James Bond’s next mission should be a TV spin-off as 007 contemplates his future in the streaming era, according to experts, but the secret agent’s gatekeepers are wary of moving away from the multiplex.
The Bond films have proved a consistent draw for millions of cinemagoers since Dr No was released nearly 60 years ago, with the last two entries in the franchise, Skyfall and Spectre, making a combined $2bn (£1.5bn) at the global box office.
However, the rise of Netflix, Disney+, Apple TV+ and Amazon Prime is already reshaping Hollywood as studios scramble to launch their own streaming services and spin-offs. Last year, Netflix’s subscriber numbers rose 22% to 203 million while worldwide box office revenues, hammered by Covid, fell by more than two-thirds.
The world’s biggest film studio, Disney, has achieved critical success with the Marvel offshoot Wandavision and the Star Wars series The Mandalorian on its Disney+ platform, with streaming experts pointing to Bond as an obvious candidate for the switch to TV after his 26th outing in No Time to Die.
“There is always value in expanding the universe of IP due to superfans and audiences for different mediums,” says Andrew Uerkwitz of the US financial firm Jefferies, who adds that Marvel’s successful move into films, TV and video games indicates the potential.
“It would make sense to do the same with the Bond series.”
Singling out Disney’s TV success with the Marvel and Star Wars brands, Michael Pachter, a Netflix analyst at the investment firm Wedbush Securities, says: “I think that valuable IP [intellectual property] and valuable brands can be very successful if used across multiple formats. And absolutely, Bond is that valuable because it has lasted nearly 60 years. It’s a lasting franchise.”
Expectations of a Bond spin-off were raised this year when Amazon bought the studio that distributes the franchise, MGM, for $8.5bn (£6.2bn). This gave Jeff Bezos’s e-commerce behemoth co-ownership of the films with Eon Productions, a family-run business controlled by Barbara Broccoli – the daughter of the original Bond producer, Albert R Broccoli – and her half-brother Michael G Wilson.
Eon retains creative control of the franchise, right down to who plays Bond, the marketing campaigns behind the films and whether 007 appears in a mini-series. So far, Broccoli and Wilson have ruled out a TV foray, even with the backing of a new business partner that is spending $465m alone on one series of its Lord of the Rings TV adaptation.
When Total Film asked Broccoli this year whether she was against a spin-off, she said: “You got it. We make films. We make films for the cinema. That’s what we do.” Wilson added: “We’ve resisted that call for 60 years.”
One British producer with experience of making programmes for streamers, meanwhile, suggests a TV 007 could be construed as “Bond-lite”.
“One of the unique selling points of Bond is it is sumptuous and at massive scale,” says Kate Harwood, the managing director of Euston Films, which has made shows for the US streaming service Hulu.
“I say this with love, but you wouldn’t want to be turning it into Spooks, or [Amazon’s] Jack Ryan. They’re great but doing it with Bond I think you would be cruising for a bruising. It is a brand, a movie brand, but of course you could. But it is not about could. With the Marvel Universe there are lots of different characters and producers can go in at many different levels, but there is only one Bond.”
Instead, Bezos and Amazon – which has 200 million Prime subscribers worldwide – are likely to focus on other MGM properties among the newly acquired studio’s 17,000 TV shows and 4,000 films, which include the Rocky series, Legally Blonde, The Pink Panther and Robocop.
Announcing the deal in May, Bezos said he looked forward to “reimagining” MGM’s vast back catalogue for the 21st Century.
But for the James Bond franchise, the next reincarnation will be whoever replaces Daniel Craig – on the big screen.
Franchises are not just the backbone of today’s cinema but its entire eco-skeleton. Yet how film-makers navigate the evolution of a known brand without alienating nostalgists can decide whether they are set for life or cancelled for ever.
Bond’s gatekeepers can take inspiration from the happy makeover of one of MGM’s key brands. Forty years after Sylvester Stallone’s pugilist threw his first punch, the studio released Creed, starring Black Panther’s Michael B Jordan, directed by the Oscar-nominated Ryan Coogler, and featuring Stallone – and many of the original cast in supporting roles. The strong dotted line to the first films sated fans and kept things kosher, but the franchise was successfully freshened, diversified and lent real credibility by the canny choice of the cast and crew.
