The WIR: Teads Seeks $5 Billion Valuation in IPO, TV Networks Ask MRC to Suspend Nielsen Accreditation, and California Sues Activision Blizzard Over Workplace Harassment

23 July, 2021 

In this week’s Week in Review: Teads targets a valuation of $5 billion in its IPO, the Video Advertising Bureau asks the MRC to suspend Nielsen’s accreditation, and California sues Activision Blizzard over damning allegations about workplace harassment.

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Teads Seeks $5 Billion Valuation in Upcoming IPO
Teads, an outstream video advertising tech company owned by French telco Altice, said this week it is seeking a valuation of up to $5 billion in its upcoming IPO. The company hopes to raise $808.5 million when it lists on the NASDAQ, where it will trade under the ticket TEAD.

The valuation would mark impressive growth since Altice acquired Teads back in 2017 for $337 million. That would represent a healthy return on Altice’s investment, though the telco isn’t completely divesting itself of its ad tech asset. Teads will be listed as a ‘controlled company’, which means Altice will still retain the majority of voting power, and the majority of outstanding common shares.

Video Advertising Bureau Asks MRC To Suspend Nielsen Ratings Accreditation
In an escalation of the row between the Video Advertising Bureau (VAB) and Nielsen, the VAB has asked the Media Ratings Council (MRC) to suspend the accreditation of Nielsen’s rating service. 

Earlier this year, the VAB, which represents TV networks and distributors, accused Nielsen of undercounting TV ratings during the pandemic. This allegation was later confirmed by the MRC. Now, the VAB says that Nielsen has not made any changes since the undercounting, and should therefore have its accreditation suspended. 

The Video Advertising Bureau accuses Nielsen of violating the “minimum standards for a media research ratings service” that the MRC has established.

Activision Blizzard Sued by State of California for Alleged Staff Harassment
The State of California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) is suing Activision Blizzard, one of the world’s largest games publishers, over alleged staff harassment and workplace discrimination. The suit, filed after a two year investigation by the DFEH, lists a number of damning claims against the company, describing a toxic workplace culture which saw widespread sexual harassment, men routinely promoted over more qualified women, and unequal pay.

The most harrowing claim made by the DFEH was the allegation that a female employee had killed herself due to workplace harassment following a sexual relationship with a male colleague. Intimate photos of the victim had reportedly been passed around by male employees at a staff party.

Activision Blizzard denies the claims entirely. The games publisher described the DFEH in a statement as “unaccountable state bureaucrats”, and said it has “rushed to file an inaccurate complaint”.

The Week in Tech

AT&T Is Reportedly in Discussions to Sell Xandr
AT&T is reportedly discussing selling its loss-making ad unit Xandr to Indian ad tech giant InMobi. Xandr was created in 2018 through the combination of $1.6 billion acquisition AppNex and a smaller acquisition of Clypd. Xandr is making tens of millions of losses a year, according to sources reported in Axios.

Kaltura Goes Public on Nasdaq
Kaltura, a video cloud platform, has made its initial public offering on Nasdaq. The Israeli company aims to raise $150 million in its IPO. Its estimated market capitalisation is $1.3 billion.

NBCUniversal Adopts Ad-ID
NBCUniversal has adopted Ad-ID, an industry wide tool for standardising and evaluating advertising assets. It is the first major media organisation to adopt the tool which was devised by two industry trade groups, the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4As) and the Association of National Advertisers (ANA). The groups behind the tool say it has been adopted by more than 3,000 advertisers and 700 agencies in the US.

Tinuiti to Acquire CTV Ad-Buying Platform Bliss Point Media
Marketing and e-commerce company Tinuiti is acquiring Bliss Point Media, a CTV ad-buying company. Bliss Point expects to generate $50 million in revenue this year, a figure that represents a 200 percent increase from last year, said Tinuiti CEO Zach Morrison. Morrison said that after the deal closes the two companies are likely to generate around $250 million in combined revenue this year. 

Good-Loop Introduces Environmental Tracker for Ads
Ethical ad-tech company Good-Loop has created an environmental tracker to allow brands and agencies to track and offset the CO2 emissions of their digital ads in real time. The Green Ad Tag works similarly to trackers for viewability or brand safety, using a 1×1 pixel inserted into ads. Good-Loop will then help advertisers to offset their carbon footprint.

