Numlock News: September 3, 2020 • Alerts, Coffee, Wi-Fi

By Walt Hickey

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The NBA conference semifinals are here, which is good news for broadcasters coming off a pretty rough year. According to AT&T, Turner’s ad revenue in the second quarter was down to $796 million from $1.27 billion the same year before, and lots of that was due to the lack of live sports. Based on last year’s data, the conference semifinals are where the real money is: last year, the average 30-second ad unit went for $102,820 on TNT during the first round of the playoffs, which then jumped to $145,400 per 30 seconds in the conference semifinals, then $278,584 per commercial in the conference finals. The NBA Finals are another tier altogether: last year, ABC got $672,000 per 30 seconds during the series.

Anthony Crupi, Sportico

In Flight

Gogo, which sells Wi-Fi on planes, has sold their business for $400 million to Intelsat. The move is unique, to say the least: Gogo pretty much only provides in-flight Wi-Fi, so their decision to sell their consumer in-flight Wi-Fi business is needless to say a fascinating one; second, the buyer filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in May, and owes $15 billion. Intelsat is working with the FCC to sell a band of the wireless spectrum it owns for a hoped $5 billion, but their main business was in putting a number of communications satellites in orbit in pursuit of a satellite-based internet grid. So basically, a company that lost a stupendous amount of money putting internet in the sky decided to sell its internet-in-the-sky business to a company that lost a breathtaking amount of money attempting to put internet slightly higher up in the sky, and they will probably fund that purchase by auctioning off some rights to send internet through the sky.

Andrew J. Hawkins, The Verge


A new survey found that there is very little that movie theaters can do to get butts in seats this September, as a suite of offered solutions overwhelmingly fell flat, according to Morning Consult. A free movie tickets promotion even flopped, with 25 percent saying they’d be more likely to go to a movie in September but 26 percent saying they’d still be less likely. Other ideas fared worse: just 24 percent bit for free new movies, 22 percent for discounted tickets, 21 percent for free concessions, 13 percent for poster giveaways, 11 for live events or themed concessions, unless I assume that concession is a vaccine and the theme is Spider-Man or something. Just one thing was appealing to respondents: 30 percent were more likely to go if they could rent out an entire theater, and I am one of them. I would absolutely do that if the price was right, I missed Speed Racer in the cinema on the first go-round and deeply want to catch it as intended.

Sarah Shevenock, Morning Consult


A new study looked at precisely what we know about the effects of microplastics and nanoplastics less than 0.1 micrometers in size on marine life, and the answer is not great. The review of 46 research projects found that the tiny particles negatively impacted one third of the 800 biological outcomes analyzed, with the behavioral, sensory and neuromuscular functions particularly impacted, especially in abnormalities in brain development. Plastic particles less than 500 nanometers in size may be small enough to enter the brain itself and cause the issues. The study also identified a key issue with how we study microplastics, namely that 75 percent of the studies used spherical particles and 70 percent used polystyrene and polyethylene. That’s an issue because there are lots of other kinds of plastic and lots of particle types out in nature that are not spherical, and so we may be missing out on other serious effects.

Michael Allen, Hakai Magazine


In the United States, there is one doctor for every 385 individuals, which while not as high as the level in some European countries is still among the highest in the world. In South Asia, there is one doctor for every 1,250 people, and in Sub-Saharan Africa there’s one for every 5,000 people. That said, despite their lack of medical practitioners, Sub-Saharan Africa still loses more than 30 percent of the doctors they train to other, more developed countries. There is an oncoming doctor shortage in the United States — the American Association of Medical Colleges projects a shortage of 122,000 in 12 years — but there is also an ethical question about a rich country like the U.S. taking talent out of developing countries that have serious medical needs.

Martin Skladany, Scientific American


An innovation of modern communications infrastructure is that thanks to the abundance of handheld phones, the government is now able to alert you when something is popping off, say a wildfire or hurricane or other unfortunate calamity. The way that these warnings get from emergency officials to citizens is hardly simple, and breakdowns in the distribution tech — such as an issue last week in Napa County — can put lives at risk. The alert system, or more specifically a morass of dozens of interlocking and error-ridden systems — is managed by FEMA, which authenticates the messages and gets them out there through the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System. There are over 1,500 alerting authorities able to send out such messages, and IPAWS alerts go out through one of 25 approved private platforms to get the word out

Sarah Emerson, OneZero


There were 3,890 coffee shops in New York City as of the beginning of March 2020, a figure that had risen 29 percent since the level seen in March 2017. They’ve proven to be resilient: according to Yelp, just 129 have closed permanently, though times remain tough and several have had to significantly overhaul their models as “sit in a room for hours with a revolving group of strangers” went from a pleasant way to work to a genuine stress dream. Midtown shops that are particularly exposed to office workers not being at their desks have seen sales slip 90 percent, while neighborhood coffee shops have had a reliable summer, even if they had to cut down on the ceramic mugs and start selling some beans wholesale.

Anne Kadet, The Wall Street Journal

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