Substantial revenue lies untapped in the JK Rowling’s universe, currently hobbled by controversies surrounding the author’s own views, and the tarnished reputation of Johnny Depp, the star of the prequel series Fantastic Beasts (replaced by Mads Mikkelsen for the third instalment). Further diversification will be a prerequisite to bring along the generation that grew up with the first Harry Potter films. The eventual transfer of Rowling’s Cursed Child sequel stage plays to the cinema requires immaculate management.
MGM’s chief untapped asset is the slapstick classics starring Peter Sellers as a hapless detective – which for a younger audience may play like relics from an unimaginably baffling (and dubious) era. Yet this lack of brand awareness may be an advantage for a modern update: clear blue water can easily be pumped between any new iteration and the movies still revisited by a substantially older generation.
Hardcore Star Wars fans are second only to James Bond devotees when it comes to keeping the film-makers up to speed with their suggestions. But while Daniel Craig’s appointment sparked a relatively inoffensive blog outraged by the prospect of a blond Bond, many of the new Star Wars cast – were subject to large-scale racist hate campaigns. How the franchise can evolve while keeping traditionalist aficionados on side presents a considerable challenge.
Fast & Furious
The unlikely success of the soapy saga about a group of ethnically mixed pals in small vests and whopping motors will finally run out of gas in 2024, with a two-part, 10th film finale. Creative later hires such as Jason Statham, Charlize Theron and Helen Mirren have broadened the appeal, but the post-2024 future looks uncertain, with most of the key cast then well into their 50s. A series featuring their sprogs seems the obvious initial offering; a stage transfer involving huge trucks met with mixed reviews.
A Ubiquiti developer has been charged with stealing data from the company and extortion attempts totalling $2m in what prosecutors claim was a vicious campaign to harm the firm’s share price – including allegedly planting fake press stories about the breaches.
US federal prosecutors claimed that 36-year-old Nickolas Sharp had used his “access as a trusted insider” to steal data from his employer’s AWS and GitHub instances before “posing as an anonymous hacker” to send a ransom demand of 50 Bitcoins.
The DoJ statement does not mention Sharp’s employer by name, but a Linkedin account in Sharp’s name says he worked for Ubiquiti as a cloud lead between August 2018 and March 2021, having previously worked for Amazon as a software development engineer.
In an eyebrow-raising indictment [PDF, 19 pages, non-searchable] prosecutors claim Sharp not only pwned his employer’s business from the inside but joined internal damage control efforts, and allegedly posed as a concerned whistleblower to make false claims about the company wrongly downplaying the attack’s severity, wiping $4bn off its market capitalisation.
Criminal charges were filed overnight in an American federal court against Sharp, of Portland, Oregon. The indictment valued the 50 Bitcoins at $1.9m “based on the prevailing exchange rate at the time.”
US attorney Damian Williams said in a US Justice Department statement: “As further alleged, after the FBI searched his home in connection with the theft, Sharp, now posing as an anonymous company whistle-blower, planted damaging news stories falsely claiming the theft had been by a hacker enabled by a vulnerability in the company’s computer systems.”
Sharp is alleged to have downloaded an admin key which gave him “access to other credentials within Company-1’s infrastructure” from Ubiquiti’s AWS servers at 03:16 local time on 10 December 2020, using his home internet connection. Two minutes later, that same key was used to make the AWS API call GetCallerIdentity from an IP address linked to VPN provider Surfshark – to which Sharp was a subscriber, prosecutors claimed.
Later that month, according to the prosecution, he is alleged to have set AWS logs to a one-day retention policy, effectively masking his presence.
Eleven days after the AWS naughtiness, the indictment claims, he used his own connection to log into Ubiquiti’s GitHub infrastructure. “Approximately one minute later,” alleged the indictment, Sharp used Surfshark to ssh into GitHub and clone around 155 Ubiquiti repos to his home computer.
“In one fleeting instance during the exfiltration of data,” said the indictment, “the Sharp IP address was logged making an SSH connection to use GitHub Account-1 to clone a repository.”
