Numlock News: January 16, 2019

By Walt Hickey

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The flurry of media consolidation has been touted as the established industry’s response to newcomers like Netflix as the streaming service spends a fortune on content. But even though Netflix is $10.4 billion in the hole — 6.2 times its earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization — that’s nothing compared to the conglomerates that have been throwing around billions to stave it off. Disney is in $54.0 billion of debt — 2.7 times earnings — after gobbling up Fox, Comcast is $114.7 billion in the hole after splurging on Sky, and AT&T (which bought Time Warner for $85 billion, shortly after it bought DirecTV for $49 billion) is the king here, owing $183 billion and earning the dubious title of most-indebted non-financial services company in the world.

Cynthia Littleton and Brett Lang, Variety


Britain narrowly voted affirmatively on the general, if vague, concept of not being in the E.U. anymore. This slight affinity for a binding resolution to do an inescapably nuanced and debatable thing has guaranteed a generation of gridlock, as best seen yesterday when Prime Minister Theresa May’s negotiated Brexit deal collapsed in parliament, 432 votes against to 202 votes for. On March 29, Britain is scheduled to exit the E.U., but the terms of how to continue to exchange goods and services with the bloc is not settled. The 230-vote loss by the government absolutely wipes out the previous record of 166 vote defeat in 1924.

William James, Kylie MacLellan and Elizabeth Piper, Reuters

Are We The Baddies?

The smash-hit video game Red Dead Redemption 2 features the historical Pinkerton National Detective Agency as antagonist forces for its protagonist in 10 of its 106 missions. This is historically bona fide: the private detective agency has a long history, but Pinkerton Consultancy & Investigation, the modern risk management incarnation owned by Securitas AB, has sent the publisher Rockstar Games a cease and desist implying that there is an implied link between Pinkerton and Securitas. Rockstar counters that the First Amendment protects the use and its inclusion of Pinkertons is an accurate portrayal of Nineteenth Century America. Word of advice: the best way to make sure you’re not a bad guy in a video game in 100 years is to not kill a bunch of steel workers in the third-most violent labor dispute in American history.

Emily Gera, Variety


The NFL has made its rules defining what exactly a catch is fairly philosophically, changing them over the past several years and attempting to re-define what exactly is and isn’t a catch. This has made football really hard to understand, but also made it so every self-proclaimed expert on the rules is basically making it up on the fly. A survey of Americans found that 38.4 percent claimed to understand the NFL catch rule. Their bluff was called essentially immediately, and it turns out that only 3.5 percent of Americans can identify all three things required for a play to be a catch, and that only one out of every 18 people who claimed to understand the catch rule got it and made no errors. So if someone tries to lecture you this weekend on a controversial call, they are almost certainly full of crap and do not actually know what they are talking about.

Tyler Lauletta and Walt Hickey, Business Insider

Glenn Close But No Cigar

A survey of Americans found that lots of Americans misremember Oscar history, thinking that actors or actresses who do not have an Oscar actually do. Actresses people were most likely to mistakenly believe as Oscar winners were Glenn Close (49 percent incorrectly say she won one) and Sigourney Weaver (47 percent), a fact that Glenn Close will do her best to remind Academy voters as the key plank of her Oscar pitch this year. The performers most likely to be mistaken for Oscar winners are Harrison Ford (53 percent), Matt Damon (53 percent) and Johnny Depp (52 percent). Damon has one for writing Good Will Hunting, Ford’s performance in Witness lost to William Hurt in ‘86, and it’s tough to give Depp an Oscar when we all know the makeup department is doing most of the acting.

Sarah Shevenock, Morning Consult

40 Day In The Desert Cleanse

Fasting diets — where people eat whatever they want, but intermittently forego food for a day or so a couple of times a month — are all the rage, and there’s evidence they’re worth trying. One 2017 study of 100 people found that the group that fasted lost about 7 pounds on average. The issue is that the fasting group also had a much higher dropout rate: 25 percent compared to 10 percent in the regular diet group. So if you can bear it, it’s possibly worth trying, but if it’s not for you you’re not alone.

Julia Belluz, Vox

Elder Care

Japan is aging more rapidly than the rest of the world, and the government projects that the cost of healthcare for the elderly will hit $298 billion in 2025. In the U.S., people over 65 are projected to outnumber those under 18 by 2035. Japanese startups, funded by large companies looking for inevitable growth businesses, are increasingly focused on healthcare: of the 92 worth over $1 billion, 25 are focused on healthcare.

Suryatapa Bhattacharya, The Wall Street Journal

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Correction: A previous version of today’s newsletter has been edited to fix typos.

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Previous 2019 Sunday special editions: China’s Corruption Crackdown ·  Yosemite

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