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

( via– 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”.


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”.


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.”


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

( via– 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.


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


( via – – 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.


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”.


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

( via– 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.


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.


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.


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


( via – – 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.


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.


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

( via – – 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.


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.”


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

( via – – 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.


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.


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

( via – – 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.



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.



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

( via – – 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.


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.


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.


GameStop Reports $76.9M in Proceeds From Sales of Digital Assets in First Quarter

( via — Thur, 2nd June 2022) London, Uk – –

Video game retailer GameStop (GME), reporting its quarterly results, received a cash flow boost of $76.9 million from the sale of IMX tokens it had received as part of its partnership with non-fungible token (NFT) scaling platform Immutable.


In February GameStop sold the IMX tokens it had been granted as part of its deal with Immutable, generating $76.9 million in proceeds. Overall, the company reported negative cash flow for the quarter of $236.3 million.

GameStop also took note of continued steps to support the recent launch of its digital asset wallet, and its intention to open its NFT marketplace during Q2.
Speaking on the earnings call, management said the wallet has seen “significant” downloads from the Chrome app store. “We firmly believe that digital assets are core to the future of gaming,” said CEO Matt Furlong.

By Michael Bellusci

Amazon passes £1bn spend on TV and film in the UK

( via – – Thur, 19th May 2022) London, Uk – –

Exclusive: Prime Video investment amount revealed for first time as competition for viewers intensifies


Amazon has invested more than £1bn on TV, movie and live sport content in the UK in recent years and plans to increase spending to make it a must-have streaming service for cash-strapped households.

It is the first time that Amazon has revealed the level of investment in Prime Video in the UK, spanning the period since 2018, as competition for viewers intensifies amid a mounting cost of living crisis.

While Amazon’s annual UK budget lags that of the $1bn (£810m) spent by Netflix on hits from Bridgerton to Sex Education, it continues to rapidly grow – with big releases in the pipeline such as the Lord of the Rings series – while its rival is in the process of cutting budgets and staff after reporting its first fall in subscribers in a decade.

“Our investments are ramping year over year, said Chris Bird, managing director of Prime Video UK, ahead of the unveiling of a major slate of new programming at an event in central London on Thursday. “Over the last five years we have crossed the £1bn mark, that feels like a milestone to recognise our growth here. We are fully committed to our future in the UK, as we are across Europe and the world.”

Amazon has doubled down on its commitment to the UK signing a record-breaking long lease deal for its first permanent studio space in the UK at Shepperton Studios, where Netflix also has a deal, and making the surprise decision to move shooting of the mega-budget Lord of the Rings TV series from New Zealand to the UK.

New Zealand’s minister for economic development and tourism, Stuart Nash, said that the first series in the saga, called The Rings of Power, which will premiere later this year, cost about NZ$650m (£332m) to make.

Bird acknowledged that the streaming market is not immune to the cost of living crisis, but maintained that Prime Video has achieved the status of a “must have” service alongside Netflix.

“We are expecting a challenging time [for households] ahead,” he said. “Inflation is rising, the cost of living is soaring and we don’t expect the same level of video engagement from customers as we had seen through the pandemic period. But that is not dampening investment at all. We are not expecting a dramatic slowdown. We are still seeing growth in our business and customers are pleased and excited.”

At the end of the first quarter Netflix had 222m global subscribers, Prime Video 152m and Disney+ 138m. In the UK, Netflix remains the market leader with an estimated 14m subscribers, followed by Prime Video on 11.9m and Disney+ at 4.8m, according to Ampere Analysis.

“We expect customers will be more savvy in their purchase choices,” he said. “It’s been about multiple subscriptions in the past, but with the challenges of the cost of living perhaps that reduces.”

As well as its own subscription video-on-demand service Amazon has an advertising-funded free service called Freevee, which was rebranded from IMDB TV last month, and 100,000 titles to buy or rent as well as offering subscriptions to partner video channels such as reality TV streamer Hayu.

Netflix has said that it is to launch an ad-funded subscription tier later this year to attempt to reignite growth.

“We are a different service,” said Bird, who worked at British streaming site LoveFilm, which was bought by Amazon in a £200m deal in 2011 to spur its ambitions to take on Netflix in the UK. “Our catalogue, whilst perhaps smaller in volume than other services, is very well crafted and specific in our goal to be seen as high quality.”

While US streamers including Amazon, Netflix and Disney continue to inject an increasing amount of money into British-made shows and films, the biggest spenders in the UK remain traditional national broadcasters.

