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The WIR: Jamie West Set to Leave Sky, AT&T Considers Selling DirecTV, and Facebook Announces Portal TV

Tim Cross  20 September, 2019

In this week’s Week in Review: Jamie West is set to leave Sky, AT&T considers offloading satellite TV unit DirecTV, and Facebook brings its Portal video messaging hardware to TV. To receive an update on the industry’s top stories every Friday, sign up to the weekly Video Round-Up.

Top Stories

Jamie West Set to Leave Sky
Jamie West, deputy managing director of Sky Media, is set to leave the company after ten years. West was a key figure behind the launch of Sky’s addressable TV advertising product AdSmart back in 2014. He is the third high-profile figure to leave Sky following Comcast’s acquisition of the company, with former CCO and CFO Andrew Griffith, and former UK chief marketing office Luke Bradley-Jones both also having left.

The news comes shortly after the announcement that Channel 4 will partner with Sky’s AdSmart to run addressable TV advertising on Channel 4 Sales’ linear TV channels. The partnership will see addressable TV ads on channels owned by Channel 4, UKTV and BT delivered to Sky and Virgin Media customers. Go-live timings are still to be confirmed.

AT&T Considers Selling DirecTV
AT&T is considering selling DirecTV, a satellite TV provider it bought for $49 billion back in 2015, according to the Wall Street Journal. The purchase made AT&T the biggest distributor of pay-TV channels in the US, but it has been under scrutiny as AT&T’s satellite TV subscriptions fall. Activist investor Elliott Management Corp, which owns a $3.2 billion stake in AT&T, last week penned a letter in which it criticised the deal, and called for DirecTV to be offloaded. But a sale is just one of multiple options being considered by the telco, which could also choose to merge DirecTV with Dish Corp, its satellite TV rival.

Separately, DirecTV’s streaming service DirecTV Now (now called AT&T Now) came under scrutiny this week as AT&T investors launched a lawsuit claiming that the service’s subscriber count had been artificially inflated. The suit claims that investors have been misled about the services’ success, and also claims that AT&T employees have been slipping DirecTV Now subscriptions into customers’ wider AT&T subscription packages without their knowledge. AT&T has said it will fight the “baseless” claims.

Facebook Announces Portal TV
Facebook this week announced Portal TV, a version of its video messaging hardware which attaches to TVs to turn them into smart displays. At launch the product will be almost entirely focussed on video calls, simply enabling them on a larger screen than those that come with Facebook’s standalone Portal products. But Portal TV will also enable shared viewing on Facebook Watch, where all participants in a video call can watch shows on Facebook Watch simultaneously. And The Information, when it reported Facebook Portal TV was in the works earlier this year, claimed that the device is designed in part as an OTT device, similar to a Roku or Amazon Fire TV stick. Facebook has reportedly been in talks with the likes of Netflix, Disney, HBO and Amazon about bringing their streaming services onto the device.

The Week in Tech

Xandr Adds Bloomberg and Vudu to Community
AT&T’s advanced advertising unit Xandr this week announced it has added Bloomberg and Vudu to Community, its premium video marketplace. Xandr says Community enables advertisers to reach their audiences at scale in a brand-safe, privacy-protected, and premium video environment. Other partners include WarnerMedia’s properties, as well as A+E Networks, AMC Networks, Cheddar, VICE, and others. “Community is successful because of its partners and the premium content they produce every day,” said Brian Lesser, CEO of Xandr. “Together with our Community partners, we are helping advertisers reach interested consumers on whatever device they watch their favourite show.”

Innovid Adds Display Through Herolens Acquisition
Omnichannel advertising and analytics platform Innovid this week announced the acquisition of Herolens, an international advertising software company with expertise in display creative optimisation technology. Innovid says the purchases expands its existing global ad serving, dynamic creative personalisation, and advanced measurement capabilities to include display formats alongside the company’s TV, video, and social solutions.

