A lot. No sporting event does springtime iconography like the Masters. But many of its traditions have been altered as men’s golf’s first major moved to fall.
The cuts will affect most divisions across the company, but are especially concentrated in broadcast production.
In an overcrowded market of online fashion brands, consumers are spoilt for choice on what site to visit. They are generally forced to visit each brand one by one, manually filtering down to what they like. Most of the experience is not that great, and past purchase history and cookies aren’t much to go on to tailor user experience. If someone has bought an army-green military jacket, the e-commerce site is on a hiding to nothing if all it suggests is more army-green military jackets…
Instead, Psycke ( it’s brand name is ‘PSYKHE’) is an e-commerce startup that uses AI and psychology to make product recommendations based both on the user’s personality profile and the ‘personality’ of the products. Admittedly, a number of startups have come and gone claiming this, but it claims to have taken a unique approach to make the process of buying fashion easier by acting as an aggregator that pulls products from all leading fashion retailers. Each user sees a different storefront that, says the company, becomes increasingly personalized.
It has now raised $1.7 million in seed funding from a range of investors and is announcing new plans to scale its technology to other consumer verticals in the future in the B2B space.
The investors are Carmen Busquets – the largest founding investor in Net-a-Porter; SLS Journey – the new investment arm of the MadaLuxe Group, the North American distributor of luxury fashion; John Skipper – DAZN Chairman and former Co-chairman of Disney Media Networks and President of ESPN; and Lara Vanjak – Chief Operating Officer at Aser Ventures, formerly at MP & Silva and FC Inter-Milan.
So what does it do? As a B2C aggregator, it pools inventory from leading retailers. The platform then applies machine learning and personality-trait science, and tailors product recommendations to users based on a personality test taken on sign-up. The company says it has international patents pending and has secured affiliate partnerships with leading retailers that include Moda Operandi, MyTheresa, LVMH’s platform 24S, and 11 Honoré.
The business model is based around an affiliate partnership model, where it makes between 5-25% of each sale. It also plans to expand into B2B for other consumer verticals in the future, providing a plug-in product that allows users to sort items by their personality.
How does this personality test help? Well, Psykhe has assigned an overall psychological profile to the actual products themselves: over 1 million products from commerce partners, using machine learning (based on training data).
So for example, if a leather boot had metal studs on it (thus looking more ‘rebellious’), it would get a moderate-low rating on the trait of ‘Agreeableness’. A pink floral dress would get a higher score on that trait. A conservative tweed blazer would get a lower score tag on the trait of ‘Openness’, as tweed blazers tend to indicate a more conservative style and thus nature.
It’s competitors include The Yes and Lyst. However, Psykhe’s main point of differentiation is this personality scoring. Furthermore, The Yes is app-only, US-only, and only partners with monobrands, while Lyst is an aggregator with 1,000s of brands, but used as more of a search platform.
Psykhe is in a good position to take advantage of the ongoing effects of COVID-19, which continue to give a major boost to global ecommerce as people flood online amid lockdowns.
The startup is the brainchild of Anabel Maldonado, CEO & founder, (along with founding team CTO Will Palmer and Lead Data Scientist, Rene-Jean Corneille, pictured above), who studied psychology in her hometown of Toronto, but ended up working at in the UK’s NHS in a specialist team that made developmental diagnoses for children under 5.
She made a pivot into fashion after winning a competition for an editorial mentorship at British Marie Claire. She later went to the press department of Christian Louboutin, followed by internships at the Mail on Sunday and Marie Claire, then spending several years in magazine publishing before moving into e-commerce at CoutureLab. Going freelance, she worked with a number of luxury brands and platforms as an editorial consultant. As a fashion journalist, she’s contributed industry op-eds to publications such as The Business of Fashion, T The New York Times Style, and Marie Claire.
As part of the fashion industry for 10 years, she says she became frustrated with the narratives which “made fashion seem more frivolous than it really is. I thought, this is a trillion-dollar industry, we all have such emotional, visceral reactions to an aesthetic based on who we are, but all we keep talking about is the ‘hot new color for fall and so-called blanket “must-haves’.”
