Numlock News: February 7, 2019

By Walt Hickey

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The Count

Sesame Street reported an operating income of just $1.6 million in 2018, with the majority of its vast revenue being plowed directly back into the product. Right now, Sesame Street costs $25 million in production costs to make 35 episodes per year. HBO pays an indeterminate, but likely ridiculous, amount of money to license 150 hours of its 5,000 episode back catalog. This adds up: according to financial records, presumably assembled by The Count (Aah-ha-ha-ha), distribution fees amounted to $52.9 million last year and licensing revenue — toys and what have you — was $34.5 million of business.

Mia Galuppo, The Hollywood Reporter

John

Every year, America pays $2 billion for the privilege of a 4-foot by 4-foot plastic box within which people can excrete. Whether it’s at concerts, events, construction sites or weddings, when people gotta go, they gotta go and the companies willing to deal with it make a fortune. The portable toilet business succeeds when the routes are dense and the real estate business is robust, so naturally New York City is one of the most brutal if lucrative port-a-john sectors in the country. Five firms dominate the entire city business: Mr. John, John to Go, A Royal Flush, Johnny on the Spot and Call-a-Head, but between Wall Street moving in on the money and a class action suit from the drivers, the business is changing fairly rapidly.

David Gauvey Herbert, New York Magazine

Scam

A 43-year-old programmer found a way to withdraw 7 million yuan in 1,358 ATM withdrawals over the course of a little more than a year. The theft — worth over $1 million — led to the bank not even pressing charges after he returned the money, plausibly to save face. The bank’s system didn’t record withdrawals around midnight, which seems like a fairly big issue specifically glancing at my debit account on Fridays and Saturdays. While the bank didn’t feel the need to pursue legal consequences, the courts absolutely did, and now Qisheng is staring down 10 years in prison.

Sean Hollister, The Verge

Gold

President Nicolas Maduro sold 73 tons of Venezuela’s gold last year to three firms, two in the United Arab Emirates and the third in Turkey, according to lawmakers. This brings the nation’s reserves down 40 percent, from 184 tons to 110 tons. That was worth $3.1 billion. Say, I’m beginning to think this Maduro fella may not be on the level.

Patricia Laya and Alex Vasquez, Bloomberg

Goers of Movies

There are a number of firms attempting to offer movie subscriptions to regular moviegoers for a regimented fee, like some sort of MoviePass. Those firms eye numbers like 20 million users as the threshold at which they may be able to earn both a reliable profit, as well as enough leverage to play serious ball with distributors and theaters. The core issue? According to the MPAA survey in 2012, 12 percent of moviegoers account for 49 percent of tickets sold, and that’s only about 3.16 million people.

Andrew Gruttadaro, The Ringer

Evolution

One of the best things that the Pew Research Center does is that they ask questions about how they ask people questions. Case in point: evolution. Pew used to ask this as a two-parter, and it turns out it was seriously influencing their findings! They used to ask whether people thought humans evolved over time or if they existed in the present form since the beginning of time. If respondents said the former, they were then asked if that just happened or if a higher power steered that wheel. As a result, 40 percent said natural selection, 27 percent said God steered natural selection and 31 said humans were like this the whole time. But then they switched to a format where they asked all three at once, and the shift was dramatic: 33 percent said natural selection, 48 percent said God steered natural selection and only 18 percent said we always existed in our current form.

Pew Research Center

Peppa

Peppa Pig is an international juggernaut, with the company behind the porcine kids show worth a fortune and the library of shows being worth something between $1.7 billion and $2 billion. That’s a huge jump from 2016 when ITV offered $1.3 billion to buy the whole production house. The franchise now has 117 episodes in production and has content planned out through 2023. If they’re looking for an acCountant, I hear Sesame Street’s guy is great.

Etan Vlessing, The Hollywood Reporter

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