The WIR: Azerion Acquires Sublime, HBO Max Announces European Plans, and Nielsen Loses its MRC Accreditation

03 September, 2021 

In this week’s Week in Review: M&A in the ad tech space continues at pace. Following DoubleVerify’s acquisition of Meetrics earlier in the week, gaming company Azerion today announced a deal to buy Sublime. Sublime is perhaps best known for its ‘skins’ format which sits around the outside of a web page’s main content, though its offering has evolved over the years

HBO Max became the latest US streamer to try and make the jump across the Atlantic, though the UK, Germany and Italy are still a long way off.

Meanwhile, Nielsen’s troubles intensified as it formally lost its MRC accreditation. Questions remain over how big the impact will be on Nielsen’s business – is its brand strong enough to maintain its dominance even with MRC backing?

And across the world, governments faced up to the global tech giants as SVOD services, Google, Apple, and even algorithms themselves came under scrutiny.

Top Stories

Ad Tech Company Sublime Acquired by Gaming Platform Azerion
Sublime, a French ad tech company, has been acquired by gaming monetisation platform Azerion. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Sublime had raised around $6 million in funding.

Azerion says they acquired Sublime in order to boost their programmatic and monetisation offering across Europe. Gaming and advertising have been increasingly tied together by a recent series of mergers and acquisitions in the space. For example; Zynga acquired Chartboost in May, and Vungle acquired GameRefinery in March of this year.

Azerion itself has already acquired an ad tech company in Swedish platform Keymobile, which it acquired last month. It also acquired games developers Sulake and WHOW Games.

HBO Max Set for European Debut
WarnerMedia this week unveiled new details around its plans to launch its HBO Max streaming service in international markets, including Europe. The subscription service will launch in Spain and the Nordics this Autumn, followed by Central and Eastern Europe and Portugal in 2022.

“Europe is a huge priority for us,” said Priya Dogra, president of WarnerMedia Europe, the Middle East and Africa and Asia, speaking at the Series Mania Forum this week. “We now have the U.S. and Latin America under our belt, we feel very good about those successes there and the growth that we’re seeing. Europe is a complicated market, but it’s an exciting one.”

The service however won’t roll out in many major European markets, including the UK, Germany, and Italy, any time soon. HBO content is already licensed out to Sky in those markets, in a deal which runs through until at least 2025.

Nielsen Has Local and National TV Measurement Accreditation Suspended
Nielsen’s Media Ratings Council (MRC) accreditation for its local and national TV measurement has been suspended. The suspension follows a row over Nielsen undercounting TV ratings during the pandemic, something which broadcasters say the company has not taken sufficient steps to fix.

Nielsen had requested a hiatus on its accreditation process, in order to give it time to remedy its measurement systems. The suspension means that the request has now been denied.

The decision comes into place from the middle of this month. Nielsen’s ratings can still be used; however, they now lacked the seal of approval from the trusted MRC.

The Week in Tech

DoubleVerify Acquires Meetrics
Measurement and verification business DoubleVerify this week announced a deal to acquire Meetrics, a Berlin-based ad tech business which also specialises in verification. The deal was funded with some of the proceeds from DoubleVerify’s recent IPO. DoubleVerify didn’t disclose the value of the deal.

Pixalate Raises $18.1 Million
Ad fraud prevention specialist Pixalate has completed an $18.1 million funding round led by Western Technology Investment and Javelin Venture Partners, bringing its total funding to $22.7 million. The new funding will go toward adding more privacy and data features to its product, doubling its sales and customer teams and expanding its office in London, according to TechCrunch.

US Department of Justice Preparing Antitrust Case Against Google’s Ad Tech Business
The US Department of Justice is preparing a new antitrust case against Google, alleging that the company is abusing its dominance in its digital advertising business. This follows a previous suit, which focused on Google’s search dominance. Google disputes the idea that it dominates the advertising business, citing companies like Amazon and Comcast as major competitors. 

South Korean Parliament Passes Bill to Stop App Store Dominance
The South Korean Parliament has passed a bill that effectively prevents major app stores, such as those owned by Google and Apple, from charging commissions on in-app purchases. The bill stops app store operators from forcing app developers to use their payment systems, something which both Google and Apple have been criticised for previously, as these systems can charge up to 30 percent commission. A bipartisan trio of Senators in the US have introduced similar legislation, introduced last month.

MMI Uncovers CTV Fraud Scheme ‘RapidFire’
Measurement and verification vendor Method Media Intelligence (MMI) has uncovered a new CTV ad fraud scheme dubbed RapidFire, which it says pulls in $10 million a month in ad revenues. RapidFire, as is common in CTV ad fraud schemes, targets vulnerabilities in server-side ad insertion (SSAI), which is commonly used in CTV environments.

ByteDance Acquires VR Headset Maker
ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company has acquired Pico, a VR headset maker. The acquisition represents ByteDance’s first move into VR, an area that rivals like Facebook have been invested heavily in. China-based Pico is the third-largest VR headset maker in the world.

