The WIR: Viaplay to Launch in UK and Germany, DAZN Closes in on BT Sport, and Sky Plans to Release Smart TVs

Tim Cross 24 September, 2021 

In this week’s Week in Review: Viaplay will launch in five new markets, DAZN is close to buying BT Sport, and Sky considers releasing its own smart TV sets.

Top Stories

Viaplay to Launch in UK and Germany
Nordic Entertainment Group (NENT) this week announced it is rolling out its paid streaming service Viaplay in five new markets by the end of 2023: the UK, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Canada.

Viaplay, which has been a big success story for NENT in its home markets, has begun rolling out internationally as the broadcaster seeks to compete with the US-based streaming giants. NENT believes that by focusing on Nordic-style storytelling, which it describes as a “global entertainment phenomenon”, it can carve out its own niche in the crowded streaming market.

The broadcaster says with these new expansions, it is targeting 12 million subscribers by the end of 2025.

DAZN in Advanced Talks to Buy BT Sport
Sports streaming specialist DAZN is reportedly in advanced talks to buy BT Sport, which British telco BT is openly looking to offload. Chairman Kevin Mayer was coy on the subject at last week’s RTS Conference in Cambridge, though he acknowledged that DAZN is interested in acquisitions, and that BT Sport has a strong portfolio of sports rights.

As VideoWeek previously reported, buying BT Sport would give DAZN a foothold in the Premier League, which DAZN has openly expressed interest in. An acquisition would also strengthen DAZN’s hold on combat sports broadcasting in the UK.

Such a move would almost certainly require DAZN to raise its prices. Just this month, its monthly price rose from £1.99 to £7.99. But BT Sport currently charges £25 per month, and reached that price after a series of price hikes which were reportedly necessary to turn a profit.

Sky Plans to Launch its Own Smart TV
Sky and parent company Comcast are planning to launch their own branded smart TVs, according to reports from Protocol and the FT. In the US, these smart TVs will be manufactured by Hisense and run on Comcast’s X1 CTV operating system. In the UK the picture is less clear, but TVs could well run on Sky’s Sky Q operating system.

The move seemingly is an effort from Comcast and Sky to maintain control of the TV experience, as smart TVs and external devices are increasingly being used to access TV content. And sealing deals with smart TV manufacturers to insert their own operating systems is an increasingly common tactic for platform owners. Roku and Amazon, the CTV platform leaders in the US, both work with external manufacturers to create smart TV. And Amazon has now taken this a step further, producing its first smart TV sets in-house.

The Week in Tech

Roku Partners With Shopify to Facilitate SMEs’ Ads
Roku has partnered with Shopify to build an app that allows small and medium businesses to build, purchase and measure ads on its CTV service. The app is designed for businesses without a big advertising budget. There are 1.7 million merchants on Shopify’s platform who will now be able to access the Roku inventory through the app. 

Google Ads to Offer Access to Advertiser’s Recent History
Google Ads will become more transparent, by displaying not only who the advertiser is and why the ad was served to you, but also what other ads the advertiser has recently run. Last year Google launched its advertiser identity verification programme, which requires advertisers to disclose their information. This new move builds on that shift towards more transparency on the platform in response to criticism.

Tappx Acquires PlayOn
Ad tech company Tappx has acquired PlayOn, a video generation and monetization platform. The two companies say the partnership will create a platform where publishers can generate, display and contextually monetize video content. Earlier this year, Tappx and PlayOn partnered for Tappx’s “Contextualise-It”, a tool that analysed video and placed contextually relevant ads beside it.

Google Seeks to Settle EU Anti-Trust Investigation
Google is seeking to settle a European Union anti-trust probe into its digital advertising business. EU antitrust cases have cost Google 8 billion euros in the last decade. This particular investigation was opened in June by the European Commission and is investigating whether Google favours its own digital advertising services to the detriment of rivals.

VideoAmp to Test Cross-Media Measurement Currency with Major Holding Companies
VideoAmp is to begin testing its cross-media measurement currency with five out of the six major holding companies. The company is looking to unseat Nielsen as the dominant measurement company. The pilot is the first and largest of its kind.

ShowHeroes Launches CTV Audience Targeting Solution
ShowHeroes has announced the launch of SemanticHero, a new audience targeting solution. The solution will use AI to provide contextual analysis on CTV inventory. It will use a combination of available data including EPG and metadata to gain as full an understanding of the context of the inventory as possible. The launch will be overseen by Sarah Lewis, director of CTV at ShowHeroes and a former SpotX executive.

Good-Loop Posts Record H1 Revenues
Ethical ad platform Good-Loop posted record H1 revenues this week, with revenues up 229 percent year-on-year. The platform, which lets ad viewers choose to donate a portion of the ad spend to a charity of their choice, says it has now raised more than $3.5 million for charities around the world.

Watching That Secures Funding from FirstPartyCapital
Watching That, a revenue intelligence platform for OTT businesses, announced this week it has secured late seed funding from FirstPartyCapital, an investment fund focused on ad tech, martech, and digital media. The funding will help Watching That invest in its technical team, accelerate global expansion, and expand its marketing efforts.

