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The WIR: NBCU’s Fandango Buys Vudu, The Trade Desk Cracks Down on Bid Duplication, and 605 Invest in AdScribe

Tim Cross  24 April, 2020

In this week’s Week in Review: NBCUniversal-owned Fandango buys Vudu from Walmart, The Trade Desks asks exchanges to cut back on bid duplication, and 605 invests in AdScribe. To receive an update on the industry’s top stories every Friday, sign up to the weekly Video Round-Up.

Top Stories

NBCUniversal’s Fandango Buys Vudu from Walmart
Movie-ticketing and video rental business Fandango, which is majority-owned by Comcast’s NBCUniversal, has agreed a deal to buy streaming service Vudu from US retailer Walmart. Terms of the deal have not been disclosed.

Vudu, bought by Walmart from $100 million back in 2010, is both an ad-supported video on-demand (AVOD) and transactional video on-demand (TVOD) platform. The service marked Walmart’s big play in the streaming space, but Vudu never really took off as Walmart might have wanted it to. An agreement with movie studio MGM two years ago create original content for Vudu clearly wasn’t enough to tempt in audiences and persuade Walmart to hold on to the service.

The acquisition of Vudu comes at a time when parent company Comcast is investing heavily in ad-supported streaming. NBCU’s own AVOD platform ‘Peacock’ launched just last week, while earlier this year Comcast agreed a deal to buy free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) service XUMO.

The Trade Desk Seeks to Eliminate Bid Duplication
Demand-side platform The Trade Desk has asked exchanges to stop sending it multiple bid requests for the same impression, a move prompted by the increased server costs The Trade Desk is facing due to an upswing in internet traffic. While some level of bid request duplication is inevitable with publishers selling their inventory through multiple exchanges, The Trade Desk says it wants to only see each impression once per exchange. This can be done by exchanges only funnelling inventory through one header bidding auction according to AdExchanger – Prebid, Amazon Transparent Ad Marketplace, or Google open bidding.

DSPs have been keen to cut down on bid duplication prior to the pandemic, but the increased server costs have added urgency to the move. The Trade Desk had set a deadline of Wednesday this week for exchanges to stop sending duplicated requests – though its unclear how The Trade Desk might enforce this deadline, given the difficulty of being able to recognise when an exchange is sending duplicate bids.

605 Invests in AdScribe
TV measurement and analytics company 605 this week announced it has made a strategic investment in London and Dublin-based ad tech company AdScribe, though the terms of the deal were not disclosed. The two have previously partnered to develop the 605 PLATF0RM, a self-service, web-based application that reports TV viewership of programming and advertising by advanced, custom-defined audiences. With this investment, the two companies will work closely together to accelerate the adoption of PLATF0RM, as well as to develop new products. These new products will centre on advanced TV measurement, as well as data and analytics for programmers, distributors, agencies and brands.

“PLATF0RM has been a remarkable success for 605, and our strategic investment in the AdScribe business will allow us to develop new measurement solutions for our current clients and extend our reach into Europe,” said Kristin Dolan, CEO and founder of 605. “We are seeing tremendous momentum in our business – even amid this uncertain time – as television and video content consumption grows quickly and in new ways. Sophisticated measurement and analytics matter now more than ever, and our clients recognise the need to reimagine how they use data to target audiences, drive eyeballs and monetise with advertisers.”

Coronavirus News

Google Plans to Halve Marketing Spend
Google is planning to cut its marketing spend for the second half of the year by up to 50 percent, according to CNBC. Directors have also been told that hiring freezes for both full-time and contract workers are taking place, according to the report.

US TV Ad Spend Could Fall by 30 Percent says eMarketer
US TV ad spend could fall by close to 30 percent in the first half of the year, according to eMarketer’s updated forecast. The analyst had previously predicted a 2.0 percent rise in US TV ad spend. But now eMarketer projects that ad spend will be down by between 22.3 percent and 29.3 percent.

Coca-Cola to Pause All Advertising in Some Markets
Coca-Cola’s chairman and chief executive James Quincey this week said that the company is cutting marketing budgets globally, and will stop advertising entirely in some markets, as it has seen a drop in sales caused by the pandemic. Quincey said the decision is partly designed to cut costs, but that the company is also sceptical of the returns on marketing during the outbreak.

