CES 2023: 5G will bring high-end gaming ‘to the masses’, says Razer boss

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Fri, 6th Jan 2023) London, Uk – –

Gaming is not usually a huge focus at CES, but this year the world's biggest consumer electronics event has seen several announcements – including from industry heavyweights Sony and Razer.

5G mobile internet will “bring PC gaming to the masses”, according to one of the industry's most influential chief executives.

Min-Liang Tang, co-founder and chief executive of hardware giant Razer, told Sky News he believes the superfast connectivity standard will “expand the market significantly” – and not just for the likes of Microsoft and Sony.


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Both are heavily invested in cloud gaming on their Xbox and PlayStation platforms, respectively, but Mr Tang says games usually reserved for high-end gaming computers would soon be ubiquitous on smartphones.

“It's one of the biggest innovations out there for gaming,” he told Ian King Live.

“It puts high-powered gaming into the hands of low powered devices through cloud gaming. That's what 5G really promises to bring to all gamers everywhere.”

The comments come on the day of Razer's presentation at the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas, the biggest tech show in the world.

This year, the company unveiled its new Razer Edge, the first Android handheld gaming tablet on the market. The device is capable of playing games locally on the device, or streaming them remotely via 5G.

But Mr Tang predicted that console gaming would also “do incredibly well” out of 5G, even though its rollout has left Britons underwhelmed so far.

With the advent of faster internet, game streaming will likely become increasingly appealing even to those who use premium consoles like the PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X.

Unlike streaming films and TV via services like Netflix, streaming games demands much faster speeds, as any latency between pressing a button and the action on-screen can ruin the experience.

Gaming ‘through the roof' despite economic pressures

Billionaire Mr Tang told Sky News that, despite inflationary pressures and economic turbulence leading to “a bit of pullback” in customer spending, the video game industry was still growing at pace.

“Gaming is already one of the biggest industries from the entertainment perspective,” he said, adding that 5G was “going to make it much bigger”.


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“It's become the primary form of entertainment for kids and young adults out there.

“User activity is still through the roof, and we do see growth going forward for the industry.”

Razer unveiled numerous other products at CES, including the Leviathon V2 Pro soundbar, which uses artificial intelligence and a camera to track someone's position and deliver optimal sound.

Other gaming announcements at the show include an accessibility controller from Sony, designed to help disabled players enjoy games on the PlayStation 5.

Plans to privatise Channel 4 to be scrapped, reports suggest

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Wed, 4th Jan 2023) London, Uk – –

The government faced heavy criticism – including from senior members of its own party and the British media industry – over the announcement last April that Channel 4 would be privatised.

The Culture Secretary has written to Rishi Sunak recommending the government drops its plans to privatise Channel 4, according to reports.


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Michelle Donelan's predecessor Nadine Dorries announced the decision to take the broadcaster out of public ownership during former PM Boris Johnson's premiership.

When Ms Dorries announced the plans, she said it was so the broadcaster can better survive in a media landscape dominated by the likes of Netflix and Amazon.

PM set to face questions on NHS pressures – politics latest

Ms Donelan, who was appointed culture secretary by Liz Truss and remained in the role after Mr Sunak took over as prime minister, had previously cast doubt on plans to privatise the broadcaster.

She had said she was re-examining the “business case” to make sure “we still agree with that decision”.

But a leaked letter written by Ms Donelan to Mr Sunak, seen by The News Agents podcast on Wednesday, allegedly reveals the culture secretary looks set to scrap the policy.

A Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport spokesperson said: “We do not comment on speculation.

“The DCMS secretary of state has been clear that we are looking again at the business case for the sale of Channel 4. We will announce more on our plans in due course.”

Channel 4 was created in 1982 by Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government and is entirely funded by advertising, out of public ownership. Everything it airs is commissioned from external production companies.

Former culture secretary Ms Dorries criticised the reported move, tweeting: “Three years of a progressive Tory government being washed down the drain. Levelling up, dumped. Social care reform, dumped. Keeping young and vulnerable people safe online, watered down.

“A bonfire of EU leg, not happening. Sale of C4 giving back £2b reversed. Replaced with what?

“A policy at some time in the future to teach maths for longer with teachers we don't yet even have to do so. Where is the mandate – who voted for this?

“Will now be almost impossible to face the electorate at a GE and expect voters to believe or trust our manifesto commitments.”

But other Conservative MPs and members of the opposition parties have praised the apparent change of policy.

Former Tory minister Stephen Hammond said: “I have always thought that its commercial future can be more sustainably secured by a new mandate within the current model,” he posted on social media.

“This decision will ensure the independent UK production industry will continue to thrive and prosper.”

While fellow senior Conservative Simon Hoare added: “A welcome and excellent decision/recommendation by Michelle Donelan: If it ain't broke; don't fix it!”

Shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell said: “The Conservatives' vendetta against Channel 4 was always wrong for Britain, growth in our creative economy, and a complete waste of everyone's time.

