Numlock News: October 21, 2019 • Hermit Crabs, South Park, Influencers

By Walt Hickey

Maleficent

Disney posted its worst opening box office of the year with Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, which pulled in $36 million, half the $69 million made by the first film. The movie cost $185 million to make, so it’ll have to run the table internationally to recoup, which it may be poised to do so: it hauled in $117 million abroad and received an “A” from audiences, according to CinemaScore. If anything, this may put a damper on future feature-length films about iconic Disney villains, like Scar from The Lion King, or the Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland, or Ursula from The Little Mermaid, or the producer who killed a third National Treasure film.

Rebecca Rubin, Variety

Toys

Amazon’s Holiday Toy List is no mere informational catalog for Santa’s helpers: it’s an intense bidding war among manufacturers gunning for premium positions on the primary holiday ad for the largest store on earth, and pay-to-play is the name of the game here. Amazon aims to sell $20 million in sponsorships for this year’s list, per documents obtained by Bloomberg. They’re hardly alone: Walmart charges toymakers $10,000 per month per product to get on its Buyer’s Picks list in November and December. Advertising is a massive part of the retailer balance sheet these days: a narrow strip across the top of Amazon costs $500,000 per month in December and November, up from $150,000 the rest of the year, and the billboard ad on top of the Toys page runs $300,000 per month, compared to $75,000 the rest of the year. On Walmart’s toy page, those ad spots go for $180,000 in November and $132,000 in December.

Spencer Soper and Matthew Townsend, Bloomberg

Declining Influence

Engagement rates among Instagram influencers appear to be in decline, despite year-over-year increasing brand spending on advertising through popular social media personalities. In 2018, according to Influencer DB, the average percentage of a travel Instagram influencer’s followers who liked their posts stood at 8 percent, a figure that has since dropped by 3.5 percentage points to 4.5 percent. An engagement rate drop of a similar magnitude was seen among food influencers (3.2 percent in 2019, down 3.5 percentage points from 6.7 percent in 2018), with smaller but substantial drops seen in lifestyle, fashion, beauty, and fitness influencers as well. Companies spend anywhere from $4.1 billion to $8.2 billion on paid promotion through influencers, per estimates, so this kind of drop is concerning.

Suzanne Kapner and Sharon Terlep, The Wall Street Journal

Baltimore

The city of Baltimore is working to tear down vacant houses amid a population decline in an attempt to stem the domino effect that vacant properties can have on the property value of homes surrounding them. In March, housing officials said they aimed to bring the number of vacant homes — as of February, 16,724 vacant buildings were in the city — below 15,000 for the first time in 15 years. Since February, 1,507 properties have come off the vacant lists, thanks to either being knocked down or fixed up. The problem? 1,360 properties have been declared vacant over that same period, putting the number of vacant homes at a stubborn 16,577, putting the goal likely out of reach.

Ian Duncan and Christine Zhang, The Baltimore Sun

World Cup

A FIFA report found that 1.12 billion people watched the 2019 Women’s World Cup, with average live match audience doubling since the previous cup in 2015. The final — a 2-0 U.S. win over the Netherlands — had an estimated average live audience of 82.18 million people. Fully 993.5 million people watched the events on television, and a further 481.5 million accessed the games on digital platforms.

BBC

South Park

Viacom and the creators of South Park are poised for a considerable payday as several streaming services — Amazon, Disney’s Hulu, NBC’s Peacock, HBO Max — are reportedly bidding for the exclusive rights to stream the show in the U.S. They hope to secure a deal by the end of the year, and as it stands the number is reportedly between $450 million and $500 million. South Park is one of the longest-running television series in history, recently hitting its 300th episode, and appears poised to stand next to the likes of The Office, Friends and Seinfeld when it comes to securing a huge streaming deal. Netflix reportedly dropped out of the running, CBS’s streaming ambitions are a little shambolic at this time, and Apple — which is launching its own service and is starving for content — reportedly steered clear of South Park because the show has been known to take risks when it comes to content that may not be suitable for all viewers, whereas Apple has not taken a risk since mid-2007.

Lucas Shaw, Bloomberg

Hermit Crabs

The hermit crab business is unregulated and virtually no numbers exist defining the count of hermit crabs as pets in the U.S. nor the crabs industry’s ecological footprint. We do know that in 2000, a larger wholesaler moved a million crabs per year, but at the end of the day the pet trade is an enigma. We also know that every hermit crab sold is wild-caught, as it’s fairly difficult to breed hermit crabs in captivity given the trickiness in getting a crab out of the water and into a shell. Just a handful of people have pulled that off, and it requires a lot of special equipment. Hermit crabs aren’t at drastic ecological risk — there is no evidence they’re endangered — but the reality is a little unfortunate, as in captivity a crab can live from six months to two years under good conditions, but in the wild can live for more than 40 years. Hence the quest for a captive-grown crab.

Samantha Edmonds, The Outline

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