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The WIR: France’s Competition Watchdog Launches an In-Depth Investigation into TF1/M6 Merger, Investors Line Up a Bid to Buy Nielsen, and Warner Bros Discovery Reveals its Streaming Strategy

18 March, 2022 

In this week’s Week in Review: France’s competition watchdog launches an in-depth investigation into TF1/M6 merger, Elliott Management and a band of other investors line up an offer for Nielsen, and Warner Bros Discovery announces it will go all-in on one CTV super-app.

Top Stories

French Competition Watchdog Wants a Closer Look at TF1/M6 Merger
l’Autorité de la concurrence, France’s competition watchdog, announced today that after an initial review of the proposed merger between broadcasters TF1 and M6, it will need to conduct an in-depth ‘phase 2’ review.

The news isn’t necessarily surprising, given that the merger brings together two of France’s biggest TV businesses. But nonetheless, the announcement means the two companies will likely have to wait until autumn for a decision from the competition authority, after which the Audiovisual and Digital Communication Regulatory Authority will conduct its own review.

The competition watchdog says its in-depth review will focus on the impact of the merger on the acquisition of broadcasting rights for audiovisual content; publishing and marketing of television channels; the distribution of television services; and the advertising market.

Investor Group Lines Up a Bid to Buy Nielsen
A consortium of private equity firms, including Elliott Management, is lining up a bid to buy embattled measurement provider Nielsen, the Wall Street Journal reported this week. The proposed deal would be in the region of $15 billion, and could be completed within weeks, according to the Journal’s sources.

Elliott, an existing shareholder in Nielsen, pressured Nielsen to sell itself back in 2018 due to the company’s financial struggles. This eventually resulted in Nielsen splitting itself into two publicly traded companies. But Nielsen has faced a different kind of pressure over the past year, as the company has lost its MRC accreditation and faced criticisms and claims of inaccurate measurement.

HBO Max and Discovery+ Will Merge into One Streaming Service
WarnerMedia and Discovery confirmed this week that once their planned merger is complete, the two will combine their existing primary streaming offerings, HBO Max and Discovery+, into one united service.

So far the two apps have essentially been in competition with each other, attempting to win subscriptions but in the US and abroad. There had been speculation that the two apps might remain independent, offering different bundles of content for consumers.

But Warner Bros Discovery believes a combined app will better compete with the streaming leaders. CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels confirmed the move at a Deutsche Bank conference, but said that initially the company will continue to operate the two services independently, while offering new subscription bundles to sign users up to both products.

The Week in Tech

Meta Picks Zefr for Brand Safety Measurement
Meta this week announced it has picked ad tech outfit Zefr as its first brand safety measurement partner, allowing Zefr to provide independent reporting to advertisers on the context in which their ads appear. The two companies will collaborate to provide a tool specifically for Facebook at first, with Instagram enabled later.

Allen Media Group Sues Nielsen
Byron Allen’s media holding company Allen Media Group is suing measurement provider Nielsen for alleged fraudulent misrepresentation and fraud by concealment. The lawsuit claims that Nielsen’s panel-based measurement is unsuitable for Allen Media Group’s properties, given their limited distribution, and that Nielsen knew this was the case.

Google Analytics will Stop Logging IP Addresses
Google Analytics is sunsetting its legacy product, Universal Analytics, and moving all customers over to Google Analytics 4 by July next year, AdExchanger reported this week. As part of the change, Google Analytics will no longer log or store IP addresses.

Online Safety Bill Introduced to UK Parliament
The UK’s Online Safety Bill, which will place new obligations on online platforms to protect users from harmful content, was introduced in Parliament on Thursday. This formally starts the legislative process, though given the complexity of the bill, it could take a while to work its way through Parliament.

ICCL Sues Irish DPA Over Failure to Act on Google
The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) is suing Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC), arguing that the data watchdog has failed to protect consumers from “the biggest data breach ever recorded: Google’s “Real-Time Bidding” online advertising system”. The ICCL says that the DPC has failed to act since first receiving a complaint 3 1/2 years ago, and must now be compelled to act.

smartclip LATAM Starts Operating Under ShowHeroes Brand Throughout Latin America
ShowHeroes Group has completed its post-merger integration with smartclip LATAM, meaning that smartclip now officially operates under the ShowHeroes brand in the region. Over the coming weeks, the company will launch new solutions and technologies drawn from the ShowHeroes product portfolio.

