Netflix is Bigger than CBS

Shares in Netflix are soaring high after another huge first quarter of 2015. In fact, the market value of Netflix has currently surpassed that of CBS Corp. This is impressive as CBS is by most measures the highest rated broadcast TV network in the US, which also boasts the nation’s most watched program: NCIS.

This just shows how awesome Netflix is and how popular they have become. At this point it becomes a question of whether any service, be it Amazon, Hulu, HBO, or cable television, will be able to rival Netflix. Normally you would think Netflix can’t compete because they use a lot of older content that has already been consumed. However, Netflix’s original programming has become very high quality.

Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos said the company’s “goal is to become HBO faster than HBO can become us.” There really is a race here, as HBO has launched HOB Now, which is very similar to Netflix. Also, Netflix has begun creating a great deal of original content, which rival’s HBO’s popular programs.

Earlier this week, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings also fired more shots at TV, claiming that he doesn’t want to kill HBO, just traditional TV.

He says of traditional TV: “Linear TV has been on an amazing 50-year run. Internet TV is starting to grow. Clearly over the next 20 years Internet TV is going to replace linear TV. And so I think everyone is scrambling to figure out how do they do great apps, how do they things like “Noggin” which are fantastic. That will just keep getting built up and so it’s a transition into figuring out the Internet. And the way people do that is to get involved with us, with our competitors to try to start to learn what are the new patterns and modalities because Internet TV is the way that people will consume video in the future.”

What do you think about Netflix’s success? Do you have traditional TV channels in your home?

Companies Taking Secrecy to a New Level

Secrecy

Big company secrets are nothing new. And it’s not necessarily nefarious: in a competitive market, businesses often keep secrets to varying degrees, such as Google’s search engine algorithm or KFC’s chicken recipe.

But some companies take their secrecy to a whole new level. Japanese robot maker Fanuc, currently being courted by hedge fund superstar Daniel Loeb, has a reputation for the extreme secrecy of its operations. Few outsiders are allowed in the building, a windowless factory located at the base of Mt. Fuji. Reporters say email is banned to avoid infiltration from hackers and computer viruses (most business is conducted by fax). There are no conference calls with analysts and no investor relations department. Shareholder meetings are held one day a year to limit attendance, and women and non-Japanese board members are nearly nonexistent.

To the Japanese, Fanuc’s mentality represents a source of pride and nostalgia for doing things traditionally and in a culturally appropriate way. To would-be outside investors, however, the secrecy is standing in the way of progress.

Fanuc has announced it will invest more than $1 billion in new plants, as well as research and development. And they do seem to be moving toward slightly more open policies of conduct, engaging in discussions with both Loeb and local government. However, investors will need to be patient and creative if they want to get past the walls of silence.

Of course, Fanuc isn’t the only company currently engaging in some serious secrecy. Magic Leap, the Florida-based “augmented reality” company, has raised roughly $500 million in investments without ever specifically describing their product. Investors include Google, chipmaker Qualcomm, Legendary Entertainment, and Obvious Ventures, an investment fund co-founded by Twitter co-founder Ev Williams.

There is some suggestion that the product Magic Leap will ultimately offer is likely to be a wearable technology device complete with an infrared camera similar to the Microsoft Kinect, which will create a 3-D concept of the world around the wearer, allowing for the possibility of adding in virtual reality elements. Beyond that, the secrecy around the details remains. In fact, secrecy may be part of the draw: VP Computer Vision and Machine Learning Gary Bradski described the venture as “total stealth, total cool.”

Will secrets make these companies more desirable for investors and profitable in the long run? Or are they just symptoms of a lack of transparency increasingly at odds with how business is conducted today?

Teen Entrepreneurs Win Business Contest with Mouth Guard Freshener

Mouth guard

Two teens have come up with an innovative business idea that will clean up the mouths of athletes everywhere.

The teens: Taylor Quinton, 16, of Pittsford, and Max Breit, 15, of Rochester. They are the founders of a company called Fresh-Fixx.

They took part in a competition was called the Young Entrepreneurs Academy Saunders Scholars Northeast Regional College Scholarship competition.

Taylor and Max believe that Fresh-Fixx will be used to cleanse athletes’ mouth guards and provide a flavor-packed energy boost from a vitamin blend. This type of technology could be very attractive to many athletes. On top of the benefit of having a pleasant flavor on their tongues while hitting the field, athletes would benefit from a vitamin boost during their games—this could decrease the amount of nutrients that athletes lose during games.

