* Hulu LLC ended 2018 with more than 25 million total subscribers across its subscription-on-demand and live TV plans in the U.S. The streaming platform added 8 million subscribers in 2018, representing a record 48% subscriber increase year over year. Hulu's advertising revenue increased more than 45% to nearly $1.5 billion in 2018, and its advertiser base grew by 50%, the company said.
* Apple Inc. told its suppliers to reduce production of new iPhones for the January-March quarter by about 10%, trimming its manufacturing plans for the second time in two months, Nikkei Asian Review reported, citing sources with knowledge of the matter. The request was sent out a week before the company revealed Jan. 2 that it will miss revenue forecasts at the end of 2018. Apple now expects revenue of $84 billion for the quarter ended Dec. 29, 2018, down from its earlier guidance of $89 billion to $93 billion.
* AT&T Inc. is planning a "geographic rationalization" that will consolidate certain operations in various AT&T offices around the country, Vice's "Motherboard" reported, citing internal documents and an unnamed source. The total number of employees expected to be impacted has yet to be finalized.
* A volatile 2018 took a sharp bite out of "FAANG" stocks — including Facebook Inc., Apple, Amazon.com Inc., Netflix Inc. and Google LLC parent Alphabet Inc. — and analysts are bracing themselves for what they say could be another rocky year for big tech. Major tech players stumbled in 2018 amid data privacy scandals, trade tensions with China and widespread calls for regulation from lawmakers across the globe.
* International Business Machines Corp. is looking to tap underutilized bits of data — termed the world's "greatest natural resource" by company CEO Ginni Rometty — to better predict the weather, among other applications. At technology trade show CES 2019, IBM showcased how it intends to incorporate crowd-sourced atmospheric data from consumer mobile devices, airplanes and other weather-sensitive stations and sensors to offer more accurate local forecasts globally.
* Charter Communications Inc. is in talks with a wide range of of internet of things-product companies for a new smart home/security offering, LightReading.com reports, citing multiple industry sources. Amazon's Ring Inc., Google's Nest and Arlo Technologies Inc. are among the companies that Charter has approached for the product, which will emphasize a consumer self-install operations model.
* NBCUniversal Media LLC is planning further ad reductions after experimenting with a lower prime-time ad load for many of its broadcast and cable network shows during the 2018-2019 TV season. Comcast Corp.'s programming arm, which a year ago committed to shrinking its ad load by 10%, wants to double that reduction for its 2020 prime-time schedule, and is also eyeing ad cuts in other dayparts.
* The addition of Verizon Communications Inc.'s Fios TV marks the second major linear distributor Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN Inc. has lined up for the ACC Network, which kicks off in August. According to analysts, the conference's large fan base and valuable local advertising prospects bode well for the property's carriage negotiations ahead.
* With its controlling purchase of Play Sports Group, Discovery Inc. President and CEO David Zaslav said the company is eyeing a two-wheeled revenue strategy as it pursues opportunities in the global cycling market. Cycling enthusiasts are now estimated to represent a $50 billion global market that spans a range of media and consumer products.
Satellite radio and video
* Sirius XM Holdings Inc. added 1.4 million self-pay subscribers to end 2018 with about 28.9 million self-pay subscribers, exceeding the company's initial 2018 guidance by about 40%. The company recorded about 1.3 million net subscriber additions in 2018, resulting in total paid subscribers of approximately 34 million at year-end.
* DISH Network Corp. will integrate the Google Assistant service into its Hopper family of set-top receivers. The integration will allow DISH customers to pair voice-controlled Hopper remotes with Google-powered smart home devices in addition to their TVs. New DISH customers will receive the voice remote with all Hopper receivers at no additional cost, while current customers without a voice mote can upgrade for $20.
The day ahead
Early morning futures indicators pointed to a higher opening for the U.S. market.
In Asia, the Hang Seng increased 2.27% to 26,462.32, while the Nikkei 225 increased 1.10% to 20,427.06.
In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 increased 1.02% to 6,931.58 and the Euronext 100 was up 1.05% to 939.02.
On the macro front
The MBA mortgage applications, EIA petroleum status report and Federal Open Market Committee minutes are due out today.
Click here to read about today's financial markets, setting out the factors driving stocks, bonds and currencies around the world ahead of the New York open.
The Daily Dose Europe: Irish firm sues Apple, Dell, Spotify over patents; Orange Spain eyes Euskaltel: Tech giants Apple, Dell Technologies Inc. and Spotify AB are facing patent infringement lawsuits from Irish company Data Scape, while Orange SA's Spanish unit is considering the acquisition of regional operator Euskaltel SA.
The Daily Dose Asia-Pacific: SoftBank invests another US$2B in WeWork; Alibaba buys German analytics startup: U.S.-based coworking giant WeWork Cos. Inc. secured an additional US$2 billion investment from SoftBank Group Corp., while Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. acquired Berlin-based streaming analytics startup Data Artisans GmbH in a €90 million deal.
Economics of Advertising: Top 20 most read Economics of Advertising articles in 2018: A look at 2018's most read advertising content.
Economics of TV & Film: Top 20 most read Economics of TV & Film articles in 2018: OTT's growing impact on the film and television market and Disney's motion picture dominance were a few of the hot topics among the wide-range of articles featured in Economics of TV & Film in 2018.
Multichannel Trends: A look at Verizon's new set-top box: Fios TV subscribers can now take advantage of 4K high dynamic range content and voice search, while content apps could pave the way to more over-the-top content from Verizon.
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