IPG’s Organic Revenues Grow, but CEO Roth Warns Against Complacency
Interpublic Group reported in its Q1 results this week that organic net revenues were up 0.3 percent year-on-year, while overall net revenues were down 1.6 percent to $1.97 billion. But while CEO Michael Roth said that the results were “solid”, he warned that they are not indicative of IPG’s performance over the rest of the year, though he added that they do demonstrate his company’s competitiveness.

Vice Plans Substantial Job Cuts
An internal document circulated within Vice Media suggests the company is planning substantial layoffs to help deal with the economic burden of the coronavirus outbreak, according to the Wall Street Journal. The document said that over 300 layoffs are planned across Vice and Refinery29, a publication bought by Vice last year. But a spokesperson told the Journal the document represented just one of several options being considered by the company.

Fox Cuts Pay for Senior Leadership
Fox Corp said this week that some of its top executives will forgo their pay until September, and other senior leadership figures will take pay cuts of up to 50 percent to help deal with COVID-19-caused financial difficulties. Executive chairman and chief executive Lachlan Murdoch said the cuts were necessary so that “to the greatest extent possible, we are able to protect our full-time colleagues with salary and benefit continuation during the period we are most affected by the crisis”.

Vox Media Furloughs Nine Percent of Staff
Digital native publisher Vox Media is furloughing nine percent of its staff from May 1st until at least July 31st, Axios reported this week. Vox has also begun asking readers for donations to help support it through the crisis, and is also cutting salaries for its highest earners and reducing hours for some workers.

ProSiebenSat.1 Expects April Ad Revenues to be Down 40 Percent
German broadcaster ProSiebenSat.1 became the latest media company to pull its financial guidance this week, saying that the coronavirus pandemic makes it difficult to forecast performance over the rest of the year. ProSieben said it so far has taken a large hit on ad revenues, which it expects will be down 40 percent year-on-year for the month of April.

Twitter Cracks Down on Misleading COVID-19 Tweets
Twitter said this week it will be working to remove Tweets linking the COVID-19 outbreak to 5G more quickly, to help prevent the spread of disinformation. “We have broadened our guidance on unverified claims that incite people to engage in harmful activity, could lead to the destruction or damage of critical 5G infrastructure or could lead to widespread panic, social unrest or large-scale disorder,” the company said in a Tweet on Wednesday.

The Week in Tech

Facebook Buys $5.7 Billion Stake in Indian Telecoms Provider Jio Platforms
Facebook this week announced a deal to buy a 9.9 percent stake in Indian telecoms operator Jio Platforms for $5.7 billion. The deal is Facebook’s largest overseas investment to date, according to the Wall Street Journal, and will help Facebook strengthen its messaging app WhatsApp’s position in India.

Google to Require Verification from All Advertisers
Google announced this week that starting this summer, it will require all advertisers buying inventory on its platform to verify themselves through providing business incorporation documents, or similar identification. The move will allow Google to give information to users about who is behind the ads it displays. The rollout will begin in the US, and then expand globally.

MediaKind Launches Update PRISMA Platform
Media technology company MediaKind this week announced its advertising and content distribution rights portfolio, PRISMA, has been reconfigured with a new modular feature set. MediaKind says PRISMA Core will help to bridge the gap between content providers and service providers by delivering advanced scheduling control and enabling rules enforcement for traditional broadcast, as well as OTT-based delivery. PRISMA Edge meanwhile enables content providers and video service providers to deliver engaging viewing experiences, their advertising inventory and simultaneously meet contractual and legal obligations, according to MediaKind.

Verizon Media Platform Launches Prebid Integration
Verizon Media Platform, a B2B unit within Verizon which provides video services for streaming companies and media platforms, announced a number of updates to its advanced advertising services on Tuesday. The platform is introducing a Prebid integration, called Verizon Media Smartplay Prebid, allowing multiple demand sources to compete simultaneously for streaming inventory. And Verizon is also introducing a new set of tools, Ad Analytics, to help streaming partners identify and deal with issues within their programmatic tech stack. Read the full story on VAN.

YouTube Announces Partners for YouTube Measurement Programme
YouTube this week announced a number of new partners for its YouTube Measurement Programme, its list of approved third-party measurement partners used for brand safety and content insights. Channel Factory, Zefr and Integral Ad Science are among those which have been chosen as brand suitability & contextual targeting partners. Meanwhile IAS and DoubleVerify are the two brand safety partners, and Tubular Labs, Pixability and Wizdeo are the three content insights partners.

