Trump Wants Oracle/TikTok Deal, Which Now Includes Walmart, to Include $5 Billion for Educational Programs

President Trump has big plans for TikTok, the Chinese-owned social media app and video platform currently in sale talks with Oracle — and Walmart.

Speaking Sept. 19 at a rally in Fayetteville, N.C., Trump said the proposed executive order banning TikTok in the United States had been delayed a week so the reported $20 billion sale of TikTok in the U.S. by parent ByteDance to Oracle and Walmart could be finalized. The retail behemoth had previously been associated with a joint bid with Microsoft that had been rejected. TikTok has about 100 million users in the United States.

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Under the proposed deal reported by CNN Business, which needs to be approved by Chinese regulators, TikTok would relocate its headquarters to Texas, hiring 25,000 workers in the process. More importantly, TikTok would store user data on Oracle servers rather than on the current Chinese-based servers — which had prompted initial concerns by the Trump Administration over cyber and national security.

“I’ve given the deal my blessing,” Trump said. “If it gets done, that’s great. If they don’t that’s OK, too.”

It’s been reported that Trump is seeking $5 billion from the “TikTok Global” transaction to help fund an educational project the president claims “can educate people as to real history of our country — the real history, not the fake history.”

Both Oracle and Walmart — as publicly held companies — are not legally obligated to fund Trump’s educational project.

Trump is proposing the fund in response to the “1619 Project,” which was started by The New York Times in 2019 on the 400th anniversary of slavery in the United States. The project aims to put consequences of slavery and contributions of black Americans as its main theme but has been criticized by historians.

Trump previously tweeted that planned rollout of the “1619 Project” in public schools in California would not be supported by the federal government.

“Department of Education is looking at this,” Trump tweeted earlier this month. “If so, they will not be funded.”

TikTok Owner Picks Oracle as ‘Trusted Tech Partner,’ Rejects Microsoft/Walmart Bid

ByteDance, the Chinese owner of social media video app TikTok, has reportedly selected Oracle Corp. to acquire its U.S. operations as a “trusted tech partner.” The deal, which must be approved by U.S. and Chinese regulators, amounts to a high-priced partnership rather than outright asset sale, according to media reports.

Beijing-based ByteDance had previously rejected a joint offer by Microsoft and Walmart, Microsoft disclosed in a Sept. 13 blog post. The amount of the software and retail giants’ bid has not been disclosed. The offer by Oracle reportedly hovers around $20 billion.

“ByteDance let us know today they would not be selling TikTok’s U.S. operations to Microsoft,” the software giant wrote. “We are confident our proposal would have been good for TikTok’s users, while protecting national security interests.”

TikTok has emerged into a social media phenomenon during the coronavirus pandemic generating upwards of 100 million users monthly watching both self-generated and third-party videos. It has also come into the crosshairs of the Trump Administration, which considers the app a national security threat, among other concerns. Trump has warned the government would ban the app in the U.S. by Sept. 15 unless it was sold to an American company.

Specifically, the National Security Agency and United States Cyber Command claim that Chinese control of TikTok’s computer code could influence distribution of propaganda and politically-motivated content to end-users.

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Microsoft said it would have made the required security, privacy and online safety adjustments to appease both federal and Chinese regulators. The Xbox manufacturer said it would have taken steps to prevent the spread of disinformation on the app — something it made clear to ByteDance.

“We look forward to seeing how the service evolves in these important areas,” Microsoft wrote.

Whether Oracle founder Larry Ellison’s personal relationship with Trump played a factor in the deal remains to be seen. Ellison has hosted a fundraiser for Trump, and Oracle CEO Safra Catz worked on Trump’s transition team in 2016.

Disney CFO Takes High Road in ‘Mulan’ Film Credits Controversy

In the highly partisan political landscape, a growing controversy has emerged regarding locations and local authorities in China where some of Disney’s live-action Mulan was filmed.

With the $200 million budget movie set to open in Chinese theaters, in addition to the current Premier Access on Disney+ in the U.S. and other territories, human-rights activists have raised questions about Disney’s cooperation with local authorities in China’s Xinjiang region, where allegations of abuse and re-education internments against ethnic Muslim Uighur minorities originate.

