Ted Lasso gives Apple human touch


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Apple has finally cracked it in streaming entertainment, but in the most unApple-like way.

The premium products company prizes itself on the coolness and sophistication of its hardware, so it was strange to see it lauding the success today of an Apple TV Plus comedy series that has anything but those qualities.

Ted Lasso is a down-to-earth, heart-warming tale of an American Football coach who is all at sea in the world of English soccer. It is full of f-bombs courtesy of its “hard man” player Roy Kent (UK readers will spot the likeness to real-life Roy Keane) and has storylines so corny and simple that they would make Love Actually’s Richard Curtis blush. I really like it, without finding it all that funny.

Compare that to Netflix’s latest comedy The Chair, sophisticated to the degree it can make references to the Old English poem The Dream of the Rood and still be hilarious. And remember Netflix only really got major awards recognition for its content when it produced the black-and-white foreign language movie Roma.

But Apple walked off with seven Emmys for Lasso on Sunday night from 20 nominations, in its first major streaming awards hit. As it tells it: “Apple today became the first streaming service to secure an Emmy Award in a program category in only its second year of eligibility . . . after Apple’s Ted Lasso broke records as the most nominated freshman comedy in Emmy Award history.”

After the rather soulless and uninspiring iPhone 13 launch last week, its success with Ted Lasso actually makes you feel Apple might have a human touch, and may be able to relate to its customers in a new way.

And this could be just the beginning, with Apple earmarking more than $6bn to its streaming effort back in 2019, luring top talent with its brand and above-average pay.

“Given the world’s strongest balance sheet, Apple is just getting started with an incredible slate of film and TV coming out in 2022 and beyond,” said Rich Greenfield, partner at the LightShed research firm. 

Someone who got started a long time ago is the nonagenarian Rupert Murdoch. Alistair Gray and Alex Barker report on why he is starting a new channel, talkTV, early next year. Making its debut this very week is Universal Music. The group that has benefited from music streaming is being spun out of Vivendi and will list in Amsterdam.

The Internet of (Five) Things

1. Big Tech devours little start-ups
The world’s largest technology companies have snapped up smaller rivals at a record pace this year in a buying spree that comes as US politicians and regulators prepare to crack down on “under the radar” deals. Data from Refinitiv analysed by the Financial Times show that tech companies have spent at least $264bn buying up potential rivals worth less than $1bn since the start of 2021 — double the previous record registered in 2000 during the dotcom boom.

2. UK’s AI push
Ministers are set to launch plans to develop British interests in artificial intelligence as part of a wider government push to support the tech sector this week. The AI strategy will include a framework of ethics and principles that will contribute to regulatory and policy approaches for developing and deploying advanced machine learning.

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3. Coinbase drops lending product
Coinbase has dropped its plans to launch a new digital asset lending product, bowing to pressure from US securities regulators who had warned that it constituted an unregistered security that would have prompted them to take legal action against the largest US cryptocurrency exchange.

4. DoorDash rolls out the barrel on beer
US delivery app market leader DoorDash announced on Monday it would launch alcohol delivery in 20 US states, as the speedy shipment of beer, wine and spirits to consumers’ doors becomes the latest on-demand battleground. The announcement, which follows similar moves by rivals including Uber and Gopuff, will add to growing concerns from anti-addiction groups over the trend for swift alcohol delivery.

5. SoftBank’s used-car deal
SoftBank’s Vision Fund and Tencent are among the international funds investing $450m in Indian online used-vehicle seller Cars24 as the global chip shortage forces manufacturers to cut production of new vehicles in one of the world’s largest markets. SoftBank is also looking again at the role of robots in our future, writes Leo Lewis.

Tech week ahead 

Monday: It’s London Tech Week, the annual showcase of the UK capital’s role as a global tech hub, and the usual mix of CEOs, cabinet ministers and industry bigwigs are appearing throughout the week.

Tuesday: Creative software powerhouse Adobe is expected to show its strong revenue growth is continuing, in third-quarter results after the market close. Analysts also forecast boom times for Adobe’s document and e-signature services. The Street expects revenues of $3.89bn for the quarter and earnings per share of $3.01. Food tech company Toast is set to IPO at a valuation in excess of $15bn as it prices today.

Wednesday: Representatives of major online platforms Google, Facebook, Amazon and eBay, will appear before the Treasury Committee as part of the UK parliament’s review of progress in combating economic crime such as money-laundering. Microsoft will hold a hardware event to unveil new Surface products.

Thursday: The Nasdaq and Hong Kong-listed travel company Trip.com reports first-half results.

Friday: Cryptocurrency brokers have until Friday to register with South Korea’s financial regulator. Applicants will be reviewed for up to three months and examined for money-laundering activities.

Tech tools — Five perfect portables

 Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold, from £2,749.99

Jonathan Margolis has bundled five gadgets you can take anywhere, including the portable BlendJet for smoothies on the go, the W’air hand steamer for any strawberry stains on your clothes the BlendJet causes; a stylish DAB radio, a 5G portable router and a folding screen laptop.

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