Bob Iger has spent much of his near decade at Disney wearing an additional corporate hat: CTO. The result? He has brought the coolest innovations from Lucasfilm, Pixar, Marvel, and ESPN into a single galaxy. ... “blue sky” experimentation has always been part of Disney’s ethos, going back to the days of multiplane cameras (to add visual depth to the background in the 1937 film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs) and early use of lifelike robots (Disneyland’s Enchanted Tiki Room, which features electromechanical singing birds, pioneered the concept in 1963). But more than six decades ago, when founder Walt Disney first created Imagineering as the company’s innovative arm, virtual reality chambers were almost as far-fetched as talking animals. ... while there are many lessons to learn from the way he has run Disney over the past decade, this one is right up there: Not only do today’s media companies need to start thinking like technology companies—their CEOs also need to start thinking like CTOs. ... a former upstate New York weatherman who began his career at ABC in 1974 ... Every few months the CTOs of Disney’s respective businesses meet—at ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Conn., or at the company’s development center in Seattle, or at another locale—to discuss challenges and share information. Over the past couple of years the CTO council has launched “hackathons” and convened a “Best of Disney” annual symposium in which 50 new innovations are on display for the whole company to view. They’ve also partnered on technology initiatives like creating a single user ID that customers can use with various digital products. More recently they’ve started strategizing ways to incorporate drones into Disney’s businesses, such as flying them over football games with high-resolution cameras. Last summer the company filed a series of drone-related patent applications. (Eighty-four percent of Disney’s active patents were filed during Iger’s tenure as CEO.)
In the early 1950s, a former ad man and modestly successful children's book author published a series of illustrated stories for children in magazines like Redbook. They were short, two-to-three page spreads with stamp-sized drawings and minimal coloring. He hoped to publish them in book form but another project gained steam. ... In 1957, he published a book that became an immediate best seller, turning him into a global publishing phenomenon. By approaching learning to read as zany and fun instead of boring and dull, the book altered the children's literature landscape. His name was Theodor Seuss Geisel and the book was called "The Cat in the Hat." While some of the magazine stories eventually made it into a book during his lifetime, others never did. ... On Sept. 9, Random House will publish "Horton and the Kwuggerbug and More Lost Stories," the second collection of Dr. Seuss's forgotten magazine work. The previous volume, "The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories," reached No.1 on the New York Times best-seller list when it was released in 2011. Random House is betting even bigger on "Horton," with an extensive marketing campaign and a large first print-run of 250,000 copies. "It tickles me that a whole new generation will get to read and experience these characters, some new and some familiar," said Audrey Geisel, Ted's 93-year-old widow and head of his estate Dr. Seuss Enterprises. ... Some 600 million Seuss books have sold in 17 languages and 95 countries, according to the books' publisher. Movie adaptations have grossed more than $1.1 billion world-wide
Less than four years after Line’s launch, the company says that more than 560 million people worldwide have registered as members, the majority of them in Japan, Taiwan, and Thailand. One hundred eighty one million users log in to the Line app each month. While that’s a smaller user base than WhatsApp (700 million monthly active users according to research firm Canalys), Facebook Messenger (500 million), and Tencent’s WeChat (480 million), Line has done a remarkable job of turning its popularity into a growing, diversified business. ... Its reported revenue of $656 million in 2014 comes from a range of sources that few rivals can match: It sells games that can be played solo or with other Line users; those digital stickers, which can be purchased to express a dizzying array of emotions; marketing deals with brands and celebrities that want to reach its user base; and merchandise such as the products at the Harajuku shop. ... Spy on other passengers in the Tokyo subway, and there’s a more-than-decent chance that you’ll spot a salaryman or schoolgirl interacting on their smartphone with Brown, Cony, or one of the app’s other hyperlovable mascots. Visit a restaurant and a small placard at the cashier invites you to follow the business on Line in return for discounts. On billboards, the characters endorse chewing gum. Visit an electronics store and you’ll find them in plush form, as prizes in a coin-operated crane game. ... "The turning point," Idezawa says, "was when we released stickers." ... The Japanese call cuteness kawaii, and find it surprisingly meaningful. "The word ‘kawaii’ in Japanese literally means ‘acceptable of affection’ or even ‘possible to love,’" explains Kotaku’s Ashcraft, who says that it’s used to refer to everything from babies to dogs to clothing. Kawaii imagery is "used to soften things, making them more palatable and even more friendly. That's a reason why it's not uncommon to see cute characters in everything from public safety posters to home-loan brochures."
