UFC Not Canceling Fights After Conferring with Trump

In a switch, the UFC March 13 announced it would not cancel scheduled mixed martial arts events, becoming the first professional sports organization to continue business as usual despite the growing coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking on ESPN, Dana White, president of the UFC, the world’s largest MMA promoter, said his decision was made after consulting with President Trump.

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“I talked to the president and vice president of the United States today about this and they’re taking this very serious and they’re saying, ‘be cautious and be careful but live your life and stop panicking,'” White told the Disney-owned sport channel.

UFC is slated to hold “UFC Fight Night 170” on March 14 in Brazil with no spectators allowed in the venue.

White said the UFC continues to “closely” monitor the situation and the potential impact of the coronavirus on athletes, staff and fans.

Brazil has confirmed eight cases of the virus through March 12, including the first instances of local transmission, according to the Health Ministry.

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Netflix’s Seth Meyers Comedy Special Lets Viewers Skip Trump Jokes

Netflix introduced binge-streaming, content recommendation software and fast-tracking credits and intros on original series. Now the subscription streaming pioneer is letting users skip jokes in a comedy special.

The concept reportedly originated from former SNL writer/comic Seth Meyers, whose comedy special, “Lobby Baby,” bows Nov. 5 on Netflix. The comic suggested viewers have the option to skip punchlines on President Trump — a staple of his NBC show, “Late Night with Seth Meyers.”

“It was a way to build in the response to anyone who would say, ‘Oh, let me guess, there’s going to be jokes about the President,'” Meyers told CNN Business.

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Meyers has a long career lampooning Trump, which began in 2011 when he poked fun of then headline star of “The Apprentice” at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.

The comic contends the skip function is a joke in itself and shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

“Look, sometimes at a fancy restaurant they’ll put parsley on your plate and you’ll think, well that’s a nice touch, but you’re not going to eat the parsley,” Meyers quipped.

Robbie Praw, director of original standup comedy programming at Netflix, said Meyers’ skip function was a “clever idea” in today’s hyper-partisan atmosphere.

“We’re thrilled he was able to take advantage of the Netflix experience in such a funny and innovative way,” Praw said.

 

Trump Says Congress Should Investigate Obama’s ‘Ridiculous Netflix Deal’

President Donald Trump Sept. 16 — in an early morning tweet — lashed out at a federal appeals court’s decision to re-open allegations he improperly receives money through his businesses from foreign and domestic leaders in order to curry political favor from him.

His opponents claim doing so would be in violation of the Emoluments Clauses of the Constitution.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in New York Sept. 13 re-opened the ethics complaint, brought about by various plaintiffs, including watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).

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The original complaint was dismissed by a lower court in 2017.

Regardless, Trump used the occasion to criticize former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama’s book publishing deal and separate original content agreement with Netflix.

The book and streaming video deals occurred after the Obamas were out of the White House and private citizens.

In April, Higher Ground Productions, the Obamas’ production company in partnership with Netflix, announced an initial slate of upcoming projects, encompassing fiction and nonfiction productions; scripted, unscripted and documentary series; and full-length features and documentaries.

Michelle’s memoir Becoming, remains a national bestseller with more than 7.5 million copies sold.

Best Buy, Roku, Apple Shares Rebound Following Tariff Delay

Shares of Best Buy, Roku, Apple and other consumer electronics retailers/manufactures rebounded after President Trump delayed until Dec. 15 a proposed new 10% tariff on cellphones, laptop computers, video game consoles and other goods manufactured in China.

The tariff on $300 billion worth of products, which Trump announced Aug. 1 as part of ongoing trade tensions with the world’s No. 2 economic power, would have been on top of an existing 25% tariff Trump previously imposed on $250 billion worth of other Chinese goods.

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The delay came after intense lobbying efforts in the nation’s capital convinced administration officials the new tariff could have serious implications to the U.S. economy entering the fourth quarter.

“Just in case they might have an impact on people … what we’ve done is we’ve delayed it so they won’t be relevant for the Christmas shopping season,” Trump told reporters on Aug. 13.

The news was welcomed by Wall Street, which saw shares of Best Buy, Apple and Roku rise 6.5%, 4% and 1%, respectively.

Roku is one of the largest manufacturer of Internet-connected televisions, with many originating from China.

But to the Consumer Technology Association trade group, delaying proposed tariffs only prolongs market uncertainty and impacts consumers 401(K) pension or retirement accounts, among other issues.

