‘Star Trek’ Icon William Shatner Becomes Oldest Person to Fly Into Space

William Shatner, whose portrayal of Captain James T. Kirk on the starship Enterprise in the 1960s TV show “Star Trek” made him an icon, landed midmorning Oct. 13 in west Texas aboard the Blue Origin New Shepard space ship built and funded by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

Shatner, 90, becomes the oldest person ever to enter space. The Canadian-born actor, along with Audrey Powers, VP of Blue Origin, and two paying customers, flew into space on the 11-minute flight — Blue Origin’s second manned flight — to reach a peak altitude of 66 miles above Earth.

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Upon landing, Shatner was overcome with emotion, calling the trip bigger than his presence and something everyone should experience. He said the contrast between space’s blackness and the blue of Earth underscored the fragility of the planet’s atmosphere and sustaining life.

“What you have given me is the most profound experience,” Shatner told Bezos after exiting the space craft. “I am so filled with emotion about what just happened. It’s just extraordinary. I hope I never recover from this.”

SVOD Pioneers Make ‘The Forbes 400’ List — in Surprising Order

The Forbes 400 recent list of the richest Americans in 2021 includes subscription streaming video pioneers Reed Hastings, co-founder/co-CEO of Netflix, and Roku founder/CEO Anthony Wood.

In a surprise, Wood ranks 134th with the personal wealth of $6.9 billion. That is 54 spots ahead of Hastings, who charted with a personal wealth of $5.7 billion.

Anthony Wood

Netflix ended the most-recent fiscal period with $1.35 billion profit on revenue of $7.3 billion. Roku ended the period with a net loss of $97 million on revenue of $676 million.

While Amazon founder/chairman Jeff Bezos again leads the list (and world) of multi-billionaires with a personal worth of $201 billion, Hastings and Wood make the list due to their co-launch of a short-lived branded “Netflix player” set-top device manufactured by Roku.

Wood, who once worked at Netflix as VP of Internet TV, went on to market Roku to consumers as a means of connecting the Internet (and third-party streaming apps) through their television.

Reed Hastings

Hastings, along with co-CEO/chief content officer Ted Sarandos, and others, spearheaded the world’s largest SVOD platform with 210 million subscribers. Nearly a decade earlier, Hastings and Netflix co-founder Marc Randolph invented the by-mail DVD movie rental business — after successfully sending a music CD in a First Class envelope.

Hastings has long stated no desire to enter the consumer electronics business with branded a player similar to Apple TV or Amazon Fire TV. Wood, meanwhile, expanded Roku beyond streaming video to include a line of soundbars and televisions — the latter reportedly the fourth-largest selling brand in the U.S.

Wood has also driven the growth of ad-supported VOD through the 2017 launch of The Roku Channel, which is now delving into original programming, with more than 51 million average monthly users.

Notably, the executive considered incorporating a Blu-ray Disc drive in early Roku players, but dropped the idea due to unit size restrictions.

‘Star Trek’ Pioneer William Shatner Headed to Space Aboard Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin Craft

“Star Trek” captain James T. Kirk is headed to outer space for real. William Shatner, the 90-year-old actor who played the venerable space explorer, will be aboard the second flight of Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin New Shepard NS-18 space craft when it blasts off Oct. 12.

Joining Shatner will be Audrey Powers, Blue Origin’s VP of mission and flight operations, and crewmates Chris Boshuizen and Glen de Vries.

“I’ve heard about space for a long time now. I’m taking the opportunity to see it for myself. What a miracle,” Shatner said in a statement.

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William Shatner

Shatner’s career as an actor, director, producer, writer, recording artist and horseman has spanned 60 years. He originated the role of “Captain Kirk” in 1966 for the television series “Star Trek.” The series spawned a feature film franchise in which Shatner returned as Kirk in seven of the “Trek” movies, one of which he directed. He has long wanted to travel to space and will become the oldest person to have flown to space.

Shatner is currently the host and executive producer of “The UnXplained” on The History Channel. From the producers of “Ancient Aliens” and “The Curse of Oak Island,” the one-hour nonfiction series explores the world’s most fascinating, strange and inexplicable mysteries.

Amazon founder Bezos, his brother Mark, Dutch teenager Oliver Daemen and 82-year-old aviation pioneer Wally Funk were aboard the inaugural Blue Origin flight that takes about 11 minutes and soars past the Kármán Line, the internationally recognized boundary of space.

