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US vows 100% tariffs on French Champagne, cheese over digital tax

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France’s President Emmanuel Macron raises his glass in a toast with Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (not pictured) during a dinner in Macron’s honor at the Sydney Opera House in Sydney on May 1, 2018.

Ludovic Marin | AFP | Getty Images

The U.S. government on Monday said it may slap punitive duties of up to 100% on $2.4 billion (£1.87 billion) in imports of French Champagne, handbags, cheese and other products, after concluding that France’s new digital services tax would harm U.S. tech companies.

The U.S. Trade Representative’s office said its “Section 301” investigation found that the French tax was “inconsistent with prevailing principles of international tax policy, and is unusually burdensome for affected U.S. companies”, including Alphabet’s Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon.com.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said the U.S. government was also exploring whether to open similar investigations into the digital services taxes of Austria, Italy and Turkey.

“The USTR is focused on countering the growing protectionism of EU member states, which unfairly targets U.S. companies, whether through digital services taxes or other efforts that target leading U.S. digital services companies.”

The trade agency said it would collect public comments on its proposed tariff list through Jan. 14 and hold a public hearing on Jan. 7. It did not specify an effective date for the proposed 100% duties.

The list targets some products that were spared from 25% tariffs imposed by the United States over disputed aircraft subsidies, including sparkling wines, handbags and make-up preparations — products that would hit French luxury goods giant LVMH and cosmetics maker L’Oreal hard.

The findings won favor from U.S. lawmakers and U.S. tech industry groups.

“The French digital services tax is unreasonable, protectionist and discriminatory,” Senators Charles Grassley and Ron Wyden, the top Republican and Democrat, respectively, on the Senate Finance Committee, said in a joint statement.

A spokeswoman for the French embassy in Washington could not immediately be reached for comment.

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Facebook drops 16 spots on Glassdoor’s list of best places to work

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Facebook Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies at a House Financial Services Committee hearing in Washington, October 23, 2019.

Erin Scott | Reuters

Facebook saw its ranking on Glassdoor’s list of the “Best Places to Work” list slide for a second year in a row, tumbling 16 spots to 23rd. Its desirability ranking dropped from 4.5 to 4.4 out of a perfect 5 according to employees, who use the site to evaluate their employers anonymously.

The top three spots on the 2020 list are held by HubSpot, Bain & Company and DocuSign, respectively.

It’s a precipitous fall for Facebook, which claimed reached the top spot in Glassdoor’s 2018 rankings. It fell to No. 7 in the 2019 list, following reports in March 2018 that political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica had improperly accessed the data of 87 million Facebook users.

Facebook’s drop comes as regulators put the social media company in the crosshairs of antitrust investigations. The 2020 Glassdoor rankings show that employees no longer regard working at the social media company as they once did. After the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the company struggled to recruit college graduates and software engineers, former Facebook recruiters told CNBC in May.

Glassdoor bases its ranking on eight factors, including work/life balance, senior management and compensation and benefits. To be ranked, companies must have at least 1,000 employees and receive at least 75 ratings across the eight categories that Glassdoor takes into consideration during the eligibility period.

Among the complaints, employees told Glassdoor that Facebook is now “painstakingly slow” when it comes to making decisions on matters of privacy due to its numerous scandals over the past two years. Employees also complained that high-profile projects are extremely political and there is a lack of work-life balance.

“There’s been a lot of external criticism that’s been coming toward Facebook,” said Glassdoor Community Expert Sarah Stoddard. “There’s a high expectation for employees to be highly productive which leads to long working hours, and that’s a reason we keep seeing Facebook drop.”

Despite its declining score and fall in the rankings, Facebook remains well above the average Glassdoor company rating of 3.5. Employees praised Facebook’s mission-driven culture, the talent at the company and the perks and benefits.

“Employees continue to call out that the mission of the company is part of what drives them,” Stoddard said.

Facebook was not the only tech company to drop in the rankings. Google dropped three spots, landing at 11th place with an award score of 4.5. Apple dropped 13 spots to 84th and an award score of 4.3. Amazon once again failed to crack the list of 100.

Microsoft, meanwhile, climbed up 13 spots, landing at No. 21 with an award score of 4.4.

Here is Glassdoor’s list.

