Across the tech world, companies are still feeling pressure from some mixture of a rocky economy and their unexpectedly severe hangovers from the pandemic. Late last year, sales growth hit the brakes, and tens of thousands of newly hired employees suddenly found themselves at workplaces that weren’t seeing rocket-like growth. What followed next was layoffs, slashed product lines, and lots of contrite statements from executives as companies looked to steady their balance sheets and prove to investors that they were back on track to long-term growth.
As the tech world and beyond begin to report earnings for the start of 2023, we’re looking to see what happens next. Big companies like Meta, Amazon, and Microsoft will be asked to speak to what shape their companies take with their reduced headcount — and how long they expect it to be before business picks back up.
Disney will bring Hulu content into Disney Plus and raise its ad-free prices
Disney is combining Hulu and Disney Plus into a single streaming app. During Disney’s Q2 earnings call on Wednesday, CEO Bob Iger announced that the company is going to create a “one-app experience” within the US and said that it’s raising the price of its ad-free plan, which currently costs $10.99 per month.Read Article >
“While we continue to offer Disney Plus, Hulu, and ESPN Plus as standalone options, this is a logical progression of our DTC [direct-to-consumer] offerings that will provide greater opportunities for advertisers while giving bundle subscribers access to more robust and streamlined content, resulting in greater audience engagement and ultimately leading to a more unified streaming experience,” Iger said.
May 5Warner Bros. Discovery’s streaming business turned a profit for the first time.
The company’s earnings report revealed that HBO, HBO Max, and Discovery Plus made $50 million in profit and added 1.6 million subs last quarter — even as the rest of the company suffered losses.
With Warner Bros. Discovery set to launch its Max service later this month, which will combine content from HBO Max and Discovery Plus, CEO David Zaslav once again reiterated plans to add news and sports:
While at launch, the Max offering will feature the full range of entertainment, this is really just the beginning. We are actively working on options to expand our lineup to include news and sports.
Apple’s latest earnings show the Mac slumping and services soaring
Apple surpassed Wall Street expectations and said it had reached an all-time high in services revenue and set a new March quarter record for iPhone revenue in a report on its second quarter earnings on Thursday. The numbers show continued demand for the iPhone 14 lineup even as substantial upgrades (including USB-C connectivity) approach this fall. But Apple’s other divisions, including Mac and iPad, were down year over year.Read Article >
“We are pleased to report an all-time record in services and a March quarter record for iPhone despite the challenging macroeconomic environment, and to have our installed base of active devices reach an all-time high,” CEO Tim Cook said in the company’s earnings release. He told CNBC in an interview that, unlike other tech heavyweights that have laid off tens of thousands of employees in recent months, Apple isn’t considering broad cuts. “I view that as a last resort and, so, mass layoffs is not something that we’re talking about at this moment,” Cook said.
Peloton would like to remind everyone it’s more than a bike company
Peloton isn’t keen on the fact people mostly think of it as that bike company, which is why CEO Barry McCarthy says the company will “relaunch its brand” later this month so that more people are aware that it does other things, too. Part of that is relaunching the Peloton app with a new tiered subscription structure.Read Article >
There’s no information on the pricing just yet, but on today’s Q3 2023 earnings call, CFO Liz Coddington said the “app tiers will have different amounts of content variances” depending on the price. Only users who have bought Peloton hardware and pay for All-Access membership will get everything Peloton has to offer.
May 4Paramount Plus is still growing.
In Paramount’s earnings report released today, the company revealed that its streaming service added 4.1 million subscribers last quarter for a total of 60 million subs.
This is less than the 9.9 million subs it added in the previous quarter, but the continued growth signals that subscribers aren’t plateauing just yet. Meanwhile, Paramount’s free ad-supported streaming service, Pluto TV, hit 80 million monthly active users.
- Amazon is working on an improved LLM to power Alexa.
Amazon CEO Andy Jassy, on Thursday’s Q1 2023 earnings call:
We’ve had a large language model underneath [Alexa], but we’re building one that’s much larger and much more generalized and capable. I think that’s going to really rapidly accelerate our vision of becoming the world’s best personal assistant. I think there’s a significant business model underneath it.
Just today, The Information reported that Apple is working on some LLM-based improvements for Siri. I’d guess Google is doing something similar for Assistant, but I’ve asked them if they can share any details.
- Amazon had a good quarter.
The company reported revenues of $127.4 billion in Q1 2023, beating analyst expectations that the company would bring in $124.5 billion. The stock is up 11 percent in after-hours trading. However, it hasn’t been all good news at the company today; it laid off about 100 employees in Amazon Studios and Prime Video.Amazon.com Announces First Quarter Results
Apr 27Peacock added two million paid subscribers last quarter.
The streaming service now has a total of 22 million paying subscribers, according to Comcast’s earnings report today — a major increase from the 13 million paid subscribers it had at the same time last year.
