Five ways the virus has changed Netflix

Demand for online entertainment surged when the world went into lockdown earlier this year. But how is Netflix faring after that initial boost?

Netflix added just 2.2 million new subscribers in the three months ended 30 September, as the surge of demand for its services prompted by the pandemic faded.

According to its latest results, while it had warned that slowdown was likely, the final figure came in below its July forecast of 2.5 million, sending the firm’s shares down 5% in after-hours trade.

“The pandemic streaming party has come to an end,” Paolo Pescatore, analyst at PP Foresight, declared.

Still, Netflix reminded investors that it’s still on track for a record number of 34 million new subscribers in 2020 – or more than 200 million overall.

Netflix said 78 million member households watched The Old Guard, a Netflix original, in the first four weeks after its launch, making it the firm’s most popular title of the quarter.

Enola Holmes, Project Power and The Kissing Booth 2 were also popular, attracting 76 million, 75 million and 66 million households in the first four weeks after their debut.

Of course, those figures should be taken with a grain of salt – Netflix counts any viewing time of more than two minutes towards its tally. And the viewer numbers it shares are focused on its own original productions.

The number of international subscribers to Netflix had already eclipsed those in the US – and overseas growth continues to be critical.

In the most recent quarter, the strongest subscriber growth occurred in its Asia Pacific region, which accounted for more than one million new subscribers – almost half of the sign-ups. The firm boasted that it now claims memberships in a “double-digit” share of broadband-connected homes in Japan and South Korea.

But the firm still makes its most revenue per user in the US, so retention in its home market is key, especially as competition from rivals like Disney and HBO heats up.

On that score, Netflix sought to reassure investors, writing in its quarterly update that “retention remains healthy and engagement per member household was up solidly” compared to last year.

The shutdown in film and television productions, forced by lockdowns this spring, has placed a major focus on how Netflix and its competitors will get hold of new offerings to retain their members.

Netflix downplayed those concerns, saying it was making “good and careful progress” in production and it expected the number of Netflix productions launching next year to exceed 2020 in every quarter.

Netflix stands to benefit from the struggles of cinema operators, said Sophie Lund-Yates, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown. But as homebound audiences burn through material at a faster rate, costs will increase – and could push the company to raise prices, she warned.

“Original content might keep customers, but it costs a pretty penny, and is downright ghoulish for the bottom line,” she said. “If consumers are expected to burn through content at a faster rate, the cash flow hole will in theory get bigger.”

The firm reported a record $790 million in quarterly profit, as revenue increased more than expected to $6.4bn, thanks in part to the appreciation of the euro against the dollar.

And the firm said its profit margins have also improved, due to the temporary slowdown in production.

Google hit by landmark competition lawsuit in US over search

The US government has filed charges against Google, accusing the company of violating competition law to preserve its monopoly over internet searches and online advertising.

The lawsuit marks the biggest challenge brought by US regulators against a major tech company in years.

It follows more than a year of investigation and comes as the biggest tech firms face intense scrutiny of their practices at home and abroad.

Google called the case “deeply flawed”.

The company has maintained that its sector remains intensely competitive and that its practices put customers first.

“People use Google because they choose to – not because they’re forced to or because they can’t find alternatives,” it said.

The charges, filed in federal court, were brought by the US Department of Justice and 11 other states. The lawsuit focuses on the billions of dollars Google pays each year to ensure its search engine is installed as the default option on browsers and devices such as mobile phones.

Officials said those deals have helped secure Google’s place as the “gatekeeper” to the internet, allowing it to own or control the channels of about 80% of search queries in the US.

“Google has thus foreclosed competition for internet search,” the lawsuit said. “General search engine competitors are denied vital distribution, scale, and product recognition – ensuring they have no real chance to challenge Google.”

It added: “Google is so dominant that ‘Google’ is not only a noun to identify the company and the Google search engine but also a verb that means to search the internet.”

The suit said the deals have hurt the public by damaging search quality in terms of privacy and data protection, reducing choice and thwarting innovation.

