Caitlin Clark's surprising base salary (she'll be fine, trust us) and more : The Indicator from Planet Money It's highs and lows in this edition of Indicators of the Week! The surprisingly high amount of electricity needed for artificial intelligence, basketball star Caitlin Clark's surprisingly low base salary, plus a potential crackdown on the ticketing company everyone loves to hate (possibly because of those high fees).

Ticketmaster's dominance, Caitlin Clark's paycheck, and other indicators

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SYLVIE DOUGLIS, BYLINE: NPR.

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DARIAN WOODS, HOST:

This is THE INDICATOR FROM PLANET MONEY. I'm Darian Woods.

ADRIAN MA, HOST:

And I'm Adrian Ma, and it's time for Indicators of the Week.

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WOODS: It's that time of week. And joining us on this edition is our colleague from Planet Money, Erika Beras. Welcome.

MA: Erika.

ERIKA BERAS, BYLINE: Hey, thanks for having me.

MA: Thank you, Erika, for crossing the Planet Money galaxy to be on Indicators of the Week. Today on Indicators of the Week, we're talking about three numbers from the news. We'll talk about the surprisingly high amount of electricity needed for artificial intelligence, basketball star Caitlin Clark's surprisingly low salary, and a potential crackdown on the ticketing company everyone loves to hate.

BERAS: Oh, Ticketmaster.

(LAUGHTER)

MA: Anybody want to push back on that?

WOODS: We'll have all that after the break.

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WOODS: All right. Indicators of the week - Adrian Ma, you go first.

MA: So my indicator is 70%. It's related to the concert and live event ticketing business. Seventy percent is the estimate for how much of the business is controlled by Ticketmaster and its parent company, Live Nation.

WOODS: Yeah, I'm - they're eating up everything.

BERAS: It's not more, to be honest, but yeah.

MA: So these companies just dominate this business. And for just, like, a little bit of background on how that became the case, it helps to start with Ticketmaster, right? And a lot of people are familiar with it. If you want to see your favorite artist in concert, chances are when you go to try and buy a ticket online, you'll be directed to Ticketmaster's website.

BERAS: And they will charge you so much money on top of that. There's all these fees that kind of add up.

MA: Yes, a nice surprise that you get at the end of the transaction, right? This is Ticketmaster's business model. And typically, they split the fees with concert venues. But all this is basically how Ticketmaster has become so dominant at this.

And interestingly, companies over the years have tried to try and compete with Ticketmaster's dominance. And one of them in the 1990s was a company called Live Nation. So for a while, Live Nation and Ticketmaster were actually rivals. But then in 2010, they called it a truce. And as we know, this business rivalry became a business marriage of sorts. The combined entity is called Live Nation Entertainment, and it's continued to grow, kind of to the chagrin of artists and fans.

So all this history leads up to this week's news, which was first reported by the Wall Street Journal, which is that the U.S. Department of Justice is planning an antitrust lawsuit against Ticketmaster's parent company, Live Nation Entertainment. And they're basically alleging that Live Nation has engaged in anticompetitive conduct.

WOODS: Right, and this is part of a streak of antitrust crackdowns by the Department of Justice.

MA: Totally, sort of on a roll right now, right? We saw lawsuits against Google, antitrust lawsuit against Apple recently and possibly an antitrust lawsuit against Live Nation coming down the pike. And this comes after years of criticism aimed at the company, saying that they've bullied venues into using Ticketmaster, that they've contributed to inflated prices and just generally provided lousy customer service.

Now, the companies say that, look, we are not the only game in town for ticketing, right? And we're not the ones who are setting prices. That's what the artists and their teams do. But either way, if this lawsuit does happen, it could definitely disrupt what has sort of been a stranglehold on this industry from Live Nation.

WOODS: I will be watching closely. Another thing I'll be watching closely is the WNBA. Tell me about your indicator, Erika.

BERAS: So my Indicator of the Week is 338,056. Dollars, that is - and that's the amount of the contract that basketball superstar Caitlin Clark signed to play in the WNBA for four seasons.

WOODS: So that's over four years, is that? Or is that per year?

BERAS: No, it's over four years, so that's split up, and it's, like, slightly different. Like, I think, and...

WOODS: That's pretty low.

BERAS: That is very low.

WOODS: That's not as high as you would have expected for a superstar.