Mediaocean Receives Investment from CVC and TA
Mediaocean, the omnichannel advertising platform, has received investment from CVC Capital Partners and TA Associates. The two investment companies are acquiring the stake that has been held by Vista Equity Partners. No financial terms of the deal, which is expected to close in Q4, were announced.

Facebook Fixes Undercounting Bug For SKAdNetwork Conversions
Facebook has fixed a bug in its measurement system that caused it to undercount SKAdNetwork conversions on iPhone 12s since February. The bug, which caused Facebook to undercount app install campaigns, only affected iPhone 12 users; however, with over 100 million units of the phone having been sold the problem is still significant. Facebook spotted the error on 20th August, they say it started when they began running iOS 14 app ad campaigns in February.

Chinese Government Plans to Regulate Algorithms
The Chinese government announced further crackdowns on the country’s tech companies this week. Following new restrictions on the amount of time young people can play video games for, China’s cybersecurity regulator released new draft rules regulating recommendation algorithms used online. The draft rules state that algorithms must not push users to become addicted to services or spend lots of money, must be transparent, and there must be options for users to turn off recommendation algorithms.

Amazon is Planning to Hire 55,000 People to Tech and Corporate Roles
Amazon chief executive officer Andy Jassy is going on his first hiring spree and plans to hire 55,000 people globally in technology and corporate roles. In perspective, those new hires would be equivalent to more than a third of Google’s staff and nearly all of Facebook’s. In an interview with Reuters, Jassy said the new staff were needed to keep pace with growth in areas like advertising and the cloud.

The Week in TV

NBCUniversal Is To Select Multiple Measurement Providers
NBCUniversal has confirmed it will select multiple measurement providers in its upcoming review. The network’s current provider Nielsen has had its accreditation suspended by the Media Ratings Council. Nielsen has submitted a pitch to be one of the new providers. NBCUniversal had encouraged other broadcasters to follow suit in selecting multiple measurement providers.

UK Government to Consult on VOD Regulation
The British government has launched a consultation on whether streaming services should be subject to stricter rules around their content. The consultation follows the UK’s exit from the EU, which the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport says represents “an opportunity to create regulation suited to UK viewers that goes beyond the minimum standards as set out in EU regulation”. 

CTV Platforms Increased their Ad Spend by 47 Percent Increase in 2021, Says Research
CTV platforms increased their ad spend by 47 percent year-over-year in 2021, according to research from advertising intelligence platform, MediaRadar. Platforms like HBOMax, Disney+ and Netflix spent $1.06 billion marketing themselves across TV, print and digital platforms.

DAZN and Snapchat Agree Global Partnership Deal
Snapchat has signed a deal with sports streaming platform DAZN. The deal will give Snapchat users worldwide access to DAZN’s boxing content portfolio. The content will include a new show called DAZN Fight Week, which premiered on Snapchat’s Discover page on 31st August.

TV Streamer Locast Suspends Operations After Court Decision
Locast, a streaming service that captures programming from broadcast stations and re-transmits them over the internet, has suspended its operations after a court ruling. The court ruling was that, despite operating as a non-profit, Locast makes too much money from user payments to be exempt from copyright proceedings brought by Walt Disney Co unit ABC, CBS, Comcast’s NBC and Fox.

US SVOD Subscriptions Will Reach 450 Million in 2026, Says New Data
The number of SVOD subscriptions in the US will reach 450 million by 2026, according to Digital TV Research. This represents a one-third increase from the end of 2021. By the end of 2026, 87 percent of households will have access to a subscription service.

Ofcom Fines Chinese Broadcaster £200,000 Over Breach of Privacy Rules
British media regulator Ofcom has fined Star China Media Limited £200,000 after it found the broadcaster had seriously breached its fairness and privacy rules. The fine follows complaints over two individuals who the broadcaster treated unfairly. The complaints relate to two of the companies’ channels CCTV and CGTN, where the two individuals were interviewed without giving informed consent. 

The Week in Publishing

Verizon Media Becomes Yahoo Again as Apollo Completes its Acquisition
Verizon has completed its sale of Verizon Media, its ill-fated venture into media and advertising, to private equity firm Apollo Global Management. The media unit has been renamed Yahoo, one of the two major companies (alongside AOL) which Verizon acquired as part of its media strategy. “The close of the deal heralds an exciting time of renewed opportunity for us as a standalone entity,” said Yahoo CEO Guru Gowrappan. “We anticipate that the coming months and years will bring fresh growth and innovation for Yahoo as a business and a brand, and we look forward to creating that future with our new partners.”

Vice Backs Down from SPAC Plans After $85 Million Funding Round
Vice has secured $85 million in new funding from existing investors, The Information reported this week. As part of the deal Vice’s founder Shane Smith has agreed to give up voting control of the company, though he remains chairman of the board. The funding comes as an alternative to previous plans to go public via a merger with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC).

LinkedIn Shuts Down Stories Feature
LinkedIn has disabled its Stories feature, which let users post ephemeral videos, after the format failed to take off on the social platform. “We introduced Stories last year as a fun and casual way to share quick video updates,” said a statement from LinkedIn. “We’ve learned a ton. Now, we’re taking those learnings to evolve the Stories format into a reimagined video experience across LinkedIn that’s even richer and more conversational.”

