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Saudi fund adds Disney, Facebook to entertainment stocks

Saudi Arabia’s acquisitive sovereign-wealth fund added investments in leisure and media giants including the Walt Disney Company, Facebook and Marriott International in the first financial quarter of 2020, according to newly revealed US regulatory filings.

According to the Financial Times, the Public Investment Fund (PIF) – which made headlines last month after buying half a billion dollars’ worth of Live Nation shares – spent nearly US$8bn on US and European blue-chip stocks in the first three months of the year, as the Gulf kingdom seeks to benefit from low prices on stock markets spooked by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Live Nation share purchase, along with an earlier buy of Carnival Cruise Line stocks, were picked up by industry and financial press at the time, as the value of the deals (relative to the size of the companies) required that the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) be notified.

However, the earlier purchases were also sizeable: Among the PIF’s pre-Live Nation investments are a $827.8m stake in BP, a $713.6m stake in Boeing and smaller investments in Bank of America, Citigroup, Starbucks and drugmaker Pfizer, reports the FT.

IF says it is “identifying opportunities to invest in solid companies with strong, long-term outlooks”

The stakes in Disney and Facebook are valued at $496m and $523m, respectively, SEC filings reveal.

The fund has also been linked with Warner Music Group in recent weeks.

A senior Saudi official told the FT in April that the kingdom had set up a dedicated team to look at the “midterm and long-term, downside and upside” of the global economic crisis caused by governments’ response to the spread of Covid-19.

The PIF says it is “identifying opportunities to invest in solid companies with strong, long-term outlooks who we expect will be sector leaders when global economic activity begins to approach pre-pandemic levels”.

Other sovereign funds in the oil-rich Middle East, including Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala, and the Qatar Investment Authority, are also seeking investment opportunities, the paper reports.


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New EDM festival… at Disneyland Paris

Disney Business Solutions, the events arm of Disneyland Paris (DLP), has announced the launch of Electroland, a new one-day electronic dance music (EDM) festival taking over the theme park on the evening of 8 July.

With a capacity of 10,000, Electroland – whose name bears more than a passing resemblance to LiveStyle’s Tomorrowland and Mysteryland festivals, the former of which shares a name with a themed ‘land’ at several Disney parks – will “transform DLP into an EDM haven” with performances by Grammy-nominated DJ Steve Aoki, Australian duo Nervo and French house producer Michael Calfan and visual artist-turned-singer Richard Orlinksi.

“Electroland needs to be seen to be believed”

In addition to the music line-up, an Electroland ticket (priced at €68 for a standard pass or €85 for a ‘privilege’ VIP ticket) will give festivalgoers access to the park’s rides by night.

“With giant LED screens, projection mapping on to one of the park’s most iconic attractions – The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror – some very special guests and surprise immersive elements, all set against a magical Disney backdrop, Electroland needs to be seen to be believed,” reads the launch blurb.

Disney Business Solutions also offers several for-hire venues for corporate events, including the 4,000-cap. Disney Events Arena, as well as the park itself.


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The internet of things: The future of event tech

Speaking at Reeperbahn Festival in Hamburg last month, Eventbrite’s Elsita Sanya outlined the ticketing company’s take on the future of festival tech. Holograms like the one of Dio at Wacken, drones and VR helmets are all interesting and headline-grabbing technologies, she said – yet the future of live experiences could be changed much more profoundly by the advent of the internet of things (IoT).

Her case in point: the magical wristband at Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Based on advanced sensor reader technology, this allows visitors to check into the park in seconds, skip queues at rides by pre-booking them and pay cashlessly throughout the park. This technology massively improves the attendee experience, and at the same time is providing the operators with invaluable real-time data on visitors’ movements in the park and their preferences. This helps optimise visitor flow, capacity-planning and marketing.

The technology, Sanya said, is also applicable to festivals, where a wristband/sensor combination would allow for much faster and seamless entry, cashless payments, on-site localisation and navigation (eg. for food delivery or emergency services), real-time crowd heatmaps and the easy implementation and control of separate/VIP areas.

IoT is an example of technology unobtrusively delivering real benefits to both fans and festival promoters

Sanya said IoT at events is an example of technology unobtrusively delivering real benefits to both fans and festival organisers. “Too often we are stuck with technology, when what we really want is just stuff that works,” she said, referencing Douglas Adams.

According to Sanya, Eventbrite is working on bringing this technology to event promoters around the world, concentrating its attention in four areas: access control, attendee presence, payments and identity. All four, she said, increase revenue per ticket, increase revenue streams or save money for organisers, as well as providing greater freedom and capabilities for fans.

The internet of things, integrated into a ticketing/registration system and mobile at-event support apps, Sanya said, will transform the attendee experience. For promoters, “enabling IoT is an important way to make their event better to grow sales, and for attendees these innovations will bring the bespoke experience every organiser strives to create,” she concluded.


Elsita Sanya is Eventbrite’s general manager for Germany. The company has successfully trialled its IoT wireless wristbands at several US events, including Okee, Maker Faire New York and SnowGlobe.

Disney World shuts out touts with fingerprinting

As an increasing number of Japanese ‘idol’ groups, including Arashi and Momoiro Clover Z, turn to facial-recognition technology to prevent touting, the world’s leading theme park has turned to a much older form of biometrics – fingerprinting – in a bid to tackle ticket fraud.

Walt Disney World in Florida, which was visited by over 52 million people last year, last month quietly redoubled its efforts to crack down on resold, fraudulent, stolen and shared tickets by extending its programme of fingerprinting to include children as young as three. The Ticket Tag scheme has been in use at other parks for at least 10 years, but it is the first time Disney has asked for fingerprints from guests aged between three and nine, reports CNN Money.

Fingerprint scanners are in place at at least three American stadia

Parents uncomfortable with having their children’s prints scanned can volunteer their own fingers instead, although Disney has made it clear that “Ticket Tag does not store fingerprints” and says the scans are “immediately discarded”.

According to Forbes, fingerprint scanners are in place at at least three American stadia – the Yankee Stadium in New York, AT&T Park in San Francisco and Coors Field in Denver – albeit it only for fast-track purposes. But with face scanning already gaining ground in Asia, how long before we see some in-demand concert tickets irretrievably tied to buyers’ fingerprints?


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JRPG Kingdom Hearts set for world concert tour

Long-running Japanese role-playing game (JRPG) franchise Kingdom Hearts will embark on its first live concert tour in 2017, the series’ developer, Square Enix, has announced.

Kingdom Hearts games feature a mixture of Disney and Square Enix (primarily Final Fantasy) characters and follow protagonists Sora, Goofy and Donald (yes, that Goofy and Donald) as they adventure across Disney-themed worlds and battle enemies including Snow White’s Maleficent, Scrooge McDuck and The Lion King’s Scar. Its music, mostly composed by Yoko Shimomura, has been praised by both video game and music critics.

The Kingdom Hearts Concert world tour will see various local orchestras, including the Tokyo Philharmonic in Japan and the Royal Philharmonic in London, perform music from the series while HD game footage, supervised by Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy game art designer Testuya Nomura, plays behind them. It will premiere at the 5,012-seat Tokyo International Forum Hall A on 10 March 2017 with a concert featuring over 70 musicians.

The show will be produced by Paris-based Wild Faery (La Fée Sauvage), which specialises in concerts of video game, anime and film music, in association with Disney Concerts/The Walt Disney Company (Japan) Ltd. It will also visit venues in Paris, London, Singapore, Shanghai, Los Angeles and New York.

Listen to Shimomura’s ‘Dearly Beloved’, from Kingdom Hearts II, below: