News Networks

Fox News Launches Show With 4 Women and 1 ‘Outnumbered’ Man

Airing weekdays at noon, beginning April 28.

Fox News is introducing a noontime panel show titled “Outnumbered,” featuring four permanent female hosts and one rotating male cast member.

“Outnumbered combines a distinctive group of FOX talent with unique experiences and insights that will make for compelling news programming,” said network Senior Vice President Jay Wallace in a statement. “We look forward to once again pushing the envelope with the addition of this new show and are confident the revised line-up will only strengthen the FNC brand.”

Panelists on the show will include Harris Faulkner, Sandra Smith, Kimberly Guilfoyle and Andrea Tantaros, Variety reports.

“Happening Now,” the two-hour long show that currently runs from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. will be bifurcated into two one-hour segments beginning at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

“Outnumbered” is set to debut April 28.

[Variety]

Video Games

Sony Says 7 Million PlayStation 4s Have Been Sold Worldwide

Sony

And Sony adds that it's sold more than 20.5 million PS4 games worldwide across retail and digital content.

Sony’s coming out swinging one day before U.S. retail tracker NPD’s game sales numbers are due: the international electronics behemoth says it’s shipped more than 7 million PlayStation 4 game consoles since the system arrived last November. That figure is as of April 6.

Sony Computer Entertainment president and group CEO Andrew House doles out the usual kudos in the press release, but adds that the company is “still facing difficulties keeping up with the strong demand worldwide.” In recent months, analysts and pundits alike have speculated that Sony’s sales might be higher still were the company able to provide retailers sufficient inventory to keep the system on shelves, though in fairness to the Xbox One, the PS4 is presently available in at least three or four times as many countries (Sony says 72 total countries and regions at this point).

The company adds that PS4 software sales are robust at more than 20.5 million to date (split between worldwide retail and digital downloads via the PlayStation Store through April 13). And there’s some crowing about games to come, in particular PS4 exclusives like DRIVECLUB, MLB 14: The Show and The Order 1886, as well as indies like N++, Secret Ponchos, Transistor, Octodad: Dadliest Catch and Daylight.

Related, Sony says over 135 million “shares” (pictures, videos, etc.) have been captured using the sharing button on the DualShock 4 controller. And between Twitch and Ustream, the company says players have delivered over 4.9 million gameplay broadcasts and nearly 90 million spectate sessions.

Sony community manager (and former GamePro editor) Sid Shuman announced the news on Sony’s PlayStation blog, and notes that the company will “have some great new details to share with you regarding our upcoming PS4 system software update very soon.”

Stay tuned tomorrow evening, when we’ll likely have Microsoft’s response, which’ll include Titanfall sales and give us a sense for whether that game — arguably the most important Xbox One exclusive for the first half of 2014 sales-wise — helped Microsoft make inroads on Sony’s lead.

In any event, 7 million units sold this early in a set-top’s lifecycle (we’re not six months out) is very, very good news for Sony, and the games industry in general.

IPO

Online Matchmaker Zoosk Files $100M IPO

While it has yet to log a profit, the popular dating site boasts 26 million members and a top iTunes App.

The online dating website Zoosk filed papers with the Securities and Exchange Commission Wednesday announcing a planned $100 million initial public offering.

The San Francisco startup was founded in 2007 and began as a website but has been particularly successful as a mobile app, grabbing the number one grossing dating app spot in the Apple app store. The 26-million member service, with users spread across 80 countries, saw revenues of $178 million last year for a net loss of $2.6 million in 2013, Techcrunch reports. In 2012, the site posted a significantly higher net loss of $20.7 million and revenues of just $109 million.

While Zoosk’s earnings have yet to hit positive territory, the service has been gaining users at a rapid pace. According to its IPO filing, by the end of 2013 Zoosk had a total of 26 million members and 650,000 paying subscribers — up 44% and 35%, respectively from 2012.

Bookrunners for the IPO include Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Citigroup, and RBC Capital Markets, according to Techcrunch.

[TechCrunch]

White House

Obama’s $600 Million Plan to Help You Get a (Better) Job

Obama And Biden Discuss Job Skills Training In Pennsylvania
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden speak to guests at the Community College of Allegheny County on April 16, 2014 in Oakdale, Pa. Jeff Swensen—Getty Images

The administration is asking more colleges to partner with businesses and industries to prepare students with the skills businesses are looking for in potential employees. The investments include a $100 million expansion of apprenticeship programs

In a joint appearance at a community college in Pennsylvania Wednesday, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden announced $600 million in investments in job training programs. The investments are a part of the Administration’s ongoing efforts to follow through on Obama’s agenda without Congress’ help by redirecting existing funds to job training efforts.

