August’s Baker’s Dozen

Europe (maybe) reins in TikTok, streaming triumphs, Disney struggles and more…


TikTok users in Europe will soon have the option to switch off the platform’s famously sophisticated personalization algorithm. The move, made to comply with the EU´s Digital Services Act, may not have too profound an impact since most people will likely stick with tailored content recommendations. But it will be interesting to see how the change affects the experience of those who opt out and, perhaps, enjoy a less addictive and more communal experience viewing broadly popular videos with less potential to spread disinformation or reinforce thought silos.


The Mouse House’s latest quarterly earnings report saw its streaming efforts continuing to struggle, with a $512 million loss that brought total losses since 2019 to over $11 billion. Meanwhile, traditional broadcasting profits from the likes of ABC and ESPN dropped a steep 23% from last year. On the bright side, the bulk of the bad steaming news came from India. We’ll soon see if Disney+’s upcoming pricing change will help turn things around. 


As Europe chips away at Big Tech’s invasion of users’ privacy, the US’s progress on that front remains stalled. The research firm Adalytics recently found that a channel for preschoolers on the platforms that’s been viewed nearly 100 billion times may have been collecting data on its vast underage audience, in violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.

Traditional Television

A major milestone was reached this month when, for the first time, Americans spent more time watching streaming content (38.7% of screen time) than programs on cable (29.6%) and broadcast (20%) networks. Some might be surprised this hadn’t already happened. Few should doubt that streaming will continue to outpace the old guard by bigger margins.

AI protections


Over 2,000 people at a Las Vegas hackathon toiled, with the White House’s blessing, to uncover flaws in AI technologies, with the goal of adding safeguards before outside enemies exploit the shortcomings. Unsurprisingly, political misinformation, ethnic stereotypes and how-to advice on carrying out surveillance abounded. Also of concern: Google is testing out AI’s capacity as a robot life coach, despite warnings by experts of the potential dangers of that use. 


Live sports broadcasting has been seen for years as largely immune to the ratings woes afflicting nearly every other genre on traditional TV. Yet its future is likely to prove more complicated. Disney chief Bob Iger is mulling with other top execs whether to sell a stake, or perhaps all of, ESPN now that streaming prevents it from goosing revenues by increasing programming fees for traditional distributors. That change, and grumblings that certain sports leagues and commissions are overvaluing themselves in negotiations with broadcasters, have led to five universities leaving the Pac-12 after balking at Apple´s $23 million per-year, per-school offer for TV rights.


Linda Yaccarino, the chief of the tech company formerly known as Twitter, is reviving the client council that Elon Musk quickly shuttered after taking over the platform. The return of the council, a consortium of top marketing and ad agency executives, is seen as a bid by X to mend some of the many fences Musk trampled over, but I suspect it’s a case of too little, too late. 

The Marion County Record 

A police raid on the Record’s newsroom threw the small town paper serving a county of 11,000 into the national spotlight last week and impelled first amendment advocates to raise alarms over press freedoms. The unusually blunt move by a local government to intimidate the press. in this instance over the Record’s expose of a prominent restaurateur, hammered home how especially vulnerable  local news outlets are to such strongarm tactics. Fortunately, the backlash to the raid led to authorities returning materials seized during the sweep. 


The cable news network announced a broad programming overhaul last week, with the biggest changes affecting primetime. Abby Phillip will host a 10 pm show from New York while Laura Coates takes over from the DC studio at 11 pm. But what will happen to another rising star, Kaitlan Collins, who was recently moved from mornings to 9 pm, a spot she’ll have to vacate once Gayle King and Charles Barkley’s program begins? Will the changes be enough to stanch the bleeding at a network which drew a meager one-third of MSNBC’s primetime audience on the day of Trump’s Georgia indictment?


After a rip-roaring debut that saw it gain 100 million users in five days, Meta’s answer to X is unraveling. The number of daily active users plunged by almost 80% over the past month, from 49 million to 11 million, leaving it with a small fraction of its rivals’ activity and perhaps down the line joining the likes of Mastodon as a refuge for tweeters that ends up a social media footnote.