FreeWheel Introduces Digital Integrated Ad Management Platform
FreeWheel has announced advancements in its digital integrated ad management platform for video publishers in Europe (former StickyAds platform), which includes the extension of its partnership with Nielsen into EMEA, as well as holistic ad decisioning across sales channels which it says are designed to meet the increasingly complex needs of OTT programmers and other premium video publishers. FreeWheel says the new, integrated ad management platform is built for the growing number of digital premium publishers who monetise their inventory via both direct sold and programmatic channels. The platform also offers direct access to programmatic demand through over 40 server-to-server DSP connections, or through FreeWheel Media for publishers who prefer managed service media sales support.

Teads Announces Teads for Publishers
Teads this week announced the launch of Teads for Publishers (TFP), a suite of tools which Teads says is designed to give publishers the ability to scale ad inventory and generate incremental revenue while also allowing them to deliver premium, brand safe user experiences. The company says it is rolling out the offering as an extension of its enterprise-class ad server and supply-side platform (SSP) which allow publishers to sell either directly or programmatically through private marketplace (PMP) Deal IDs. TFP leverages several components of Teads proprietary technology that publishing partners will now have access to including Teads Prediction AI, Teads Studio, and Teads Audiences.

The Week in TV

NBCUniversal Names its Streaming Service ‘Peacock’
NBCUniversal this week unveiled the name of its upcoming streaming service – Peacock, a reference to the company’s logo. NBCU says the service will roll out in April next year, and as previously reported, will have both paid and ad-supported subscription tiers. At launch, it will host over 15.000 hours of content according to the broadcaster, which will include popular shows ‘The Office’ and ‘Park and Recs’. “The name Peacock pays homage to the quality content that audiences have come to expect from NBCUniversal – whether it’s culture-defining dramas from innovative creators like Sam Esmail, laugh-out-loud comedies from legends like Lorne Michaels and Mike Schur, blockbusters from Universal Pictures, or buzzy unscripted programming from the people who do it best at Bravo and E!,” said Bonnie Hammer, chairman of direct-to-consumer and digital enterprises.

BBC’s Tony Hall Anticipates Second Wave of Disruption for TV
BBC chief Tony Hall this week says he believes we’re on the verge of a second wave of disruption for television, as a number of new players debut streaming services into an already crowded market. Speaking at the Royal Television Society convention on Thursday, Hall said that as new services debut over the next year, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video will have to fight to offer the same value they’ve previously offered consumers. And amongst this disruption, Hall said he sees an opportunity for the BBC. “Firstly, we have a unique mission and purpose, all audiences – young and old – believe in it. Purpose and values matter today more than ever, as people pick and choose services for ethical reasons as much as economic ones,” he said. “Secondly, no one offers the range of content, in so many genres, on so many platforms, as the BBC. We’re not Netflix, we’re not Spotify. We’re not Apple News. We’re so much more than all of them put together.”

Seinfeld and The Big Bang Theory Find Streaming Homes
As streaming services fight to win exclusive rights for popular content, Netflix and AT&T each made big moves this week, securing the rights to Seinfeld and The Big Bang Theory respectively. Netflix paid a reported $500 million for the streaming rights to Seinfeld, while AT&T’s upcoming HBO Max agreed to pay $1 billion for The Big Bang Theory. Whether these were reasonable prices or not remains to be seen – but many believe that already popular, older content is very valuable for retaining subscribers, with ‘The Office’ and ‘Friends’ both reported to be Netflix’s two most-watched shows.

The Week in Publishing

Washington Post Unveils New Ad Network, Zeus Prime
US daily newspaper the Washington Post this week unveiled a new ad network, Zeus Prime. WaPo says Zeus Prime is an ad buying user interface, built in partnership with the buy-side demand platform Polar, that allows Washington-based clients to buy seamless, high-performing formats against inventory directly on The Washington Post in real-time. Throughout 2020, the publisher will add additional local and national media companies to the network and look to make this tool available to advertisers large and small, aiming to form a marketplace of trusted media properties for agencies and brands to buy directly into using the Zeus Technology Suite of products.

