McDonald’s intergalactic experiment

December 11th, 2023

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Hey, Fam. There are only three weeks left in the year before 2024. Have you started shopping for presents, thinking about your new year’s resolutions, and setting your goals and dreams? Here’s your morning motivation to make it happen. Don’t procrastinate. In the great words of Nike, “Just do it.”

In other news… Skydance might take over Paramount Global, McDonald’s tries to reinvent itself, and the holiday party is dying.

Top Trends

YouTube → Masters of the Air

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TikTok → “Not Allowed”

Spotify → “Spirit”

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ENTERTAINMENT

Skydance may pull out the pocketbook for Paramount Global

The Future. Although Shari Redstone keeps telling people Paramount Global isn’t for sale, Skydance and Redbird Capital are in the preliminary stages of a potential takeover of the storied media conglomerate. If the deal goes through, it could signal a new Hollywood ecosystem where moneyed, influential mini studios (Skydance, The North Road, and Blumhouse) are the key players making movies… while the studios and streamers focus on distributing them.

Move-in mogul
The long-rumored auction of Paramount may finally be coming true.

  • David Ellison’s Skydance is teaming up with Gerry Cardinale’s Redbird to potentially purchase a majority stake in Shari Redstone’s National Amusements Inc. (NAI) — the parent company of Paramount Global

  • That would be a cheaper way of gaining control of Paramount because NAI holds 80% of the voting shares, but only 10% of the financial interest in the company — assets that include Paramount Pictures, PlutoTV, CBS, BET, and many others.

  • That would likely make the combined company, as industry analyst Matt Belloni predicts, a “Sony Pictures-style ‘arms dealer’ content producer supplying the other streamers.”

A deal with Skydance and RedBird makes a lot of sense for Paramount Global, which has been financially struggling due to lower TV ad revenue and streaming losses. A sale to a traditional media conglomerate like Warner Bros. Discovery or NBCUniversal would require jumping through a lot more regulatory hoops

The acquisition would be a homecoming for Ellison, whose Skydance was a financing partner on Paramount blockbuster franchises like Mission: Impossible and Star Trek. For Cardinale, it would be another major step into Hollywood after backing Ben Affleck and Matt Damon’s Artists Equity. So far, Wall Street is all about it, too.

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FOOD & DRINK

McDonald’s serves up CosMc’s

The Future. McDonald’s first CosMc’s concept store opened in the Chicago suburb of Bolingbrook — a quick-stop snack and beverage restaurant meant to compete with Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts. McDonald’s may not just be looking to brew up some revenue, but also offer items that feel destined for TikTok virality.

Absurdity with cheese
CosMc’s is piloting a few changes to the fast food experience.

  • The whole thing is styled as a mix between 1950s Americana (jean jackets and bowling shirts) and space (the surfing alien logo and bright “cosmic” colors).

  • It’s a drive-thru-only establishment, with several windows for serving customers, who can also pay at the menu sign or at the window (whichever is more convenient).

  • That means there are no dining rooms or outdoor seating… so hopefully there’s ample parking space for actually eating.

  • And when it comes to menu items, CosMc’s has experimental food (a Creamy Avocado Tomatillo Sandwich, for example), wild drinks (Sour Cherry Energy Burst), and custom coffees (S’mores Cold Brew).

The Bolingbrook location is a “learning lab,” reports Fast Company, and many aspects of CosMc’s could change before a wider rollout. But it is rolling out — McDonald’s plans to open nine more locations in Texas next year.

We’ll see if the bold bet pays off.

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BUSINESS

The office holiday party gets a modern makeover

The Future. Holiday parties are losing the hallmarks of the season as some companies plan more inclusive, experiential, and, well, “holiday-light” events. While the shift is meant to encourage employee camaraderie and work celebration, the parties may be missing a very particular sort of spirit that comes from the cultural touchstone of Christmas and the holiday season… which may make the new parties feel like any ole party.

Tinsel and teetotaling 
The office holiday party is losing a little Christmas magic these days, according to Bloomberg.

  • Many companies are switching things up, opting for outdoor activities like pickleball, hosting virtual murder mysteries and guacamole-making competitions, and, if they do want to touch on the season, “winter-wonderland” shindigs.

  • And for global brands, the idea is to plan festivities that are hyper local to regional offices — like Edgewell Personal Care Co. planning a candle-making class for its France-based employees, while sending its Connecticut staff to a hockey game.

  • To accommodate the various types of parties, event firms like Teambuilding.com and Glow Events have popped up to remake the holiday festivities.

What ultimately led to the downplaying of Secret Santas, Christmas trees, and mistletoes? Companies really don’t want to make drinking central to the end-of-the-year parties — a tide change post #MeToo, COVID, and a push for more sensitivity in the workplace. The new experiences try to put an emphasis on team-building and celebration without the need for an open bar.

No one wants a party to end in a lawsuit.

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Highlights

The best curated daily stories from around the web

Media, Music, & Entertainment

  • Taylor Swift’s The Eras Tour is officially the first tour in history to gross over $1 billion… and will likely hit $2 billion when all is said and done. Read More → consequence

  • The Grand Theft Auto VI trailer hit 93 million views on YouTube in the first 24 hours it was up — making it the new record-holder for the biggest non-music video debut on the platform. Read More → variety

  • Tubular Labs found that there’s only a 12% overlap of people who watch Hulu and people who watch ABC — fueling Disney’s premiering of Hulu’s Only Murders in the Building on the network this January. Read More → deadline

Fashion & E-Commerce

  • The Puech family, the lords of the Hermès empire, have become Europe’s richest with a staggering fortune of $151 billion. Read More → bloomberg

  • A bipartisan group of senators have introduced the “Fans First Act” — a fresh stab at trying to bring more transparency, accountability, and verification to the event-ticketing marketplace. Read More → variety

  • Amazon is testing a $9.99 per month grocery delivery service for its Whole Foods and Amazon Fresh stores. Read More → theinformation

Tech, Web3, & AI

In partnership with Rainbook

  • The FDA has officially signed off on the first medication that uses gene-editing CRISPR technology — a sickle-cell treatment called Casgevy. Read More → wsj

  • NYC’s famed Eleven Madison Park, which went entirely vegan in 2021, is introducing a special type of eggs to its menu. Read More → fastcompany

  • Presto Automation’s AI drive-thrus, which are being used at fast-food joints like Del Taco and Checkers, tap offsite human workers in places like the Philippines about 70% of the time. Read More → theverge

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Creator Economy

  • X’s “funny” AI chatbot Grok is now available to all of the platform’s Premium+ subscribers in the US. Read More → techcrunch

  • YouTubers can finally turn off the comments on the videos if they want. Read More → engadget

  • Threads is rolling out hashtags… without the hashtag. Read More → theverge

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Today’s email was written by David Vendrell.
Edited by Boye Akolade. Copy edited & published by Kait Cunniff.

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