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The WIR: EU and UK Probe Google and Meta’s Jedi Blue Deal, Netflix Starts to Change its Tune on Ads, and the VAB Criticises “Unusable” Nielsen Data Release

11 March, 2022 

In this week’s Week in Review: The UK and EU join US states in investigating Google and Meta’s controversial ‘Jedi Blue’ agreement, Netflix starts to change its tune on introducing ads, and the VAB asks Nielsen to delay the release of its upcoming ‘Big Data’ monthly impact report.

Top Stories

UK and EU Investigate Google and Meta over Jedi Blue Agreement
The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and the European Commission today both launched investigations into Google and Meta’s ‘Jedi Blue’ agreement, whereby the two companies appeared to collude to distort the digital ad market.

The Jedi Blue agreement saw Google agree to give Meta preferential treatment in its ad exchange auctions. In return, Facebook agreed to wind down its header bidding product, which would have threatened Google revenues.

The CMA says it will consider whether this agreement broke the law, and will also investigate whether Google more widely abused its dominant position in digital ad markets to try and shut down header bidding products. The European Commission will similarly assess whether the Jedi Blue agreement violates EU laws on anticompetitive agreements or abuse of a dominant position. The two bodies say they will collaborate closely in their separate investigations.

“Never Say Never”: Netflix Changes Tune on Advertising
Netflix’s CFO Spencer Neumann has said the company does not rule out advertising on the platform in the future. “Never say never,” said Neumann, but made clear that it was not in the immediate plans for the company. “It’s not like we have religion against advertising,” said the CFO.

This marks something of a change of tone from the company’s previous stance on advertising. In a 2019 letter, Netflix told shareholders, “when you read speculation that we are moving into selling advertising, be confident that this is false.”

SVOD service rival Disney+ is introducing advertising this month. Neumann commented, “it’s hard for us to ignore that others are doing it, but for now it doesn’t make sense for us.”

Netflix has seen its subscriber growth slow in recent years, and some analysts have suggested that introducing a cheaper, ad-supported tier could be a way to boost these figures.

TV Trade Group Asks Nielsen to Delay “Unusable” Data Release
Video Advertising Bureau (VAB) has again launched criticism at Nielsen. The TV trade group has called Nielsen’s current data “unusable” and has asked the measurement company to delay its new “big data” monthly impact release until after this year’s upfront. 

The big data releases are set-top box and smart television viewership metrics that are used in conjunction with panel data. 

In a letter to Nielsen, VAB CEO Sean Cunningham said the data was “rife with illogical audience patterns and contradictions, that render it currently unusable.” The trade group criticised Nielsen for not sharing how the data was formulated, but said it was keen to work on a solution.

The Week in Tech

IAB Europe Appeals Belgian GDPR Ruling
IAB Europe has filed an appeal against a ruling by the Belgian Data Protection Authority that found that the body’s Transparency and Consent Framework (TCF) violates GDPR.The IAB’s appeal has been filed before the Market Court in Belgium (part of the Brussels Court of Appeal), and contains a request for the suspension of the execution of the decision.

UK Government To Introduce Law to Force Platforms to Do More on Scam Ads
An updated version of the Online Safety Bill would see social media sites and search engines held responsible for stopping scam ads. If the proposed law was passed, the platforms would have a legal duty to put in place processes to prevent such ads being posted and remove them if they slipped through the net.

Meta Investor Sues Company Over Apple Privacy Changes
An investor in Meta is suing the company, alleging that they falsely reassured shareholders that Apple’s privacy changes “were manageable”. Meta has forecast a $10 billion loss in ad revenue this year due to Apple’s ATT changes. The class action suit, brought by the Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 60 Pension Trust, alleges that executives failed to inform shareholders of the risks during earning calls last year.

UK Government Considers Introducing a Regulator for Online Advertising
The UK government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) this week announced the launch of a new ‘Online Advertising Programme’ (OAP) consultation, which will review the regulatory framework covering digital advertising in the UK. The programme is designed to identify potential harms caused by online advertising – to individuals, to firms, and to society as a whole – and propose areas where new regulations and laws should be introduced to prevent those harms. Read the full story on VideoWeek.

