ViacomCBS Shareholders Start To Support Company’s Layoffs

The newly merged company has had a rocky start to the year 2020, however the sudden surge in television ratings due to the COVID-19 pandemic may be their saving grace.

ViacomCBS has experienced a significant stock increase this week, which is making investors warm up to the idea of the massive layoffs that have been occurring. Approximately, 500 to 700 employees are to be let go across different departments of the whole giant media company. According to Deadline, one of the most affected divisions is Entertainment and Youth. This has all been part of what the company’s CEO describes as “intergrating and streamlining” their operations.

While the consequences of the coronavirus may be beneficial to some parts of the company, they are disastrous to others. Paramount Pictures, for example, cannot produce any type of content or even release films.

Viacom and CBS officially merged in December of last year and will continue to operate under the bigger corporate umbrella National Amusements. It will be interesting to observe if ViacomCBS manages to find its footing in the industry within the year and what divisions of the company will be most negatively affected by this pandemic.



YouTube’s Efforts Against Coronavirus Misinformation

The popular video platform, YouTube, announced a new feature to counter the popular theories and other scientifically-inaccurate videos about COVID-19. They had been using fact-check pop-up alerts whenever users would type in a search prompt that tends to lead to misinformation

They call them “fact-check information panels” and each one links to third-party articles that disprove some of the videos that allegedly hold information about the coronavirus. YouTube implemented measures to detain the spread of the wide array of conspiracy theories that have been popping up ever since the pandemic. Some of these include the rumors about 5G signals being somehow related to the virus and videos about false cures or remedies.

A Pew Research study published in 2018 stated that YouTube is the second most used social media platform US adults use as a resource to get information. Knowing that, in my opinion, they should have implemented measures like these before. I imagine they didn’t do it because it might seem annoying or set its users off. Nevertheless, now we know it is possible for them to apply similar features into their platform and play a more active role against the spread of misinformation, not just hide behind the Terms and Policies.


China bans ‘Animal Crossing’ After Players Use It To Protest

Player of Animal Crossing: New Horizons protesting against Chinese government policies.

The government protests against China to free Hong Kong continue as some of the activists get creative by moving their demonstrations onto the popular Nintendo game Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

As people move over to a quarantined lifestyle, many around the globe were expecting the release of the highly-anticipated Switch game Animal Crossing. The simulation game allows you to customize your own island and hang out with the villagers, as well as visit your friends’ islands and have fun together. You can also create your own art pieces and communicate with other players.

Hong Kong activists have used these feature to their advantage in order to gather and showcase their protests against the Chinese government. They used the art customization feature and decorated their islands with protest slogans and pictures of Chinese government officials.

China took notice of this and started banning the game across the nation. The game wasn’t yet available in China, but Nintendo Switch users can buy imported versions of the game simply by changing their region on their account. This is why the Chinese government banned the main hub of imported games, Taobao, from selling the game.

It is increasingly interesting how people are thinking outside the box to use platforms as wholesome as the Animal Crossing franchise and making it into their tools to protest.

Even though this is not an American issue, it is incredibly important, not only because history is being made (I highly suggest you read about the Hong Kong issue), but also because of the opportunities new digital technologies like these make possible.


NBCUniversal Decreases Commercial Time In Favor of Advertisers

Programming of NBCUniversal

The giant media company announced on April 6th that they will reduce the amount of commercials and have room for more interrupted content.

Even though there is a surge in TV viewership, advertisers are pushing back on commercials because of the pandemic. Some industries struggle to maintain relevancy and it might even be more damaging to their brand to promote themselves, because they could come off as offensive. As these marketers struggle to shape their messaging in a relevant and respectful way, NBCUniversal is helping them by limiting the commercial time and offering their creative services teams as a resource for a waived fee.

Some of the channels that will hold more uninterrupted content are MSNBC, NBC News, CNBC, and Telemundo. During primetime, they will substitute some commercial time with clips from their comedy late-night shows. NBCUniversal also plans to hold (almost) commercial-free movie nights for families.


New Research Shows Belief of Pandemic’s Origin May Depend on What News Source You Watch

The research was conducted by the Pew Research Center as part of their Election News Pathways Project.

