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Eurovision Song Contest 2019: Where to live-stream it and where the YouTube is blocked

Eurovision Song Contest 2019: Where to live-stream it and where the YouTube is blocked
[Photo: courtesy of NRK/Eurovision]

The biggest, kitschiest, campiest, and often most controversial song contest of the year is happening today, but viewers in many territories around the world won’t be able to see it. The Eurovision Song Contest may not be a household name in the United States, but it attracts about 186 million global viewers, and some 41 countries participate, mostly in Europe. The contest is presented by the European Broadcasting Union.

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Eurovision’s Grand Final is scheduled to air tonight (Saturday, May 18) from Tel Aviv at 8 p.m. GMT (3 p.m. ET/noon PT). Twenty-six of the participating countries made the final, with acts from the Netherlands, Russia, Sweden, and Australia being among the favorites, according to RadioTimes. You can find the full list here.

For cord cutters who want to stream the Eurovision Grand Final live online, you can easily do that on the event’s official YouTube channel, but only if you’re located in one of the participating countries. Unfortunately, the YouTube stream is geoblocked in the following territories:

  • Bolivia
  • Canada
  • Costa Rica
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ecuador
  • El Salvador
  • Guatemala
  • Honduras
  • Nicaragua
  • Panama
  • Paraguay
  • Uruguay
  • United States
  • Venezuela

The EBU cites “rights issues” as the reason for the block in certain countries, and told Fast Company the issue is beyond its control.

For viewers in the United States who have grown to love the quirky song contest over the years, the block is especially disappointing because there is no way to see it on TV either. Viacom’s Logo TV, which aired the contest in years past, did not get the rights for 2019. Reached for comment, an EBU spokesperson said, “We are currently exploring other options so that U.S. audiences can continue to enjoy watching the Eurovision Song Contest.”

The good news is, the Swedish broadcaster SVT has been replaying the semifinals on its website, so American viewers will likely be able stream the Grand Final on-demand at some point after it airs.

In the meantime, the good citizens of Twitter will most certainly be sharing video clips of the best moments as they happen, so follow the #Eurovision2019 hashtag there for instant replays and all those sure-to-go-viral moments.

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How to watch the 2019 PGA Championship on CBS and TNT live without cable

How to watch the 2019 PGA Championship on CBS and TNT live without cable
Daniel Berger of the United States hits his tee shot on the 12th hole during the second round of the 2019 PGA Championship on the Black Course at Bethpage State Park. [Photo: David Cannon/Getty Images]

After Tiger Woods’s big win at the 2019 Masters last month, a lot of people are suddenly into watching golf again. While Woods failed to advance this weekend in the PGA Championship, there are still plenty of reasons to stay tuned. The tournament will continue through Sunday, with two major networks bringing you all the action (inasmuch as action actually happens in golf without Tiger Woods). Here’s the lineup and coverage schedule of the remaining matches:

  • Saturday, May 18: 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. ET — TNT
  • Saturday, May 18: 2 p.m – 7 p.m. ET — CBS
  • Sunday, May 19: 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. ET — TNT
  • Sunday May 19: 2 p.m. 7 p.m. ET — CBS

As you can see, you need access to CBS and TNT to see all the coverage. (Alternatively, the PGA is offering its own limited live stream on the PGA website.)

For cord cutters who want to watch the TV coverage, you have a few different options. If you have pay-TV credentials from a cable or satellite provider, you can watch the matches through the CBS and TNT websites or via their mobile apps.

For viewers who don’t have login credentials, you can sign up to a streaming service that offers both CBS and TNT. (Reminder, CBS is a broadcast network, and you can watch it for free if you have an over-the-air antenna.) I’ve rounded up some options below. Most of these services are offering free trials and they’re easy to cancel. Now go enjoy your relaxing two days of golf!

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“Zombies” who use their cellphones at crosswalks could be fined under proposed NY law

“Zombies” who use their cellphones at crosswalks could be fined under proposed NY law
[Photo: rawpixel]

“Cell phone zombies” might start getting ticketed on the busy sidewalks of New York City if a proposed law in the New York state legislature gets passed.

Under the proposal, people crossing the street with their nose buried in their phone could face fines of between $25 to $250. The legislation targets people “using a portable electronic device while crossing a roadway,” and makes exceptions for emergency response and other medical personnel.

“[The bill] does not say you can’t talk on the phone,” the bill’s sponsor, New York state senator John Liu, told the Guardian. “We’re talking about handheld devices … you can wait the five seconds to get to the other side.”

New York state reports about 300 pedestrian fatalities a year, per statistics cited by the Guardian, but it’s unclear how many of those deaths are actually caused by people distracted by their phones. Lui says his law can significantly reduce fatalities.

