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Thursday, July 18, 2019

July 18, 2019

Netflix subscriber drop hints at streaming-service fatigue

NEW YORK: How much is too much for streaming a video?

A dramatic slowdown in worldwide growth at Netflix — including the first quarterly drop in its US subscribers since 2011 — is raising questions about just how much are people willing to pay for streaming services. Especially with a host of new ones from Disney, Apple and others on their way.

FILE- This July 17, 2017, file photo shows a Netflix logo on an iPhone in Philadelphia. Netflix, Inc. reports earnings on Monday, July 16, 2018. Photo: AP

A recent price increase seems to have spooked Netflix subscribers. The company lost 126,000 subscribers in the US, less than 1% of its 60.1 million paid US subscriptions, during the April-June period. Its most popular plan rose from $11 to $13 in a US price hike announced in January and rolled out for many subscribers during the second quarter. Worldwide, the service picked up 2.7 million worldwide subscribers, far below Netflix’s forecast of 5 million.

While people are willing to shell out for several services to meet their streaming needs, he said, they’re also willing to cancel if they’re not using it enough, just as they would with a gym membership or a subscription to the New Yorker magazine.

Streaming services preparing to compete with Netflix appear to be taking note.

Disney Plus, set to debut in November, will already be cheaper than Netflix at $8 a month, though Disney Plus will also have a smaller video library. Hulu has cut prices to $6 from $8 for its main, ad-supported service. Services from Apple, due out this year, and WarnerMedia and NBCUniversal, out in 2020, don’t have announced prices yet, although the NBCUniversal service will be free and ad-supported for traditional cable TV subscribers.

Of course, even if these individual services are cheaper than Netflix, it’s not clear how many consumers will be willing to pay for.

One way to make a service appealing is not through better prices but through exclusive shows and deep libraries, including shows that Netflix will be losing. Netflix’s two most popular shows, “Friends” and “The Office,” will be departing in the coming months for rival services.

Group M analyst Brian Weiser said that for now, other services shouldn’t be overly concerned by a weak quarter or two at Netflix. He said streaming content consumption is still growing rapidly, so the overall market has plenty of room for competitors. And the streaming arena is a growth area in the much bigger and more mature entertainment industry.

Some analysts also believe Netflix’s trouble is temporary.

Canaccord Genuity analyst Michael Graham said the subscriber numbers will likely hit the stock in the short term — the stock was down 11% in midday trading Thursday — but overall the company’s growth remains on track, particularly overseas.

“We still see a strong content strategy and room to add large numbers of international subscriptions as key strengths going forward,” he wrote in a note to investors.

Similarly, Pivotal Research Group analyst Jeffrey Wlodarczak said investors shouldn’t make a “mountain out of a molehill,” with the most recent quarterly figures.

The spring quarter is typically sluggish for the streaming service, and Netflix acknowledged a weak content slate could have been partly responsible for the drop. It expects to regain some momentum this summer, projecting that it will add 7 million subscribers from July through September. The optimism stems in part from the immense popularity of “Stranger Things,” whose third season attracted record viewership after its July 4 release.

Netflix has said it welcomes the competition. It ended June with 151.6 million worldwide subscribers, far more than a current crop of video streaming rivals that includes Amazon and Hulu.

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July 18, 2019

Quantitative restriction on sugar import lifted

Kathmandu, July 18

The quantitative restriction on sugar import has been lifted with the government deciding not to extend quantitative restriction on sugar import beyond the end of fiscal year 2018-19, said Dinesh Bhattarai, spokesperson for the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies.

In a bid to limit excessive supply of cheaper foreign sugar in the domestic market, which had lowered the demand of comparatively costly Nepali sugar, the government had fixed a quota on sugar import in September. While the restriction was initially in place only till mid-April, the government had extended the limit by three months to the end of fiscal 2018-19 under pressure from sugar mill operators.

The restriction barred traders from importing more than one lakh tonnes of sugar during the last fiscal. Now, traders can import any quantity of sugar.

Though lifting the quantitative restriction on sugar import will ensure that Nepali consumers will have access to imported sugar, especially from Pakistan and India which is cheaper compared to domestic sugar, sugar mill operators have criticised the government for not extending the quantitative restriction. They have urged the government to extend such restriction on sugar import for at least three months so that sugar mills can clear the stock of Nepali sugar.

“Sugar mills collectively have almost one lakh tonnes of sugar in stock, which will cater to the domestic demand of the sweetener for at least four months,” said Sashikanta Agrawal, chairman of Nepal Sugar Producers Association.

Informing that the crushing of sugarcane will also begin within a few months, the government should have first calculated the actual demand of sugar in the ongoing fiscal year and allowed import of sugar as per necessity, he said.

According to him, Indian sugar is available at almost Rs 55 per kg in the Indian retail market and factory price is even cheaper. “Availability of such low cost sugar in the domestic market will lower the demand for Nepali sugar whose production cost is high,” added Agrawal.

