Uber launches rider loyalty Rewards like credits & upgrades 9 cities – TechCrunch
Uber’s new loyalty program incentivizes you not to check Lyft or the local competitor. Riders earn points for all the money they spend on Uber and Uber Eats that score them $5 credits, upgrades to nicer cars, access to premium support and even flexible cancellations that waive the fee if they rebook within 15 minutes.
Uber Rewards launches today in nine cities before rolling out to the whole U.S. in the next few months, with points for scooters and bikes coming soon. And as a brilliant way to get people excited about the program, it retroactively counts your last six months of Uber activity to give you perks as soon as you sign up for free for Uber Rewards. You’ll see the new Rewards bar on the homescreen of your app today if you’re in Miami, Denver, Tampa, New York, Washington, DC, Philadelphia, Atlanta, San Diego or anywhere in New Jersey, as Uber wanted to test with a representative sample of the U.S.
The loyalty program ties all of the company’s different transportation and food delivery options together, encouraging customers to stick with Uber across a suite of solutions instead of treating it as interchangeable with alternatives. “As people use Uber more and more in their everyday, we wanted to find a way to reward them for choosing Uber,” says Uber’s director of product for riders Nundu Janakiram. “International expansion is top of mind for us,” adds Holly Ormseth, Uber Rewards’ product manager.
As for the drivers, “They absolutely get paid their full rate,” Ormseth explains. “We understand that offering the benefits has a cost to Uber but we think of it as an investment,” says Janakiram.
So how much Ubering earns you what perks? Let’s break it down:
In Uber Rewards you earn points by spending money to reach different levels of benefits. Points are earned during six-month periods, and if you reach a level, you get its perks for the remainder of that period plus the whole next period. You earn 1 point per dollar spent on UberPool, Express Pool and Uber Eats; 2 points on UberX, Uber XL and Uber Select; and 3 points on Uber Black and Black SUV. You’ll see your Uber Rewards progress wheel at the bottom of the homescreen fill up over time.
Blue: $5 credits
The only Uber perk that doesn’t reset at the end of a period is that you get $5 of Uber Cash for every 500 points earned regardless of membership level. “Even as a semi-frequent Uber Rewards member you’ll get these instant benefits,” Janakiram says. Blue lets you treat Uber like a video game where you’re trying to rack up points to earn an extra life. To earn 500 points, you’d need about 48 UberPool trips, 6 Uber Xs and 6 Uber Eats orders.
Gold: Flexible cancellations
Once you hit 500 points, you join Uber Gold and get flexible cancellations that refund your $5 cancellation fee if you rebook within 15 minutes, plus priority support Gold is for users who occasionally take Uber but stick to its more economical options. “The Gold level is all about being there when things aren’t going exactly right,” Janakiram explains. To earn 500 points in six months, you’d need to take about 2 UberPools per week, one Uber X per month and one Uber Eats order per month.
Platinum: Price protection
At 2,500 points you join Uber Platinum, which gets you the Gold benefits plus price protection on a route between two of your favorite places regardless of traffic or surge. And Platinum members get priority pickups at airports. To earn 2,500 points, you’d need to take UberX 4 times per week and order Uber Eats twice per month. It’s designed for the frequent user who might rely on Uber to get to work or play.
Diamond: Premium support & upgrades
At 7,500 points, you get the Gold and Platinum benefits plus premium support with a dedicated phone line and fast 24/7 responses from top customer service agents. You get complimentary upgrade surprises from UberX to Uber Black and other high-end cars. You’ll be paired with Uber’s highest-rated drivers. And you get no delivery fee on three Uber Eats orders every six months. Reaching 7,500 points would require UberX 8 times per week, Uber Eats once per week and Uber Black to the airport once per month. Diamond is meant usually for business travelers who get to expense their rides, or people who’d ditched car ownership for ridesharing.
Keeping everyone happily riding
Uber spent the better part of last year asking users through surveys and focus groups what they’d want in a loyalty program. It found that customers wanted to constantly earn rewards and make their dollar go further, but use the perks when they wanted. The point was to avoid situations where riders says, “Oh I’ve been an Uber user for years. When something goes wrong, I feel like I’m being treated like everyone else,” Janakiram tells me. When riders think they’re special, they stick around.
One big missing feature here is a Rewards calculator. Uber could better gamify earning its perks if there was an easy way to see how many more monthly or total rides it would take to reach the next level. It’d be great to have a few little sliders you could drag around to see if I just take Uber X, how many of my average length trips would it take to level up.
