November 21, 2022

Today's Topics

Hello! Well, the US 2022 World Cup campaign kicks off in Qatar today with a game against Wales — Joe Biden, who turned 80 yesterday, wants a last-minute place in the team. Today we’re exploring:

  • Disney loves a sequel. Bob Iger is back at the helm of the media giant.
  • Qatar spend. The 2022 World Cup is the most expensive ever.
  • Name-dropping. The number of babies named Alexa is dropping quickly.
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Disney loves a sequel

Bob Iger is back. Less than 3 years after stepping down as CEO, Bob Iger is now returning to the house of mouse, after handpicking another Bob, last name Chapek, to take over the top job in 2020.

Over five decades in the industry, with 15 years as Disney CEO, Iger crafted himself into one of the most-respected execs in entertainment. Disney flourished under Iger as he presided over transformative acquisitions of studios such as Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm as well as a mega-deal in 2019 that saw Disney win a bidding war against Comcast for ~$71bn worth of assets from 21st Century Fox.

Even Netflix’s co-CEO, Reed Hastings, reacted to the news this morning saying “Ugh. I had been hoping Iger would run for President. He is amazing.” — a ringing endorsement from Disney’s fiercest streaming rival.But it's the streaming business that is the root of the company's problems. Disney’s enormous parks business has recovered well from the pandemic, and is now essentially subsidizing the mounting losses at Disney’s streaming services. Add in a high-profile spat with Ron DeSantis, and Bob Chapek was quickly losing favor with Disney investors, and the board.

Sequelitis

Although they're known for their love of a sequel (e.g. Marvel), Disney's board likely wasn't hoping for Iger to have to make a return — but investors seem pleased, with the company's share price jumping nearly 10% this morning.

Soccer spend

The 2022 World Cup got underway yesterday as hosts Qatar lost to Ecuador in the opening game. Having reportedly spent $220bn on the tournament, Qatar's focus for the competition may not strictly be based on soccer results.

What’s the score?

FIFA’s decision to elect Qatar as the host nation led to allegations of corruption back in 2010 and criticism and controversy have hardly ceased since. With Qatar’s human rights record and its maltreatment of migrant workers and the LGBT community, many have accused the state of sportswashing; attempting to tidy their reputation via the World Cup. It’s been an expensive clean-up effort if that’s the case.

Qatar has gone all out, basically building a city to host the final and outspending every nation that’s held the tournament before them. All told, the state has reportedly shelled out a staggering $220bn to prepare for kickoff, though Bloomberg estimated that the true cost could be as high as $300bn. The US, by comparison, spent just $500m when they hosted back in 1994.

Even if we were to adjust for inflation, the American tally would be a drop in the ocean compared to the Qatar figures — which become even more mind-boggling when compared to the host's relatively-small $180bn GDP figure.

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Last week Amazon commenced its layoffs, with 10,000 employees set to lose their jobs — the largest cuts in the company’s history.

Name-dropping

The cuts hit the Alexa voice assistant division especially hard. One employee in Alexa’s AI division reported that 60% of her team were being cut, with a 15-minute videoconference informing them of their unemployment.

Amazon are not the only ones scaling back on Alexa — parents are too. Last year only 698 baby girls were named Alexa in the US, the lowest figure since 1986. The name exploded in popularity in the 90s and early 2000s, but lost steam during the last decade, particularly after Amazon released its voice assistant in 2014-15.

Alexa, what should I call my startup?

Though Amazon Echo is technically the actual device, the naming of Alexa is interesting. Asking a device to play music, set a timer or call mom becomes much more natural when the device is anthropomorphized with a human name — and it’s not only Amazon that uses this technique. Goldman Sachs' consumer arm is named Marcus, there's mattress companies Emma &Casper, an AI copywriting tool called Jasper, an insurance startup named Oscar, Mona is a personal shopping assistant and Billie is a buy-now-pay-later company for the B2B market.

More Data

• US home sales fell 5.9% from September to October, the 9th consecutive decline this year.

• A running list of everything that’s currently not working at Twitter.

• Bankrupt crypto exchange FTX owes $3.1bn to its biggest 50 creditors, with one individual creditor owed a whopping $226m.

Hi-Viz

• Zombified: visualizing The Walking Dead’swaning viewing figures.

• A fascinating deep dive on the death of the key change in modern pop music.

Off the charts: Which company, whose founder has just been jailed for 11 years, were we charting the rise and fall of? [Answer below].

Answer here.

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