Taylor and Max were among 21 students in grades 6–12 and representing 12 businesses from the Young Entrepreneurs Academy class at the University of Rochester. Each team was given six minutes to pitch their plans to a panel of judges, whom would also decide how much funding to invest in each idea.

Does that sound familiar? If it does, it’s probably because of the popularity of ABC’s Shark Tank. Have you heard of Shark Tank? It is a show currently airing on ABC that brings entrepreneurs in front of 5 investment “sharks” and make pitches for investment in their companies. The entrepreneurs have the opportunity to strike a real deal with these famous investors and ideally propel their business to further success.

The teens asked the judges for $358.49, but instead the judges awarded them with $600 of funding. For context, other teams received funding from $200 to $875 and sometimes included prizes.

We hope Taylor and Max the best of luck in the next round of their competition!

What do you think of the Fresh-Fixx mouth guard idea? Would you use one of these mouth guards?

Better Business Bureau Calls an End to Rob Lowe DirecTV Ads

Unfortunately, the hilarious series of DirecTV commercials featuring multiple different versions of actor Rob Lowe will be coming to an end. The ad campaign will be ending due to complaints by cable giant Comcast to the National Advertising Division of the Better Business Bureau.

So why exactly is DirecTV ending this campaign? The main source of the controversy stems from claims made during these advertisements that DirecTV has better customer service, quality, sound and signal reliability than cable. DirecTV made the following claims that were found to be exaggerated:

  • With DirecTV you get 99% signal reliability
  • With DirecTV you get 99.9% signal reliability
  • With DirecTV you get 1080p picture quality and Dolby 5.1, the industry’s best picture quality and sound.
  • Up to 1080p picture quality
  • DirecTV is #1 in customer satisfaction over all cable TV providers
  • DirecTV is ranked higher than cable for over 10 years
  • DirecTV is the undisputed leader in sports, which means you can watch all the games you want
  • When it comes to sports, with DirecTV, you can have them all.

Additionally, it was noted that the tag line used at the end of these advertisements—“Don’t be like this me. Get rid of cable and upgrade to DirecTV”—conveyed a “comparative and unsupported superiority message.”

However, DirecTV responded to these claims with a statement about the complete lack of seriousness in these commercials. In a statement, they wrote: “the various Rob Lowe advertisements are so outlandish and exaggerated that no reasonable consumer would believe that the statements being made by the alter ego characters are comparative or need to be substantiated.”

If you haven’t seen any of these commercials, they compare the cool, suave, handsome Rob Lowe, who has DirecTV, with comparatively uncool, unattractive versions of Rob Lowe (dressed in a silly costume), who do not have DirecTV and instead have cable. These caricatures include “Crazy Hair Rob Lowe, Painfully Awkward Rob Lowe, Scrawny Arms Rob Lowe, and Super Creepy Rob Lowe.” Check out an example of one of these commercials below.

Social Media Mistakes that May Cost You Your Job

Social Media

The Internet has become an integral part of office culture and the job search, and recruiters have admitted to reconsidering candidates based on their social media profiles. Many of us put out things on social media without realizing the ramifications. The Internet is the living breathing thing that goes on indefinitely, and assessing your social media presence is one of the top things recruiters do.

Here are some common social media mistakes that may cost you your job:

Badmouthing employers or coworkers online. Those Sunday night twitter rants that you talk about hating your job may seem harmless but gossiping about colleagues or your company is a major turnoff for potential employers. Putting your workplace down in a public arena reflects badly on you because it make recruiters doubt that you support the organization. People often use social media as a forum to vent their frustrations but the only thing you should do with your company is cheer others on.

Don’t get too personal. Sharing too much personal information online can come back to bite you. You don’t need to mention your religion or even your political preferences online. Pregnancy can be another issue, as those who are pregnant at work can sometimes face rude treatment. If you want to post these things, make sure your privacy settings are airtight.

Don’t post contradictory things. Let’s say you take a sick day but then post a picture out at the beach. That’s exactly how posting on social media can know you down. Part of being prepared for an interview these days is to ensure that every piece of information you put out there is something you want to see.

