th Century America (La Experiencia Americana), the history of Franciscan missions that dominated the economic and spiritual fabric of Spanish and Mexican California from 1769 to 1835 (California’s Missions), and prominent people in Latino culture such as civil rights activist Dolores Huerta, baseball player and U.S Marine Roberto Clemente Walker, and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
This digital collection of stories, narratives, and exhibits come from 50 partner institutions, including museums such as the Smithsonian Latino Center and the Ballet Hispánico in New York, as well as libraries and archives from across the country.
The collection is a compilation of over 4,300 archives and artworks related to the Latino experience in the U.S., with over 90 multimedia exhibits in English and Spanish. It also includes virtual tours of historic sites and culturally significant locations such as the Pilsen neighborhood in Chicago and the Calle Ocho Domino Park in Little Havana, Miami, Florida.
Google’s platform allows users around the world to have an immersive way to experience art, history and culture. “The Latino Cultures in the US” exhibit debuted just in time for Hispanic Heritage Month, sharing with the world stories of Latino history, art and culture in the U.S, a community and culture that has often been underrepresented. Hispanic Heritage Month begins Sept. 15 and continues through Oct. 15.
Amazon already accounts for about a quarter of all online sales in the United States. Now the company is holding talks to supersize its video-channel business, not just in the U.S. but around the globe.
In the past few weeks, Amazon has started talks to buy scores of small television channels, several major program providers confirmed to NBC News. A representative for Amazon declined to comment, but hinted there will be much to say in the coming weeks about its efforts in online video.
Currently, subscribers to Amazon Prime get TV, movies and music, as well as free shipping on online purchases. They can also pay extra for premium channels such as HBO and Showtime, along with a host of niche-interest services on topics such as health or horror.
As traditional pay-TV providers scale down their offerings into cheaper so-called skinny bundles, Amazon is looking to scoop up smaller TV channels with minimal distribution in order to build itself into a video destination for every imaginable niche, with a particular focus on millennial audiences. Many networks have channels like these, including Turner Broadcasting’s Adult Swim and Boomerang, or Viacom’s VH1 and CMT.
“They are doubling down on the channels business,” said one industry programmer who asked not to be identified because they are involved in the talks. “They’re interested in doing deals with smaller indie networks where they can get rights to channels that are not handcuffed into [traditional distribution] bundles and they’re interested in offering them individually. Eventually they may bundle them together.”
Customers can already buy scores of television services on Amazon, including Viacom’s Comedy Central Stand-up for $3.99, or Britbox, which offers British shows for $6.99. Amazon splits the revenue with channel owners.
Industry insiders say that Greg Hart, vice president of Amazon Video, is spearheading the current talks, aimed at creating a global platform for new online TV channels.
Tom Rogers, the former chief executive of TiVo and executive chairman of the sports app WinView, who is familiar with Amazon’s business, said Amazon may even want to offer the paid add-on channels as part of the Prime Video offering to boost their audience.
That possibility, he said, “could have more impact on the TV industry than any other development down the road.”
Analysts believe Prime has some 66 million subscribers, who pay $99 a year for the service.
Big tech companies are getting increasingly competitive in the online video market. Just last week, The Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook intends to spend $1 billion on content to increase its online video audience. In late August, reports revealed Apple had similarly earmarked $1 billion for content.
Amazon already spends around $4 billion a year to fuel its On-Demand subscription video offering. Its chief rival in that endeavor is Netflix, which spends more than $6 billion. But to put those numbers in context, Disney spent $12.4 billion on programming last year.
“It’s illustrative of the fact that Amazon, Apple and everyone who wants to be a player in video is going to spending very large numbers on rights,” said Brian Wieser, a senior analyst covering advertising at Pivotal Research in New York. The arms race for top-tier talent is intensifying, as is the demand for hits.
This month, Amazon’s global video chief, Roy Price, told Variety that the company’s chief executive, Jeff Bezos, wants him to find the next “Game of Thrones,” one of the biggest shows in HBO’s history. The series garnered 16.7 million viewers for its season finale last month.
Price told Variety that the company was ending its development of certain smaller series in pursuit of big-event TV.
Amazon has hired Robert Kirkman, one of the creators of AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” with the aim of bringing fans of the horror genre to the service. The show is one of the biggest entertainment series on TV.
Even with all the Academy Award buzz surrounding Amazon’s distribution of “Manchester by the Sea,” a multiple Oscar winner, the company has had some trouble replicating its critically acclaimed series “Transparent,” which began in 2014. Amazon has a few Oscar hopefuls being released later this year, including a new Woody Allen project called “Wonder Wheel,” out in December.
Of course, Netflix has been signing up big names, too, including ABC drama producer Shonda Rhimes, much to the chagrin of Disney.
“They want to find new things they can offer,” said Mark Mahaney, an internet sector analyst at RBC Capital, “because the more services you have, the more you engender loyalty and the more you can monetize the user base.”
Amazon isn’t first to the party in terms of offering online TV channels. Dish, the satellite service, has one called Sling, as does Sony PlayStation. Hulu (owned by Comcast — owner of NBCUniversal — Disney, 21st Century Fox and Time Warner) just launched a digital channel bundle, and AT&T’s DirecTV and Google’s YouTube also have rival packages. Their hope is to win audience data and sell digital advertising.
Each aim to challenge conventional pay-TV packages, which incidentally offer free-of-charge digital versions to subscribers of what they can get on TV.
While there are plenty of Silicon Valley pretenders to the video crown, Amazon is unique, largely because of its vast trove of purchasing data. Amazon could potentially track the ads viewed on its TV channels, and then link them to online purchases. Earlier this year, Amazon partnered with the drinks company Diageo to offer 20 minute “shoppable films.”
Amazon’s own advertising business is still relatively tiny, worth around $2 billion, according to estimates, but around 55 percent of product searches start on Amazon, according to a 2016 survey by Bloomreach, a software company.
Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook like the idea of owning the online video experience of consumers — and stealing some of the $70 billion of ad revenue that is spent on TV annually.
It’s not clear that they can amass the same audiences as the TV networks, but Amazon’s attempts at building its audience are already evident. On Sept. 28, Amazon will begin its first major sports deal, streaming an NFL game — the Green Bay Packers versus the Chicago Bears — to its Prime subscribers. Amazon has a 10-game NFL package that it shares with other broadcasters, including NBC and CBS, having paid $50 million to steal away the digital football package from Twitter.
Amazon will also use its Alexa voice recognition machine to promote its football streaming, and in turn the NFL games will be used to promote its own online video shows.