A Blog by Jonathan Low


Nov 28, 2020

Black Friday Ecommerce Hits $9 Billion, $3.6 Billion On Mobile Phones

Smartphones account for a growing proportion of ecommerce sales which, in turn, account for a growing proportion of retail sales. JL

Ingrid Lunden reports in Tech Crunch:

US consumers spent $9 billion online on Black Friday, up 21.6% on a year ago.The figure makes Black Friday the second-largest online spending day in US history (after 2019’s Cyber Monday). Smartphones continued to account for an increasing proportion of online sales, with this year’s $3.6 billion up 25.3%, while alternative deliveries — a sign of the e-commerce space maturing — also continued to grow, with in-store and curbside pickup up 52% on 2019.

How the Streaming Wars Are Frustrating Viewers By Limiting Access

Consumers are being forced by competing streaming services to hunt for the shows they want to watch. But the streamers' demands for sole dominance may be both unrealistic and counterproductive. JL 

Peter Kafka reports in Re/code:

The collateral damage of the streaming wars bring you an enormous amount of choice about what you can watch and where you can watch it — but also require you to make sure the device and streaming service you want to use are playing together nicely.  You can pick and choose between streaming TV packages that have just about everything or “skinny bundles." On the other hand, you can’t watch Peacock, Comcast’s new streaming service, on Amazon’s Fire TV, or Apple TV+ on Google devices

AstraZeneca Covid Vaccine To Undergo New Trial As Doubts Emerge About Results

After a relatively triumphant results announcement, the Oxford-AstaZeneca vaccine is under attack and the company's stock price has plummeted as a result. 

There is concern about the age (no one over 55) and ethnic diversity of the trial participants as well as the nature of the trial outcome data, which some believe may have been statistically muddled to produce a result closer to that of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. The new trial is intended to clear up the inconsistencies and produce a more reliable final report before it is submitted for approval. JL

Sarah Boseley reports in The Guardian:

The news of the (new) trial came after the headline figure for the vaccine’s overall efficacy was put at 70% – as announced by the company. But a sub-set of fewer than 3,000 people in the UK was given a lower dose regime – originally by accident – where the efficacy rose to 90%. In most trial volunteers in Brazil and the UK, it was 62%. Researchers had no explanation for the 90% result in people given a half dose followed by a whole dose of the vaccine, instead of two doses. One analyst wrote “we believe this product will never be licensed in the US” and alleged the company had tried to “embellish” the results.

Disney Lays Off 32,000 As Pandemic Impacts Theme Parks

While the launch of its Disney+ streaming service has been a success given the millions stuck at home in various stages of quarantine, this has not been sufficient to offset the losses engendered by the closing of theme parks and closing of movie theaters. JL

Jon Porter reports in The Verge:

Disney plans to lay off around 32,000 employees, mainly in its theme parks business. It’s an increase of 4,000 compared to the 28,000 layoffs it initially announced back in September. Its theme park troubles combined with forced delays or changed release plans for several of its tent-pole cinematic releases, lead to Disney posting a rare pair of quarterly losses this year. Along with the layoffs, Disney said it’s considering additional measures like reducing its investments in film and TV content, halting capital spending, and furloughing more employees.

How New Covid Mask Models Are Relieving Pressure On N95 Supplies

As the pandemic continues and recent surges create concern, manufacturers are finally beginning to recognize opportunity and meet demand for higher quality masks that do not impinge on supplies medical and hospital usage. JL

Austen Hufford reports in the Wall Street Journal:

Manufacturers are introducing face masks for general use that they say offer more protection than cloth coverings without taxing supplies of N95 masks. N95s have been in short supply since the pandemic began. The new surge in cases is putting fresh strain on U.S. stockpiles.The new masks are designed to fill a hole in the medical-gear market as Covid-19 cases surge—something for nonmedical people worried about exposure in their day-to-day lives.

As Consumers Move Online, Holiday Shopping Follows Them

The pandemic has further accelerated a trend that began with the rise of ecommerce. 

And merchandising executives believe these changes will be permanent as consumers appreciate the convenience combined with stable or lower prices. JL

Michael Corkery and Sapna Maheshwari report in the New York Times:

Last week, Walmart reported e-commerce sales increased 79% in the third quarter, while Target said its e-commerce business was up 155%. Amazon’s sales increased 37% and its profit was up nearly 200%. Retail executives said the growth was the result of a permanent shift in how people shop. (In New York) the number of retail leases signed or renewed dropped 31% from a year ago and rents fell 13%. Online sales are expected to increase at their fastest rate in 12 years, accounting for 20% of retail purchases this year.

Nov 27, 2020

It Took A Pandemic To Change the Movie Business

The pandemic of 1918 spurred the creation of the studio system. 

The pandemic of 2020 is now reordering the filming, financing, distribution and consumption of contemporary movies. The questions is whether these changes will last as long as the previous ones did. JL

Jake Coyle reports in AP:

Much remains uncertain about how the movie business will survive the pandemic. But it’s increasingly clear that Hollywood won’t be the same afterward. Just as the Spanish Flu, which weeded out smaller companies and contributed to the formation of the studio system, COVID-19 is remaking Hollywood, accelerating a digital makeover. By streaming, video-on-demand, virtual theater or actual theater, films have been released under COVID-19 every week. The Times has reviewed 460 new movies since mid-March. “It will be a new studio system. Instead of MGM and Fox, they’re going to be Disney and Disney+, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, HBO Max."