The administration is asking more colleges to partner with businesses and industries to prepare students with the skills businesses are looking for in potential employees. Obama said Wednesday the Labor Department is offering $500 million worth of grants to community colleges with these types of programs as a part of an existing Trade Adjustment Assistance and Community College and Career Training competitive grant program, which has previously rewarded schools that connect out-of-work Americans with jobs in regional economies. Obama also touted a $100 million expansion of apprenticeship programs, which the administration calls a proven path to employment and entry into the middle class. About 87% of apprentices are employed upon completion, and the average starting wage is around $50,000.

“The bottom line is if you’re willing the work to get a promotion or get a job America’s job training programs should be working to give you a chance,” Obama said.

The goal, Obama says is to provide more good paying jobs and ensure employees have the training necessary to obtain them as a part of his four-part opportunity agenda. The President also called on Congress to invest in ready-to-work programs that support better training, though he noted the work he’s doing can be done without their help. Obama has called on Vice President Biden to lead the effort to improve American job-training. Biden said Wednesday he’s working to help more Americans find work industries that have been expanding in the aftermath of the recession so that more can ascend to the middle class.

The President and Vice President appeared at the Community College of Allegheny County’s West Hills Center, which Obama said is representative of the kind of job training the administration is trying to encourage across the country.“We need to take a job-driven approach, that’s what you’ve done in Allegheny County,” Obama said.

“The point is real simple; the backbone of this country is a strong and striving middle class,” Biden said. “It’s been the distinguishing feature of our economy for the last 150 years.”

Earnings

Google Shares Slump on Disappointing Earnings

Despite raking in $15.4 billion, decreasing cost-per-click for the tech giant's search ads caused it to miss revenue and profitability estimates

Google missed analyst expectations in its first quarterly earnings report of the year due to declining cost-per-click rates for its search ads and rising costs to ensure its search engine is used on various platforms. The tech giant brought in $15.4 billion in revenue, a 19 percent jump from a year earlier that still missed analyst expectations of $15.54 billion. Earnings per share were $6.27, off the mark from analyst expectations of $6.41 per share.

The cost-per-click rate that Google charges businesses to place ads in its search engine was down 9 percent year-over-year, though it was flat compared to the fourth quarter of 2013. The figure had been tumbling during 2013 as more users transition to mobile devices, where Google is not able to charge as much for its ads. The downward trend in cost-per-click rates has affected the search industry as a whole.

The company’s traffic acquisition costs, the money it pays to ensure that its search engine is the default in places like Apple’s Safari browser, also increased significantly, from $2.96 billion in the first quarter of 2013 to $3.23 billion in the most recent quarter.

Google agreed to sell its unprofitable Motorola phone unit to Lenovo for $2.91 billion in January, which will ease overall losses for the company in the future. Google shares slumped more than 5 percent after-hours trading on the disappointing earnings report. The company’s share price has fallen considerably in recent weeks as part of an overall decline in tech stocks.

Wall Street & Markets

U.S. Stocks Rise, Extending Gains Into Third Day

Stocks are higher for a third day in a row after more U.S. companies report solid earnings and on encouraging news about China’s economy.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 19 points, or 1 percent, to close at 1,862 Wednesday.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 162 points, or 1 percent, to 16,424. The Nasdaq rose 52 points, or 1.3 percent, to 4,086.

Yahoo rose 6 percent. The Internet pioneer said it was benefiting from its lucrative investments in Asia.

Airline stocks also rose sharply. Delta gained 5 percent, jetBlue rose 6 percent and American Airlines rose 5 percent.

Bank of America fell 2 percent after booking $6 billion in legal costs over its home loan practices.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.64 percent.

Economy

Fed Survey: Growth Picks Up Across Most Of U.S.

(WASHINGTON) — A Federal Reserve survey shows economic growth picking up across most of the United States over the past two months as bitter winter weather subsided.

Ten of the Fed’s 12 regions reported an increase in economic activity, according to the Beige Book survey released Wednesday. In most places, the Fed described the improvement as “modest or moderate.” Only Cleveland and St. Louis reported slower growth.

In March and early April, consumers took advantage of better weather to go shopping. Manufacturing expanded across most of the country. Ports and highways were busier. Across most of the country, home prices rose modestly and homebuilding picked up. Tourism was “generally positive.” In several districts, ski resorts reported record years.