The bill is already facing opposition. Marco Conner of Transportation Alternatives said a cellphone pedestrian law might turn into an instrument used by police to unfairly target racial groups. He also called the bill “victim blaming in disguise.”

Now the only question is whether the fine would triple for that extra-dangerous sort who uses a cellphone while also jaywalking.

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High-end fitness brand Life Time wants you to live at the gym

Fitness is seeping into everything. For years, fitness junkies have been going to yoga retreats and coworking from their health clubs. Equinox is now making hotels, so you can keep your healthy lifestyle going even when you travel.

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But if you’re really going to go big, why not just move into the gym?

High-end gym developer Life Time plans to open salubrious residences in Las Vegas, Miami, and Dallas starting in 2020, the company said today. These luxury apartment buildings will be constructed next to new or existing Life Time Fitness clubs, and membership will be built into monthly rents with access to the other 140 locations for workouts when you travel. The company has 1.7 million members paying $190 per month for its gyms.

It’s another sign that the spaces where we live, work out, shop, and learn are all converging as people seek out the ultimate convenience: everything you want within a strolling distance. Lots of landlords and developers are considering how their spaces can be all things to their chosen demographic. What community a person chooses will largely depend on which brand they identify most with.

The We Company, with its collection of WeWork, WeLive, WeGrow, and Rise Properties, is perhaps the most visible brand that has forged ahead into the world of everything-at-your-fingertips. But other real estate companies have become thoughtful about how they program properties–much like one might program a television channel–with a mix of work space, restaurants, fitness studios, and niche retail brands to attract a particular demographic.

They’re also thinking about the way technology can help their tenants get whatever they want. Real estate companies like Tishman Speyer and Rudin Management have built out mobile apps that act as lightweight concierge services to people who live and work in their buildings.

Baby steps

Life Time has slowly been moving toward building an all-encompassing health mecca, taking baby steps through partnerships with residential buildings. Life Time’s Manhattan location sits inside a luxury residence called Sky, where residents have access to a pool, hot tub, cold plunge, steam room, fitness equipment, pilates classes, and a cafe replete with green juice, smoothies, and healthy meals. There’s also a small eating area, and beyond that, a lounge with sofas, coffee tables, a sunny deck, and the most important resource of all, Wi-Fi. Sleepy? A nap room with curved loungers and low light will accommodate a quick snooze.

Last April, Life Time decided to fully embrace coworking within its sprawling fitness centers. It now has four locations with dedicated workspace, conference rooms, private phone booths, and tech support. With its new residences, the company is being more mindful of what its entire campus has to offer.

CEO Bahram Akradi says he’s thinking about what kind of food and retail is located nearby. Some of that will be predetermined by the existing landlord, but in some instances, Life Time will be able to plug in its own choices. For instance, in Dallas, Life Time is building its residence and fitness center from the ground up and will be able to control which boutique and specialty retailers get placed in the development.

Akradi says he wants to make people’s lives a little less busy. On average, Americans make roughly 10 trips per day per household, based on 2009 data from the Federal Highway Administration. Akradi says he wants his residents have to make fewer outbound trips.

“You’ll probably still have a car, but you’ll probably only make four to five trips [a day],” he says. “The rest you can walk to.”

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Spotify is testing a voice-controlled “Car Thing,” but don’t get too excited yet

Spotify is testing a voice-controlled “Car Thing,” but don’t get too excited yet
[Image: courtesy of Spotify]

After years of speculation, Spotify is dipping its toes into hardware with a voice-controlled music and podcast player for the car. The company says it’s inviting a small number of Spotify Premium subscribers in the United States to check it out.

Still, Spotify claims that it has no current plans to sell the so-called Car Thing. Instead, the device’s goal is to help Spotify learn more about “how people listen to music and podcasts.” To that end, the company may release other voice-controlled test hardware in the future, including a possible “Voice Thing” and “Home Thing.”

Job postings for Spotify hardware started popping up a couple years ago, claiming that the company wanted to build “a category-defining product akin to Pebble Watch, Amazon Echo, and Snap Spectacles.” Other hardware rumors have popped up since then, but no actual consumer products have materialized.

Spotify has good reason to move cautiously. The streaming service already integrates nicely with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, which both have their own in-car systems and voice-control accessories. It’s unclear what a Spotify-specific device would accomplish, which might explain why the company is still testing the waters.

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Roe v. Wade is under threat, and only one of the leading 2020 Democrats seems to really get it

Roe v. Wade is under threat, and only one of the leading 2020 Democrats seems to really get it
(Left to right) Candidates Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders. [Photos: David Lienemann/Concordia/Flickr (Biden); Flickr user Gage Skidmore (Warren); Matt A.J./Flickr (Sanders)]

As the Democrats try to winnow the flock of 23 candidates currently vying to be the party’s 2020 presidential nominee, one key issue could be the deciding factor: abortion rights. Polls shows that 71% of Americans oppose overturning Roe v. Wade, including 52% of Republicans, but newly passed restrictive legislation in states like Alabama, Georgia, Missouri, and Ohio shows that the debate is far from over.