“Our broadcasting and creative industries lead the world, yet this government has hamstrung them for the last year with the total distraction of Channel 4 privatisation.


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“Labour opposed this sell off, and took a strong stand against it.

“The government must now bring forward the Media Bill to protect and promote Britain's broadcasters in the streaming age.”

Liberal Democrat MP Jamie Stone added that the plans to sell off Channel 4 were “nothing more than a culture war waged by a rash and reckless cabinet”.

By Sophie Morris

 

Embattled Cineworld to focus on group sale, denies talks with Odeon owner

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Tue, 3rd Jan 2023) London, Uk – –

Investors are, again, warned that their holdings in Cineworld will be severely diluted as the company gives an update on its plans for the cash-strapped business.

Crisis-hit Cineworld has denied claims by the owner of rival Odeon that they have held talks over the sale of cinemas, saying it intends to sell the group as a whole and is yet to begin the process.


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AMC Entertainment said last month that it had backed out of negotiations with Cineworld on the purchase of some sites in Europe and the US.

But Cineworld, which filed for US bankruptcy protection in September to try to restructure its debt and strengthen its balance sheet, said on Tuesday that no such talks had even taken place.

The group said it was going ahead with a marketing process to sell its assets and expected to begin contacting potential buyers later this month.

It forms part of its plans to restructure the group and emerge from bankruptcy in the first three months of this year, in a bid to maximise value for “moviegoers and all other stakeholders”.

The chain, and wider industry, has been plagued with a slow recovery in audience numbers since pandemic lockdowns shuttered cinemas.

Cineworld, however, was also the architect of an own goal.

Aggressive expansion ahead of the public health emergency – including a $3.6bn deal to buy Regal in 2017 – meant it became the world's second-largest chain.

However, the buying spree combined with the COVID revenue hit to batter its finances.

The group said on Tuesday there was “no guarantee of any recovery” for shareholders if it does agree to a sale.

“As previously announced, it is expected that any restructuring or sale transaction agreed with stakeholders will result in a very significant dilution of existing equity interests in Cineworld”, it said in the statement.


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Shares, down 80% over the past six months, plunged a further 20% shortly after the open but later recovered the ground lost earlier in the day.

Russ Mould, AJ Bell's investment director, said of the latest update: “Shareholders have been told on numerous occasions that their investment could be significantly diluted… so the situation is more about getting back pennies in the pound rather than waiting for a big payday.”

By James Sillars

 

Microsoft-Activision merger blocked as gamers take legal action

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 21st Dec 2022) London, Uk – –

Microsoft faces legal action from 10 gamers to block its merger with Call of Duty maker Activision Blizzard.

The lawsuit filed in a US federal court says the $69bn (£56bn) deal by the Xbox console maker to purchase its rival will “create a monopoly in the video game industry”.


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The complaint comes two weeks after US regulators filed a case with an administrative judge to block the deal.

The merger would be the largest tech deal ever in the video gaming market.

The proposed acquisition would give Microsoft “far-outsized market power in the video game industry,” according to the complaint “with the ability to foreclose rivals, limit output, reduce consumer choice, raise prices, and further inhibit competition.”

Almost two weeks ago, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) raised similar concerns in their complaint. The US business watchdog said Activision was one of a small number of top video game developers that made high-quality games for multiple devices.

The proposed acquisition would give Microsoft “both the means and motive to harm competition” by manipulating pricing, making games worse on its competitors' video game consoles, “or withholding content from competitors entirely, resulting in harm to consumers,” the agency said in a press release.

After the FTC filed its lawsuit, Microsoft president Brad Smith said the company had “complete confidence in our case and welcome the opportunity to present our case in court”.

Microsoft also announced it will make Call of Duty available on Nintendo for 10 years if the purchase went through and made a similar offer to rival Sony which makes the PlayStation console.

“This sounds alarming, so I want to reinforce my confidence that this deal will close,” Activision Blizzard chief executive Bobby Kotick wrote in a letter to staff that was shared on the company's website. “The allegation that this deal is anti-competitive doesn't align with the facts, and we believe we'll win this challenge.”


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This has become one of the most-high profile legal fights to emerge from US President Joe Biden's pledge to take a harder line against monopolies.

The takeover, which was announced in January, also faces legal action in the European Union and the UK.

Microsoft has not responded to the BBC for comment.

By Monica Miller

 

Paramount scraps $2.2bn sale of Simon & Schuster publishing to Penguin

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Tue, 22nd Nov 2022) London, Uk – –

Penguin owner Bertelsmann will not appeal US judge’s ruling that merger would be illegal because it would hit authors’ pay

Penguin owner Bertelsmann will not appeal US judge’s ruling that merger would be illegal because it would hit authors’ pay

Penguin Random House, the world’s largest book publisher, and rival Simon & Schuster have scrapped a $2.2bn deal to merge, Penguin’s owner said in a statement on Monday.