The Beige Book is based on anecdotal reports from businesses and will be considered along with other data when Fed policymakers meet April 29-30. Confident that the economy is improving, the Fed has been scaling back bond purchases meant to push long-term interest rates down, encourage consumer and business spending and spur economic growth.

Economists are hoping that growth will pick up as the weather gets warmer. Despite a slow, chilly start this year, the economy is expected to grow 3 percent this year, the fastest pace since 2005, two years before the Great Recession hit.

The job market has steadily recovered. Employers added a healthy 192,000 jobs in March and 197,000 in February. The economy has now regained all the private sector jobs it lost during the Great Recession. On Wednesday, the Fed also reported that U.S. factory output rose further last month, extending strong growth from February after harsh weather had caused production to tumble in January.

Still, the news is not all good. A government report on housing construction Wednesday was weaker than economists had hoped for. And the outlook for homebuilding was clouded by a drop last month in applications for building permits.

Tourism

Ski Resorts Want You to Pay for Next Season’s Skiing Right Now

Resorts are trying to get skiers locked in as loyal guests next season—and simultaneously keep them away from competitor mountains—with major deals for early-bird purchases.

America’s biggest ski resorts are at it again. For a variety of reasons, starting with recent seasons of less-than-stellar snow and ending with increasingly aggressive tactics in the pursuit of customer loyalty throughout the industry, resort companies are upping their game to convince skiers and boarders that they should pay for next season’s skiing mere days after the current season has ended.

And how do they get customers to commit so far in advance? By waving special offers that are often so good customers can’t refuse.

Two of the industry’s biggest players, Vail Resorts and Intrawest, make it easy even for those who are currently struggling to pay off credit card bills related to the ski season just in the rear-view mirror, by allowing customers to lock in pass prices now with only a $49 down payment. Once that’s been paid, the company has your credit card information—and before next ski season begins, your card will automatically be charged for the balance.

Vail, which owns and operates ten major ski resorts, including Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Heavenly, and Kirkwood, offers a wide variety of passes. The unrestricted Epic Pass is at the top price-wise, running $729 (up $40 from special prices available last summer), with a range of cheaper options for special buyer categories (kids, seniors, college students) and for skiers who can live with more restrictions (blackout dates, fewer resorts, etc.). Considering that a single-day walkup ticket can run well over $100 at a place like Vail, it’s easy to see how these season passes are well worth the money for even a moderate skier who figures to log in, say, 10 or 12 days of making turns each winter.

For diehards putting in a few dozen days per season on the mountain, these passes are no-brainers. They’re probably even underpriced. Why, then, do ski companies keep prices so low?

The big reason is that they want skiers to commit their money—and their loyalty—early, long before anyone can tell if the season’s snow will be good or bad (and potentially not worth the trip at all). They also want customers to commit because doing so largely eliminates the possibility that these skiers will wind up spending a day, let alone an entire week’s vacation, at a competitor resort. After you’ve already coughed up a few hundred bucks for a pass, after all, you’ll want to use it rather than paying more money out of pocket.

The ski companies are also well aware of the powerful trickle-down effect of selling one pass. The likely result is that the passholder will wind up spending money in resort-area restaurants, bars, and hotels, perhaps over the course of seven, ten, or many more days. And pass purchases beget pass purchases, as skiers and boarders tend to buy passes at the same places as their skier and boarder family and friends.

In fact, the Intrawest Passport pushes group sales by directly incentivizing family and friends to buy their passes together. One adult pass, which grants six days of mountain access at each of the company’s six North American resorts (including Steamboat and Winter Park in Colorado, Stratton in Vermont, and Tremblant in Quebec), costs $589. But up to five additional adult passes purchased at the same time cost $449 each, and up to five kids ages 12 and under are totally free. The deal gets more appealing when you add more people to the mix—and bringing more customers to Intrawest’s resorts is exactly what the company wants.

Each of the many ski pass programs in North America features different price points and inclusions, but they all have one thing in common: They want your money asap. Intrawest is only guaranteeing current pricing through April 30. The Mountain Collective, which provides two days apiece at resorts like Whistler-Blackcomb and Aspen-Snowmass and 50% off the regular rate thereafter, is throwing in an extra free day at your choice of mountains for a vague “while supplies last” period. The Mountain Collective pass is now $359, up from $349 last season, and runs $99 for kids 12 and under.

