For drivers with a need for speed and a desire for luxury, Mercedes-Benz has expanded its subscription offerings to include the high-performance AMG series. After a one-time activation fee of $495, subscribers can drive AMG C63, C63 Cabriolet, GLC63, GLC63 S Coupe, E63 S, E63 S Wagon, G63, S63 Coupe, GT 63 4-door coupe, GT roadster or the GT C for just $3,595 a month. That is a premium price, but subscribers are paying for top-of-the line vehicles as well as insurance ($1 million liability, $2,000 medical payments, $1,000 member deductible), 24/7 roadside assistance, maintenance, and pick-up and delivery service.
The entire editorial staff of Men’s Journal has been laid off, as magazine owner American Media LLC (AMI) makes plans to move to California, reports Publishers Daily. The layoff affects about 20 members of the men’s lifestyle and fitness magazine’s editorial staff. AMI’s Adventures Sports Network will take over writing, editing and production of the magazine, while the sales team for Men’s Journal will remain in New York. In addition, instead of publishing 10 times a year, the number of issues will decrease to six.
Last fall, Viacom and CBS completed their merger, and it has taken a short-term toll on the company’s finances. In its fourth quarter and 2019 year-end results, ViacomCBS reports total revenue of $6.9 billion, a 3% decline over the fourth quarter of 2018. For the fourth quarter, the company also reports an operating loss of $13 million and a net earnings loss from continuing operations of $273 million, or $0.44 per diluted share. “In less than three months since completing our merger, we have made significant progress integrating and transforming ViacomCBS..."
Last week, The California Times, the owner of the Los Angeles Times, the San Diego Union-Tribune and several community papers, made voluntary buyout offers to staff with two or more years of service, reports CNN. Billionaire Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong bought the newspapers in June 2018 from Tribune Publishing (previously called Tronc), returning the newspapers to local ownership. Employees were notified of the voluntary buyout offers via email.
This week’s subscription headlines cover everything from annual learning subscriptions by Coursera and potentially deceptive business practices by Rihanna’s lingerie line to testing subscription bundles and offering free content to nonsubscribers. In addition, Birchbox lays off workers (could this be a trend?); Luminary is expanding globally, which could create podcasting wars; and Downing Street wants BBC to switch to a subscription model.
Forget furniture rentals of the past with their heavy chrome and faux leather features. Feather, a new type of subscription furniture rental service with a modern sense of style, has just raised $30 million to fuel its expansion, reports Interior Design. The Series B funding round was led by Cobalt Capital and included participation from previous investors including Spark Capital, Kleiner Perkins, Bain Capital Ventures, Y Combinator, SV Angel, PJC, Fuel Capital and others. This brings the total equity funding raised to date to $46 million.
Nissan is the latest automaker to take the subscription model for a test drive. Yesterday, Nissan announced it is launching, Nissan Switch, a new car subscription service in the greater Houston area. After paying a $495 activation fee, drivers can subscribe to Nissan Switch for $699 to $899 a month, plus $100 per day for up to seven days if driving the Nissan GT-R. As an added bonus, drivers can change vehicles in their tier as often as daily! Similar to other auto subscriptions, Nissan Switch’s monthly subscription fee includes insurance, maintenance, roadside assistance, cleaning, taxes and more. Subscribers can sign up to drive a variety of models of Nissans without a long-term commitment. There is, however, a $200 pause fee for subscribers to put their subscriptions on hold.
Meredith Corp’s second quarter earnings report for fiscal year 2020 was a mixed bag. The media and marketing company calls the quarter “strong” and reaffirms its full year 2020 guidance, but the results weren’t all rosy. For example, total company revenue was $810.5 million, compared to $878.4 million for the same period last year. Meredith attributes this decline to lower political spot advertising revenue in its Local Media Group and lower advertising and subscription revenue in its National Media Group, due to changes in the company’s portfolio and operations.
Last week, Google’s YouTube notified YouTube TV customers they won’t be able to pay for their subscriptions via the App Store anymore, starting in March, reports Mac Rumors. Subscribers will have to find another way to pay for their subscriptions, or their subscriptions will be canceled altogether. Customers will be billed one final time through the App Store’s in-app purchases, and then subscriptions will be canceled automatically either on their billing date or after March 13, 2020.
While many were celebrating Valentine’s Day, McClatchy was not enjoying hearts and flowers. Instead, McClatchy Co. was trying desperately to save itself and 53 wholly owned subsidiaries by filing a voluntary Chapter 11 petition for bankruptcy in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. Filing a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition provides the company with immediate protection while it tries to reach an agreement with secured lenders, bondholders, and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC).
This week, we’ve got streaming, gaming and ad blocking news: Steam grows to nearly 95 million monthly active users, Netflix plans to use animation to complete with Disney Plus, and Google Chrome’s new feature will block the most annoying video ads. Also this week, the 165-year-old Montgomery Sentinel closes up shop, Birchbox lays off half of its New York City staff, and Paystand raises $20 million to give businesses a frictionless, open infrastructure option for commercial finance.
A day after announcing its fourth quarter 2019 results, streaming audio platform Spotify announced its intent to acquire Bill Simmon’s The Ringer. This acquisition will help Spotify expand its content catalog with sports and pop culture podcasts and The Ringer website, as well as reach new audiences. Bill Simmons, a former ESPN personality, started The Ringer in 2016. Spotify did not disclose terms of the deal, but Variety reports that the company may be paying as much as $196 million cash for The Ringer. The acquisition is expected to close during the first quarter of 2020.
WWE® finished 2019 with a TKO, reporting total revenue of $322.8 million, an 18% increase year-over-year and the highest quarterly revenue total in the history of the company. Revenue for the full year 2019 was $960.4 million, also a company record. Operating income for the quarter increased 87% to $99.8 million, and adjusted OIBDA also grew 67% to a quarterly record of $107.7 million. Operating income for the year was $116.5 million, and adjusted OIBDA was $180.0 million, a record for the third year in a row.
Last week, News Corp posted strong subscriber growth for the second quarter of fiscal year 2020, including significant milestones. The Dow Jones now has more than 3.5 million subscribers, and The Wall Street Journal has exceeded 2 million digital-only subscribers. Total digital subscriptions at Dow Jones increased 17%, while The Wall Street Journal’s increased by 13%. Circulation and subscription revenue increased 3% due, in part, to Dow Jones’ consumer products which had a 5% increase in circulation revenue. Dow Jones’ consumer products reached 3.4 million total subscribers, an 8% increase.
SaaSWorks has raised $5 million in seed ¬¬funding to continue its work as a revenue operations and customer success solution to support SaaS businesses. The funding round was led by Conversion Venture Capital and CEOs, CFOs and other executives from prominent SaaS companies. SaaSWorks will use the investment to attract talent in the greater Boston area to help the company grow and support SaaS businesses as they scale their subscription operations.