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Bertelsmann, a German media group which owns Penguin, initially said it would appeal a US judge’s decision that said its purchase of Simon & Schuster would be illegal because it would hit authors’ pay.

But Bertelsmann said in a statement on Monday that it “will advance the growth of its global book publishing business without the previously planned merger of Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster”.

Reuters reported on Sunday that the German company was unable to convince Paramount Global, Simon & Schuster’s owner, to extend their deal agreement and appeal the judge’s decision.

Judge Florence Pan of the US district court for the District of Columbia ruled on 31 October that the justice department had shown the deal could substantially lessen competition “in the market for the US publishing rights to anticipated top-selling books”.

With the deal’s dissolution, Penguin will pay a $200m termination fee to Paramount.

Paramount said on Monday that Simon & Schuster was a “non-core asset” to Paramount. “It is not video-based and therefore does not fit strategically within Paramount’s broader portfolio,” the company said in a filing on the deal’s termination.

The justice department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Unlike most merger fights, which focus on what consumers pay, the Biden administration argued the deal should be stopped because it would lead to less competition for blockbuster books and lower advances for authors who earn $250,000 or more.

The decision comes as the Biden administration has made clear it intends to tackle what it sees as monopoly positions, blaming them, among other things, for rising meat prices and soaring concert ticket prices.


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The book industry has gone through a series of consolidations in recent years and critics feared another big merger would reduce competition while making life harder for smaller publishers.

Penguin is by far the US’s largest publisher already. Its writers include the cookbook author Ina Garten and novelists Zadie Smith and Danielle Steel, while Simon & Schuster publishes Stephen King, Jennifer Weiner and Hillary Rodham Clinton, among others.

By Guardian staff and agencies

1970s Things That Kids No Longer Do!

Source: Rhetty for History

Kids today have no clue how what kids used to do for fun in the 1970s. Everyone was their own stuntman. Many of those things have either become illegal or socially unacceptable. In this video we will take a closer look at 1970s things that kids no longer do!

 

TikTok denies it could be used to track US citizens

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Fri, 21st Oct 2022) London, Uk –

TikTok has denied a report that a China-based team at its parent company ByteDance planned to use the app to track the locations of US citizens.

The social media giant said on Twitter that it has never been used to “target” the American government, activists, public figures or journalists.

The firm also says it does not collect precise location data from US users.


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It was responding to a report in Forbes that data would have been accessed without users' knowledge or consent.

The US business magazine, which cited documents it had seen, reported that ByteDance had started a monitoring project to investigate misconduct by current and former employees.

It said the project, which was run by a Beijing-based team, had planned to collect location data from a US citizen on at least two occasions.

The report said it was unclear whether American citizens' data was ever collected but there had been a plan to obtain location data from US users' devices.

In a series of tweets TikTok's communications team said the report lacked “both rigor and journalistic integrity”.

It added that “Forbes chose not to include the portion of our statement that disproved the feasibility of its core allegation: TikTok does not collect precise GPS location information from US users, meaning TikTok could not monitor US users in the way the article suggested.”

In response to a BBC request for comment a Forbes spokesperson said: “We are confident in our sourcing, and we stand by our reporting.”

Privacy concerns

The developers of apps have come under scrutiny from authorities around the world, especially over the data of military and intelligence personnel.

In 2020, a US national security panel ordered ByteDance to sell TikTok's American business over concerns that users' data could be passed to the Chinese government.

TikTok said it migrated US users' information to servers at Austin-headquartered Oracle this June, to address some regulatory issues.

Meanwhile, TikTok is facing a £27m ($30m) fine in the UK, for failing to protect the privacy of children using the platform.

Last month, the UK's Information Commissioner's Office found that the video-sharing platform may have processed the data of under-13s without appropriate consent.

The watchdog said the breach took place over more than two years – until July 2020 – but that it had not yet drawn final conclusions.


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Tiktok has disputed the findings and said they were “provisional”.

TikTok is the world's fastest-growing social media app and has been downloaded more than 3.9 billion times.

It has made more than $6.2bn (£5.5bn) in gross revenue from in-app spending since its launch in 2017, according to analytics company Sensor Tower.

 

Center Parcs U-turns over asking guests to leave on day of Queen’s funeral

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Wed, 14th Sept 2022) London, Uk – –

The company had emailed all customers who were to be affected by its initial plans, but reversed the decision after many people on social media said it had only landed them with additional stress at a time of national mourning.

Center Parcs has U-turned on plans to ask customers to leave just for the day when it closes its five UK sites for the Queen's funeral after a backlash.

Complaints started to flood in via its social media pages after the company said it would shut sites from 10am on the day to allow staff “to support our Queen on her final journey”.


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It said that all holidaymakers who would be affected would receive an email on Tuesday to explain their options.

They included a full refund if guests wanted to cancel their breaks.