Haystack News Bowing Streaming Channels Dedicated to Gun Violence, Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics and Jeff Bezos’ Space Flight

Haystack News July 12 launched two dedicated pop-up news streaming channels on its curated on-demand and live news platform, and revealed plans for special coverage for a third.

The on-demand channels draw upon news coverage from hundreds of local broadcast channels, in addition to ABC News, the AP, Bloomberg, CBS News, Cheddar, Euronews and Newsy.

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Pop-up channels on Haystack News in July include:

Gun Violence in America July 12 – 19
Gun violence is spreading across the United States. Violent crime typically rises in the summer, but as the country emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, experts are sounding the alarm that this season will see a further rise in gun crimes. How are communities across the United States tackling the problem?

Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics July 12 – Aug.9
Share in inspirational athletes’ stories and news coming out of the XXXII Olympiad with coverage from local U.S. stations, national and world news outlets spotlighting 2020 Summer Olympics athletes before, during and after the Tokyo Games.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and his Blue Origin space flight company

Blue Origin First Space Passenger Space Flight July 19-20
Amazon and Blue Origin Founder Jeff Bezos will make history and ride his own rocket into space on July 20, National Space Exploration Day and the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.  Be a witness to history with two days of special news coverage.

Haystack News offers a vast collection of curated and personalized on-demand streaming news and dozens of live 24/7 channels. Dedicated news streaming channels, including ongoing coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic, offer viewers a deep-dive on trending and timely topics.

“These are remarkable times we are living in and Haystack News is proud to be the most innovative news platform of choice for our growing user base. Haystack’s July channels will highlight the tragedy and triumph of our times, covering the wonderment of space exploration, the Olympic spirit, and the scourge of gun violence in the United States,” Daniel Barreto, co-founder/CEO of Haystack TV, said in a statement.

Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos to Fly Into Space in July Aboard Private Spacecraft

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has announced that he and his brother, along with an auction winner, will be aboard his Blue Origin aerospace manufacturer’s first manned spaceflight in July.

The New Shepherd spacecraft will reportedly lift off from a facility in Van Horn, Texas. In addition to Bezos and his brother Mark, the 30-minute flight will include the winner of an ongoing live auction that has seen 6,000 entries from more than 140 countries push the winning seat price to $2.8 million. The craft will reportedly reach the edge of space, allowing passengers to float within the capsule, before returning to Earth.

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Blue Origin will donate the winning seat price bid to its foundation promoting space exploration among younger generations.

Bezos, who made the announcement on social media, has long been a fan of private commercial space travel and exploration, including seeding Blue Origin with $500 million in funding in 2016. Bezos is reportedly the world’s richest man with a net worth of $186 billion.

Amazon Upped 2020 Content Spend 41% to $11 Billion

Among streamers such as Netflix, Disney+, HBO Max, Hulu and Peacock, Amazon Prime Video remains relatively under the radar when it comes to publicized content spending.

So when founder/CEO Jeff Bezos released his final shareholder letter April 15, the world’s richest man threw out a lot of big numbers befitting a company tagged on Wall Street as No. 1 in market valuation. Not to be overlooked in the data dump: $11 billion in content spend on movies, TV shows and music in 2020. That’s up 41% from $7.8 billion in combined content spending in 2019.

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Netflix spent $11.8 billion on content in 2020, which was actually down almost 15% from $13.9 billion spent in 2019.

Amazon in recent years reduced content production as it focused monies on high-profile license agreements such as “NFL Thursday Night Football,” according to analyst Michael Pachter with Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles. He says Amazon is positioning to resume releasing original content at a steadier clip, as it had in the past. Amazon Studios recently installed a new, more comprehensive TV development team in place.

“We view [the move] as a way [for Amazon] to remain relevant in the face of heightened competition from various other streamers,” Pachter wrote in a note.

Separately, Bezos said the e-commerce pioneer created $126 billion in “value creation” economic benefit to consumers in 2020. He said most Amazon consumers complete 28% of their online purchases in three minutes or less, and half of all purchases are finished in less than 15 minutes.

When compared to the typical shopping trip to a physical store — driving,
parking, searching store aisles, waiting in the checkout line, finding your car, and driving home. Bezos said research suggests the typical physical store trip takes about an hour.

“If you assume that a typical Amazon purchase takes 15 minutes and that it saves you a couple of trips to a physical store a week, that’s more than 75
hours a year saved,” Bezos wrote.