Innovid Launches CTV ID Solution
Innovid, a CTV advertising and analytics platform, has announced the launch of Innovid Key, an infrastructure approach to identity management. Innovid says the new solution helps businesses use various identity solutions in concert with Innovid’s proprietary Household Graph, in a secure, privacy-compliant manner.

Facebook Issued Warning Over Smart Glasses Privacy Concerns
The Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC), which is Facebook’s main European regulator, has warned the social media company about privacy concerns over its new Rayban smart glasses. The privacy concerns have been raised over a function that allows users to take a short photo or video of their surroundings using the glasses, the glasses alert others nearby through a small LED light. The Irish DPC has expressed concerns that the light is not sufficient enough to alert people.

OS Data Solutions Integrates with ID5
OS Data Solutions has integrated with ID5, and reports it’s seen a 28 percent increase in reach across all browsers. The data business tested ID5’s effectiveness by running two simultaneous campaigns which were identical except one used the ID5 ID, and the other used a cookie-based ID.

Video Game Advertising Up 17 Percent in 2021
Data from MediaRadar has found that spending on video games ads was up 17 percent in 2021. The spend was $421.2 million for the year so far, up from $360 million from the same period in 2020. There was an even greater rise in the amount spent on advertising consoles and streaming services, this rose by 36 percent. 

The Week in TV

UK Broadcasters Close to Reaching Agreement on Joint Streaming Service
The BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 are close to reaching a deal to launch a new joint streaming service, The Telegraph reported on MondayThe joint venture will combine the broadcasters’ programming on one CTV platform. The new service will reportedly consist of one home screen where all of the broadcasters’ content is available, grouped under categories such as “documentaries” or “dramas”. There will also be links to take viewers to the broadcasters’ existing streaming services, for example, ITV Hub and BBC iPlayer. Read the full story on VideoWeek.

Google Signs Up FAST Channels for Chromecast
Google is looking to ad free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) channels to its newly revamped Chromecast, now powered by the new Google TV operating system. Google believes FAST channels would make Chromecast a more complete alternative to a traditional pay TV package. The service would be available on Chromecast, as well as smart TVs powered by Google TV.

Canal+ Takes Majority Stake in SPI
French telco Canal+ has bought a 70 percent stake in SPI International, a global media company which operates 42 TV channels and multiple digital products across six continents. The price paid and other terms of the deal were not disclosed. Canal+ Group chairman and CEO Maxime Saada said the company has set itself “the goal of reaching a minimum of 30 million subscribers by 2025, and SPI International will certainly be a key asset in achieving this ambition”.

Polish News Channel TVN Receives Last Minute License Renewal
Polish news channel TVN24, a channel owned by Discovery and notable for its critical stance towards Poland’s government, received a last-minute renewal of its broadcasting license this week. As VideoWeek has previously reported, pressure over renewal of broadcast licenses has been a common tactic of Poland’s government in trying to stifle independent media.

Sony Buys Zee Entertainment to Become India’s Largest Broadcaster
Sony’s Indian entertainment unit has bought local rival Zee Entertainment, a move which will see the combined entity become the largest broadcaster in the country. The two say the move will help the two better compete with Disney and Netflix.

Netflix Buys Roald Dahl Works for Reported $500 Million
Netflix this week agreed a deal to acquire the entire works of children’s author Roald Rahl, for a reported $500 million. Netflix says it is already working on a series based on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, as well as an adaption of Matlida The Musical.

Comcast Launches New XiONE Streaming Device
Comcast this week announced a new streaming device, called XiONE, which it will make available across its entire global footprint. The device will help give Comcast more control over the environment in which its NBCU and Sky content is watched.

Disney Forecasts Slowing Subscriber Growth in September
Disney CEO Bob Chapek said the company expects a slowdown in Disney+ subscriptions in September. Chapek said part of the cause is COVID-related production delays, which have affected Disney’s release schedule.

Netflix Releases Free Content for Mobile Users in Kenya
Netflix has begun making about a quarter of its Kenyan catalogue free to mobile users. Cathy Conk, director of product innovation at Netflix, said the move will help more Kenyans discover Netflix and understand what it offers.

VideoElephant Launches Channel Marketplace
Video aggregator VideoElephant has launched a Channel Marketplace, a feed of 150 linear feeds that can be licenced by streaming platforms, digital media companies and brands. The marketplace includes partner channels from brands such as Bloomberg Media, Al Jazeera, Sports Illustrated, and UsWeekly.

The Week in Publishing

The Washington Post Launches a Digital Ad Network
The ad network might just be on, as US newspaper The Washington Post launched a new digital ad network called Zeus Prime, part of its Zeus ad tech business. Zeus Prime has been around for a few years as a way for D.C.-based advertisers to buy inventory on The Post. But now Prime is being expanded, with the Washington Post looking to sign up other publishers onto the platform, and make it more widely available to advertisers. Ads will have set rate CPMs, with $9 as standard, or $10 where additional targeting is layered on.