Currently, the domestic sugar retails at Rs 78 per kg.

The government had imposed quantitative restriction on sugar import to ensure that sugar mills clear their stock and issue pending dues to sugarcane farmers. However, the government does not seem to be in the mood to continue with the restriction as sugar mills still have not cleared millions they owe to cane farmers.


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July 18, 2019

Petro pipeline to open next month

Kathmandu, July 18

The much-hyped Motihari-Amlekhgunj oil pipeline project will start commercial operation by August following virtual inauguration of the Nepal-India bilateral project by executive heads of the two countries.

As the project has been completed and is awaiting its formal inauguration, Nepal will officially start fuel trade with India via the pipeline after Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi formally launch operation of the project.

Though the date for the official inauguration of the project is yet to be fixed, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Nepal Oil Corporation confirmed that groundwork is under way to virtually inaugurate the project by the two prime ministers. According to NOC, the two governments are working to ensure that inauguration of the project takes place in the first week of August.

Meanwhile, MoFA sources said there was also the possibility of the petroleum project being inaugurated by the heads of state of the two nations as President Bidhya Devi Bhandari, during her recent visit to India, had invited her counterpart Ram Nath Kovind for an official visit to Nepal. Although the exact date has not been fixed, preparations are under way for Kovind’s Nepal visit, the source said.

“While the first option is more likely, the two governments are also exploring the possibility of the second option,” said a MoFA source, who did not want to be named.

The virtual inauguration of the project will be done through video conferencing, where the two prime ministers will press a button in New Delhi and Amlekhgunj, resulting in opening of the valve of the petroleum pipeline, stated NOC.

The Motihari-Amlekhgunj oil pipeline was first proposed in 1996. However, the project
finally edged closer to reality during Indian PM Modi’s visit to Kathmandu in 2014. The two governments had inked an agreement to execute the project in August 2015. However, project construction was delayed following the 2015 earthquake and supply obstruction along the southern border. The project construction works finally began in April last year with the mandate to complete the project within 30 months.

Interestingly, the project was completed much ahead of the deadline and is ready for commercial operation.

Moreover, NOC and Indian Oil Corporation today successfully concluded the ‘testing transfer’ of the Motihari-Amlekhguni pipeline project. The IOC, through its refinery in Motihari, had supplied diesel to NOC’s Amlekhgunj-based depot yesterday which NOC is expected to receive tomorrow morning. However, NOC will unload only 1,000 kilolitres of the 3,100-kilolitre diesel supplied by IOC via the pipeline to test the newly constructed tanks at Amlekhgunj. The commercial operation of the cross-border project will be marked by unloading the remaining diesel following virtual inauguration of the project.

Though the initial cost of the project was estimated to be INR 2.75 billion, where the Indian government would inject INR 2 billion, NOC stated that total project cost escalated to almost INR 3.25 billion due to the delay.

Along with reducing huge transportation cost for NOC, commercial operation of the oil project will also ensure reduction in fuel price in the domestic market. “Commercial operation of the cross-border fuel project will bring down fuel price by at least one rupee per litre,” said Sushil Bhattarai, deputy executive director at NOC.


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Wednesday, July 17, 2019

July 17, 2019

Tourist arrivals up 12 pc in first half

Kathmandu, July 17

While the country is conducting Visit Nepal Year 2020 campaign aiming to bring two million tourists by 2020, the recent tourist arrival data show that it is still struggling to bring in 100,000 tourists per month.

As per the recent tourist arrival data compiled by the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB), a total of 585,531 tourists visited Nepal via both air and land routes in the first six months of this year, which is 12.6 per cent more than the same period of last year when it stood at 490,534.

As 2019 is a base year for 2020, the country will have to welcome at least 150,000 tourists per month to attain its target of two million tourists in 2020.

As mentioned in the NTB report, Nepal welcomed most number of tourists from India, followed by China in the first half of the year. According to NTB a total of 103,461 Indian tourists arrived in Nepal in the first six months, up 7.36 per cent compared to the same period of last year. Similarly, a total of 85,318 Chinese tourists visited the country in the first half, which is 19.53 per cent more than in the same period of last year.

Likewise, the number of American tourists reached 48,201, while the country welcomed 28,951 visitors from the UK and 28,790 from Sri Lanka in the first half of this year. The tourist arrivals from Sri Lanka increased by 52 per cent this year compared to the same period of last year.

Most of the Buddhist tourists come from Sri Lanka.

Similarly, the country received 32,365 visitors from Thailand, 19,101 from South Korea and 16,330 from Japan, an increase of 38.15 per cent, 5.34 per cent and 17.9 per cent, respectively, against the arrival figures of corresponding period of last year.

Meanwhile, the overall arrivals from South Asian Association Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries registered a sturdy growth of 10.4 per cent over the same period last year, with 144,957 total tourist arrivals this year. Besides, the European arrivals also surged with sustained growth from the key markets, with 104,783 total arrivals in first six months of 2019.

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