Verizon's "pros before cos" problem

Friday, January 10, 2020 by Robinhood Snacks | Disclosures
_Finishing all the Chardonnay before the tariff hits_

Finishing all the Chardonnay before the tariff hits

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Hey Snackers,

Crunchy new job alert: Get paid $100K to work at a Taco Bell (just in time for today's December Jobs Report).

A chilldown in US/Iran tension popped the Dow 212 points Thursday to (another) record high.

Cord-cut
1. Verizon is "disrupting itself" by making cable TV less painful for customers

If you can't sell it... Subscriptify-it. Verizon claims it just "disrupted the cable industry" by ending mandatory 12-month contracts for cable TV and eliminating "extra" fees (they still want normal fees). The goal is to revive its Fios business (fun fact: Fios is an abbreviation for fiber optic service), which is doing fine selling internet — not as fine selling cable TV.

  • The status quo: Brutal customer service, inflexible contracts with early termination fees, and (more) fees that make your $80 service cost $100. That's cable TV.
  • The result: Cord-cutting rages ahead as TV bingers save $$$ using their internet to stream instead — 67K customers ditched Verizon cable TV just last quarter.
  • Verizon's new goal: Slow down cord-cutting by becoming more like the streaming industry.

"Mix & Match"... That's the name of Verizon's new Fios offer — the idea is to make your cable/internet service totally flexible from month to month, with changable channel bundles and upgrade/downgradable internet speed. You know, control of what you're buying without needing to commit for 12 months (it's 2020. Commitment is scary).

THE TAKEAWAY

Cable is a classic "pros before cos" industry... (profits before customers). Amazon is loved by customers because one of its key values is "customer obsession." Cable is profit obsessed — using its local monopoly to squeeze out your money with brutal year-long contracts and fees ($10/month equipment charge?). Thanks to competition from streaming, Cable's pros before cos strategy is dying.

Sip

Cancel Wine & Cheese Wednesday... Your weekly merlot could get way pricier. The wine industry is freaking out over a threat by President Trump to place 100% tariffs on wine imported from Europe. American wine importers and retailers showed up at Capitol Hill this week trying to put a stopper on it. Let's rewine'd:

  • 1st Pour: 25% tariffs imposed in October on some European wines (also Scotch whiskey, Italian cheese, and other goodies). That's indirect retaliation for Europe subsidizing Airbus to compete with America's Boeing. Wine importers/distributors swallowed the cost.
  • 2nd Pour: 100% tariffs proposed in early December on French sparkling wines (including your bubbly rosé). That's a US response to a French digital tax targeting big American tech companies.
  • 3rd Pour: On December 12, American trade reps said the US might expand the proposed tariff to 100% on almost all wines from Europe.

When Trader Joe's pinot costs $60 a bottle... Americans lose out, too. The sobering tariff could mean jacked up prices and slimmer choices for consumers. American retailers that sell European wine will be the biggest losers.

THE TAKEAWAY

Let it breathe... These tariffs just slap Europe on the wrist. France would lose sales to Americans — you wouldn't splurge $100 for a bottle of Bordeaux that used to cost $50, while the Napa cab still costs $40. The administration hopes the threat of that French export pain will push it to repeal the tax on American tech. But French wine enjoys plenty of demand worldwide, so the tariff could actually backfire.

Fired

Feeder of the unicorns... That's Japan's Softbank, one of the largest tech-focused venture capital funds ever. Fresh after dropping another $9.5B to save WeWork from bankruptcy, it's got a new problem: 11 startups it’s invested in just had major layoffs. And we noticed a pattern to how their CEOs "announced" the firings:

  • Step 1: Issue company-wide memo that'll ~~probably~~ definitely leak.
  • Step 2: Begin said memo with obnoxious stats about how great the startup is.
  • Step 3: Reveal you're laying people off, but don't use the words "fire" or "lay off" (be way much more ambiguous).
  • Step 4: Make virtuous claim about the future path to profitability.

We've got your case studies right here... Uber let go of 1,000s last year and WeWork fired 2,400. Here are Softbank's 2 most recent portfolio problems:

  • Zume Pizza — raised $375M from Softbank, now firing 400: While shutting down its core robot pizza biz, the CEO wrote they were "blessed with an opportunity to invent brave and innovative solutions.” But “many of the current roles no longer exist.”
  • Getaround — raised $300M from Softbank, now firing 150: The CEO humblebragged about their 6X growth to 5M users, then mentioned they're "reducing field operations."
THE TAKEAWAY

This is the end of the anti-profit startup era... 2019 was the year of tech IPO enthusiasm — but public market investors rejected stocks of loss-making companies like Uber and Slack. Softbank was the VC fueling Uber's money-losing scale-at-all-costs rise (FYI, Uber loses $543K every hour). Now the rest of Softbank's portfolio is adjusting to the new unicorn normal.

What else we’re Snackin’
  • 2020: Zuck won't limit political ad targeting on Facebook or fact check them either (but will give you tools to reduce how many you see)
  • Spree: While you were post-holiday sales splurging, Ikea dropped $222M (actually a bargain price) on a mall in the center of London
  • Beyond-less: Bed Bath & Beyond shares tumble 19% after the dorm-decoration go-to's new CEO called last quarter's loss "unsatisfactory"
  • Bread: Dutch food-ordering company Takeaway.com is dropping $7.7B for its British rival Just Eat as the Delivery Wars heat up across the pond
  • Bubbles: AB InBev goes hard on spiked seltzer: The new line of Bud Light Seltzers arrive Monday and will get a 60-second Super Bowl ad
Snacks Daily Podcast

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Friday
  • The big December Jobs Report

Disclosure: Authors of this Snacks own shares of Amazon

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