In response, there have been growing calls on social media to boycott Mulan over the issues.

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Mulan is a patriot but she shouldn’t be placed in Xinjiang because patriotism has been forbidden in Xinjiang,” Abduweli Ayup, a Norway-based Uyghur activist, wrote in a post. “In China, patriotism is loving the Chinese Communist Party.”

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) weighed in on the matter, accusing Disney of “whitewashing genocide” by allegedly cooperating with Chinese police working at the camps.

“Your decision to put profit over principle, to not just ignore the CCP’s genocide and other atrocities, but to aid and abet them, is an affront to American values,” Hawley wrote in Sept. 9 letter to Disney.

Liu Yifei, the lead actress in Mulan, added fuel to the controversy when she tweeted support for police crackdowns on pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

Speaking Sept. 10 on the Bank of America Securities Virtual Media, Communications & Entertainment Conference, Disney CFO Christine McCarthy said she had no interest in discussing international politics. Instead, the executive reiterated that production on Mulan involved numerous international locations — most notably in New Zealand.

“The real facts of Mulan [are] that it was primarily shot in — almost the entirety in New Zealand. And in an effort to accurately depict some of the unique landscape and geography of the country of China for this historical period piece drama, we filmed scenery in 20 different locations in China,” McCarthy said.

The CFO said it is standard procedure that when filming in China or any foreign country, that permits must be obtained. And in China, that permission comes from the central government in Beijing. McCarthy added that it is also common practice in Hollywood to acknowledge the appropriate agencies, authorities and governments in a movie’s credits.

For Mulan, Disney reportedly thanks eight government entities in Xinjiang, including security in the city of Turpan, where the government allegedly operates the camps. Disney also credits the publicity department of CPC Xinjiang Uighur Autonomy Region Committee, an agency that reportedly produces state propaganda.

McCarthy said it is common practice in movies to also acknowledge  national and local governments, which for Mulan included both China as well as New Zealand.

“I would just leave it at that,” she said. “But that’s generated a lot of issues for us.”

DTV: Asia Pacific to Add 467 Million SVOD Subs by 2025

Asia Pacific will have 467 million SVOD subscriptions by 2025, up from 267 million in 2019, according to new data from Digital TV Research. The London-based firm said China will contribute 279 million SVOD subscriptions in 2025 — or 60% of the region’s total. India will supply a further 66 million — triple its 2019 total.

Among the 200 million SVOD subscription additions between 2019 and 2025, China will supply 80 million, Japan 22 million and India 45 million. China will add 27 million SVOD subscribers in 2020 alone.

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“Although China dominates the region, there will be plenty of growth elsewhere,” analyst Simon Murray said in a statement. “Netflix will have 44.4 million subscribers by 2025; closely followed by Disney+ [including Hotstar] with 43.6 million.”

Ex-Disney+ Boss Kevin Mayer Quits as TikTok CEO

Kevin Mayer, who helped launch and lead Disney+, has resigned as CEO of Chinese-owned social media app TikTok — just three months after taking the job.

Mayer, who was also COO of TikTok parent ByteDance, apparently tired of being in the center of an escalating U.S.-China tech war that has also affected CE manufacturer Huawei, WeChat and Zoom.

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“In recent weeks, as the political environment has sharply changed, I have done significant reflection on what the corporate structural changes will require, and what it means for the global role I signed up for,” Mayer said in an letter to staff disclosed to the media. “Against this backdrop, and as we expect to reach a resolution very soon, it is with a heavy heart that I wanted to let you all know that I have decided to leave the company.”

“We appreciate that the political dynamics of the last few months have significantly changed what the scope of Kevin’s role would be going forward, and fully respect his decision,” TikTok said in a statement regarding Mayer’s decision.

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Venessa Pappas, GM of U.S. operations, will head TikTok on an interim basis.

TikTok, which has become a social media phenomenon (100 million monthly users in the U.S.) offering short-form video selfies and related user-generated content, has been under attack by the Trump Administration, including a recent executive seeking to ban the app in the United States unless it is sold. The app this month surpassed 2 billion global downloads.