Douyin Restricts Screen Time for Youngsters in China
Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok (which is owned by the same parent, ByteDance) has begun restricting screen time for young people as the government has begun cracking down on digital addiction. Users under 14 years old will now be restricted to 40 minutes per day.

The Athletic Seeks a Buyer
Digital sports publication The Athletic has hired investment bank LionTree to help it find a buyer, looking for a buyout price of over $750 million, according to The Information. The move follows previous talks with potential buyers Axios and the New York Times, which ultimately proved unfruitful.

Twitter Reaches $810 Million Settlement in Shareholder Lawsuit
Twitter has agreed a settlement of $809.5 million in a class action lawsuit with shareholders which began in 2016. Shareholders claimed they were misled by Twitter over user engagement, with Twitter concealing metrics which showed stagnant or declining user engagement.

The Guardian Stops Reporting ABC Figures
The Guardian and sister newspaper The Observer have stopped reporting ABC figures on print circulation, instead focusing on metrics which reflect its “diversity of journalism, readership and business strategy”. The Guardian will still be audited by the Audit Bureau of Circulations, but figures will be kept private, and only accessible to ad agencies.

Reddit Sees Strong Growth in UK Userbase One Year After Launch
Social sharing platform Reddit this week launched its first brand marketing campaign in the UK, one year after opening its first UK office. Alongside the launch, Reddit announced its UK userbase has grown 48 percent year-on-year since the launch, with UK users spending an average of 31 minutes per day on the platform.

The Week for Agencies

Omnicom Wins Mercedes Account
Omnicom has won global media, brand, and performance marketing duties for Mercedes-Benz, beating out Publicis Groupe in the review process. As part of its win, Omnicom will buy German agencies Antoni and OSK, which it collaborated with in the pitch process.

M&C Saatchi Posts Positive Results
Agency group M&C Saatchi, which has been troubled by legal complications over accounting inaccuracies, touted a turnaround as it posted its H1 financial results this week. Gross revenues were up 14.7 percent year-on-year, or 21 percent on a like-for-like basis.

S4 Capital Buys Zemoga
S4 Capital’s spending spree continued last Friday with the acquisition of Zemoga, a tech services group which provides design, engineering and delivery services to companies including Sony and Roku.

Trade Groups Throw Backing Behind the MRC
Advertising trade groups 4As and the ANA have both voiced their support for the Media Ratings Council (MRC), after the latter suspended its accreditation of US TV measurement heavyweight Nielsen. Both also spoke this week of the need for the industry to collaborate in creating effective cross-media measurement solutions.

OMD Wins Channel 4 Media Duties
A cross-agency team within Omnicom Media Group, led by OMD, has won media duties for Channel 4 after a review. The team, called Fast4WD, beat out Zenith and the7stars to win the account.

ASA Cracks Down on Greenwashing Ads
The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) this week outlined its plans to support the government’s new climate change targets, saying it will do more to “crack down on misleading and socially irresponsible environmental advertising”. The ASA also says it wants to play a supportive role in educating the ad industry on what green advertising should look like.

Incubeta Acquires Maze-One
Marketing group Incubeta has acquired Dutch marketplace specialist, Maze-One for an undisclosed fee. Incubeta says the acquisition of the company will provide its customers with end-to-end digital commerce support from a team covering Amazon and other marketplaces including, Mano Mano and Zalando.

Major Brands’ Ads Turn Up on Disinformation Sites
Research from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism this week reported that ads for major brands including Nike, Amazon, Ted Baker, and Asos have been turning up on COVID-19 disinformation sites. A spokesperson for Ted Baker said the inventory has been bought through Google Display Network, and said that the brand was working with Google to resolve the issue.

IPG Mediabrands Use Gracenote Data to Measure TV Representation
IPG Mediabrands has begun using automatic content recognition data from Gracenote, specifically its ‘Inclusion Analytics’ data, to measure representation in TV and streaming content. Mediabrands says the data will help brands to connect with underrepresented audiences.

Hires of the Week

Monica Majumdar Joins Wavemaker as Head of Strategy
Monica Majumdar, previously head of strategy at Verizon, has joined Wavemaker as head of strategy, placing her on the leadership board.

Grey Appoints Joint Heads of Strategy
Agency Grey has appointed two joint heads of strategy; Annalisa Roy, former global brand strategy director of Publicis, and Asad Shaykh, who was most recently Grey Social’s digital strategy director.

GumGum Taps Outbrain’s Erin McCallion as Global CMO
Contextual specialist GumGum has hired Erin McCallion, previously of Outbrain, as its CMO.

This Week on VideoWeek

UK Broadcasters Close to Reaching Agreement on Joint Streaming Service, read on VideoWeek

GDPR Enforcement in Digital Advertising Has Been Sparse, read on VideoWeek

What’s Driving the IPO Boom for Digital Publishers? read on VideoWeek

IMDb TV is Quietly Becoming an AVOD Juggernaut, read on VideoWeek

Ad of the Week

Lego, The Damp Knight, In-House


About the Author:

Tim Cross is Assistant Editor at VideoWeek.
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