But, she says, “there was no inquiry into individual differences. This world was really missing the level of depth it deserved, and I sought to demonstrate that we’re all sensitive to aesthetic in one way or another and that our clothing choices have a great psychological pay-off effect on us, based on our unique internal needs.” So she set about creating a startup to address this ‘fashion psychology’ – or, as she says “why we wear what we wear”.
Tournaments that have battled for airtime on ESPN for years are headed for the Tennis Channel. Can the sport grow with a lesser presence on the top sports networks?
The ESPN analyst is enthralled by the 2020 series, with players isolating and “Black Lives Matter” painted on the court.
“It’s going to be mad,” Astros Manager Dusty Baker said of an unprecedented playoff marathon on Wednesday.
“Some days, it’s heavy talk about the future of the world,” said Jeff Van Gundy, an ESPN commentator. “We talk about everything and solve nothing.”
No Federer or Nadal, and so many top women taking a pass, plus a fracas with the French, but the United States Tennis Association needed to hold this tournament and has no regrets.
TikTok is right in the jaws of a thorny situation with the U.S. Government regarding its ownership, but it’s sending a clear message today that it is not sitting on its heels with big deals. Yesterday, it announced a deal with UnitedMasters to allow artists on TikTok to distribute their songs directly to streaming services and other partners directly.
UnitedMasters is the un-record-label label — in fact a direct distribution company founded by former president of Interscope Records, Steve Stoute. The firm allows musicians (especially budding ones) to pay a competitive distribution rate to get access to Spotify, YouTube, SoundCloud, Apple Music and other services. It also gets them access to analytics, retargeting, CRM tools and individual deals that UM makes with brands like ESPN and the NBA.
Normally, the path between an artist being able to go viral on TikTok and be included in the next NBA 2k or before an official game on the air would be a long one involving a lot of knives out for pieces of the pie. UnitedMasters shortcuts all of this.
The simple scenario is this:
- An aspiring artist or songwriter puts out a song or riff on TikTok (likely one of many).
- This one has something and it catches on the algorithm and generates numbers.
- The creator opts in to participating in UnitedMasters’ program.
- They give up a cut of 10% but get direct distribution into the major streaming buckets and potential A-grade partners. (There’s also a $5/mo subscription option.)
- They can also market things like tickets, merch and more directly to fans using UM’s customer tools.
- The artist keeps 100% of their royalties.
Which is why a tie up with TikTok makes a hell of a lot of sense. One of the biggest issues with viral social platforms has been the way that they reward creators. Twitter’s Vine, of course, squandered their opportunity there. Even YouTube has had major problems providing consistent revenue to many of its top creators, with a long trend towards big hitters monetizing off platform in order to earn consistent, durable money.
TikTok has already announced a creators fund with a significant purse, but it needs to go beyond that. We’ve seen over and over how young creators on the platform create viral waves of attention for TikTok and millions of re-enactments and remixes. Often, though, those creators are offered little recourse to monetize or benefit from their creations. Dance creators and musical talents, often young Black women, are literally crafting culture in real-time on TikTok and the pathways for them to benefit materially are very rare. Sure, it’s great when an originator gets called out by a Times reporter willing to do the work to trace the source, but what about the thousands of others being minted as a real voice on the platform every month?
It’s beyond time for the creators of The Culture to benefit from that culture. That’s why I find this UnitedMasters deal so interesting. Offering a direct pipeline to audiences without the attendant vulture-ism of the recording industry apparatus is really well aligned with a platform like TikTok, which encourages and enables ‘viral sounds’ with collaborative performances. Traditional deal structures are not well suited to capturing viral hype, which can rise and fall within weeks without additional fuel.
In terms of overall platforms, TikTok clearly has the highest concentration of incredible and un-tapped musical talent on the market. It’s just wild how many creators I see on there that are just flat out as good if not better than what you hear on the radio. Opera, rap, soul, folk, comedy, songwriting, it runs the gamut.
TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer came to the company after a long stint at Disney ending with a very successful Disney+ launch. Almost immediately, he was dropped into a political firestorm between China and the U.S. government. Parent company ByteDance must sell within 90 days, says Trump, or get shut down. Microsoft might buy them. Other tech companies are circling. This deal is a pretty crisp forward-looking signal that TikTok sees a way through this and is not waiting to innovate on one of the trickier components of this era of user generated businesses.
