In this week’s Week in Review: Vice positions itself for a sale, TikTok debuts its ad revenue sharing scheme, and Channel 4 lays out an alternative roadmap to privatisation.
Vice Reportedly Seeking a Buyer
Vice has hired financial advisors to help it find a buyer, and would consider selling itself in pieces, according to a report from CNBC this week. According to CNBC’s sources, several buyers have expressed an interest in buying the whole business. Just last year Vice had initiated plans to go public via a merger with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), but backed off due to market conditions.
Vice was one of the early superstars of online video and in 2017 the company raised a $450 million investment from TPG, a private equity firm, that valued the company at nearly $6 billion. It houses a number of desirable assets, the report suggested, including its content studio and its creative advertising agency, Virtue. Having previously owned a controlling stake in Pulse Films, in March the company took full control of the production house, whose prominence in the documentary market could spell additional value for buyers.
TikTok to Share Ad Revenues with Creators
TikTok introduced TikTok Pulse on Wednesday, a contextual advertising tool that promises a revenue share program between creators, public figures and media publishers. The feature allows advertisers to place their brand next to the top content in the For You Feed, positioning them among the top 4 percent of TikTok videos.
Users with at least 100,000 followers will be eligible for the revenue sharing program in its initial stages, giving creators 50 percent of TikTok Pulse ad revenue; a system that has been compared to YouTube’s advertising model. Previously TikTok has compensated users through its “Creator Fund” that pays the producers of popular videos without offering a sustainable revenue stream.
TikTok added that brands can place their ads next to the most relevant content between 12 categories of Pulse. “These categories include favourite content from beauty and fashion to cooking and gaming and so many other verticals the TikTok community loves engaging with,” the company said in a blog post. “This creates an unparalleled opportunity to engage with the communities that matter most to brands.”
Channel 4 Proposes Selling London HQ as Alternative to Privatisation
Channel 4 has issued an alternate plan to the government’s privatisation scheme. The new proposal would see Channel 4 sell its £100 million London headquarters and become a “northern-based” broadcaster, as it seeks to attract £1 billion in private investment.
Speaking at a press briefing, Channel 4 COO Jonathan Allan said advertisers were “right to be worried” about privatisation. “Anything that potentially weakens Channel 4’s distinctiveness is no doubt going to be a concern to advertisers [and] agencies,” he warned, “because it may reduce the value of the audience that we bring to them, the quality of the programming and the kind of attitudinal demographics that represent Channel 4.”
The results of the public consultation into privatisation were also published, showing that over 96 percent of respondents did not support the decision. Nevertheless the government remains committed to the sale, calling it “necessary to give Channel 4 the best possible tools to innovate and grow at pace without asking the taxpayer to effectively underwrite the business.”
The Week in Tech
Pandemic Advertising Boom Slows Down for Tech Giants
The advertising growth tech giants enjoyed during the pandemic is reportedly decelerating. Alphabet, Meta and Amazon filed Q1 ad revenue growth of 22 percent, 6.1 percent and 23 percent, compared to more than 50 percent last year. The Wall Street Journal listed “inflation fears, supply-chain shortages, the war in Ukraine, a gradual return to normalcy two years into the pandemic, the continued rise of TikTok and Apple’s recent privacy changes” among the causes.
Twitter revenues also fell short of analysts’ estimates this week with Elon Musk about to take control of the social media company. The 16 percent gain represents its slowest growth in six quarters and reflects a slowdown in advertising. Musk suggested the platform brings in a fee for commercial and government users in order to boost revenues, while the company expressed concerns over losing employees and productivity “due to uncertainty regarding the merger.”
Twitter will always be free for casual users, but maybe a slight cost for commercial/government users
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 3, 2022
Senators Target Google’s Ad Tech Dominance
US Senators are introducing legislation to force Google to sell off parts of its ad tech business. The bipartisan bill would prevent companies with more than $20 billion in digital advertising revenue from owning the tools used to buy and sell online ads and operating the exchange where those transactions occur, in an effort to loosen the tech giant’s grip on the industry.
Atairos to Buy Out Ocean Outdoor
Ocean Outdoor announced on Tuesday that Atairos, its largest shareholder, will buy the remaining shares in the British digital advertising firm in a deal that values the company at around $580 million. Atairos currently owns 37.9 percent of Ocean Outdoor, whose board plans to unanimously recommend that the remaining shareholders vote in favour of the buyout.
Google Hits Back Against EU’s “Quasi Criminal Fine”
Google has accused the EU of treating it like a “criminal” for fining the company €1.49 billion over its restrictive contracts with third-party websites in 2019. The company called it a “quasi criminal fine of very large proportions,” arguing the decision was predicated on “errors of characterisation” and should be struck down.