The Washington Post is seemingly targeting advertisers used to buying with Google and Facebook, explicitly saying that it interface will be familiar to advertisers who use those two platforms.

Tinder Reportedly Working on Original Series
Dating app Tinder is reportedly looking to release an original, ‘choose-you-own-adventure’ type series on its app, Variety reported this week. The show will apparently be set against an impending apocalypse, asking users who they’d spend their last night alive with, with users navigating the story by swiping left or right. The report doesn’t mention ads being run on the show – instead it seems Tinder will use data on users’ decision making within the story to inform its match-making.

Snapchat Mulls a News Tab
Snapchat is reportedly considering adding a news tab to its app, similar to those run by Facebook and Google. The Information reported this week that Snap is speaking with publishers about how they could fuel a news tab – news publishers at the moment already run content in Snap’s ‘Discover’ section, but at the moment it appears alongside general entertainment content, and can be hard to navigate.

The Week for Agencies

Most US Advertisers Have Tweaked Agency Contracts Over Transparency Issues
The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) this week reported that over two-thirds of advertisers in the US have made adjustments to their agency contracts in the past three years due to concerns around transparency and media buying rebates. The remaining advertisers have either not updated their media agency contracts (17 percent), not updated their contracts within the last three years (10 percent) or don’t know whether they’ve updated them (four percent).

“We fielded the survey to examine current media agency compensation practices and related issues of media service costs and transparency,” said ANA CEO Bob Liodice. “The results clearly indicate that media transparency remains a key industry concern and that our members are actively seeking solutions to address it.”

Nike’s ‘Dream Crazy’ Ad Wins Emmy
Nike’s ‘Dream Crazy’ ad, starring NFL star Colin Kaepernick this week won the award for outstanding creative commercial at the Creative Arts Emmys. Kaepernick caught worldwide media attention in 2016 as he began sitting, and then kneeling, as the national anthem was played before kick off in NFL games, in protest against police violence towards black people in America. His inclusion in the campaign led to a ‘boycott Nike’ campaign from some who disagree with Kaepernick’s stance, others praised Nike for his inclusion.

Average Online Video Viewing to Reach 100 Minutes Per Day in 2021
The amount of time the average person spends watching video online each day will reach 100 minutes in 2021, Zenith reported this week, up from 84 minutes per day this year. Ad spend on online video meanwhile will reach $61 billion by 2021, up from $45 billion this year. But traditional television is still expected to have a substantial lead over online video in 2021, with the average individual spending twice as long on traditional TV as they do watching online video.

Hires of the Week

Lee Brown Joins Spotify to Lead Ad Sales
Lee Brown, formerly chief revenue officer at BuzzFeed, has joined Spotify as VP of global sales strategy. Brown will replace Brian Benedik, who leaves later this year.

Keith Weed Joins Unilever’s Board
Keith Weed, former chief marketing officer at Unilever, has joined WPP’s board as a non-executive director, it was announced this week.

Beeswax Expands EMEA Team
Beeswax is expanding in Europe with the appointment of four new team members, it announced this week. Charlotte Seagers joins Beeswax as enterprise account manager, Hannah Cooper is appointed as programmatic trading specialist EMEA, Gemma Coffee joins as sales director, EMEA,  and Flora Evans has been chosen as solutions consultant, EMEA.

This Week on VAN

Contextual Targeting Could Solve YouTube’s Child Privacy Problems, read more on VAN

Why Less is More with Video Ad Campaign Exposure, read more on VAN

Siloed Data Can Lead to Tribal Warfare Within Organisations, read more on VAN

Journalism Doesn’t Fit into a One Size Fits All Model says CNN’s Pippa Scaife, read more on VAN

Roku and Amazon Will Push European OTT to Up Its Game, read more on VAN

We Need to Break Down Walls Between Linear and Digital Sales Teams, read more on VAN

The World’s Biggest Companies are All Betting Their Business on Digital Advertising, read more on VAN

Ad of the Week

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