Uber managed to beat Lyft to the loyalty game. Lyft just announced that its rewards program would roll out in December, allowing you to earn discounts and upgrades. But Southeast Asia’s Grab transportation service started testing a loyalty program back in late 2016 where you could manually redeem points for discounts. While Uber’s rewards are more predictable and automatic, it does seem to have cribbed Grab’s rewards period mechanic where you keep your perks through the end of the next cycle. We’ll see if Uber mistakenly gave too much away and will have to reduce the perks like Grab did, pissing off its most loyal riders.
One risk of the program is that Uber might make users at lower tiers or who don’t even qualify for Gold feel like second-class citizens of the app. “One thing that’s important is that we don’t want to make the experience for people who are not in these levels poor in any sense,” Janakiram notes. “It’s not like 80 percent of people will suddenly get priority airport pickups, but we do want to monitor very closely to make sure we’re not harming the service more broadly.”
Overall, Uber managed to pick perks that seem helpful without making me wonder why these features aren’t standard for everyone. Even if it takes a short-term margins hit, if Uber can dissuade people from ever looking beyond its app, the lifetime value of its customers should easily offset the kickbacks.
[Disclosure: Uber’s Janakiram and I briefly lived in the same three-bedroom apartment five years ago, though I’d already agreed to write about the redesign when I found out he was involved.]
The first round of Disney layoffs begins this week, CEO Bob Iger shares in memo
In February, Disney CEO Bob Iger told shareholders in an earnings call that the company plans to lay off 7,000 employees as part of a significant restructuring. Today, in an internal memo to employees, which TechCrunch was able to obtain, Iger revealed that there will be three rounds of layoffs, with the first beginning this week.
“This week, we begin notifying employees whose positions are impacted by the company’s workforce reductions,” Iger wrote. “Leaders will be communicating the news directly to the first group of impacted employees over the next four days. A second, larger round of notifications will happen in April with several thousand more staff reductions, and we expect to commence the final round of notifications before the beginning of the summer to reach our 7,000-job target.”
The job cuts will reportedly affect Disney’s media and distribution segment along with ESPN and the parks and resorts division, according to CNBC.
“For our employees who aren’t impacted, I want to acknowledge that there will no doubt be challenges ahead as we continue building the structures and functions that will enable us to be successful moving forward. I ask for your continued understanding and collaboration during this time,” Iger added.
Iger returned as CEO in November 2022, replacing Bob Chapek. Since the takeover, Iger has already made significant organizational changes to the company. In addition to the layoffs, the company will also cut down on spending. Disney plans to cut $5.5 billion in costs, including $3 billion in content spend.
Iger has also admitted to being “open-minded” about the sale of Hulu, which Comcast partially owns.
Despite Disney’s direct-to-consumer division increasing in revenue by 13% to $5.3 billion, the company reported an operating loss of about $1.1 billion, which it blamed on higher costs at Disney+ and Hulu.
While Disney+ reported its first-ever subscriber loss in Q1 2023, the company noted that its streaming business — Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+ — will become profitable in late 2024. Netflix is one streaming service that has managed to turn a profit.
Disney+ lost 2.4 million global subscribers in the first quarter of 2023. However, it managed to gain 200,000 subs in the U.S. and Canada. Hulu and ESPN+, on the other hand, added 800,000 and 600,000, respectively.
Disney’s annual shareholder meeting is set to occur on April 3.
As media companies continue to face losses in the current market, many are adopting the same strategy as Disney. In 2022, Warner Bros. Discovery dealt with job cuts and removed HBO Max content as it confronts a debt load of $53 billion. This company intends to save $3 billion in 2023.
You can now bundle Frontier internet with YouTube TV on the same bill
YouTube TV announced today that it expanded its partnership with internet service provider Frontier to launch a single billing option, which will allow customers in the U.S. to bundle fiber internet with YouTube TV on one bill.
YouTube TV teamed up with Frontier in 2021 to give customers access to fiber internet and a live TV streaming service. However, they had to pay the providers separately. Today’s launch of integrated billing will make it more convenient for users.
Also, Frontier fiber internet customers will now get $10 off the YouTube TV subscription for one year, whereas existing Frontier TV customers will receive $15 off.
The offering is likely to convince customers to switch to YouTube TV as Frontier no longer offers its TV service. After filing for bankruptcy in 2020, Frontier stopped offering cable television in 2021.
Many cable TV companies have decided to either launch streaming services or partner with services like YouTube TV. For instance, in 2021, Disney announced plans to shut down hundreds of cable channels as it shifted focus to its flagship streamer Disney+.
“Our partnership with YouTube TV makes it easier for customers to ditch cable,” John Harrobin, Frontier’s Executive Vice President of Consumer, said in a statement. “We take our position as the un-cable provider seriously and are constantly listening to consumers. Many want one source for internet and TV, and that’s what this partnership is all about.”
It’s important to note that Frontier is only available in 25 states. However, YouTube TV also partners with other internet companies, such as Verizon.
