TikTok Owner Seeks Injunction Stopping App Ban in the U.S.

ByteDance, the Chinese owner of social video platform TikTok, has filed for a preliminary injunction against the Trump Administration’s executive order banning U.S. access to the app, effective on Sept. 27. About 100 million Americans use TikTok on a monthly basis.

The request, filed Sept. 23 in the District Court for the District of Columbia, seeks to stop a DOJ mandate ordering Google and Apple to remove the TikTok app from their platforms on Sunday — in addition to ceasing to provide updates for current holders of the app.

ByteDance is currently in negotiations with Oracle and Walmart to sell 20% (for $20 billion) of a new corporate entity called TikTok Global. Trump last weekend publicly gave his approval of deal — until he found out the Chinese would still own 80% of the company. Oracle reportedly said the sale would preclude ByteDance from owning the TikTok app outright.

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Regardless, the Chinese government would have to approve of any deal, which seems increasingly unlikely following reports in the government-owned English newspaper China Times, which called the transaction “dirty and unfair,” and based on “bullying and corruption.”

The Trump Administration, which eyes TikTok as a threat to national security, continues to engage in a war of words with China over trade and technology.

ByteDance says the security fears are overblown and political in nature.

“There is simply no genuine emergency here that would justify the government’s precipitous actions,” read the filing. “And there is no plausible reason to insist the prohibitions be enforced immediately.”

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.”

‘Irresistible’ Available for Sale Digitally Aug. 18, on Disc Sept. 1

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment will release the political comedy Irresistible through digital retailers Aug. 18, and on Blu-ray Disc and DVD Sept. 1.

Directed by Jon Stewart, the film stars Steve Carell as Gary Zimmer, top Democratic political consultant who sees an opportunity to win back voters in America’s heartland when a video of a passionate farmer and retired Marine colonel (Chris Cooper) goes viral. After a long, hard day’s work as a farmhand, Gary persuades the farmer to run for mayor of a small town in Wisconsin. However, he soon finds himself squaring off against his brilliant Republican counterpart, Faith Brewster (Rose Byrne), as the election turns into an all-out battle between the national parties.

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The cast also includes Mackenzie Davis, Topher Grace and Natasha Lyonne.

The disc and digital editions include more than 30 minutes of bonus content, including deleted and extended Scenes; a gag reel; and the featurettes “Campaign Comedy: The Cast of Irresistible,” “Taking the Lead: Jon Stewart” and the behind-the-scenes vignette “An Irresistible Story.”

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Netflix Ranked No. 2 TV Network in Popularity

Netflix is ranked the second most-popular TV network behind Discovery Channel, according to new data from YouGov.

In a survey of more than 5,500 adults through May 28, Redwood City, Calif.-based YouGov found 76% of respondents viewed Netflix favorably — about the same as Discovery Channel.

Other channels in the Top 10 included National Geographic Channels, History, The Weather Channel, Animal Planet, PBS, AMC Networks, A&E Networks and FX. TNT, HBO, ABC, CBS ranked 12th-15th, respectively.

The findings come as support for the subscription streaming video pioneer has fallen 16% among Republicans, while increasing 15% among Democrats.

While Netflix has largely avoided politics, it’s two most prominent executives — Reed Hastings and Ted Sarandos — are Democrats. Sarandos’ wife Nicole was U.S. Ambassador to the Bahamas during the Obama Administration. The couple gave more than $500,000 to the Obama presidential campaign in 2012.

The Sarandos were also largely responsible for convincing Barack Obama and his wife Michelle to recently ink a production deal with the SVOD behemoth.

Earlier this year, Netflix signed former Obama national security advisor Susan Rice to its board of directors.

Netflix cut its teeth in the political talk show genre with Chelsea Chandler’s “Chelsea,” which streamed for two years through 2017. It now hosts a periodic talk show format series with David Letterman, whose first guest was Barack Obama.

Last month, it started streaming “The Break with Michelle Wolf,” a late-night talk show starring the comic who infamously savaged the press and White House, including press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, during the White House Correspondents Dinner in April.