Sally Hubbard, who works for the Open Markets Institute, a Washington think tank that has long pushed for more aggressive action against big tech firms, said focusing on Google’s search distribution deals was one of the easiest legal cases to make against the company.

On Twitter she said the lawsuit had “been so long coming but it’s wonderful to see”.

The case could be the first of many in the US that challenge the dominance of big tech firms and potentially lead to their break-up.

Other states have launched their own investigations, and said they may join the suit filed on Tuesday or file their own.

Politicians in Congress have also called for action against Google and fellow tech firms Amazon, Facebook and Apple in an effort that has united Democrats and Republicans.

The decision to file the lawsuit just a few weeks before the US presidential election has raised questions about whether it was simply a move by the Trump administration to prove its willingness to challenge the influence of the sector if it gains a second term.

But officials said they had not rushed the investigation to ensure it was filed before the election – noting that for years, many advocates have said the government was moving too slowly on such issues.

“We’re acting when the facts and the law warranted,” deputy attorney general Jeffrey Rosen said, adding that the department’s review of competition practices in the technology sector is continuing.

Google has faced similar claims in the European Union. It is already appealing against €8.2bn ($9.5bn; £7.3bn) in fines demanded by the European Commission which include:

Google parent Alphabet, which has a market value of more than $1tn, is expected to fight the allegations in the US as well. Its share price was little changed on Tuesday, despite the news.

Taking on a giant like Google will be one of biggest competition cases in decades. But the case – to decide if the California-based company abuses its market power – could last years.

European regulators have led the way in taking action against the tech giants. But this move by the US Department of Justice is a sign that the mood has turned against them at home too.

The complaint says that two decades ago Google was a scrappy innovative start-up – but now it’s the monopoly gatekeeper to the internet.

Google stands accused of using anti-competitive tactics to shut out rivals and extend that monopoly. Google says people use it because they choose to rather than being forced.

Deciding who is right won’t be a quick decision.

Google hit by antitrust charges in US over search

The US government has filed charges against Google, accusing the company of abusing its dominance to preserve a monopoly over internet searches and online advertising.

The lawsuit marks the biggest challenge brought by US regulators against a major tech company in years.

It follows more than a year of investigation and comes as the biggest tech firms face intense scrutiny of their practices at home and abroad.

Google called the case “deeply flawed”.

The company has maintained that its sector remains intensely competitive and that its practices put customers first.

“People use Google because they choose to – not because they’re forced to or because they can’t find alternatives,” it said.

The charges, filed in federal court, were brought by the US Department of Justice and 11 other states. The lawsuit focuses on the billions of dollars Google pays each year to ensure its search engine is installed as the default option on browsers and devices such as mobile phones.

Officials said those deals have helped secure Google’s placeas the “gatekeeper” to the internet, owning or controlling the channels for about 80% of search queries in the US.

“Google has thus foreclosed competition for internet search,” the lawsuit said. “General search engine competitors are denied vital distribution, scale, and product recognition – ensuring they have no real chance to challenge Google.”

It added: “Google is so dominant that ‘Google’ is not only a noun to identify the company and the Google search engine but also a verb that means to search the internet.”

The case could be the first of many in the US that challenge the dominance of big tech firms and potentially lead to their break-up.

Coming just a few weeks before the US presidential election, it has also been viewed as a move by the Trump administration to prove its willingness to challenge the influence of the sector if it gains a second term.

Officials said they had not rushed the investigation to ensure it was filed before the election.

“We’re acting when the facts and the law warranted,” deputy attorney general Jeffrey Rosen said, adding that the department’s review of competition practices in the technology sector is continuing.

Google has faced similar claims in the European Union. It is already appealing against €8.2bn ($9.5bn; £7.3bn) in fines demanded by the European Commission which include:

Taking on a giant like Google will be one of biggest competition cases in decades. But the case – to decide if the California-based company abuses its market power – could last years.

European regulators have led the way in taking action against the tech giants. But this move by the US Department of Justice is a sign that the mood has turned against them at home too.

The complaint says that two decades ago Google was a scrappy innovative start-up – but now it’s the monopoly gatekeeper to the internet.

