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Ticketmaster gets a grilling on Capitol Hill...
January 25, 2023 View Online | Sign Up | Shop

Morning Brew

Electric

Good morning. Waking up like a kid on Christmas this morning, because New York City might finally get some snow today. If it happens at all, it won't be enough for sledding (~1 inch), but there hasn't been any measurable snow here so far this winter—and it's already Jan. 25.

If that sounds extremely late…it is. The latest date in the winter NYC has received its first snow accumulation is Jan. 29. So, no powder today would put us perilously close to breaking the record.

Matty Merritt, Max Knoblauch, Sam Klebanov, Neal Freyman

MARKETS

Nasdaq

11,334.27

S&P

4,016.95

Dow

33,733.96

10-Year

3.455%

Bitcoin

$22,486.51

Walmart

$143.02

*Stock data as of market close, cryptocurrency data as of 4:00am ET. Here's what these numbers mean.

  • Markets: Sometimes a picture is not worth 1,000 words, because the chill trading day depicted in the chart above does not reflect reality. In fact, Wall Street was pure bedlam yesterday morning, when a "system issue" at the New York Stock Exchange briefly disrupted trading for more than 250 stock symbols—including blue chips like Walmart and McDonald's. The NYSE is reviewing "clearly erroneous" transactions, and the SEC is also looking into what happened.
 

ANTITRUST

Ticketmaster faces the music

Ticketmaster "T" being grilled on capitol building grill. Dianna "Mick" McDougall

On Capitol Hill yesterday, Ticketmaster defended itself against senators who are trying to understand why buying concert tickets invites the same level of stress as negotiating a hostage situation. This hearing marked the company's third time testifying in front of Congress over antitrust allegations since 1994. But, after fumbling the presale of Taylor Swift's Eras Tour tickets in November, it was likely facing its toughest crowd yet.

Here's the concern: Since Ticketmaster merged with entertainment company Live Nation in 2010, it has dominated the live event space. In 2022, the company handled 65% of US ticket sales, while StubHub, the second biggest company in the industry, controlled just 14%, according to Bloomberg. This dominance was in the spotlight two months ago when T. Swift fans struggled to buy concert tickets on Ticketmaster—the only site that was offering them.

Highlights from the hearing

During the first major hearing of this congressional term, senators from both sides of the aisle showed up to grill Ticketmaster.

  • Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar kicked off the roast by accusing Ticketmaster of being a monopoly and used a cringey Taylor Swift pun to explain that Americans know the effects of too much market consolidation "all too well."
  • GOP Sen. Josh Hawley criticized Ticketmaster for attempting to monopolize the resale market.

Witnesses at the hearing included a singer-songwriter and live event execs who say they've been hurt by Ticketmaster's growing power. Jerry Mickelson, CEO and president of Chicago-based Jam Productions, said that the merger of Live Nation and Ticketmaster completely shut independent producers out of the arena concert business.

Ticketmaster blamed the bots. Live Nation's President and CFO Joe Berchtold accepted responsibility for the T. Swift blunder. But he also blamed an influx of bots for causing disruptions on the site and insisted that high processing fees were set by venues and artists. Both claims earned raised eyebrows and skepticism from lawmakers.

What's next? Klobuchar concluded the grilling by essentially handing the tongs over to the Justice Department, which has already launched an investigation into Ticketmaster. But the popular revolt against Ticketmaster might have already begun: Country artist (and vocal Ticketmaster hater) Zach Bryan announced that his upcoming tour will avoid the ticketing giant at all costs.—MM

        

TOGETHER WITH ELECTRIC

IT's time for some fresh air

Electric

Remember 2022? Yeah, neither do we. Right now, we're all planning for whatever 2023 blows our way. To prepare for the good, bad, and weird this year, your biz needs a rock-solid security plan ASAP.

Electric can help you take a deep breath. Their proactive security standardization can be mobilized across devices, apps, and networks so you can streamline onboarding, device provisioning, IT support—you name it. And with a proven 105% ROI, Electric's the real deal.

Oh, and to really clear the air, they're giving complimentary sets of AirPods Pros to companies of 10–500 when they take qualified meetings before February 15.

Catch some air with Electric here.

WORLD

Tour de headlines

A gavel hammering down on a Google logo Francis Scialabba

The DOJ sues to break up Google's ad business. The DOJ and a handful of states are accusing the tech giant of abusing its market power through its tech that controls how the US digital ad industry operates. Google's tangoed with antitrust enforcers before—the DOJ brought a different lawsuit against the company in 2020—but this suit is significant for several reasons: a) It's the first time the Biden administration has launched a major challenge against a tech giant and b) the DOJ has rarely pushed for big companies to break themselves up in recent decades.

Is there any politician without a stash of classified documents at home? A lawyer for former VP Mike Pence found approximately 12 documents marked as classified at Pence's home in Indiana, and those documents have been turned over to the FBI. When asked previously whether he had any classified docs at home, Pence said he did not. But following the controversy over classified items found at President Biden's home, Pence directed his lawyers to do a sweep of his house just in case…and they found some, his legal team said.

Walmart hands out raises. The country's largest private employer is boosting its minimum wage for hourly US employees to $14 from $12 starting next month. The pay bump will affect ~340,000 Walmart employees, and raise the company's average hourly wages above $17.50. Handing out raises isn't trendy in these layoff-ridden times, but demand for workers in retail/logistics has stayed robust, and Walmart doesn't pay as well as Amazon or Target, its main rivals.

HEALTHCARE

Amazon added a generic drug subscription to Prime

Amazon pharmacy: Pill bottle labeled with Amazon signage Francis Scialabba

Yesterday, Amazon announced the launch of RxPass: an add-on to Prime memberships that provides subscribers with access to 50 generic prescription drugs for a $5 monthly fee. What Amazon didn't announce: where on the bottles the company is gonna slap the Rings of Power logo.