The BBC’s total annual content budget across TV, radio and online is about £2.3bn, with spend on TV content about £1.6bn of this. ITV spends about £1.1bn annually on content for its portfolio of channels, while Channel 4’s £700m budget is about the same as Netflix.

Last year, a record £5.6bn was spent making blockbusters such as Mission: Impossible 7 and big-budget dramas including Bridgerton in the UK.


It was double the level of investment in 2020, when the spread of coronavirus shut down the production industry for months on end, and almost £1.3bn more than the previous record set in pre-pandemic 2019.

By Mark Sweney


US hedge fund billionaire sells Netflix stake at huge $400m loss as shares plunge

( via – – Thur, 21st April 2022) London, Uk – –

Bill Ackman’s Pershing Square fund dumps 7% stake for $400m loss after streaming service’s value plunges

Netflix shares plunged 35% after results showed it had shed 200,000 subscribers and expects to lose 2m more.


The billionaire hedge fund manager Bill Ackman has sold his shares in Netflix at a loss of about $400m (£305m), reversing his bullish position in the streaming giant after it reported an outflow of more than 200,000 subscribers.

The New York-based investor bought more than $1bn of Netflix shares in January, despite grim forecasts about the company’s subscription levels. Ackman said at the time that the subsequent drop in the share price had presented an “attractive” opportunity for his Pershing Square fund.

But Ackman made a U-turn overnight after shares in the online streaming platform plunged more than 35% in reaction to news that Netflix had lost more than 200,000 subscribers in the first three months of the year and was likely to lose a further 2 million over the next quarter, as customers reviewed subscriptions bought at the height of Covid lockdowns.

The share drop wiped about $50bn off of Netflix’s market value.

Ackman’s decision to offload the stake is estimated to have resulted in a $400m loss for the Pershing fund. In a letter to investors, Ackman conceded that the losses had knocked returns by four percentage points.

“One of our learnings from past mistakes is to act promptly when we discover new information about an investment that is inconsistent with our original thesis. That is why we did so here,” Ackman told investors.

“While we have a high regard for Netflix’s management and the remarkable company they have built, in light of the enormous operating leverage inherent in the company’s business model, changes in the company’s future subscriber growth can have an outsized impact on our estimate of intrinsic value,” Ackman added.

The hedge fund manager acknowledged that Netflix had a strategy to stem the losses, including by going after non-paying customers more aggressively and incorporating advertising into its streaming service. However, he noted that the changes could take at least one to two years to implement.

“While we believe these business model changes are sensible, it is extremely difficult to predict their impact on the company’s long-term subscriber growth, future revenues, operating margins, and capital intensity,” Ackman said.


Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, said the strategy amounted to “radical changes” at the streaming service. “It will be interesting to see how its biggest shareholders view its chances of executing them with any success or whether it’s back to the drawing board with fresh thinking and potentially fresh leadership.”

By Kalyeena Makortoff

UK households cancelling streaming subscriptions to cut costs, report says

( via – – Mon, 18th April 2022) London, Uk – –

The rising cost of living in Britain has led to households cancelling their streaming subscriptions, new research suggests.

A total of 1.51 million services were canned in the first three months of 2022, market research firm Kantar said.


It said more than half a million cancellations were attributed to “money saving”, with households budgeting for higher prices and energy bills instead.

About 58% of Britain's homes now have at least one paid streaming service.

The height of coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns saw surges in subscriptions for platforms such as Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime.

But researchers said the proportion of consumers planning to cancel subscriptions stating the primary reason as “wanting to save money” had risen to its highest ever level at 38%, up from 29% in final three months of 2021.

Kantar said households were “starting to seriously prioritise where and how their disposable income is spent”.

Dominic Sunnebo, global insight director at Kantar's Worldpanel Division, added that the latest research would be “sobering” for the industry.

“The evidence from these findings suggests that British households are now proactively looking for ways to save,” he said.

Researchers said Amazon Prime's thriller series Reacher was the most-watched title in the first three months of 2022, followed by Ozark and Inventing Anna on Netflix.

They said that although “churn” rates increased almost across all streaming platforms, there was a “clear difference” in the number of cancellations seen outside of Netflix and Amazon.

“Netflix and Amazon can be seen to be hygiene subscriptions for Brits; the last to go when households are forced to prioritise spend,” Kantar said.

