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Fox News Plans a Streaming Service for ‘Superfans’

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Thanks to a relentless news cycle — and a dedicated fan in the Oval Office — Fox News has defied the downward trends in the television business, notching its highest-rated year in 2017 even as audiences dwindled for many networks.

But the mass migration of viewers away from traditional cable and satellite packages is accelerating. And now Fox News is plotting a leap into the uncertain digital future that rivals like CNN have so far put off.

On Tuesday, Fox News is set to announce Fox Nation, a stand-alone subscription service available without a cable package. The streaming service, expected to start by the end of the year, would focus primarily on right-leaning commentary, with original shows and cameos by popular personalities like Sean Hannity.

It would not overlap with Fox News’s 24-hour cable broadcast — not even reruns — because of the channel’s contractual agreements with cable operators. Instead, the network is planning to develop hours of new daily programming with a mostly fresh slate of anchors and commentators.

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“Fox Nation is designed to appeal to the Fox superfan,” John Finley, who oversees program development and production for Fox News, said in an interview. “These are the folks who watch Fox News every night for hours at a time, the dedicated audience that really wants more of what we have to offer.”

Mr. Finley said the network was still discussing the cost of a subscription.

The Fox News venture joins an increasingly crowded — and increasingly niche — marketplace for web-only streaming television.

ESPN is starting its subscription service, ESPN Plus, in the spring. About five million viewers signed up last year for HBO and Cinemax digital subscriptions. Last week, CBS said it counted five million subscriptions to its CBS and Showtime streaming services, and it plans to add two more stand-alone products, CBS Sports HQ and an offering branded for “Entertainment Tonight.”

Fox Nation, depending on its popularity, may prove more consequential to the country’s political life than the average streaming service.

Fox News already commands the attention of President Trump and many voters in his base. The digital product would bring viewers an additional dose of opinion programming beyond staples like “Hannity” and “Fox & Friends.” Live events, like question-and-answer forums, would encourage more direct interaction with anchors and commentators.

Fox News viewers “value our product so much, they go to hotels and if they can’t have Fox, they send us emails. They go on cruises, and if they can’t have Fox, they send us emails,” Mr. Finley said. “This is a way for us to meet that demand.”

Whether the venture would be a moneymaker is up in the air.

Fox News reaps more than $1 billion in annual profit, providing ample funds to hire a new team for Fox Nation, which is not expected to initially carry advertising. Mr. Finley declined to estimate his start-up costs, and streaming services in conservative media have had a mixed record of success.

The Blaze, a web-only service founded by the host Glenn Beck in 2011 after he left Fox News, struggled to attract interest and eventually morphed into a more traditional network distributed by cable and satellite providers. Bill O’Reilly, who was fired by Fox News in April, started a subscription service on his website that has earned little attention.

Mr. Finley said Fox Nation was not comparable to a personality-driven product. “This is not starting from scratch here,” he said. “Glenn Beck had a ton of viewers when he was here on Fox. When he left, it didn’t seem to me that they followed him. People are loyal to the Fox brand.”

The median Fox News viewer is 65 years old, according to Nielsen, but the network points to its website traffic and heavy presence on Facebook and other social media platforms as evidence that a web-only service can appeal to its audience.

Among Fox News’s main rivals, MSNBC has no stand-alone product. CNN has a streaming service, CNNgo, which offers some free original programming, but it otherwise requires an existing cable or satellite subscription. Jeff Zucker, CNN’s president, said in December that he was considering a digital product for the channel’s “Great Big Story” brand, which is aimed at younger viewers.

Fox News, though, is facing some new competition on its conservative flank. The potential expansion of the Sinclair Broadcast Group may bring more conservative programming to local television stations. Peter Thiel, the technology investor and Trump supporter, is said to be interested in creating a right-leaning media organization based in Los Angeles.

Asked if Fox Nation was a response to pressures from cord-cutting and other industry trends, Mr. Finley said Fox News loyalists “are not cutting the cord anytime soon.”

“I don’t think this is about competing with our rivals. It’s about serving our audience,” he added. “We know who our audience is. We know what they want.”

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The G-7 heads to Cornwall, home of the Eden Project

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This June, leaders from countries including the U.S., U.K., Germany and Japan will congregate in Cornwall, a picturesque county in the southwest of England, to take part in the G-7 summit.

The small coastal resort of Carbis Bay will be the epicenter of the talks, with larger towns including St Ives and Falmouth set to play a supporting role.

While Cornwall is rightly famed for its natural beauty, fishing communities and pristine beaches, it’s also home to one of the most interesting developments in Britain: the Eden Project.

A popular tourist attraction located near the town of St Austell — around an hour’s drive from Carbis Bay — the Eden Project was officially opened in 2001.

The site is instantly recognizable thanks to its “Biomes,” which are bubble-like structures housing vast indoor gardens packed with plants from across the world.

Below, CNBC looks at some of the other design features and technologies which have helped the Eden Project stand out from the crowd and attract millions of visitors over the years.

Monitoring tech

In a bid to cut its energy consumption, the Eden Project — which is temporarily closed to visitors because of the coronavirus pandemic — makes use of a building management system, or BMS.