According to a poll research by the Pew Research Center, American viewers who watch MSNBC are more likely to believe the coronavirus developed naturally in Wuhan, China, while Fox News viewers are more likely to go the conspiracy theory route.

Virologists and researchers have stated that the deadly virus’s origin came from local wildlife, debunking quite a few of Fox News claims. The survey’s data listed that about 66% of the respondents who watch MSNBC believe COVID-19 occurred naturally. Meanwhile, approximately 37% of Fox News viewers think the same.

Back in February, during the early stages of this pandemic arriving in the United States, a Fox correspondent and analyst from Fox Asia, Gordon Chang, stated on the cable television network that the coronavirus may have originated from the Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory. This is an incorrect possibility, fact-checked by scientists.

Along these lines, President Trump has often referred to the virus as the “China virus” or the “Chinese virus”. However, he mentioned in a recent interview with Fox News that he will stop using that phrase in spite of his claims that China has attributed the COVID-19’s origin to American soldiers in Wuhan. Whether or not this is true (in my opinion, it’s probably not true, considering the President has lied numerous times before), it has been labeled as “race-baiting” by critics. Others believe Trump’s attempt at pushing the blame towards China is a strategy to improve his declining approval rating. What do you think?


A new ‘Angry Birds’ series is flying into Netflix

Image of The Angry Birds Movie (2016).

The popular franchise Angry Birds has gone from mobile video game to movie, and now, to television series. Netflix ordered a new series titled Angry Birds: Summer Madness to be produced by Cake and Rovio Entertainment, the same companies that have nurtured the popular animation since its early days on the phone screen. It is scheduled to premiere globally next year.

Angry Birds is an insanely popular brand, that not only produces digital content, but also toys and clothing. This all equals potential revenue. The market most attractive to advertisers tends to be children’s media because of the possibility to basically sell toys and fun, cool accessories.

For the past few years, Netflix has been heavily investing in children’s content in order to compete with Disney+ and possibly the upcoming Peacock.

It is really interesting to witness and observe the changes in children’s content as media consumption moves to digital platforms and streaming.


Comcast Finds a New Way To Make Money Amidst Pandemic

Sourced from The Adelaide Review

As most states continue to enforce social distancing measures, many businesses where many people gather are shutting down. This includes movie theaters. Which is why NBCUniversal will be offering new movies on-demand for you to watch at home instead.

Jeff Shell, CEO of the company, said in a statement “we wanted to provide an option for people to view these titles in the home that is both accessible and affordable.” He says this is a better option compared to having to delay or release the films in the “challenged distribution landscape” we are currently living in.

Starting with Trolls World Tour (a Dreamworks film, which is a company under Comcast), those subscribed to Comcast Cable and Sky as well as other affiliated on-demand services will be able to rent “Now Showing in Theaters” films for $19.99 and for a period of two days. Other movies that will be released on-demand are The Invisible Man, Emma and The Hunt.

This somewhat of a power move might spark a change in the TV and film industry during the coronavirus era. Disney, one of the other media beasts in the world, also took a similar initiative by making Frozen II available for streaming on Disney + three months ahead of schedule.

As people stay quarantined in their homes, it seems like a pretty smart move for these companies to make money by focusing on their streaming services. Additionally, it wouldn’t surprise me if other media companies continued to drive a lot of its focus towards their digital and streaming services and products within the next few months. Pandemic or not, this all might translate into a significant market shift for advertisers, as they have to move in the direction the audience is consuming media inside their homes. However, this also poses a challenge for movie theater companies as well as their employees, who have not been able operate or provide their movie-going experience.


Comcast Spectator and Nerd Street Gamers

Philadelphia’s Possible Future as a Main Hub for Esports, Through Comcast

The Philly-based esports company Nerd Street Gamers recently added Comcast CEO’s son, Tucker Roberts, to their board of directors.

This all happens as Nerd Street Gamers, an organization focused on developing training, building facilities and producing events for esports, prepares to build approximately 100 esports centers around the nation all within a period of five years. Roberts is currently the president of Comcast Spectator’s gaming division in South Philadelphia, which also includes the local esports team Philadelphia Fusion. Comcast Spectator is the entertainment and sports company under Comcast that owns the Wells Fargo Center, along with the Philadelphia Flyers.