Spelling and grammar mistakes. Those signs of ignorance on your social media may not have an affect on your friends, but it does on hiring managers. You may not think of these mistakes when writing casually but it can have bigger affects than you think. Use spellcheck as much as possible to ensure you are always on your A-game.

The Importance of Financial Forecasting

Business Forecast

Financial forecasting is vital to understanding how a business can grow as well as how to face economic downturns and still come out on top. A forecast allows a company to evaluate current and future fiscal conditions in order to guide decisions about policy and manufacturing, not to mention setting up an accurate annual budget. Everyone from small businesses to huge corporations should ideally have in mind what the future of their company looks like so they can plan accordingly.

Of course, accurate predictions can be difficult to come by, especially because of all the factors involved. That’s why experts such as Drew Pearson of General Atlantic have streamlined the process of reviewing portfolios, assessing performance, and monitoring risk management.

The trick is to look at future demand. To do that, it’s important to collect relevant data—not necessarily with complex analytical software, but by having a thorough understanding of current business practices and trends and making an educated guess at what the future might hold. Kien Leong of Production Scheduling suggests paying close attention to current customer trends and, based on that data, trying to project those trends into the future and adapting as trends change. Most importantly, businesses should take the time to measure forecast accuracy.

Another key factor is allowing for a range of values and scenarios in the forecast. Obviously the future is uncertain, so a definitive forecast isn’t particularly accurate, nor does it allow for changes and maneuvering if the markets change quickly, as they tend to do.

Some key questions to ask when putting together a financial forecast for a company include:

  • What is the time span of the forecast?
  • What is the forecast objective? In other words, will it affect what investments the company makes? Should the forecast lean toward conservative or more aggressive estimates?
  • What are the major revenue and expenditure categories?
  • What political/legal issues might affect the forecast? Will any new laws come into play?

The ins and outs of financial forecasting can be complicated, but ultimately they depend less on absolute accuracy and more on being aware of the current market and allowing for a variety of future possibilities.

McDonald’s Tests All-Day Breakfast Menu

McDonald’s is testing an all-day breakfast menu in the San Diego area. For many people, this may seem like something that doesn’t need to be tested: breakfast items (and fries) are generally speaking the most popular items at the restaurant chain. But overhauling the menu at 14,000 stores is difficult, so the company needs to make sure it works.

Breakfast items, normally only served until 10:30 am, account for 25% of McDonald’s sales. There could be any number of reasons for this, but one likely cause is that their breakfast foods are seen as “fresher” than their other offerings. These items, like the Egg McMuffin, tend to approach the Platonic ideal represented in McDonald’s advertising and signage than the average Big Mac. The recent revelation that they actually break open eggs and cook them right there probably helps.

There are chains, like Jack In The Box, that offer breakfast all day, so why hasn’t McDonald’s? the main problem is that there isn’t enough griddle space. Kitchen space is at a premium in the fast food chain, and offering breakfast items all day will likely require some redesign of that space in order to keep up with demand without slowing service to a halt.

Taco Bell’s recent unveiling of breakfast across the country has met with significant success, although they only offer those items in the morning. They’re a challenge to McDonald’s breakfast dominance, because unlike Jack In The Box, Taco Bell is everywhere. If McDonald’s can figure out how to make breakfast available all day, they might be able to reassert that dominance.

It might also help sales, too. Sales are down, the company’s promotional efforts have been falling flat, and they’ve been involved in some ugly disputes over labor around the country. Basically, McDonald’s isn’t getting the best press. They’re not struggling per se, but no business wants to lose business. Their breakfast sales are good despite all these problems, so don’t be surprised if, sometime down the road, you can get an Egg McMuffin for dinner.

DraftKings and MLB Extend Exclusive Partnership

Baseball

Fantasy sports have become a huge aspect of the sporting fandom in general. While the hobby has existed since the 60s, the spread of the Internet has spread the idea of fantasy sports, as well as making it much easier to manage for the average sports fan.

Today held good news for fans of fantasy baseball: fantasy sports giant DraftKings has extended their partnership with Major League Baseball (MLB) in a multi-year deal, lengthening DraftKings’ partnership as MLB’s “Official Daily Fantasy Game.”

According to a joint release from DraftKings and MLB, the deal marks the “most comprehensive league partnership in daily fantasy sports history.”