The federal government contends the app is a security threat because its collects data on users, which “threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information,” according to the executive order.

ByteDance reportedly is looking to move TikTok’s servers out of China in addition to selling the app. Interested parties include Microsoft and Oracle.

Regardless, Mayer wanted no part of pending changes at TikTok.

“The role that I signed up for — including running TikTok globally -— will look very different as a result of the U.S. Administration’s action to push for a sell off of the U.S. business,” Mayer wrote. “I’ve always been globally focused in my work, and leading a global team that includes TikTok U.S. was a big draw for me.”

Warner Bros. Releasing ‘Tenet’ in Chinese Theaters Sept. 4

Sept. 4 is turning into a pivotal day for Hollywood studios. Warner Bros. announced it would debut director Christopher Nolan’s international espionage thriller Tenet in Chinese theaters Sept. 4. That’s the same day Disney will release Chinese-themed live-action drama Mulan on premium VOD exclusively to Disney+ subscribers for $29.99.

Both Tenet and Mulan have been seen as key pillars to jumpstarting national exhibitors such as AMC Theatres, Regal Cinema and Cinemark.

Warner, which has delayed Tenet three times due to coronavirus-related issues delaying re-opening of movie theaters, is set to begin rolling out the movie on Aug. 26 in several international markets. The studio will also debut the movie on Sept. 3 in select U.S. theaters, such as in Georgia, which approved theatrical re-openings on April 27.

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Cinedigm Partners With Chinese Theme Park Operator for Animation Streaming Service

Cinedigm Aug. 6 announced a partnership with Fantawild, a Chinese theme park operator and producer of children’s animation, to launch a new global streaming service featuring the company’s animated series. The Fantawild channel is planned for a launch in the second half of 2020 and will be available worldwide for linear and AVOD platforms on connected TVs, digital set-top boxes, media-streaming devices, as well as the Web.

In addition, Cinedigm will distribute select Fantawild programming in North America across its network of distribution partners in the streaming space, including Apple, Microsoft, Netflix, Google, Amazon and Tubi, among others.

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With 29 theme parks in operation and 10 more under development, Fantawild is one of the top drivers of China’s tourism industry and attracts more than 50 million visitors annually. The company is ranked No. 5 on the list of top 10 theme park groups worldwide, placing ahead of major U.S.-based park operators such as Six Flags Group, Cedar Rapids Group and Sea World Attractions, among others.

Fantawild Animation’s series are broadcast nationally on more than 200 TV stations and have garnered more than 300 billion views on streaming services to date, according to Cinedigm. Internationally, the programs have been distributed to more than 120 countries and territories including the U.S., Italy, Russia and Singapore.

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“As we have demonstrated over the last year, Cinedigm’s mission is to partner with the world’s largest media brands and launch new streaming services … and this partnership dramatically expands that scope,” Erick Opeka, president of Cinedigm Digital Networks, said in a statement. “Fantawild’s innovation and dedication to quality is on par with the world’s top animation companies, which makes its content acquired by the most renowned channels and digital platforms globally.”

With Cinedigm’s Chinese-based majority ownership, the home entertainment/OTT distributor has aggressively sought to mine that relationship in support of branded streaming video services such as Dove Channel, Docurama, CONtv and recently launched Bambu, a Chinese pop culture channel.

Fantawild’s “Boonie Bears” franchise is the country’s top animated media property, having the distinction of being the highest-rated TV series in the history of CCTV, China’s national TV network.

Daisy Shang, president of Fantawild Animation, said the Cinedigm partnership would be instrumental in achieving “our goals delivering and presenting our content to American audiences.”

Study: U.S. Retakes SVOD Sub Lead From China

Thanks to Netflix, the number of gross SVOD subscriptions grew by 28% in 2019. The net subscriber count rose by 55 million (16%) to total 403 million, according to new data from Digital TV Research. The firm said gross subscriptions are growing faster than net subscribers, which means the average SVOD subscriber paid for 1.59 subscriptions in 2019 — up from 1.44 in 2018.