Ozone Project Signs First Global Deal with The Trade Desk
The Ozone Project, which collates inventory from premium UK publishers, has signed up The Trade Desk as its first global programmatic demand partner. The two say the deal will give The Trade Desk’s clients direct access to Ozone inventory, though the deal doesn’t appear to be part of The Trade Desk’s OpenPath initiative.

Hawk Launches New DOOH Planning Tool
Media and insights platform Hawk has launched an advanced digital out-of-home (DOOH) planning tool that it says will enable media buyers to optimise DOOH campaigns on a standalone and cross-channel basis. The new tool, DOOH Deal Request provides information about the individual availability of DOOH screens at specified locations in real-time, and provides estimates of the average cost to buy and number of people likely to see the screen at that time, as well as creative specs.

The Week in TV

Amazon Completes MGM Acquisition
Amazon on Thursday completed its $8.5 billion acquisition of MGM, which was announced last year. The studio’s catalogue of films and TV shows will be folded into Amazon Prime Video’s library, while the studio itself will strengthen Amazon Studios.

Ofcom Revokes RT License
UK media regulator Ofcom has revoked RT’s broadcasting license, amid 29 ongoing investigations into the due impartiality of RT’s news reporting. Ofcom said it has decided the licensee, ANO TV Novosti, is not fit to hold a broadcast license, and that the decision took into account RT’s relationship with the Russian Federation.

Netflix Cracks Down on Password Sharing
Netflix says it is planning new systems which will crack down on password sharing, which the company says is restricting its ability to invest in content. Netflix subscribers will have to pay more to let people outside their household log on to their account, in a change which is first being tested in Chile, Costa Rica, and Peru.

MediaForEurope Ups its Stake in ProSieben to 25 Percent
MediaForEurope (the new brand for Mediaset) once again increased its stake in German broadcaster ProSiebenSat.1, announcing that it has crossed the threshold of 25 percent of voting rights through acquisitions on the open market.

Pluto TV Expands to Nordics
Paramount’s free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) service Pluto TV is set to launch in Sweden, Denmark, and Norway on May 18th. Pluto is partnering with NENT to launch region-specific channels, while NENT will shutter its Viafree service to prioritise its Pluto FAST channels.

Viaplay and Tele2 Agree Swedish Distribution Partnership
NENT-owned streaming service Viaplay and Tele2 have agreed a multi-year strategic distribution partnership in Sweden. Viaplay will be included in all Tele2’s pay-TV packages and will also be directly available through the Tele2 Play streaming package from later this year.

TVN Introduces Addressable TV Ads in Poland
Discovery’s Polish TV business, TVN Discovery Group, this week launched an addressable TV advertising offering, claiming to be the first Polish broadcaster to run addressable ads. TVN’s offering uses HbbTV technology to deliver targeted ads, with addressable campaigns available on its channels TVN, TVN7, and TTV.

NBCU Seeks Deal for Exclusive MLB Games on Peacock
NBCUniversal is nearing a deal to air exclusive new Major League Baseball (MLB) games on its Peacock streaming service, according to the Wall Street Journal. The games, which would air in a new Sunday timeslot, would not be available anywhere else, either on linear TV or other streaming services, according to the report.

The Week for Publishers

UK Digital Publishing Revenues Rose 13.4 Percent in Q4 Last Year
The latest Digital Publishers’ Revenue Index (DPRI) from the Association of Online Publishers (AOP) and Deloitte has revealed continued growth in digital publishing revenues in the fourth quarter of 2021, up 13.4 percent from Q4 2020. Display advertising held its position as the largest category by revenue for digital publishers; with income reaching £77.4million in Q4 2021, an increase of 12.5 percent against Q4 2020.

Reddit Signs Commerce Advisory Partnership with WPP
Reddit this week announced the latest in a string of deals with ad agencies, announcing a new multi-year commerce advisory deal with WPP. The partnership will see WPP advise Reddit’s commerce strategy, and WPP in return will have early access to Reddit’s commerce products.

National World Accuses Reach and Newsquest of Treating Journalists like “Battery Hens”
A senior figure from National World, a local news publisher in the UK, accused rivals Reach and Newsquest of treating journalists like “battery hens” according to Press Gazette. The comments were made in reference to page view targets set for reporters by those publishers, which have also come under criticism from the National Union of Journalists.