“Disney, Now TV, Discovery+ and BritBox all saw significant jumps in churn rates quarter-on-quarter.”

Besides mounting cancellations, the early months of 2022 saw the lowest ever rate of new subscribers, Kantar said.

In January, Netflix said it added 18.2 million members last year – roughly half the number who subscribed in 2020.

Investors had hoped that pace would start to pick up again, which sent the company's share price down almost 20% at the time.

Ads incoming?

The company admitted that new competition from the likes of Disney, Apple, Amazon and HBO was starting to have an impact.

Kantar said advertising was “an obvious route for driving revenue growth, but one Netflix has historically strictly shied away from”.


“However, Netflix chief financial officer Spencer Neumann added fuel to the fire by saying in March ‘it's not like we have religion against advertising',” its Entertainment on Demand study said.

“Data across Great Britain shows Netflix subscribers' attitudes to advertising are softening, with 44% now stating they don't mind seeing on streaming services if it makes them cheaper, a significant rise from 38% at the same point in 2021.”

Channel 4 sale: Senior Tory Julian Knight asks if move to sell channel is ‘revenge’ for ‘biased coverage’ of Brexit

( via – – Wed, 6th April 2022) London, Uk – –

Mr Knight, chair of the influential Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, said the government's decision represents “a big risk”.

A senior Tory has questioned whether the government's proposed sale of Channel 4 is being done in an act of “revenge” for “biased coverage” of Brexit.

Julian Knight, the chair of the influential Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee said the government's decision to push ahead with plans to privatise Channel 4 represents “a big risk”.

Mr Knight said Channel 4 will have “greater freedom to compete once privatised”, but added it is “crucial the government protects the prominence of all public service broadcasting”.


Tory committee chairman questions ‘revenge' motive

“Now, elephant in the room time – is this being done for revenge for Channel 4's biased coverage of the likes of Brexit and personal attacks on the PM? The timing of the announcement 7pm, coinciding with Channel 4 news, was very telling,” Mr Knight tweeted.

“Undoubtedly, across much of the party – there is a feeling of payback time and the word privatisation tickles the ivories of many. The money is irrelevant – equivalent to four days national debt interest – so it must be used to support skills in creative sectors.

“So to sum up. Privatisation – even for some wrong reasons – can work for C4 but must be part of a thorough overhaul of all public service broadcasting. If this is in the media bill I will support the government. Finally, these are my views not those of the Committee more generally.”

Dorries: Channel 4 will ‘flourish' under change of ownership

On Monday night, Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said she had concluded “government ownership is holding Channel 4 back from competing against streaming giants like Netflix and Amazon”.

She said plans for the broadcaster's future would be set out in a white paper and proceeds of the sale would be reinvested into the creative sector.

Channel 4 sale ‘the opposite of levelling up'

Other senior Conservative MPs have also criticised the proposed move.

Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt told Sky News on Tuesday he was against the move because “Channel 4 provides competition to the BBC”.

Former Scottish Conservatives leader Ruth Davidson also tweeted to say the move is “the opposite of levelling up”.

The broadcaster is state-owned but receives no public funding, with more than 90% of its revenue coming from adverts.

Channel 4 ‘disappointed'

The government had been pushing the idea of privatising Channel 4 in recent months.

Speaking to broadcasters on Tuesday, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer accused the government of focusing on the wrong issue.

“The government's approach on Channel 4 is ideology, it is obsessive, it has got almost no support,” he said.


“And I think millions of people who are struggling to pay their bills with the biggest cost of living crisis in a decade are going to wonder just what an earth the government is doing.”

Channel 4 said it was “disappointed” with the decision but would “continue to engage” with the government on the process.

A government source said: “C4 is a great business with a strong brand built around it being creative, innovative and distinctive but a change of ownership will remove its straitjacket, giving C4 the freedom to innovate and grow so it can flourish and thrive long into the future and support the whole of the UK creative industries.”

By Sophie Morris

The Rise And Fall Of Award Shows

Source: CNBC

The Oscars and Emmys are the two oldest entertainment award ceremonies. Making their broadcasting debut to millions of televisions in the 1950s, the Oscars and Emmys have had a stronghold on the entertainment award-show zeitgeist. However, in 2021, viewership for award shows has been steadily declining. On top of dwindling in ratings, the prestigious Hollywood events have also been hit with controversies and protests that jeopardize these award shows as we’ve come to know them.