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So where exactly do the Democratic candidates stand on the issue? While the party is largely pro-choice, and any nominee will tow the party line, there are differences in their positions.

Since it’s hard to find the time to read through the voting records and policy stances of 23 candidates, we’re going to look at just the top three for now. According to tracking by Real Clear Politics, the three current Democratic front-runners are former Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

Here are their positions on abortion and reproductive rights:

Elizabeth Warren

Warren, the only woman in the bunch of front-runners, has a defined plan to preserve reproductive rights for women, which she unveiled in a Medium post on Friday. In the post, she criticizes “extremist Republican lawmakers” who enact laws that restrict abortion access, and she warns that their efforts to have Roe v. Wade overturned by the Supreme Court “just might work.”

She then called for Congress to craft legislation that would make the decision in Roe federal law, called for a repeal of the Hyde Amendment (which bans federal funding for most abortions), and called for federal legislation preventing states from passing medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion clinics. She also proposes reversing the Trump administration’s domestic gag rule, which bars providers that receive federal family planning funds from performing or referring patients for abortions.

It should be noted that Warren isn’t the only candidate to have a plan to defend abortion rights: Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) also laid out a concrete position on reproductive rights.

Joe Biden

Biden is a Catholic, and as he told America magazine in 2015, he has struggled to reconcile his beliefs with his policy positions. After the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade in 1973, Biden said a woman shouldn’t have the “sole right to say what should happen to her body.” He also voted to let states overturn Roe v. Wade, although he later reversed position, as the New York Times recently laid out in an article on Biden’s evolution on abortion. The piece shows that while Biden frequently votes pro-choice, he falls short of the current Democratic standard.

Even the conservative outlet National Review admits that Biden’s stance on abortion rights is “to the right” of most Democrats, and the left-leaning Jacobin magazine dubbed him an “unreliable pro-choice advocate.”

Bernie Sanders

Sanders called abortion a “a constitutional right,” believes abortion is healthcare, reportedly has a 100% lifetime pro-choice voting record, and reportedly recently tapped into his email list to raise money for three abortion funds, including The Yellowhammer Fund in Alabama.

That said, as Samantha Bee noted in a “Sex Ed for Senators” segment on Full Frontal, Sanders doesn’t seem to have a full grasp of the issue. When he was asked during a Fox News debate about whether women should be allowed to “terminate a pregnancy up until the moment of birth” (which is obviously not a thing), he said that was only a “rare” procedure. As Bee pointed out, “It isn’t rare. It is nonexistent.” Additionally, in 2017, Sanders was put on blast by the president of abortion rights advocate NARAL Pro-Choice America for campaigning on behalf of a Democratic mayoral candidate who opposes abortion rights.

When called on it, Sanders doubled down, and Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi jumped into the fray, eschewing “single-issue politics” and saying the Democrats needed “a big tent.” Moreover, while Sanders was campaigning for the 2016 presidential nomination, he called Planned Parenthood part of “the establishment,” a move that some media outlets saw as a “lack of dedication to abortion rights and respect for reproductive rights advocacy.”

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Minecraft Earth is coming: Here’s how to apply for the beta from Microsoft

Minecraft Earth is coming: Here’s how to apply for the beta from Microsoft
[Photo: courtesy of Microsoft]

Microsoft is working on an augmented reality version of Minecraft that will bring the block-building craze into the real world.

Minecraft Earth will let users create small-scale virtual buildings, Lego-style, and view them through an iPhone or Android phone, as Engadget reports. It will also allow for life-sized Minecraft buildings (or rooms, at least), in which users can team up and fight monsters. In addition to playing among themselves, players will be able to find creations made by others.

Minecraft Earth isn’t launching broadly anytime soon, though. Microsoft says it’s starting with a closed beta for players 18 and up this summer, and hasn’t given a release date for wider availability. You can apply for the beta here.

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Sad survey: 60% of male managers are “uncomfortable” working around women

Sad survey: 60% of male managers are “uncomfortable” working around women
[Photo: Campaign Creators/Unsplash]

LeanIn.org and SurveyMonkey just released the results of a survey on the state of men and women interacting in the workplace in the age of #MeToo. The results are frustrating. The data reveals that 60% of male managers say they are uncomfortable performing common workplace activities such as mentoring, working one on one, or socializing with a woman. That’s a 32% increase over last year.