CIMM and egta Debut Measurement Discussion Event
The Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement (CIMM) and egta launched a new International Knowledge Exchange event for their members. Taking place on 2nd June, the event will cover measurement currencies for the US, UK and Europe, helping to “stimulate collaboration and better understanding in an increasingly international, interconnected marketplace.”
Ad Tech Firms Failed to Raise Alarm Over Gannett Error
At least 15 ad tech companies were revealed to have failed to raise concerns over the publisher Gannett providing inaccurate data to advertisers. The Wall Street Journal reported that the companies, including Integral Ad Science, DoubleVerify and Pixalate, had sufficient information to detect Gannett’s system error, yet neglected to alert their clients.
CIMM, ANA and 4A’s Launch Multi-Currency Study
The Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement (CIMM), the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s) announced on Thursday the launch of a new study into the industry’s transition to a multi-currency TV market. Jon Watts, Managing Director at CIMM, said the project aims “to help educate and inform the industry on how to transition from uncertainty to innovation in an increasingly complex transaction environment.”
The Weather Company Unveils Alerting Features
The Weather Company unveiled new additions to its Max Platform at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show in Las Vegas. The IBM-owned weather tech company shone the spotlight on Max Velocity, a browser-based video tool for publishing digital content across platforms. It also introduced Max Alert Live, enabling broadcasters to match on-air content with modern graphics for displaying weather event warnings.
Google Blocked 3.4 billion ads in 2021
Google blocked or removed 3.4 billion ads in 2021, a 9.7 percent increase on 2020. According to Google’s Ads Safety Report, many blocked adverts were said to contain sexual, dangerous or derogatory content, or weapons promotion and sales, as well as Covid-related misinformation. Google added that 8 million ads related to the war in Ukraine have been blocked so far in 2022.
The Week in TV
ProSieben CEO Restates its Independence
ProSiebenSat.1 CEO Rainer Beaujean quashed the idea of merging the German broadcaster with RTL, comparing the proposal to Don Quixote’s adventures in futility. “I am seriously not thinking of consolidation for us,” he commented on the latest round of speculation. ”Sure, it is something you can try. But Don Quixote never won.” At the broadcaster’s AGM, shareholders confirmed Dr. Andreas Wiele’s position and elected Bert Habets to the Supervisory Board, while Prof. Dr. Rolf Nonnenmacher was also re-elected as a Supervisory Board member.
Rising CTV Ad Spend Still Disproportionate to Viewership
CTV ad spend is expected to reach $21.2 billion this year, up 39 percent on 2021, the International Advertising Bureau (IAB) forecast at its NewFronts event. IAB found that CTV accounts for 36 percent of total TV usage, but only 18 percent of video ad sales are being spent on CTV. “The amount of dollars currently allocated to CTV is not proportionate to the amount of viewer time spent with the channel,” said Eric John, vp, IAB Media Center. “The time is now for brands and buyers to follow consumer attention.”
Channel 4 Scores UEFA Rights
Channel 4 has secured the rights to the UEFA Nations League, Euro 2024 qualifiers and international friendlies. The deal means all England matches will be shown live on free-to-air television until 2024, with six England games broadcast on Channel 4 this year, starting with the Hungary fixture on 4th June.
Tubi Reports Viewership Growth
Tubi’s reported viewership growth from 40 million monthly active users in 2021 to 51 million in Q1 2022. The Fox-owned AVOD platform recorded 3.6 billion hours watched in 2021, up 40 percent year-on-year. Tubi is also investing in its ad tech, expanding its integration with Nielsen to provide enhanced measurement across more than 25 OTT devices.
Activist Investor Urges Hasbro Sale of Entertainment One
Ancora Holdings has asked Hasbro, which owns film and TV company Entertainment One, to explore a full or partial sale of the entertainment subsidiary in order to cut debt and replace long-standing board directors. Ancora holds an approximate 1 percent stake in Hasbro and argues that the divesture of Entertainment One could yield up to $2 billion for the company.
Amazon Introduces Virtual Product Placement
Amazon has unveiled the beta version of its Virtual Product Placement (VPP) programme, set up to insert brand advertising into Prime Video and Amazon Freevee content. The announcement formed part of Amazon’s NewFronts presentation, alongside the introduction of the company’s Streaming TV Media Player, allowing advertisers to see incremental streaming TV reach through Amazon Ads.
Paramount Revenues Down, Streaming Subscriptions Up
Paramount Global missed its forecast revenue for Q1 2022 due to a 6 percent drop in its TV media segment, its highest revenue generator. However, direct-to-consumer revenues were up 82 percent due to a 59 percent jump in ad sales and 95 percent increase in subscription revenues, adding 6.8 million subscribers on Paramount+.
Netflix Could Lose Licensed Content to Streaming Rivals
Netflix risks losing content to streaming rivals in the face of falling shares and subscriptions, the Guardian reported. Analysis revealed that almost a third of the platform’s most popular content with British viewers, such as Friends and The Big Bang Theory, is licensed from companies now building their own streaming services. “In the long term, Netflix will need to extricate itself from such a strong reliance on US major Hollywood studio content, or else risk high levels of churn when others launch fully in the market,” said Ali Vahdati, chief executive of Digital i.
Pay TV Subscriptions to Rise as Revenues Shrink
Global pay TV subscriptions are forecast to grow by 19 million customers over the next five years, as revenues decline by $25 billion over the same period. Digital TV Research credited the inverse trend to pay TV operators competing with cheaper streaming services. “Most of the countries gaining pay TV subscribers are developing nations, with low ARPUs,” said Simon Murray, principal analyst at Digital TV Research. “The US will be the biggest loser – down by 12 million subscribers.”
Paramount+ Announces UK Launch Date
Paramount+ will launch in the UK and Ireland on 22nd June, bringing 8,000 hours of content to the region. The service will arrive in South Korea in the same month, with launches planned in Italy, Germany, France, Switzerland and Austria later this year. The platform added 6.8 million global subscribers in Q1 (see above), bringing its total membership towards 40 million.
Netflix Sued by Shareholders
Netflix was served a lawsuit this week by shareholders in California, who claim the streaming company misled the market about its ability to maintain subscriber growth. The episode comes in the wake of falling Netflix subscription numbers and share prices, leading to allegations of securities fraud and “failure to disclose material adverse facts.”
Scripps to Raise Awareness of Over-the-Air TV
Scripps Networks outlined a $20 million investment in off-channel marketing at its virtual upfront presentation. The company described its “Free TV Project” as an initiative to educate consumers on the advantages of over-the-air (OTA) television. Jon Marks, chief research officer at Scripps Networks, noted that consumers “don’t really know that they can get typically three dozen channels with the purchase of a $25 antenna.”
Canal Plus Eyes Starz Purchase
Vivendi-owned Canal Plus is seeking to bid for a minority stake in US channel Starz, reports said on Thursday. Meanwhile Roku and Apollo Global Management have placed a bid on the pay-TV channel, after Lions Gate Entertainment expressed interest in selling the network last year, also prompting interest from US group DirecTV.
RTL Group Records Quarterly Growth
RTL Group recorded 11.3 percent revenue growth for Q1 2022, with TV advertising up 11.2 percent and streaming by 23.1 percent. The group registered 4.31 million paying subscribers for its streaming services, RTL+ in Germany and Videoland in the Netherlands, marking a 58.2 percent year-on-year increase.
The Week for Publishers
Reach Sees Drop in Advertiser Demand
UK publishing group Reach said this week it has seen a drop in advertiser demand, due to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and broader market conditions. In the four months to April 24th, advertising revenues were down 10.1 percent, according to the company’s trading update.
Condé Nast’s Digital Ad Revenues Grow 38 Percent
Condé Nast saw digital ad revenues grow 38 percent year-on-year in 2021, the publisher announced this week, helping it to turn an overall profit. Condé Nast attributes a lot of this growth to its investment in digital video, according to Adweek.
Ozone Launches New Stories Format
Ozone, a coalition of UK publishers, this week launched a new ‘stories’ ad format, which replicates the temporary stories feature which is prevalent on social media. The new format, created in partnership with media agency Mediacom, plugs into Ozone’s existing ad slots and provides brands with the opportunity to promote multi-frame messaging alongside Ozone’s publisher portfolio.
New York Times Passes 9.1 Million Subscribers
The New York Times is continuing to see success in driving paid subscriptions, announcing this week that it has passed 9.1 million total subscribers. The publisher said its acquisition of popular word game ‘Wordle’ has brought ‘tens of millions’ of new users to the site – though how many of those have converted to paid subscriptions is unclear.
Facebook Goes Quiet on Podcasts
Facebook is removing its podcast functionality, Meta confirmed on Tuesday. No new podcasts will be added from this week, with all podcasts removed from the platform on 3rd June. The company will also shelve its short-form audio product Soundbites and central audio hub. “We’re constantly evaluating the features we offer so that we can focus on the most meaningful experiences,” a Meta spokesperson said.
Twitter Rolls Out Ad Placements in Tweet Replies
Twitter is rolling out its Tweet replies ad placement option across all app install campaigns for iOS and Android. The option places app install ads after the first reply beneath a Tweet, thereby targeting users engaged in relevant conversation. Based on tests that began in October 2021, advertisers have reported increased impressions and more attributed downloads.
Is your brand running app install campaigns on Twitter?
