By Walt Hickey
The Litigious Live
The timeline of a forthcoming trial between Robert Kirkman, the creator of The Walking Dead, and the AMC Network has been moved up, as several executive producers of the program claim they’re being left out of money. AMC’s cable network (which airs the show) pays AMC’s studio arm (which makes it) a certain amount of money per episode to license the show. For the first four seasons this fee was $1.45 million, and more recently it’s hit $2.4 million per episode. AMC’s studio arm takes that imputed fee, subtracts their production expenses, and then distributes the profits to people like Kirkman and other executive producers. The suit argues that the licensing fee — negotiated by one arm of AMC with another arm of AMC — is far too low, and the plaintiffs accuse AMC of deflating the value of the show so they reap profits rather than creators with skin in the game.
Verizon will sell Tumblr, a once-thriving social network, to the company that owns WordPress.com. The financial transaction will be notorious, if only for its slim size — reported to be less than $10 million by some, with Tumblr originally acquired by Yahoo for $1.1 billion six years ago — and for the fact that Tumblr merging with WordPress.com will be one of the seismic events in the once-proud blogosphere in quite some time. Tumblr hosts about 475 million blogs, but given that nobody ever really figured out sustainable revenue from blogs…
…the situation is a bit dire. Adding to the troubles for the service is the fact that Tumblr’s traffic dropped from 521 million total visits in December 2018 to 381 million visits in July 2019, which just so happens to have coincided with Verizon’s decision to categorically eliminate all adult content from the platform in late December.
A number of Ebola drugs being tested are panning out, and while additional research is needed, two of four are encouraging for public health officials. The pair of drugs — one developed by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, the other by the U.S. National Institutes of Health — appear to perform better than another antibody mixture termed ZMapp. While about 50 percent of those treated with ZMapp died, only about 30 percent of those given the Regeneron or NIH drug died. When patients got care early, the numbers were much more promising: mortality was 24 percent with ZMapp, 11 percent with the NIH compound and 6 percent with Regeneron. Generally, those who did not receive care died about three out of four times.
The rate of twin births rose 76 percent from 1980 to 2009. That year about one out of every 30 babies born in the U.S. was a twin, and that rate has only risen since. Naturally, all those sibling pairs are coming into their own now, and their leading van is the group of people capitalizing on their shared aesthetic by becoming “twinfluencers.” The Dolan twins have 10 million YouTube followers, Jake Paul’s posse/entourage is currently on its third pair of twins — the Caci brother replaced the Martinez and Dobre twins — and the Stokes twins, Alan (4.3 million Instagram followers) and Alex (3.4 million, which, ouch), are just some icons of the trend. There are hundreds of twin channels now, as well, many of whom are working from the same playbooks set by these mirror pioneers.
Germans like to order stuff online and then return it at a rate unmatched by other Europeans, and it’s a bit of a problem. In May 2018, 53 percent of German online shoppers returned an item, beating out the Dutch (52 percent), French (45 percent), Spanish and Italians (43 percent) and the British (40 percent) by a solid margin. Last year, according to a study, Germans returned 5.5 billion euros worth of goods, and the German postal service “agrees more needs to be done,” which basically is as close to freaking the heck out as they get. Given that a returned product costs retailers 11 euros on average, this is a long-term issue that I imagine will invariably be solved with an efficient and sensible solution in due time.
Big, Big Bang
HBO Max is the forthcoming streaming service coming from WarnerMedia, and the company is hungrily eyeing its potential content library, and is reportedly writing out a check that will make the deals for Friends and The Office look small-time. The company is negotiating to stream The Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half Men, each hits created by Chuck Lorre for Warner Bros., for as much as $1.5 billion. Neither show has hit streaming before beyond some limited releases, a similar playbook to the one Warner Bros. did with Friends before their big Netflix deal. The next massive free agent is Seinfeld, currently at Hulu for a mere $130 million until 2021. Finally, we have achieved the Jack Donaghy dream, which is to make it 1997 again through science or magic.
States regularly return unclaimed property to their rightful owners, but in the event that nobody comes to claim items they often revert to the state. This is a fairly big deal when it comes to unclaimed savings bonds, which citizens bought but never cashed in or willed before they died. States really, really want that money from the feds: 24 have passed laws to allow the states to claim legal title to unclaimed bonds, but the Treasury isn’t cool with that, arguing that if people knew that states can extract bonds from them, they’d be less attractive investments. It’s culminating in a major lawsuit, complicated by the fact that while physical bonds are quite easy to argue are in state possession, bonds became electronic in 2012. The federal government says it would take $128 million and 2,390 employees to digitize, organize, and disburse all the pre-1974 bonds at issue here. The states say it’d cost $3.5 million, tops. At issue is $25 billion in matured, unclaimed U.S. savings bonds. It’s basically Ocean’s Eleven, if the eleven participants were Kansas, Tennessee, Florida, New Jersey, Indiana, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Iowa, and South Dakota.
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