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Natalie Portman-Led Group Brings New Women’s Soccer Team to Los Angeles

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  • The National Women’s Soccer League awarded a group spearheaded by actress Natalie Portman the right to form a franchise in Los Angeles. 
  • The new LA team will make its debut in spring 2022 and has not officially announced a name yet, but is being referred to as WFC LA or Angel City.
  • Along with Portman, founders include stars like Jennifer Garner, Eva Longoria, Lili Singh, as well as former professional players Mia Hamm, Abby Wambach, and Lauren Cheney Holiday, among others. 
  • The group hopes a team in LA will help women’s soccer get the attention and celebration it deserves, as well as inspire local youth with heroes of their own.

NWSL Approves LA Team 

Los Angeles is getting a new women’s soccer team thanks to a group lead by actress Natalie Portman.

On Tuesday, the National Women’s Soccer League awarded Portman’s group the right to form a franchise in Los Angeles, a city that is home to the second-largest sports market in the country. 

The team has not officially revealed its name yet and plans to do so later this year, but far, it’s been referred to as WFC LA or Angel City. The franchise will make its debut in spring 2022 and will join the Portland Thorns and OL Reign as the league’s third West Coast team.

Why Did Portman Spearhead the Push for an LA Team?

Portman was reportedly inspired to take a closer took at the National Women’s Soccer Leave after she was introduced to more players by Becca Roux, the executive director of the USWNT Player’s association.

Portman told PEOPLE magazine that she started attending games and became passionate about the sport, but eventually realized it wasn’t getting the “celebration it deserved.”

She cited a study from the University of Minnesota that found women’s sports only receives 4% of sports media coverage and said she believed there was an opportunity to change how women’s soccer is perceived in America. That eventually evolved into the idea to bring a team to a place that is central for entertainment and media.

“After spending time with the USWNT players, their union rep, and getting to know some of the owners of the NWSL and the league’s supporters, it became clear having a team in L.A. could not only elevate the league and players’ exposure, but also bring these incredibly talented women to the city of L.A.—my city,” Portman told Sportico. “We have the ability to engage, promote and support the best players in the world in the most popular sport in the world on a yearly basis, not just every four years.”

The Founders and Public Reactions 

To make this happen, Portman brought on a team of predominantly women to be in the ownership group. Founders include venture capital Kara Nortman, gaming entrepreneur Julie Uhrman, and Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, who led the investment with his venture capitalist fund Initialized Capital. He also made a personal investment on behalf of his wife, tennis star Serena Williams, and their two-year-old daughter who is likely now the youngest known professional sports team owner. 

Founders also include stars like Uzo Aduba, Jessica Chastain, America Fererra, Jennifer Garner, Eva Longoria, and Lili Singh, as well as a collection of more than a dozen retired women’s soccer players like Mia Hamm, Abby Wambach, and Lauren Cheney Holiday.

Though the team hasn’t debuted yet, it has already partnered with the LA84 Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports girls in sports and increases youth access to sports in underserved communities. 

Portman says part of the reason she wanted to build a new franchise was to inspire youth in the city with female soccer heroes to call their own. “[We want to] expand those sports heroes — and those sports modeling behaviors — to have women in those positions, too,” she said. 

“To celebrate women at the same level as the way we celebrate male athletes is culture-shifting.”

So far, the news has been met with a ton of excitement online, especially since Los Angeles has long been viewed as a potential landing spot for a new NWSL team. On top of that, Southern California, in general, has produced some major soccer stars and is home to top college programs at schools like UCLA and USC, so a team backed by the NWSL could definitely draw in big crowds of fans and give young athletes a new team to set their sights on. 

As of this morning, groups celebrating the news include the LA Rams, the LA Sparks, and UCLA Women’s soccer. 

See what others are saying: (PEOPLE) (Sportico) (Forbes

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Joe Rogan Says Grimes Did Not Give Dave Chappelle COVID-19

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  • Comedian Dave Chappelle is under quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19. He is asymptomatic and his remaining shows in Austin, Texas have been canceled.
  • The news comes just days after Chappelle was photographed with Joe Rogan, Elon Musk, Grimes, and several others backstage at one of his Austin performances.
  • “Because people are asking, I was not exposed to the person who had covid and I have tested negative every day this week,” Rogan wrote on Instagram Friday. “Also, the person that gave covid to Dave was NOT Elon’s partner @grimes.”

Chappelle Tests Positive

Comedian Dave Chappelle has tested positive for coronavirus and is currently under quarantine, according to one of his representatives.

In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, that rep also confirmed that he is currently asymptomatic and has canceled all of his remaining shows at Stubbs Waller Creek Amphitheater in Austin, Texas.

“Chappelle has safely conducted socially-distanced shows in Ohio since June 2020 and he moved those shows to Austin during the winter,” the statement read.

“Chappelle implemented COVID-19 protocols which included rapid testing for the audience and daily testing for himself and his team. His diligent testing enabled him to immediately respond by quarantining, thus mitigating the spread of the virus,” it continued.

Joe Rogan Speaks Out After He Was Photographed With Chappelle

Two of the remaining Austin shows were supposed to include fellow comedian Joe Rogan. Rogan took to Instagram Friday morning to announce that they will be rescheduled as soon as possible.

Still, many fans had questions about Rogan’s current state of health. The news of Chappelle’s positive test comes just days after he was photographed maskless with Rogan, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, musician Grimes, and several others backstage at one of his Austin performances.

Since Grimes, who is also in a relationship with Musk, recently had COVID, many were concerned that she may have exposed the group. Others wondered if Chappelle may have spread it.

Rogan eventually updates his Instagram caption to dismiss the ideas.

“Because people are asking, I was not exposed to the person who had covid and I have tested negative every day this week,” he wrote.“Also, the person that gave covid to Dave was NOT Elon’s partner @grimes.”