However, it had emerged that those partway through seven-day holidays – which generally cost more than £1,000 for a family of four at this time of year – would be forced to leave and spend the night elsewhere or go home early. They could leave belongings in their living accommodation if they wished, an initial statement said.

Anger quickly set in, with customers accusing the company of leaving them out in the cold. Some complained of long phone queues, while others claimed emails were bouncing back.

Now, the company has changed its decision, saying it will no longer require guests who are not due to depart on Monday to leave.

It said: “The vast majority of our guests are either due to arrive or depart on Monday 19th September.

“We have however, reviewed our position regarding the very small number of guests who are not due to depart on Monday, and we will be allowing them to stay on our villages rather than having to leave and return on Tuesday.

“The villages will still remain closed on Monday, and we will be offering a discount for the lack of facilities available on that day.”

One post on the company's Facebook page read: “We were five related families getting together for our annual family holiday – with two small children and two dogs, three hours from home!

“Where the hell are we supposed to go for one night?! It's that or cancel some or all of the much-anticipated holiday!

“Sorry, but this is an awful, awful decision that has left us devastated.

“By all means close the restaurants and activities, but let us stay on the park!!”

The company's Twitter account contained similar messages.

The company has five UK sites: Elveden Forest, Suffolk; Longleat Forest, Wiltshire; Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire; Woburn Forest, Bedfordshire; and Whinfell Forest, Cumbria.

In its initial statement, Center Parcs said: “We have made the decision to close all our UK villages on Monday 19 September as a mark of respect and to allow as many of our colleagues as possible to be part of this historic moment.

“Guests who were due to arrive on Monday 19 September should not travel on this day, though we will reopen on Tuesday 20 September and be ready to welcome our guests then.

“We hope our guests will understand our decision to support our Queen on her final journey”.


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Rival Butlin's said its holiday resorts would remain open on Monday, but new arrivals would be asked to arrive two hours later than normal, from 3pm.

Mourning guidance from the Cabinet Office states: “Depending on the nature and location of their business and the tone of planned events, some businesses may wish to consider closing or postponing events, especially on the day of the state funeral, however this is at the discretion of individual businesses.”

By

Cineworld may declare bankruptcy in the US, due to £4 billion debt load

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Mon, 22nd Aug 2022) London, Uk – –

The UK-based company says it remains open for business and expects to continue trading in the long term “with no significant impact upon its employees”, but it warned shareholders face a “very significant dilution” in their stakes.

Cineworld has confirmed it may file for bankruptcy in the US, days after its shares nose-dived over reports the world's second largest cinema chain was in difficulties.

The UK-based company, which globally employs around 28,000 people across 751 sites in 10 countries, said it was considering options for how to restructure the business as it wrestled with hefty debts.

These included a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, which is often referred to as a reorganisation bankruptcy and does not mean the company has gone bust.

The process gives firms a chance to propose a reorganisation, and the banks, suppliers and employees they owe money to are allowed to vote on the plan.

After the filing is made, the company remains in control of its assets and does not have to shut down or liquidate its business to pay off debts.

The announcement by Cineworld, which also owns the Picturehouse chain in the UK and Regal Cinemas in the US, came days after the Wall Street Journal reported the company was on the verge of declaring bankruptcy, sending the group's stocks crashing.

The business, which was saddled with £4bn of debt at the end of the last financial year, previously said it was in talks with stakeholders over potential funding or considering restructuring its balance sheet.

Responding to recent speculation, the company said: “Cineworld and Regal theatres globally are open for business as usual and continue to welcome guests and members.

“The strategic options through which Cineworld may achieve its restructuring objectives include a possible voluntary Chapter 11 filing in the United States and associated ancillary proceedings in other jurisdictions as part of an orderly implementation process.

“Cineworld is in discussions with many of its major stakeholders, including its secured lenders and their legal and financial advisers.”

The firm pointed out its cinemas would be able to continue to trade throughout the process.

It said: “Cineworld would expect to maintain its operations in the ordinary course until and following any filing and ultimately to continue its business over the longer term with no significant impact upon its employees.”

But it warned shareholders were likely to see a “very significant dilution” in their holdings in the group as a result of any filing.

Shares in the year to date are down 87%, but in early trading were up slightly following the firm's statement.

Cineworld had pinned its hopes on big-budget releases such as Top Gun: Maverick, The Batman and Thor: Love And Thunder to aid its recovery from the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But in a statement last week, the firm said a lack of blockbuster films was hitting audience numbers.

The company has also been dogged over the past year by separate legal disputes.

In September, the London-listed business struck an agreement to pay £141m to disgruntled Regal shareholders who were frustrated with the price it purchased the US cinema chain, although it has subsequently sought to delay some payments.


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Meanwhile, in December it was ordered to pay £720m by a court after it decided not to go through with a takeover of Canadian rival Cineplex as the pandemic broke out.

Chief executive Mooky Greidinger appealed against the court ruling and claimed the company acted in “good faith”.

