Fox News will no longer broadcast in the UK

21st Century Fox announced Tuesday that it will pull Fox News from UK airwaves, The Guardian reports. The network’s final broadcast across the pond took place at 4:00 p.m. local time Tuesday.

A spokeswoman told The Guardian: “[Fox] has decided to cease providing a feed of Fox News Channel in the UK. Fox News is focused on the US market and designed for a US audience and, accordingly, it averages only a few thousand viewers across the day in the UK. We have concluded that it is not in our commercial interest to continue providing Fox News in the UK.”

21st Century Fox awaits British authorities’ approval of its bid to acquire Sky TV, the UK’s top pay television network. The US media giant already owns 39% of Sky and is seeking to acquire the remaining 61% in the £11.7 billion ($15.2 billion) deal.

Sources told The Guardian the decision to pull Fox News out of the UK was strictly economical and in no way related to the pending acquisition.

But, UK media regulators and lawmakers have raised concerns about the “corporate culture” of the network. According to CNN, the British Office of Communications (Ofcom), which was tasked with reviewing the proposed takeover, said following its review that the sexual harassment allegations against former Fox News chairman Roger Ailes and former anchor Bill O’Reilly, were “deeply disturbing,” and evinced “significant failings of the corporate culture.”

O’Reilly and Ailes both denied the allegations, CNN notes.

Ofcom found no evidence that senior management at Fox had been aware of the alleged misconduct prior to July 2016. CNN reports that 21st Century Fox management (namely, Rupert Murdoch and his sons Lachlan and James)  “pressured Ailes to resign,” which he did in July 2016.

In April, Fox and O’Reilly parted ways. “After a thorough and careful review of the allegations,” 21st Century Fox said in a statement per foxnews.com, “the company and Bill O’Reilly have agreed that Bill O’Reilly will not be returning to the Fox News Channel.”

Despite its concerns regarding the sexual harassment allegations, Ofcom concluded that 21st Century Fox qualified as a “fit and proper” holder of Sky. The regulatory agency did not deem further investigation of the network’s broadcasting practices necessary.

Still, British lawmakers and lobbyist groups are urging Karen Bradley, the UK’s Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, to refer the Fox-Sky deal for additional review. In response to those petitions, Bradley’s office asked Ofcom to conduct further research. Friday, the office confirmed that it has received “additional advice” from Ofcom concerning the deal, Deadline reports.

“The Secretary of State will now carefully consider that advice before making her decision on referral on the basis of all the evidence before her, and will do so as soon as is reasonably practicable,” the office says, per Deadline.

Bradley said late last month that while she saw no reason to further review 21 Century Fox’s adequateness as a broadcaster, she was likely to refer the deal for review by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

“Unless new evidence…changes my mind in coming weeks, the bid will therefore be referred for a Phase 2 review on at least one ground: media plurality,” Bradley told Parliament in mid-July, per Variety.

Deadline notes that CMA reviews can take up to six months. If the deal is not finalized by the end of this year, 21st Century Fox will pay Sky shareholders £170 million ($219 million).

Twenty-two million viewers across five European countries—the UK, Ireland, Italy, Germany and Austria—pay for Sky service,

The European Union has already approved the acquisition. UK authorities represent the final regulative hurdle before finalization.

If the deal dissolves, Fox will pay Sky an additional £200 million ($258 million).

Featured Image via Flickr/Johnny Silvercloud

Monday’s total solar eclipse cost US employers almost $700 million

On Monday, many Americans saw a total solar eclipse for the first time in their lives. The last time United States denizens had a clear line of sight for a total solar eclipse was in 1979, according to a report by Challenger, Gray, and Christmas, Inc. So, American workers were more than willing to interrupt their banal daily routines to catch a glimpse of the historical event.

And financial experts were busy calculating the losses. According to the aforementioned report, the solar eclipse cost companies throughout the nation almost $700 million in lost time. Challenger, Gray, and Christmas estimated that 87,307,940 Americans would be at work during the eclipse and that each worker would take 20 minutes, on average, to gather his/her viewing supplies, travel to an appropriate viewing site, watch the two-and-a-half minute eclipse, and return to work.

The average hourly wage is $23.86, so if each worker takes a third of an hour to view the eclipse, he/she will cost his/her company $7.95. Multiply that figure by the estimated number of Americans at work during the eclipse and you find that U.S. employers lost approximately $694,098,123 as a result of the event.

Employers in areas which lie on the eclipse’s “path of totality” lost a combined $200 million, the report estimates. In Chicago, which lies just off of the totality path, employees “stole” $28 million worth of time.

However, the report notes that, in most cities, the eclipse occurred around lunch time, when workers are already taking breaks. “Since this is happening over the lunch hours, the financial impact is minimal,” said Andrew Challenger, Vice President of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, in the report.

Moreover, preventing employees from viewing the eclipse would likely do more damage to morale than allowing viewing would do to the bottom line.

So, Challenger advised employers not to “board their windows and keep employees locked up in conference room meetings until the eclipse ends.”

“Rather,” he says, “looking for how to turn this lack of productivity into a way to increase morale and strengthen the team is a much better use of the eclipse.”

Challenger adds that the eclipse, in fact, “offers a great opportunity to boost morale. Employers could offer lunch to their staff, give instructions on how to make viewing devices, and watch together as a team.”

The eclipse’s “path of totality,” which encompasses the locations from which viewers could see the eclipse in all its fullness, travelled from the Pacific Northwest—those in Newport, Oregon, saw the eclipse at 10:15 a.m. local time—through the midwest—Troy, Kansas residents saw the eclipse at 1:05 pm local time—and into the Southeast—the eclipse hit Clayton, GA at 2:35 pm Eastern. Click here for a full list of locales within the “path of totality.”

Many people traveled to such locales to view the event. According to US News, AAA Mid-Atlantic issued an advisory preparing travelers for “huge crowds of eclipse watchers, long lines and roadside delays caused by the influx of travelers from other states into prime eclipse-viewing destinations.”

GreatAmericanEclipse.com says most American’s live within a day’s drive of some location within the eclipse’s path of totality. Further, because August is a popular vacationing time, the site points out, many people presumably planned getaways around the eclipse.

The event’s effect on auto traffic, the site says, was akin to that of “20 Woodstock festivals occurring simultaneously across the nation.”

Whatever toll the eclipse took on the average American employer, it likely provided a proportionate boost to the country’s travel industry. Lodging enterprises benefited from an influx of eclipse-seekers, and towns not ordinarily considered tourist destinations became the epicenters of eclipse-viewing.

The next total solar eclipse visible on American soil will occur on April 8, 2024, per greatamericaneclipse.com. The path of totality will stretch from Mexico through central Texas, Arkansas, Ohio, Indiana, New York, and Montreal, Canada.

After 2024, North America will not see another total eclipse until 2045. So, get your gear and make your travel arrangements.

And tell your boss you’re taking a long lunch on April 8, 2024.

Featured image via Twitter/V3ctor

 

Netflix increasing focus on original content, analysts say

Streaming video service Netflix has $15.7 billion worth of “streaming content obligations,” CNN reports. It plans to pay $6 billion toward those obligations this year.

