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Disney+ sees smallest subscriber growth since launch in battle with Netflix

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Walt Disney on Wednesday reported the smallest rise in Disney+ subscriptions since it launched the streaming video service to take on Netflix Inc, missing Wall Street targets and driving shares down nearly 5% after hours.

Profits from Disney’s theme park division fell well short of Wall Street projections, despite the quarter being the first time all parks were open since various pandemic closures.

The stumble in both its theme parks and streaming divisions highlights the challenges Disney faces due to the pandemic, with questions remaining about how and when customers will return to public entertainment and whether that undermines watching at home.

Disney is banking on new content next year to boost streaming subscribers. Theme parks will benefit from the United States opening its borders to many vaccinated international travelers and U.S. children ages 5 to 11 getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

Disney+ picked up 2.1 million customers during the quarter, less than half the subscribers Netflix added in roughly the same period. Analysts had projected Disney+ would add 10.2 million, according to Factset estimates.

Chief Executive Bob Chapek stuck by the company’s previous forecast of 230 million to 260 million Disney+ subscribers by the end of fiscal 2024.

“The company seems to be hitting a roadblock when it comes to subscriber growth for its streaming service,” said Haris Anwar, an analyst at Investing.com. “Investors feel the company could miss its target of reaching 260 million subscribers by 2024, creating doubts that its service can create a serious challenge for the market leader, Netflix.”

As of early October, paying subscribers to Disney+ reached 118.1 million. Including Hulu and ESPN+, the company’s streaming customers totaled 179 million.

Disney’s streaming media division, known as direct to consumer, continued to lose money as the company paid for new programming and other costs. The unit reported an operating loss of $630 million in the quarter.

Overall, the media company posted diluted earnings per share of 37 cents, below analyst projections of 51 cents. Theme park division income reached $640 million, short of Wall Street projections of $942 million.

This week, Disney is offering the first month of Disney+ for $2, down from the usual $8, and other promotions.

On Friday, Disney will debut adventure movie “Jungle Cruise,” Marvel film “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” a new “Home Alone” movie and a batch of other programming on streaming.

Disney also missed analysts’ estimates for quarterly revenue.

Revenue rose to $18.53 billion in the fourth quarter from $14.71 billion a year earlier. Analysts had expected $18.79 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Net income attributable to the company was $159 million, or 9 cents per share, compared with a loss of $710 million, or 39 cents per share, a year earlier.

(Reporting by Lisa Richwine in Los Angeles and Nivedita Balu in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Lisa Shumaker)

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Omicron: Should you travel and what insurance will you need? – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Experts are divided on whether travel is advisable in light of the Omicron variant spurring restrictions at the border and new travel bans leading into the holiday season.

On Tuesday, the government announced travel bans for 10 countries and added that fully vaccinated travellers arriving by air from international destinations other than the U.S. would be required to take a PCR test upon arrival, and quarantine while awaiting the results.

Some travellers are having second thoughts amid the confusion, and Martin Firestone, president of Travel Secure Inc., told CTV News Channel that the confusion at airports over the new PCR test requirement is likely to grow.

“There’s nothing clearly stated as to how it’s going to work — are they getting it done there, are they lining up with thousands of other people, are they getting a take-home test, are they going to wait and isolate three days till test results — incredibly confusing right now, in all aspects,” he said.

“I’m seeing right now there’s many people that are making a decision to cancel their flights or cancel their trips.”

Firestone said that booking an international trip for January or February might not be the best idea.

“They maybe have to be on hold,” he said.

“I’m looking at summer 2022 as the best chance to start going to Europe and Asia and places such as that.”

So far, just how dangerous Omicron might be is unclear, making it another question in the calculus of whether travelling is advisable. Scientists are studying the variant in the hopes of pinpointing whether it causes more severe illness, but so far cases have shown largely mild symptoms, and no deaths have been connected to the variant.

However, preliminary data suggests that those who have previously had COVID-19 are at a higher risk of reinfection from Omicron than other variants.

Currently, there are 18 cases of Omicron in Canada.

Not everyone is jumping to cancellations, according to Richard Vanderlubbe, president of tripcentral.ca and a member of the board of directors for the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies (ACTA), but “new inquiries and new bookings have slowed down.”

“We were at about a 40 per cent of the 2019 level just prior to that,” he told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview. “And it was rising. So I think people are pausing and they’re trying to figure out what this means.”

Many who had planned Christmas trips are likely going to go through with them and simply plan for the added requirements at the border, he said, adding that whether to travel or not is up to where a person is going and how important it is to them to make that trip.

“I think what’s happening with government testing right now at airports is long overdue,” he said. “And we need to be able to create an environment where people are safe, that we’re vaccinated, […] the testing is available, it’s not [difficult] in terms of costs, that’s convenient and we get the results quickly.”

Firestone believes that it’ll be simplest to go to the U.S. this holiday season, if a person is set on getting away despite the added restrictions.

“Going to the U.S. right now, again, if everything’s properly done, including now the new one-day rapid test, negative test, that has to be done before you get into the U.S., that could still be plausible,” he said, adding that published health measures such as masking still need to be followed.

“But I think that’s the best bet at this point, is a U.S. holiday, possibly a sun destination holiday, although you’re going to face the large crowds coming back in, getting the negative PCR test. So it’s just nothing simple anymore, and I’m hoping that we get a bit of a holiday season and then travel eventually [can] open up again.”

IF I DO TRAVEL, SHOULD I GET INSURANCE?

Travellers worried about insurance should be aware of a couple things, Vanderlubbe said.

One is that since the blanket advisory against non-essential travel was lifted by the government in October, medical insurance policies for travel are now, in general, covering COVID-19 related medical claims, he explained.

