The WIR: Tremor International Seeks a Buyer, Google and Meta’s Ad Dominance Starts to Slide, and MFE Closes in on ProSiebenSat.1 Takeover

Tim Cross 22 December, 2022 

In this week’s Week in Review: Tremor International eyes up a sale, Google and Meta start to lose their grip on the US ad market, and Berlusconi’s MediaForEurope moves for full control over ProSiebenSat.1.

Top Stories

Sale Rumours Rumble at Tremor International
Tremor International is exploring a sale, Sky News reported on Tuesday, following a period of discontent by investors in the London-based ad tech company. The firm, which counts News UK chief Rebekah Brooks among its directors, is reportedly working with Goldman Sachs to solicit interest in a takeover.

As noted below, the ad tech sector has been hit hard by worsening market conditions this year, leading to layoffs at several major businesses. Tremor’s own shares have halved in the last 12 months, bringing its market capitalisation below £400 million, despite agreeing to acquire Amobee back in July.

It was unclear on Tuesday whether any potential buyers had expressed interest in Tremor, with insiders noting that the early-stage process may not lead to a formal offer being made. No comment was given by the company.

Google and Meta Ad Duopoly Starting to Wane
Google and Meta’s advertising duopoly appears to be waning, according to Axios, with the pair expected to bring in under half (48.4 percent) of all US digital ad revenue this year for the first time since 2014.

Insider Intelligence forecasts Google to capture 28.8 percent of 2022 revenues, and Meta only 19.6 percent. This is down from their peak in 2017, when Google took 34.7 percent and Meta 20 percent.

The report cited Amazon as the biggest threat to the duopoly. The retail giant is expected to take 12.7 percent of digital ad dollars by 2024, versus 17.9 percent for Meta. Meanwhile TikTok is projected to become the fifth-largest digital ad publisher in the US, after Google, Meta, Amazon and Microsoft/LinkedIn.

“The duo’s ad dominance has for years made both companies the target of antitrust investigations and lawsuits,” said Sara Fischer, author of Axios Media Trends. “While they still tower over digital rivals, their momentum is starting to slow as competition moves in.”

MFE Applies for “Sole Control” of ProSiebenSat.1
MediaForEurope (MFE) has notified the Austrian competition authority of its plans for a full buyout of ProSiebenSat.1. The regulator said MFE applied for “acquisition of de facto sole control” of the German broadcaster, but did not indicate whether its stake had changed in size this week.

The Berlusconi-owned media group has been raising its voting stake in ProSieben over the past year, cementing its position as the broadcaster’s single biggest shareholder. It currently holds a 29.9 percent stake, just below the 30 percent threshold that would trigger a mandatory buyout offer. Neither party has commented on the move.

The Week in Tech

LG Ads Solutions Ousts Leadership Team
LG Ads Solutions has forced out its leadership team, AdExchanger reported on Friday. The company confirmed the exit of CEO Raghu Kodige and executive chairman Ashish Chordia, with Adam Sexton taking over as CEO. The report speculated that the move could be designed to keep the ads division (which existed as Alphonso before being bought out by LG in 2021) within the company, as the terms of the acquisition gave Alphonso the option to take itself public. This would mean LG taking the equity but losing out on future profits.

Meta Introduces Facebook Reels Performance Metrics
Meta has added Reels metrics to the Facebook Video Insights API, enabling developers to analyse the performance of each video over its lifetime. Key metrics include minutes viewed, comments, plays, post reach, reactions and shares. The enhancements will be available for the current version and all previous versions of the Graph API, according to the company.

TikTok to be Banned on US Government Devices
US federal employees will be barred from using government devices to access TikTok, as part of a key spending bill passing through Congress this week. Though it will not affect many users, the reputational damage could scare off advertisers. “That is what TikTok is at massive risk for: of having that brand reputational [blow] impact the overall revenue monetisation that they can make,” said Eunice Shin, head of media and entertainment at brand strategist Prophet.

Musk Seeks Twitter Investment, New CEO
Elon Musk has called for fresh investment in Twitter, a shareholder has revealed. Ross Gerber, president and CEO at Gerber Kawasaki Wealth & Investment Management, said Musk is seeking equity matching the initial $44 billion price tag. Musk also announced he would step down as CEO following a Twitter poll, though he plans to keep running the engineering teams.

EU Accuses Facebook Marketplace of Harming Ad Rivals
The European Commission issued Meta with a statement of objections on Monday, accusing the tech giant of squeezing out classified ad rivals. The complaint could result in fines or changes to the firm’s business model, Bloomberg reported. “Our preliminary concern is that Meta ties its dominant social network Facebook to its online classified ad services called Facebook Marketplace,” said EU Antitrust Commissioner Margrethe Vestager.