CVS Plans to Launch an Ad Network
US pharmacist CVS is reportedly planning to launch an ad network, the CVS Media Exchange, which will sell ads on as well as off-site placements that use CVS’s data. The platform will also offer creative services to buyers, according to the report from Digiday.

Czech News Center Selects JW Player for Video Technology
Publisher Czech News Center announced this week it is implementing JW Player technology on its news and special interest websites. “JW Player out-performed all other technology in tests, and its scalability and flexibility means it can be integrated easily with our ad server and content management system (CMS),” said Czech News Center’s chief digital officer Petr Frys. “Our editorial team appreciate the insights they can see in the platform and the ease of publishing content, whilst the commercial team can use the technology to optimise advertising revenue.”

Unruly Partners with Ampverse to Help Brands Engage Gaming Audiences
Video ad tech company Unruly this week announced a partnership with esports media Ampverse to help brands better understand how their video campaigns engage gaming audiences in the Asia-Pacific region. “By using UnrulyEQ to help understand audiences, pre-test video concepts and then distribute these assets across Ampverse and Unruly’s premium channels, together we provide an end-to-end, low risk, data-driven solution for brands looking to leverage this exploding consumer trend,” said Greg Fournier, SVP of client partnerships at Unruly.

Adverity Raises $30 Million in Series C Funding Round
Marketing intelligence data company Adverity has raised $30 million in a Series C funding round led by Sapphire Ventures. Adverity says the funding will help accelerate its business growth, including investment in R&D and advancing product offerings.

The Week in TV

Netflix Says its Set For Content for 2020 as Subscribers Grow by 16 Million in Q1
Netflix posted a very strong set of Q1 financial results this week, as the streaming service has benefited from audiences being stuck inside and looking for entertainment. The company said it has added 15.8 million global subscribers during the quarter, nearly doubling its new sign ups in the previous quarter of 8.8 million. But perhaps more importantly for the company’s long term prospects, content chief Ted Sarandos said the company has already filmed the vast majority of its content slate for the rest of 2020, and even for some of 2021.

Samsung TV Plus Launches for Advertisers in Europe
Samsung’s free ad-supported TV service Samsung TV Plus is now available to media buyers in the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, and Austria, the company announced this week. Samsung Ads Europe, the media and advertising division of Samsung Electronics, has partnered with SpotX, Wurl and Amagi to enable programmatic advertising solutions across Samsung TV Plus. The offering will also expand into further markets later in 2020, according to the press release.

NBC Sells Euronews Stake
NBC News has sold its 25 percent stake in Euronews to Media Globe Networks, the FT reported this week. The move comes as NBC looks to set up a new global news channel combining Sky News and NBC News resources, though reports suggest the pandemic has put these plans on hold.

WarnerMedia Sets May 27th Launch Date for HBO Max
AT&T-owned WarnerMedia has set May 27th as the launch date for its upcoming streaming service HBO Max. The pandemic has stalled production on some of the original content planned for the new service, perhaps most notably a reunion episode of popular sitcom ‘Friends’, though some new original content will still be available at launch.

NBCUniversal Launches ‘Universal Checkout’
NBCUniversal this week launched ‘Universal Checkout’, a service which the broadcaster says will transform any piece of content on the NBCUniversal platform into an interactive shoppable experience. This includes shoppable branded content, shoppable editorial, and shoppable ads within TV shows via NBC’s ‘ShoppableTV’ product.

Channel 4 Reports Record VOD Viewing
Channel 4 this week reported that its on-demand service All 4 had a record quarter in terms of viewership, thanks in part to the lockdown. Views during the nation’s first two weeks of lockdown increased by a significant 37 percent compared with the same period last year, according to Channel 4.

The Week in Publishing

Facebook’s Gaming App Releases Early on Android
Facebook’s dedicated app for its video game live streaming service Facebook Gaming launched several months ahead of schedule on Android, the New York Times reported this week. The app, Facebook’s competitor with Amazon-owned Twitch, has seen its release sped up by the pandemic, with Facebook keen to capture the attentions of those stuck at home.

Snapchat Gains 11 million Daily Users in Q1
Snapchat-maker Snap posted strong Q1 results this week, reporting a rise in its daily user base of 11 million from the previous quarter, reaching 229 million users. And revenues grew to $462.5 million, up 44 percent year-on-year. While the pandemic has brought down ad revenues for many media companies, Snapchat said it has shifted its sales team’s focus on to categories that are still performing well like gaming, entertainment and e-commerce.