The “streaming content obligations” figure is up more than $3 billion since quarter two 2016, according to CNBC.

Several analysts attribute the increase to an intensified focus by Netflix on the creation of original, proprietary content.

“The company is actually trying to manage down the amount of content that it’s licensing from other people,” Canaccord Genuity analyst Michael Graham told CNBC. “The plan there really is to draw subscribers to the service with content that Netflix builds and produces on its own, and that Netflix owns and doesn’t have to pay royalties on. So what that does is it enables margins to expand over time.”

In a report cited by CNN, John Janedis, an analyst with Jefferies, agreed that the company is “aggressively shifting to owned original content.”

The increased emphasis on original content comes as traditional media operations increasingly become competitors rather than allies.

As cable revenues continue to fall, companies like Disney are making their own inroads into the streaming market and cutting ties with Netflix.

When Disney announced plans to start its own streaming service by 2019, it also said it would pull Disney and Pixar films from Netflix by the end of 2019. The company was noncommittal as to whether it would continue to license Marvel and LucasFilm properties to Netflix.

Netflix said in a statement that, despite the termination of its partnership with Disney, “U.S. Netflix members will have access to Disney films on the service through the end of 2019, including all new films that are shown theatrically through the end of 2018.”

A previous agreement obligates Disney to allow Netflix to host Disney, Pixar, and Marvel films through the end of 2019.

The end of the Netflix-Disney partnership will not affect original Netflix shows based on Marvel characters, such as Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, nor will Netflix halt its production efforts for the upcoming Marvel-based offerings The Defenders and The Punisher.

Following Disney’s announcement, Netflix struck back, poaching 15-year ABC veteran Shonda Rhimes, creator of such hits as Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal. Those shows will stay with Disney/ABC, but Rhimes will begin creating original content for Netflix.

Many suspect that much of Netflix’s near-$16 billion original content budget will contribute toward the streaming giant’s continued pursuit of talent employed by major traditional studios like Disney.

“We’re witnessing an all-out war,” Eric Schiffer, chief executive of Patriarch Organization, told The LA Times. “The studios are seeing Netflix and Amazon go out for their talent, and out for [their] scalps.”

“Studios haven’t felt this kind of hellfire in decades and it’s not going away,” he added.

Netflix is, however, fighting an expensive war. The terms of the deal with Rhimes were not disclosed, but it stands to reason that one of television’s top writers comes at a price. Last quarter, Netflix reported $3.4 billion in “non-current content liabilities” (read: long-term debt); that figure is up more than 15% from $2.9 billion at the end of 2016.

Despite its debt, though, Netflix continues to add subscribers and generate revenue. In quarter two, the company reported $2.8 billion in revenue—that’s a 35% jump year-over-year. Moreover, the service reported 4.3 million (over 9%) more domestic subscribers in quarter two 2017 than it did a year ago. In quarter three, CNN says, the company’s sales are expected to grow 25%, and earnings are expected to double.

In some markets, Netflix is raising its monthly subscription rates to fund its redoubled emphasis on original content. In late June, the streaming behemoth raised prices in Australia; just last week, it raised prices for Canadian users. Some anticipate that US users will see similar price increases in the coming months. According to CNN, Netflix said in its quarter two report that it “expect[s] that from time to time the prices of our membership plans in each country may change.”

Netflix stock has soared more than 40% this year, according to CNN. But, shares have dipped more than 6.5% since Disney announced intentions to pull Disney and Pixar movies last week.

Still, with a market cap in excess of $77 billion, Netflix is, according to CNN, worth more than Fox, CBS, and Viacom, and just slightly less valuable than Time Warner, which owns CNN, HBO, etc.

The streaming pioneer has proven its ability to compete with the giants of traditional media. As an increasing number of those giants make their own inroads into the streaming sector and deprive Netflix of licensing rights, the competition is bound to intensify.

Featured Image via Flickr/Shardayyy

Facebook is making moves in the realm of video

In an effort to break into the video entertainment market, Facebook is introducing a new video platform called Watch. The platform will be made available to a select group of Facebook users today. Everyone else will have to wait to try it.

In making this move, Facebook is most likely looking to open up new sources of revenue. If Facebook Watch catches on, users will spend more time on Facebook watching TV-length videos. That means that users will be exposed to more ads, thus generating more revenue for Facebook. And users won’t be required to pay for a subscription.

According to Facebook, Watch will be special among streaming video platforms because it can make TV-watching more social. Users will be able to comment on videos and to see what videos their friends are watching and commenting on. Each user will be watching alongside all two billion other Facebook users.

Watch will have two main components: a watchlist and a discovery section. The discovery section will be a feed of videos curated for you based on your Facebook profile. It will also suggest videos to you based on your friends’ activity on Facebook. It will include subdivisions such as “Most talked about” and “What’s making people laugh,” which is made up of videos that many people responded to with “Haha.”

Although Facebook has a huge user base, it still has ways to go in the realm of online video. Netflix, Youtube, Amazon, and Hulu have already come to dominate the market. Users may be reluctant to migrate their TV-watching time from those services over to Facebook Watch.

Facebook will offer a wide variety of programming on Watch. Some shows will focus on direct communication with their audiences through social media. Other shows might have long narrative arcs, like conventional TV shows.

So far, the list of programs available on the platform includes Gabby BernsteinNas Daily, Returning the Favor, and Kitchen Little, among others. Additionally, Facebook has permission from Major League Baseball to broadcast one game live per week.

Facebook funded these early programs in order to “seed the system,” but it does not intend to continue to fund new shows for very long. Eventually, anyone will be able to post videos to Watch, but they won’t get any money from Facebook to get going. By then, Facebook plans to take 45% of ad revenue from shows on Watch.

You can read Facebook’s statement on the launch of Watch here.

Featured Image via Pixabay

Disney and Netflix are about to fight over the kids

Over the past few years, Netflix has invested heavily in original movies and TV shows which are available exclusively on Netflix. This content works to attract new customers who want to find out what the House of Cards hype is all about. And it makes existing Netflix subscribers less likely to cancel the service since they would then be unable to access Netflix-exclusive content.

But even as Netflix is building up a repertoire of hit movies and TV shows, it still relies heavily on licensed content from other companies. And one of those companies is going rogue: the Walt Disney Co., which also covers ESPN and ABC networks under its umbrella.

Earlier this week, Disney announced that starting in 2019 it would no longer license Disney content to Netflix. Instead, Disney will form a new streaming subscription service. Disney will also create a service which will include streaming access to ESPN.

But don’t cancel your Netflix subscription just yet — Disney’s jump is still a couple years off after all. Netflix says that through 2019 its subscribers will continue to have access to Disney movies and TV shows. And until the end of 2018, new theatrically-released movies will continue to appear on Netflix as well. Marvel TV shows which have already been released on Netflix will also remain available on Netflix.

Disney isn’t the first to break off from a major streaming service and form a new one. Such companies as Filmstruck, HBO, and Starz have already broken off to form their own in-house streaming services, as have many others. The entertainment world seems to be catching on to the fact that Netflix is perhaps an unnecessary middleman. Disney is the strongest company yet to take on Netflix.