Ad Tech Hit by Layoffs as Market Conditions Toughen
Ad tech firms are seeing “large swaths” of layoffs amid a sustained period of economic contraction, Digiday reported on Wednesday. This year has seen 12 percent staff cuts at Infosum, 6 percent at Taboola, 13 percent at Integral Ad Science, 4 percent at Unity, and 13 percent at AppLovin. “Coming off record-high M&A activity last year, many companies are now forced to start making tough decisions,” said OAREX EVP Nick Carrabbia. “As risk rises and credit tightens, now is the time to prepare for things to get worse before they get better.”

SmartyAds, PubMatic Announce Partnership
SmartyAds and PubMatic announced a new partnership on Wednesday, allowing publishers to connect to demand from the PubMatic platform. Media buyers can increase their reach through access to global, brand-safe inventory, the companies said. “This new partnership with PubMatic extends our global commitment to publishers and advertisers to streamline access to premium supply across all ad formats and devices providing unparalleled opportunities to advertise with impact,” added Liz Tokareva, SVP, In-house Products at SmartyAds.

The Week in TV

DAZN, Samsung Bring Live Football to FAST Channels
DAZN will launch a FAST channel on Samsung TV Plus in Germany, as per an agreement that features the exclusive carriage of live sports events. These include European football matches that usually sit behind a paywall, such as games from the Spanish La Liga, Italian Serie A and French Ligue 1. The first two live fixtures will be Paris Saint Germain vs Strasbourg on 28th December 28th, and Valladolid vs Real Madrid on 30th December, the sports streamer confirmed. “It completely shakes up the sports streaming market in Europe,” said Richard Jakeman, Samsung’s European Head of Business Development – Smart TV, Mobile & Gaming. “This reflects our commitment to redefining the FAST landscape in Europe.”

Paramount Cancels Upfront Presentation
Paramount has cancelled its Carnegie Hall upfront presentation, marking a shift in the once-unmissable advertiser-courting opportunity. While Fox, Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery have declined to comment on their 2023 upfront plans, NBCUniversal has indicated a “business as usual” approach. Paramount “will be hosting a series of high-impact, intimate gatherings in April for each of our major agency partners and their clients in lieu of our traditional presence at Carnegie Hall,” said Paramount Advertising President John Halley.

Ofcom Jurisdiction to Extend to Streaming Services Next Year
The UK Government is planning to grant Ofcom the power to impose fines of up to £250,000 against streaming companies for breaches of a new code of conduct. The proposal forms part of next year’s Media Bill, which would also allow viewers to complain to the watchdog about streaming content. The news follows a series of criticisms against Netflix over its Harry & Meghan documentary for allegedly misleading viewers, prompting Ofcom to issue a statement explaining that it is powerless to take action relating to complaints against the streaming service.

Drew Barrymore Launches Pluto TV Ad Campaign
Pluto TV has launched a global brand campaign starring Drew Barrymore, highlighting the FAST network’s “Stream Now. Pay Never” model. The video spots are already live in the US and will run internationally in the new year, across linear, CTV, DOOH, radio and social media. The campaign was launched on The Drew Barrymore Show, where Pluto TV gifted the entire audience a free LG 50″ Smart TV. “No one is better-suited to represent the playful and spirited vibe of Pluto TV than Drew Barrymore,” said Paramount Streaming CEO Tom Ryan.

Viaplay Joins The Roku Channel in the US
Viaplay launched on Roku this week, making the Nordic streamer’s content available via The Roku Channel in the US. “Premium Nordic content has a dedicated audience in the US, and fans can now experience the most stylish and thrilling stories that the region has to offer,” said Vanda Rapti, Viaplay Group Chief Commercial Officer, North America and Viaplay Select.

World Cup Final Breaks Records for UK Streaming, French TV Viewing
The FIFA World Cup Final saw 24.1 million people tune in to France vs Argentina on TF1, and 29.4 million for the penalty shootout. The final was also watched by nearly 20 million UK viewers, with almost 15 million on the BBC and 4.3 million on ITV. Over the entire tournament, the BBC reached 38.8 million TV viewers and a record-breaking 104.7 million streams.

Investment Decline Wipes $500 Billion From Media Groups’ Market Value
The world’s biggest media companies have lost over $500 billion this year, according to the FT, signalling a “souring” attitude to the streaming revolution by investors. Rising costs and advertising slowdown have sparked an industry-wide decline, noted the report, with Disney, Netflix, Paramount and Warner Bros. Discovery all seeing knocks to their market value. “It’s been a perfect storm of bad news,” said Michael Nathanson, Senior Research Analyst at MoffettNathanson. “I’ve been covering this sector a long time and I’ve never seen such a bad collection of data points before.”