WideOrbit Releases WO Network 2021
WideOrbit, has announced the release of the latest version of its flagship network ad sales and commercial operations platform. The new WO Network release introduces the Electronic Material Instructions module, a solution which WideOrbit say is the first automated solution to address the need to simplify and streamline the material instructions process.

Anzu and OpenX Announce Partnership
In-game advertising platform Anzu and advertising exchange OpenX have partnered. The partnership will allow OpenX’s advertisers to programmatically serve in-game video and banner ads at scale across mobile, PC, and console platforms. 

The Week in TV

ITV and Sky Outline Expanded Long-Term Advertising and Carriage Partnership
UK broadcasters ITV and Sky have agreed a long-term new deal that expands their existing advertising and carriage partnership. The terms of the deal include bringing the ITV Hub app to Sky Q, Sky’s TV subscription platform. It will also enable ITV to launch addressable advertising across Sky, on both their on-demand and linear services.

HBO Max to Integrate Full Episodes Onto Snapchat Co-Watching Service
HBO Max is to make full episodes of its TV programmes available on Snapchat for users to view together. The Snap Mini feature enables up to 64 users to simultaneously watch pilot episodes of HBO Max programming. No additional installation is needed for users to access the HBO Max content. At the end of the episodes, viewers over 18 will be asked if they want to subscribe to HBO Max to watch the next episode of that programme.

ProSieben Raises Profit Outlook Driven by Strong Ad Sales
German broadcaster ProSieben has raised its sales and profits forecast, after it experienced a strong quarter, driven by its advertising business. ProSieben said revenue in the second quarter grew by 47 percent. They also reported sevenfold growth in core profit from Q2 2020, which was severely impacted by the pandemic.

CNN Confirms Streaming Service to Launch in Q1 2022
CNN has confirmed that it will launch its streaming service, CNN Plus in the first quarter of 2022. CNN Worldwide chief digital officer Andrew Morse revealed additional details about the service in a Variety podcast episode. He said that CNN Plus would not be a separate app at launch, and would instead be integrated into the existing CNN app. He also said the service would be primarily focused on current affairs, rather than opinion. 

Comcast CEO and ViacomCBS Chairman Met to Discuss Streaming Deal
Comcast CEO Brian Roberts and ViacomCBS chairman Shari Redstone reportedly met to discuss a streaming partnership for international markets. During the meeting, which was held at the end of June, the executives discussed possible partnerships that would allow them to enter international markets together, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Netflix Posts Mixed Results for Q2
Netflix posted a mixed set of results this week, with it beating predictions on subscriber and top-line revenue growth, but coming out below predictions on bottom-line revenue growth. The streaming giant blamed the mixed results on “the pandemic [which] has created unusual choppiness in our growth and distorts year-over-year comparisons”. The company saw the strongest subscriber growth in APAC, whereas it actually saw paid membership decline very slightly in the US and Canada.

Sports Fans Would Prefer to Watch Live Games on Streaming Rather Than Pay-TV Says Survey
Most sports fans would rather watch live matches on streaming services than on pay-TV subscriptions services, according to a survey carried out by live video production firm Grabyo.  The survey found that 79 percent of the sports fans asked would watch live events on sports streaming services like ESPN+ and DAZN solely if they could. The survey found that since 2019, pay-TV subscriptions for sports channels have dropped nine percent globally, while 65 percent of fans now pay for online streaming services, compared with 46 percent in 2019.

Ofcom Opens Consultation on How it Regulates BBC
Ofcom, the UK broadcast watchdog, has opened a consultation on how it regulates the BBC. The review is taking place because the BBC has reached the midpoint of its current charter, which requires Ofcom to reflect upon its regulation of the BBC over the last four years. Ofcom is planning to use the review to reflect the results of its wider public-service broadcasting review entitled “Small Screen; Big Debate”. Consultation will close on 15 September.

The Week in Publishing

BDG Media Targets SPAC Deal
Media group BDG Media, which owns publications including Bustle and Input, is considering merging with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) as a route to going public, the WSJ reported this week. BDG Media also announced its acquisition of Some Spider Studios, which owns parenting websites Scary Mommy, Fatherly, and The Dad.

Snap Posts 116 Percent Revenue Growth
Snap this week posted its highest year-on-year revenue growth of 116 percent, as the video-sharing app’s hot streak continues. Snap’s revenues in Q2 hit $982 million, while its daily active user count reached 293 million.

TikTok Adds Ability to Directly Sponsor Creator Posts
TikTok has added a new ability for marketers this week, which lets them pay to promote creators’ own posts. The new format, called ‘Spark Ads’, also lets the brand add click throughs and calls-to-action onto those posts.