Although Disney is trailing behind Netflix for now, it is nonetheless in a good position to challenge Netflix for market supremacy. In the field of original content, Disney is the clear winner over Netflix.  Disney has a huge, devoted base of people who grew up or are growing up on Disney movies and will likely follow them on to a different service.

Of course, Disney has a lot of catching up to do in terms of building a dedicated base of consumers using the streaming service. Netflix has over 100 million subscribers.

Featured Image via Pixabay

Discovery to Acquire Scripps Networks in $14.6 Billion Deal

Scripps Networks, the media conglomerate that operates HGTV, the Travel Channel, Food Network, and other channels; and Discovery, which runs The Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, TLC, etc., have arrived at a $14.6 billion merger deal, Georg Szalai of The Hollywood Reporter reports. The companies believe the merger, which is expected to solidify in early 2018, will facilitate “significant cost synergies,” to the tune of $350 million in savings, and provide new opportunities for digital and direct to consumer sales.

The merger will also help Scripps to reach an international audience “through Discovery’s best-in-class global distribution, sales and languaging infrastructure,” the companies said in a statement.

“This agreement with Discovery,” said Scripps CEO Kenneth Lowe, “presents an unmatched opportunity for Scripps to grow its leading lifestyle brands across the world and on new and emerging channels including short-form, direct-to-consumer and streaming platforms.”

The combined company will “offer a complementary and dynamic suite of brands,” including 8,000 hours per year of digital programming and 7 billion “short-form video streams.”

Moreover, ”Discovery’s added scale, content engine and multiple brand offerings will present a compelling opportunity for new digital distribution partners, including mobile, OTT and direct-to-consumer platforms and offerings,” according to the companies’ statement.

The merged entity will control roughly 20% of America’s pay TV market. Both Scripps and Discovery cater to women, and the new company will account for about 20% of women watching primetime pay TV in the US.

Discovery Channel will buyout Scripps for $90/share: $63 in cash and $27 worth of stock in the merged company. Scripps shareholders will own about 20% of Discovery, and Lowe will likely join Discovery’s board.

When rumors of a possible merger broke in mid July, Scripps’ shares were valued at $67.02 a piece. Since July 18, the stock has climbed more than 34%. Today, as you would expect, Scripps’ shares are valued at just under $90 ($87.50 to be exact, as of 1:00 Eastern Monday).

Viacom, which owns CMT, MTV, BET, Nickelodeon, and Spike, just to name a few, was also reportedly pursuing a takeover of Scripps, Joe Flint of Fox Business wrote a week ago. Scripps stock soared on rumors of that merger as well.

Wells Fargo analyst Marci Ryvicker believes the Scripp-Discovery deal was more advantageous for Scripp than the potential Viacom one, but adds that the merger by no means solves all the companies’ problems.

“Although we still don’t believe that either combination [Discovery-Scripps or Viacom-Scripps] solves the long-term affiliate fee ‘issue,’ our math at least suggests that Discovery would be the better buyer of Scripps — both from a pro forma leverage and an accretion standpoint,” Ryvicker said.

Analysts are split on whether the merger was prudent. Steven Cahall of RBC Capital Markets called the deal one of “the most logical in media.”

“Both [Discovery and Scripps] are somewhat relatively sub-scale when dealing with distributors, and while their combination may not put them on equal footing with a broadcast network or major sports rights owner, scale matters and should improve network carriage and affiliate negotiations,” Cahall said.

Indeed, the companies have said they hope the merger will “create a new scale player with a strong ability to compete for audiences and ad dollars.”

Analyst Michael Nathanson of MoffettNathonson agrees that the merger will create “improved relative scale,” and further concedes that it will “likely” lead to “ample cost synergies” and “international revenue opportunities.” Still, he does not “think this merger will fundamentally alter the long-term prospects of these companies.”

The companies themselves, though, are still on their honeymoon.

“This is an exciting new chapter for Discovery,” said David Zaslav, president and CEO of Discovery Communications. “Scripps is one of the best-run media companies in the world with terrific assets, strong brands and popular talent and formats.”

Walt Disney Entertains Renovation Plans for Epcot

The Walt Disney Co. revealed renovation plans for Epcot in order to honor the park’s 35th anniversary at Walk Disney World in Orlando, Florida. The planned renovations include featuring several film-inspired attractions that will update the park for previous visitors, while drawing in new crowds to populate the famous park.

The media and entertainment company’s goal is evolving itself and adapting to younger audiences by including “more timeless, more relevant, more family and more Disney” while maintaining its belief in celebrating human excellence. The idea is to add to its repertoire through several newly revealed offerings to counter being outdated while also refraining from morphing its original purpose.

These plans were revealed during the D23 Expo, a convention for Disney fans, with the intention of completing most of its upcoming projects in time to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Disney World in 2021. Walt Disney’s large investment into its parks help certify their importance to the company’s future, as compensation for the slowing growth in its media networks. In 2016, Disney parks accrued $17 billion in revenue, signifying a 5 percent increase on its previous year.

Disney’s media networks make up the largest portion of its business, however this has reduced due to advertising sales lag and the fact that consumers are cutting cable for other entertainment service providers such as Netflix. Instead of betting on one market, Disney is diversifying itself in order to reduce potential risks while also increasing or strengthening the variety of its services as the support for its future.

Epcot opened in 1982 and is two times the size of Disney World’s main park, Magic Kingdom, yet despite its size it attracted 8.7 million fewer guests in 2015. Urging for more traffic to offset the costs of a huge park, while also trying to balance its budget, Disney has been introducing more characters to the park. A successful venture on this front was the inclusion of a Frozen themed boat ride last year that attracted visitors due to its affiliation to the hit movie.

While Disney is pressing the perseverance of its original mission to highlight human excellence, adjustments need to be made for its renovation, resulting in the closing of certain rides that follow Disney’s mission in favor of newer more exciting but less informative rides. Ellen’s Energy Adventure, a 1996 ride that discusses the history of energy by talk show host Ellen DeGeneres and television presenter Bill Nye the Science Guy, will be replaced by a new ride around the theme of Guardians of the Galaxy, a marvel superhero franchise in outer space, exemplifying the changes being made.

However, it is important that the services provided match the needs of the customers, otherwise the business will fail. And so these changes may be necessary, even if they signify a shift away from the company’s original mission. Walt Disney originally imagine Epcot as a nexus of futuristic innovation, but after his death the company decided to make it an amusement park instead. The park is ambitioned to combine a representation of cutting edge technology while also showcasing international cultures.

While the introduction of new rides will be invaluable in attracting and inviting visitors both new and old, Disney’s focus should not reside solely on these new projects. Disney will need to ensure that they maintain a steady stream of new innovations and rides into the future, as they will otherwise face similar issues again in the future for failing to continue reinvigorating their parks.

Furthermore, the park requires more investment in maintenance in its infrastructure as unused ride parts are still visible to visitors, tiles being taped together in an unprofessional manner, and even parts of the monorail falling off. No plans have been announced regarding infrastructure, but adding one new attraction amongst other failing ones is not a way of ensuring your visitors revisit.