RxPass will launch immediately in most states (though not California and Texas, the most populous ones) and include generic drugs that treat common conditions like high blood pressure, anxiety, acid reflux, and hair loss. About 150 million US residents have a prescription for one of the drugs included in RxPass, according to Amazon.

But the service is not available to people on Medicare or Medicaid, and it doesn't offer insulin.

What's the point? RxPass is Amazon's answer to the Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drug Company (which offers significantly more medications—1,100 of them) and is likely part of an effort to attract more users to Amazon Pharmacy. Amazon Pharmacy could use the boost—it launched in 2020 but ranked at the bottom of a list of which Prime perks drew members to the service, a Morgan Stanley survey found last summer.

Zoom out: Don't expect this to drive down the prices of name-brand drugs. While generics accounted for 86% of US prescriptions in 2022 by volume, they only represent about 20% of total spending in the market, according to an Evercore analyst.—MK

        

ENTERTAINMENT

Oscar nominees everywhere all at once

Oscar nominees everywhere all at once Everything Everywhere All at Once/A24

The Academy Award nominations dropped yesterday, and your coworkers artfully pretending to care about how you spent your weekend were not included.

The sci-fi trip Everything Everywhere All at Once led the pack with 11 nominations. Meanwhile, the period tragicomedy The Banshees of Inisherin and the harrowing German-language war epic All Quiet on the Western Front tied for second place, with nine each.

What's different this year

The highbrow nonprofit behind the Oscars, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, seems to have looked beyond heady arthouse darlings toward box-office bangers: The two top grossing films of 2022 globally, Avatar: The Way of Water and Top Gun: Maverick, are in the running for the best picture title (notably, both are sequels).

Most refreshingly, there'll be no DiCaprio-style drama, since all the best actor contenders are debut nominees, and 16 of the 20 actors nominated overall are also first-timers. Not in his first Oscars rodeo is Jimmy Kimmel, who will host the ceremony for the third time.

Zoom out: The Oscars have been shedding viewers over the years, which threatens the Academy's future broadcast licensing fees that make up much of its revenue. This slate of nominees from a wider range of movies might convince audiences that red carpet pageantry and expert film opinions still make for an entertaining Sunday evening.—SK

        

FROM THE CREW

The Crew

Did you know the retail subscriptions market is expected to hit $1.5t by 2025? If your brand is considering this model, read up on keys to success like utilizing customer feedback to enhance your service and allowing customers to cancel with ease. Check it out.

GRAB BAG

Key performance indicators

FBI HQ in Washington, DC Eric Baradat/Getty Images

Stat: Apologies for making your eyes bleed, because the concrete monstrosity you are looking at has been named the ugliest building in the US. Know what it is? It's the J. Edgar Hoover Building in Washington, DC—the home of the FBI. This "honor" was handed out by building material supplier Buildworld, which analyzed sentiment on Twitter to rank the ugliest buildings in the world. Of course, the whole point of the rankings is to spark debate, and in our opinion, Boston City Hall got robbed of the trophy, coming in at No. 2.

Quote: "Well, it's been a hell of a journey…"

Panic! at the Disco's upcoming European tour will be its last as a band. Frontman Brendon Urie—he with the high hopes and the even higher vocal range—announced that the pop rock group is going the way of M&M's spokescandies, and will disband after nearly 20 years. Urie said he's going to focus on his family, as he and his wife are expecting a baby.

Read: Why skyscrapers are so short. (Works in Progress)

NEWS

What else is brewing

  • The US could make an announcement as soon as today that it will send more than 30 of its M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine.
  • Ten Ukrainian officials resigned yesterday as the result of an anti-corruption drive by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
  • American skier Mikaela Shiffrin broke the record for most World Cup wins by a woman yesterday. Her 83 victories vaulted her over fellow American Lindsey Vonn.
  • Working from home saves commuters around the globe about 72 minutes a day, according to a study from the National Bureau of Economic Research.
  • The Doomsday Clock, which is used by scientists to gauge how close humans are to annihilation, moved to 90 seconds before midnight—the closest it's ever come to doomsday. Scientists said the shift was "largely" due to the war in Ukraine.

BREW'S BETS

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The hidden gems of Wikipedia: Have at 'em.

The best Biz 101 course you'll take: Don't miss your last chance to apply for the Brew's Business Essentials Accelerator—an eight-week online course that gets you up to speed on the fundamentals of communication, operation, and innovation. BEA kicks off Feb. 6. Learn more.

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GAMES

The puzzle section

Word Search: Today's puzzle is all about foods affiliated with certain US states. So, if you know which state's official cookie is the biscochito, you'll ace it. Play today's Word Search.

Oscars trivia

We enjoyed the Oscars quiz from the LA Times, so here's a toughy adapted from that list of questions:

Since 2005, three best picture-winning movies have been set in Los Angeles (The Artist, Crash, Million Dollar Baby). One (Birdman) has primarily taken place in New York. And two were set in Boston. Can you name those two movies?

AROUND THE BREW

Become an Excel pro

Become an Excel pro

Did you maybe exaggerate your Excel skills on your resume? Not to worry—Money Scoop put together some essential Excel shortcuts to help you catch up.

Learn how to use numbers to tell a compelling narrative with Data Storytelling, our one-week virtual course. Reserve your spot today.

At CFO Brew's virtual event, you'll hear corporate finance leaders discuss how they change strategy in response to surprises.

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ANSWER

Spotlight and The Departed.

         

Written by Neal Freyman, Matty Merritt, Max Knoblauch, and Sam Klebanov

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