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The WIR: The Roku Channel Launches in the UK, Channel 4 Forecasts 50 Percent Drop in TV Ad Market, and Google Temporarily Rolls Back SameSite Cookie Changes

Tim Cross  09 April, 2020

In this week’s Week in Review: Roku debuts its Roku Channel in the UK, Channel 4 says it expects the UK’s TV ad market to be down 50 percent for April and May, and Google temporarily undoes its SameSite cookie requirements for Chrome. To receive an update on the industry’s top stories every Friday, sign up to the weekly Video Round-Up.

Top Stories

The Roku Channel Launches in the UK
Over-the-top (OTT) platform Roku’s ad-supported streaming channel, The Roku Channel, launched in the UK this week. The channel has been a key part of Roku’s advertising strategy since it launched in the US in 2017, followed by Canada in 2018. Roku helps media companies which host apps on its platform to monetise their inventory, taking a cut of the revenue in the process. But The Roku Channel, populated with licensed TV shows and films, gives Roku its own supply of media to monetise too. Roku says the channel has proven popular so far in the US and Canada, consistently ranking as one of the top five most watched channels on the platform.

In the UK, The Roku Channel will be available to consumers with a Roku streaming player, Roku TV, NOW TV device or Sky Q box. The service launches with over 10,000 movies, TV show episodes and documentaries, with much of the content tailored to British audiences.

Channel 4 Expects 50 Percent Drop in TV Ad Market for April and May
UK broadcaster Channel 4 warned that it expects the UK TV ad market to be down in excess of 50 percent for April and May as advertisers pull back budgets during the coronavirus pandemic. Channel 4 CEO Alex Mahon said the broadcaster has seen record viewing figures during the crisis, including 200 million views on its news content on social media. But she added that “as a commercially funded business the Covid-19 outbreak has had a severe impact on our advertising revenues, and so we are taking action now to manage our costs appropriately and ensure that we both protect our staff and our ongoing ability to serve our audience”.

These measures include around ten percent of staff being furloughed via the government’s furlough scheme, all executive and non-executive board members taking voluntary 20 percent pay cuts, and 2020’s content budget being cut by £150 million.

Google Temporarily Rolls Back SameSite Cookie Requirements
Google has temporarily rolled back its ‘SameSite’ cookie requirements for its Chrome browser which came into force back in February. The SameSite requirement means that all cookies used for cross-site tracking have to be labeled as such, making it easier for users to block those cookies. Any cookies which don’t explicitly state their purpose are blocked by Chrome from being used in third-party contexts. The new measure is part of Google’s move towards ending support for third-party cookies on Chrome, but Google has temporarily reversed the rollout to help ease the pressure on companies hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

“While most of the web ecosystem was prepared for this change, we want to ensure stability for websites providing essential services including banking, online groceries, government services and healthcare that facilitate our daily life during this time,” said by Justin Schuh, director of Chrome engineering, in a blog post. “As we roll back enforcement, organisations, users and sites should see no disruption.”

Coronavirus Updates

Coronavirus continues to dominate the news cycle, and most stories and events have been impacted by the pandemic in one way or another, but here are some of the biggest stories of the week directly related to COVID-19:

MediaMath Cuts Eight Percent of Staff
Ad tech company MediaMath this week announced it has cut eight percent of its global workforce, through both layoffs and furloughs, citing financial difficulties caused by coronavirus. “We are preparing our businesses to weather these uncertain times and taking actions that will strengthen our position for the long term, including focusing our hiring efforts on critical positions only, reducing expenses and compensation, and reducing roles as necessary,” said MediaMath President Konrad Gerszke.

Fitch Predicts Media Advertising Recession Will Continue into 2021
US ratings agency Fitch this week said it expects the coronavirus pandemic will result in “a significant near-term pull-back in advertising that results in an ad recession in 2020 with effects lingering in 2021”. The extent of the decline in 2020 and the strength and pace of recovery will be based on how much advertising spend is temporarily deferred compared with spend put off indefinitely, according to Fitch.

Google to Relax Ban on Coronavirus-Related Advertising
Google is relaxing its ban on all coronavirus-related advertising, after US Democrats complained the measure prevented political ads from criticising the Trump administration’s handling of the pandemic. “This policy was designed to protect users and block ads that try to capitalise on short-term events like natural disasters,” a Google spokesperson told The Verge. “Now, we are looking at ways to support limited COVID-19-related ads from hospitals, medical providers, government entities, and NGOs.”

Group Nine Media Lays Off Seven Percent of Workforce
Group Nine Media, owner of digital titles like PopSugar, The Dodo, and NowThis, has laid off seven percent of its 700-strong global work force due to financial strain caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The company has also reduced executive pay by 25 percent for the rest of 2020, while CEO Ben Lerer has given up six months of pay according to Adweek.