Netflix Subscribers Surpass Target

Netflix Inc. has surpassed the expectations of Wall Street for its second quarter by adding 5.2 million new streaming customers. Netflix predicts further continued growth due to the momentum generated by foreign subscriptions, which overcame U.S. subscribers. As a result of its customer base growth, Netflix shares have increased by 10.4 percent on Monday.

Regarding shares more specifically, the streaming television innovator’s stocks rose $16.82 to $178.55 per share in after-hours trading. This is a new record for intraday trading that beats the previous record of $166.87 which was reached on June 8.

Netflix is anticipating that due to the influx of foreign subscribers the company will accomplish its first full-year profits for overseas markets. This is supported by the fact that the end of June was the first time that Netflix had more recorded subscribers from abroad than in the U.S., with 52.03 million foreign subscribers versus 51.92 million U.S. subscribers.

The second quarter is typically the slowest quarter of the year, however the introduction of the popular show “13 Reasons Why” and the latest season of “House of Cards” brought in a higher number of subscribers than what Netflix initially predicted.

According to Wall Street, Netflix was predicted to bring in 3.2 million new customers worldwide, which broken down was based on an estimate of 2.59 foreign subscribers and 631,000 U.S. subscribers. Instead, Netflix bested both estimates by accruing 4.14 million monthly foreign market subscribers , and a further 1.07 million subscribers domestically.

Netflix is hedging their bets that this growth will continue on for its third quarter, considering it usually is more successful than its second quarter, however Netflix has been known to make far too optimistic forecasts at times.

It is important to remember the expenses that Netflix pays to attract new customers: spending $6 billion a year on content in order to become the world’s top movie and TV streaming service despite facing a decrease in the rate of its U.S. customer growth. What helps is that a good portion of the costs go to customizing content for different countries and adding shows in various languages.

By tailoring to different regions, you adapt and serve the needs of the customer, instead of projecting what you believe the customer needs. However, by making new content accessible to different audiences, you are reaping more profits out of the same content, which requires less labor to offer in a different language than the show’s original production cost.

Based on the amount invested to deliver a large variety of content, Netflix has estimated negative free cash flow in the coming years as it continues to buy more content. The heavy costs help assert its place in the market amongst stiff competition from streaming video providers such as Amazon Inc.’s Prime Video and Alphabet Inc.’s YouTube. This shows that despite possibly overestimated customer growth, Netflix is maintaining a strict assessment of its financials to ensure that it can continue to provide its services.

Revenue rose by 32.3 percent to $2.79 billion in the second quarter, with the net income rising to $65.6 million, or 15 cents a share, from $40.8 million, or 9 cents a share, from a year earlier. While this falls just short of the anticipated 16 cents a share, this is still a monumental growth.

Investors are willing to tolerate the exuberant spending as long as it is compensated by such a booming customer growth, as the trade-off did results in 2 million subscriber surplus. This goes to show that if companies have well-established future plans and a good financial health, then investors are willing to hurt a little now for better profits in the future. This is something that Snap Inc. and Blue Apron Holdings Inc. can learn as an example to ensure stocks are not overpriced.

J.C. Penney Toying with New Store Idea

J.C. Penney has plans to introduce toy stores within its department stores in an attempt to draw in more customers along with their families. The efforts are intended to recapture part of J.C. Penney’s past spirit when their stores drew in both children and their parents through their holiday catalogs.

In order to reestablish a firmer foundation considering the tenuous times retailers are currently facing, the chain is hoping to capitalize on the opportunity that toy stores offer. The desired end result is to mimic the successful results after the retailer decided to revive toy sales during the 2016 holiday season for the first time in years.

Instead of toy departments, J.C. Penney plans to add toy shops permanently to all of its stores, which is currently cumulative to more than 1000 locations. The chain has already introduced toy shops to 100 stores, and is planning to accommodate the back-to-school special event through an expansion of its assortment.

This companywide rollout is a demonstration of the aggressive measures the retailer is willing to take to demonstrate its competitive edge and relevance amidst the ever growing influence dominated by Amazon.com and more flexible competitors with physical store locations. This is the first company to introduce toy venues as a means of attracting more customers, as other retailers including bookstore chain Barnes & Noble have also bet on commercial merchandise targeted at families.

The decision is based on the year-round demand to buy toys, and by creating not only fun and creative toys but a reflective environment in which to sell the toys coupling the biggest brands and most popular products will encourage higher traffic for both the toy stores and the surrounding departments. The idea is to increase both the turnover and revenue generated by customers, even buying a single, simple toy is an increase in the company’s revenue stream.

The toy shops will be displayed together or peripheral to Disney Collection products, and will feature a wide range of items, including dolls, actions figures, and board games. These toys will be developed in collaboration with Hasbro, Mattel, and Fischer Price. The toys will also be available via the company’s website, with plans for the current selection to double in size as well as add additional items in tome for the 2017 holiday shopping season.

The introduction of toy shops also serves another purpose as an experiment for store-within-a-store concepts. This concept also for more efficient use of space while also opening up locations for brands that either were too late to claim a location within the chains department stores, or were unable to commit to a full-sized department. J.C. Penney has had previous success with this setup, handling floor space over to beauty products firm Sephora and athletics apparel company Nike. Toys assimilate better into the design of beauty products, as customers are encouraged to play with display models and develop and affinity for the product prior to purchasing.

It is important to continue innovating new ways of attracting customers to your stores, which J.C. Penney has faced firsthand as its foot traffic has decreased due to digital competition and fast-fashion competitors such as H&M and Forever 21. It is important to note that there is balance that needs to be maintained, as using toys as a means for drawing customers is beneficial so long as it does not replace the intentions of customers visiting the chain. Otherwise, J.C. Penney may find itself solely in the business of selling toys, and no longer a department store.

J.C. Penney has reported its need to close 138 locations recently, and while it is doing better than its main competitor Sears Holdings, the toy shop concept will be an important factor in determining its future.

FanDuel and DraftKings Call Off Merger Plans Under Regulatory Pressure

FanDuel and DraftKings have made a joint decision to abandon efforts toward a merger that faced heavy opposition from federal antitrust regulators, Alex Schiffer of The Washington Post reports. The deal, which the companies agreed to pursue in November, would have given the merged company 90% of the market share in the daily fantasy sports sector, the Federal Trade Commission said when it announced its intention to intervene.

Following the FTC’s statement against the alliance, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued a temporary restraining order against the deal, Schiffer said in a prior article

The companies originally planned to contest the FTC’s stance, but decided not to because doing so would have precipitated a prolonged legal struggle. According to the New York Post, a scheduling conference between the companies and an administrative would have occurred Friday. The FTC’s trial was set to begin November 21, Schiffer said in the June article.

“It is in the best interest of our shareholders, customers, employees, and partners to terminate the merger agreement and move forward as an independent company,” FanDuel chief executive Nigel Eccles said in a statement Thursday. DraftKings CEO Jason Robins echoed Eccles’ sentiment in a statement of his own.

Eccles nonetheless maintained that the alliance “would have increased investment in growth and product development thereby benefiting consumers and the greater sports entertainment industry.”