Its official site describes this as resembling “a giant TV remote” which enables “very tight control of our heating and electrical systems.”

The BMS monitors usage within the Biomes, offices and other buildings at the complex and ensures the site never uses more than it needs.

Energy efficiency and insulation

In addition to the BMS, a range of on-the-ground technologies are being deployed to boost the energy efficiency of the Eden Project.

These include the installation of LED lighting and use of high-efficiency boilers.

Buildings at the site have also been designed to make the most of natural light and ventilation, while an emphasis has also been placed on the use of “super insulation.”

Hexagonal cushions on the Biomes’ steel structure are used to capture air between two layers of a material called ethylene tetrafluoroethylene, creating a “thermal blanket.”

Elsewhere, insulation comes in the form of recycled newspapers, while a green roof located on a building used by staff attracts wildlife and helps keep things cool during the summer and warm in winter months.

Renewables

While the site has placed a great deal of focus on energy efficiency, it’s also embracing renewable energy technologies.

A 30 kilowatt (kW) solar power system has been installed on the rooftop of the Eden Project’s Core building — which is used for education purposes — while a 5 kW wind turbine is located near the site’s car park.

These technologies are supplemented by a deal with Good Energy, which supplies the Eden Project with 100% renewable energy.

5G connectivity

Just last week, it was announced a consortium headed up by the Eden Project was one of nine picked to take part in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s “5G Testbeds and Trials Programme.”

Called Eden Universe, the Eden Project consortium will benefit from a grant of £1.6 million ($2.18 million), with a 5G network and 360-degree video technology set to be installed on-site.

Among other things, the tech will allow teams at the Eden Project to create and test a range of augmented and virtual reality programs and “experiences” for visitors.

Sustainable transport

In addition to the tech which has been integrated into the fabric of the Eden Project’s buildings, efforts are also being made to encourage the use of sustainable transport.

To this end, discounts are available for visitors who cycle, walk or use combined coach, bus and train tickets.

Staff at the Eden Project can also make use of an 18-strong fleet of zero-emission electric vehicles from French carmaker Renault.

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IEA cuts 2021 demand outlook on renewed Covid lockdown measures

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A worker holds a fuel pump nozzle at a gas station in Shah Alam, Malaysia, on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021.

Samsul Said | Bloomberg | Getty Images

LONDON — The International Energy Agency on Tuesday cut its 2021 global oil demand forecast, citing soaring Covid-19 cases and renewed lockdown measures that will further limit mobility.

The IEA said it now expects world oil demand to recover by 5.5 million barrels per day to 96.6 million this year. That reflects a downward revision of 0.3 million barrels from last month’s assessment and follows an unprecedented collapse of 8.8 million barrels per day last year as the coronavirus pandemic battered global oil markets.

The IEA’s latest oil market report comes as countries continue to implement strict public health measures in an attempt to curb virus spread, with lockdowns imposed in Europe and parts of China.

The Paris-based energy agency said oil demand growth was projected to fall slightly during the first three months of the year in the wake of tougher government plans that call for additional travel restrictions.

This is expected to curb worldwide mobility once again, prompting the IEA to trim its first-quarter forecast for oil demand growth to 94.1 million barrels per day. That would see oil demand return to near year-ago levels and reflects a downward revision of 0.6 million barrels from December’s oil market report.

“The global vaccine roll-out is putting fundamentals on a stronger trajectory for the year, with both supply and demand shifting back into growth mode following 2020’s unprecedented collapse,” the IEA said in its closely-watched report.

“But it will take more time for oil demand to recover fully as renewed lockdowns in a number of countries weigh on fuel sales,” it added.

Oil prices

Oil prices have rallied in recent weeks, supported by optimism over Covid vaccine rollouts and a surprise oil production cut from OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia.

However, the relatively slow pace of inoculations has raised doubts over how soon economies can recover.

International benchmark Brent crude futures traded at $55.26 a barrel on Tuesday morning, up more than 0.9%, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate futures stood at $52.51, around 0.3% higher.

Both benchmarks fell more than 2.2% in the previous session, notching their worst daily performance since Dec. 21.

Oil pumping jacks, also known as “nodding donkeys,” in a Rosneft Oil Co. oilfield near Sokolovka village, in the Udmurt Republic, Russia, on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020.

Andrey Rudakov | Bloomberg | Getty Images

OPEC and its non-OPEC allies, an alliance sometimes referred to as OPEC+, cut oil production by a record amount in 2020 in an effort to support crude prices, as strict public health measures worldwide coincided with a fuel demand shock.

OPEC+ initially agreed to cut output by 9.7 million barrels per day, before easing cuts to 7.7 million and eventually scaling back further to 7.2 million from January. OPEC’s de facto leader Saudi Arabia has since said it plans to cut output by an extra 1 million barrels per day in February and March to stop inventories from building up.

Last week, OPEC kept its 2021 forecast for worldwide oil demand unchanged. The 13-member group anticipated demand growth to increase by 5.9 million barrels per day year on year to average 95.9 million.

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How to stay motivated during a cold, winter Covid lockdown

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