That said, only 5% of YouGov respondents viewed Netflix negatively, with 17% neutral and 2% claiming to have never heard of Netflix.

Speaking at the New York Paley Center for Media May 29, Sarandos responded to allegations Netflix skews toward the left politically.

“This is not The Obama Network,” said Sarandos, as reported by Variety. “There’s no political slant to the programming.”

 

Netflix Worth More Than Comcast, Disney on Wall Street

Thanks to a record stock price, subscription streaming video behemoth Netflix quietly ended May 23 with a market value exceeding Comcast for the first time.

The same Comcast that owns NBC Universal, DreamWorks Animation and wants to own 20th Century Fox Film and British satellite TV operator Sky.

Netflix ended the day with market capitalization of $149 billion, which bested Comcast’s $147 billion market cap. Netflix opened May 24 up to $151.8 billion, which passed Disney’s $151.7 billion market cap.

With more than 125 million subscribers globally, Netflix continues to grow. The service expects to add 6.2 million subs in the second quarter ending June 30.

The service also continues to expand its creative product with the bow of “Dear White People,” “The Break with Michelle Wolf” on May 27, and announcement of future projects with former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.

The latter drew some pushback on social media, with several subscribers saying on Twitter they would cancel their service, according to Fortune.

Apparently, President Obama’s desire to “cultivate and curate the talented, inspiring, creative voices who are able to promote greater empathy and understanding between peoples and help them share their stories with the entire world,” being an affront to some.

Chief content officer Ted Sarandos said the Obamas are “uniquely positioned to discover and highlight stories of people who make a difference in their communities and strive to change the world for the better.”

And Wall Street agrees — for now.

Bob Iger for President? Disney CEO ‘Seriously’ Considered 2020 Campaign Run

Appalled by the nation’s bitter political divide and the current occupant of the White House, Disney CEO Bob Iger considered running for president in the 2020 election.

The political aspiration, outlined in a Vogue profile, was cut short after Disney’s $52.4 billion acquisition of select 21st Century Fox assets, including 20th Century Fox, require Igor remain CEO through 2021.

Iger, who has repeatedly announced/cancelled retirement dates, actually thought about running in 2016, against the advice of his wife, Willow Bay. He has been Disney CEO since 2005.

“The thought I had was coming from the patriot in me, growing up at a time when we respected our politicians not only for what they stood for but because of what they accomplished,” Iger said.

Declaring himself to be “horrified at the state of politics in America today,” Iger contends there exists the opportunity for a presidential candidate who is more “open-minded” and willing to govern in a bi-partisan manner that would “shame everyone else into going to the middle.”

He reportedly has pushed Disney units Pixar, Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm to diversify lead characters, and was a big supporter in the production of box office hit Black Panther, which features a predominantly black cast and was filmed almost entirely in Atlanta.

When local law makers sought to pass “religious freedom” legislation that would have enabled businesses to discriminate against the LGBTQ community, Iger publicly warned Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal that such a move would see Disney relocate its production business out-of-state. The bill was scuttled.

“On the business side, there is a case to be made for your product reflecting the world you’re trying to do business in,” Iger said. “But of course, there’s also an ethical side.”

Notably, Iger’s business stances run both ways. He was one of the first high-profile CEOs to quit Trump’s business advisory panel after the president announced U.S. plans to exit the Paris climate accord.

In 2016, Iger came under fire from Democrat presidential candidate Bernie Sanders – a longtime critic of economics favoring the nation’s top 1% — when he accused Disney of paying Disneyland employees unlivable wages, among other labor-saving actions, while reaping billions in quarterly profit.

Iger, whose compensation at Disney ranks among the highest in corporate America, lashed back in a Facebook post.

“To Bernie Sanders: We created 11,000 new jobs at Disneyland in the past decade, and our company has created 18,000 in the U.S. in the last five years. How many jobs have you created? What have you contributed to the U.S. economy?”

Notably, Disney shareholders last month – in a non-binding vote – rejected an executive compensation plan that would pay Iger upwards of $48.5 million annually over the next four years, in addition to a $100 million equity grant.

Disney’s board has not made a final ruling on Iger’s compensation package.