But, Ted Lipsky, acting director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, holds that the merger would “deprive customers of the substantial benefits of direct competition between DraftKings and FanDuel.”

DraftKings and FanDuel differentiate themselves from other fantasy sports sites by focusing on daily challenges rather than season-long competitions. FanDuel’s website invites sports fans to “play, watch, and win” all in one day; TechCrunch has called FanDuel “the ‘one-night-stand’ of fantasy sports.” Both companies have argued that their daily-competition models are not markets in and of themselves, but niche offerings in a much greater fantasy sports sector.

Schiffer points out, though, that FanDuel “was considered the first of its kind when it was launched in 2009.”

Since then, FanDuel, founded in Austin, TX and currently based in New York City, has registered six million users, according to its website. In 2015, the privately-held company’s value cracked $1 billion.

DraftKings was established by Robins in 2012 in Boston, where it is still headquartered. The company now serves over 18 million customers, and its revenue is increasing by 30% yearly, Robins said in the aforementioned statement. In the same statement, he indicated plans to continue expanding DraftKings into international markets.

DraftKings and FanDuel have both come under plenty of legal fire in their short histories. Both websites offer pay-to-enter contests as well as free ones, and “authorities in several states” (Schiffer’s words) have taken legal action against the companies on the grounds that their fantasy sports games constitute gambling. Both companies have consistently argued that their contests involve skill.

In 2015, a class-action suit accused DraftKings and FanDuel of “negligence, fraud, and false advertising,” ESPN’s Darren Rovell reported. The suit alleged that each company ran analytics on the other’s site to determine “winning strategies, return on investment of certain strategies, [etc.].” Employees of either company who had access to such analytics could conceivably leverage the information to gain an unfair advantage on their competitor’s site. The suit was purportedly filed after a DraftKings employee won $350,000 on FanDuel in a single week.

Presumably, the powers that be at DraftKings and FanDuel decided the merger was not worth another long, expensive legal effort. So, the companies will continue independently; each CEO made it abundantly clear in his statement that he is excited about the direction in which his team is headed.

The daily fantasy sports powerhouses, both of which have built mammoth enterprises upon the thrill of competition, will continue to compete with one another.

Record $1.7 Million for Charity Speedrunning

During the seventh Summer Games Done Quick (SGDQ) Speedrunning marathon event, the charity was able to raise nearly $1.78 million from just over 30,000 people. This year’s charity donation reaches a new record high from last year, continuing an ever-growing annual trend. The money raised will be donated to ‘Doctors Without Borders’ charity.

Two speedrunning marathon events are held every year, with the event being the Awesome Games Done Quick (AGDQ) occurring in January. Both events are one week long, and see 100,000 concurrent viewers watching the event online and donating millions of dollars to charity. Games Done Quick is easily the largest speedrunning event, drawing runners from around the globe. The speedrun event lasts seven days with no breaks, meaning that it is in the player’s best interests to complete the required total of 132 games as fast as possible.

The event gathers hundreds of players together in a hotel conference room to play their favorite games at incredible speeds. The crowd these events draw is full of enthusiasts who watch the players play these games, usually matching the number of players playing or more. Often it is not enough to just finish the games with the fastest time possible, and players are challenged by those giving donations to complete the games with added difficulties. Speedrunner Halfcoordinated raised $2,740 by completing NieR: Automata while holding an Emil plushie in one hand.

The total donations for this year’s event come in part from direct donations that the players receive while playing the games, and in part due to partner donations from activities including but not limited to T-shirt sales and the Humble Bundle, which donates 100 percent of new monthly subscriptions, automatically entering new subscribers as donating towards the event charity. This year’s donations were 35 percent higher than the previous year, suggesting that speedrunning events are growing and becoming more popular, both as a charity event as well as a bi-annual gaming event.

Following the established trend, SGDQ accumulated donations were less than AGDQ, with this year’s AGDQ making $2.2 million in donations in the same amount of time. One suspected reason for why the AGDQ tends to be more popular is that it occurs during the holiday, making it more accessible by those who work during the SGDQ. Despite making less, the SGDQ was a major success and reinforces the input and support for the speedrunning gamer community.

For SGDQ, the highest single donation made during the event amounted to $20,300, and a total of 139 speed runs were held, meaning that players were able to accomplish more than the required total of 132. This goes to show how passionate the gamers are about these games, as they not only want to beat their individual games in the fastest time possible but in doing so try to complete more games. Some gaming categories included just single speedruns of players trying to beat the game, such as the already mentioned NieR: Automata and Final Fantasy VII, while in some other categories races were held as players tried to be the first to complete titles including Tetris: The Grand Master amongst other titles.

The SGDQ has progressed significantly since its inception seven years ago, where the first event raised $21,397, but there are passionate people whose ambition is for the event to generate more money to donate to the ‘Doctors Without Borders’ charity. Nevertheless, the SGDQ 2017 has been a massive undertaking and has the makings of a cultural touchstone for many in the gaming community. One tradition is for the event to begin and end with a new and old-fan favorite, which helps chapter the climate and feelings of the gaming community.

Since the events for 2017 have already concluded, fans already are waiting on the next AGDQ with baited breath in 2018. Thankfully, the dates have already been announced for next year, with the next Games Done Quick event occurring from January 7-14.

Tencent Market Cap $17.5B Drop

Tencent Holdings’ lost $17.5 billion of its market cap after a newspaper review described one of its products and harmful to teenagers. Tencent Holdings is the operator of China’s dominant social network, and is also known for being the publisher behind “King of Glory,” one of the world’s most popular role-playing mobile game.

The newspaper in question was the People’s Daily newspaper, often described as the Chinese communist mouthpiece, which reviewed the game and concluded that the game was a “poison” and a “drug” that had harmful effects on teenagers. This response was based on reports that the smartphone game was encouraging all-nighter gaming marathons, which was posing a threat to children’s growth and studies. As a result, Tencent’s shares dropped as much as 5.1%, plunging in Hong Kong trading.

The People’s Daily further criticized Tencent’s most profitable smartphone game by citing examples of how addictive games spread “negative energy,” and in some cases have even led to cases of deaths. Prior to the editorial being written, China’s biggest messaging and games company announced restrictions of children’s playing time through hour limits and parental controls. Players under the age of 12 will be restricted to one-hour playtime per day, and log-ins after 21:00 will not be allowed. Children above 12 until the age of 18 will be given at most 2 hours of playing time per day.

Tencent issued another statement that said the game’s design complies with government rule, and that the company will continue to accept the burden in light of its social responsibility contract accordingly. This is especially important in light of the popularity of the mobile game, and its increasing player pool across the country. The People’s Daily responded with an acknowledgment that the game is not evil by design, but that coordinated efforts are required by both the government and the game developer.

Despite the impact the critical newspaper editorial had on Tencent’s reputation and market cap, the game’s massive popularity means that the revenue stream developed by the game should not face a huge impact despite the latest government push to restricts user play time. “King of Glory” has a diversified player base that does not primarily focus on primary or middle school students. In fact, there is a significant portion of older players dedicated to the mobile game, and their play time should remain largely unaffected. Furthermore, players of younger ages often find ways around restrictions in order to allow themselves to continue playing the game, which should further stimulate and stabilize Tencent’s revenue stream.