Indeed, when valuing the time saved shopping through e-commerce at $10 per hour, Bezos estimates the average Amazon Prime member created $630 in annual “value creation” for themselves. A tally that skyrockets to $126 billion when multiplied by 200 million Prime members.

“That’s important,” wrote Bezos.

Amazon Prime Members Top 200 Million Worldwide

Amazon disclosed that its Prime membership base has topped 200 million worldwide. The e-commerce behemoth April 15 revealed the tally in founder/CEO Jeff Bezos’ final letter to shareholders. Bezos is stepping down from the CEO position to continue as chairman of the board. The CEO position will be assumed by Andy Jassy.

Jeff Bezos

Amazon, which is secretive about its Prime subscriber numbers, last disclosed such data at around 150 million members in 2020. Prime membership costs $119 annually (or $12.99 monthly), includes free two-day shipping on myriad items, and free access to Prime Video. The SVOD, which is available separately as well, now exceeds 200 million subs, making it on par with Netflix’s 203+ million subs globally at the end of 2020. Rival Disney+ has more than 100 million subs worldwide.

Bezos, who attached the company’s first shareholder letter from 1997 in his farewell note, also revealed that Amazon employs 1.3 million people, and that 60% of its retail sales are generated through more than 1.9 million small and medium-sized third-party businesses.

“To all of you: be kind, be original, create more than you consume, and never, never, never let the universe smooth you into your surroundings.
It remains Day 1,” Bezos wrote.

Amazon Founder/CEO Jeff Bezos Stepping Down as E-commerce Giant Posts Record 2020 Revenue

Amazon founder/CEO Jeff Bezos said he is transitioning to executive chairman in the third quarter, ending Sept. 30. The world’s richest man will see his CEO title assumed by Andy Jassy at that time. Jassy has been with Amazon since 1997, and was instrumental in the development of Amazon Web Services, arguably the company’s most-profitable operating unit.

“If you do it right, a few years after a surprising invention, the new thing has become normal. People yawn. That yawn is the greatest compliment an inventor can receive,” the 57-year-old Bezos said in a statement. “When you look at our financial results, what you’re actually seeing are the long-run cumulative results of invention. Right now I see Amazon at its most inventive ever, making it an optimal time for this transition.”

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The e-commerce pioneer posted record fourth-quarter and fiscal-year (ended Dec. 31, 2020) results. The company generated $125.5 billion in quarterly revenue, up 44% from $87.4 billion in the previous-year period. Annual revenue topped an eye-watering $386 billion, up almost 38% from $280.5 billion in 2019.

Online sales in Q4 topped $66.4 billion, up 46% from sales of $45.6 billion in the previous-year period. For the year, sales topped $197 billion. E-commerce includes myriad products, but the Seattle-based company points out that revenue includes media products available in both a physical (DVD and 4K UHD and Blu-ray Disc) and digital format, such as books, music, videos, games and software. These product sales include digital products sold on a transactional basis.

Prime Video continued to launch Amazon Original series and movies globally. Amazon Original movie Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, starring Sacha Baron Cohen, generated tens of millions of customer streams globally on opening weekend. Other Amazon Original movies included Uncle Frank, Sylvie’s Love, Sound of Metal and I’m Your Woman. New and returning Amazon Original series and specials included “What the Constitution Means to Me,” “Utopia,” “Truth Seekers,” “The Pack,” “Small Axe,” “The Wilds,”
“The Expanse,” “Yearly Departed” and the final season of “Vikings.”

Internationally, locally produced Amazon Originals debuting included “FERRO” (Italy), “El Cid “(Spain), “The Challenge: ETA”(Spain), “BILD.Macht.Deutschland?” (Germany), “Binge Reloaded” (Germany), “Truth Seekers” (UK), “The Grand Tour: A Massive Hunt” (UK), “All or Nothing: Tottenham Hotspur” (UK), “The Bachelorette” (Japan), “Mirzapur” (India) and “Locas por el Cambio” (Mexico).

The fourth quarter marked Prime Video’s strongest viewership for live sports globally. In the U.S., Prime Video’s exclusive coverage of the San Francisco 49ers vs. Arizona Cardinals game on Dec. 26 drew an estimated 11.2 million total viewers and delivered the highest digital average-minute-audience ever for an NFL regular season game.