Daily Mail Group Asks Staff to Take Shares in Return for Reduced Pay
The Daily Mail and General Trust has asked some of its staff to accept shares in return for reduced pay, to help deal with the financial burden of COVID-19. “With the world spiralling into recession, we have seen, and must expect, a significant decrease in advertising revenue; while the current restrictions have also caused a serious drop in circulation,” said chairman and controlling shareholder Jonathan Rothermere in a letter to staff.

Twitter CEO Dorsey Pledges $1 Billion for Coronavirus Relief Efforts
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey this week pledged to devote $1 billion worth of his stake in payment firm Square to help fund coronavirus relief efforts.

HBO Streams Free Content
US broadcaster HBO this week begun streaming a selection of content for free via both its HBO Go and HBO Now services. Available content includes all episodes of popular HBO shows ‘The Sopranos,’ ‘Veep,’ ‘Succession,’ ‘Six Feet Under,’ and ‘The Wire.’

UEFA Scraps 3pm Blackout for Premier League
European football authority UEFA has lifted broadcasting restrictions on football games played at 3pm in England and Scotland, paving the way for the Premier League to return with games played behind closed doors. Games at 3pm have traditionally been barred from domestic broadcast to encourage audiences to attend live games instead.

Birds Eye says Brands Have Responsibility to Keep Advertising
Food brand Birds Eye said this week it believes brands have a responsibility to keep advertising through the coronavirus pandemic. “We felt we owed a responsibility to consumers to say, ‘You’re turning to us when you really need some reassurance and we want to be there for you to provide that,'”  said UK and Ireland marketing director Sarah Koppens via Marketing Week.

The Week in Tech

New EMEA Video Platform ‘Union’ Launches
Union, a new joint venture of created by PlayAD, Project Agora, ShowHeroes, Video Intelligence and Viralize, launched in the EMEA region this week. Union says it will help local publishers access incremental spend from global brands who want to support local media at a time when their trusted content is needed more than ever by their audiences. It will be available programmatically and as a managed solution, offering both pre-roll and outstream video formats.

Amazon Cuts Off Third-Party Vendors from Affiliate Programme
Amazon has cut off third-party vendors from its affiliate programme, AdExchanger reported this week, meaning the likes of Skimlink and Sovrn can no longer take a cut of sales for sending traffic through to Amazon. Amazon will however maintain direct relationships with publishers, meaning it isn’t cutting out affiliate entirely, according to AdExchanger.

Comscore and JW Player Partner for Contextual Targeting for Video Advertising
Comscore and JW Player have announced that Comscore’s brand safety and contextual categorisation segments are available for activation across the 12,000+ media sites that use JW Player for their digital video playback. The two say the partnership builds on JW Player’s ad targeting capabilities powered by scanning the content of the video itself, which it says ensures brands deliver highly video ad experiences in a privacy-safe manner.

PlaceIQ Acquires Freckle IoT
Location data, analytics and insights company PlaceIQ announced this week it has acquired Freckle IoT, a business specialising in location data and foot traffic measurement, for an undisclosed fee. Place IQ says Freckle IoT will broaden its ability to support multi-channel brands and agencies by bringing further scale to audiences and measurement in key media channels.

VIZIO Launches 30 new Free Streaming Channels
American TV brand VIZIO this week launched thirty new free linear TV channels on its SmartCast Home screen, covering news, entertainment, lifestyle, DIY, sports, comedy and music. VIZIO says its seen a sharp jump in viewing on its SmartCast platform during the lockdown, with the SmartCast platform recording 57 percent growth in viewing sessions over the last three weeks of March. Free ad supported apps and streaming TV services saw a 59 percent increase over the same period.

One Third of Consumers Think Advertisers Should Avoid Coronavirus Content finds IAS
Integral Ad Science released some stats this week on consumer perceptions around coronavirus-related content, finding that 82 percent of UK consumers are actively seeking out coronavirus news and content online. Meanwhile 32 percent of consumers think it is unsuitable for a brand to appear near to corona virus content, while 31 percent say that the suitability of a brand appearing near coronavirus content “depends on the brand”.

C-19 IAS

Microsoft Edge Becomes Second Most Popular Desktop Browser
Microsoft’s Edge browser is now the second most popular desktop browser according to stats from NetMarketShare, overtaking Mozilla Firefox. Back in April last year, Firefox accounted for 10.2 percent of the market, while Edge had 5.5 percent. But for March this year, NetMarketShare found Edge had 7.6 percent market share, beating out Firefox’s 7.2 percent.

The Week in TV

Mediaset Seeks German Antitrust Approval for Increased ProSieben Stake
Italian media giant Mediaset is seeking approval from Germany’s competition authority for an increase in its stake in German broadcaster ProSiebenSat.1. Mediaset’s Italian and Spanish units combined currently own just under twenty percent of ProSieben, but Mediaset is looking to increase its stake as part of its plans to create a pan-European broadcasting giant.