YouTube TV has more than five million paid subscribers and trialers in the United States. Earlier this month, the company increased its subscription price to $72.99 per month, up from $64.99.
Here’s how to stream Major League Baseball games in 2023
Major League Baseball (MLB) regular season is back this week, with Opening Day beginning on Thursday, March 30. MLB Opening Day 2023 will be one to watch since all 30 teams play their first game of the regular season on the same day– the first time since 1968 when such an event occurred.
With so many major league teams, it can be tricky to figure out where and how to watch the games you want to watch—especially for cord-cutters. For instance, nationally televised games will be broadcast on Fox, FS1, TBS, ESPN and MLB Network, whereas local team’s games will air on regional sports networks (RSNs).
Another channel worth watching is MLB Network Strike Zone because it provides highlights, updates, scores, standings and stats from teams across the league. The channel broadcasts on Wednesdays and Fridays, when several games are going on at once, to ensure you don’t miss out on the action.
Plus, this year will be the second time that Apple TV+ is the exclusive home of “Friday Night Baseball” games. Peacock also livestreams exclusive MLB games with its Sunday morning package, “MLB Sunday Leadoff.”
In total, the MLB regular season consists of 2,430 games.
Here are some of the best live TV streaming services to watch MLB games this 2023 season:
- Sling TV
- Hulu Live TV
- YouTube TV
Starting off with an obvious one, MLB.TV is a streaming package that Major League Baseball directly offers.
The subscription costs $24.99 per month or $149.99 per year and allows fans to watch every out-of-market game, making it a great option for viewers who want to watch a team that doesn’t play in their home city.
While MLB.TV subscribers won’t be able to watch a livestream of their local team, the games are available to watch on-demand 90 minutes after they end.
Fans can sign up for MLB.TV either on the MLB website or through streaming services like Prime Video and Fubo.
The most expensive on the list is DirecTV’s “Choice” plan, which is $84.99 per month. Fortunately, the plan is also the most comprehensive, with access to every national MLB channel, including Fox, FS1, TBS, ESPN and MLB Network.
You’ll most likely get your local RSN as well, depending on your location.
DirecTV also has the MLB Extra Innings add-on, which is $149.99 per season, and gives you every out-of-market game along with MLB Network Strike Zone and MLB Extra Innings Mix, which lets users stream up to eight games at the same time.
Sling TV, on the other hand, is arguably the best bang for your buck. For $70 a month, users can sign up for the Orange & Blue bundle ($55/month), as well as the Sports Extra add-on ($15/month), to get access to Fox, FS1, TBS, ESPN, MLB Network and MLB Network Strike Zone.
However, there are no RSNs or out-of-market games on Sling TV.
Fubo (formerly FuboTV) offers MLB Network, MLB Strike Zone, ESPN, Fox, FS1 and RSN coverage. One caveat is that Fubo doesn’t broadcast TBS.
Fubo has three subscription plans: Pro ($74.99/month), Elite ($84.99/month) and Premier ($94.99/month).
The streaming service recently announced it is launching an MLB.TV add-on for $24.99 per month.
Hulu Live TV is great for fans who want to watch nationally broadcast games on FOX, TBS and ESPN. However, the streamer doesn’t have as many RSNs as it used to, so there may be blackout restrictions. For example, Hulu Live TV doesn’t offer RSN groups like AT&T SportsNet and Bally Sports.
Also, out-of-market games aren’t available on Hulu Live TV.
ESPN+ is home to daily regular-season games that air live on ESPN. Note that MLB games on ESPN+ may have local blackout restrictions.
While YouTube TV ($72.99/month) dropped MLB Network this year, it still carries most RSNs and national networks like Fox, ESPN, and TBS.
The reason YouTube TV dropped MLB Network was because of a carriage dispute, which is becoming more common recently. These disputes are making it very difficult for sports fans to find RSNs across both live TV streaming services and linear television.
Plus, YouTube TV is another streaming service that doesn’t offer Bally Sports RSNs.
Speaking of Bally Sports, 19 of its RSNs may be in trouble. Recently, Diamond Sports Group (DSG), an independent subsidiary of Sinclair Broadcasting Group that owns these 19 RSNs, filed for bankruptcy.
But the good news is that Major League Baseball will likely take over the RSNs if DSG is no longer able to broadcast them.
Here are some of the most important dates to keep an eye on this season, including Opening Day, which starts at 1:05 p.m. ET with the first two games scheduled: Atlanta Braves vs. Washington Nationals and San Francisco Giants vs. New York Yankees.
- March 30: Opening Day
- April 29-30: Mexico City Series
- July 11: All-Star Game
- October 1: Final day of MLB regular-season
- October 3: MLB Playoffs
Note that the dates for the World Series, Division Series and Championship Series are TBD.
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