“Retaliatory tariffs are bad economic policy in the short and long term,” Gary Shapiro, CEO of the CTA, said in a statement. “The administration’s legally dubious trade war is compromising America’s global leadership.”

Previously-announced tariffs starting Sep. 1 will affect $52 billion in consumer technology products, and the tariffs starting Dec. 15 will affect $115 billion in products. Since July 2018, Section 301 tariffs on China have cost the consumer tech industry over $10 billion, including $1 billion on 5G-related products, according to the CTA.

“Tariffs are taxes,” Shapiro said. “The Chinese government doesn’t pay for them – Americans bear the burden. And next month, we’ll begin to pay more for some of our favorite tech devices – including TVs, smart speakers and desktop computers. The administration should permanently remove these harmful tariffs and find another way to hold China accountable for its unfair trading practices.”

Trade Group Pushes Back Against Trump’s Claim Video Games Incite Violence in Society

In the aftermath of separate mass shootings over the weekend that left 31 people dead and scores wounded, the Entertainment Software Association is pushing back against claims by President Trump and some lawmakers that violence in video games fuels violence in society.

Trump Aug. 5 condemned the attacks carried out by two shooters in their early 20s armed assault weapons.

“Our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy,” the president said, without calling for tougher gun controls and/or outlawing assault-style weapons — the latter done in New Zealand following the slaughter of Muslim churchgoers by a white nationalist earlier this year.

Trump also called for greater focus on mental health and the end of glorifying violence in society, including “the gruesome and grisly video games that are now commonplace.”

Indeed, many games enable first-person shooter scenarios that mimic shooting an assault-weapon at people.

For ESA, whose publishing members include Electronic Arts, Nintendo and Activision Blizzard, the comments hit too close.

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“Numerous scientific studies have established that there is no causal connection between video games and violence,” the ESA said in a statement. “More than 165 million Americans enjoy video games, and billions of people play video games worldwide. Yet other societies, where video games are played as avidly, do not contend with the tragic levels of violence that occur in the U.S.”

Regardless, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), minority leader in the House, told Fox News that many video games dehumanize human life.

Complaints about violence in games isn’t a partisan issue. Hillary Clinton in 2005 co-sponsored a bill that would have made it illegal for minors to purchase video games.

“We’ve watched from studies shown before of what it does to individuals,” McCarthy told Fox News. “When you look at these [shooting] photos of how it took place, you can see the actions within video games and others.”

Twitter Testing ‘Subscription’ Feature

President Trump’s favorite communication platform, Twitter, is reportedly testing a “subscription” option that would enable users to link to threads without commenting or adding a post.

The subscription option is similar to what YouTube and Instagram employ enabling users to keep track of third-party video posts without actively engaging directly or paying for them.

Twitter told DigitalTrends the test is part of the social media platform’s attempt to attract more casual users and entice advertisers.

The social media platform, which recently released an experimental app, Twttr, designed to offer more chat-like features, said it wants to make the service “more conversational.”

Separately, at last week’s SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas, Twitter disclosed a new camera for the app affording users easier sharing of videos and photos.

 

 

 

 

 

Lawmakers Introduce ‘Save the Internet’ Bill

As expected, Democratic lawmakers in the House and Senate March 6 introduced legislation aimed at overturning the FCC’s 2017 repeal of the 2015 Open Internet Order, or net neutrality.

Dubbed “Save the Internet Act,” the bill seeks to re-classify the Internet as a utility under Title II of the Telecommunications Act of 1934 prohibiting Internet service providers from blocking, throttling or creating fast lanes and slow lanes by charging extra fees to prioritize content.

“Since the FCC foolishly repealed net neutrality, we’ve seen a wild west where monopoly telephone and cable companies have been free to do what they want at the expense of consumers,” Michael Copps, a former FCC commissioner, said in a statement in support of the legislation.

Copp contends there exists evidence of broadband providers throttling speeds, degrading video quality, and creating service plans that favor their own content over competitors.

“The harms will only get worse the longer net neutrality remains repealed,” he said.

Jason Pye, VP of legislative affairs with FreedomWorks, a lobby group supporting small government, lower taxes and free markets, said repeal of net neutrality guidelines was an attempt to correct government overreach.

“This Democratic proposal is yet another solution in search of a problem,” said Pye. “Our Internet grew, innovated, and thrived under a light touch regulatory framework. The Democrats’ bill would inhibit future innovation and would only serve to increase big government control over the lives of everyday Americans.”