MLB became the first professional sports league to enter the daily fantasy business in 2013 when it purchased a small stake in DraftKings. However, that doesn’t mean that DraftKings limits the fantasy to just baseball; DraftKings also hosts competitions related to American football, soccer, basketball, hockey, golf, mixed martial arts, and others.

About DraftKings

DraftKings holds daily fantasy sports contest. These contests are both paid and free and range a wide number of professional sports, including American football (NFL), basketball (NBA), hockey (NHL), golf (PGA), soccer (EPL and UCL leagues), mix martial arts (MMA), as well as college football and basketball.

Here’s how DraftKings works: after signing up for a free account at DraftKings.com, a user can enter contests as often as every day. A user need simply select a competition, quickly draft a team—that’s all there is to it.

DraftKings, and others like FanDuel, are unique because they offer both paid and free contests—it is common to find either free contests or paid contests, not a mixture of both. Also they don’t generally deal with real cash. These business ventures are also unique in the sense that they offer daily contests. Generally, a fantasy sports team will be drafted for the entirety of a sporting season, with some leagues keeping these players over multiple seasons.

What do you think about fantasy sports? Do you have a fantasy sports team?

The Email Rules You Should Follow

email

Okay, we have all encountered the modern day dilemma: how can one be sure of the rules of email etiquette? Email is the main source of modern day workplace dialogue and not everyone has mastered the finer details that can sometimes prove to be a complex task.

How does one assert their authority over email without coming off as abrasive? What is the balance between being friendly and professional? How can you write a friendly reminder email without sounding too nagging or casual? Below are some helpful tips to help navigate the world of email communication:

Include a very concise subject line. First impressions count now more than ever. A subject line should always be clear and specific. You should 100% not leave the subject empty. Craft a succinct and engaging subject line that is tailored to the recipient and your objective. Always double-check your spelling because a minor typo could direct you straight to the trash.

Chose the correct salutation. This should be tailored to your recipient, and knowing your audience is crucial for determining the level of formality required. The way you greet someone on Facebook messenger, or even how you greet a friend in person, should not be the same as the salutation you use in your work emails.

Strike the right tone. Without facial expressions and vocal interaction, your message can be easily misconstrued. Don’t assume the tone in your head is coming through in the screen. Nobody wants to have emails with indecisions or that come across passive aggressive. Draft and save a copy and revisit it with fresh eyes later and check the tone. Try to have the same professional tone you would use in person.

Sign the email correctly. Do not use XOs in work emails and don’t sign with casual phrases like “Take it easy.” Text-speak like “Thx” or “L8Rs” is also an absolute no go. Always ensure a certain degree of professionalism and keep it short. “Warm regards,” “Sincerely,” and “Best regards,” are three phrases that are both brief and professional.

Major Companies Look to Invest in Indian Insurance Industry

India

Recent reports from analysts show that current life insurance companies are to be valued at 1.2 to 2.1 times their embedded value FY2017, overwriting the previous agreements that valued them at three times the EV. Many are reporting that several sovereign wealth funds and global private equity firms are interested in Indian insurance companies, with those funds coming from Bahrain, Japan and, to name a few.

According to a top expert in the insurance field, “Financial investors are aware that the Indian life insurance is a growing market and therefore valuations will rise there is a continuous interest. Five sovereign wealth funds from Bahrain, Qatar, Japan are interested in Indian insurance companies. There are also large private equity funds such as Portchester Equity, Rockefeller private equity and General Atlantic who are interested.”

Portchester Equity and General Atlantic, run by such figureheads as their Managing Directors David Harbord for PE and Chris Lanning of General Atlantic respectively, both have expressed a large interest in India. Most recently, General Atlantic have routed close to $500 million, with a planned $2 billion in future investments across various Indian sectors.

Another consultant said, “I know that Temasek, GIC or Singapore and Canada Pension Board are interested in the Indian insurance sector. We came across several serious investors in our road show in Hong Kong.” Said Arundhati Bhattacharya, chairman of State Bank of India, “We have started talks with the joint venture (foreign) partners of both the insurance companies. They are keen to dial-up. There are other investors too who are also keen to buy a stake (in SBI Life Insurance.”

An expected deal to wrap up the end of March is with ICICI Bank, which owns 74 percent in ICICI Prudential Life Insurance and looks to sell 5 percent to Temasek Holdings and Carmignanc Gestion for $300 million.

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