Tencent’s response to this situation has been in line with their accepting of corporate social responsibility because not cooperating with the government has the potential of ruining their business. It is important to remember that market cap is an evaluation of a company’s performance and expected worth, and while it is not insignificant as a tool, a drop in the market cap is not the be all and end all. Considering that users under 17 years old account for about 20% of the mobile game’s player base, these regulations do have an impact, but not one that is completely detrimental to the company’s future growth.

It is also important that parents take responsibility on behalf of their children in ensuring that they supervise and moderate how much time children spend playing a mobile game. Between parent’s supervision and the company’s projected time restrictions, children will be facing a drastically reduced playing time, as well as reduced exposure to something that is considered harmful. It will be interesting to see if the restrictions apply only to Tencent considering the magnitude of their game’s popularity, or if the restrictions will expand to all mobile games that have users spending a significant portion of their day on.

Passengers Outraged Over Paying Uber Fare

Wisconsin couple Keith and Audra Tubin will need to pay almost $900 for an Uber fare on Monday. The Tubins used Uber to ride to a music festival last week and found out afterward that they would be needing to pay a tremendous bill. The Tubins believe themselves to have been overcharged, while Uber has responded by saying that the bill matches the expected price per mile, and therefore the Tubins must pay the fare.

Summerfest is a popular event that attracts thousands of people, and considering the nature of the event and how busy it is, many participants travel there by others means than their own vehicles. Uber is one option for transportation, and a service the Tubins have used regularly in the past.

After driving to their first spot, which was priced at around $200, Keith Tubin asked their Uber driver to drive to a couple more places. Multiple destinations with a single Uber driver is a commonly used feature, which has the customer enter in a new address once the first destination is reached. The price is matched according to the set price per miles at a time, which may be subject to change based on time and need. After reaching their final destination, the total accumulation of miles is priced, and the fare price is charged to the bank that owns the customer’s inputted credit card number.

Keith Tubin reports that upon waking up the next morning he faced a fraud alert on his credit card due to a charge of $898. Needless to say, the Tubins were shocked and did not understand how the fare had reached such a high price. Keith Tubin recounts how the initial fare was priced at $215 to an address on 55th Street in Milwaukee, and that they then added a stop on the East Side and two more stops in Brookfield. Keith Tubin firmly stated that the driver never told them how much the journey was going to cost.

Communications through e-mail with Uber reveal that the surge price was 8.6 times the normal cost, which means there was a high demand for Uber drivers at the time, which naturally drives up the price. Uber further states that the upfront price is no longer relevant once the new stops were added. Uber’s ruling of the bill was that after review the fare was in line with their estimates for a journey from the pickup location to the destination at the surge price. The fare has not been adjusted, much to the dismay of the Tubins.

When we think of corporate social responsibility, naturally the burden of responsibility lies on the corporations. There is often a contractual agreement implied that the corporations have taken the necessary steps to ensure that a product or service is safe, properly maintained and that all information regarding the product or service is accurate and represented. More often than not, corporations will take responsibility by paying the relevant legal fees and any refundable depending on context, because it is in their best interest to maintain a positive relationship with their customers. Without customers, businesses are unable to function, and given that customers usually have the power of choice, businesses would go above and beyond to ensure their relationship and reputation with customers is positive.

However, there are occasions when the customer is responsible, and these are times when it is necessary to accept the consequences of the implied social contract. If one fails to read the fine print such as surge prices or how the upfront price changes once stops are added, and this information is readily available for the customer to see, then the passenger is responsible for paying the price even if they do not like it. Customers make a contract with Uber drivers that they will be transported to their destination for a complimentary price, meaning that the Tubins need to pay the bill. If corporations were always responsible for every issue, then corporations would be open to being taken advantage of, resulting in a far greater loss than if they paid compensation.

While the Tubins “could have rented a limo for the whole night and had room for other people” while still saving money, they decided to take an Uber ride to four separate destinations during a high surge price. Now the Tubins need to pay their Uber bill.

Nintendo and Sony Switch in Market Cap

The Nintendo Switch has aided Nintendo’ s market capitalization surpass Sony’s company worth on the stock market. Nikkei reports Nintendo’s market cap reached 5.44 trillion yen on Friday, which is $48.9 billion, while Sony’s market cap as of Friday was $48.5 billion. While this is not the first time that Nintendo has managed to pass Sony, the most recent pass occurring 11 months ago, prior to this the last time Nintendo passed Sony was a decade ago, fueled by the popularity of the Wii.

When it comes to gaming consoles, sales are determined by personal preference based on popularity and innovation. The two main factors are the developments of new generation consoles that display newer technological opportunities that ideally translate into games as well, and the games themselves. With the recent E3 expo, Nintendo revealed many new titles for the Switch console which help drive an increase in sales in order to prepare from the coming influx of games.

When the Switch first came out, consumers were able to only choose from a small pool of games, many of which were playable on the Wii U, which resulted in a less impactful release. Despite this small amount, the quality of the games as shown by live video game streamers did help alleviate the effect a small sample size had. Combined with the underestimated demand that resulted in Nintendo providing a small supply, the Switch console itself was completely sold out prior to release at 2.4 million machines.

Sony, on the other hand dominated the market in regards to hardware sales and a game library second to none. The company has recently announced that PS4 sales have just passed 60.4 million units sold through the consumers, and not just shipped. With the recent display of functional variety that consoles have displayed, the need for multiple consoles has decreased, with only avid gamers purchasing more than one console  game. Instead, behavior patterns show that a combination of a console of choice and the PC provides more than enough game coverage.

However, now that Nintendo’s game pool has increased to 20+ titles along with the apology for the Switch shortage and the promise to increase the amount of Switch consoles available has reinvigorated the demand for the Switch. Nintendo will continue to do well considering their recent success at E3, provided the quality of the games live up to expectations. Nintendo’s revenue stream also relies heavily on selling toys that relate to their video games. With the rise of titles, Nintendo will also be able to capitalize on an increases in toy sales in tandem with their new games, further improving their revenue stream.

It is important to remember that market capitalization displays the estimated value of a company based on the sum of its shares multiplied by its stock prices. While important for the companies and future investors, this has a minimal effect on gamers as long as the market cap is healthy. Console consumers focus on the quality of the consoles and titles, and as long as Nintendo is able to supply the demand for both their consoles and games, while also continuing to innovate for future consoles and games, then the company maintain a strong market cap.

Can Trump Change First Quarter Economic Slump?

Among hopes that the Trump administration would improve economic activity, the U.S. economy in the first quarter grew more slowly than it has in three years. It is too soon to tell how effective Trump’s promise to improve economics, however, recent levels of activity do not paint a positive picture.

In the worst performance since 2014’s first quarter GDP raised only 0.7 percent. The Commerce Department stated Friday that this is due to a decrease in spending on defense.

This comes as a major change after the fourth quarter’s 2.1 percent growth pace. Many economists altered their first-quarter growth estimates on Thursday when the March goods trade deficit and inventory data was released.