This increase could be related to the company’s decision to take away Peacock’s free tier in February, but it’ll be even more to see how many Xfinity customers stick around for Poker Face once Comcast starts making them pay for Peacock this June.
Apr 27“AI” was mentioned more than 200 times on earnings calls by Meta, Microsoft, and Alphabet this week.
Time’s are hard for Big Tech, but the big three are certain there’s money in them-there machine learning models. And the more you mention AI the more revenue it generates, right? Let’s find out.
Samsung loses billions on chips as overall profits decline 95 percent
Samsung’s memory chip business just had a terrible quarter, as falling demand and high inventories contributed to a 4.58 trillion won (around $3.4 billion) loss from the division, Bloomberg reports. The loss at the unit, which CNBC reports is typically its largest profit driver, contributed to Samsung’s quarterly operating profit plunging 95 percent in the quarter to 640 billion won (roughly $478 million).Read Article >
A few different factors contributed to Samsung’s losses at its memory chip division. Smartphone and PC makers stockpiled chips during the pandemic as a hedge against supply issues as demand boomed, but have since been left with large inventory excesses as consumer demand has dropped off amidst high inflation and broader global economic uncertainties.
Mark Zuckerberg says Meta wants to ‘introduce AI agents to billions of people’
Meta sees “an opportunity to introduce AI agents to billions of people in ways that will be useful and meaningful,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg told investors today.Read Article >
While he was vague about how exactly Meta will add generative AI to its apps, Zuckerberg gave the most detailed preview yet during the company’s earnings call for the first quarter of this year, when it reported $28.6 billion in revenue and a record 2 billion daily users of the Facebook app, beating Wall Street’s estimates. Meta’s profit for the quarter was $5.7 billion, a 24 percent decrease from the same time last year.
Apr 26Roku OS remains the top-selling smart TV platform in the US.
In its earnings report today, Roku says it was still the most popular smart TV OS in the country last quarter. This is a title Roku has held in 2020, 2021, and 2022, making the company’s decision to release its own Roku-enabled smart TVs seem like a no-brainer.
Verizon plans to speed up rural 5G service later this year
Rural customers subscribed to Verizon’s 5G network could see a jump in their speeds later this year. The telecommunications giant revealed plans during its quarterly earnings call this week to extend its C-band 5G network — which uses a radio spectrum that enables faster speeds on a wide scale — to more rural and suburban areas by December 2023.Read Article >
We don’t know specifically which areas the expansion will cover. During the earnings call, Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg mentioned that the company’s C-band 5G coverage has so far been deployed to 70 out of the 406 available markets, mostly in urban and suburban areas. “It’s 330 markets left, we will get the C-band,” said Vestberg. He didn’t clarify how many of these markets would be covered by the network expansion later this year but confirmed that the majority of the deployments coming will concentrate on suburban and rural areas.
- Look forward to news on AI, Pixel devices, and Android at Google I/O.
From CEO Sundar Pichai, on Alphabet’s Q1 2023 earnings call:
We’ll share updates at Google I/O about how we are using AI across our products, including our Pixel devices, and share some exciting new developments for Android.
I/O is taking place on May 10th. You can read more about the company’s earnings in my article.
Google’s search business is feeling the heat
Google’s search revenues inched upward in the first quarter of 2023 after years of rapid growth, suggesting the tech giant might be facing some difficulties with its golden goose. In an earnings release today, Google reported its “search & other” revenues were up 1.87 percent year over year (jumping from about $39.6B to $40.4B), which is much smaller growth than the 24.28 percent jump the company saw in Q1 2022 and the 30.11 percent bump in Q1 2021.Read Article >
Right now, search is seeing significant competition from all sides. Microsoft is trying to steal users away from Google with its AI-powered Bing chatbot, which became more widely available last month. And many people are turning to other tools like OpenAI’s ChatGPT to search for and learn about different topics. ChatGPT reportedly raised major alarm bells inside Google, and the company in March opened access to its own Bard chatbot. But more than a month on, Google is still calling Bard an “experiment,” and the company’s employees reportedly labeled it “worse than useless” ahead of launch. (In our own tests, Bard generally didn’t perform as well as Bing’s chatbot and ChatGPT.)
Microsoft Q3 2023: Windows, devices, and Xbox down again
Microsoft just posted the third quarter of its 2023 fiscal financial results. The software maker made $52.9 billion in revenue and a net income of $18.3 billion during Q3. Revenue is up 7 percent, and net income has increased by 9 percent. While Windows, Xbox, and devices revenue have all been hit hard this quarter, Microsoft’s cloud, office, and server businesses have made up for weaknesses elsewhere.Read Article >
Microsoft had a tough quarter for Windows and devices revenue last quarter, and Q3 isn’t much different. Windows OEM revenue, the price that PC manufacturers pay Microsoft to put Windows on laptops and PCs, fell by 28 percent in Q3.