Disney+ Passes 50 Million Subscribers
Disney has revealed it has passed 50 million subscribers for its Disney+ subscription streaming service which it launched late last year. This marks growth of 22 million since Disney last announced subscriber stats two months ago – with the product having launched in new European markets including the UK since then.

Salto Launch Delayed
Salto, the upcoming streaming service from French broadcasters TF1, M6 and France Télévisions, is likely not to release to the public until the autumn, as coronavirus has hindered production and development of content for the service. Salto was initially pegged for a public “test launch” on June 3rd, but now will be released for private beta testing on this same date, with a public launch to come later.

SVOD Services Lean Into Reality
Subscription video on-demand (SVOD) services are investing more in reality content according to research from Ampere Analysis, having previously somewhat overlooked the genre. Ampere found the Netflix for example had just four original reality shows available at the start of 2018, while this had increased to 32 by the end of the following year.

Ampere realityRTL Deutschland Adds New Premium Subscription to TVNow
German broadcaster Mediengruppe RTL Deutschland has added a new premium subscription tier to its TVNow on-demand service, Premium +. The new tier will let two streams run from the same account in parallel, and will also offer original versions of a number of foreign language shows.

NBCUniversal to Permanently Reduce Linear Ad Load
US broadcaster NBCUniversal has said it will permanently reduce ad load on its linear channels, a move which it said had been previously planned but has been accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic. The ad reductions will occur in news programming, late-night NBC and Bravo shows, reality programming, competition shows like America’s Got Talent and other cable originals according to Adweek, though NBCU hasn’t specified how much ad time will be cut.

NBC Puts NBC Sky World News Plans on Hold
NBC has put plans to launch a new news service combining resources from Sky News and NBC News on hold. The service, called NBC Sky World News, had originally been planned for a launch this summer, but now NBC will wait until after the coronavirus crisis is over to review whether it will go ahead, reports Variety.

The Week in Publishing

Quibi Goes Live
Quibi, the mobile first short-form video streaming service launched by Jeffrey Katzenberg, launched in the US and Canada on Monday, while also going live in some other markets without having been marketed. The Quibi app was downloaded 700,000 times in the US on day one according to analytics firm App Annie.

Music Groups Threaten to Sue TikTok for Copyright Infringement
A group representing a number of music publishing businesses including Universal is threatening to sue video sharing app TikTok, claiming the app is allowing its users to use music in their videos without sufficient licenses. The FT reported this week that David Israelite of the National Music Publishers Association believes a lawsuit is likely, claiming that more than 50 percent of the music publishing market isn’t licensed with TikTok.

CNN Buys Canopy for ‘NewsCo’ Project
CNN this week announced it has bought content personalisation tech company Canopy for an undisclosed fee. CNN reportedly plans to use Canopy’s tech for its upcoming news aggregation service, designed to compete with the likes of Google News and Apple News, currently dubbed ‘NewsCo’.

Pinterest Partners with DV to Combat Ad Fraud
Social media company Pinterest has partnered with DoubleVerify to help combat ad fraud, the two announced this week. DV’s ‘Media Quality Authentification’ will be extended to cover Pinterest, helping advertisers verify viewability and avoid ad fraud and sophisticated invalid traffic.

The Week for Agencies

WPP Hasn’t Banned the Word ‘Digital’ says Mark Read
WPP CEO Mark Read denied rumours that the word ‘digital’ has been banned within the company in an interview with The Drum, explaining that the company rather is trying to reduce usage of the word to get away from the notion that any parts of the business are analogue. “What we want to do is to be precise and talk about technology which is at the heart of digital transformation,” he told The Drum.

Accenture Buys B2B Marketing Agency Yesler
Accenture has acquired Yesler, a business-to-business (B2B) marketing services agency, for an undisclosed fee. Accenture says the acquisition will strengthen and scale Accenture’s B2B marketing services, adding depth in offerings such as account-based marketing, customer advocacy, sales enablement, and marketing automation.

New Agency PLAY, Backed by 72Point, Launches
PLAY, a new agency which aims to provide a mix of PR, advertising and branding, launched this week. The agency has been co-founded by Rowan Adams and Jay Williams, both of whom work for 72Point.

Hires of the Week

Wendy Clark Joins Dentsu Aegis Network as Global CEO
Dentsu announced this week it has appointed Wendy Clark as its new global CEO for Dentsu Aegis Network. Clark joins from Omnicom’s DDB Worldwide, where she was global president and CEO.

This Week on VAN

Quibi Releases Unexpectedly in the UK: VAN’s First Impressions, read more on VAN

From Home Filming to Remote Casting: How Production Studios are Working Through COVID-19, read more on VAN

Esports Coverage is Increasing, but It’s Not Creating New Fans… Yet, read more on VAN

Ad of the Week

McDonalds, We Are For Safety, With Both Hands, Leo Burnett

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