Black Creators Sign Open Letter Asking Twitch to Improve Moderation Standards
A group of Black Twitch streamers have signed an open letter addressed to the Amazon-owned platform, asking it to improve standards around content moderation and filtering out hate speech. The letter, written by civil rights group Color of Change, calls for improved algorithmic and human review of content, as well as better communication from Twitch about how it handles harassment complaints.

EBay Ranked as Best Retail Media Owner
In a new benchmark of US retail media networks, research firm eMarketer handed the top spot to eBay, which beat out the likes of Amazon Ads, Best Buy Ads, Macy’s Media Network, Roundel (Target), and Walmart Connect. The ranking was based on 13 measures including traffic scale and quality, audience targeting capabilities, return on ad spend, and platform ease-of-use.

South China Morning Post Starts Selling NFTs
News publishers the South China Morning Post this week sold its first non-fungible tokens (NFTs) via auction, generating around £100,000 through sales according to Press Gazette. The paper sold a number of historical ‘moments’ in the SCMP’s journalism, via the Post’s ARTIFACT technical framework.

6AM City Hits $10 Million in Revenues
6AM City, a local newsletter startup which steers clear of crime and politics, has reached one million subscribers according to Press Gazette, and expects to be generating $10 million in revenues by the end of the year. The company currently covers 24 US cities, and hopes to reach 30 over the next nine months.

The Week For Agencies

Holding Groups Close Down Russian Operations
Holding groups Interpublic Group, Publicis Groupe, Omnicom, and Dentsu all announced this week they are closing down their operations in Russia, in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. By and large the companies have said they are handing over control of any local businesses to local leaders.

OMG Signs Up for NBCU’s Clean Room
Omnicom Media Group (OMG) has been selected as the first agency partner for NBCUniversal’s Audience Insights Hub, the US broadcaster’s proprietary data clean room. The integration will enable OMG to run permissioned measurement queries.

UK Ad Exports Brought in Trade Surplus of £5 Billion in 2020
The Advertising Association this week published its ‘UK Advertising Exports Report 2022’, finding that international trade in UK advertising and market research services was worth £11.7bn in 2020. This resulted in a £5 billion trade surplus, on a par with previous year despite the pandemic.

AB InBev Hands US and Europe Media Duties to Publicis Media
Drinks maker AB InBev has handed the bulk of media planning and buying duties to Publicis Media, following a competitive pitch process also involving Dentsu and WPP. Publicis will handle media in the US, Europe, South America, and Asia, while Dentsu will maintain responsibilities in Canada and Africa.

m/SIX Rebrands to mSix&Partners
Media network m/SIX this week announced a brand refresh, rebranding as mSix&Partners. The new branding more explicitly references the company’s joint ownership of WPP and The&Partnership. “Our name must reflect who we are and who we want to be, an agency that is at the forefront of data, tech & media and knows how to connect that to brand experience, comms and unique ways of working; mSix&Partners does that perfectly,” said Jack Swayne, managing partner and global CEO of mSix&Partners.

DentsuX Wins Kingfisher Media Account
B&Q’s parent company Kingfisher, which also owns Screwfix and Castorama, has awarded media duties to DentsuX. The account was previously held by WPP’s Wavemaker.

Matalan Hands Media Duties to Havas
Havas Media Group has won media planning and buying duties for UK retailer Matalan, beating out incumbent Dentsu in a three-way pitch.

Hires of the Week

McCann Worldgroup Picks Fernando Fascioli as President of UK and Europe
McCann Worldgroup this week announced that Fernando Fascioli, the company’s president of Latin America, had been promoted to President of UK and Europe, alongside a move to chairman of Latin America.

Total Media Appoints Tom Laranjo as London Chief Executive
Total Media has promoted Tom Laranjo, currently managing director, to the role of CEO of Total Media London, a newly created post.

This Week on VideoWeek

How Germany’s Joyn Competes with the International Streaming Giants, read on VideoWeek

Rough and Tumble: Where are the Markets Likely to Go, and What Does it Mean for the Sector? read on VideoWeek

The Decisions Facing Agencies as they Pull Out of Russia, read on VideoWeek

RTL Group Bets on High-End Dramas for Streaming Success, read on VideoWeek

Ad of the Week

IRN-BRU, Let’s just agree it tastes…, Leith


About the Author:

Tim Cross is Assistant Editor at VideoWeek.
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