London’s MSG Sphere gets planning approval

( via – – Thur, 24th Mar 2022) London, Uk – –

Proposals for an entertainment venue with the biggest LED screen in the world have been accepted despite opposition

An east London music venue as wide as the London Eye and as tall as Big Ben has been approved by planners, despite opposition from thousands of local people.

The London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) made the decision about the MSG Sphere, a live entertainment concept from New York’s Madison Square Garden (MSG) company, on Tuesday night. If approved by the mayor, it would be built on an empty spot of land between Stratford station and the Olympic park.


The 21,500-capacity venue, reported to cost £800m, is designed for “the next generation of immersive experiences”. It would feature the biggest and highest-resolution LED screen in the world, an “infrasound haptic system” of vibrating floors, and “beamforming” audio technology to channel sound to every seat.

The building’s facade is a spherical LED screen measuring two hectares (five acres). It is expected to glow and be covered with animated adverts for much of the time, flickering near people’s bedroom windows. Inside there will be restaurants and bars.

The MSG Sphere will outstrip the UK’s current largest concert venues, the Manchester Arena (capacity 21,000) and London’s O2 Arena (20,000), although the Co-op Live Arena under construction in east Manchester is forecast to hold 23,500 people.

The MSG Sphere’s supporters, including the University of East London and the former cabinet minister Matt Hancock, say it will boost the capital’s economy by £2.5bn, bringing construction and hospitality jobs to the area.

Paul Westbury, from MSG, said the application had gone through a “thorough assessment” and that the venue would help make Stratford “a global destination for music and technology”, the Evening Standard reported.

But local people say it will blight the area with noise and light pollution, and predict that it will be like “living next to the surface of the sun”. More than 1,000 people objected to the planning application, while a petition calling for the scheme to be scrapped received more than 2,000 signatures.

Among those in opposition is Lyn Brown, the West Ham MP, who described the venue as a “monstrosity” and said it would pile pressure on the local transport network, particularly at Stratford station, which is already a hub for commuters to the Westfield shopping centre and West Ham’s 60,000-seater stadium.

In a statement, she said: “The last thing we need is another venue disgorging its audience into an already overcrowded transport hub.”

Writing in the Guardian last summer, Brown said: “I have had serious concerns for some time about the value of this proposed development, the degree of community consent it has involved and the harm it may do to people in Stratford and neighbouring areas. Newham doesn’t want this venue, yet it’s the LLDC, not Newham council, that gets to recommend to Sadiq Khan whether it is built.”


An MSG Entertainment spokesperson said: “We are pleased that the planning committee voted in support of our vision for MSG Sphere. Throughout this process we have worked closely with a wide range of stakeholders, and are grateful for their collaboration, which is reflected in our detailed proposal. We now look forward to progressing on to the next steps in the approval process.”

By Nadia Khomami 

How Microsoft And Sony Could Change The $200 Billion Video Game Industry

Source: CNBC

Big moves are happening in the video game industry. Microsoft, the tech giant behind the Xbox console, announced plans in early 2022 to buy Activision Blizzard, the force behind “Call of Duty” and “World of Warcraft,” among other major titles.


This $68.7 billion all-cash acquisition is expected to close in 2023. If approved by regulators and shareholders, it will be the largest tech deal in history.

“There's been a consolidation wave going on in the game space for the last several years,” said Eric Handler, managing director and senior research analyst at MKM Partners. “You've had a lot of private equity money flow into the industry. It's highly fragmented. It's just natural to see consolidation. Microsoft being a trillion-dollar company, obviously, they can do bigger deals.”

Shortly after the Microsoft-Activision purchase, Sony announced plans to buy Bungie in a deal valued at $3.6 billion. Bungie is currently the developer of the Destiny series, a multiplayer online game that incorporates first-person shooter and role-playing mechanics. Bungie remains best known for creating the original Halo, a first-person shooter that launched with the first Xbox console in 2001.


What Wedding Dresses Around the World Look Like

Source: GBS

You are cordially invited to the wedding dress episode of “Around the World.” Great Big Story senior producer Beryl Shereshewsky talks to seven dressmakers in seven countries to learn about the special dresses they make for brides in their communities. The craftsmanship, tradition and love that goes into these gorgeous creations is truly amazing. Among the dresses featured: an elaborately beaded Native American southern Cheyenne buckskin dress from Oklahoma; a kente dress handwoven in red, yellow and green, the national colors of Ghana; and in Sweden, a traditional black taffeta folk wedding dress known as a vanga dress.