Entain, the owner of Ladbrokes, to pay £17 million for breaching rules

 

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Fri, 19th aug 2022) London, Uk – –

A gambling giant has been ordered to pay a record £17m after it failed to put proper checks in place to support struggling customers.

Entain, the firm behind Ladbrokes and Coral, was accused of “completely unacceptable” failures by the Gambling Commission.

The company could lose its licence to operate in the UK if it breaches any more rules.

Entain said it had since brought in safer gambling measures.


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The Gambling Commission, a government agency that supervises gambling laws, investigated the company and found a series of “completely unacceptable failures”.

It said it had been slow to help customers who were struggling with gambling debt.

One online customer who gambled for extended periods overnight was able to deposit more than £230,000 in their account over eighteen months, but was only contacted once in an online chat.

Another, who was known to live in social housing, was allowed to deposit £186,000 in six months without sufficient checks.

Some customers could also create accounts with other sites in the company, even if they had racked up debt elsewhere.

One online customer who was blocked from using Coral because they had spent £60,000 in 12 months and failed to provide source of funds was immediately able to open an account with Ladbrokes and deposit £30,000 in a single day.

Entain also allowed online customers to deposit large amounts without carrying out sufficient source of funds checks.

One consumer was allowed to deposit £742,000 in 14 months but was not flagged for potentially laundering money.

Chief executive of the Gambling Commission Andrew Rhodes said: “Our investigation revealed serious failures that have resulted in the largest enforcement outcome to date.”

Mr Rhodes said it was the second time the operator had “fallen foul of the rules”.

“They should be aware that we will be monitoring them very carefully and further serious breaches will make the removal of their licence to operate a very real possibility. We expect better and consumers deserve better.”

In a statement, Entain said it had agreed to the settlement “to bring the matter to a close” and “avoid further costly and protracted legal proceedings”.


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It added the issues raised related “to the period between December 2019 and October 2020, which predates the many changes in the area of safer gambling and anti-money laundering that Entain has introduced”.

By Jasmine Andersson

Bourne Leisure founders, finalising £300m-plus deal to retake control of Butlin’s, holiday camps

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Mon, 15th Aug 2022) London, Uk – –

The holiday camps chain, which inspired TV sitcom Hi-de-Hi!, is close to being sold to a vehicle connected to the Harris family which founded current owner Bourne Leisure, Sky News learns.

The family which jointly founded one of Britain's biggest leisure empires is finalising a £300m-plus deal to retake control of Butlin's, the holiday camps chain.

Sky News has learnt that a vehicle connected to the Harris family, which helped to establish Bourne Leisure in the 1960s, is close to signing a transaction with Blackstone, the group's current owner.


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It was unclear whether Paul Harris, the family member understood to be leading the deal, had arranged any external financing to support it.

A deal, which could be struck as soon as next week, would take the total proceeds from the sale of Butlin's to more than £600m – a significant achievement in an economy being ravaged by inflation and forecasts of a prolonged recession.

The Harris family's interest bid to acquire Butlin's comes 18 months after it sold Bourne Leisure to Blackstone, the giant American private equity firm, for more than £3bn.

As part of that deal, Blackstone said at the time that the Harris, Cook and Allen founding families were reinvesting in Bourne Leisure, although it is unclear how large a stake the trio now own.

An auction of the chain of three holiday camps has been under way since early this year, drawing interest from financial bidders including Bain Capital, Epiris, TDR Capital and Guy Hands' Terra Firma Capital Partners.

Bourne Leisure itself has owned Butlin's since 2000, when it bought the business and its sister brands Haven Holidays and Warner Hotels in a deal reportedly worth £600m.

Last month, the UK's biggest private pension fund, the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), confirmed a Sky News report that it was buying Butlin's underlying real estate assets for £300m.

The sale of its operating business is notable because of the number of failed auctions being triggered by turmoil in global debt financing markets.

Among the deals to have been pulled were auctions of Parkdean Resorts, another big leisure group, and Boots, Britain's biggest high street chemist.

Numerous other sale processes have been postponed as companies grapple with one of the toughest operating environments for decades.

Butlin's was established by its eponymous founder, Billy Butlin, in 1936, and rapidly became one of the most popular holiday destinations for staycationing Britons.

According to the brand's official history, Mr Butlin “felt sorry for families staying in drab guest-houses with nothing much to do” during a trip to Barry Island.

In its heyday, Butlin's operated from nine sites across the UK, entertaining one million holidaymakers each year with knobbly knees competitions and glamorous granny contests.

The brand became such an entrenched part of Britain's popular consciousness that it provided the inspiration for Hi-de-Hi!, the long-running BBC sitcom.


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Its fortunes waned with the explosive growth of opportunities for Britons to holiday abroad, but has enjoyed a resurgence as the pandemic has fuelled a boom in domestic vacations.

Butlin's sites are at Skegness, Minehead in Somerset and Bognor Regis, the traditional seaside town close to the South Downs National Park.

