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Data Sheet—Disney's Streaming Service Will Be One of the Great Self-Attacks of Our Time

Sadness, Fear, Anger, Disgust, Joy in Disney Pixar's "Inside Out" Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation Studios

Cannibalization is by far the most difficult feat any established, successful company can pull off. Disney’s efforts to create a streaming video service years after Netflix and then Amazon beat the entertainment giant to market will be one of the great self-attacking experiments of our time.

The challenge is an old one. What to do with a leading business that’s challenged by a new technology wave without hurting an existing profit stream? The single greatest example of recent memory is Apple’s willingness to decimate iPod sales by incorporating all the category-defining product’s features into a new gizmo, the iPhone. The iPod was once so important to Apple that the estimable journalist Steven Levy wrote an entire book about it. And then, poof! The iPod was nearly gone. Yet Apple barely looked back.

Now Disney belatedly plans its own streaming service. Longtime CEO Bob Iger unveiled some new details about the service Thursday, including that it will be less expensive than Netflix, that it will launch in the second half of 2019, and that new TV series based on big Disney-owned franchises will be part of the service.

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Can Disney pull off this magic trick? Its quarterly results revealed it has no choice and that perhaps Iger should have gotten on with things sooner. Film, TV, sports, and cable all were dark spots for Disney in the quarter. Only theme parks shined.

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The reliable way great conglomerates grew over time was by adding new products and buying new companies. IBM moved from mainframe to PCs. Disney moved from movies to parks to mega-acquisitions like Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm.

Growing by embracing new technology and competing against oneself before true competitors do the job is tougher by far.

Have a good weekend, and thank a veteran for his or her service if you get the chance.

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A correction: I wrote yesterday that Chinese Internet giant Tencent had invested in mapping technology firm HERE Technologies. In fact, the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. recently blocked the investment.

NEWSWORTHY

National Bank of Facebook. One of the Trump administration’s top banking regulators, albeit serving in a temporary capacity, suggested ending a ban on commercial companies (say like Walmart or Amazon) owning and operating their own banks. “Such dogma props up bureaucracies that maintain the separation and serves the interest of the status quo without regard to why the separation exists in the first place or whether the separation has any usefulness for today’s economy,” Keith Noreika, head of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, said in a speech on Thursday.

Mic drop. Lip-syncing app maker Musical.ly has been sold to Chinese social media giant Beijing Bytedance Technology for as much as $1 billion. Founded in 2014, Musical.ly says 100 million people, mostly U.S. teens, use its app to create their own music video-like selfies.

What about us. Hewlett Packard Enterprise doesn’t want to be left out of the cryptocurrency blockchain tech mania, especially when rival IBM has been so active. On Friday, HPE announced it would offer its own blockchain platform to customers that will run software much like the distributed digital ledger of bitcoin transactions.

Not just gaming. Sales of Nvidia’s new Volta GPU line are booming thanks to demand from cloud data centers and other customers who run machine learning and AI apps. That helped Nvidia blast through Wall Street expectations for the third quarter with a 32% revenue increase to $2.6 billion. The stock, already almost double where it started the year, was up 3% in premarket trading on Friday.

About time. Reddit banned an online forum where commenters promoted misogyny and advocated violence against women. The now-blocked forum was called “Incels,” a term that refers to men who blame women for their celibacy.

So sue me. AT&T may go to court to challenge antitrust regulators who want to block the carrier’s acquisition of Time Warner, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said on Thursday. “If we feel like litigation is a better outcome then we will litigate,” Stephenson said at the New York Times DealBook conference.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Uber Just Lost Another Battle in the U.K. By David Meyer

Nvidia CEO See ‘Great Loss’ for Rival AMD After Intel Hires Exec By Aaron Pressman

Here’s Why Twitter Won’t Suspend Donald Trump’s Account By Lucinda Shen

Sean Parker Wonders What Facebook Is ‘Doing to Our Children’s Brains’ By Tom Huddleston Jr.

Alibaba’s Singles Day Extravaganza Has a Boozy Twist This Year By David Meyer

Disney Says ‘The Last Jedi’ Director Will Launch a Whole New ‘Star Wars’ Trilogy By Tom Huddleston Jr.

Qualcomm Tries to Get More Credit for Having the Fastest Wireless Modems By Aaron Pressman

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Bitcoin may have burst onto the scene just a few years ago, but financiers have been dealing in currencies for hundreds of years and some of their wisdom can help understand what exactly is going with the wildly gyrating price of the world’s most popular cryptocurrency (now down $1,000 in the past few days).

Bloomberg columnist Andy Mukherjee uses an age-old technique from the futures market to compare the price action of bitcoin to other currency and commodity markets. Comparing how much it cost to buy a bitcoin today with how much it would cost to buy one in one month using a futures contract from Deribit reveals that investors demand an implied 57% annual rate of interest for the delay. You don’t need me to tell you, that’s very high, as Mukherjee concludes:

Ridiculously high borrowing costs lend credence to bitcoin doubters like J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. chief Jamie Dimon and Credit Suisse Group AG CEO Tidjane Thiam, who has described the digital currency as the “very definition of a bubble.” Until those rates come down, the naysayers will be right to remain skeptical.

FOR YOUR WEEKEND READING PLEASURE

A few interesting longer reads I came across that are suitable for your weekend reading pleasure.

For Amazon, The Future of Alexa Is About the End of the Smartphone Era
“The tenet that we believe in is that voice is a simplifier,” says Miriam Daniel, Amazon’s head of product management for Alexa. “And once you design voice actions, then go back to a touch action, you’ve actually removed a lot of friction because you’ve started at a different baseline.”

In the Loop: Jony Ive on Apple’s New HQ and the Disappearing iPhone
A day later, Apple’s design chief is in a suite in the Carlyle hotel on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, the most un-Appley of places, all white-gloved lift operators and early 20th-century swank. Now 50, Ive is physically imposing but soft-spoken and as warm and likeable as his reputation suggests. He is, by his own admission, giddily excited about the new building and its possibilities. And those carefully framed views.

Snap’s Rise and Fall: How a Big, Splashy IPO Prompted the Doubters to Keep Mum
One banker involved in the IPO said he thought the lack of voting shares and other decisions could imperil the company’s standing with investors, possibly hurting its stock price. But he said he didn’t articulate that to Snap’s executives for fear of jeopardizing his spot on the prized deal.

The Uncomfortable Secret to Creative Success Is “Disequilibrium”
But now, the team has tears in their eyes. They are frustrated and exhausted. Post-It notes cover the walls in disordered clusters, and many lie crumbled on the ground. A stack of flip-chart pages on the floor contain sketched Venn diagrams and pyramids, remnants of attempts to wrangle the insights into a framework. The team is on edge, pointing to the clock, aware of every minute left before the scheduled call with the client.

BEFORE YOU GO

The new Google Pixelbook is out. You can even run down to your local Best Buy and try out the keyboard and such. The very concept of a $1,000 Chromebook is controversial. Brilliant YouTube tech reviewer Marques Brownlee, who goes by MKBHD, says it’s just “super weird.” I’m going to try one next week and see how much of my work I can get done. Stay tuned.

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