“There was a time when the advisory was out that the insurance plans did not generally cover it,” he said. “And you had to buy separate insurance.”

When it comes to cancellation insurance, after some struggles earlier in the pandemic to get airlines to issue refunds when flights were cancelled by the airline itself, airlines are now generally covering any sort of involuntary cancellation where the airline decides not to operate the flight.

“There’s not a lot of risk now for consumers in booking something and then the government comes and, let’s say in the future slaps on a restriction on a certain destination and they cancel all the flights — you won’t lose your money,” Vanderlubbe said.

That leaves voluntary cancellation, which is when a person decides themselves that they no longer wish to fly.

“I’m looking at the arrangements and I’m looking at these things going on and maybe I’m getting cold feet and I don’t necessarily want to travel,” he explained.

Considering the shifting landscape right now, a traveller who is concerned that they may want to back out later — due to fears of COVID-19, due to falling ill themselves before the flight, or due to other unforeseen complications — may want to consider a waiver or other type of insurance that could aid them if they want to cancel a flight voluntarily.

“If you change your mind, at least you don’t lose all your money, you can rebook it as a credit,” Vanderlubbe said.

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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Saturday – CBC.ca

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The latest:

In Asia, South Korea again broke its daily records for coronavirus infections and deaths and confirmed three more cases of the new omicron variant as officials scramble to tighten social distancing and border controls.

The 5,352 new cases reported by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) on Saturday marked the third time this week the daily tally exceeded 5,000. The country’s death toll was at 3,809 after a record 70 virus patients died in the past 24 hours, while the 752 patients in serious or critical condition were also an all-time high.

As the delta-driven surge threatens to overwhelm hospital systems, there is also concern about the local spread of the omicron variant, which is seen as potentially more infectious than previous strains of the virus.

The country’s omicron caseload is now at nine after the KDCA confirmed three more cases. The new cases include the wife, mother-in-law and a friend of a man who caught omicron from a couple he drove home from the airport after they arrived from Nigeria on Nov. 24. The couple’s teenage child and two other women who also travelled to Nigeria have also been infected with omicron.

A woman walks near a banner that reads, ‘Mandatory mask wearing,’ at a park in Goyang, South Korea, on Saturday. (Lee Jin-man/The Associated Press)

Officials say the number of omicron cases could rise as some of the patients had attended a church gathering involving hundreds of people on Nov. 28.

While the emergence of omicron has triggered global alarm and pushed governments around the world to tighten their borders, scientists say it remains unclear whether the new variant is more contagious, more likely to evade the protection provided by vaccines or more likely to cause serious illnesses than previous versions of the virus.

Starting next week, private social gatherings of seven or more people will be banned in the densely populated capital Seoul and nearby metropolitan areas, which have been hit hardest by delta and are now running out of intensive care units.

To fend off omicron, South Korea has required all passengers arriving from abroad over the next two weeks to quarantine for at least 10 days, regardless of their nationality or vaccination status. The country has banned short-term foreign travelers arriving from nine African nations, including South Africa and Nigeria.


What’s happening across Canada

A 10-year-old girl is administered a COVID-19 vaccine shot as her eight-year-old sister reacts at a drive-thru clinic in Kingston, Ont., on Saturday. (Lars Hagberg/The Canadian Press)

  • More than 1,000 public-sector workers placed on leave over N.S. vaccine mandate.

What’s happening around the world

As of Saturday, more than 265 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus tracker. The reported global death toll stood at more than 5.2 million.

PHOTOS | Thousands protest restrictions in Dutch city:

In Europe, thousands of people marched peacefully through the Dutch city of Utrecht on Saturday to protest the government’s coronavirus lockdown measures. Meanwhile, Princess Beatrix, the country’s 83-year-old former queen, has tested positive for the coronavirus, the royal house announced Saturday.

In the Americas, Rio de Janeiro cancelled its famed New Year’s Eve party, becoming the latest Brazilian city — after Sao Paulo and Salvador — to halt holiday celebrations due to omicron fears.

In Africa, South Africa is being hit by a fourth wave of infections driven by the new variant that has been detected in seven of the country’s nine provinces, its health minister said.

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Thailand seizes $88 million worth of crystal meth bound for Taiwan

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Thai authorities intercepted nearly 900 kg (2,000 pounds) of crystal methamphetamine hidden in a cargo shipment at Bangkok’s Port Custom Office and bound for Taiwan where it could be sold for up to $88 million, a customs official said on Saturday.

The drug was seized by customs officials late on Friday, hidden in powder form inside 161 white silicon slabs in packages destined for Taiwan.

“The 897 kg of crystal meth is worth about 500 to 600 million baht ($15 million to $18 million), but once they reach their destination they will be worth 3 billion baht in market price,” Thai Customs Director-General Patchara Anuntasil told a press conference on Saturday.

Patchara said that Thai and Taiwanese authorities were both investigating.

The methamphetamine market has continued to expand and diversify in East and Southeast Asia, unaffected by the coronavirus pandemic.

In October, police in neighboring Laos seized a record https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/laos-police-seize-record-drugs-haul-golden-triangle-2021-10-28 haul of 55 million methamphetamine tablets and over 1.5 tonnes of crystal methamphetamine tablets in the Golden Triangle region where the borders of Myanmar, Thailand and Laos meet.

The Golden Triangle has a long history of illicit drug production and has recently served as a massive production centre for amphetamine-type stimulants, especially methamphetamine, used by Asian crime syndicates with distribution networks reaching as far as Japan and New Zealand.

($1 = 33.8400 baht)

 

(Reporting by Artorn Poonkasook and Juarawee Kittisilpa; Writing by Panu Wongcha-um; Editing by Frances Kerry)

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