Regardless, the bill must pass Congress and then be signed by President Trump – a long shot considering Trump’s appointee to run the FCC – Ajit Pai – personally pushed for the net neutrality repeal.

 

 

Report: Trump Personally Sought to Block AT&T/Time Warner Merger

Despite claims to the contrary, President Trump wanted to block AT&T’s $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner — largely for political reasons, according to a report by The New Yorker.

According to the publication, which cited a “well-informed source,” Trump in 2017 called on former economic advisor Gary Cohn and then-chief-of-staff John Kelly to personally ensure that the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against the merger — which it did in November, citing antitrust concerns.

Trump, on the 2016 campaign trail, had said the merger would be bad for the country. According to the New Yorker, Trump’s decision was largely due to his dislike for Time Warner’s CNN news division, which he often called “fake news” in response to critical reports of his administration.

“The President does not understand the nuances of antitrust law or policy,” a former unnamed official told the publication. “But he wanted to bring down the hammer.”

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When a U.S. federal court judge ruled in favor of AT&T, the DOJ filed an appeal, which was rejected last week by an appeals court. The merger resulted in the creation of WarnerMedia, which includes Warner Bros., HBO and Turner.

The intervention by the Justice Department raised eyebrows at the time as it represented the agency’s first since it successfully blocked AT&T’s $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile in 2011.

Indeed, The New Yorker stated Trump had no objection to 21st Century Fox’s $71.3 billion asset sale to The Walt Disney Co. by longtime supporter Rupert Murdoch, whose Fox News business remains an influential media asset to the President.

Appeals Court Denies DOJ Bid to Block AT&T’s $85 Billion Time Warner Purchase

A federal appeals court Feb. 26 ruled against the Justice Department’s attempt to block AT&T’s $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner, which led to the formation of WarnerMedia.

The court found that a lower court judge’s decision last summer approving of the transaction did not violate antitrust guidelines.

“The judgment of the district court appealed from this cause is hereby affirmed,” the court wrote in its ruling.

The Justice Department had argued that the merger would enable AT&T, which also owns DirecTV, to leverage its stake in the satellite operator to force pay-TV competitors to pay more for content from Warner Bros., HBO and Turner, which includes CNN.

Some observers speculated the government’s attempt to block the deal revolved more around President Trump’s openly hostile approach to CNN, which he has labeled “fake news,” and, along with other media outlets not named Fox News, an “enemy of the people.”

Indeed, the DOJ’s legal challenges represented the first to a corporate vertical merger in four years.

 

Twitter Ups Q4 Daily Users, Ad-Revenue

President Trump’s favorite communication vehicle — Twitter — Feb. 7 reported 27 million people in the United States used the social media platform on a daily basis in the fourth quarter (ended Dec. 31, 2018) — which was up 2 million users from the previous-year period.

Twitter, for the first time, revealed daily use of the platform, which included 10 million more users outside the U.S. to 99 million from 89 million in the previous-year period.

“We want to provide something valuable to people on Twitter every day, and we believe that monetizable [daily average use], and its related growth, are the best ways to measure our success,” founder/CEO Jack Dorsey wrote in the shareholder letter.

Average monthly use of the San Francisco-based service declined worldwide, including by 2 million in the U.S. to 66 million, and by 7 million to 255 million internationally.

Advertising revenue, which makes up the bulk of Twitter’s sales, increased 23% to $791 million from $644 million. Data licensing and other revenue increased 35% to $117 million from $87 million in the previous-year period.

Non-GAAP net income increased 73% to $244 million from $141 million during the previous-year period.

In the letter, Dorsey said abuse reports filed by users fell 16%, with the platform pledging to curb abuse of the platform by politically-motivated groups, individuals and others engaged in fraudulent or hateful activity.

“We will continue to prioritize the health of the public conversation on Twitter so people feel safe being a part of the conversation and are able to find credible information on our service,” he wrote.

In 2018, Twitter fielded 100 live-streaming video events and signed several video-on-demand agreements to complement user-generated and licensed live and on-demand video content already available on Twitter across a number of verticals including sports, news and politics, and entertainment.

Dorsey reiterated that video continues to be a “powerful, essential medium” on Twitter, enabling users and content owners to better “share experiences, engage in events, and converse with broader audiences.”