Comcast isn’t the only company supporting Nerd Street Gamers. Other companies that have created alliances with this esports pioneer are SeventySix Capital, Elevate Ventures, and Five Below. In fact, they plan to establish some of their 100 new facilities inside some Five Below locations and college campuses, such as the local Rowan University.

It should also be mentioned that Comcast Spectator plans to open the first esports arena in the United States called Fusion Arena in South Philadelphia.

All of these steps led by Comcast may put Philadelphia as a top city for esports, an ever-growing and money-making industry. But this also shows the huge control and influence that Comcast has over the city and its economy. Whether you support it or not, it seems like Philadelphia’s future is determined by that telecommunications beast.


What Harvey Weinstein’s future in prison means for the industry and its consumers

Image source: ABC News

The previously influential film producer, Harvey Weinstein was found guilty of charges related to sexual assault last Monday, February 24 by a jury in New York City: a huge win for women in the media industry, as well as women in general.

The whole Harvey Weinstein issue that boosted #MeToo dates back to more than two years ago. It’s been a long journey for the Times Up movement, and this seems to mark the beginning of what some actresses and female producers are calling a “new era of justice.”

Weinstein was officially found guilty of sexual assault in the first degree and rape in the third degree. To this day, the 67 year-old has denied every single accusation of nonconsensual sex. The co-founder of Miramax is also scheduled to face other sexual assault charges in a Los Angeles court.

By the end of the verdict, Weinstein was handcuffed and sent to jail until his sentence, which is set to happen next month. His jail-time penalty could range from five to 25 years. Even though he and his lawyers managed to avoid the other three more serious accusations, this all marks a point in history that might spark a domino effect to take action towards the other many sexual assault-related accusations within the film and media industry that remain uncovered.

Now, what does this all mean on a much larger scale for other media companies? Well, they have to be even more careful and “woke”. In media management, a company’s reputation is everything. So, now they must be be morally better, and therefore support that morality. They should support those who speak up, instead of covering up the scandals.

As for us consumers, we must make sure to keep the momentum going and use our voices somehow. To our advantage, audiences have a bit more leverage over the decision making of media and production companies, compared to a few years ago.


Mark Zuckerberg wants regulation! Yay?

According to experts, this might not mean what you think it means.

This past weekend, Mark Zuckerberg visited Europe to show his support for regulation. Yes. That’s right. This is great news right? Unfortunately, no. This doesn’t mean that Zuckerberg had a change of heart. According to experts, the “regulation” Zuckerberg asks for is his definition of regulation. They say that he continues to avoid responsibility for the bad and damaging content on his platform, all while making sure the regulations approved are “toothless”.

The Facebook CEO dismissed all the evidenced claims about his platform contributing to political polarization, among other things, at the Munich Security Conference last Saturday. He argued that the social media platform should be regulated like something in between a newspaper and a telecommunications company, while acknowledging that it would simply be impossible to keep up with the insane amount of content posted everyday – the amount is in the billions.

Later Sunday, the Financial Times published an interview with Mark Zuckerberg where he expanded his willingness to welcome regulation. He had stated before that the areas for which he mostly supports state regulation are “elections, political discourse, privacy, and data portability.” In the op-ed piece, he told FT “I believe good regulation may hurt Facebook’s business in the near term but it will be better for everyone, including us, over the long term.” He later added “to be clear, this isn’t about passing off responsibility.”

After this, experts and academics continued to criticize Zuckerberg for his “hypocritical” stance and Facebook’s overall lack of accountability for many issues such as the rise of extremist groups who use Facebook to nurture hate speech. They come to this conclusion because there has been a significant investment in lobbying efforts from Facebook towards the lawmakers involved in the development of Europe’s Digital Services Act, a law that intends to regulate the internet.

As future media professionals, this is obviously something to follow closely; but it’s also important to analyze on a deeper level how an American company (in this case Facebook) has become so powerful, it aims to control or seriously influence the decisions of other countries.