Bundling, Pricing and Premieres Drive US SVOD Subs
Pricing and bundling are key to subscriber retention, according to an Ampere Analysis study into SVOD subs in the US. The report showed Hulu and Disney+ benefitting from bundling, with 32 percent of Hulu customers signing up through the Disney bundle. Meanwhile discounted ad-supported tiers help mitigate churn among younger and lower-income subscribers, who tend to be more sensitive to pricing and content offering. Peaks in Disney+ sign-ups therefore tally with its high-profile premieres, including Thor: Love and Thunder and Hocus Pocus 2.

ITV Streaming Up 138 Percent in 2022
ITV has increased its streaming demand by 138 percent year on year, with ITVX attracting 66.5 million streams in its first week, compared with 28 million on ITV Hub during the same period last year. The World Cup and I’m A Celebrity drove a record 106.4 million streams for the week commencing 22nd November, according to the broadcaster. “The football has been a big part of that but even if you take out exceptional programmes like I’m A Celebrity and the World Cup our underlying viewing during the week was up 56 percent year on year,” said ITV On Demand MD Rufus Radcliffe.

Netflix to End Password Sharing in Early 2023
Netflix is to stamp out password sharing early next year, according to the Wall Street Journal. By the company’s estimates, over 100 million users borrow passwords from friends or family members in order the access the streaming service. From 2023, viewers will have to pay in order to share accounts. “Make no mistake, I don’t think consumers are going to love it right out of the gate,” said Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos.

NFL and YouTube Near Sunday Ticket Deal
The National Football League (NFL) is closing in on a new deal with YouTube. The contract would grant the social video platform exclusive rights to the NFL Sunday Ticket package, a subscription that gives fans access to most Sunday afternoon games. The existing deal with DirecTV expires after this season, kicking off the search for a new home for Sunday Ticket. “I would say it’s in a very critical point for us,” said NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. “We’ve had a lot of interest in this, and we continue to. Our decisions are not based on timelines. They’re based on it being the best outcome with the best party.”

Amazon and Games Workshop Ink Warhammer Deal
Amazon and Games Workshop have struck a deal to create a Warhammer TV series, as well as offering merchandise through the online retail giant. Based on the miniature strategy game, the show could star Warhammer 40,000 fan Henry Cavill. “Games Workshop is pleased to announce that it has reached an agreement in principle for Amazon to develop Games Workshop’s intellectual property into film and television productions and for Games Workshop to grant Amazon associated merchandising rights,” the high street retailer said.

The Week for Publishers

Google’s Antitrust Watchdog Forces Changes to Google News Showcase
Germany’s antitrust body, the Budeskartellamt, announced this week that it has secured changes from Google to its Google News Showcase product, making it more favourable to publishers. Google uses Showcase as a means of paying publishers for their content, though some publishers argue that the product works very much on Google’s own terms.

“Google has responded to our concerns and implemented important adjustments to the benefit of publishers,” said Andreas Mundt, president of the Bundeskartellamt. “During the course of our proceeding the company abandoned its plans to integrate Showcase into the general Google search service. It will continue to be irrelevant for the ranking of the search results whether or not a publisher participates in Showcase. Google has changed its contractual practice in such a way that press publishers will not face difficulties in asserting their general ancillary copyright. It has also been ensured that further publishers will be able to participate in Google News Showcase in the future.”

Vice Media Set to Miss 2022 Revenue Targets by $100 Million
Vice Media is on course to miss its 2022 revenue targets by over $100 million, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal this week. If this figure is accurate, it would mean revenues are roughly flat compared with 2021. The news could throw a spanner in the works for Vice’s ongoing sales talks with Antenna Group; Vice is reportedly seeking a $1.5 billion valuation.

Publishers Made Over 1400 Redundancies in US and UK This Year
Publishers in the US and UK made at least 1,400 editorial redundancies this year, according to data from Press Gazette, with half of those having occurred since the end of September. Press Gazette says it has tracked 1,391 editorial redundancies, but adds that many more will not have been reported, so the real figure will be significantly higher.

FT Staff Seal Above-Inflation Pay Rise
While staff working for news publishers across the UK and US have gone on strike in recent months, in protest to below inflation pay rises, staff at the Financial Times have secured an above inflation pay rise for next year for those who are lowest paid. Staff earning less than £50,001 will earn a pay rise of at least 10 percent, with all staff earning £42,000 or less receiving a £4,200 bump in pay.