Google stands accused of using anti-competitive tactics to shut out rivals and extend that monopoly. Google says people use it because they choose to rather than being forced.

Deciding who is right won’t be a quick decision.

Milton Keynes murder: Chainmail-wearing killer found guilty

A drug dealer who wore a chainmail vest to protect himself has been found guilty of murdering a rival.

Lee Sopp, 25, stabbed Mohamud Hashi, 22, with what prosecutors called a “fearsome” Rider Stacked Bowie knife in Milton Keynes on 11 December.

Luton Crown Court heard Sopp wanted to warn off Mr Hashi from dealing drugs in what he regarded as his “area” and killed him “to protect his turf”.

Sopp, of Daniels Welch, Coffee Hall, will be sentenced on Thursday.

Prosecutor Stuart Trimmer QC told the trial Sopp, who had admitted manslaughter but denied murder, was a drug dealer who operated on the streets of Milton Keynes.

The court heard Sopp shouted “Yo Snoop” before fatally stabbing Mr Hashi, who was also selling drugs, in the thigh in the Fishermead area of the town.

“Lee Sopp killed him in order to protect his turf,” Mr Trimmer added.

Mr Trimmer said the defendant had worn a “Crusader-style” chainmail vest bought online “to protect [himself] from getting stabbed”.

Giving evidence, Sopp said he gave Mr Hashi “a little jab to his thigh”, claiming he “didn’t intend the knife to go as deep as it did”.

He agreed he had an interest in collecting weapons, such as crossbows, knuckle dusters, knives and swords.

“I just like weapons,” he told the jury, adding some were bought to “regulate my drugs business”.

He said he also had a chainmail vest, adding: “As much as I like weapons, I like armour too, like stab proof vests. It was to protect myself.”

He was cleared of aggravated burglary and wounding a woman with intent on the day after the murder.

The jury heard he had also admitted two charges of having an offensive weapon, possessing crack cocaine, possessing heroin and possessing criminal property.

Spencer Davis, one of rocks elder statesmen, dies aged 81

Spencer Davis, one of the key figures of 1960s beat scene, has died at the age of 81.

The Welsh guitarist was the driving force behind the Spencer Davis Group, who scored transatlantic hits with Keep On Running and Somebody Help Me.

The band, which also featured a teenage Stevie Winwood, toured with The Who and The Rolling Stones in the 60s.

Davis died in hospital on Monday, while being treated for pneumonia, his agent told the BBC.

“He was a very good friend,” said Bob Birk, who had worked with the musician for more than 30 years.

“He was a highly ethical, very talented, good-hearted, extremely intelligent, generous man. He will be missed.”

The son of a paratrooper, Davis was born in Swansea in 1939 and first started learning harmonica and the accordion at the age of six.

He moved to London to work for the civil service at the age of 16, but later relocated to Birmingham, where he taught English by day, and played in local clubs at night.

Inspired by blues and skiffle, he formed a band called The Saints with Bill Wyman, later a member of the Rolling Stones; and performed folk music with Christine Perfect – who, as Christine McVie, became a core member of Fleetwood Mac’s classic line-up.

But it was with his eponymous rock group that he struck gold. Formed in 1963, The Spencer Davis Band featured Davis on guitar, a teenaged Stevie Winwood on organ and vocals, his brother Muff on bass and Peter York on drums.

Originally called The Rhythm & Blues Quartette, they changed their name in 1964 when Muff pointed out that Davis was the only one who enjoyed doing interviews – the logic being that the rest of the band could slope off to the pub while he handled the press.

Their breakout hit, Keep On Running, was a cover of a song by West Indian performer Jackie Edwards.

When it topped the UK charts in 1966, it knocked the double A-sided Beatles single We Can Work It Out/Day Tripper from the top slot – and Davis received a telegram from the band congratulating him on the achievement.

“It’s in a pile of papers somewhere,” he told the BBC in 2009. “It said, ‘Congratulations on reaching number one – The Beatles.'”