Businesses invested less this quarter and consumer spending saw very little increase. Investment in inventory strengthened in the two-quarters previous but has now fallen from $49.6 billion in October through December to $10.3 billion. Likewise, the addition of 1.0 percent from inventory accumulation to national GDP growth has dropped to a 0.93 percent deduction.

Consumer spending experienced a hit from several factors. Heating and utilities were in lower demand because of mild temperatures this winter and the late issue of income tax refunds discouraged many consumers from pulling out their wallets for big spending. Likewise, higher inflation contributed to the decrease.

Consumer spending only grew 0.3 percent, hitting the economy hard as it contributes to over two-thirds of economic activity. After the fourth quarter’s rate of 3.5 percent this slow pace which hasn’t been reached since the fourth quarter of 2009 is a disappointment.

View of the Future

Nevertheless, spending is likely to increase in the future as savings have risen from $778.9 billion to $814.2 billion. Consumer confidence is at an unusually high and the labor market is experiencing greater levels of employment. Also, private domestic demand is 2.2 percent higher than at the beginning of last quarter.

Federal Reserve officials meet next week and are predicted to not raise interest rates. This is because they likely view the consumer spending and GDP decreases as temporary.

Growth rates in the first quarter are only a small portion of the information needed to judge the strength of the economy. The first quarter is often reported as less positive because of data calculation problems which the government hopes to solve. Furthermore, the Trump administration plans to take actions to improve the situation.

Efforts including less economic regulation, tax cuts, and infrastructure spending will soon go into effect. Also, a new tax plan to cut corporate income taxes from 35 percent to 15 percent was proposed Wednesday.

These actions may improve the situation but many economists agree that raising the annual GDP to 4 percent, Trump’s stated goal, will not be easy. A large increase in productivity is necessary.

National, state and local governments decreased investment rates. On a national level, the change in investment is as dramatic as the decrease in the fourth quarter of 2014.

Government spending on defense went down at a 4.0 pace while overall spending decreased at a rate of 1.7 percent.

Economic Hope

In some ways, things are looking up for the U.S. economy. Oil prices improved after a period of decline causing oil well drilling to rise. Along with the rise of gas, this led to a 9.1 percent growth rate for business spending on equipment.

Additionally, investment in home building went up by a 13.7 percent rate. Nonresidential structure spending changed from a 1.9 percent rate to a 22.1 percent rate after this quarter.

These increases in investment were likely caused by the 449 percent rate of growth of mining. This is after only a 23.7 percent raise in the fourth quarter.

Lastly, the 4.1 percent rate of increase in imports fell below the increase of exports at 5.8 percent. The small trade deficit had little to no effect on GDP growth.

FalseGuide Malware Sneaks into 600,000 User Phones Through Google Play Store

Android users might have put themselves in danger and not even know it. It’s estimated that over 600,000 users accidentally downloaded malware from Google Play. The malware, once downloaded, attempts to create a botnet which then brings fraudulent mobile adware and earns money for the cybercriminals responsible for the malware’s creation.

Cybersecurity researchers at Check Point discovered the sneaky malware and named it FalseGuide. The malware is hidden within over 40 fake companion guide applications for app games like Pokemon GO and FIFA Mobile. Check Point also found that the oldest of the malware was put on Google Play around February 14th of this year.

What makes things worse is the fact that several of the apps have been downloaded more than 50,000 times. It’s also believed that over 600,000 android user mistakenly downloaded this malware thinking it was a guide for their games.

But this isn’t the first time Google Play has been harboring some bad bugs. In fact, other malware like Viking Horde and DressCode tried to create Android botnets just as FalseGuide is doing now.

What happens is that the FalseGuide malware attempts to create faulty mobile adware. It will download and display what appears to be legitimate pop-up adverts with the purpose of bringing cash to its creators through ad display. Once it’s been downloaded, the FalseGuide malware will then request admin permission. This allows the malware to ensure that it cannot be deleted by the user.

That’s one way to tell that an app is up to no good.

But this isn’t known when it uploads itself to Google Play. That’s the main point of the malware’s creation is go in undetected. The only time it is suspected as fraudulent is after it has been downloaded into the user device, and the user has given it admin permission.

After it’s been installed into the device, the malware will then send notifications with the name like “Guide for Pokémon Go.” It has already registered itself to Firebase Cloud Messaging which is a cross-platform service that gives the creators permission to send these notifications.

The use of Firebase is what the FalseGuide malware depends on in order to receive additional modules and download those to the user’s device. FalseGuide’s pop-up ads will almost always be out of context and will use background service that starts the minute the infected device boots up.

Yet it is not just making money through ads that the malware developers can use FalseGuide for. In fact, it can receive other instruction modules from the command-and-control server. Those instructions can have the malware create botnets to root the device, conduct a DDoS attack, or even sneak into private networks.

The real question is who is behind the creation of the FalseGuide malware? It is suspected that the app originated from Russia due to the fact that they were submitted under Russian name of two fake developers—Sergei Vernik and Nikolai Zalupkin—but Russian-speaking researchers say that the latter is clearly a false name. So there’s really no telling who created it.

It is obvious why they chose Google Play apps for their target audience. The games are very popular and generate a large audience. There’s also the fact that the apps do not need much when it comes to features and development, so making them is rather easy.

Check Point told Google back in February that it had an unwanted visitor. Google then quickly removed the malware from the Play Store. Yet even after the malware was removed, its creators didn’t seem to give up. They kept uploading more malware apps into the Play Store around April. Once again Check Point notified Google who had the malware removed once again.

A Google spokesperson commented on the matter saying that the company is always “making improvements to our system.” Google’s spokesperson also wanted users to know that the company takes threats like this one very seriously and “tries to take immediate action whenever a questionable app is brought to our attention.”

FalseGuide has once again been removed from the Google Play Store, but it’s possible that traces of it still survive due to the vast number of installs it’s had since its creation. While Google, and companies like it, do everything in their power to protect the billions of its users, malware like FalseGuide will always find a crack in the armor to slip through.

Burger King Ad Sparks Old Debate About Voice Devices

A new Burger Kind ad was created to be able to trigger Googles voice-activated Home smart speaker. This ad was put in place to help advertise the Whopper but unfortunately doesn’t seem to be working anymore.

The ad came out Wednesday and has an actor playing a Burger King worker say, “OK Google: What is the Whopper burger?” Saying that line was supposed to trigger your Google app to read off the definition of the Whopper per it’s Wikipedia page.

It was just three short hours after the ad was launched that it stopped working. Google would simply light up and stay silent. If you prompted it to read you the definition of the “Whopper burger”, however, it would give you the Wikipedia articles first line but wasn’t responding to the commercial’s prompt.

Burger King made a statement confirming that the ad no longer recognizes the speaker and that the trigger doesn’t seem to be working anymore. The fast food giant did say that they expect the ad to start working again soon. A spokesperson for Burger King Brooke Scher Mogan said that consumers will have to “tune in tonight to see if the commercials triggers the Whopper sandwich definition response.”

Google, on the other hand, didn’t give any response to the matter. In fact, a source from the company says that Google was not informed about the ad by the fast food chain before the commercials shooting.

