Axios Closer

Newsletter branding image

Monday ✅.

Today's newsletter is 653 words, a 2½-minute read.

🔔 The dashboard: The S&P 500 closed down 0.1%.

  • Biggest gainer? Moderna (+8.7%) announced the start of a clinical trial for a skin cancer treatment.
  • Biggest decliner? EQT Corp. (-7.8%) announced a $5.5 billion deal to buy back its former unit Equitrans Midstream.

1 big thing: Red carpet walk

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

The Oscars red carpet has become more commercialized than ever, Hope writes.

Why it matters: Brands and labels still view the Academy Awards as an important platform for promotion, and stars see it as another source of income.

Zoom in: A multiyear Dior contract can be worth millions, though most labels pay closer to $250,000 a year, according to Vogue Business.

Between the lines: European luxury giants have been monopolizing the glitz at the Academy Awards, signing the biggest stars to contracts that require them to wear their brands.

  • And even though only about 30% of stars actually land a deal, expectations among celebrities have changed the game, agents and stylists told Vogue Business' Christina Binkley.

The big picture: Independent fashion brands — once central to that Oscars' tradition of celebrity self-expression though fashion — are finding it harder to compete.

  • Instead, they're targeting smaller film and music awards shows, such as Sundance, SAG and the Independent Spirit Awards.

What to watch: Viewership of the yearly awards show has fallen dramatically over the past decade — from 40 million in 2014 to under 19 million last year.

  • The Super Bowl, on the other hand, appears to have no equal in pulling over 100 million people together and might be ripe for its own red carpet, Binkley notes.

2. Charted: Dipping into 401(k)s

Data: Vanguard Group; Chart: Axios Visuals

A larger share of 401(k) holders tapped their accounts early for financial emergencies in 2023 than ever before, according to Vanguard.

By the numbers: The pre-pandemic average was about 2%, according to the WSJ, which reported the development.

Reasons for the trend, per WSJ, are increasing financial pressures like groceries and insurance bills.

  • Also contributing is the fact that many 401(k) accounts have done quite well in recent years, giving people more confidence to take a dip.

3. What's happening

📈 Reddit plans to raise up to $748 million in its upcoming IPO at a valuation of up to $6.4 billion. (Axios)

👾 Health care providers are losing up to $1 billion a day from a cyberattack. (Axios)

4. TikTok's complicated divorce

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A bipartisan bill requiring China's ByteDance to divest TikTok is racing toward the desk of President Biden, who has promised to sign it.

  • Yes, but: This shotgun divorce is easier legislated than done, Axios' Dan Primack writes.

Catch up quick: ByteDance is the world's most valuable VC-backed startup, and TikTok is its crown jewel outside of China.

The key move, therefore, would be for ByteDance to establish TikTok (or at least TikTok U.S.) as an independent company with its own stock.

  • Then, ByteDance and its China-based employees would need to hold less than a combined 20% ownership stake in the new company (the bill also references operational control, which likely would apply to voting control).

Zoom in: Divestiture could be done via a sale, stock swap with existing investors, or IPO.

  • Each is feasible but has its challenges.

State of play: What's being proposed is not a "ban." At least not yet.

Go deeper: How ByteDance could save TikTok from a U.S. ban

5. Postcard from SXSW — Lines GALORE

SXSW attendees wait outside a building designed to promote Tide products. GIF: Hope King/Axios

Standing in line may be the most popular activity at SXSW, Hope writes from the annual film, music, tech and media conference in Austin, Texas.

Why it matters: Despite perennial debate over its relevance, the crowds I've seen this year (albeit my first) indicate that there are still many who love to attend.

Behind the scenes: A long line for Tide's experiential marketing events, which were open to the public, was the first one I spotted on Saturday.

  • Based on social media posts, it appears the brand gave away samples of its new Evo detergent — as well as free food and drinks.

Reality check: Longtime attendees told me, however, that the conference is about half the size that it was a decade ago.

  • That's also when SXSW was a popular time for apps like Twitter, Foursquare and Meerkat to launch... detergents, not so much.

Today's newsletter was edited by Pete Gannon and copy edited by Sheryl Miller.

✏️ Was this email forwarded to you? Sign up here to get Axios Closer in your inbox.