For the rest of that night, prosecutors said, logs showed Sharp’s personal IP alternating with a Surfshark exit node while making clone calls. Although it was not spelled out in the court filing, prosecutors appeared to be suggesting that Surfshark VPN was dropping out and revealing “the attacker’s” true IP.
Ubiquiti discovered what was happening on 28 December. Prosecutors claimed Sharp then joined the company’s internal response to the breaches.
In January 2021 Ubiquiti received a ransom note sent from a Surfshark VPN IP address demanding 25 Bitcoins. If it paid an extra 25 Bitcoins on top of that, said the note, its anonymous author would reveal a backdoor in the company’s infrastructure. This appears to be what prompted Ubiquiti to write to its customers that month alerting them to a data breach. Ubiquiti did not pay the ransom, said the indictment.
Shortly after Federal Bureau of Investigation workers raided Sharp’s home, prosecutors claim he “caused false or misleading news stories to be published about the Incident and Company-1’s disclosures and response to the Incident. Sharp identified himself as an anonymous source within Company-1 who had worked on remediating the Incident. In particular, Sharp pretended that Company-1 had been hacked by an unidentified perpetrator who maliciously acquired root administrator access [to] Company-1’s AWS accounts.”
Sharp is innocent unless proven guilty. He is formally charged with breaches of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, transmitting interstate threats, wire fraud and making false statements to the FBI. If found guilty on all counts and handed maximum, consecutive sentences on each, he faces 37 years in prison. ®
Other winners at the Irish Medtech Association awards included Alcon Ireland, West, Vertigenius, Luminate Medical, BioMEC, Jabil Healthcare, Cook Medical and Aerogen.
Limerick-headquartered business Serosep has been named Irish Medtech Company of the Year at a virtual conference hosted today (2 December) by The Irish Medtech Association with Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland.
The Irish Medtech Association which represents the medtech sector in Ireland made the announcement at its annual Medtech Rising conference. This year’s awards ceremony was the first to feature new categories. Alcon Ireland won the Sustainable Medtech company of the Year, while West scooped the Best Medtech Talent Strategy Award.
According to the association’s director Sinéad Keogh, the annual awards ceremony offers the medtech community a chance to “recognise and celebrate the strength and importance of the industry in improving life.”
“The sector has remained resilient despite the challenges of the Covid pandemic, with over 42,000 people now working in the industry, across 450 companies,” she added.
The overall winner, Serosep, is a self-funded, family run business, which manufactures clinical diagnostic products at its base in Annacotty, Co Limerick. It serves more than 35 different countries spread over 5 continents. The company is 25 years in business and employs 114 people. Earlier this year, it announced a five-year contract to supply its gastroenteritis diagnostic system to Liverpool University Hospital. The company already supplies the NHS.
Serosep CEO and founder Dermot Scanlon, said he was “humbled” to receive the award, adding that the company’s innovative diagnostic test tools have “changed the way gastroenteritis is tested in clinical laboratories.”
“We are currently manufacturing in excess of one million tests in our state-of-the-art facility,” he said, explaining that the award would motivate the whole company to “continue forging ahead, achieving bigger and better things.”
Other award winners included:
Trinity College Dublin spin-out Vertigenius, winner of the eHealth Innovation of the Year Award. Vertigenius is a platform which aims to enhance clinical and patient engagement in the treatment of balance problems.
Luminate Medical, winners of the Emerging Medtech Company of the Year Award. The NUI Galway spin-out has developed a technology to prevent chemotherapy induced hair loss.
NUI Galway’s Biomechanics Research Centre (BioMEC) won the Academic Contribution to Medtech Award. The company’s technology integrates the latest in silico computational models to simulate the mechanical performance of implanted coronary stents.
Bray-based Jabil Healthcare scooped the Medtech Partner/Supplier of the Year Award for its new Covid-19 PCR testing device.
Cook Medical received the Women in Leadership Company initiative Award for its commitment to gender balance in the workplace.
The Covid-19 Response Recognition Award was awarded to Aerogen which has developed an inhaled vaccine station. The company’s products have been used on more than 3m critically ill people since March 2020, according to Enterprise Ireland’s head of life sciences, Deirdre Glenn. Aerogen won last year’s Medtech Company of the Year award.