The follow-up was delayed when Davis bashed his head on a car windscreen after braking to avoid a dog. But eventually the band proved they had songwriting chops of their own, with hit singles like I’m A Man, Gimme Some Loving and Somebody Help Me – another Jackie Edwards cover, which gave the quartet their second number one.

They also recorded the theme song for the long-running children’s TV show Magpie, under the pseudonym The Murgatroyd Band – a reference to the show’s mascot, a fat magpie named Murgatroyd.

Although they never toured the US, the band established a healthy presence on the charts in 1967; while Davis’s ability with languages (he was fluent in German, French and Spanish) helped the band further their career in Europe.

His capacity for languages even led to Davis recording a German version of The Age Of Aquarius (Aquarius Der Wassermann) in 1968, and earned him a nickname: “The Professor”.

However, the Spencer Davis Group came to an untimely end in 1967 when, at the height of their fame, Winwood left to form Traffic, leaving Davis without his dynamic frontman.

The band recorded a few more minor hits, but broke up soon after, with Davis moving to California, where he embarked on a short-lived solo career.

At the time, he later claimed, he was near to bankruptcy, thanks to a punitive contract with Island Records.

“I didn’t realise what had been going on. I’d sold millions of records and hadn’t seen a penny from them,” he told Music Mart magazine in 2005.

“In 1970, I was considering declaring bankruptcy, but I’d written a track with Eddie Hardin, called Don’t Want You No More, which the Allman Brothers put on their Beginnings album. The damned thing sold six million copies. Suddenly a cheque for £5,000 arrived through the door and I’d never seen so much money in all my life.

“I saw more money from that one song than I saw from all the stuff that had been an Island production.”

After confronting Island Records’ owner Chris Blackwell over the issue, he was given a job in artist development at the label in the mid-70s.

There, he helped to promote newcomers like Bob Marley, Robert Palmer and Eddie And The Hot Rods, as well as working alongside Winwood, who was now establishing himself as a solo artist.

Davis returned to songwriting with 1984’s Crossfire, which featured contributions from Dusty Springfield and Booker T, and subsequently reformed the Spencer Davis Group – minus the Winwood brothers – with whom he toured the world for the rest of his career.

Birmingham International Jazz Festival founder Jim Simpson, who was told about Davis’ passing by drummer Pete York, said: “Spencer was a lovely man – always very courteous and a purist about music.

“The Spencer Davis Group stuck more to the blues and never became a fully-fledged rock band. Spencer was scholarly and well educated, very gentle and kind and his tastes in music were spot on.”

The musician is survived by his long-time partner June, and three adult children.

Brexit: Standoff continues in trade talks after negotiators call

Talks on a post-Brexit trade deal remain stalled, after a phone call between the two sides’ negotiators failed to make a breakthrough.

UK negotiator Lord Frost said his call with the EU’s Michel Barnier on Tuesday had been “constructive” but in-person negotiations could not resume.

No 10 has said a “fundamental change” in the EU’s approach is required before face-to-face talks should continue.

Mr Barnier said the EU’s door “remains open” following the call.

The Frenchman, who had proposed “intensified” talks in London this week, added: “we should be making the most out of the little time left”.

Both sides are seeking an agreement to govern their trading relationship once the UK’s post-Brexit transition period ends in January 2021.

Both sides are calling on the other to compromise ahead of the looming December deadline for a deal, with key areas of disagreement including fishing rights and post-Brexit competition rules.

The EU wants the UK to agree to rules limiting government help for business and industry, as well as a way for the EU to seek redress if they are broken.

The two sides are also haggling over how much European fishermen should be able to catch in British waters from next year.

Speaking before Tuesday’s call, the prime minister’s spokesman said the EU would need to show talks could be a “genuine negotiation rather than one side being expected to make all of the moves”.

Speaking in Brussels earlier, a European Commission spokesman said it was “pretty obvious” both sides would need to compromise in order for a deal to be done.

It follows a summit in Brussels last week where EU leaders called on the UK to “make the necessary moves” towards a deal.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged business leaders to prepare for the end of the transition period in December, in a conference call alongside Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove.

