Rearview Reflections: Industry News That Shook Us This Week

Rearview Reflections: Industry News That Shook
Cheyne Gateley/VIP

With media/tech moves flying at us daily, the VIP+ team has begun hosting an action-packed discussion on Clubhouse every Friday at 11:30 a.m. PT, where we bat around the biggest industry stories of the week and try to find out what you think.

Ahead of each week today’s discussion, our analysts will make a case for the one development that fired up their week. Agree — or disagree — with our picks? Want to make some of your own? Join us every Friday on Clubhouse and let us have it. Now, here are the experts’ picks for what media/tech news really rattled our cages this week…

Heidi Chung, Media Analyst/Correspondent 

If you’ve been tuning into VIP’s weekly Clubhouse chats, you’ll know that we’ve been talking extensively about the legacy media companies like ViacomCBS and Discovery and their massive stock rallies. 

Well, things really got interesting over the past weekend when we learned one of the reasons ViacomCBS stock lost more than half its value in one week was thanks to a family investment office you’ve probably never heard of: Archegos Capital Management. Archegos was founded by Bill Hwang, a former hedge funder of Tiger Asia Management.

Archegos had very large bets in media companies like ViacomCBS and Discovery, as well as some Chinese Internet stocks. But when it couldn’t meet its financial obligations to a few banks, the banks were ultimately forced to sell billions of dollars’ worth of equities to protect their respective balance sheets. And it just so happened that billions of dollars’ worth of ViacomCBS and Discovery shares were among what the banks offloaded.

This was a really important moment for the overall markets, and investors were holding their breath at market open on Monday morning. All the drama amplified more holes in the financial system, and the ability for one small player to cause meaningful volatility in the financial system and markets should concern the rest of us. For decades, Wall Street has gotten away with a lot of questionable things, just maybe not for much longer. 

Andrew Wallenstein, Chief Media Analyst 

When I first saw these snotty tweets from Amazon’s Twitter account pushing back at the likes of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, I did an eyeroll and quickly forgot about it.  

But as more examples started going viral and it was clear this wasn’t just some social media coordinator gone rogue but corporate-approved agitprop, I was gobsmacked. Sure, we’re used to Fortune 500 companies bringing a certain irreverence to their social media accounts (we see you, Wendy’s!), but Amazon just seemed to be going a bridge too far.  

There’s something spectacularly tone deaf about seeing the kind of aggressiveness you shouldn’t be seeing from a company you might expect to be adopting a more conciliatory posture at a time when the Biden administration is certainly tightening the regulatory screws.  

What’s most concerning is how this all plays against the backdrop of the recently announced CEO transition away from Jeff Bezos, who Recode reported directly ordered these tweets because he felt Amazon wasn’t putting up much of a fight against criticism of the company.  

This raises big questions about the strategic direction of Amazon under new leadership, not to mention whether the company’s PR strategy is perhaps a sign that the conventional assumptions about how big brands conduct themselves in the marketplace are headed for a reevaluation as Amazon inevitably inspires other corporations to get feistier. 

Gavin Bridge, Senior Media Analyst 

Blink and you may have missed it, but the biggest story of the week from a sports perspective was the news that the NHL and PGA Tour have secured digital rights deals for snippets of live games with a startup called Buzzer. The NHL’s deal sees Buzzer having the right to sell two minutes per period per game to users for $0.99 a clip.  

This has the potential to be a watershed moment for sports.  Recent research VIP conducted with the Maru Group found growing numbers of sports fans who are valuing watching full games less and are increasingly moving toward watching the end of games and highlights. The concept of clips may evolve over time — I anticipate this moving from in-game clips to highlights — but it’s a step in the right direction and shows some sports are looking at innovative new ways to embrace how fans’ tastes are shifting. 

Kaare Eriksen, Information Editor 

Microsoft is set to expand on its HoloLens tech to deliver as much as 120,000 headsets utilizing the company’s Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) design to boost awareness and decision-making for U.S. Army soldiers via a contract that could be worth as much $22 billion, paid out over 10 years.  

While staggering in size, augmented reality isn’t a stranger to the government. After selling his company to Facebook and later stepping down amid controversy over his right-wing affiliations, Oculus founder Palmer Luckey won a contract with the Trump administration in 2020 via startup Anduril to develop a “virtual wall” at the U.S.-Mexico border via surveillance towers, after time spent developing headsets for border patrol agents.  

Likewise, Microsoft was awarded a $10 billion contract by the U.S. Department of Defense in 2020 to lend its cloud computing tech, instead of Amazon. While AR/VR enthusiasts may salivate at the opportunities that could be afforded on the gaming and leisure fronts via Microsoft’s HoloLens, Windows and Xbox businesses, this contract reinforces a tough reality for more ethically minded tech fans as to which entities are spearheading the development of these headsets the most. 

Kevin Tran, Media Analyst 

Despite a big initial misfire, Snap hasn’t given up on hardware. The Information on Tuesday reported Snap will soon announce a new version of Spectacles and is also developing a drone. Details on the drone were scant, but the main difference in Snap’s AR glasses push is that the product will be limited to creators and developers.  

The decision to limit the audience of the next Spectacles product to these groups shows how focused Snap remains in incentivizing developers to continue to create experiences for Snapchat that separate it from social giants like Instagram and TikTok. Just remember how in December Snap announced a $3.5 million fund to support AR Snapchat Lens creation and how it’s been gradually allowing more apps to integrate Snapchat Stories.   

It’s particularly timely to incentivize developers to create new experiences for Snapchat as vaccines are rolling out through the U.S. Vaccinations will likely translate to more consumers being out and about doing things they deem Snapchat-worthy.  

On the other hand, a likely secondary motivation to limiting the initial new Spectacles audience to developers and creators is that visibility of any bugs or shortcomings with the new product would be relatively muted. Feedback from developers and creators on the new Spectacles could be incorporated to help Snap release a more refined product if the company ever opts for a general release. 

This is just the tip of the iceberg for the week’s media/tech news, and the VIP team stands ready to dig into it all — so don’t miss next Friday’s 30-minute Clubhouse conversation.