May 24, 2023

Today's Topics

Hi! Shoutout to the California resident who returned a library book that was signed out in 1927, rolling the dice on nearly a century's worth of late fees, which would have cost ~$1,700 had they been applied. Today we’re exploring:

  • Pause: The e-sports industry is starting to slow.
  • Churn: Streaming services are struggling to hold onto subscribers.
  • Chip-for-tat: Why Micron is at the center of the latest US-China flashpoint.
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On pause

The e-sports world, which was booming before the pandemic kicked the industry into overdrive, is beginning to slow down.

As reported by the NYTimes, owners of e-sports teams — who assemble a roster of talent similar to traditional sports teams — are looking for an exit. Expensive player contracts and waning viewership for some of the industry’s flagship competitions are leaving owners on the hook for major losses.

Viewership figures for the League Championship Series, the largest e-sports league in the US that see gamers compete in League of Legends, have fallen. Data from Esports Charts reveals that fans tuned in for nearly 15 million hours of the 2023 spring season — a staggering number, but one that was down 13% on last year, down 32% on 2021, and less than half of the 33m hours watched in 2017. The season-ending championship event for the game Rainbow Six Siege, known as the Six Invitational, has also seen 2 years of viewership decline, and the same is true of many other games.

Even the highly popular video-game streaming site, Twitch, is now showing signs of stagnation. The total number of hours watched on Twitch peaked two years ago, and has fallen in most months since — though more than 1,700 million hours of content are still consumed every month on the platform.

Boss mode

A significant challenge for e-sports is the misalignment of incentives between team owners, star players and game publishers. Unlike traditional sports leagues, which secure lucrative broadcast deals, content in e-sports is primarily watched for free on YouTube and Twitch, platforms where the individual players can distribute their own content. Game publishers also have competing incentives. They may choose to invest in competitions, but probably only if they see the event generating more sales. The same goes for rule or format changes, which may encourage game sales, aren't necessarily the best for the accompanying e-sports.


Yesterday saw the US launch of Max, a new streaming service combining content from HBO Max and Discovery+, finally a single place to watch prestige HBO dramas alongside shows like Dr. Pimple Popper.

Elsewhere, Paramount+ and Showtime have announced plans to bucket their movies and shows next month. This consolidation is good news for users who feel overwhelmed by the number of subscriptions in their lives, with major players hoping to hold onto customers for longer, in an industry with little loyalty and high churn rates.


There’s been a host of articles proclaiming the end of the streaming wars in the last year or so, with critics pointing to decreasing content spend, consumer fatigue, and slowing subscriber growth for prominent streamers like Netflix after its (relatively) weak 2022. Whether cramming content libraries with hundreds of movies and shows from multiple sources is the long-term answer to customer retention, however, remains to be seen.

On average, streaming services have been shedding 5.8% of their subscribers every month so far in 2023, equivalent to roughly 1-in-17 customers cancelling. The streamers at the heart of the merging trend fared worse than that too, with Discovery+ and HBO Max down 6.1% and 7%, respectively, while Paramount+ and Showtime saw even greater churns of 6.9% and 8.2%. Interestingly, despite complaints about the quality of its content, Netflix's churn remains best-in-class, shedding just over 3% of its subscriber base every month.

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The Cyberspace Administration of China announced this week that key infrastructure firms would be banned from purchasing chips manufactured by Micron Technology, an Idaho-based company, saying that the products pose “significant security risks”. The move marks Beijing’s first retaliation in response to a series of measures imposed by Washington and its allies on China’s own chip-making industry.

The news is arguably a bigger deal for Micron than it is for China’s own industry. Since first establishing a manufacturing facility there in 2001, China has become an increasingly important market for the company. Management have been talking more about the country in recent annual reports as the company’s sales there have grown — last year accounting for ~10% of its $30bn+ in total revenue.

For China, however, the memory chip ban is unlikely to hurt too much. The type of chips Micron makes are fairly easy to replace with suppliers from South Korea, according to Bloomberg. Whether China takes action against US companies like Qualcomm and Intel, which make chips that often end up in Chinese smartphones and are much harder to replace, will be telling on how far China is willing to push this latest trade skirmish.

More Data

TikTok on the clock: an influencer agency is offering people $1k to spend 10 hours scrolling through the hyper-addictive app in search of new trends.

35% of Americans reported that they were worse off financially in 2022 than a year previously — a record high, according to a new Fed survey.

• A fake image of an "attack on the Pentagon" has been linked to a short but sharp drop in the S&P 500 Index, an occurrence that seems increasingly likely as AI-generated images improve.


• Cash under the mattress: Interesting chart showing the demise of American financial liquidity.

• Every single dot on this interactive chart represents an event in history, a particularly time-consuming visualization for the Chartr office.

• A $31 trillion issue — see how you fare when tasked with taming America’s national debt mountain.Off the charts: Which 3 companies came out on top of the annual Axios Harris Poll 100 which measures brand reputation across 9 categories? Hint: #1 is an eco-conscious fleece giant, #2 is a very exclusive wholesaler, and #3 just keeps plowing on. [Answer below].

Answer here.

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