And on top of that, it charts a course for how user generated platforms should look to service creators and keep them in their universe. All UGC plays garner significant value from the creative energies of their users, but few have found a way to make that relationship reciprocal in a way that feels sustainable.
This UnitedMasters deal feels different, and the start of a larger trend that could pay big dividends to platforms and, finally, creators.
Verizon and Disney announced this morning that they’re extending and expanding a partnership that gives some Verizon Wireless subscribers access to Disney’s streaming services at no addition charge.
The companies announced last fall that Verizon (which owns TechCrunch) would be offering free Disney+ to unlimited wireless customers, and on an earnings call in February, Disney’s then-CEO Bob Iger said that around 20% of Disney+ subscribers came from Verizon.
More recently, the entertainment giant said that Disney+ had more than 60.5 million subscribers as of August 3. In comparison, Hulu had 35.5 million subscribers at the end of its most recent quarter (June 26), while ESPN+ had 8.5 million subscribers.
With today’s announcement, subscribers to Verizon’s Play More and Get More Unlimited wireless plans will get free access to not just Disney+, but also Hulu and ESPN+. (Plus, Apple Music.) Disney normally charges $12.99 when these three streaming services are purchased together as The Disney Bundle.
“The addition of The Disney Bundle to our agreement with Verizon reinforces our commitment to providing their subscribers with access to high-quality entertainment from Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+,” said Disney’s executive vice president of platform distribution Sean Breen in a statement. “We are always looking for the most advantageous ways for consumers to experience our content and we are pleased to work with Verizon so that they can provide their customers with these appealing new offers.”
Fox and Disney, which owns ESPN and ABC, prepare to take another hit from a pandemic that has already affected them with shutdowns and delays.
Disney+ had more than 60.5 million paying subscribers as of yesterday, according to The Walt Disney Company’s CEO Bob Chapek.
Chapek shared the number during a call to discuss the company’s latest earnings report, which covered the company’s most recent quarter ending on June 27. He was essentially offering an update on the 57.5 million paid subscriber figure included in the report, and he said the growth is “far exceeding our initial projections for the service.”
Disney+ launched in November of last year. The company previously announced in April that the service had passed 50 million subscribers. (Those numbers include subscribers acquired through bundling with Hotstar in India, as well as free subscribers through a promotion with TechCrunch’s parent company Verizon.)
The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated growth for some streaming services. Most notably, Netflix added more than 10 million new subscribers in its most recent quarter, bringing its global total to nearly 193 million. As for Disney’s other streaming services, ESPN+ has grown more than 100% year-over-year to 8.5 million subscribers (as of June 26), while Hulu grew 27% to 35.5 million subscribers (3.4 million of them are paying for both video on demand and live TV).
And Disney+ may have gotten an additional bump, thanks to the release of “Hamilton” over the July 4 weekend.
Overall, Disney said revenue for its direct-to-consumer and international division increased 2% year-over-year, to $4.0 billion, while the unit’s operating loss grew from $562 million to $706 million.
Still, streaming likely counts as a relative bright spot compared to many of Disney’s other businesses that have either slowed or paused entirely due to the pandemic. (Parks are gradually reopening, for example.) The company’s total revenue fell 42% YOY to $11.8 billion, and earnings per share for the quarter showed a loss of $2.61.
Update: During the call, Chapek also announced that “Mulan” will be released on Disney+ on September 4, as a “premiere access” title that costs an additional $29.99.
In meetings and conversations among colleagues, ESPN employees have criticized the career pipeline and diversity of top leadership, eliciting a promise from executives to do better.
Adrian Wojnarowski, who is known for his “Woj bombs” of breaking news, emailed a different kind to a U.S. senator.
A first-look deal between Colin Kaepernick and Disney includes a documentary series at ESPN that will be produced by Jemele Hill, who left the network two years ago.
The ultimate old-school editor is grappling with a moment of cultural reckoning.
A podcast episode on the recent protests increased staff complaints concerning the lack of diversity at his digital outlet, The Ringer.
Boxers wearing surgical booties. Wristbands with bar codes. Meals served behind plexiglass. Our journalists took a look behind the scenes of boxing’s comeback in Las Vegas.
The multiyear pacts, which also included the N.B.A., NBCUniversal and ViacomCBS, will supply the platform with more short-form original and unscripted shows.