In the past, many commercials have accidentally triggered voice assistant apps in people’s homes. This, however is the first time a food chain has tried to do it intentionally. While it might seem like a clever idea and a great way to sell burgers for Burger King, some consumers in the YouTube comments section weren’t too pleased with the idea.

In fact, one comment read, “When you take over someone’s phone or tablet and have it do your own remote commands intentionally, you are HACKING.”

Yet despite many people thinking that Burger King is trying to hack them, it might be good that the trigger doesn’t work. Not long after the ad aired, many people took to the internet and started changing the first line of the Wikipedia article. Wikipedia users altered the definition to say things like the Whopper was “cancer-causing.” Users even added ingredients like “cyanide” to the burger definition.

It would also seem that after the ad backfired and Wikipedia users began changing things up, Burger King decided to backpedal. They took things into their own hands and soon wonderful descriptions of the Whopper began showing up on the article site. In fact, one description was changed by “Fermachado123.”

It could only be coincidence that the user name noted above sounds suspiciously like Burger King’s senior vice president for global brand management’s Fernando Machado. Burger King, however, didn’t confirm or deny that Machado made any edits to the Wikipedia site.

Yet it isn’t just the idea of being hacked that slightly frightens consumers. Privacy concerns revolving around voice-activated speakers has steadily began to increase. It’s gotten higher since more companies have made attempts to bring this technology to their products. This in turn puts even more pressure on voice-operated security systems and even door locks who are trying to make sure that user devices won’t be trigger by unwanted voices.

The use of advertisement on Google Home has been questioned by a large number of consumers. Many of them simply don’t want to be spammed by what they consider to be personal assistants. Google received a good deal of criticism after an advertisement for “Beauty and the Beast” appeared around the time of the films first showings.

In order to make amends to users, Google issued a statement saying that what users saw wasn’t an ad. The company said that bringing up the film was a way to get users to know about what was timely that day. A Google spokesperson went on to say, “We’re continuing to experiment with new ways to surface unique content for users, and we could have done better in this case.”

As for Burger King, it’s safe to estimate that this epic advertising fail won’t have any bearing on Whopper sales. With fast food still being one of the largest and quickest meal choices, there are over billions of Whoppers sold worldwide. Burger King is probably already back at the drawing board with new advertising ideas.

 

Wage Violations Lead Disney to Pay $3.8 Million in Back Wages

Disney has a reputation for being the creator of the most magical movies and places that children and adults love. However, 16,339 of its employees don’t think the Walt Disney Co.
is so magical. The company as agreed to provide $3.8 million in back wages to those thousands of employees due to an investigation done by the U.S. Labor Department.

The Labor Department found that Disney had been making dozens of violations against minimum wage, overtime, and record-keeping laws. The Labor Department’s investigation found that Disney wasn’t paying its employees for the fifteen minutes of work before and after shifts. That was coupled with the fact that uniform costs were deducted which in turn brought down the hourly rates of the employees. The hourly rates that fell were below that of the federal minimum wage.

When it came to record keeping, Disney did not maintain the records required for the number of hours that many employees had worked.

While the Labor Department won’t disclose what caused them to make this investigation, it’s said that the payment agreement covers 700 employees that worked at Old Key West Resort since November 2103. Fifteen thousand other Disney employees working throughout Florida at other resorts since January 2015 will receive their share of compensation as well.

Aside from giving its employees the money they deserve, Disney is prompted by the agreement to better train their managing staff. Managers will be taught about what constitutes as “compensable work time.” The expected training also covers other aspects that the company lacks such as signing out keys and logging onto computers.

United Here is the union that represents Disney’s hotel workers and, according to a source, has not provided any comments on the situations. However, Daniel White who works as district director for Jacksonville’s Wage and Hour Division stated that “These violations are not uncommon and are found in other industries, as well.”

Disney did make a statement following the investigation. A spokesperson for the company said, “The Department of Labor has identified a group of cast members who may have performed work outside of their scheduled shift, and we will be providing a one-time payment to resolve this. We are adjusting our procedures to avoid this in the future.”

Disney workers can expect to see their compensation distributed by July 31.

Nintendo Switch Will Leave a Bad Taste in Your Mouth

Nintendo’s gaming cartridges for the Switch will leave gamers with a bitter taste in their mouths. Literally. The company has reportedly added “the most-bitter chemical compound known to humanity,” to its cartridges for the Nintendo Switch. The chemical, denatonium benzoate, is often used to apply to things that most companies don’t want people put in their mouths or attempt to ingest.

Since the Switch is designed to be portable for gaming convenience, there is no disc drive. Like many other hand-held Nintendo devices, the games come on small cartridges.

Like most things, we as humans can’t believe it until we see it or, in this case, taste it. This was proved when many took to Twitter to announce that they had experienced the horrific taste first hand. Even the co-founder of the video game blog Giant Bomb, Jeff Gerstmann, Tweeted, “I put that Switch cart in my mouth and I’m not sure what those things are made of but I can still taste it. Do not try this at home.”

Yet the one question that many seem to find themselves asking is why would Nintendo make the cartridges taste so horrible? The truth is that the chemical coating the cartridges is there the prevent kids, and even gamers and bloggers, from putting the devices in their mouths. Denatonium is used in a vast majority of items to prevent human consumption. It can be found in antifreeze, paints, and even nail polish to prevent people from chewing on their nails.

The spokesperson who spoke with Polygon made sure to note that while this chemical has been added to the cartridges, it is non-toxic.

Nintendo Reports Its First Stolen Switch

Nintendo says the Switch a NeoGAF user posted photos from earlier on Thursday was stolen. This accusation came not long after the user posted photos from the device and claimed to have bought it from a store he couldn’t quite identify. Nintendo says that the Switch was stolen those who work with a distributor in the United States. Not too long after the photos were posted, the user says he returned the device.

Two days after the NeoGAF user hiphoptherobot opened the device and posted videos of the Switch’s interface, he wrote on a NeoGAF message board that he sent the Switch back to Nintendo. Many other users were under the impression that hiphoptherobot had been pressured by the company to return a device he rightfully obtained through a common retail mistake. However, in later posts to the message board hiphoptherobot made it clear that the Switch had not been obtained through legal means.

Hiphoptherobot told a source that the moment he realized that the Switch had been stolen was after he posted the videos. He also stressed that the moment he realized that the device had not been attained legally he sent it back to Nintendo.

Back in January, Nintendo hosted a launch of the Switch. During the presentations, there was talk about the device and what it would feature for its users. Nintendo told users it could expect the device to be available for purchase around March 3rd. In the U.S., it was estimated that the Switch will sell for around $299.99, whereas in Canada users can purchase it for CAN$329.  Since the January presentation, the Switch has been available for pre-order for the prices listed previously.

In response to this incident Nintendo made a statement to IGN saying:

 “Earlier this week, individuals claimed to prematurely purchase a small number of Nintendo Switch systems from an unspecified retailer. Nintendo has determined these units were stolen in an isolated incident by employees of a U.S. distributor, with one system being illegally resold. The individuals involved have been identified, terminated from their place of employment and are under investigation by local law enforcement authorities on criminal charges.”