Rothschild, the investment bank, is advising Blackstone on the Butlin's sale.

Blackstone declined to comment on Saturday, while the Harris family could not be reached for comment.

By

Disney+ increases ad-free prices as it overtakes Netflix in streaming subscriptions

 

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Thur, 11th Aug 2022) London, Uk – –

Disney sees total of 221m customers at the end of the June quarter compared to Netflix’s 220.7m

Walt Disney edged past Netflix with a total of 221 million streaming subscribers at the end of the most recent quarter and announced it will launch a Disney+ option with advertising this December.


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In the just-ended quarter, Disney+ added 14.4 million Disney+ customers, beating the consensus of 10 million expected by analysts polled by FactSet, as it released Star Wars series Obi-Wan Kenobi and Marvel’s Ms Marvel.

Combined with Hulu and ESPN+, Disney said it had 221.1 million streaming subscribers at the end of the June quarter. Netflix said it had 220.7 million streaming subscribers.

Last month Netflix announced it had lost another 1 million subscribers, the company’s first ever back-to-back quarterly loss of customers. Netflix too is planning an ad-supported streaming option.

The company announced that Disney+ with ads will cost $7.99 a month, the same price the company now charges for the ad-free version. The cost of Disney+ without ads will increase by $3 a month to $10.99 as of 8 December. Prices for Hulu, also owned by Disney, will rise by $1 to $2 a month depending on the plan.

In 2017 Disney staked its future on building a streaming service to rival Netflix as audiences moved to online viewing from traditional cable and broadcast television.

The world’s largest entertainment company reported profits of $1.41bn, as visitors packed its theme parks. Operating income more than doubled at the parks, experiences and products division to $3.6bn.

“We had an excellent quarter, with our world-class creative and business teams powering outstanding performance at our domestic theme parks, big increases in live-sports viewership, and significant subscriber growth at our streaming services,” said Bob Chapek, chief executive officer.


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Shares of Disney, which had fallen 28% this year, rose 4% in after-hours trading to $116.85.

Disney‘s streaming effort is still losing money, reporting a loss of $1.1bn for the quarter. That put a drag on the media and entertainment unit, whose profit declined by 32% to nearly $1.4bn.

Reuters contributed to this article

Netflix subscribers quitting the streaming service hits almost a million

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 20th July 2022) London, Uk – –

After enjoying a long reign as the king of streaming, Netflix faces a tough fight to keep its crown.

It lost almost 1m subscribers between April and July, as the number of people quitting the service accelerated.

But that was not as many as the streaming giant had feared.

Asked what may have stopped subscriptions sliding further, the firm's chief executive, Reed Hastings, said: “If there was a single thing, we might say ‘Stranger Things.'”

The new season of the hit drama has been a phenomenal success, and may have helped stem the exodus of Netflix customers.

The company reported its first subscriber loss since 2011 in April, news that was followed by hundreds of job cuts and a sharp drop in its share price.

Rivals are challenging its dominance, while price hikes have taken a toll.


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The subscriber losses reported on Tuesday were the biggest in the firm's history, with the US and Canada home to the highest number of cancellations in the quarter, followed by Europe.

Guy Bisson, executive director at Ampere Analysis, said it was “inevitable” that Netflix would start to see its grip on the market loosen.

“When you're the leader, there's only one direction to go, especially when a large amount of competition launches, which is what Netflix has seen in the last couple of years,” he said.

It is a stark change for Netflix, which enjoyed years of seemingly unstoppable growth, as it revolutionised the way people around the world consumed entertainment.

Its position as a global behemoth was cemented when the pandemic hit in 2020 and people, stuck at home with few other options for entertainment, flocked to monster hits like Squid Game and The Crown.

But as pre-pandemic habits return, Netflix has struggled to attract new sign-ups – and maintain the loyalty of existing members, especially as the cost of living crisis leads to belt tightening.

The company also faces fierce competition from the likes of Apple TV, HBO Max, Amazon Prime and Disney+. Netflix was once the disruptor, making video rental stores like Blockbuster redundant. But the disruptor is fast becoming the disrupted.

Netflix's move to make its service more expensive has also put off some customers.

Price hikes more ‘risky'

A “standard” plan in the US – which allows people in the same home to watch on two devices simultaneously – now costs $15.49, up from $14 in January and just $11 in 2019.

In the UK, basic and standard plans have both increased since January by £1 a month to £6.99 and £10.99 respectively.

“At some point, yes, they're going to reach a threshold where a significant number of people say enough is enough,” Mr Bisson said. “Because of the additional choice… price hikes are a more risky strategy.”

For now, surveys suggest that Netflix is managing to lure back a higher share of deserters than its rivals. Many households also continue to identify it as the streaming option they would retain if forced to have only one.

In all, the company had roughly 220 million subscribers at the end of June – still well north of its closest competition.