The music you hear in Magic City isn't the music you might expect at a strip club. Magic City Mondays are the most important nights in the most important club in the most important city in the hip-hop industry. Magic City is the place where you hear music before anyone else does, and where it is decided if that music gets played anywhere else. ... Occasionally, City Dollars threw some singles at the naked woman standing in front of us, the way an old man might absentmindedly feed some ducks the crust of his sandwich. ... On the bigger nights at Magic City, you can find Magic patrolling the room in a taupe suit, parting the clouds of hookah smoke with a wineglass in his fist. His trim hair going gray, his lantern jaw set. He played football on scholarship at Duke and at age 60 still has the bearing of a man who knows he's physically more powerful than other people. He is called Big Mag, pronounced "big maj" (Lil Magic is his son), and he is an elder statesman of the street. Atlanta is balkanized—you might not be welcome in Bankhead if you're not from there. But as the proprietor of Magic City, as a man who has, in his parlance, been running around in the streets for thirty years, it's different for Magic. He can pass safely into any zone he likes; he can talk to almost anyone like family. ... If hip-hop were Silicon Valley, Magic City would be the place venture capitalists would loiter, looking for talent.
Modeled after the wildly popular Japanese group AKB48, Wang’s three-year-old Chinese version similarly auditions young women from across the country, trains them intensively in singing, dancing, and show-hosting for four months, then puts them onstage to perform choreographed routines in live concerts. The regimen—long rehearsals, exercise, and dormitory curfews—seems more akin to the military than to the MTV life. “To make their dreams come true, they need sweat and perseverance,” Wang says. “Most Chinese girls, because the economy is developed and the quality of life is high, lack discipline.” ... During the most recent round of auditions in June, 48 applicants were selected out of 126,000, says Tao Ying, Star48’s chief executive officer. (Applicants can be as old as 22; the youngest band member is 14.) ... Wu is one of the band’s 119 members, who are split into smaller teams, which are rotated in live performances at the band’s 340-seat Shanghai theater, for about seven shows a week. ... plans to start similar girl bands in 10 Chinese cities by 2018. ... Besides keeping up with the band through China’s popular WeChat messaging app and various microblog platforms, fans stay involved through voting for the group’s favorite songs and their favorite band members. That input affects the performer’s career and salary. The most popular ones earn as much as 50,000 yuan a month, and the newest recruits get about 4,000 yuan, Wang says. Fans also meet band members regularly in what Star48 calls “handshake gatherings,” where 10-second individual sessions with their favorite idol are earned after buying a certain number of the band’s songs.
After an auction of many of his most iconic belongings, the Hollywood legend is back with a memoir about the famous people he worked with and loved. Ned Zeman tracks the Bandit down at his Florida mansion for a discussion about his career, his breakups (including that one with Sally Field), and what really cost him the most. ... Reynolds lived like a redneck Croesus, resplendent in velvet suits and silk bandannas. At his peak he was earning about $10 million a year. His real-estate portfolio included, in addition to Valhalla, a 153-acre ranch in Jupiter, Florida; a spread in Arkansas; mansions in Beverly Hills and Malibu; a Tara-like estate in Georgia; and a mountaintop retreat in the Smokies of North Carolina. He owned a private jet, a helicopter, and numerous custom-made sports cars ... Plus 150 horses. Plus well over $100,000 worth of toupees fashioned by Edward Katz, “the Armani of hair replacement.” ... But his personal life remains much smaller, and not in a bad way. “I feel like a man whose house was blown away in a hurricane. His possessions are gone, but he’s thankful to be alive.”