We’ve got good news: We’re giving all app advertisers a chance to tap into a new surface to scale their mobile app campaigns and reach people engaged in conversation. pic.twitter.com/ewOK7dbqNz
— Twitter Business (@TwitterBusiness) May 3, 2022
The Week For Agencies
S4 Capital Files Delayed Results
S4 Capital posted that its revenue doubled in 2021, in a delayed report issued more than a month after auditors had failed to sign off on the results. Sir Martin Sorrell, S4 founder and Executive Chairman, apologised for the “unacceptable and embarrassing” hold-up that was announced an hour before the results were initially due, destabalising the agency’s market value. “Significant changes in our financial control, risk and governance structure and resources are being implemented and planned,” he said.
Brainlabs Acquires Fanbytes
Independent media agency Brainlabs this week announced it has acquired influencer marketing business Fanbytes for an undisclosed fee. “I’m super excited about welcoming Fanbytes to Brainlabs, not only because I’m in awe at what they’ve achieved in such a short space of time but I also see them as an essential piece of the jigsaw in our digital media offering,” said Brainlabs CEO Daniel Gilbert. “Influencer marketing has rapidly become an integral part of the digital media mix so to be able to offer it alongside our other capabilities under one roof is a huge advantage to our clients.”
ISBA Launches Updated Influencer Code of Conduct
UK advertising trade body ISBA this week launched an updated version of its Influencer Marketing Code of Conduct, with a focus on helping brands to deliver better diversity, equity, inclusion, and representation in their influencer activity. After input from agencies and influencers themselves, signatory brands are committing to:
- be allies in addressing the unacceptable pay gaps in influencer marketing, including those based on race and gender;
- regularly audit the diversity of the pool of talent with which they work; and
- work to address diversity in their own marketing teams, to promote truly inclusive campaigns.
Publicis Acquires Profitero
Publicis Groupe this week announced the acquisition of Profitero, a SaaS global ecommerce intelligence platform. Publicis says that the acquisition will allow Profitero to expand on its analytics core, while Profitero itself will help strengthen Publicis’ commerce capabilities.
IPA Names “Industry Inclusivity Icons”
The UK trade body IPA has named industry figures celebrated for their commitment to diversity and inclusivity. Their work ranges from combating sexual harassment, improving mental health and promoting accessibility. The full 2022 IPA iList of recipients is available on the website.
WPP Partners with Epic Games for Metaverse Training
WPP this week announced a new partnership with Epic Games, the creator of Fortnite and Unreal Engine, to help WPP clients navigate the metaverse. The partnership will include a new training programme to upskill thousands of WPP creatives and technologists on how to create custom brand experiences in Fortnite, and how to use Unreal Engine for real-time 3D creation and virtual production.
Hires of the Week
Philip Wågnert Becomes Chief Technology & Product Officer at Viaplay
Viaplay named Philip Wågnert as EVP and Chief Technology & Product Officer, responsible for technical oversight of the streaming platform. Wågnert joins the General Executive Management team, reporting to Anders Jensen, NENT Group President and CEO. He takes over from Kaj af Kleen who spent 15 years with the company before leaving the industry.
Ofcom Hires Facebook’s Jessica Zucker for Online Safety Policy
Ofcom has appointed Jessica Zucker as Director of Online Safety Policy. Zucker joins from Facebook, where she led the Misinformation Policy team in Europe, Middle East and Africa, as well as serving as the company’s global health misinformation lead during the pandemic. “I’m looking forward to working with a world class team that will set the global foundation for content regulation,” she said.
Carlos Sanchez Takes Digital Content Sales Role at A+E Networks
Carlos Sanchez was hired as SVP of digital distribution for global content sales at A+E Networks. The role involves securing licensing agreements for the broadcaster’s programming to SVOD and AVOD platforms, alongside identifying new opportunities for A+E content via emerging technologies and delivery systems including FAST channels. He previously served as VP of global distribution and co-productions at Legendary Television.
Channel 4 Names Katie Jackson as Managing Director of 4creative
Channel 4 announced the appointment of Katie Jackson as Managing Director of in-house agency 4creative, a newly created role intended to steer the agency through an upcoming period of change for the broadcaster. “Katie is a creative force that brings a wealth of exceptional agency and client experience to this newly created role,” said Zaid Al-Qassab, Chief Marketing Officer at Channel 4.
This Week on VideoWeek
UK Government Backtracks on Tech Regulation Bill, read on VideoWeek.
What’s Driving the Rise of FAST?, read on VideoWeek.
German Antitrust Regulator Steps Up Scrutiny of Meta, read on VideoWeek.
Streaming Ad Spend Reached $369 Million in Q1 2022, read on VideoWeek.
UK Streaming Subscriptions Climb Faster Than Usage, read on VideoWeek.
Advertisers Must Avoid Targeting Children, but is Age Verification Tech Up to the Task?, read on VideoWeek.
Ad of the Week
Ford, What’s In The Frunk, Wieden + Kennedy