Verizon Media Reports Full Recovery from Pandemic
Verizon’s media unit Verizon Media said in its Q2 financial results this week that revenues are back above pre-pandemic levels, thanks to a rebound in digital ad spend. Total revenues for Q2 were $2.1 billion, up 50 percent year-on-year.

Twitter and Facebook Take Further Steps in MRC Audit Process
Twitter has signed a contract with the Media Ratings Council (MRC) to begin its brand safety audit. Twitter had announced in December 2020 that it intended to undergo the MRC’s accreditation process, this represents the first step in doing so. Meanwhile Facebook said on Wednesday that it has launched its brand safety audit with the MRC. These moves follow increased political pressure on the large social media platforms to undergo these kinds of scrutiny.

Instagram Launches Stories Translations Globally
Instagram this week rolled out a new feature for Stories, which will enable users to translate text within any stories they watch. Instagram says the new feature will help users engage with more content from different countries.

TikTok Blocks Certain Categories in Influencer Marketing
TikTok has begun blocking influencer campaigns for fintech companies, as well as other categories including energy drinks, Business Insider reported this week. But these brands are still allowed to book paid campaigns, or use influencers within their own brand-run TikTok pages.

Duolingo Preps for $3 Billion IPO
Language learning app Duolingo said this week it is aiming for a valuation of around $3.41 billion in its planned IPO. Duolingo’s revenues reached $161 million last year. And in the first quarter of this year, 72 percent of the company’s revenues came from subscriptions, while 17 percent was from advertising.

The Week for Agencies

IPG Forecasts 10 Percent Organic Growth in 2021
Interpublic Group bumped up its forecast for 2021 in its Q2 results this week, saying it now expects organic revenues to be up by 9 to 10 percent this year. Organic net revenues were 19.8 percent higher in Q2 than the same period last year.

Toyota Bails On Olympics Ads in Japan
Olympics sponsor Toyota has pulled Olympics-related ad campaigns in Japan, with many in the country remaining concerned about holding a massive sporting event while COVID infection rates remain high. The car maker will continue running ads outside Japan, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Publicis Posts Organic Revenue Growth of 17.1 Percent
Like IPG (see above), French agency group Publicis Groupe saw strong growth in organic revenues in Q2, with a 17.1 percent year-on-year increase. Growth in Q2 was largely driven by strong performance in Asia and the US, according to the results.

S4 Builds £200 Million Warchest for M&A
S4 Capital has refinanced its debt to provide £200 million for purposes including M&A, its executive chairman Sir Martin Sorrell said this week. Sorrell said he’s looking to expand further into technology services, to better compete with the likes of Accenture and Globant.

Omnicom Beats Estimates in Q2 Results
Omnicom beat analyst expectations in its Q2 financial results this week, posting 27.5 percent revenue growth compared to the same quarter last year. Organic revenue growth reached 24.4 percent, according to Omnicom.

Coca-Cola Ramps Up Ad Spend
Coca-Cola massively increased its ad spend this year, which helped spur year-on-year revenue growth, the company reported this week. Marketing and advertising spend doubled in Q2, compared to the same period last year.

Zenith Wins Extra Duties on Nestlé Account
Publicis Groupe’s Zenith has been handed an expanded media remit on its Nestlé UK and Ireland account, following a pitch process which involved UM, DentsuX, and Openmind according to Campaign. The extra duties on the £63 million account include search, out-of-home, and health.

Hires of the Week

Ana Milicevic joins ID5’s Board of Directors
ID5 have appointed Ana Milicevic as an adviser and member of ID5’s board of directors. Milicevic is principal and co-founder of Sparrow Advisers. 

NBCUniversal Names John Lee as Chief Data Officer
NBCUniversal has hired John Lee in the newly created role of chief data officer. Lee was  previously global chief corporate strategy officer at Dentsu’s Merkle.

This Week on VideoWeek

The Pandemic Sparked a Renaissance for QR Codes in Advertising, read on VideoWeek

Is TikTok Trying to Become a Chinese-Style Super-App? read on VideoWeek

Fortnite’s Creative Mode is Emerging as Brands’ First Step into the Metaverse, read on VideoWeek

It’s Not Just the Death of Cookies Which is Driving Interest in Contextual Targeting, read on VideoWeek

Ad of the Week

Taco Bell, Fry Force, Deutsch L.A.


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