To add insult to insult, senior-level men who were surveyed are now far more hesitant to spend time with junior female colleagues than junior male ones, across a range of basic work activities. The men were 12 times more likely to hesitate to have one-on-one meetings, nine times more likely to hesitate to travel with a junior woman for work, and six times more likely to hesitate to have a work dinner with a junior woman.

That means the many, many women in this world who are just trying to do their jobs and make progress in their careers are being stymied by men who are terrified of being, I dunno, unable to control themselves while talking to a woman in the conference room. It’s an infuriating addition to the challenges that women already face in the workplace, adding to their emotional labor by making sure their male bosses feel comfortable interacting with them alone and at those all-important work socialization events. The dynamic basically foists the burden of making men feel comfortable on to women, who already get paid less money than their male counterparts and may retire poorer at the end of their work lives.

While male managers may feel like they are insulating themselves in the age of #MeToo, cutting off women’s access to mentoring and access to senior-level managers is just another form of discrimination and sexism.

If that weren’t frustrating enough, the survey also reveals that sexual harassment remains pervasive in the workplace, with 57% of women reporting that they’ve experienced some form of sexual harassment in the workplace. Men and women don’t agree as to who is more affected by harassment. Some 50% of men say that the consequences of sexual harassment claims are more damaging to the careers of harassers, not victims, while 64% of women say the victims end up paying a higher price.

Companies need to address this to help women feel confident and comfortable at work, or risk alienating or stifling 43% of the country’s workforce and adding to the $2 trillion in GDP lost to gender inequity.

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One year in, GDPR seems to have helped Google & Facebook

One year in, GDPR seems to have helped Google & Facebook
[Photo: ev/Unsplash]

Last year, the long-awaited General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) laws went into effect throughout the European Union. They were essentially new rules that overhauled how digital companies gathered data and acquired consent from their users. Companies found to be in violation of these regulations would be hit with strict fines.

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Now that 12 months have passed since the new rules went into effect, we can see what sort of impact they’ve had. While every company dealing with digital data in Europe had to make big changes, as of now, it seems like the big guys weren’t adversely affected.

In fact, the opposite appears to be the case.

New projections from eMarketer show that Google and Facebook are both continuing to grow their share of the digital advertising market in the United Kingdom. Google will represent 38.8% of the market in that region, and Facebook will scoop up 24.5% by the end of 2019. That comes to 63.3% of the U.K. digital advertising market from just those two companies. For comparison, eMarketer says the duopoly will represent on 59.3% in the U.S.

Google and Facebook’s U.K. ad dominance is only growing, too. According to eMarketer’s forecast, the two will represent 64.7% of the U.K.’s market share by 2021.

The organizations that have taken the biggest hit, it seems, are the smaller companies that had to overhaul their programs to conform to the new GDPR rules. As a result, they likely lost some footing while restructuring their programs. Meanwhile, Google and Facebook continue to grow their domain.

In an emailed statement, eMarketer’s principal analyst, Bill Fisher, said that some change may be on the horizon for the two digital behemoths. Namely, large fines continue to be levied against them as revelations surface about data collection malfeasance. Fisher writes:

However, there are signs that the various regional agencies are pushing harder than ever to take to task the digital behemoths. Recent data breaches affecting Facebook, for example, are prompting agencies to push for the maximum fine of 4% of worldwide revenue, which equates to around $1.6 billion. Facebook and Google have deep pockets, sure, but there are only so many fines that they’ll be willing to accept.

Is there any amount of money that will cause Google and Facebook to stumble? I suppose GDPR is one way to see. Perhaps we’ll have a clearer answer next year.

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Taiwan just legalized same-sex marriage, a historic first for Asia

Taiwan just legalized same-sex marriage, a historic first for Asia
[Photo: Carl Court/Getty Images]

Taiwan just passed Asia’s first law legalizing marriage for same-sex couples.

The groundwork for the landmark decision was laid back in 2017, when the island’s Constitutional Court ruled that prohibiting same-sex marriage violated Taiwan’s constitution. It set a deadline of May 24 for lawmakers to update the laws to reflect the ruling. The legislature considered three separate bills, the BBC reports, and it approved the most progressive one. Now Taiwan is the proud owner of a new class of marriage that confers full legal rights on same-sex couples, including in taxes, insurance, and child custody. It also gives same-sex couples limited adoption rights.

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, though. While the 2017 court ruling showed that prohibiting same-sex marriage violated Taiwan’s constitution, several referendums in Taiwan revealed that a majority of Taiwanese voters wanted to keep the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman. While drafting the new law, the legislature worked to balance the two sides, which they accomplished by leaving the traditional marriage law in place, while creating a new category for same-sex couples.

Progressive lawmakers were able to defeat a push by conservative lawmakers to establish “same-sex unions” or “same-sex family relationships” and instead define same-sex unions as good old-fashioned marriages.