See what others are saying: (The Hollywood Reporter) (CNN) (AP News)

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Netflix Passes 200M Subscribers as Other Streamers Struggle With Retention

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  • In a letter to shareholders, Netflix said it has hit over 200 million subscribers following a successful year of growth.
  • The pandemic gave Netflix a significant subscriber boost in March and April. The company continued to perform well even in its final quarter, gaining 8.5 million subscribers when it was only projected to add 6 million.
  • The data also highlights how relatively unaffected Netflix has been by new streaming services entering the market. While companies like Disney+, HBO Max, and Peacock continue to grow, they also struggle to retain the subscribers that sign up.

Netflix Passes 200 Million Subscribers

Netflix has topped 200 million subscribers following a year of strong growth in 2020.

In its Tuesday letter to shareholders, Netflix announced that it added 8.5 million subscribers in its fourth quarter. This exceeds projections, which estimated the streaming giant would only add around 6 million. In total, Netflix gained 37 million new memberships throughout 2020, bringing the company to 203.6 million subscribers.

Pandemic lockdowns gave Netflix a substantial boost in March in April. In the company’s first two quarters, it added a combined 25.7 million subscribers. According to data from the letter, Netflix had added over 10 million more subscribers by May of 2020 than it had by May of 2019.

When it comes to the success of their fourth quarter, Netflix pointed to shows like “Bridgerton” and “The Crown.” The fourth season of “The Crown” hit the platform in November, prompting many to return to older seasons of the show. Netflix claims the series has been viewed by 100 million households since it first aired in 2016.

Success Amid Growth of Competition

The year 2020 could have been a difficult one for Netflix as new streaming services entered the market. Disney+, Apple TV+, HBO Max, Peacock and more have all made waves with their original programming or by taking some of their brand’s content from Netflix to host on their own site. User-based content on YouTube and TikTok also became increasingly popular throughout the pandemic, further posing as a threat to Netflix. 

Still, it reached a massive milestone. 

“Our strategy is simple: if we can continue to improve Netflix every day to better delight our members, we can be their first choice for streaming entertainment,” Netflix said in the letter. “This past year is a testament to this approach.”

Netflix potentially sees Disney+ as the biggest competitor among new platforms. In its letter, the company noted that the streamer added 87 million subscribers in its first year. In a Q&A, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings seemed enthusiastic about this competition.

“It’s super impressive what Disney’s done,” he said. “It’s going to be great for the world that Disney and Netflix are competing show-by-show, movie-by-movie. We’re very fired up about catching them in family animation, maybe eventually passing them, we’ll see. It’s a long way to go just to catch them, and maintaining our lead in general entertainment that’s so stimulating like ‘Bridgerton,’ which I don’t think you’re going to see on Disney anytime soon.”

Streamers Struggle with Retaining Subscribers

Even as new streamers have had impressive years, there is one hurdle that many are still struggling to jump over: retaining the subscribers who sign up. The Los Angeles Times named Disney+, HBO Max, Peacock, and Apple TV+ in particular, writing that people create accounts with these services, watch the TV shows or movies they are interested in, and cancel once they are done.

An October survey from Deloitte said that 46% of respondents canceled at least one streaming service in the last 6 months, which is up 20% from January of last year. Most who had canceled said they did so because they had finished watching whatever programming it was that brought them to that service. 

Places like Disney+ and HBO Max are really vulnerable to this because they have banked on drawing people in with exclusive marquis titles like “Hamilton” or “Wonder Woman 1984.” However, since they are newer, they are still building their original programming catalog, meaning that people can quickly burn through highlight titles. 

See what others are saying: (Los Angeles Times) (Wall Street Journal) (The Hollywood Reporter)

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Paramount+ To Launch March 4

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  • ViacomCBS is launching Paramount+ in the United States and Latin America on March 4 before rolling out to other markets internationally later this year. 
  • The streaming service will be a relaunch and expansion of CBS All Access. It will include content from Nickelodeon, MTV, and more on top of the CBS-focused selection. 

Paramount+ Gets Launch Date

ViacomCBS will be launching its streaming service Paramount+ in the U.S. and Latin America on March 4 before rolling out in more countries throughout the year. 

It will be an expansion and rebrand of CBS All Access, the service the company currently offers that is used by nearly 8 million subscribers. Paramount+ will go beyond the CBS-centric content promoted there, including works from brands like Nickelodeon, MTV, BET, Comedy Central, and the Smithsonian Channel.

More details about their streaming strategy will be released during an investor event on February 24. Right now, ViacomCBS is boasting that the service will have over 30,000 episodes and movies in their catalog, which will also include live sports and breaking news. 

“The Paramount brand is known and loved all around the world, and is synonymous with great entertainment. It’s always brought people together, which makes it a perfect fit for a streaming service that’s uniquely positioned to do the same,” Josh Line the chief brand officer of ViacomCBS said during a brand announcement in September. “The Paramount+ streaming service will elevate ViacomCBS’ iconic family of brands.”

State of the Streaming Wars

Paramount+ has already announced a slew of original projects including a revival of “iCarly” and a series about the making of “The Godfather” titled “The Offer.”

The service is entering an already crowded battlefield as the streaming wars wages on. It will have plenty of uphill battles to fight since brand recognition for Paramount is not nearly as strong as it is for studios like Disney or NBCUniversal. It will also have to compete with Netflix, which leads the pack in subscribers and unveils new content regularly; HBO Max, which will be home to Warner Media’s new theatrical releases; and Hulu, which hosts original content as well as shows currently airing on cable and network television. 

ViacomCBS has not released information on pricing, but that will likely come during or before the February investor event.

See what others are saying: (Variety) (Deadline) (CNBC)

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