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Author Archive for Carter Breazeale

The Oscars Slumping

Viewership has been trending downward for the Oscars, and on Sunday night it hit a new low. The 92nd Academy Awards had its lowest ratings ever, bringing in on 23.6 million viewers.

That’s down 6 million sets of eyes from last year.

So why are the Oscars struggling so mightily of late? Is it the stodgy nature of the program, one that directors have actively tried to punch up in recent years to attract a younger audience? Or is it the lack of diversity in nominees, or the influx of people who are using streaming services instead of traditionally tracked Nielsen devices?

Whatever the root cause, it’s clear that the Oscars have fallen out of favor. The Academy Awards lack the over-the-top, alcohol-influenced comedic chaos of the Golden Globes, and never do match the musical entertainment factor of the Grammys. It’s a very buttoned-up, black tie affair that doesn’t naturally lend itself to audience entertainment—especially since for many, the main reason for tuning in is simply to see who won.

That information is now readily available on social media the moment it breaks.

So what are the Oscars to do? Run-time and entertainment value are definite factors, and in order to stop the bleeding of viewership, the directors must draw in a younger audience. The Academy Awards are a hallmark of American pop culture, so it’s admittedly difficult to see them struggling. It’s not dire yet, but it’s apparent that changes need to be made to reel in new viewers, and reengage traditional viewers who look forward to the Oscars every year.

YouTube Vows to Battle Misinformation

With the votes cast and the Iowa caucus now behind us (well, kind of), it’s time to ruminate on the role that social media and the digital space will play in 2020 as we continue the slog to Election Day 2020. Social media is a differentiator. That was well-established in 2016—and it has resulted in many a company being hauled in front of Congress to detail its means for combatting misinformation.

On previous posts we’ve keyed in on the way digital media—video in particular—can easily be altered to promote a particular narrative or viewpoint. These manipulated clips can spread like wildfire across social media, so the onus is on the specific platforms to monitor and limit the false information that it provides visibility to.

YouTube is (thankfully) up to the challenge, announcing that it will bar any content that has been altered to mislead the viewer—an ongoing issue with edited “deepfakes” that can sway public opinion.

This is absolutely a step in the right direction.

The fever swamps of the internet that crank out this material have a singular goal that’s premised on bad intentions, and many times all it takes is a few initial shares on Twitter or Facebook before the groundwork is laid for conspiracy theories and negative narratives. It’s expected that these peddlers of false information are gearing up to poison the well of popular opinion, so it’s good to see YouTube getting proactive as we roll into the election.

Rest Easy, Mamba.

The entire world was shaken on Sunday with the news that NBA and Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant had perished in a helicopter crash in Southern California. You did not need to be a basketball fan, or even a sports fan, to comprehend the enormity of this news. In the last couple of days I’ve been within earshot of multiple conversations that are centered on Kobe—in coffee shops, at the airport, in line to grab lunch.

His death has shaken the country to its core. He was an NBA icon entering the second act of his career. That second act was off to a sterling start, with a 2018 Oscar for the short film Dear Basketball joining the five NBA Championship trophies in his case. It was a second act that tragically far too soon.  

Kobe Bryant’s death hit me particularly hard. I grew up watching him surgically pick apart defenses and dagger them with game-winners. I lamented the loss of Shaquille O’Neal in Orlando but celebrated his pairing with Black Mamba in Los Angeles, a tandem that would bring three titles to Los Angeles. I celebrated the Orlando Magic’s run to the 2009 NBA Finals, only to realize that Kobe Bryant would be on the other side of the court.

That didn’t turn out well for the Magic. It didn’t turn out well for many teams.

Kobe carried the baton from Michael Jordan as one of the greatest players in NBA history. He was a polarizing figure off the court, but he was all business on it. Kobe Bryant introduced a new generation to basketball—boys and girls, alike.  

One of Bryant’s biggest off-court accomplishments was his work to bring the game to young girls, and encouraging their growth in the sport. He was a vocal champion for the WNBA, actively promoting the league and encouraging young women to pursue their love of basketball. He was flying with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna to one of her travel games when the helicopter went down.  

Gianna would tragically perish alongside her dad, as well as her teammates Payton Chester and Alyssa Altobelli. Alyssa’s parents, John and Keri, were also on board, as was Mambas assistant basketball coach Christina Mauser and pilot Ara Zobayan.

None would survive the horrific accident.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the day-to-day and lose sight of what’s truly important, and sometimes it takes inconceivable tragedy to provide some forced perspective. The little things that you think really matter really don’t in the grand scheme of things. Take some time to appreciate what’s in front of you.

Our hearts go out to the families of all who were on board, and we are thinking of them during this incredibly difficult time.

Alphabet Joins an Exclusive Club

Take all 26 letters in the alphabet and multiply them by an inconceivable amount, because that’s likely close to what Alphabet is worth right now. Alphabet, Google’s parent company, has joined rarefied air, becoming just the fourth U.S. company to reach $1 trillion in market valuation.

The other three companies are probably easy guesses, as Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft all hit trillion-dollar valuations in 2018 and 2019, respectively.

Alphabet joins that exclusive group of tech goliaths, and it’s a not-unexpected accomplishment from a company that has a hand in virtually everything that you do each day. Alphabet gets you answers on demand, connects you with the globe at the push of a button, and likely gets you to work every morning.

“Revolutionary” still seems like a bit of an understatement when thinking about Alphabet.

Fonts of innovations all, these four companies have changed the world, so it’s no shock that they’ve become the first businesses in U.S. history to hit the $1 trillion mark. We’re still in the first month of 2020, but it’s abundantly clear that the giants of Silicon Valley will be one of the prime catalysts to drive change through this decade and on into a new century.

So a glass is raised to Alphabet for joining such an exclusive club in American economic history. That is, as long as they agree to pick up the tab.

It’s CES Time

CES, the largest and most anticipated tech conference of the year, kicks off today in Las Vegas. It’s the marquee event in the technology world, and each and every turn of the calendar it gets the year started with some newsworthy highlights about forthcoming products and trends in the tech landscape.

So what will be unveiled today that will potentially be on your 2020 shopping list?

Forbes is out with its list of the 10 tech trends to watch at CES, and it runs the gamut from hyper-powered televisions to a focus on sustainability and eco-friendly products.

Impossible Foods, purveyors of plant-based meat products and a Silicon Valley unicorn in the food space, is set to unveil pork and sausage substitutes at CES, ahead of a possible 2020 IPO. They of course changed the fast food game in 2019 when they partnered with Burger King on the Impossible Whopper.

Tech privacy will also take center stage at this year’s CES. A rightfully hot button issue, many news stories from 2019 zeroed in on privacy lapses from social media outlets and online companies. CES will be livestreaming a panel discussion with some of the top tech execs on the importance of privacy and the changes in the pipeline for your apps and devices.

CES sets the tone for the year ahead in the technology space, so PR/PR will certainly be tuning in. What are you looking forward to most as CES gets rolling?