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Spectrum cable begs for more cord cutting with new intrusive channel guide ads

Spectrum cable begs for more cord cutting with new intrusive channel guide ads
[Photo Sebastien LE DEROUT/Unsplash]

One of the last benefits of paying for traditional cable is the channel guide. For those of us who still occasionally enjoy the art of channel surfing, streaming services like Netflix and Amazon with their made-up genres and algorithm-driven recommendations haven’t quite been able to replicate the joy of content discovery on an old-fashioned cable TV service.

So it was especially jarring last week when I began to notice advertisements for the new TV series L.A.’s Finest inserted into my channel guide on Spectrum Cable. The ads appear in between the channel listings, and reappear pretty frequently as you’re scrolling through, completely interrupting the user experience and betraying the sanctity of the surf.

After a quick search on social media, I realized I wasn’t alone in finding these new ads intrusive.

L.A.’s Finest is the inaugural series on Spectrum Originals, which is Spectrum’s new effort to offer exclusive content to its cable customers. That it would seek new ways to keep its paying video subscribers is not surprising. Cord cutting has accelerated throughout the pay-TV ecosphere, and Charter–Spectrum’s parent company–is feeling the pinch as much as anyone else. The company lost 145,000 TV subscribers in the last quarter alone, far above what it lost in the same period last year.

But surely there must be a better way to promote original content, one that doesn’t involve disrupting the very user experience people enjoy and pay for. Cable is not cheap, and surveys indicate that more and more people are considering scaling back service or cutting the cord altogether. Customers are already at the end of their ropes, so why give them another excuse?

I reached out to Spectrum for comment and will update if I hear back. The company’s Twitter account has been responding apologetically to complaints, but so far it hasn’t said if it plans to rethink the strategy.

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Now this is something to be grumpy about: Meme superstar Grumpy Cat has died

Now this is something to be grumpy about: Meme superstar Grumpy Cat has died
[Photo: Flickr user Gage Skidmore]

Meme and animal lovers out there will be saddened to hear that the internet star Grumpy Cat has passed away. The news was revealed by Grumpy Cat’s owners on her official Twitter account. Grumpy Cat’s owners said the feline died on Tuesday, May 14, “at home in the arms of her mommy, Tabatha.” The cause of death was complications from a recent urinary tract infection.

In announcing the passing, Grumpy Cat’s owners said, “Besides being our baby and a cherished member of the family, Grumpy Cat has helped millions of people smile all around the world–even when times were tough. Her spirit will continue to live on through her fans everywhere.”

Grumpy Cat, whose given name is “Tardar Sauce,” originally shot to fame in 2012 after one of Grumpy Cat’s owners posted a photo of her on Reddit. She quickly became a meme sensation due to the permanent frown she appeared to wear. Since then, the Grumpy Cat Twitter account has amassed over 1.5 million followers and her Instagram account has over 2 million followers.

Grumpy Cat was 7 years old when she passed away at home in Phoenix.

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Amazon is investing millions in Uber Eats food delivery rival Deliveroo

Amazon is investing millions in Uber Eats food delivery rival Deliveroo
[Photo: courtesy of Deliveroo]

The U.K.’s Deliveroo has announced that Amazon is leading a new $575 million series G preferred shared funding round. The latest round of cash will mean Deliveroo has raised more than $1.5 billion to date. What’s notable about Amazon’s investment in the U.K. company is that until last December, Amazon was a major competitor to Deliveroo.

Amazon had competed with Deliveroo and Uber Eats with its food delivery service called Amazon Restaurants. However, after four years of operations in the U.K., Amazon Restaurants found it couldn’t keep up with the two players, so it closed its doors on December 3, 2018.

But with Amazon leading the $575 million investment round in Deliveroo today, the company is clearly showing it’s still very interested in the food delivery business. Announcing the Amazon-led round of investment, Deliveroo CEO Will Shu said:

This new investment will help Deliveroo to grow and to offer customers even more choice, tailored to their personal tastes, offer restaurants greater opportunities to grow and expand their businesses, and to create more flexible, well-paid work for riders. Amazon has been an inspiration to me personally and to the company, and we look forward to working with such a customer-obsessed organization. This is great news for the tech and restaurant sectors, and it will help to create jobs in all of the countries in which we operate.

It’s not clear how much if the $575 million series G funding round is coming from Amazon, but it’s likely to be at least a few hundred million. Other investors in the round include T Rowe Price, Fidelity Management and Research Company, and Greenoaks. Deliveroo says it will use the new funds to invest “heavily in expanding the company’s tech team at its U.K. headquarters, expand further to reach new customers, and continue innovating through its delivery-only super kitchens, Editions.”