Retail Media Company Swiftly Raises $100 Million
Swiftly, a retail media start-up that provides software to brick and mortar grocery retailers, has raised $100 million in its Series B funding round. This latest funding round comes on top of $20 million raised since 2019. CEO Henry Kim said that the aim of the company was to combine physical shopping and ecommerce to ease pressure on retailers.

Plex Chooses Magnite and SpringServe for Tech
AVOD service Plex has selected Magnite as its preferred SSP, while it has chosen SpringServe as its primary ad server. “Having Magnite and SpringServe in our corner for the past several years has been key to the tremendous growth of our ad-supported business, particularly over the last six to nine months,” said Harold Morgenstern, CRO at Plex.

ShowHeroes Launches Video Content Solution for CTV
ShowHeroes Group has launched Native CTV, its video content solution for connected TV. For this solution, ShowHeroes Studios, the content production arm of ShowHeroes Group, creates a prelude to the advertisement with a 15-second content piece that suits the context of the ad. This launch follows the earlier release of the SemanticHero for CTV, the semantic targeting solution.

Engine Media Exchange Enters European Market
Engine Media Exchange (EMX), a New York-based SSP and end-to-end tech solution provider has announced that it is entering into the European CTV market. The expansion will be focused on the UK and German market. EMX says that it will provide access to over 200 million daily CTV impressions across Europe.

The Week in TV

MFE Seeks Permission to Take Stake in ProSiebenSat.1 Beyond 25 Percent
MediaForEurope (MFE), formerly known as Mediaset, is seeking permission from the German competition watchdog to take its stake in ProsSiebenSat.1 beyond 25 percent. MFE currently holds a 23.9 percent stake in the German broadcaster.  There has been some disagreement between the two broadcast companies over management changes at ProSiebenSat.1.

Apple TV+ Pushes Into Live Sport With Baseball Offering
Apple TV+ has made its first live sports deal, announcing that it is bringing some Major League Baseball games exclusively to the service. “Friday Night Baseball” will be available to fans in the US and six other countries, including the UK. Apple says users without a subscription will be able to access the games free on the service “for a limited time”.

UK TV Ad Spend Grew by Over £1 Billion Last Year
UK ad investment in TV grew by over £1 billion last year, as TV as revenues saw a dramatic recovery from the depths of the pandemic, according to Thinkbox, a trade group representing commercial TV in the UK. This figure, which includes all ad spend across traditional TV and CTV services, represents 24 percent year-on-year growth compared with 2020. This increase took total TV advertising investment in the UK up to £5.46 billion, a record year according to Thinkbox. Read the full story on VideoWeek.

TelevisaUnivision Announces Two-Tiered VOD Service, ViX
TelevisaUnivision announced that it will roll out ViX, a Spanish-language VOD service, later this month. The service will have two tiers, ViX, a free, ad-supported service, and ViX+, an SVOD option with premium content. TelevisaUnivision says that the service, which will be launched in the US, Mexico and Spanish-speaking Latin America, will be the largest Spanish-language streaming service in the world.

Disney+ Confirms Plans to Launch Cheaper, Ad-Supported Tier
Disney+ will be launching a new ad-supported tier in the US this year. Disney did not provide details about how much cheaper the new ad-supported version of its SVOD service would be, and it did not provide an exact date. Disney+ currently lags behind other services on its revenue per user stats, advertising would allow the service to boost this.

Vivendi Looks For Acquisitions in Pay-TV and Magazines
Vivendi is looking for acquisitions of pay-TV and magazine properties in its quest of “building a new Vivendi”. Vivendi’s chair Yannick Bolloré made the comments in an interview after the group published its results. Vivendi spun-off the Universal Music Group last year.

HBO Max Launches in 15 More European Countries
HBO Max has launched in 15 additional countries, including Portugal, the Netherlands and Poland. This means the SVOD service is now available in 61 territories globally. The service launched with a promotion that would allow subscribers 30 percent off the monthly subscription price throughout their membership.

Premier League Suspends Its Russian Broadcast Deal
The Premier League and English Football League have suspended their Russian broadcast deals to prevent their matches from being shown on TV in the country. The deal was with Russian broadcaster Rambler (Okko Sport) and was worth around £6 million to the Premier League. Access to the League’s own streaming service and club services have also been immediately suspended.