BERAS: No, it is not. That was kind of the reaction because, you know, Caitlin has been, like, a phenomenon. She was the highest-scoring college basketball player, like, male or female ever. She was No. 1 in the draft pick. And, you know, she seemed very happy to get that contract, but everyone's reaction was kind of like your reaction. Like, wow, that's it? That's her salary?

MA: So I just did the math. That averages out to about 85 grand a year.

BERAS: Yeah, that's...

MA: That's not...

BERAS: ...Not a lot. And, like, just for comparison, last year's men's No. 1 draft pick for basketball - he reportedly got a contract of 55 million for four years.

MA: That's a huge delta.

(LAUGHTER)

WOODS: That is quite a paycheck.

BERAS: So this has been, like, a long-standing point of contention. WNBA players have had lower salaries than the men. And there's all these reasons, you know, that people have pointed to. Like, one, the men's season is twice as long as the women's season. The women's season is only four months long. The games that the men play generally are, like, pretty well attended. People watch them on TV. They get all this advertising money. And the WNBA games have, like, not actually been so much so. So, like, you know, last year the NBA made, like, something, like, $10 billion, and the WNBA made $200 million so not a lot.

WOODS: There's a lot less in that pot to split out.

BERAS: Yeah. And then the way they sort of split things up in the pot is also different. One economist estimated that the men earn, like, 40% of the NBA revenue, and the women earn just 10% of the WNBA revenue. For Caitlin, though - she's, you know, going to be fine. She's going to make money in a lot of other ways. She's gotten all these contracts with, like, State Farm, with Gatorade, with this trading card company. And there's this wild rumor out there that she's going to sign an eight-figure deal with Nike.

MA: Ha-cha-cha. OK.

WOODS: OK, so I shouldn't be crying poor for Caitlin too early, but...

BERAS: Yeah.

WOODS: OK, so she - yeah, so she's going to be OK.

BERAS: She's going to be OK, and then the pot might get a little bigger, like, this coming season, which starts just next month. Like, her jersey sold out, like, Day 1. And most of the games for the team she's going to be playing on in Indiana are going to be nationally televised. So that - this might be sort of, like, the moment that changes things for the WNBA.

MA: Very cool.

BERAS: So may - who knows, maybe they'll have a season that's twice as long. Speaking of doubles, what's your indicator?

(LAUGHTER)

WOODS: My indicator is doubles, actually. That's the rate at which data centers' electricity consumption is forecast to grow from 2022 to 2026. It's this extraordinary growth rate, a doubling driven by AI. And that would mean that the power used just for chatbot and websites would be equivalent to that of Japan's total electricity use.

MA: OK, so it seems like electricity is going to be, like, an essential part to the development of AI in the future.

WOODS: I'd say getting enough high-end chips is probably the AI industry's No. 1 bottleneck right now, but a bottleneck that's only likely to grow is electricity. So there's a chip designing company called ARM, and its chief marketing officer spoke at a conference on Monday, and she put it this way.

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AMI BADANI: Large language models have an insatiable demand for power. So without the need to address power, we won't have advancements in artificial intelligence.

WOODS: And another sign of AI companies scrambling for power is this. This year, Microsoft hired a Director of Nuclear Development Acceleration.

MA: That sounds kind of funky. I mean, like, I'm assuming Microsoft isn't...

(LAUGHTER)

MA: ...Trying to build nuclear power plants.

WOODS: I'm assuming it won't be a product line of Microsoft.

MA: From the people who brought you Windows...

WOODS: But Microsoft and other tech companies like Amazon do seem to be hungry to find new ways to keep powering their data centers and to facilitate growth from AI products like ChatGPT. And this is an issue because the U.S. power grid is already having trouble keeping up with demand and has an aging power grid. To put this in perspective, I saw this in a recent Reuters article. Somebody interviewed there said when it comes to power, data centers have always been pigs, and now they're elephants.

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MA: Wait, I don't understand the metaphor.

BERAS: That's it.

WOODS: (Laughter) That's the metaphor.

BERAS: It is just - it's just - the animals will get...

MA: Oh, OK. They're just a bigger animal.

WOODS: More mass.

MA: Why didn't they just say data centers are now bigger pigs?

BERAS: Maybe they're hogs.

MA: They're like a piglet, and now they're pigs.

WOODS: No, no 'cause that's what he's saying. It's not just a bigger pig. It's an elephant now.

MA: OK.

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WOODS: This episode was produced by Angel Carreras with engineering by Valentina Rodríguez Sánchez. It was fact-checked by Sierra Juarez. Kate Concannon is our editor, and THE INDICATOR is a production of NPR.

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