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Business Wars Podcast by David Brown

Business Wars Podcast

by David Brown

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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.


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  • Hearst vs Pulitzer - The Price of News | 3
    Thu, Jun 14, 2018


    In 1883, 15 years before the Headless Torso Murder, New York City's population was rapidly growing and the newspaper scene was pretty sleepy. The city's nearly 50 daily papers, even the small New York Times, was a pretty sedate bunch, informing citizens about zoning board decisions and weather trends. They rarely draw any blood, stir up society, get the city talking.

    But that’s changing, thanks to Joseph Pulitzer.


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  • Hearst vs Pulitzer - The Headless Torso, Part 2 | 2
    Tue, Jun 12, 2018


    In 1897, America looked very different. Carriages rolled through the streets of New York. Mass media was just growing up, and Hearst was convinced that carrier pigeons - hunted to extinction by 1914 - were what would give his paper the edge during the early days of the Headless Torso case.

    This case belonged to the whole city. Everyone - barkeeps in Brooklyn and bankers on the Upper East Side alike are invested in the mystery… and what happened to his head.

    For more American History Tellers, subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to Business Wars.


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  • Hearst vs Pulitzer - The Headless Torso, Part 1 | 1
    Thu, Jun 07, 2018


    This is the beginning of a mystery, a great business rivalry, and a look into American history. To tell the story of Hearst vs Pulitzer, we called our friend Lindsay Graham over at American History Tellers for help.

    The Headless Torso mystery is about a jilted husband, a German midwife, a muscleman and more colorful characters. The city’s been mesmerized for months, and in Gilded Age New York, most people just couldn’t resist pressing their pennies into a newsboy’s ink-stained hand to find out the latest.

    You can listen to more episodes of American History Tellers wherever you listen to Business Wars.


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  • Nintendo vs Sony - Interview with Vance Wallace | 7
    Tue, Jun 05, 2018


    We're wrapping our coverage of the console wars between Nintendo and Sony. David is joined by Vance Wallace, who knows video games from both sides of the controller. In the '90s, Vance was one of the best players in the world for Quake. He's also a game designer who worked on the first Lara Croft Tomb Raider games for Nintendo Wii.

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  • Nintendo vs Sony - No Surrender | 6
    Thu, May 31, 2018


    After years of sitting on the sidelines of the next-generation console war, Nintendo is finally ready to make its move. But, the years it’s spent building it’s reassuring family-friendly reputation is now a weakness. Nintendo children of the 80s are all grown up, and want adult games. Sony is able to release edgier fare like Grand Theft Auto and Tomb Raider. The half-decade cold war between Sony and Nintendo is about to turn hot. Their next head-to-head battle is a multi-billion dollar clash that will define the future of video games. And in the real world, just one of them can prevail.


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  • Nintendo vs Sony - The Sleeping Giant | 5
    Tue, May 29, 2018


    Nintendo decided early on that the Nintendo 64 would be a cartridge console, instead of a CD console. But CDs are much cheaper to make and have much better graphics. Game companies are upset, and defect to Sony. In a few months time, Sony has two of the most popular game series in Japan to itself. Nintendo will now have to make its own games that are strong enough to outsell PlayStation. It’s Nintendo vs the world. They’re taking a huge gamble, and this is not a game.


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  • Nintendo vs Sony - Game Time | 4
    Thu, May 24, 2018


    This is a story about Sony and Nintendo, but it also involves a little company called Sega. Ever play Sonic the Hedgehog? That’s Sega. And during Nintendo’s domination of the US market, they were the only company able to fight back. That is, until they tried to outplay Sony.


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  • Nintendo vs Sony - Charm Offensive | 3
    Tue, May 22, 2018


    From the moment it began, the PlayStation project was in danger. The problem was none other than PlayStations knight and chief advocate: Kutaragi. He thought the now-iconic handlebar controller design was “too different” from the flat rectangles people were used to. To make matters worse, PlayStation was getting closer and closer to launching without any games… a console with no games? Good luck with the PlayStation now, Sony. They were in trouble. And Nintendo knew it.


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  • Nintendo vs Sony - Man of Steel | 2
    Thu, May 17, 2018


    It's 1949. 22-year old Hiroshi Yamauchi is the heir apparent for his family's playing card company, Nintendo. From humble beginnings as a scrappy street stall founded in Kyoto's back alleys to the largest card company in Japan by the time Yamauchi takes over, this isn't a company that backs down easily when a little competition comes in. But it was a company that changed it's entire business over a couple of... cartoon characters.