But the company, long accustomed to posting double digit growth, is grappling with its most serious slowdown in years, with revenue in the April-June quarter of $7.9bn, up just 8.6% year-on-year.

The firm's share price has dropped more than 60% so far this year, as investors sour on its prospects.

“Netflix's subscriber loss was expected but it remains a sore point for a company that is wholly dependent on subscription revenue from consumers,” said Insider Intelligence analyst Ross Benes.

“Netflix is still the leader in video streaming but unless it finds more franchises that resonate widely, it will eventually struggle to stay ahead of competitors that are after its crown.”

Shares climbed more than 7% in after-hours trade on relief that the losses were not larger. The firm had warned it could lose as many as two million subscribers.

Netflix has said it will jumpstart growth with a new ads-supported service and by clamping down on password sharing – which one study estimated was costing Netflix $6bn a year.

It is already charging more for sharing accounts in some countries in central and South America. It hopes to replicate this model around the world.

However, the company has known about problems with passwords sharing for years, and has so far failed to find a solution.

In its shareholder update, the company said it was “encouraged by our early learnings and ability to convert consumers to paid sharing in Latin America”.

It said it expected its less expensive, ad-supported option to launch in early 2023, starting in “a handful of markets where advertising spend is significant”.

“Like most of our new initiatives, our intention is to roll it out, listen and learn, and iterate quickly to improve the offering,” the company said.

The ad service has the potential to attract both existing customers inclined to cancel over price hikes, as well as new households hesitant to commit to a subscription, Mr Bisson said.

It should be possible for Netflix to make the same amount of money – or more – per user than it did by relying on subscriptions, he added.

Strong content critical

“Assuming they get it right – and by getting it right I mean the price … and the amount of advertising on it – then it's potentially a strong strategic move for them,” he said.

But he said Netflix's most critical task is ensuring it has strong material for people to watch – a job that has grown harder as it pushes to reach an increasingly broad audience.

New sign-ups in the US, for example, are coming from an increasingly older crowd, with different tastes than the younger viewers who were early streaming converts.

“They're increasingly competing for that generalist audience, so the breadth of content that is needed becomes much wider and that's why I think people are saying ‘there's now a lot of stuff I don't like',” Mr Bisson said. “It's a very big challenge.”


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Netflix needs “more frequent hits”, said Eric Steinberg of Whip Media, adding that Netflix also has room to experiment staggering its releases to keep a hold on its subscribers.

The company has already taken steps in that direction by releasing episodes of the fourth season of Stranger Things in two batches this year, but the “pressure is on” he said.

“They don't have the sandpit to themselves anymore,” he said. “In an inflationary environment like the one we're in and also great programming [at the competition], people are going to re-evaluate how much they're willing to pay.”

By Natalie Sherman & James Clayton

 

Caesars Palace Las Vegas $30K A Night Villa

Source: CNBC

The Titus Villas has hosted some of the biggest names in the world and we got to take a look at the level of luxury they enjoy during their stay. From an outdoor pool to butlers on-call 24 hours a day, the amenities are endless for those willing to pay the price of $30,000 a night.

Netflix to partner with Microsoft to offer cheaper streaming with adverts

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Thur, 14th July 2022) London, Uk – –

Platform belatedly follows rivals in appealing to cash-strapped consumers as it loses subscribers

Netflix has partnered with Microsoft to launch a cheaper subscription plan showing adverts in an attempt to appeal to cash-strapped consumers seeking to cut back on costs.


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The streaming platform first announced plans to launch a cheaper service – giving subscribers the chance to pay less in return for viewing ads – in April after reporting the first loss of subscribers in a decade, wiping almost $60bn (£51bn) off its market value.

Greg Peters, the Netflix chief operating officer, said: “Microsoft has the proven ability to support all our advertising needs as we work together to build a new ad-supported offering.

“More importantly, Microsoft offered the flexibility to innovate over time on both the technology and sales side, as well as strong privacy protections for our members.”

Netflix’s surprise move to belatedly follow rivals such as Hulu, HBO Max and Paramount+ by launching an ad-supported package this year is expected to precede the announcement next week of a further loss of 2 million global subscribers in the three months to the end of June.

“It’s very early days and we have much to work through,” Peters said. “But our long-term goal is clear. More choice for consumers and a premium, better-than-linear TV brand experience for advertisers.”

Netflix had reportedly been in talks with a number of partners to deliver advertising sales, including Google, and Sky owner Comcast’s NBCUniversal, before signing up with Microsoft.


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Netflix has for years been steadfastly against introducing advertising, despite the combination of a cheaper pay element and ad income often making such plans more lucrative than pricier ad-free subscriptions. The company’s co-founder Reed Hastings said they would “exploit” and disrupt the viewer experience.

Disney is also preparing to introduce an ad-supported tier for Disney+ in late 2022 and internationally next year.