Google Appeals $591 Million French Fine over News Payments
Google is appealing a $591 million fine imposed on it by France’s antitrust watchdog for not following orders on how to negotiate with publishers over paying for their content. “We disagree with a number of legal elements, and believe that the fine is disproportionate to our efforts to reach an agreement and comply with the new law,” said Sebastien Missoffe, head of Google France.

Reddit Launches New Conversational Ad Placement
Reddit this week launched a new ad format, which sits inside Reddit conversation threads, below the post itself and above the first comment. These ads can be targeted based on the content of the conversation thread, which Reddit says will help brands connect with users based on their passions.

Twitch Streamers Stage Boycott to Protest Hate and Harassment
A number of Twitch streamers and viewers boycotted the platform for a day, in protest against a perceived lack of action against hate raids which have become increasingly prevalent for smaller streamers. These hate raids see streamers’ chat bars filled with racist, sexist, and homophobic slurs generated by bots, designed to harass the streamer and their audience. Twitch has told its users it is working to combat these raids.

WhatsApp Fined $270 Million over EU Privacy Violations
Facebook-owned WhatsApp has been fined $270 million by European regulators over violations of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Ireland’s Data Protection Authority ruled that WhatsApp doesn’t sufficiently explain to EU users how it uses their data. WhatsApp has been given three months to update its practices so it complies with GDPR.

Facebook Introduces Fantasy Games
Facebook this week launched Facebook Fantasy Games, which enable simple prediction games akin to regular sports fantasy leagues, but covering both sports and pop culture. Leagues will be created in conjunction with a mix of sports leagues and entertainment brands.

ESPN Looks to License its Brand to Betting Businesses
US sports brand ESPN is looking to boost its income by licensing its brand to a third-party sportsbook. ESPN is hoping to make around $3 billion off such a deal, according to the WSJ, with Caesars Entertainment and DraftKings seen as potential partners.

The Week for Agencies

Publicis Wins $200 Million Planet Fitness Account
US gym chain Planet Fitness has appointed Team Lift, a bespoke unit within Publicis Groupe, as its agency of record following a review. Team Lift will handle both creative and media duties for Planet Fitness.

Wavemaker NA Appointed Agency of Record for De’Longhi
Wavemaker has been picked as the agency of record for espresso machine maker De’Longhi NA. Wavemaker will be responsible for communications planning and paid media activation across all channels for De’Longhi NA’s three major brands, De’Longhi, Braun and Kenwood, in the U.S. and Canada according to Adweek.

Pernod Ricard Plans to Continue Boosting Ad Spend
Drinks maker Pernod Ricard plans to keep up its boosted ad spending, which saw it invest 16 percent of sales back into marketing last year, according to The Drum. Increased ad spend helped Pernod Ricard post 5 percent growth in sales in its most recent results.

Influential Seals Partnership with TikTok
Influencer marketing agency Influential has agreed a deal with TikTok which will see Influential integrated into TikTok’s creator marketplace, which helps brands connect with TikTok influencers.

M&C Saatchi Bosses Can Triple Pay in New Bonuses Scheme
Top directors at agency group M&C Saatchi stand to earn up to triple their pay in bonuses, if they hit certain performance targets, according the company’s annual report and reported by Campaign. Chief executive Moray MacLennan has a basic salary of £650,000, but may earn an annual cash bonus of 100 percent of his salary, plus a further 150 percent in shares.

Generation Alpha Has Strong Influence Over Purchasing Behaviour
from WildBrain Spark this week outlined the strong influence Generation Alpha has over purchasing behaviour. Three in five parents (58 percent) surveyed for the research said their children’s viewing preferences have led them to research or buy a product very often, or occasionally, in the six months leading up to June 2021. And when parents watch children’s shows, films, videos and clips with their kids, almost six in 10 children pay either the same amount or more attention to the ads than to the show they are watching.

Hires of the Week

Joanne Bradford Takes on MNTN Chief Growth Officer Role
Joanne Bradford will join ad tech company MNTN in the new role of chief growth officer. Bradford has been in marketing for decades, she was previously chief operating officer and chief marketing officer at SoFi Technologies.

Matthias Dang and Stephan Schäfer Appointed as RTL Deutschland Co-CEOs
RTL Deutschland has appointed Matthias Dang and Stephan Schäfer as their two new co-CEOs. The move follows a merger with publisher Gruner + Jahr.

Philip Gale Becomes Head of Agency Development Europe at InMobi
Philip Gale has joined InMobi as head of agency development for Europe. Gale joins from Publicis Media, where he was director of programmatic partnerships.

This Week on VideoWeek

CTV-Style Ads Are Converting Sceptical Brands to Gaming, read on VideoWeek

Why Sky’s SVOD Bundling is a Smart Move, read on VideoWeek

RTL Deutschland Appoints New Co-CEOs Amid Publisher Merger, read on VideoWeek

Apple Asks for Permission to Personalise Ads as its Grip Over App Store Loosens, read on VideoWeek

Ad of the Week

DirecTV, Wonder, TBWA\Chiat\Day Los Angeles


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