Wang Jianlin, one of China’s richest men, is creating a rival to the American dream factory, from scratch. ... Most americans probably associate Qingdao, China, with beer. In 1903, German and British settlers founded the Tsingtao Brewery there, and Teutonic influence can still be seen in some of the architecture in older parts of town. But the city’s temperate climate and coastal setting, almost 350 miles north of Shanghai, lend it an atmosphere that more strongly recalls Southern California, an association lately reinforced by the new buildings going up on the coastline southwest of town. There, on a steep green hillside that overlooks the Yellow Sea, you’ll see a gigantic sign with white freestanding characters: 东方影都, which translates literally as “Eastern Cinema.” It’s like the Hollywood sign that has overlooked Los Angeles since 1923, only bigger. ... On a sprawling 1,200-acre site at the foot of that hill, a gaggle of construction cranes is noisily building Qingdao Oriental Movie Metropolis, a vast development that includes a movie studio, a theme park and entertainment center, a 4,000-room resort-hotel complex, a shopping mall, a 300-berth yacht club, a celebrity wax museum, and a hospital. The Dalian Wanda Group, China’s biggest commercial real-estate developer and the world’s largest owner of movie theaters, has committed $8.2 billion to the project. Wanda Studios Qingdao is the linchpin of the new development, and when it opens its doors in April 2017, it will be one of the largest and most technologically advanced feature-film-production facilities in the world, encompassing 30 soundstages; an enormous temperature-controlled underwater stage; a green-screen-equipped outdoor stage that’s still larger, at 56,000 square feet; a permanent facsimile of a New York City street; and much more. ... In 2011, the research firm IBISWorld named postproduction one of America’s “dying industries,” along with DVD, game, and video rental; newspaper publishing; and photofinishing. ... In 2012 alone, the country added 10 theater screens a day; it now has more than 28,000. Only the U.S., with close to 40,000 screens, has more, and Wanda owns more than 5,000 of those.
No one gets to 55 without having made some decisions about their appearance. And Clarkson’s makes it clear he has decided to tell the world to piss off. In a medium obsessed with what you look like, he has chosen to dress as the understudy for Worzel Gummidge in a production at the Wimbledon theatre. In a wardrobe at home he has dozens of pairs of identical old jeans. Everyone on telly is a show-off, but Clarkson shows off by seeming to be normal. ... His lifetime behind the wheel began when, as a young reporter on the local newspaper in Rotherham, he met a contemporary from the Harrogate Advertiser behind the wheel of a car that cost as much as Rotherham council’s entire annual budget. The Harrogate lad explained how the racket worked: you said you wanted to review a car and, lo and behold, the manufacturers would deliver it to you, insured and full of fuel, for you to use, free, gratis and for nothing, for a week or two. All for a couple of paragraphs of copy.
Fogelson suspects that filmmakers will agree with any opinion he offers in order to get a green light, so he lets them describe the film they really intend to make, then trusts his gut about whether it sounds commercial. Choosing which movies to make is the crux of his job, the hundred-million-dollar decision. When he was eight, his father, the head of marketing at Columbia Pictures, told him, “You need a clear good guy and a clear bad guy, and the audience needs to know what it’s rooting for.” ... “Only make a film you already know how to sell.” ... Fogelson believes that seventy-five per cent of a movie’s success is due to its marketing and its marketability. ... The six major studios, besieged by entertainment options that don’t require people to get off the couch, have bet that the future lies in films that are too huge to ignore. Although they make low-budget films for targeted audiences (teen girls, say, or horror fans), they focus most of their energies on movies that cost more than three hundred million dollars to make and market. Such films are predicated not on the chancy appeal of individual actors but on “I.P.”—intellectual property, in the form of characters and stories that the audience already knows from books or comics or video games. ... STX’s internal data showed that such star-showcase films, within that budget range, were profitable thirty per cent more often than the average Hollywood film. So the studio planned to make a lot of them. By 2017, STX expects to release between twelve and fifteen movies a year, as many as some of the major studios. ... Fogelson looks at comps, too, but then he applies a three-part test. First, can the film be great? (By “great,” he means “distinguished within its genre.” ... Then, Do we know how to sell it? And, Can we make much more in success than we lose in failure? ... We go to the movies now for the same reasons that Romans went to the Colosseum: to laugh, to scream, and to cheer. Comedy, horror, and triumphs of the human spirit still play better in theatres than at home. What plays best of all, of course, is a spaceship going kablooey all over the screen. ... What is novel is the studios’ heavy reliance on the string of sequels known as a franchise.
Netflix’s video algorithms team had developed a number of quality levels, or recipes, as they’re called in the world of video encoding. Each video file on Netflix’s servers was being prepared with these same recipes to make multiple versions necessary to serve users at different speeds. ... Netflix’s service has been dynamically delivering these versions based on a consumer’s bandwidth needs, which is why the quality of a stream occasionally shifts in the middle of a binge-watching session. But across its entire catalog of movies and TV shows, the company has been using the same rules — which didn’t really make sense. ... they decided that each title should get its own set of rules. This allows the company to stream visually simple videos like “My Little Pony” in a 1080p resolution with a bitrate of just 1.5 Mbps. In other words: Even someone with a very slow broadband or mobile internet connection can watch the animated show in full HD quality under the new approach. Previously, the same consumer would have just been able to watch the show with a resolution of 720*480, and still used more data.