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The Morrison government insists it is negotiating with the states about “future uses” for its troubled Covidsafe app despite it not being used during the outbreaks that prompted lockdowns in Victoria, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.
The government is also refusing to release how many Australians continue to use the app, with one tech expert accusing the government of trying to avoid disclosing embarrassing data rather than admit it had failed to achieve its purpose.
Since vaccination rates reached more than 90% of the eligible population in most states, contact tracing is slowly being scaled back, with health authorities limiting the number of people contacted and asked to test and isolate.
Even when contact tracing played a critical role in reducing the number of cases, the app was of little assistance.
Almost none of the contacts were identified through the federal government’s CovidSafe contact tracing app despite well over 7 million people in Australia downloading it last year and the prime minister, Scott Morrison, declaring it the ticket out of lockdown.
Since launching in April last year, just 17 “close contacts” in NSW were found directly through the app that were not otherwise identified through manual contact tracing methods.
Guardian Australia has been engaged in a year-long freedom of information battle with the Digital Transformation Agency to reveal how many people continued to use the app after installing it.
This month the agency said releasing the information would hurt negotiations with the states over the app’s future uses.
“The Commonwealth is engaged in ongoing consultations and discussions with the states and territories on a framework around the use of Covidsafe data and data derived from Covidsafe data as a key tool for contact tracing,” DTA’s chief technology officer, Anthony Warnock, told the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner in a letter provided to Guardian Australia.
When asked about these discussions, both NSW and Victoria said the app had not been used at all in 2021.
“To date, it has not been necessary to use the Covidsafe app with any case clusters in 2021,” a NSW Health spokesperson said. “NSW Health’s contact tracing team has access to a variety of information to contain the spread of Covid-19 and keep the community safe.”
The ACT also said the app had never been used in the capital and, as of September, Queensland said it had used the app twice, with one contact identified but no positive cases identified.
It’s also unclear what future uses the federal government is considering.
Electronic Frontiers Australia’s chair, Justin Warren, who has been involved in complex FOI battles with the government, suggested the only reason the the release of the information would be damaging was if it showed far fewer people continued to use the app.
“The DTA appears to be trying to argue that we can’t learn the truth about just how big a lemon the Covidsafe app is because then people might know it’s a lemon and act accordingly,” he said. “It’s clear to me that they wouldn’t try to make this argument if the app was useful.”
The app costs around $75,000 a month to run, and a spokesperson for the federal health department said there were “no plans” to shut it down until the health minister determined it was no longer required.
Experts in the tech community last year called for the app to be modified using the Apple-Google exposure notification framework, which would work similarly to the UK’s NHS app and alert people when they had been in contact with a confirmed Covid-19 case.
A study published in Nature in May about how effective the NHS app in England and Wales had been between September and December last year found that for every positive case who agreed to alert their contacts, one case was averted.
But a ministerial brief prepared by the DTA in May 2020, released this week on the transparency website Right to Know, reveals that the government believed it would require massive changes to the app and privacy laws to accommodate the change.
“The app would need to be significantly redesigned and rebuilt,” the agency said. “The ENF cannot simply be embedded into the current app. The health portal would also need to be redesigned and rebuilt.”
The DTA warned that a new privacy assessment would need to be undertaken, legislation might need to be amended, all current users would need to download and re-register through the app, and contact data could not be transferred.
The briefing also noted that the alerts people received through the app “may cause alarm” if contact tracers were not involved in the process.
But the agency said a change to the Apple/Google version would improve connectivity between devices and might encourage people who had hesitated to download the original app.
“Certain users who have avoided the app may perceive that the ENF provides stronger privacy protections through this largely decentralised non-government-controlled model.”
Victoria now automatically alerts people who were at high-risk venues through the Service Victoria app, and advises them to test and isolate, but does not do any further contact tracing except when someone tests positive.
NSW is planning to ditch QR code check-ins from all but high-risk venues from 15 December, or when the state reaches 95% of the eligible population having two doses of the vaccine.