Australia Plans to Make Facebook and Google Pay for News Content
Australian lawmakers say plans are in the works to force Google and Facebook to pay to distribute news content from local news sources. The country’s competition regulator is working out the specifics of how payments will be calculated, according to the WSJ, which the government will then pass into law.

Quibi Passes 2.7 Million Downloads
New mobile-first streaming service Quibi’s founder Jeffrey Katzenberg said this week that the app has passed 2.7 million downloads. This means it’s picked up an extra million downloads since launch week, which Katzenberg said is encouraging for a brand which started with no name recognition.

YouTube Announces New Slate of Original Content
YouTube this week announced a new slate of original content for its YouTube Originals programme related to the COVID-19 outbreak. The content is being produced while adhering to social distancing conventions, and includes informative series ‘Money Talks’ from Refinery29, as well as a number of shows from various YouTube stars and mainstream celebrities.


The Week for Agencies

UK Marketing Budgets See Their Biggest Drop Since the Financial Crash, but Video Budgets Continue to Rise
Total marketing budgets in the UK are facing their biggest drop since the 2008 global financial crisis according to the IPA Bellwether report released this week, as advertisers trim their budgets due to the coronavirus pandemic. A net balance of 6.1 percent of those surveyed by IHS Markit (which conducted the survey) said their total marketing budgets have been revised downward, but video budgets are continuing to rise, with a net balance of 2.1 percent increasing their video budgets. Read the full story on VAN.

IAB UK, IPA & ISBA Back Government’s Keyword Blocking Call
Industry bodies representing UK advertisers, agencies, publishers and ad tech companies have come together in support of a message by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) calling on brands to review their use of keyword blocking during the COVID-19 outbreak. ISBA (representing UK advertisers), IAB UK (the industry body for digital advertising) and IPA (representing agencies) say they are contacting members in support of the Government’s message and have jointly published specific advice on how to responsibly review content verification strategies in the current climate.

Maserati Appoints Droga5 as Agency of Record
Car brand Maserati has appointed Accenture Interactive-owned Droga5 as its global creative agency of record, AdAge reported this week. Maserati has worked with Droga5 before, but has previously worked with a selection of different shops rather than having an agency of record, according to AdAge.

Petition Asks to Ban COVID-19 Ads from Cannes
A petition has been launched asking that ads relating to the COVID-19 pandemic not be considered for awards at next year’s Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity. The petition, called “Cannes We Not”, argues that brands are currently using the pandemic as an opportunity to get likes, shares, engagements, coverage, and awards, and that banning these ads from Cannes would disincentivise this behaviour.

WPP to Shutter Triad
WPP plans to shutter its shopper marketing agency Triad within 90 days, according to AdAge, less than four years after buying the agency. WPP attributed the decision to changes in the retail industry, as well as the economic conditions created by COVID-19.

Asos and Zoella Handed Warning by ASA
Retailer Asos and influencer Zoella have been handed a warning from UK advertising regulator the ASA over unclear signposting of a sponsored Instagram post. Zoella, real name Zoe Sugg, had overlaid the word ‘affiliate’ on the post, but the word was partly obscure by Instagram’s direct message icon.

Hires of the Week

Craig Dempster Appointed Global CEO of Merkle
Dentsu Aegis Network has chosen Craig Dempster as the global CEO of its performance marketing agency Merkle. Dempster has been with Merkle for 14 years, most recently working as president for the Americas.

Lad Group Chooses Harpreet Bushell as Chief Growth Officer
Lad Group this week appointed Harpreet Bushell to the newly created role of chief growth officer. Bushell joins from agency Valtech, where she worked as commercial director for two years.

IAB UK Picks Tina Lakhani as First Head of Ad Tech
IAB UK announced this week its appointed Tina Lakhani as its first head of ad tech. In the new role, IAB UK says Lakhani will formulate and communicate the IAB’s position on key ad tech issues, be an expert resource for its members and become a voice for the sector at an industry-wide level.

This Week on VAN

Meet the Apps Taking on TikTok, read more on VAN

Q&A: Ariff Sidi, Chief Product Officer at Verizon Media Platform, read more on VAN

UK Marketing Budgets See Their Biggest Drop Since the Financial Crash, but Video Budgets Continue to Rise, read more on VAN

Who’s Hiring in Video and OTT? read more on VAN

The Pandemic is Forcing Influencer Marketing to Grow Up, read more on VAN

Ad of the Week

Budweiser, Whassup Bud

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