Guardian Hit by Possible Ransomware Attack
The Guardian was hit by a suspected ransomware attack on Wednesday, forcing staff to work from home and avoid accessing shared networks. The publisher remained able to continue publishing content online, as the editorial system was reportedly unaffected. “Although some of our internal systems are affected, we are confident we will be able to publish in print tomorrow,” Guardian editor-in-chief Katharine Viner and CEO Anna Bateson told staff.

The Week For Agencies

Advertisers Report Good Value From Agencies as Digital Costs Climb
Around 17 percent of advertisers believe their agency partners are offering value for money in 2022, according to research by the WFA and The Observatory International. The Global Agency Remuneration Trends report found a 5 percent uptick in the perceived value of brand-agency relationships, compared with 2018. However, the WFA noted that 5 percent of major advertisers strongly disagree that media agencies represent value for money. Criticisms included “a lack of original thinking and a habit of rolling out the same solutions year after year”, leading some respondents to question overall value (rather than performance). Read more on VideoWeek.

UK Bans Sale of Advertising Services to Russia
The UK government has introduced a ban on exporting professional services to Russia as part of a series of sanctions relating to the war in Ukraine, which includes the sale of advertising services. Advertiser trade body the IPA says this applies “to the direct or indirect provision of advertising services to persons connected with Russia”.

GARM Agrees Brand Safety Commitments with Twitter
The Global Alliance for Responsible Media (GARM), a coalition of advertisers, agencies and media companies, has agreed commitments from Twitter in response to brand safety concerns which have arisen since Elon Musk took control of the platform. GARM says, among other things, it has secured extra safeguards to ensure ads don’t end up next to harmful content, commitments to develop enhanced brand safety controls, and regular reports on the prevalence and reach of harmful content on Twitter.

US Ad Spend Peaks in November as Digital Investment Drops
US ad spend reached $9.4 billion in November 2022, making it the highest-performing month of the year so far. Standard Media Index (SMI) captures agency invoicing data from all major holding companies and most major independents, the firm explained. Though the spike is typical of the holiday season, SMI noted falling YoY investment in digital (-4 percent), linear TV (-13 percent) and search (-24 percent). “With the rise of retail media and younger audiences relying on YouTube and TikTok for advice, search has waned,” said the research.

PlayStation Retains EssenceMediacom for Global Media
Sony-owned games giant PlayStation has retained WPP’s EssenceMediacom as its global media agency of record, following a competitive review. PlayStation is predicted to have spent around $170 million on media globally this year, according to AdAge.

OMD Wins Global Media Duties for Burberry
Omnicom media agency OMD has been assigned to handle global media duties for fashion brand Burberry, Campaign reported this week, following a competitive review process which began in July. The account was previously handled by Dentsu, via a dedicated unit.

72andSunny Lays Off Six Percent of Staff
72andSunny, a creative agency owned by Stagwell, has laid off around six percent of its staff across its LA and New York offices. Stagwell said the layoffs were part of a wider restructuring which has come in response to global economic volatility, according to AdAge.

Hires of the Week

Sarah Cardell Becomes Competition and Markets Authority CEO
Sarah Cardell has been appointed CEO of the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), following her stint as interim CEO since July 2022. Prior to this she served as General Counsel at the UK watchdog. “Having served at the CMA for over nine years – most recently as interim CEO – Sarah’s expertise in competition, regulation and digital markets is unrivalled and she will help to ensure the regulator continues making competition work for consumers and businesses,” said Business Secretary Grant Shapps.

BBC Studios’ Maggy Chan Named NBCU Global Ad Sales Leader
Maggy Chan will replace KC Sullivan as MD and EVP of global advertising and partnerships at NBCUniversal. She joins from BBC Studios where she served as Global Distribution COO. “I can’t wait for her to become the BBC’s best gift to NBCU since The Office,” said Linda Yaccarino, Chair of Global Advertising and Partnerships at NBCU.

Innovid Appoints CCO David Helmreich
David Helmreich has been named CCO at Innovid. He brings more than two decades’ experience in ad tech, including leadership positions at Stackline, LiveIntent and Oracle Marketing Cloud. “I am excited to help drive visibility, value and growth for the company as the TV landscape evolves,” said Helmreich.

This Week on VideoWeek

Advertisers Report Good Value From Agencies as Digital Costs Climb, read on VideoWeek

Predictions From the C-Suite: What’s in Store for 2023? read on VideoWeek

As Media Plans Go Green, What Content Will Be Left Out in the Cold? read on VideoWeek

Media16’s Joe Evea on How Broadcasters are Adapting to FAST, read on VideoWeek

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About the Author:

Tim Cross is Assistant Editor at VideoWeek.
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