He sold America on a West Coast gangster fantasy — and embodied it. Then the bills came due ... His exploits — some mythic, some real — during the heyday of Death Row Records have become part of hip-hop lore: In the early Nineties, he allegedly shook down Vanilla Ice into handing over publishing profits, walking the rapper out to a hotel-room balcony to show him how far his fall would be. ("I needed to wear a diaper that day," Ice said later.) In his memoir, former N.W.A manager Jerry Heller alleged that Knight and his cohorts, bearing baseball bats, intimidated Eazy-E into releasing Dre from his Ruthless Records contract. (The claims have never been substantiated.) Knight was sitting next to Tupac when he was gunned down in 1996 in Las Vegas; his participation in a fight on the night of the shooting would land him in prison for five years on a probation violation. ... As Knight's fortunes have crumbled, he's gotten closer to the streets, according to prosecutors. In a motion arguing for the high bail (which would later be reduced to $10 million), the L.A. District Attorney's office alleged a recent scheme by Knight to "tax" out-of-town rappers for as much as $30,000 just to work in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. ... former associates struggle to understand why such an undeniably talented businessman can't escape this kind of small-time drama and thuggery. ... Knight already has two prior violent felonies on his record: If any of his current charges stick, under California's Three Strikes law, he could be going to jail for the rest of his life.
The frenzied, fanatical politics of Tamil Nadu, India. ... Before she went into politics, Jayalalithaa was the most popular Tamil movie actress of her time, the heroine in more than 100 films. She followed the model of her mentor and co-star, an actor-politician named Marudhur Gopalan Ramachandran but more commonly known by his initials M.G.R. He ruled Tamil Nadu for 11 years, and since his death in 1987, Jayalalithaa and her archenemy, a wily 92-year-old screenwriter named Muthuvel Karunanidhi, have taken turns running the state. As the head of the D.M.K. — the party to which M.G.R. belonged until their rivalry forced a split — Karunanidhi has built a cult following on par with Jayalalithaa’s. The two of them rule as if in a melodrama, having each other arrested, dropping snide insults and wild accusations, destroying each other’s pet projects. The D.M.K. and the A.I.A.D.M.K. have almost no policy differences, but no other party can gain a foothold.
When Hurricane Sandy closed in on New york City, the Weather Channel dispatched (who else?) Jim Cantore, the world’s most fearless meteorologist. Nick Heil tagged along for a wet, wild adventure that quickly became something else—a survival challenge in the darkest hours of a killer storm.
It took only 105 years for Michelin to reach the United States. Founded by the Michelin brothers, André and Edouard, the guide was first published in August of 1900 during the Exposition Universelle, in Paris. An engineer (André) and an artist (Edouard), the two brothers were also competitive auto racers who created the first detachable automobile tires. The little book with its red cover started out as a free guide for motorists, and it quickly became Europe’s most popular travel guide. ... When you start as a Michelin inspector, your first weeks of training are abroad, she says. “You go to the mother ship in France. Depending on your language skills, maybe you go to another European country and train with an inspector there.” There’s no prescribed path to becoming a food inspector, “though inspectors are all lifers in one way or another,” she explained, and they usually come from families devoted to food and the table. “One inspector was a chef at a very well-known, three-star restaurant, another came from a hotel…. I think you’re either built for this or you’re not,” she added. “You have to really be an independent personality. You have to be somewhat solitary but also work as part of a team. You have to be comfortable dining alone. Most of the time, I think, inspectors all live in a perpetual state of paranoia. That’s the job: the C.I.A. but with better food.”
On paper, Khaled's career doesn't make a whole lot of sense. He's released eight full-length albums but doesn't actually rap on any of them. He's perhaps the most quoted figure in hip-hop, able to create viral catch phrases with an ease that marketing executives dream about. He's played a serious role in the hip-hop industry throughout his career, yet he's perceived almost exclusively as a meme by fans across the nation. He's a human pop-up ad who, to many, is known simply for shouting his own name like a hairy brown Pikachu. And, sure, any fool can stumble into success. ... But that fool won't stay there for nearly a decade, collaborating with the biggest names in the industry: Kanye West, Jay Z, Rick Ross, Nas. If they have a pulse and can rap, Khaled has worked with them. ... It's the tale of a child of immigrant parents who worked his way up from DJing school dances in Orlando to the top of the Miami music scene and, now, into two million (and counting) cell phones, where he delivers daily sermons about the correlation between egg whites and success from a three-inch screen.
