Super Bowl turns into Swift Bowl as Taylor’s fans adopt Kansas City Chiefs

Planet Business: Tech earnings takeaways, McDonald’s Middle East troubles and a former pop star at the Pop Con launch

Image of the week: Tight end

Such is the theatre of the Super Bowl – the final game of the US National Football League (NFL) season – that it even has an “opening night”. Held at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas last Monday in advance of Sunday night’s game, the ticketed event saw players and coaches from the two teams, the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers, line out for media interviews, “fan photo opportunities” and general sports hoopla.

This year, a few extra spotlights have fallen on one particular player: Travis Kelce, the Kansas City tight end better known in some quarters as the boyfriend of superstar Taylor Swift. (Her lucky number is 13, hence the pictured fan’s shirt.)

Never mind the half-time show (starring Usher). Never mind the mega-bucks commercials (featuring David Beckham, Victoria Beckham, Jennifer Aniston, David Schwimmer, Tina Fey, Aubrey Plaza, Christopher Walken and many more). Among Swifties and the Swiftie-tracking media alike, eyes and cameras will be trained on the singer, who is expected to jet in to Vegas after performing in Tokyo on Saturday.

Kelce said he had told Swift, who emerged triumphant from last week’s Grammys, that he will “have to hold up my end of the bargain and come home with some hardware, too”. But enough about the game, Travis, what about the new album? “I have heard some of it, yes, and it’s unbelievable.”


In numbers: Not lovin’ it


Growth in global sales at McDonald’s in the final three months of 2023, missing estimates, with the fast food company’s slowest growth in about three years coming partly as a result of a consumer boycott in the Middle East.


About this share of its outlets worldwide are in the region. The company attracted criticism after its Israel-based franchise announced last October that it had given away thousands of free meals to members of the Israeli military. Franchises in at least eight countries issued statements distancing themselves from the move.


Drop in the company’s share price on Monday after it released its fourth-quarter earnings. McDonald’s said the war had “meaningfully impacted” its performance in some markets, with chief executive Chris Kempczinski adding that it was not expecting any significant improvement “so long as this war is going on”.

Getting to know: The Pop Cons

Popular Conservatism is the oxymoronic name – emphasis on the moronic – bestowed upon the new righter-wing Conservative “movement” launched by famously unpopular and notoriously brief UK prime minister Liz Truss.

Truss’s gaggle of disaffected Tories, which also includes Jacob Rees-Mogg and former deputy chairman Lee Anderson, have duly become known as the “Pop Cons”. Among their claims is that British institutions “from the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) to the supreme court to the Climate Change Committee” are standing in the way of “meaningful reform”. This, of course, would be the same OBR that Truss disastrously sidelined right before the fiasco of a mini-budget that led to her ousting.

Appropriately enough, one ex-pop star was present at the launch of the Pop Cons. Former Neighbours actor Holly Valance, who is married to billionaire property tycoon and erstwhile Tory donor Nick Candy, showed up alongside her husband and gave an interview to GB News in which she smugly branded left-wing political ideas “crap”.

Two days later there was a plot twist, with Candy signalling to Bloomberg that he would support a change in government to Labour. Always good to back a winner.

The list: Earnings takeaways

How did tech companies finish 2023? In a heap like the rest of us? A fresh batch of fourth-quarter earnings updates points to a mixed performance. Here are five things we learned.

1. Alphabet: Google’s parent company took a knock after its core search advertising revenues came in shy of analyst estimates. The phasing out of third-party cookies is just one of its challenges at the moment.

2. Meta: With the 20th anniversary of Facebook fast approaching (though most people didn’t start using it until at least 2006), Meta has started the celebrations early by paying its first, albeit modest, dividend.

3. Spotify: The audio streamer now has more than 600 million monthly active users, but its net loss last year was €532 million and cost-cutting is set to continue in 2024.

4. Snap: The Snapchat owner continued to struggle with its also-ran status, with its earnings release accompanied by the announcement that it will let go 10 per cent of its workforce.

5. Netflix: After a successful password-sharing clampdown, Netflix celebrated its victory in the streaming wars by shelling out for the rights to the live World Wresting Entertainment (WWE) show Raw. We’re a long way from House of Cards.

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