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Pinterest stock plummets after its first earnings report comes up short

Pinterest stock plummets after its first earnings report comes up short
[Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images]

Pinterest is not off to a picturesque start. 

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After debuting on the New York Stock Exchange in April, the digital image board reported a bigger-than-expected loss in its first earnings as a public company this afternoon. Excluding certain items, the company’s loss per share was 32¢, compared to an estimate of 11¢ cited by CNBC. Revenue, meanwhile, was slightly above estimates at $201.9 million, compared to $200.6 million.

Shares of Pinterest were down almost 20% in after-hours trading.

In an earnings release, Pinterest CFO Todd Morgenfeld touted the company’s revenue growth of 54%, compared to the same period last year.

“We were particularly encouraged by the strength we saw in U.S. revenue and international user growth,” Morgenfeld said. “Our strong revenue performance allowed us to expand net margin by 20 percentage points year-over-year, reflecting our continued prioritization and disciplined execution across our strategic priorities.”

[Screenshot via Pinterest]
Fortunately for Pinterest, no one is expecting the young company to turn a profit anytime soon, and its monthly active users—a closely watched metric for social networks—were up significantly. Pinterest said it had 291 million global MAUs for the quarter ended March 31, an increase of 22% over the same period last year.

You can check out Pinterest’s full report here.

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How to watch The Big Bang Theory finale on CBS without cable

How to watch The Big Bang Theory finale on CBS without cable
(Left to right) Simon Helberg as Howard Wolowitz, Melissa Rauch as Bernadette, and Kaley Cuoco as Penny in The Big Bang Theory. [Photo: Michael Yarish/CBS]

Given the media’s recent obsession with all things Game of Thrones, you’d be forgiven if you missed the news that an even more popular show is also riding into the sunset this week. CBS’s long-running sitcom The Big Bang Theory may not have the critical or cultural cache of HBO’s epic fantasy series, but it gets better ratings and boasts higher-paid actors. It’s also likely to live on in lucrative syndicated perpetuity, as many a network sitcom has before it.

The series finale of The Big Bang Theory will air tonight (May 16, 2019) in a two-part episode beginning at 8 p.m. on CBS. At 9:30, the network will also air a special retrospective Big Bang Theory: Unraveling the Mystery, in which the stars of the series will reminisce about the best moments.

If you’re a cord-cutter who wants to stream the episode on your smart TV or computer, you have a few ways to do that. The CBS website or mobile apps on iOS or Android let you stream the network online, but you’ll need a pay-TV login to take advantage of those options. For viewers who don’t have a cable or satellite TV provider, you can sign up for CBS All Access or a standalone streaming service that offers CBS as part of a bundle.

Here are a few of the best services that offer CBS:

Most of those services are offering free trials, so you can try them out and cancel if you’re not happy with them. Alternatively, if you live in select areas, you can try Locast, a nonprofit streaming service that offers broadcast networks for free in some areas.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that CBS is technically free, so if you have an over-the-air antenna, you can watch it the old-fashioned way.

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Taco Bell is opening a hotel and resort in Palm Springs because this is the world we live in now

Taco Bell is opening a hotel and resort in Palm Springs because this is the world we live in now
[Photo: courtesy of Taco Bell]

Let’s play a game: Would you rather stay inside a giant potato or sleep in a Taco Bell? Guess what? You no longer have to choose.

Taco Bell announced that it is debuting The Bell, a hotel and resort in Palm Springs, California, this summer, throwing open its doors on August 9. As one would expect from your favorite chalupa-purveyors-turned-hoteliers, The Bell will feature decor “inspired by tacos and fueled by fans.” That means “everything from guest rooms to breakfast and poolside cocktails will be infused with a Taco Bell twist,” according to a company statement.

We’re picturing a pool filled with Fire Sauce floaties while “Bell” hops deliver Baja Blasts and Doritos Locos Tacos to anyone clad in an official Taco Bell bikini. In addition to Taco Bell-fueled fun “from check-in to check-out,” the hotel will also include a gift shop full of Taco Bell merchandise, an onsite salon (Taco Bell manicures, anyone?), and “new menu surprises.” No word on whether guac is extra or the Pepto is free for hotel guests.

Since it’s not April 1, one can only assume that the press release isn’t some weird Thursday fools’ joke, but is, in fact, a real thing that the company is really doing. So if you’ve ever wanted to live out your From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler dreams in a Taco Bell, now is your chance. Just don’t tell the kids you’re going to Taco Bell for a week, because this natural evolution of the Taco Bell brand is only meant for superfans over the age of 18.

Sadly, this foray into hospitality is short-lived (for now), and our collective dream of Taco Bell becoming the next Airbnb or Marriott is not a reality quite yet. If you want make a run for the border and stop at The Bell,  reservations open in June. Sign up to be notified on their site.

