Former BBC director general Mark Thompson just made an ominous prediction about the broadcaster’s future

Mark Thompson

Former BBC director general Mark Thompson thinks the British broadcaster is going to have to make some "serious" on-screen cuts if it is going to manage its new funding deal.

As part of its licence fee settlement last year, the BBC agreed to shoulder the £745 million ($978 million) cost of free TV licences for over-75 year olds from 2018/19. The bill currently comes out of the Department for Work and Pensions' budget.

As a result, the BBC's savings target has ballooned to £800 million ($1 billion) and it accepts that this will result in services being closed or cut.

Director general Tony Hall said last year: "It’s inevitable that we’ll be searching for much bigger savings from the vast majority of our spending that is not overheads.”

But Thompson, now the New York Times Company chief executive, hammered the message home in an appearance on Radio 4's Media Show on Wednesday.

Asked by presenter Steve Hewlett if the savings can be achieved "without cutting something very serious," Thompson replied: "No."

He added:

"We are getting to the point now where the consequences of effectively reducing the licence fee are going to be shown in a lot of range and — I hope not — but possibly, a lot of quality. So I think it’s serious. This is happening across Europe and across the world, public broadcasters are facing the same pressures."

There has always been speculation about the BBC that services might be in the firing line.

BBC3's move online in February has already delivered £30 million ($39 million) of savings, while some BBC insiders fear that BBC4 could be next in line for the chop. The broadcaster recently ruled out closing the BBC News channel.

Other cuts could be more subtle. As part of a previous savings plan, known as Delivering Quality First, the BBC axed daytime content on BBC2, while it has also relinquished sports rights, including Formula One.

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See inside the $10,000 per night penthouse Airbnb is giving to celebrities for free


It seems as though Airbnb is trying out something new for its celebrity guests: subletting for free.

According to a report from TMZ, the San Francisco-based home rental startup is providing a multimillion-dollar penthouse through October for two celebrity guests: Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. The home usually costs guests $10,000 per night, but TMZ reports that Airbnb is picking up the tab. 

It's not clear what Airbnb is getting out of the deal, but previous reports said that Kim Kardashian will likely post on social media about the apartment throughout her time there. She has already posted on Instagram about the place and tagged Airbnb.

Boasting a rooftop pool, five bedrooms, six bathrooms, and a home gym, the penthouse is reportedly on the market for $24.5 million. The "insane" penthouse is listed by real estate agent Andrew Azoulay, but reportedly is owned by hedge funder Harsh Padia. In September 2015, the penthouse was on the market for an asking price of $30 million

Take a tour of the 7,000-square-foot home. 

The rooftop offers views of the Hudson River and the New York City skyline.

It has its own private pool.

There's plenty of seating, including a dining table that seats eight.

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Mylan’s decision to make a cheaper, generic EpiPen ‘baffles’ experts (MYL)


Mylan, the drugmaker feeling the heat over its pricing of the EpiPen, said Monday that it will make an "authorized generic" version of the EpiPen that will cost $300 for a two-pack. It will also continue to produce its branded version, with a list price of $600.

To fend off public outrage over the EpiPen's cost (up 500% since Mylan acquired the drug back in 2007), the company had also previously raised its copay coupon system to cover $300 of people's out of pocket cost. But that discount did little to get them out of the woods.

Mylan said it plans to launch the generic product in "several weeks," depending on when it can whip up the new labels. But this authorized generic of the EpiPen, a device used in emergencies to treat a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis, seems to be more confusing than anything else.

"I and others who study these issues full time cannot understand why Mylan thought this would work to quell the widespread indignation over its pricing practices," Rachel Sachs, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis, wrote in a Harvard Law blog post about how the company's decision "baffles" experts. 

Why make an authorized generic?

For a set period of time, a drugmaker has the chance to have an exclusive on the market for a drug it developed. But once that time is up, other companies can come in with their competing versions that are virtually identical to the original.

Authorized generics are basically a drugmaker's way of staying in the game after generic competition comes to the market. The Food and Drug Administration keeps track of all the authorized generics that the makers of original branded products have created.

An authorized generic is identical to the original drug, but it doesn't come with all the bells and whistles of the branded product. In this case, the pen will be the same, but the packaging might be a different color or carry just the "epinephrine auto-injectors" title.

Much of the time, the authorized generic comes in after there's already generic competition from other companies. But here, Teva Pharmaceuticals, the company developing a generic epinephrine auto-injector did not get approval from the Food and Drug Administration, with the agency citing "certain major deficiencies." (There is a less expensive epinephrine injector that's on the market, the Adrenaclick, but it doesn't work in exactly the same way.)

So, with the authorized generic, Mylan can "effectively cannibalize their own business," Michael Rea, the CEO of Rx Savings Solutions, which works to help consumers and employers paying for healthcare understand their drug prices, told Business Insider.

At the same time, Mylan has set up the rules of the game for when other generic epinephrine auto-injectors make it to the market. "Mylan has now benchmarked a new price for those products if they return – they must price below $300 for a two-pack to compete effectively with Mylan," Sachs wrote.

Keeping its share of the epinephrine market

The move might look good on paper as a way to improve access, but there are still a bunch of things that could stand in its way while benefiting Mylan's branded version. 

Sachs put it well in her post, summing up a few open questions:

"I wonder whether their generic will be fully substitutable by pharmacists, a question which may depend on the state laws involved (and which Mylan has lobbied to influence). I wonder whether the EpiPen comes with training or other easy-to-use tools that will be missing from the generic, and as long as Mylan provides copay coupons only for the branded product, parents facing equivalent copays in either situation will choose the branded EpiPen. I wonder whether Mylan will not offer discounts off the list price for the generic (except those required by law for Medicaid), meaning that the actual prices paid by insurers will be roughly comparable.  And finally, because a significant portion of EpiPen purchasing happens during the back-to-school season, Mylan has done little harm to its revenues this year.  It is only next year that this product may affect their bottom line."

The answers to those questions, which Mylan has yet to offer, could significantly influence exactly how the introduction of the authorized generic will affect the bigger picture.

If the generic version isn't allowed to be substituted by pharmacists, for example, those without insurance could still be on the hook for the full price of the branded EpiPen. Those with insurance and a high deductible would end up paying the same amount either way, so why not choose the branded product?

And, depending on how discounts to authorized generic shake out, Mylan could stand to make more off the $300 generic than their original product.

By Mylan's own argument, the company makes $274 from every EpiPen sold. The rest of the list price all gets absorbed through the different members of the supply chain.

But say Mylan doesn't have to deal with some of those middlemen who make money along the way, and can just distribute the drug to pharmacies — something that they'd have an easier time doing with generic versions. That cuts out the wholesalers and the pharmacy benefit managers, which are in charge of negotiating drug prices, along with the charges that would come along with their involvement. That would mean Mylan would get to pocket almost 10% more, in total, than they otherwise would.

"They don’t get a gold star for suddenly being charitable," Rea said.

Mylan declined to comment on this, but did point to an analyst report from Susquehanna Financial Group's Andrew Finklestein. The report estimated that Mylan's net earnings per generic two-pack would be more than $200, but still down from the branded product's $274. Mylan's revenue for both the branded and authorized generic EpiPen, Finklestein forecasted, could still come in above $1 billion in 2017. In 2015, Finklestein noted, the EpiPen made $1.02 billion, though in 2016 it's expected to bring in $1.21 billion.

It remains to be seen, when the authorized generic comes out, how it will actually impact Mylan's EpiPen sales. By that point, other generic options (auto-injectors and single-use syringes alike) could be there to set the tone for the next back-to-school season.

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Behold! This is now the thinnest laptop in the world

acer swift 7Thin laptops are good. Though they aren’t powerhouses, they’ve gotten stronger as the years have passed, and they’ve always taken a load off your back while you’re on the go.

A laptop as thin as the Acer Swift 7, however, is going for opulence as much as convenience.

It’s not just slim — it is, as of this writing, the slimmest laptop in the world, measuring 0.39 inches at its thinnest point. That beats out HP’s Spectre from earlier this year, and makes it the first notebook to crack the sub-centimeter mark.

Let’s take a look at the rest of the machine, which Acer on Wednesday unveiled at this year’s IFA show.

The Acer Swift 7 is the flagship entry in Acer’s new Swift series of laptops. It's all about design. Aside from the slimness, its aluminum, black-and-gold chassis is both very light (at 2.48 pounds), and fanless, meaning it should stay quiet as it’s running.

Ultra-portables like this can sometimes sacrifice horsepower in an attempt to be as thin as possible, but, on paper, it doesn’t seem as if the Swift will have too many issues. It comes with a brand new 7th gen Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD. Alongside that is a 13.3-inch, 1080p non-touch display. None of this is particularly special, but it should at least be competent.

It’s worth mentioning that this Core i5 chip comes from Intel’s “Y series,” which is the low-power alternative than its brawnier U series counterpart. Still, it shouldn’t be too slow.

Being so slim means the Swift 7 doesn't have lots of connectivity options, but it does still manage to fit a pair of fast USB-C ports (over USB 3.1). Also, yes, there’s a headphone jack.

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Here’s everything we know so far about ‘Stranger Things’ season 2

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Netflix has announced that its hit series "Stranger Things" is returning for a second season in 2017. But fans still have a lot of open questions about where the plot will go.

So who's coming back? What new thrills do show creators Matt and Ross Duffer have in store for us? And are we returning to the Upside Down?

The brothers have thrown out some hints.

Here's everything we know so far about season two.

Season two will pick up a year later.

Though the Duffers thought about starting the story a full decade after the events of season one, they decided to stay close to what we saw unfold.

"There’s still things that are unresolved," Ross Duffer told Entertainment Weekly

Most of the main characters are returning.

Rejoice, people who loved "Stranger Things" for the same reason they loved "The Goonies"! The gang is back.

You can expect Will (Noah Schnapp), Mike (Finn Wolhard), Dustin (Gaten Matazarro), Joyce (Winona Ryder), Hopper (David Harbour), and many more from season one to return.

But it's still murky if Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) will reunite with the other kids.

“We don’t know about Eleven,” Ross Duffer told EW. “We leave that up in the air.” 

There will also be four new characters.

Though the Duffers are staying mum on any specifics, EW reports that one episode in season two is titled "The Lost Brother," which might be an introduction to one of the new characters. 

“There’s going to be a lot of new and interesting dynamics that we didn’t see in season one,” Matt Duffer told The Wrap.

See the rest of the story at Tech Insider