Another pass partnership, the Powder Alliance, hasn’t announced its policies for the upcoming season yet. If they remained unchanged from 2013-2014, all season passholders from a dozen resorts will automatically get three free days each at all of the other participating resorts, including Stevens Pass in Washington, Crested Butte in Colorado, Snowbasin in Utah, and Schweitzer in Idaho. And yes, you can expect discounts for buying passes early. The pricing at Schweitzer, for instance, generally calls for 2014-2015 passes to rise by $100 as of June 1. The takeaway is pretty obvious: Smart skiers will want to lock in a lower price now.

Food & Drink

KFC Is Reintroducing a Sandwich That Replaces Bread With Fried Chicken

KFC Launches Controversial Double Down Burger
XXX YYY at XXX on May 10, 2011 in Auckland, New Zealand. The KFC 'Double Down' is a 604-calorie 'bunless' burger that consists of two strips of bacon, cheese and 'special sauce' served between two KFC chicken fillets and has been a hot topic after being condemned by nutritionists concerned with the high calorie and saturated fat content. Sandra Mu—Getty Images

The Double Down is coming back

Maybe KFC felt like it didn’t go far enough by bestowing a $20 fried chicken prom corsage upon the world earlier this week. Wednesday, the fast food chain announced that is bringing back the Double Down starting April 21.

To the uninitiated (way to keep those arteries unclogged, guys!), the Double Down is a sandwich that replaces bread with fried chicken, used to hold together an assortment of bacon and cheese. Although the item has been in and out of stores since its 2010 premiere, now is the obvious time to bring it back. Why? Because the internet is currently facilitating American consumers’ slow overdose on viral food hybrids. Taco Bell uses both Doritos and waffles in place of taco shells. McDonald’s has new ads for it’s pancake breakfast sandwich. Dominos announced a fried chicken crusted pizza Monday. (Pizza Hut Middle East stuffed chicken nuggets and cheeseburgers into its pizza crust in 2012, so we’re slightly underwhelmed.)

Can the Double Down stand tall in among its Twitter-friendly “food” hybrid counterparts? Maybe it can make a compelling SnapChat campaign to convince us. According to USA Today, the tagline has been dubbed “Double Down Dare”… so we’ve been warned.

Sidenote: If you want more information on what the Double Down is actually like, here’s TIME’s Joel Stein chowing down when it was first released:

Tourism

For an Extra $35 You Can Stay Inside Disney After the Park Closes and Drink

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Epcot Center in Disney World, Florida Adina Tovy—Getty Images/Lonely Planet Images

For an extra $35, Disney World guests get to snack on “cultural fare” and toss back a shot of tequila inside EPCOT—after the park has officially closed.

Walt Disney World in Orlando just introduced a new program called the “After Hours Wind Down” at its EPCOT theme park. Admission to what’s being billed as an “exclusive after-hours lounge” experience costs $35 plus tax and tip, on top of the regular park admission—which earlier this year was hiked to $99 plus tax at Magic Kingdom, and to $95 at EPCOT and the other parks, for a single-day’s entrance.

The extra $35 grants guests a single beverage and a selection of snacks in a choice of four restaurant-lounges, each in a different country-themed EPCOT location: La Cava del Tequila (in “Mexico”), Spice Road Table (Morocco), Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar (Italy), and Rose & Crown Pub (UK). While $35 may seem like a lot for a drink and some appetizers, the real draw here seems to be the “after hours” exclusivity. The late-night lounge sessions begin after the evening’s fireworks show has ended, and guests can stay as late as 11 p.m. The masses, meanwhile, must leave by 9 p.m., which is usually the time EPCOT closes its gates.

The new program, available through September 15 with reservations available up to 180 days in advance, is the latest example of Disney’s relentless strategizing of ways to siphon more money out of guests, during more hours of the day and night. It’s also part of a smaller but noticeable trend, in which alcohol is more readily available at Disney theme parks. Only on Disney’s family-friendly terms, of course. The new EPCOT experience only includes one alcoholic beverage per person, which simultaneously increases the chances of making profits and decreases the likelihood of guests getting tipsy.

“It’s more of an educational experience than it is a party-bar atmosphere,” an EPCOT representative said to the Orlando Sentinel of the new “After Hours” program.

What’s on the after-hours menu at each of these spots? Disney hasn’t released all of the details yet. But the (unofficial) Disney Food Blog managed to wrangle up a few examples of what’s to be served. La Cava del Tequila, for instance, will offer paying guests samplers of dishes such as “Tlacoyo de Puerco (Marinated Pork served over a grilled corn dough, garnished with mixed greens and crema),” along with a choice of booze, including a “Shot of Tequila Partida Reposado” or a “Shot of Tequila Ambhar Blanco.”

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