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Tesla’s autopilot was engaged prior to fatal Florida crash: NTSB report

Tesla’s autopilot was engaged prior to fatal Florida crash: NTSB report
[Photo: Torbjorn Sandbakk/Unsplash]

A new report from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) sheds light on a fatal crash involving a Tesla. Data from the damaged Tesla shows that the car’s autopilot system had been engaged 10 seconds prior to the collision. The car did not detect the driver’s hands on the wheel for eight seconds.

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The accident took place in Delray Beach, Florida, on March 1. The car was traveling at 68 miles per hour when it hit a semi-trailer. “Neither the preliminary data nor the videos indicate that the driver or the ADAS executed evasive maneuvers,” the report stated. The crash remains under investigation.

This is just the latest accident involving Tesla’s not-quite-self-driving cars. A similar incident happened in 2016, when a Tesla Model–also in autopilot mode–drove underneath a semi-trailer and killed its driver. In that case, the NTSB acknowledged that the driver was partly responsible for the accident. Tesla vehicles have also been involved in two other fatal accidents where autopilot was engaged, one in Mountain View, California, last year in March, and one in China in 2016.

The new report comes amid increasing questions about the safety of self-driving or semi-autonomous vehicles. Last year, one of Uber’s self-driving cars was involved in an accident that killed a pedestrian in Arizona. Since then, other companies working on autonomous vehicles have rolled back expectations on when this technology might actually come to roadways in a meaningful way.

Companies have largely been allowed to experiment, putting self-driving cars on American roads with few stipulations. The U.S. Department of Transportation has largely been welcoming of self-driving innovation, as have state governments. That began to change last year following these incidents. Arizona’s governor ended Uber’s self-driving program in the state following the accident. And the mayor of Pittsburgh, where Uber and others have self-driving offices, added new restrictions for Uber, like a speed cap of 25 miles per hour for self-driving cars.

Because the technology is so new, regulators have been hesitant to impede innovation with strict rules. Still, there are efforts under way to create a test for self-driving cars that would vet their technology before they hit roadways. Some car experts are hoping that the International Organization for Standardization can tweak existing rules around electrical car system software in such a way to set guidelines for self-driving cars. Other groups, Underwriters Laboratories and Edge Case Research, are currently writing their own set of standards, which they’re hoping the wider industry will adopt. As with any new set of rules, this process is likely to take time.

Reached for comment, a Tesla spokesperson sent the following statement:

Shortly following the accident, we informed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board that the vehicle’s logs showed that Autopilot was first engaged by the driver just 10 seconds prior to the accident, and then the driver immediately removed his hands from the wheel. Autopilot had not been used at any other time during that drive. We are deeply saddened by this accident and our thoughts are with everyone affected by this tragedy.

Tesla drivers have logged more than 1 billion miles with Autopilot engaged, and our data shows that, when used properly by an attentive driver who is prepared to take control at all times, drivers supported by Autopilot are safer than those operating without assistance. For the past three quarters we have released quarterly safety data directly from our vehicles, which demonstrates that.

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The Big Bang Theory by the numbers: 18 facts about the ratings monster critics hated

The Big Bang Theory by the numbers: 18 facts about the ratings monster critics hated
(Left to right) Johnny Galecki as Leonard Hofstadter, Jim Parsons as Sheldon Cooper, Mayim Bialik as Amy Farrah Fowler, and Kaley Cuoco as Penny in The Big Bang Theory. [Photo: Michael Yarish/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.]

After years of entertaining fans and bewildering critics, the long-running sitcom The Big Bang Theory draws to a close tonight.

The show centered around five men who “want to unravel the universe but can’t talk to a woman,” so creator Chuck Lorre conceived of a group of assorted geniuses, tried to convince the world that they were undateable losers, and used their scientific endeavors as background props for their feeble attempts to get with the hot girl next door. (Don’t @ me.)

Despite the fact that the show was not well-loved by television critics, it became a runaway hit for CBS as the No. 1 show on broadcast, season after season.

Here’s how the show breaks down by the numbers:

  • Number of seasons: 12
  • Number of episodes: 279
  • How many people watched the show’s most recent episode? 12.6 million live viewers.
  • How many people watched the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones the same week? 12.5 million.
  • How many people, on average, watched the last season: 18.6 million people per episode.
  • How many Emmy nominations the show and its cast have received: 52
  • How many Emmy Awards it has won: 10
  • Cost of a 30-second advertisement spot on the show’s final season: Over $285,000
  • How much has the show has generated for Warner Bros TV overall: $1 billion
  • How much money the show generated in ad dollars in 2016: $1.83 billion
  • Sheldon’s favorite number: 73
  • How many times Stephen Hawking appeared on the show: 7
  • How many times Bob Newhart appeared on the show: 6
  • How much star Jim Parsons was paid per season in 2017: $27.5 million. Co-star Johnny Galecki earned $26.5 million; Simon Helberg, $26 million; and Kunal Nayyar, $25 million.
  • How much the five original cast members were paid per episode: $1 million
  • How much the five original cast members pay decreased per episode to help their female co-stars, Mayim Biyalick and Melissa Rauch, get equal pay: $100,000
  • How much the two female co-stars made per episode after their colleagues took a pay cut: $500,000
  • How much will the cast of The Big Bang Theory make in syndication? TBD. The cast of Friends, which experienced similar success, makes 2% of the show’s annual revenue, which is around $1 billion, resulting in around $20 million per year per cast member in syndication. If The Big Bang Theory makes around the same amount in syndication, they could see similar numbers.
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Airbnb adds former Apple exec Angela Ahrendts to its board

Airbnb adds former Apple exec Angela Ahrendts to its board
Angela Ahrendts [Photo: Vincenzo Lombardo/Getty Images]

Angela Ahrendts, Apple’s former head of retail, is joining Airbnb’s board of directors. She is the second woman to join the board of the home-sharing company.

Ahrendts left Apple in April but shared few details about her departure. She has a deep background in the fashion industry. Before Apple, she was the CEO of Burberry and has worked for other major brands including Henry Bendel, Liz Claiborne, and Donna Karan International. At Apple, she spearheaded preordering and online sales for new products and gave Apple’s stores a more community feel.

Airbnb has cited Ahrendts’ “profound creativity” and a deep expertise on service as a reason for bringing her on.

The home-sharing company is increasingly pushing into services itself. It now inspects some of the homes listed on its site and offers boutique hotel rooms to make customers feel more confident that they’ll have a good experience. It’s also built up a crop of activities called Experiences, some of which have been built especially for its platform. As it expands into more areas of travel, including perhaps flights and cars, the company will no doubt be looking for advice on how to think about the experience of these offerings.

Ahrendts is the third independent member on Airbnb’s board. She joins Ann Mather, who previously served as Pixar’s CFO and chaired the audit committees for both Alphabet and Netflix, as well as Ken Chenault, former CEO of American Express.

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky has previously said he’s looking for board members who can help usher in Airbnb’s 21st-century vision, and that seems to be part of the impetus for hiring Ahrendts. He said via a statement, “Angela has a reputation for pushing brands to dream big, and she told me that’s exactly what she hopes to bring to Airbnb’s Board.”

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Will Smith and Michael Eisner want to literally get inside your head

Will Smith and Michael Eisner want to literally get inside your head
[Photo: Jack Patrick/Unsplash]

Nielsen TV ratings can help measure how many people are watching The Masked Singer or Vanderpump Rules, but the future of audience measurement may be less about Nielsen and more about neuroanalytics.

Research startup SPARK Neuro is combining electroencephalography (EEG), galvanic skin response, facial coding, and eye tracking to give TV creators and networks a comprehensive measure of attention and emotion. Now, it’s added functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), offering researchers the ability to see which areas of the brain are being activated and what that means for persuasion and decision-making.

The powerful combination of technology allows SPARK Neuro’s research team to get fast electrical data and pinpointed brain region activation, which adds a level of complexity and accuracy to the overall results. All that tech just so the writers on Game of Thrones know that people aren’t happy about the latest episode (although, theoretically, they could just look on Twitter).

Following the company’s $13.5-million Series A in August 2018, which was led by Thiel Capital (aka Peter Thiel), with participation from Hollywood insiders Will Smith and Michael Eisner, SPARK Neuro is expanding its relationships with companies like Anheuser-Busch, Clorox, FedEx, Fidelity, Hulu, JetBlue, Mars, NBC, Paramount, State Farm, and Walmart, among many others.

They aren’t just using their advanced neuroanalytics to help TV networks create shows people actually want to watch. (Looking at you, Kevin Can Wait.) As the 2020 presidential election gets underway, SPARK Neuro will turn to its neuroanalytic powers to offer predictive political insights. It’s also dabbling with defense thanks to a Department of Defense grant, using its expertise for counterterrorism research. Yes, the same tech that will tell TV execs that Pitch was the best show on TV and should be brought back could also prevent a terrorist attack.

While that sounds freaky as hell and equally invasive, CEO Spencer Gerrol swears it’s for consumers’ own good. “SPARK Neuro is helping brands and entertainment entities to better understand what consumers find engaging and entertaining in order to create better content for consumers to interact with day to day,” he told Fast Company. “Combining fNIRS with our other research technology will help brands and entertainment companies create even better content than before and add an additional layer of complexity and accuracy to the overall results that were previously nearly impossible to reach.”

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