ITV Restructures Content Commissioning Team
ITV has announced that it has completed restructuring its content commissioning division, having shaped the team into a “genre-based structure”. The restructuring includes the creation of a reality and acquisitions department “as ITV looks to ramp up content hours in the run up to ITVX’s launch”.

RT Takes EU Ban to Top Court
RT is challenging a ban on the service imposed by the EU. This challenge will go to the European General Court, however it could take weeks to be heard. The restrictions that were imposed by the EU last week meant operations were suspended in France, Germany and Spain. This also meant that the state-backed broadcaster was not available in the UK.

Apple TV+ Launches on Comcast
Apple TV+ is to become available to Comcast customers on Xfinity X1, Xfinity Flex and XClass TV. For one week these Comcast customers will be able to preview some of Apple TV+’s series and films without signing up. A three-month free trial will then be available to these customers.

Broadcasters Come Together to Create Inclusion “Passports”
Seven UK broadcasters have united to introduce access and inclusion “passports” aimed at supporting disabled people at work. The broadcasters involved are Channel 4, ITV, BBC, STV, UKTV, S4C and Paramount UK. The broadcasters have consulted to agree on a similar approach, which is based on an initiative formally introduced at the BBC in 2019.

The Week for Publishers

Gannett Placed Brands Ads on Incorrect Sites for Nine Months
US publisher Gannett, owner of USA Today, shared inaccurate data with advertisers on where exactly their ads were being placed for nine months, according to the Wall Street Journal. Gannett unintentionally misrepresented inventory in online auctions, for example labelling an impression on Indianapolis Star as an impression on USA Today. The error affected billions of auctions, according to Gannett.

Twitter Launches Twitter Shops
Twitter continued its push into ecommerce this week with Twitter Shops, a new feature which lets merchants feature up to fifty products on a separate shopping section of their Twitter profiles. Clicking on products opens up an in-app browser which enables users to purchase products via the seller’s own website.

The Independent Expects Four Million Signed-Up Users by September
The Independent says it expects its count of registered users to reach four million by the end of September, the company’s chief data and marketing officer Jo Holdaway told Press Gazette. Holdaway said The Independent has moved from collecting around 20,000 registrations per month to around 200,000, helping beat its goal of two million registered users.

Media Companies Leave Russia Over Fake News Law
A number of publishers and broadcasters have pulled out of Russia following the passage of a new ‘fake news law’ passed by President Putin last Friday. The law imposes fines and jail terms of up to 15 years for spreading whatever the Kremlin deems to be misinformation about the Russian military. Some have paused reporting within Russia, while others have pulled their journalists out of the country. The BBC paused its reporting, which later resumed after closer examination of the law and its implications.

TikTok Launches a Music Distribution Platform
TikTok has launched a new music promotion and distribution platform, SoundOn, designed to make it easier for artists to get their music on to TikTok. SoundOn, which is currently available in the UK, US, Brazil and Indonesia, will pay 100 percent of royalties to artists in their first year, and ninety percent in years afterwards.

The Guardian Launches a FAST Channel
The Guardian has debuted a branded free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) channel on Rakuten TV. The channel will run The Guardian’s documentary and video journalism content on a linear schedule, in all markets where Rakuten TV is available.

Publishers Question Value of AMP
A large number of publishers are questioning the value of Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages – seeing limited performance and revenue benefits, while also complaining of restricted webpage functionality on AMP. A survey from Digital Content Next found that while 96 percent of respondents either currently or have previously used AMP, 48 percent said they have stopped or plan to stop.

Instagram Pulls Hyperlapse and Boomerang from App Stores
Instagram has pulled two standalone apps, Hyperlapse and Boomerang, from Apple and Google’s app stores, Adweek reported this week. Hyperlapse enabled time-lapse video creation, while Boomerang had tools for short looping videos. Both apps’ capabilities are already rolled into the main Instagram app.