“Lots” of key variables remain uncontrollable during the coronavirus pandemic. But the league will also lose roughly $1 billion in revenue if it doesn’t stage playoff games for TV.
ESPN Wide World of Sports, a sprawling 220-acre complex at the mega-resort in Florida, is poised to become the center of the basketball universe.
The COVID-19 pandemic has wiped out the spring seasons for professional sports and associated revenue for TV networks, but esports is filling part of that void.
Gaming companies behind titles licensed by each major league are the winners in this unexpected shift; Electronic Arts (EA) is first among them with FIFA, Madden NFL, NBA Live and NHL in its EA Sports portfolio and more than 100 esports events planned for 2020. The way EA, networks and sports leagues are responding to production challenges in this crisis will reshape the esports market going forward.
Millions of people sheltering in place has created a breakout opportunity for esports broadcasting:
- A large portion of the internet-using population is at home 24/7, with screens as their main entertainment outlet;
- Sports fans have few competitive live events to watch;
- Broadcasters like ESPN, CBS, and Sky lost their most valuable content for attracting live viewers and need alternative content;
- Star athletes and non-sports celebrities are stuck at home with wide-open schedules.
In late March, 900,000 viewers tuned into Fox Sports for Nascar’s iRacing series, with 1.1 million watching in early April; the network has also broadcast Madden NFL tournaments with NFL commentators and athletes. ESPN is televising NBA players facing off against each other in NBA 2K (by Take-Two Interactive) and pro drivers (and other pro athletes like Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero) are racing each other in Codemasters’ F1 2019 game. ESPN has broadcast competitive play of non-sports games with League of Legends (by Riot Games) and Apex Legends (by EA) tournaments.
To be clear, ratings for these events have have varied widely, but networks and game companies are rethinking how esports is broadcast, which will advance its pop-culture appeal.
Games adapting pro sports are best bridge to non-gamers
Esports is a massively popular activity with its own large piece of turf in pop culture, but it hasn’t secured a central role. Research firm Newzoo pegs the global audience of “esports enthusiasts” at 223 million. But unlike soccer and basketball, esports is siloed because it caters to viewers who are generally avid gamers. The action is extremely fast, so commentary by a streamer rarely helps outsiders understand what is going on enough to become engaged.
Two men are serving life sentences in prison for the death of Michael Jordan’s father, James, in 1993. One has maintained his innocence, and the other is now under review for parole.
Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje fight for an interim lightweight belt at U.F.C. 249 in the first major American sporting event since widespread shutdowns because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje fight for an interim lightweight belt at U.F.C. in the first major American sporting event since widespread shutdowns because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The U.F.C. is to stage the first major American sporting event in nearly two months on Saturday night. On Friday, however, one of the bouts had to be canceled because a fighter tested positive for the virus.
White, the president of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, has positioned U.F.C. 249 for a prime spotlight — as the first major U.S. sporting event since the coronavirus shutdown.
The early-morning ESPN telecasts of Korea Baseball Organization games are a reminder of the sport’s long-treasured constancy and of what its absence has meant this spring.
ESPN will air six games a week to its sports-deprived audience, at least those who are night owls or early risers. Plus World’s Strongest Man at home, and bumps in the road for Australian rugby.
“The Last Dance,” the ESPN series about his final season with the Bulls, is interwoven with classic hip-hop that presented some legal hurdles. But Jordan, and the league, weren’t always fans.
“We’ll go anywhere the science takes us and nowhere the science doesn’t,” said the medical director of the players’ union.
The bittersweet joy of watching vintage games during the coronavirus pandemic.
With the pandemic having shut down production, companies are asking ad agencies to create commercials made up of digitally altered footage.
The Chicago Bulls ruled the 1990s under an intense media spotlight. A generation later, their greatness is still the basis for debate and, with the sports world on hold, must-see TV.
ESPN’s new 10-part documentary doesn’t ask Big Questions. But it does go big on a team whose personalities and feats warrant just this sort of excess.
On the menu: trenchant documentaries from ESPN and HBO, dramas about Norwegian soccer and Korean baseball, and an addictive exploration of pro wrestling.
Commissioner Roger Goodell will announce picks from his basement, and players will miss out on the bear hugs that have become a tradition.