WATCH: Here’s how to see which apps have access to your Facebook data — and cut them off

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26 million subscribers watched first week

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Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Ray Romano star in Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman.”

Netflix

Netflix has a history of not publicizing many of its viewership metrics, but the company isn’t shying away from saying how many of its subscribers watched “The Irishman,” the Golden Globe-nominated mobster film.

More than 26 million global accounts (26,404,081, to be exact) watched at least 70% of “The Irishman” in the first seven days the film appeared on the Netflix platform, according to Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer. Sarandos spoke Tuesday at UBS’s Global TMT Conference in New York.

Netflix estimates more than 40 million accounts will watch the Martin Scorsese-directed film in the first 28 days, said Sarandos, who noted that it’s likely far more people have actually seen the movie because multiple viewers frequently watch simultaneously using one Netflix account.

Netflix hopes the popularity of “The Irishman” will spur more top content makers to sign deals with the streaming giant to showcase their best creative works. While director Martin Scorsese has implored “The Irishman” viewers not to watch the film on their phones, the shortened window between theatrical release and Netflix debut has allowed many people to view the film who probably wouldn’t have seen it if they had to go to a movie theater. Sarandos noted a night out to a movie theater in New York could cost close to $100 or more when including ticket prices, transportation and other incidentals.

“When you think about that, people understand the value proposition of a big new movie this week at Netflix,” said Sarandos at the UBS conference. “It translates into how they value Netflix.”

“The Irishman,” which stars Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci, is a three-and-a-half hour long drama detailing the life of self-identified mob hitman Frank Sheeran. The movie had a limited theatrical debut on Nov. 1 and launched on Netflix on Nov. 27. “The Irishman” garnered a Golden Globe best drama nomination earlier this week.

Follow @CNBCtech on Twitter for the latest tech industry news.

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NBC says it topped $1B in national ad sales for 2020 Summer Olympics

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Tokyo 2020 mascots, Miraitowa (L) and Someity (R) on stage during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games Two Years To Go Ceremony at Tokyo Skytree on July 24, 2018 in Tokyo, Japan.

Matt Roberts | Getty Images

NBCUniversal has received more than $1 billion in national advertising commitments for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, the company said Tuesday.

On a conference call with reporters Tuesday, executives said this reflects double-digit growth over where it was pacing eight months before the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2016. Dan Lovinger, EVP of Advertising Sales for NBC Sports Group, said the company expects to surpass Rio’s total of $1.2 billion in national ad sales. The Olympics will run between July 24 and August 9, 2020.

There’s interest from new advertisers too, executives said, with more than half of advertisers committing being new to the summer games.

Next summer will be a hot one for media, with an approaching election and proximity to the Democratic National Convention and the Republican National Convention falling before and after opening and closing ceremonies, respectively.

A report from Interpublic Group of Cos.-owned media research group Magna released Monday said national TV ad sales declined by 3% in 2019 to $42 billion this year and will decline further in 2020 “even factoring the incremental ad revenues generated around the Summer Olympics.” Meanwhile, digital media is expected to grow 11% in 2020, to reach 60% of total ad spend.

But NBC executives, who said more than 7,000 hours of coverage will be delivered from Tokyo, are thinking more about audiences than where they’re watching. With so much of linear TV’s audience decamping in favor of digital platforms, executives said the company has created a “single audience guarantee” for whether a viewer is watching via linear television or on a digital platform. The cost of ads range between $1 million and more than $100 million, they said.

Executives said this enables advertisers to “toggle back and forth” to take advantage of spikes in viewership — making so they’re not really delineating between a linear viewer or a digital viewer, they said.

Since NBC exclusively owns the rights to distribute in the U.S. through 2032, executives said they’re able to create partnerships with social platforms and distribute content in various formats depending on how viewers are consuming it. For instance, NBC and Twitter announced over the summer the social media platform will show limited live event coverage and shows.

The advent of digital video has not been kind to linear television, but Mark Marshall, President of Ad Sales and Partnerships, pointed out that events like this are the ones really pulling consumers to tune in.

“There’s less and less big places where people gather; sports is one of those places where people absolutely do gather,” he said. “Sports continue to bring large audiences together.”

Disclosure: CNBC parent NBCUniversal owns NBC Sports and NBC Olympics. NBC Olympics is the U.S. broadcast rights holder to all Summer and Winter Games through the year 2032.

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