At a board retreat in Orlando, Florida, in 2006, a pair of senior Disney executives predicted a seismic shift in the media landscape — one fueled by consumers who would enjoy unprecedented access to content. Their plan? Amass strong enough entertainment brands and franchises to grab the attention of viewers awash in choices.
That insight, part of a “Disney 2015” presentation by its CFO at the time, Tom Staggs, and corporate strategist Kevin Mayer, was delivered a dozen years before Netflix briefly surpassed Disney as the world’s most valuable media company in 2018. It would inform an aggressive buying binge, in the mold of the Pixar Animation Studios deal of 2006, that would roll up some of the world’s most recognizable entertainment brands under the Disney banner — Marvel Entertainment, Lucasfilm and 21st Century Fox. These form the foundation of the coming Disney+ streaming service, which CEO Bob Iger will discuss in detail at an investor day Thursday on Disney’s manicured studio lot in Burbank, California.
Analysts say Disney’s library of blockbuster films and popular TV shows, bolstered by its recent acquisition of Fox’s film and television assets, give it a competitive advantage that should help attract subscribers — even at a time when established rivals, like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, have gained a substantial head-start.
Disney and Fox together account for 47% of the top 100 films of all time, based on domestic box office. That’s more than double the nearest competitor, Warner Bros., with 20 hit movies. The combined Disney and Fox libraries also command the largest share of the 100 most popular TV shows, as ranked by IMDB.
Disney plans to mine its Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars franchises for original shows that will appear exclusively on the streaming service, including a live-action Star Wars TV series The Mandalorian, an animated series Monsters At Work, with Billy Crystal and John Goodman reprising their roles as Mike and Sully, and a series based on the Marvel archer character Hawkeye, starring Jeremy Renner.
“The amalgamation of Disney’s and Fox’s libraries will create an unparalleled combination of great, hard to recreate and memorable content,” said media analyst Michael Nathanson.
Nathanson predicts Disney+ will attract 7.1 million subscribers in its first year, growing to nearly 24 million by the end of fiscal 2022.
A question remains about whether a content company like Disney will be able to match Netflix’s technological prowess. The Los Gatos-based streaming service has been able to draw from its vast trove of user data to deliver recommendations that keep its 139 million global subscribers watching, month after month, and inform programming decisions.
Disney has stumbled on previous digital endeavors, such as DisneyLife, a U.K.-based streaming service that launched in 2015, charging £10 a month for access to some 400 movies, 4,000 TV episodes as well as songs and books. Despite a price drop, it has failed to catch on with subscribers, according to numerous published accounts.
The success of Disney+ is something Iger is staking his legacy on, describing it, during a recent investor call, as “our number one priority.”
That’s a major strategic shift for Disney, which had enabled the growth of Netflix through lucrative multi-year deals, such as the one in 2012 that gave the streaming service exclusive TV rights to new and catalog films, and another, the following year, that handed Netflix access to Marvel’s muscular superhero roster — with ABC Television Studio developing original series based on comic book characters Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage.
Netflix became the de facto syndicator for a number of TV shows, noted Nathanson.
The inescapable toll of cord-cutting, fanned by popular services like Netflix, caused a re-calibration inside the Mouse House. Disney’s traditional cash cow, ESPN, has shed 13 million domestic subscribers from its peak in 20013, and Disney Channel also has lost millions of pay TV viewers.
Iger shifted course in 2017, announcing that Disney would pull its content from Netflix and launch its own service in 2019. That August, the company invested $1.58 billion to acquire a majority ownership of BAMTech, the MLB-founded video streaming technology that will power Disney+. That same year, in December, Disney announced its ground-breaking deal to acquire much of Fox, a move that would position Disney as the world’s preeminent entertainment company — and bulk up its library as it prepares to do battle with Netflix.
The $71.3 billion Fox deal, which closed in March, reunited the X-Men and Fantastic Four with the rest of the Marvel universe, added The Simpsons and Ice Age to Disney and Pixar’s animated roster, and brought James Cameron’s four sequels to the box-office blockbuster Avatar under the Disney banner. It also gave Disney a controlling interest in Hulu, a streaming service jointly owned with Comcast’s NBCUniversal and AT&T’s WarnerMedia, which has amassed 25 million subscribers.
