Business Wars

Business Wars

New episodes come out every Monday and Wednesday for free, with 1-week early access for Wondery+ subscribers. Netflix vs. HBO. Nike vs. Adidas. Business is war. Sometimes the prize is your wallet or your attention. Sometimes, it’s just the fun of beating the other guy. The outcome of these battles shapes what we buy and how we live. Business Wars gives you the unauthorized, real story of what drives these companies and their leaders, inventors, investors and executives to new heights -- or to ruin. Hosted by David Brown, former anchor of Marketplace. From Wondery, the network behind Dirty John and American History Tellers.

Episodes

January 19, 2018 1 min

Netflix-HBO. Nike-Adidas. Business is war. Sometimes the prize is your wallet. Sometimes your attention. Sometimes just the fun of beating the other guy. From Wondery, the network behind Dirty John and American History Tellers.

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This is Episode 1 of an 8-part series on the brutal business battle between Netflix and Blockbuster, and later HBO.

It all started around 1997, with a guy named Marc Randolph and his mathematician friend Reed Hastings. Randolph and Hastings knew they’d have to take on Blockbuster, but what they didn’t anticipate was that their business model would take on network television and eventually change the entire movie industry.

This was an...

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February 6, 2018 19 min

After Hastings pleaded with Antioco to buy Blockbuster Online, Antioco agreed to present Hasting’s proposal to the board. What he didn’t tell him was that he was pushing the board to reject the offer so Netflix would wither and die. Meanwhile, Netflix was struggling to gain legitimacy in Hollywood. Netflix quickly realized that before it could take on the Hollywood gods, it would have to slay Blockbuster.


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Thinking like your enemy is the best way to beat them, and during the war, Blockbuster tried every trick in the books to get inside Netflix. Sometimes they succeeded - sending “housewives” into warehouses as spies, and sometimes things didn’t go as planned. But when Blockbuster did deliver, they delivered big. They threw everything they had at Netflix, but the war raged on.


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You know that expression “content is king”? Well it turns out, sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it’s a hard-working algorithm that burrows into customer habits and viewing patterns. With that, Netflix had a clear upper hand on Blockbuster.

That, and the fact that Netflix targeted this new “streaming” technology that in 2007, no one really believed in. Soon they were on top of the world.

But it’s dangerous being on top. If you trip, you ...

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We take a step back to explore how a little company called Home Box Office went from serving B-movies to 325 homes in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania to become the juggernaut that we know as HBO. In the process, HBO, become the standard by which all other cable companies would have to measure themselves - after all, it's not TV. It's HBO.


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February 15, 2018 23 min

Hollywood execs thought Netflix was crazy to give up advertising and spin off opportunities by letting viewers flop on a couch and watch a whole season of a show all at once. But Netflix knew it was on to something. All of their studies and focus groups revealed something new: viewers who binged content formed an emotional attachment to Netflix. 


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Netflix goes from being a streaming company to a movement in which consumers all over the world decide what show to watch -- and when and how they watch them. The future that Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph envisioned two decades earlier has arrived. The unfettered reign of cable television has ended. The war for streaming viewers will become richer. And more cutthroat.


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Rich Greenfield is a tech and media analyst with BTIG who’s been covering this battle in some capacity for decades. We had the chance to talk to him in depth on today’s episode.

Follow Rich on Twitter @RichBTIG


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February 27, 2018 21 min

In 2015, Kanye West turned his back on Nike, an all out battle in the ongoing war for sneaker supremacy. Nike and Adidas are two multinational companies worth billions in an industry estimated to be valued at $220 Billion by 2020 (which is double the GDP of Ukraine) but that begs the question - Why are companies sinking so much money into mesh and rubber for your feet?

In this series of Business Wars, we'll find out. This is Epi...

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Rudi and Adi Dassler started the “Dassler Business” in the 1920s in their parent’s garage, recycling materials from WWI military gear and uniforms. They got a pair of their track spikes on an athlete named Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympics and the company took off… until WWII.

The war may have been over for Germany, but the rivalry between Adi and Rudi was just heating up.

Rudi left to start his own company, Puma, and Adi created Adid...

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As long as there have been professional sports, there have been professional athletes, willing to accept money to wear certain brands, but the biggest endorsement deals were only made possible by a mid-20th century invention: the television. Fans realized they could tune in to see their favorite athletes almost any day of the week. Brands realized they just got hundreds of walking billboards showing the capabilities of their athlet...

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March 8, 2018 27 min

Every new Nike employee gets a list of principles that serves as the company’s philosophy. One: Our business is change. Two: We’re on offense, all the time.


With those principles Nike sprinted from $29 million in revenue in 1973 to more than $850 million by 1983. But the biggest boost for Nike was an up and coming athlete. Like Jesse Owens fifty years before, a young Michael Jordan would carry a fledgling shoe brand to new heights.


S...

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March 13, 2018 26 min

Nike, the late starter struck gold with its “Just Do It” campaign. Launched in 1988, the shoe giant finally had a tagline as good as its shoes. Meanwhile, Adidas, the brand that started and found success long before Nike was even a dream, finds itself as the underdog. The American offices feel like a startup, and is passed between the hands of former Nike execs and European businessmen. What does it take to go from a million-dollar...

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March 15, 2018 19 min

The rivalry between Nike and Adidas has been intense for decades, but always respectful. But with intensity comes… defectors. Just three at the beginning, who set out to create a “Disneyland for designers.” And it worked. For the first time in a long time, the Swoosh was outperformed by three little white stripes.

But it’s not all bad. The constant competition drove both companies to produce better shoes, better apparel, and have ma...

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Today we talked to Liz Dolan, former Nike CMO, and David Meltzer, sports marketing guru and agent about this vicious war. If you loved them here, you’ll love their podcasts even more.

Liz co-hosts Safe For Work, a show that answers your burning business questions and provides the advice you need to keep your office drama-free, and Satellite Sisters, where she got to sit down with Phil Knight and talk about Nike with the man himself....

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March 21, 2018 22 min

In the early 1960s, the Space Race was on, Chubby Checkers got everyone doin’ the twist and Superman was turning 25. DC has it all - a legacy comic, the talented writers and illustrators, and plush offices in Manhattan. Marvel is around but it’s much smaller. They only have one full time employee, actually. Have you heard of Stan Lee? He WAS Marvel for a long time, and in 1961 he wrote a story that would revolutionize comics foreve...

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We’ve talked about several wars on this series, but here’s a first: DC and Marvel engaging with each other, sniping, making fun, and getting their fans involved in the argument. A series of editor’s letters, guest columns, and fan mail printed in the comics themselves has everyone choosing sides.


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March 29, 2018 21 min

As Marvel’s richer storylines captivate more readers, DC just can’t keep up, or fully understand Marvel’s success. They even try directly copying Marvel’s style, but go about it in the worst way. Just when it looks like DC’s days at the top are numbered, they throw one final Hail Mary that steals away one of Marvel’s finest artists.


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It’s 1970 and the unthinkable just happened. Jack Kirby, one of the men who made Marvel, has defected to DC. With him he brought an idea that may just end Marvel for good. But as soon as DC seems to be pulling back into the lead, something else goes wrong - there’s a spy in their midst.


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