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  • Nintendo vs Sony - Stabbed in the Back | 1
    Tue, May 15, 2018


    Once a symbol of 80s teenage nerdom, video games are now as common as television sets in American households. Can you imagine a world where the Sony PlayStation didn’t come out? That’s what almost happened. Originally conceived as a joint venture between Nintendo and Sony, the SNES-CD was supposed to be the bridge between Japan’s two largest tech companies. Instead, it drove the companies to war, an intense competition for entertainment domination that still goes on today.


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  • Gregor Mendel vs the World - American Innovations | 2
    Thu, May 10, 2018




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  • The First Computer War - Computing Gets Personal | 6
    Tue, May 08, 2018


    After all that IBM has been through over the decades, it would have never in a million years guessed that their undoing would be at the hands of a scrawny and unknown computer nerd named Bill Gates. Gates sees the future, but can IBM catch up? Will they still be on top 50 years from now? Only time will tell.

    We hope you enjoyed this series on the first computer wars, and I want to give a special shout out to our fans, The Elfenbein family!


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  • The First Computer War - Betting the Store | 5
    Thu, May 03, 2018


    It’s 1961. Since his father retired 5 years earlier, Thomas Watson Jr pushed to modernize IBM from the top down. New management, new ideas, newer, faster, machines. The company has grown, employing 1,000 people, they’ve dominated the emerging computer market... and managed to frustrate the public all at the same time. IBM’s new technology is confusing and the only way out may be to create a Civil War, burning IBM from the inside out. Will they be able to agree, or will infighting cost them the entire company?

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  • The First Computer War - Abdication | 4
    Tue, May 01, 2018


    In Episode 1 the UNIVAC successfully predicted that Eisenhower would win the 1952 election. In Philadelphia, a champagne hangover quickly settled in over the Remington Rand building, the company elated at its success. But over at IBM, a company that doesn't allow its employees to drink, they’re working, furiously. And Watson Jr. is ready to take the 701 to market in a few months. Visiting the 701 is soon the hottest ticket in town, and The Watsons and IBM sit back to watch. They feel the momentum shifting back in IBM’s favor once again.


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  • The First Computer War - IBM versus The UNIVAC | 3
    Thu, Apr 26, 2018


    What’s a 16% market share when the public thinks you have more? A potential anti-trust suit, if you’re IBM.Watson Jr. sees a potential lawsuit as a way out from under his father’s control. Sr. sees his company rotting away in the hands of a kid who can’t handle it. But when the antitrust suit comes through in 1952, Jr’s in charge. Can he actually handle the business he desperately wanted?

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  • The First Computer War - Father, Son, and The Future | 2
    Tue, Apr 24, 2018


    How do you really “get ahead” in a war? Sometimes you don’t have to do anything, you just wait for your opponent to fumble.

    And in the late 1940s, IBM’s CEO Thomas Watson Sr., did. He’s just beginning to grasp the potential of these electronic machines, and - although older than most other CEOs is desperate to stay on top. He takes his volatile temper and insecurities out on the one person who could have helped him out of this freefall: his son.


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  • The First Computer War - The Electronic Brain | 1
    Thu, Apr 19, 2018


    With so much information at our fingertips, it’s hard to remember that we haven’t always walked around with supercomputers in our pockets. In fact, in 1952, CBS thought that Americans would find it SO hard to imagine that a machine could even predict election results accurately that they built a pretend computer and resorted to, well, fake news, to make the public believe. This is Univac vs. IBM, and this is the First Computer War.


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  • Monster vs Beats by Dre | 1
    Tue, Apr 17, 2018


    With all the hype around portable and smart speakers, it's easy to forget that they didn't always exist. In fact, it took one fateful meeting with Monster Cables and Interscope Records to really kick the industry off.

    We'll talk about when headphones became fashion, what it takes to get people to shell out $350 for a pair, and what happens when a million dollar mistake becomes a billion dollar mistake.

    We hope you enjoy Monster and Beats by Dre duking it out for speaker domination in our first Business Battle. We'll be back next week with a full arc on The First Computer Wars.

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  • Marvel vs DC - Interview with Jason Mewes and Reed Tucker | 7
    Thu, Apr 12, 2018


    What's that? Up in the sky?It's another episode of Business Wars. Today we're talking to two super guests, Reed Tucker is a journalist living in New York City, and the author of the book Slugfest: Inside the Epic 50-Year Battle Between Marvel and DC and! Reed is the author of the Marvel/DC episodes of Business Wars.