Disney announced a sweeping corporate reorganization in March of 2018, to consolidate its streaming operations under the executive who’d overseen its major acquisitions, Kevin Mayer. Previously, efforts had been fragmented among the different business units, with the film and television groups pursuing different digital strategies, say former insiders.
“Depending on how aggressively Disney intends to invest, and their willingness to accept compressed profit margins, the company has a chance to become a meaningful competitor to Netflix and Amazon’s Prime Video,” wrote Brian Wieser, a long-time media analyst who now oversees business intelligence for GroupM, one of the world’s largest media buyers.
-Dawn Chmielewski; Forbes Staff
Here’s How The US Claims The Assange-Manning Conspiracy Worked
The U.S. government has disclosed more of its case against WikiLeaks cofounder Julian Assange. It hinges on a claim he and Chelsea Manning worked together to crack a password for a computer storing sensitive government files.
An affidavit unsealed Monday outlining the case against Assange said he conspired with Manning when they discussed working together to crack a password “related to two computers with access to classified national security information.” More specifically, the password belonged to a user called FTP (not to be confused with an FTP server) on two Windows computers that Manning could access from a base in Iraq, the government said.
The FTP account wasn’t associated with any specific individual, and the government alleged that if Manning had used it to pilfer files and hand them over to Wikileaks, she could have foiled investigators looking into who was behind the leaks.
“Although there is no evidence that the password to the FTP user was obtained, had Manning done so, she would have been able to take steps to procure classified information under a username that did not belong to her,” the affidavit read. “Such measures would have frustrated attempts to identify the source of the disclosures to WikiLeaks.”
The alleged conspiracy to crack the password took place in March 2010, two months after she’d walked out of the Iraq base with classified war reports from Iraq and Afghanistan. She was later convicted and served seven years in jail for downloading tens of thousands U.S. military documents and diplomatic cables.
How passwords are cracked
The reason any password had to be cracked in the first place was the use of what’s known as a “hash.” Microsoft’s Windows operating system doesn’t store passwords in plain text. That’s to prevent hackers who find a way on to the computer from seeing and stealing them. Instead, Microsoft makes life harder for cybercriminals and snoops by turning that plain text into scrambled code. That string of letters and numbers is known as a “hash value” and it’s created when an algorithm is applied to the plain text of the password.
For an attacker to get at the plain text it’s possible to do a so-called “brute force attack.” The process for this is basic: The hacker creates a huge list of guessed passwords through the same hashing algorithm used by Windows to find a matched hash value for the hidden password. Once the same hash value is calculated, the password has been found.
Sometimes a password will be too complex for guessing to work in a short enough time frame. That’s where “rainbow tables” come in. These contain a massive number of hash values for previously calculated passwords. Hackers use them to do a quick comparison of the hash they have with the ones in the table, in the hopes that it’s already been seen before and a match is available.
“In computing terms we call this a time/memory trade-off. Rather than spend time on a task, we pre-calculate parts of it and store them somewhere, essentially trading time for memory,” says Tom Wyatt, senior penetration tester at cybersecurity provider Bulletproof. “These tables can be calculated or downloaded from various online sources, and it simply boils down to paying for storage for it all; even in 2010 this was fairly cheap and entirely possible.”
But Microsoft goes one step further in protecting those hash values by splitting them in two, storing the parts in separate files. Here’s where a little trick comes in handy: A hacker might be able to recover those two separate pieces by rebooting a Windows PC using a CD with the Linux operating system. Back in 2010, it was possible to do that and recover the full hash value.
Ken Munro, a penetration tester with Pen Test Partners, told Forbes the technique still works, as long as there’s no additional layer of security over it, such as full disc encryption. “Whilst the technique still works, it’s quite rare to find systems that don’t now have full disc or similar encryption,” he added. (Microsoft hadn’t responded to a request for comment at the time of publication). According to the government’s telling of the story, evidence suggests Manning tried, and very possibly failed, with this technique. In a footnote in the affidavit, the government said Manning hadn’t provided Assange with the full hash, only one of the two halves required.