One day last summer, Howard Stern ripped into his bosses at SiriusXM on his morning radio show. He accused them of gamesmanship, of treating him like a common employee, of disrespecting his talent. “Whenever you f--- with me, I will f--- with you worse,” he said. “I always win.” ... Explaining why he was so livid, Stern told his listeners that his bosses had recently asked him if he’d like to move the start of his show an hour later, to 7 a.m. That way everybody would get an extra hour of sleep. It seemed like a generous offer; Stern thought it over and accepted. It was then, he said, that management balked, insisting he’d misunderstood. He could start his show at 7 a.m., they informed him, if and when he renewed his contract with Sirius XM Holdings, which is set to expire in December 2015. Stern said he was enraged by what he felt was a strategic bait-and-switch. (A spokesperson for SiriusXM declined to comment.) For the next several minutes, he vented. “It’s not even clear to me who works for who,” Stern said. “I’m pretty sure if I left, it would be very bad for the company.” ... Stern is 61 years old. For 40 years he’s been rising before dawn to entertain and titillate drive-time commuters with a kaleidoscopic, screwball performance that’s teeming with anxiety, misfits, satire, celebrities, profanity, pranks, and porn stars. He’s the top rainmaker in American radio, capable of generating hundreds of millions of dollars a year in revenue for whomever employs him and his entourage of baroque sideshow performers known as the Wack Pack. ... On paper, the marriage between Stern and SiriusXM has never been better. Yet its future remains in limbo. Stern, who declined to be interviewed for this article, hasn’t said if he intends to extend his contract. ... The coming battle for Americans’ ears, whether in the car or on a computer or smartphone, promises to be fierce. In this unsettled territory, an exclusive deal with Stern could be a fearsome weapon. In theory, he could do for somebody in Internet radio what he did for Sirius in satellite radio.
Inside the studio where ESPN is betting billions on the future of sports ... Under president John Skipper and the Disney umbrella, ESPN has spent the last decade amassing an untouchably large amount of live sports programming. The network’s empire extends from football and basketball; to auto sports and the X-Games; to ultimate frisbee, poker, and bowling. It broadcasts the World Cup and the Masters, Monday Night Football and the NBA Playoffs. By any measure – it’s the most popular cable channel by a mile; it commands a per-subscriber fee from cable companies equal to the next five most expensive combined; it’s valued at more than $50 billion, 13 times as much as Disney-owned ABC — ESPN is the country’s most powerful media company. The calculus is as simple as it is devastatingly effective: sports is practically the only TV that millions of people still insist on watching live, and ESPN owns almost all the sports. ... The new SportsCenter set is the crown jewel of the building: 9,700 square feet of space that will be used to broadcast the show on ESPN’s mass of channels. The revamped set was designed to make SportsCenter more personal, to show anchors moving around and interacting, but also to help the show move at the speed of the internet. ESPN has long been criticized for allowing news to break overnight while it ran repeats of the previous day’s shows; now the premier show in sports can update and broadcast in real time.
In an industry where no one knows anything, here, finally, was someone who seemed to know something: Ryan Kavanaugh, a spikily red-haired man-child with an impish grin and a uniform of jeans and Converse sneakers who had an uncanny ability to fill a room and an irresistible outlook on how to make money making movies. Not yet 30 when he founded Relativity Media in 2004, he very quickly became not only a power player in Hollywood but the man who might just save it. With a dwindling number of studios putting out ever fewer movies, other than ones featuring name-brand superheroes, Kavanaugh became first a studio financier and then a fresh-faced buyer of textured, mid-budget films. To bankers, Kavanaugh appeared to have cracked the code, having come up with a way to forecast a famously unpredictable business by replacing the vagaries of intuition with the certainties of math. ... Even Hollywood wasn’t used to a pitch this good. Kavanaugh alternately dazzled and baffled — talking fast, scrawling numbers and arrows and lines on whiteboards, projecting spreadsheets. ... Borrowing a tool from Wall Street, he touted his “Monte Carlo model,” a computer program that runs thousands of simulations, as a device that could predict a film’s success far more reliably than even a sophisticated studio executive. Better, Kavanaugh convinced several studios that he could raise more money for them if they gave him access to their guarded “ultimates” numbers showing the historical or projected performance of a film across all platforms (DVD, video-on-demand, etc.) over a number of years.