Spotify promises not to ‘overpay’ for podcasts
It’s the last week of the cruelest month and sure to be an eventful one for the audio world. Spotify posted its first quarter earnings this morning, reporting that the service in April finally reached over half a billion (or 515 million) monthly users. But first quarter revenue fell short of expectations — even though the platform’s podcast ad revenue saw a significant (20 percent) boost from this time last year. Still, the era of big spending by Spotify on podcasts is likely done, CEO Daniel Ek explained during the call. I’ll dive into more detail below.Read Article >
We can expect even more financial news from the podcast industry on Thursday, with both SiriusXM and Cumulus Media scheduled to hold earnings calls.
Apr 25Spotify’s CEO is “disappointed but not surprised” by the Apple–Epic ruling.
On an earnings call today, Daniel EK called Epic’s single win — which will let app developers tell users about non-Apple payment options — “very important.” But mostly, he said the US still needs a law to be passed to open up mobile devices from the control of Apple and Google.
Here’s Ek on why he sees this as a big issue:
“When I started as a 14 year-old entrepreneur, the internet was this democratic place that anyone, anywhere in the world could have an impact, and right now we’re in a place where billions of consumers are using the internet primarily through smartphones and ... there’s literally two companies now that control all of that on the internet and they can unilaterally change the rules.”
GM is ending Chevy Bolt EV and EUV production at the end of the year
The end is nigh for the Chevy Bolt.Read Article >
General Motors plans to end production of the Chevy Bolt EV and EUV at the end of 2023, GM CEO Mary Barra announced in an earnings call Tuesday. The company plans to use the capacity at its Orion Township, Michigan, assembly plant to build electric trucks starting in 2024.
Spotify passes 500 million monthly active users for the first time
Spotify says over half a billion people, 515 million to be exact, use its streaming service on a monthly basis as of March 31st. That’s an increase of 22 percent compared to last year, or 5 percent versus last quarter. Spotify said the user growth exceeded its guidance by 15 million, with CEO Daniel Ek commenting that the results represented the service’s second largest quarter of user growth in its history. Paid subscribers, meanwhile, now sit at 210 million, a 15 percent increase year-over-year.Read Article >
The audio streaming service hit the milestone during a quarter of streamlining and cost cutting. In late January the company announced it would be laying off 6 percent of its global workforce, which is estimated to impact nearly 600 staff. More recently Spotify also announced that it’s shutting down a couple of side projects, including its Clubhouse-style Spotify Live audio app, and Wordle-style music game Heardle. CEO Daniel Ek said during the company’s last earnings call that Spotify’s key priorities for 2023 are “speed and efficiency.”
Apr 20Elon Musk again promises full self-driving “this year.”
Twitter CEO and Tesla enthusiast:
“The trend is very clearly toward full self-driving. And I hesitate to say this, but I think we’ll do it this year.”
Sure, Elon. We’ve been hearing this since 2019.
Elon Musk announces Tesla Cybertruck delivery event in third quarter of 2023
Tesla will have a delivery event for its long-delayed Cybertruck in the third quarter of 2023, Elon Musk said during an earnings call with investors Wednesday.Read Article >
After more than three years since its initial announcement, Cybertruck production is expected to start this summer — though Musk has said that volume production won’t begin until next year.
Tesla’s rampant price cutting is taking a toll on its profits
Tesla published its first quarter earnings report in which the company said it earned $2.9 billion in net income on $23.3 billion in revenue. That represents a 24 percent increase year over year compared to $18.7 billion in revenue in Q1 2022.Read Article >
Most importantly, the company’s gross margins fell to 19.3 percent, a sign that its rampant price cutting was starting to take a toll on its bottom line. Gross margins were down 18.9 percent quarter-over-quarter, and 33 percent year-over-year.
25 years later, Netflix finally won
The DVDs were never the point. Even in 1998, when the company mailed its first DVD — the 1988 cult classic Beetlejuice, in case you’re wondering — it was already imagining a world without discs. The company was called Netflix, after all, not DVDsByMail. It started a streaming service practically as soon as internet bandwidth would allow and bet everything on the internet being much more powerful than physical media. It was extremely right.Read Article >
Now, Netflix is officially getting out of the DVD business. The company announced along with its quarterly earnings that it is planning to shutter DVD.com, which is the new name for its DVD by mail business. (You might remember when Netflix tried to spin out this business under the name Qwikster, which remains one of the worst product names of all time and lasted all of about a week. But the less we talk about Qwikster, the better.) It will ship its last discs on September 29th, and I have a sneaking suspicion you won’t need to return them.
Netflix delays its password-sharing crackdown to sometime before July
Netflix is pushing back its plans to crack down on password sharing in the US until sometime before July. In an earnings report released on Tuesday, the streamer says it “shifted out the timing of the broad launch from late Q1 to Q2.”Read Article >
Earlier this year, Netflix committed to cracking down on password sharing “more broadly” toward the end of the first quarter of 2023. While it did roll out new anti-password sharing rules in Canada, New Zealand, Portugal, and Spain in February, these rules never reached the US.