It comes as a government bill granting ministers the power to override sections of the UK’s Brexit divorce agreement cleared its first hurdle in the House of Lords.

However, peers approved a motion by 395 votes to 169 to say the bill’s controversial provisions to break international law would damage the UK’s reputation.

The vote and the scale of the defeat is an indication that peers could seek to make changes to the legislation when they embark on line by line scrutiny of the proposals.

By remaining in the bloc’s single market and customs union, the UK has continued to follow EU trading rules during its post-Brexit transition period.

This 11-month period is due to end in December, and the UK has ruled out seeking an extension.

Formal talks began in March and continued throughout the pandemic, initially via video link before in-person discussions resumed over the summer.

If a deal is not done, the UK will trade with the EU according to the default rules set by the World Trade Organization.

Google sued by US government over search dominance

The US government has filed charges against Google, accusing it of abusing its dominance to preserve a monopoly over internet searches and online advertising.

The lawsuit marks the biggest challenge brought by US regulators against a big tech company in years.

It follows more than a year of investigation and comes as the biggest tech firms face intense scrutiny of their practices at home and abroad.

Google called the case “deeply flawed”.

The firm has maintained its field remains intensely competitive and that its practices put customers first.

“People use Google because they choose to – not because they’re forced to or because they can’t find alternatives,” the firm said.

The charges, filed in federal court, were brought by the US Department of Justice and 11 other states. The lawsuit focuses on Google’s payments to ensure its search engine is installed as a default option on mobile phones and browsers.

Officials described Google as the “gatekeeper” to the internet, owning or controlling the channels for about 80% of search in the US.

“Google has thus foreclosed competition for internet search,” the lawsuit said. “General search engine competitors are denied vital distribution, scale, and product recognition – ensuring they have no real chance to challenge Google.”

It added: “Google is so dominant that ‘Google’ is not only a noun to identify the company and the Google search engine but also a verb that means to search the internet.”

The case could be the first of many in the US that challenge the dominance of big tech firms and potentially lead to their break-up.

Coming just a few weeks before the US presidential election, it has also been viewed as a move by the Trump administration to show its willingness to challenge the influence of the sector if it gains a second term.

Officials said they had not rushed the investigation to ensure it was filed before the election.

“We’re acting when the facts and the law warranted,” deputy attorney general Jeffrey Rosen said.

Google has faced similar claims in the European Union. It is already appealing €8.2bn ($9.5bn; £7.3bn) in fines demanded by the European Commission which include:

Birmingham stabbings: Terrorism decision may have saved lives

A decision not to treat multiple stabbings in a city centre as terrorism may have saved lives, a report found.

One man died and seven were injured during the attacks in Birmingham on 6 September and police were initially criticised for their response.

The West Midlands force conducted a review and found it acted “appropriately and professionally”.

It said declaring a terrorist incident could have delayed medical aid to victims, risking further loss of life.

The findings were presented by Chief Constable Dave Thompson to a strategic policing board meeting.

Jacob Billington, 23, from Crosby, Merseyside, was fatally stabbed in the neck. He was on a night out in Birmingham.

His friend, Michael Callaghan, was also attacked and is at a specialist neurological hospital where he is expected to stay for a number of months, the meeting heard.

The force has had to defend its response to the four clusters of attacks after being criticised for not responding fast enough and the time taken to release images of the suspect.

Its review said there was “rapid deployment of significant armed and unarmed officers” to the city centre.

The decision not to classify the stabbings as a marauding terrorist attack – known as Operation Plato – allowed ambulances to attend the scene quickly rather than being held back for safety reasons, Mr Thompson said.

Operation Plato is a plan for dealing with a suspected marauding armed terrorist and the chief constable said declaring it was “a dilemma”.

The plan is under review nationally after it was declared in response to the Manchester Arena bombing.

“I am very satisfied the decisions made on the night were right,” Mr Thompson said.

Zephaniah McLeod, 27, from Selly Oak, Birmingham, has been charged with murder and seven counts of attempted murder.