In the U.K., the number of customers tuning into live Premier League football grew for the second season as millions watched 22 live and exclusive matches on Prime Video. In addition, millions of Prime members streamed live, international rugby for the first-ever Autumn Nations Cup tournament; and in India, Prime Video announced its first foray into live sports, with the acquisition of India territory rights for New Zealand Cricket through 2025-26.

Amazon Studios announced deals for upcoming Prime Video series and movies, including the Eddie Murphy comedy Coming 2 America, which premieres in March on Prime Video globally and an unscripted docuseries and new coming of-age series based on Jessica Simpson’s best-selling memoir Open Book.


‘HBO Now’ Rebrands to ‘HBO’ on Amazon Fire TV; No Deal Yet on HBO Max

HBO Now, the subscription streaming video service launched in 2015, is slowly being absorbed into the HBO brand — and ultimately HBO Max.

WarnerMedia July 30 disclosed it has reached a deal with Amazon for continued support of HBO Now for Amazon Prime members. The new deal, which replaces an agreement set to expire July 31, will give subscribers continued access through a standalone app and via Amazon Channels beginning Aug. 1. The extension mirrors an agreement between WarnerMedia and Roku for HBO Now access on the streaming media device’s platform.

Distribution of HBO Max on Amazon Fire TV and Roku, however, remains unresolved. On AT&T’s fiscal call, CEO John Stankey said about 3 million Max subscribers accessed the platform through WarnerMedia, leaving more than 33 million HBO subs in the U.S. who have yet to activate the free Max app.

Amazon founder/CEO Jeff Bezos July 29 was asked before the House Anti-Trust Subcommittee whether the e-commerce behemoth uses its “gatekeeper” status to extract content and other giveaways from WarnerMedia in exchange for allowing Max on Fire TV.

Bezos said he did not know the details of the negotiations but said he thought a deal would eventually be produced. He said there could be scenarios, “if we’re just talking in the abstract,” where it could be inappropriate for Amazon to withhold access and other scenarios where it would be “very normal business and very appropriate” to deny access.

“I think this is kind of  [negotiating between] two large companies … is kind of normal,” Bezos said.

Jeff Bezos: ‘Hardest Time We’ve Ever Faced’

Not even Amazon is immune from the impact of the coronavirus.

Founder/CEO Jeff Bezos devoted much of the e-commerce behemoth’s first-quarter (ended March 31) press release to highlight efforts the company has taken on the warfront against COVID-19 — including safeguarding its warehouse employees, hiring 175,000 more of them, increasing hourly wages by $2, working on virus detection test production, deploying AWS to school districts for at-home learning, and reserving special shopping times for seniors at Whole Foods, among other initiatives.

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“The current crisis is demonstrating the adaptability and durability of Amazon’s business as never before, but it’s also the hardest time we’ve ever faced,” Bezos said in a statement.

Indeed, while net sales increased 26% to $75.5 billion in the quarter, from $59.7 billion in previous-year period, profit declined 31% to $2.5 billion, from $3.6 billion.

The culprit: a shutdown of all non-essential shipments, including many third-party sellers (more than 50% of Amazon sales), and increased delivery-related costs. In addition, there was a $387 million unfavorable impact from year-over-year changes in foreign exchange rates, which impacted net sales by 1%.

Amazon said it spent $600 million on COVID-19-related costs, which is expected to increase to $4 billion in the current second quarter.

On the entertainment front, Prime Video launched Prime Video Cinema in the U.S., the U.K., and Germany — a premium VOD movie rental service that enabled members to stream in-theater movies at home, including titles such as Birds of Prey, Emma, The Invisible Man, Onward and Trolls World Tour.

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Prime Video premiered several new Amazon Original series, including the reality competition, “Making the Cut,” hosted and executive produced by Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn; “The Forgotten Army” in India; “Love Island” in France; “Celebrity Hunted” in Italy; and the docuseries “The Test: A New Era for Australia’s Team” in Australia.

As previously reported, Prime Video and the NFL announced a multiyear agreement to live-stream 11 Thursday Night Football games as well as one additional regular season game.

Online store sales increased 24% to $36.6 billion, from $29.4 billion a year ago. Store sales include packaged media such as DVD, Blu-ray Disc and music CDs. Subscription serviced revenue, which includes Prime memberships, audiobooks, transactional VOD, digital music, e-books and other non-AWS subscription services, increased 28% to $5.5 billion, from $4.3 billion a year ago.