    After we talk to Reed we sit down with Jason Mewes. Jason, or Jay, as you may know him, is a comic book fanatic and long time Kevin Smith collaborator. You've seen his face in things like Clerks, Mallrats and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.

    And both of them were able to answer faster than a speeding bullet the question we now pose to you: Marvel or DC?


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  • Marvel vs DC - The Cinematic Universe | 6
    Tue, Apr 10, 2018


    After more than 50 years of fighting for the hearts and attention spans of millions of readers, television viewers, and movie-goers - who wins this war? Is it DC, the original comic company company behind classic American heroes that defined the dreams of many young men and women? Or is it Marvel, the young upstart who changed the game and fought tooth and nail to catch up with DC and create their own cinematic universe?

    For now, there’s one clear winner, but expect this war to rage on. No superhero stays dead forever.


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  • Marvel vs DC - Big Screen Heroes | 5
    Thu, Apr 05, 2018


    Appearances on radio programs, television shows and thousands of comic books - all just another day in the life of a superhero. But to get a larger than life hero onto a larger than life screen, there’s one secret ingredient: verisimilitude. As both companies fight for box office domination, a power player from our Netflix/Blockbuster series reveals one company to be just another cold, corporate machine.


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  • Marvel vs DC - Schemes, Scans, and Double Crosses | 4
    Tue, Apr 03, 2018


    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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  • Marvel vs DC - Copycat | 3
    Thu, Mar 29, 2018


    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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  • Marvel vs DC - The Fantastic Mr. Lee | 2
    Tue, Mar 27, 2018


    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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  • Marvel vs DC - Origin Stories | 1
    Wed, Mar 21, 2018


    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 forever.


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  • Nike vs Adidas - Interview with Liz Dolan and David Meltzer | 7
    Tue, Mar 20, 2018


    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. You can listen to that interview here.

    You can hear David on his show, The Playbook, talking to Tony Hawk, Gary Vaynerchuk, Reggie Bush, and more of sports biggest names.

    Subscribe to Safe For Work, Satellite Sisters, and The Playbook in Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to Business Wars.

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  • Nike vs Adidas - The Defectors | 6
    Thu, Mar 15, 2018


    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 made each other better businesses. As the sneaker wars enter a new era, who will come out on top? Time will tell, but if Phil Knight knows anything at all, it’ll be the company who isn’t afraid to fail.


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  • Nike vs Adidas - Rebound | 5
    Tue, Mar 13, 2018


    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 company to a billion-dollar company? Adidas has to find out, and fast.  


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  • Nike vs Adidas - Nike Air | 4
    Thu, Mar 08, 2018


    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.


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  • Nike vs Adidas - Walking Billboards | 3
    Tue, Mar 06, 2018


    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 athletic gear in action… and it’s a race to see who can reach the world’s best athletes first.


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  • Nike vs Adidas - The Starting Line | 2
    Thu, Mar 01, 2018


    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 Adidas.

    50 years later, with a waffle iron and inventory from Onitsuka Tiger, Phil Knight and Bill Bowerman start tinkering with some shoes in Bowerman’s kitchen. The waffle iron didn’t last long, but the shoes did.

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  • Nike vs Adidas - Sneakerheads | 1
    Tue, Feb 27, 2018


    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 Episode 1 of a 7-part series on the brutal business battle between Nike and Adidas.


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  • Netflix vs Blockbuster - Interview with Rich Greenfield | 8
    Thu, Feb 22, 2018


    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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  • Netflix vs Blockbuster - The Way We Watch | 7
    Tue, Feb 20, 2018


    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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  • Netflix vs Blockbuster - Binge | 6
    Thu, Feb 15, 2018


    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 vs Blockbuster - HBO Gets In The Ring | 5
    Tue, Feb 13, 2018


    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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  • Netflix vs Blockbuster - The Digital Divide | 4
    Thu, Feb 08, 2018


    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 have a long way to fall.


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  • Netflix vs Blockbuster - Dirty Tricks | 3
    Tue, Feb 06, 2018


    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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  • Netflix vs Blockbuster - Origins | 2
    Tue, Feb 06, 2018


    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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  • Netflix vs Blockbuster - Sudden Death | 1
    Tue, Feb 06, 2018


    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 8-year total war that left innumerable casualties in its wake: thousands of hollowed out buildings and economic losses in the billions.


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  • Introducing Business Wars
    Fri, Jan 19, 2018


    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.

    Premieres February 6.

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