More so than the average American sitcom, Seinfeld has had difficulty reaching global audiences. While it’s popular in Latin America, it hasn’t been widely accepted in Germany, France, Italy, and the Netherlands. Two decades after it went off the air, Seinfeld remains relevant to American audiences — thanks in part to omnipresent syndicated reruns — but in much of Europe it is considered a cult hit, and commonly relegated to deep-late-night time slots. Its humor, it seems, is just too complicated, too cultural and word-based, to make for easy translation. ... Jokes are the hardest things to translate into another language, another culture, another world. A good script for dubbing an American sitcom for foreign consumption does more than literally translate. It manages to convey the same meaning, the same feeling, the same story — the same direct hit to the lower frontal lobes of the brain that produces a laugh, even though those frontal lobes are steeped in a completely different cultural brew. ... Lip-synch dubbing, despite its ultimate benefits, can get very complicated. It’s not just that the lines may not translate directly — they also have to take just as long to say in both languages and approximate, to the best of their abilities, the lip movements of the original actors. That can pose an added challenge when translating from laconic languages like English into verbose languages like German.
The company that got its start delivering loaner DVDs in the mail is now positioning itself to be first truly global content network, and its original shows—especially marquee titles like Daredevil—are key to that ambition. ... perhaps the even bigger deal is that sending a new show worldwide felt like no big deal at all; the Netflix war room was less Dr. Strangelove than late-night potluck. Champagne was poured, a countdown ended, the show began, and that was that. Absent the dim lighting and the bubbly and a gaggle of international journalists, it felt like just another day at the office. ... That seeming ease of execution belies the time, money, and effort Netflix has sweated in the years leading up to now. From building up its global IT infrastructure to harnessing a world’s worth of data to creating content with global appeal, Netflix has been focusing its corporate energy on this exact moment. ... For Netflix, becoming a truly global network presents a path for steady growth over the next decade and beyond. It has 75 million subscribers today; there are seven billion more out there. For the world, Netflix’s aspiration could mean much more: the first glimpse at what happens when every part of an online entertainment empire, from interface to content to delivery, is engineered to be everything to everyone, all of the time.
“Hamilton” is really two phenomena: an extraordinary piece of theater, created by the composer, rapper and actor Lin-Manuel Miranda, and a commercial behemoth powered in part by scarcity — the near impossibility of obtaining tickets, which sell out as quickly as new dates go on sale (through January 2017, for now). Seller helped nurture Miranda through the five years it took him to develop the musical and consulted on every important decision, from casting to a major change in the show’s structure to the changing of its name, which took gentle but persistent prodding before Miranda finally agreed. (He had wanted “The Hamilton Mixtape.”) ... Broadway can be a very poor investment, but when shows hit, they really hit. The most successful of them dwarf the revenues of even the biggest Hollywood blockbusters. “Hamilton” could easily run on Broadway for a decade or more. In September, the first road production will open in Chicago, and it will be a “sit down” show, meaning it is intended to stay there for a year or more. Ultimately, there may be as many as seven “Hamilton” companies, in addition to the one on Broadway, performing at the same time in multiple American and international cities. Ticket revenues, over time, could reach into the billions of dollars. If it hits sales of a mere $1 billion, which “Hamilton” could surpass in New York alone, the show will have generated roughly $300 million in profit on the $12.5 million put up by investors.
Virtual reality overlaid on the real world in this manner is called mixed reality, or MR. (The goggles are semitransparent, allowing you to see your actual surroundings.) It is more difficult to achieve than the classic fully immersive virtual reality, or VR, where all you see are synthetic images, and in many ways MR is the more powerful of the two technologies. ... Magic Leap is not the only company creating mixed-reality technology, but right now the quality of its virtual visions exceeds all others. Because of this lead, money is pouring into this Florida office park. ... At the beginning of this year, the company completed what may be the largest C-round of financing in history: $793.5 million. To date, investors have funneled $1.4 billion into it. ... to really understand what’s happening at Magic Leap, you need to also understand the tidal wave surging through the entire tech industry. All the major players—Facebook, Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Sony, Samsung—have whole groups dedicated to artificial reality, and they’re hiring more engineers daily. Facebook alone has over 400 people working on VR. Then there are some 230 other companies, such as Meta, the Void, Atheer, Lytro, and 8i, working furiously on hardware and content for this new platform. To fully appreciate Magic Leap’s gravitational pull, you really must see this emerging industry—every virtual-reality and mixed-reality headset, every VR camera technique, all the novel VR applications, beta-version VR games, every prototype VR social world. ... The recurring discovery I made in each virtual world I entered was that although every one of these environments was fake, the experiences I had in them were genuine. ... The technology forces you to be present—in a way flatscreens do not—so that you gain authentic experiences, as authentic as in real life.