It’s alleged Manning passed what she thought was a hash value to Assange. The Wikileaks chief then said he would pass it on to a specialist in cracking, according to chats over the Jabber encrypted communications app, as provided in the affidavit. But, as per the investigators’ claims, there was some confusion: Manning said she wasn’t even sure what she handed to Assange was the hash value they wanted. Assange messaged Manning to ask if there were “any more hints” about the hash and that he’d had “no luck so far,” according to the government account. From there it’s unclear what happened. The government admits it didn’t know whether the password was ever cracked.
Not that it changes much for Assange: The charge is that of conspiracy. If he did offer assistance to help Manning gain access to U.S. government systems and encouraged the then intelligence analyst to leak files, the charge still stands. Manning, who served seven years in jail before being pardoned by President Barack Obama, is back behind bars for refusing to testify in the investigation into Wikileaks. Her lawyer had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.
Assange’s lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, couldn’t be reached for comment at the time of publication. She told Sky News yesterday that the indictment against her client showed “the kinds of communications journalists have with sources all the time.” Following Assange’s arrest, however, various journalists have said on Twitter that any incitement to hack organizations or steal documents was far from normal and risked breaking the law.
Meanwhile, the fallout from Assange’s arrest continues. According to Reuters, Ecuador’s telecommunications vice minister Patricio Real said the government’s networks had been hit by a mass of cyberattacks after it decided to revoke Assange’s asylum status. He claimed various government websites had been slammed by 40 million hacking attempts per day, double the number it typically sees.
-Thomas Brewster; Forbes Staff
10 Rules Of Email That Will Reduce Your Stress Levels
Email and smart phones can be stressful. Academics are calling this constant work connection “technostress”. Consequently, many European countries are now offering employees the “right to disconnect”.
The way email is used is complex, it cannot simply be labelled as “good” or “bad” and research shows that personality, the type of work people do and their goals can influence the way they react to email.
Good practice with email use is not just about limiting the amount of emails sent, but improving the quality of communication.
Here are ten tips to reduce the stress of email at work:
1. Get the subject line right
Use clear and actionable subject lines.
The subject line should communicate exactly what the email is about in six to ten words, to allow the recipient to prioritise the email without even opening it. On mobile devices, many people only see the first 30 characters of a subject line. So keep it short. But make it descriptive enough to give an idea of what the email is about from just the subject line.
2. Ask yourself: is email the right medium?
Are you in the same office? Could you go and speak to the person? Could you call? Often these other forms of communication can avoid the inefficient back and forth of emailing.
Instant messaging and video calling platforms like Slack and Skype could be more appropriate for quick internal back and forth messaging. Also, remember that most of the advice below applies to all types of electronic communication.
3. Don’t email out of office hours
Research shows that out-of-hours emails make it harder for people to recover from work stress.
Try and influence your company culture by avoiding sending or replying to emails outside your normal working hours.
Management should lead by example and avoid contacting their staff outside of their normal working hours. Some workplaces even switch off email access to employees out of hours. Consider implementing this while keeping a backup phone system for emergency contact only.
New research has also shown that just the expectation of 24-hour contact can negatively affect employee health.
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4. Use the delay delivery option
Some people like integrating their work and family lives and often continue working from home during their off-job time. If you are one of these people, or if you work across time zones, consider using the delay delivery option so your emails do not send until the next working day and do not interfere with other people’s off-job time.
5. Keep it positive
Think about the quality of email communication. Not just the quantity. Changes to email use should also focus on the quality of what is being sent and take into consideration the emotional reaction of the recipient.
Research suggests that conflicts are far easier to escalate and messages to be misinterpreted when communicated via email. Therefore, if it is bad news, think back to rule #2: is email the right medium?
6. Try ‘no email Friday’
In order to shift company culture and get people thinking about other methods of communication than email, try a “no email Friday” on the first Friday of every month, or maybe even every week. This is an initiative suggested by experts from the National Forum for Health and Wellbeing at Work, and is being used by businesses around the globe. Employees are encouraged to arrange face-to-face meetings or pick up the phone – or just get on top of the many emails they already have in their inbox on that day.
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7. Make your preferences known
Research has shown that not only too much but also too little email can cause stress due to a mismatch between the communication preferences of different people. Some people may like being emailed and cope much better with high email traffic than other means of communication. For these people, reducing the amount of emails they receive may cause more stress than it alleviates.