The Week For Agencies

WFA Calls on Brands to Reconsider Media Spend in Russia
The World Federation of Advertisers this week called on brands to reconsider their media spend in Russia, in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. A number of major brands have already pulled media spend, or suspended operations entirely, in the country. But the WFA said that a quarter of those who responded to its survey had not yet changed their media spend in Russia at all.

WPP Closes Down Operations in Russia
Agency holding group WPP announced this week it will close down operations in Russia, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. WPP CEO Mark Read said the company is considering how exactly it will wind down operations, including transfer of ownership and divestment, and added that the company would provide “enhanced financial support” to anyone who loses their job as a result of the decision.

Stagwell Revenues Up 95.5 Percent in Q4
Agency group Stagwell posted 95.5 percent revenue growth in its quarterly earnings this week, its second earnings report since completing its merger with MDC Partners in August. Stagwell CEO and chair Mark Penn said the results show the merger is working faster than had been expected.

Tesco Head of Media Warns of Declining TV Reach
Nick Ashley, Tesco’s head of media and campaign planning, said at Campaign’s TV Advertising Summit that his company is seeing a decline in TV’s reach, making it harder to justify some TV investment. Ashley said Tesco’s most recent TV Christmas campaign saw an 11 point drop in reach compared with 2017, adding that this made it harder to justify the lengths it goes to for big TV campaigns and sponsorships, Campaign reported.

Dentsu Wins Santander Media Duties Across UK, Europe, and US
Dentsu agencies have won media duties for Spanish bank Santander across Europe and the US. Carat won the account for the UK, Spain, and Portugal, while fellow Dentsu agency Dentsu X won the US account.

US Agencies Pick TV as Most Effective Video Ad Channel
US agency and marketing professionals picked TV – including CTV – as their preferred video ad medium for achieving their advertising goals in a survey from Advertising Perceptions, as reported by eMarketer. Forty-seven percent picked TV, which narrowly beat out digital video (46 percent) to take the top spot.

Brothers & Sisters Moves to Not-for-Profit Model
UK creative agency Brothers & Sisters this week announced that it is becoming a social enterprise, and will commit all future profits to charities and non-profit organisations. The company claims to be the first ad agency in Europe following this kind of model.

Hires of the Week

Belinda Leworthy Becomes President of Commonwealth/McCann North America
Belinda Leworthy has been named the president of Commonwealth/North America. Leworthy was previously global client leader at WPP.

Andrew Cosslett Appointed New ITV Chair
Andrew Cosslett has been appointed ITV’s new chair. Cosslett also chairs retail group Kingfisher and is the former chief executive of InterContinental Hotels Group.

Mick McCabe Named Ogilvy Global Chief Strategy Officer
Mick McCabe has been appointed as Ogilvy’s chief strategy officer. McCabe joins from Publicis where he also held the role of chief strategy officer.

Emma Lacey Joins Zefr as Senior Vice President, EMEA
Zefr has appointed Emma Lacey as senior vice president, EMEA. Lacey joins from OpenX, where she was senior director, buyer development.

Starcom Appoints Five Female Execs
Starcom has appointed five female execs. Maureen Glure has been named as its chief client officer US, Gina Jacobson its chief growth officer US, Kim Einan its head of US strategy and Karla Knecht its chief operating officer.

OpenAP Makes Three C-Suite Appointments
OpenAP has made a shuffle of its c-suite appointments, elevating three of its staff to the c-suite. Brittany Slattery  has been elevated to chief marketing officer, Abbey Thomas to chief revenue officer and Chris LoRusso to chief business officer.

Simon Moen Joins ViewersLogic as Head of Data Analytics
ViewersLogic has appointed Simon Moen as head of data analytics. Moen joins from the7stars where he was a senior data analyst.

This Week on VideoWeek

How is the Industry Measuring Attention? read on VideoWeek

#IWD2022: A Focus on Female Founders, read on VideoWeek

UK Government Considers Introducing a Regulator for Online Advertising, read on VideoWeek

UK TV Ad Spend Grew by Over £1 Billion Last Year, read on VideoWeek

Global Meets Local in the African Streaming Market, read on VideoWeek

Ad of the Week

Scottish Widows, International Women’s Day Spot, Zenith and Adam&EveDDB


About the Author:

Tim Cross is Assistant Editor at VideoWeek.
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