For years a culture clash had been brewing within the cloistered, sober halls of the National Geographic Society, a social club-turned-nonprofit organization founded in Washington in 1888 and devoted to the mission of increasing and diffusing geographic knowledge. Some NGS executives were irritated by the reality-TV shows that had come to dominate the network, which was majority-owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. The worry was that the lowbrow shows were damaging the society’s credibility and upstanding reputation. Behind the scenes, they had attempted to quash several projects before they aired. The TV people kept fighting back. ... In addition to the media assets, Fox picked up National Geographic’s travel business, which arranges tours to places such as the Galápagos Islands, and its licensing division, which lends its name to everything from bird feeders to backpacks to bedsheets and coffee beans. The success of the brand will likely hinge on the financial performance of the TV network—and its ability to navigate a market that’s being shaken by the unbundling of cable packages and rapidly changing viewing habits. ... Fox is investing hundreds of millions of dollars to reinvent it as a more highbrow destination—a kind of HBO for science and adventure programming.
But a new generation of owners like Ballmer, with fortunes made in technology, private equity, and venture capital, are accustomed to being intimately involved with their investments. They’re not just looking to win championships and trophies. They’re looking to build a great business. ... More than that, these tech-enabled owners have helped turn the NBA into North America’s most forward-thinking sports league. Other leagues struggle with aging fans and restrictive views on intellectual property; the NBA has the youngest TV audience of any US league and lets its content flow through the wilds of the Internet. While the other US leagues struggle to build international interest in their games, the NBA has leveraged social media and new technology to build a huge global following. If the league has its way, the Golden State Warriors’ three-point-shooting machine Stephen Curry won’t be merely an ambassador for America’s most exportable sport. He’ll be the biggest star of the biggest league on the planet. ... the overall composition of NBA ownership groups has radically changed. Today roughly half of NBA teams have controlling owners with backgrounds in tech and investment management. ... These owners don’t talk to each other about on-the-court matters, but they’re all in touch regularly on issues of how to run their businesses and reach fans. ... The NBA began this past season with 100 players from 37 countries and territories, 22 percent of the league. That adds up to a huge international audience. ... The biggest potential prize here is China. By some estimates, almost as many people play basketball in China as there are people in the United States—300 million. The NBA dreams of turning the massive Chinese market into the engine that propels the league into the global economic stratosphere.
2015 was, by all accounts, not a great year for GoPro. The company, famous for wearable cameras targeted toward surfers, mountain climbers, and anyone else living on the edge, shipped more cameras than ever, but its revenue dropped 31 percent between the fourth quarters of 2014 and 2015. ... Over the last three years, GoPro has been building a software team from scratch, cobbling together acquisitions and a few key hires into what is now a 100-plus employee division that makes up about one-tenth of the company. Woodman acknowledges that the trend of middling sales figures will likely hold until GoPro releases a set of new devices at the end of this year, including the Hero 5, GoPro’s first drone, and a spherical camera made for general consumers. Meanwhile the new software team, and what it’s building, will herald in a new era at the company, inspire investors, and eventually attract new customers. ... In the last four months, GoPro bought, rebranded, and relaunched two powerful mobile editing apps called Replay and Splice — opening up GoPro to users who don’t own any of its cameras. And in the second half of 2016, GoPro will release a desktop editing experience that will rival iMovie and a cloud backend that will tie everything — devices, files, and the overall GoPro experience — together into a single ecosystem. ... Woodman is clear-eyed on the fact that the hardware-first chapter of GoPro is coming to an end. Cameras will still be important, because Woodman believes that vertical integration gives GoPro an advantage over software-focused competitors. ... "We’ve sold a great promise to people but we haven’t followed through on it…. We solved the capture side of it, but then we sort of left them hanging with the whole hassle of the post-production."