The U.S. overtook China to regain its position as the gross SVOD subscription leader. With about 200 million subscribers each, China and the U.S. together accounted for 63% of the global total in 2019. The U.S. added 43 million subscriptions in 2019, with China up by 35 million.

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“The number of gross SVOD subscriptions increased by 139 million in 2019 to 642 million — having grown by a similar amount in 2018,” analyst Simon Murray said in a statement.

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Ten countries had more than 10 million SVOD subscriptions by the end of 2019 — collectively accounting for 84% of the global total.

Nielsen: Asia Offers Post COVID-19 Media Snapshot

In the timeline of the coronavirus pandemic, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea were among the first to feel the effects of social distancing and quarantining.

The regions are now the first to see a possible light at the end of the tunnel. Nielsen, which released new data showing that, similarly to the United States, in-home media consumption increased about 60% during the crisis, and from an advertising perspective, brands and agencies will need to both adjust which products are being marketed, as well as the tone in which they’re delivering their messages to consumers.

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During the first three weeks of the pandemic, Taiwan’s TV audience grew by 1 million viewers, for a total viewing population of approximately 21 million. News channels and programs were the primary beneficiaries of the increased penetration, followed by children’s programming.

In Hong Kong, as more consumers stayed home, Nielsen found that TV ratings for all day and all time periods increased by 43% in February compared with the same time period in 2019, while primetime ratings during the same period increased by 44%.

“The impact of COVID-19 is absolutely substantial,” said David Yeung, VP of marketing communications, consumer group, at HKT Limited, said in a statement. “Almost all industries have been badly hit, with lots of closure for retail outlets, restaurants, etc. The key to survival is to adapt to the changing business environment very quickly and to ensure threats are turned into opportunities by tapping into technology and data.”

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While China’s traditional communist-driven social safety nets have been challenged by a rising middle class and increased dependence on commerce with the West, As Zod Fang, head of GroupM Knowledge, GroupM China, said the government is increasing new policies to stimulate the economy and consumer consumption as the region emerges from the pandemic.

“This will lead to greater demand,” Fang said. “Therefore, brands need to get prepared. Work with agencies to have an overall plan including sourcing, logistics, marketing and sales to fully seize the opportunity.”

China did try to jumpstart the domestic theatrical market on March 24 in Shanghai — a move it quickly reversed, shuttering 600 theaters with no explanation given.

The China Film Group, the state-backed distributor that controls all movie release dates in the country, had reportedly planned to re-release box office hits Wolf Warrior 2 and The Wandering Earth, in addition Disney/Marvel The Avengers franchise movies.

All that’s back on hold for now.

CEO: AMC Theatres Hoping for Mid-June Re-Opening

AMC Theatres, the world’s largest exhibitor with 1,000 theaters and 11,000 screens, hopes to re-open domestic screens by mid-June, CEO Adam Aron told CNBC.

Speaking March 31, Aron said the industry remained on “uncharted times in our lifetimes,” while admitting to wishful thinking as the chain has seen revenue plummet to zero as local and state governments banned group gatherings of 10 or more people.

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“The summer has always been one of the biggest movie seasons of the year … and Christmas,” Aron said. “I would love to think that America will be enjoying summer movie season again. But nobody knows.”

Aron said America needs to get on the “other side of this virus” as a country. “So many businesses have been temporarily shuttered. People want to get out of the house and get back to normal. But that’s not going to happen in the next few days or the next few weeks.”

China had initiated limited theatrical openings only to reverse the decision the next day when new cases of coronavirus popped up. Beijing’s Film Bureau ordered the 600 re-opened Shanghai theaters shuttered on March 27.

Aron said China’s reopening just 60 days after the virus broke out seemed “a little too tight,” when compared with AMC’s decision to shutter all screens on March 17 for six to 12 weeks.

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The CEO said he saluted Congress for passing the $2.2 trillion relief bill, which he said would provide relief for AMC employees and “our communities.”

Aron believes the entertainment industry will bounce back quickly because “people want to be entertained.”

“The country is going to come back,” he said. “America will be normal again. We’re just going through an interruption. How quickly nobody knows. We’re all going to learn together.”