So consider people’s individual differences and make yours known. Add your preferred contact preferences to your email signature whether it is email, text or instant messages or a phone call.
8. Consider a holiday ‘bounce back’
Having a backlog of emails that builds up over the week appears to be one of the most commonly mentioned sources of technostress for workers. Think about setting up a system where emails are bounced back to the sender when someone is on holiday, with an alternative contact email for urgent requests. This would let you come back to a manageable inbox.
9. Have a separate work phone
Make this the only mobile device you can access work emails on, which gives you the freedom to switch it off after work hours. Also consider turning off email “push” (this is where your email server sends each new email to your phone when it arrives at the server) and instead choose a regular schedule (such as once per hour) for emails to be delivered to your phone (this also increases battery life).
10. Avoid late night screen time
Research suggests that late night smart phone use reduces our ability to get to sleep and also leads to constant thoughts and stress about work. This in turn reduces your sleep quality. Make the bed a phone-free zone to improve your sleep hygiene.
-Ricardo Twumasi; Lecturer in Organisational Psychology, University of Manchester
-Cary Cooper; 50th Anniversary Professor of Organisational Psychology and Health, University of Manchester
–Lina Siegl; PhD Researcher, University of Manchester
The World’s Largest Airplane Takes Flight. Next Stop? Outer Space
On Saturday, the world’s largest aircraft, the Stratolaunch, made its first complete test flight. The aircraft flew for about two and a half hours over the Mojave desert, reaching a speed of 189 miles per hour and an altitude of 17,000 feet.
The aircraft was created by the Stratolaunch Systems Corporation, which was founded by the late Paul Allen. The purpose of the plane isn’t normal commercial travel, but rather to carry rockets into high altitudes, then launch those rockets from the plane itself.
“What a fantastic first flight,” Jean Floyd, CEO of Stratolaunch, said in a statement. “Today’s flight furthers our mission to provide a flexible alternative to ground launched systems.”
Scaled Composites, which was acquired by Northrop Grummon in 2007, worked on the design and build of the Stratolaunch aircraft. Saturday’s test flight was piloted by Scaled Composites test pilots Evan Thomas and Chris Guarente.
“I honestly could not have hoped for more on a first flight especially of an airplane of this complexity and this uniqueness,” Thomas said in a press briefing following the flight.
The Stratolaunch aircraft was first announced in 2011, and is the largest plane ever built out of composite materials. Its wingspan is 385 feet, the longest of any aircraft that has ever flown, including the Spruce Goose, which had a wingspan of about 320 feet. By comparison, a Boeing 747 has a wingspan of about 212 feet – making the Stratolaunch plane nearly twice the size. It’s propelled by six PW4056 turbofan engines, and is actually capable of launching multiple rockets on a single flight, up to about 500,000 pounds.
Airplane-launched rockets seemed at one point to be a good bet as a way of providing more convenient flights into space. Scaled Composites won the Ansari X Prize for launching the first private, reusable spacecraft into space in June of 2004. That effort was backed by Paul Allen, and this approach was not only adopted by Stratolaunch but also by Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic.
However, it’s taken much longer than expected to develop these types of spaceflight. Virgin Galactic only first reached a space-approaching altitude at the end of 2018 – 14 years after that first Scaled Composite flight – though it hopes to be providing passenger service as early as later this year. Stratolaunch at one time was developing a rocket for its aircraft, but abandoned that effort earlier this year.
Rather than launch its own rockets, Stratolaunch has shifted strategy to be a platform for other aircraft-launched rockets. In particular, for Northrop Grummon’s Pegasus family of rockets. First demonstration Pegasus flights off of the Stratolaunch plane are scheduled for 2020.
Though they’ve taken longer to develop, the arrival of private plane-launched rockets via Virgin and Stratolaunch may be well-timed, as more satellite startups are looking for options to get satellites into space on their own timetable. Rockets launched from airplanes have more flexibility in terms of timing than their counterparts that launch from the ground, which may be a critical factor for companies looking to build up constellations in a hurry.
-Alex Knapp; Forbes Staff
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