By Mark Sweney

 

Macau casinos shuts down following Covid outbreak

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon, 11th July 2022) London, Uk – –

Macau closed all its casinos for the first time in more than two years on Monday after a coronavirus outbreak in the world's biggest gambling hub.

Authorities have ordered non-essential businesses, which includes over 30 casinos, to shut for a week.

The city has recorded 1,526 Covid cases since the middle of June according to official figures.


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Gaming shares slipped on Monday over concerns of tougher rules in the Chinese special administrative region.

Around 19,000 people have been put in mandatory quarantine as the city tackles its worse Covid-19 outbreak since early 2020.

Schools and entertainment venues, including bars and cinemas, had already been closed under earlier guidelines.

Over the weekend, Macau's Government Information Bureau said all businesses would be required to suspend their operations unless they were “deemed essential to the community and to the day-to-day lives of the members of the public”.

“The latest step is in order to contain the spread of Covid-19 in the community,” the bureau said in a statement on Saturday.

It has also instructed people to stay at home, and stopped dining-in services at restaurants.

More than 90% of Macau's residents have received two doses of Covid vaccines. It's unclear how many have also received their booster doses, but the city is facing the fast-spreading Omicron variant for the first time.

In recent weeks, officials have set up a makeshift hospital and turned several casino resorts into medical facilities, as the former Portuguese colony only has one public hospital serving more than 600,000 residents.

They have also mass tested residents and locked down apartment buildings and hotels where infections were found.

Macau follows China's strict “zero Covid” strategy, where even handful of cases have led to mass testing, forced quarantine and lockdowns of neighbourhoods and even cities.

While Macau has not imposed the type of city-wide lockdown seen in mainland China, it's virtually closed as most services have been halted.

Terry Ng, an equity research analyst at Daiwa Capital Markets Hong Kong, told the BBC that Macau authorities were “stuck between a rock and a hard place”.

“Because mainland Chinese tourists accounted for 71% of all tourists and more than 90% of gross gaming revenue, they have to duly follow mainland China's zero-Covid policy which is highly restrictive,” he said.


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Gambling is illegal in mainland China but is allowed in Macau, which like Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China.

Macau casino shares slipped on Monday as the restrictions kicked into effect.

Shares in Sands China, a subsidiary of casino giant Las Vegas Sands, were trading 7% lower by mid-day in Hong Kong. That of SJM Holdings, which was founded by the late Hong Kong tycoon Stanley Ho, fell by 6.1%.

By Annabelle Liang

 

Camelot report lower lottery ticket sales due to cost of living crisis

(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Tue, 28th June  2022) London, Uk – –

Customers ‘tightening their belts’ amid economic uncertainty, says outgoing operator

Camelot, the outgoing UK national lottery operator, has said players have “tightened their belts” in the face of soaring living costs, as it reported lower sales of tickets and instant win games.


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The company, which has launched legal action against the Gambling Commission after losing the lottery’s next licence to the Czech-owned newcomer Allwyn, posted a 3% drop in sales to £8.1bn in the year to 31 March. It said most of that fall was caused by a 7% decline in sales of National Lottery Instants to £3.4bn.

“This was largely down to greater competition for people’s attention and spend after the lifting of Covid restrictions, followed by growing economic uncertainty over the latter part of the year,” Camelot said.

Scratchcard sales remained below pre-pandemic levels. Sales across the 44,500 retailers offering national lottery products fell 4% to £4.7m over the year. Retailers account for nearly 60% of all sales for the group.

Camelot blamed pandemic restrictions in the early part of the year that affected footfall and shopper frequency, but more recently the cost of living crisis, which it said had slowed down the retail recovery as “consumers tightened their belts”.

Draw-based games fared better, although ticket sales dipped slightly to £4.6bn, with fewer large EuroMillions rollovers. There were 15 draws with a jackpot of more than £100m, compared with 22 the previous year.

With Covid restrictions ending, online sales fell by 2.6% to £3.4bn,partly due to the introduction of lower online play and wallet limits for potentially at-risk players.

Camelot said £1.9bn was generated for good causes over the year, the second highest total raised.


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The Camelot chief executive, Nigel Railton, said over the next year the company would “continue to invest and innovate to respond to the changing consumer environment”.

He added: “Camelot has once again raised a record amount for good causes from ticket sales, and has also ensured that a record-equalling £3.1bn was once again generated for society through good causes, lottery duty and retailer commission, at a time when other funding sources are being squeezed.”

By Julia Kollew

How This Artist Made $738K In 32 Minutes Selling NFTs


Source: CNBC

Cam Rackam, 42, is an NFT artist from Huntington Beach, California. Cam graduated with a BFA in drawing and painting from Cal State Fullerton. He had attended and was featured in many art exhibitions over the years for his work in oil painting. But once the pandemic hit in 2020, Cam pivoted to making NFT art. On October 27th, 2021, Cam sold his entire 10,000 NFT collection for 660 ethereum, or $2.6 million. His cut: $738,593.97.


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