PLUS: ESPN Sports App, Economics of Ski-ing and more Apple Vision Pro memes.
Happy Lunar New Year to those who celebrate!
Two things for today’s short email:
People have asked me to do an AMA mailbag so please reply to this email with any questions on business, media or Vietnamese food topics (if you want your query to be anonymous, I will obviously do that).
Those fresh links (Super Sports App, Ivy College Admissions Grift, Ski Economics) and memes (Apple Vision Pro, Super Bowl) for you.
To all new SatPost subscribers, here are three recent issues you may have missed:
And now, some interesting links:
A Super Sports App: ESPN, Fox, and Warner Bros. Discovery have announced that they will launch a streaming sports app this Fall. The unnamed service — which I would call The Most Ballin’ Sports App Plus+ — will include about 55% of major sports rights for NBA, NFL and MLB (eg. stuff you find on ESPN, FS1, TNT).
As discussed in The Town podcast, this venture is a delicate balancing act between moving towards the future (streaming) and also holding on to the lucrative past (cable bundle). The service aims to attract (a mostly young) audience who do not have cable and would probably cost $30-40 a month. Pricing can’t be too attractive, otherwise it will cannibalize the cable bundle. Paramount and NBC have not yet joined the consortium and are probably screwed if they don’t.
The Perfect Grift (Ivy College Admissions): New York Magazine profiled an Ivy League college admission consulting firm that works with uber-caked parents of New York private high school students.
Here is the setup:
190 clients paying $120k each per year for their child ($23m total revenue).
In exchange: children get basically 24/7 access to a “peer” (someone who went to an Ivy League) for help with essays, personal projects and study tips.
The consulting firm advertises that it successfully gets a high % of clients into preferred schools.
These parents have so much money and are so worried about status — including where their kids graduate college — that they will pay any amount to tilt the scale. There’s basically no way for an outsider to verify if the service works because parents will never publicly admit that they are paying $120k to gain an admissions edge. Listen, I hate it but can also admit IT’S THE PERFECT GRIFT!
The story also contains a great nugget on pricing theory: the founder of the consulting firm started by charging $75 an hour but was told by a wealthy client that “no one will take you seriously” and told him to raise the price to $1500 an hour (which he did and it worked to attract more clients).
The Economics of Ski Mountains: Mark Dent — my old colleague at The Hustle — has an interesting article on Vail Resorts, which operates 38 ski mountains in North America (including Whistler, BC, where I try to go 1-2 times a year…not to ski…but to day drink in the Four Seasons heated pool during the shoulder seasons when it’s possible to snag deals if you constantly hit refresh on the website).
Vail's business skyrocketed when it created the Epic Pass in 2008. Do you know how gyms make money from all the people who sign up but don't end up using their membership very often? The Epic Pass is kind of the same. People pay $600+ a year for access to all the mountains with date and geography restrictions based on the price tier. It looks like a deal compared to a single day pass of $150+ (but only if you actually get to the mountains). The number of Epic Pass holders has grown from 59K in 2008 to 650k in 2016 to 2.4m in 2023 (which translated to ~$900m in sales for the year).
Some other baller links:
Disney invested $1.5B into the Fortnite game-maker Epic Games: The plan is to bring more Disney characters — think Darth Vader, Avatar, Woody, Avengers — into Fortnite-like worlds. Matthew Ball has a great long read (from 2020) on how digital theme parks (Roblox, Fortnite, Minecraft, GTA Online) are the “most important media businesses of the future”. As with all media, the major reason is attention: over 120m users spend 1.5B+ combined hours a month on these platforms.
The Idea Factory: I’m 1/4th of the way through Jon Gertner’s great book on Bell Labs, which invented radio astronomy, the transistor, the laser, information theory, UNIX and a bunch of other wild things. My favourite bit so far is about how ideas were plentiful and the challenge is finding the right problems to solve:
"…the industrial lab was a challenge to the common assumption that its scientists were being paid to look high and low for good ideas…[Bell Lab leaders] would soon repeat the notion that there were plenty of good ideas out there, almost too many. Mainly, they were looking for good problems.”
Usher is doing the Super Bowl Half-Time Show: Here is a very funny 70-second TikTok that you can show to those under-20s who don’t know about Usher.
My email from last week was sent out before a frenzy of Apple Vision Pro memes. It was an absolute free-for-all of VR jokes, interesting spatial computing use cases and dystopian takes.
Here they are including the first sighting of my Bearly AI research app (pst, get one month free of Pro with code SATPOST1).
No, we didn’t make a Vision Pro app. It is just the Mac app projected into the space (shoutout to Max for posting this vid of the app):
The Vision Pro’s clearest “killer app” yet is as an entertainment setup for flying (Apple released an ad for this use case but I prefer this video below):
The last thing I’ll flag on the Vision Pro are two very good teardowns: 1) Jerry Rig destroys his headset with a box cutter and torch; and 2) iFixit does a technical analysis of the Vision Pro's camera, sensors and lenses.
Finally, here is a Super Bowl-related meme for all of the people that are in the Venn diagram of “NFL fans” and “JFK Historians”.