The WIR: WBD Plans FAST Service, Neal Mohan Named YouTube CEO, and TikTok Starts Publishing User Figures

Tim Cross 17 February, 2023 

In this week’s Week in Review: Warner Bros. Discovery plans a FAST service, Neal Mohan takes over as YouTube CEO, and TikTok moves to comply with European data regulation.

Top Stories

Warner Bros. Discovery Plans FAST Service WBTV
Further details of Warner Bros. Discovery’s (WBD) free streaming service have emerged, as the company moves to broaden its audience against increasing competition for viewing share. The FAST service is called WBTV and will house less premium content than HBO Max, according to reports.

Big-ticket titles like Friends, The Last of Us and House of the Dragon drive the majority of viewing on HBO Max so will presumably remain behind the paywall. Kids content and animated series are more likely to join WBTV, offering families free streaming alternatives while boosting ad revenues.

Neal Mohan Becomes YouTube CEO
YouTube Chief Product Officer Neal Mohan has been promoted to CEO of the Google-owned video platform, taking over from Susan Wojcicki after nine years at the helm. Mohan joined Google in 2007,  becoming SVP of Display and Video Ads, then CPO in 2015. His work included building YouTube TV, YouTube Music, Premium and Shorts. “Neal will be a terrific leader for YouTube,” said Wojcicki.

One of Google’s first employees, Wojcicki started running the company’s marketing in 1999 and helped build its online ad business, before pushing for the YouTube acquisition. The video-sharing platform now accounts for more than 10 percent of Alphabet’s revenues.

TikTok to Start Publishing User Figures for EU Compliance
TikTok will start publishing monthly active user figures, as part of efforts to comply with the EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA). The company will additionally reduce employee access to European user data, minimise data flows outside Europe and store European user data locally, hoping to assuage data security concerns that have placed TikTok under the regulatory spotlight.

The plans include expanding European data storage capacity by opening a second and possibly third data centre in Ireland, using a third-party service provider. European user data will begin migrating this year and continue into 2024, the company said. TikTok will also open a European Transparency and Accountability Centre in Dublin next month.

“Transparency is a key component of the DSA and we’ve supported the aims of the regulation from the outset as it mirrors the thinking that guides our quarterly Community Guidelines Enforcement Reports, where we provide insights into the nature of content and accounts removed from our platform,” TikTok said in a statement.

The Week in Tech

CTV Drives Revenue Growth at The Trade Desk
The Trade Desk filed 24 percent YoY revenue growth for Q4 2022. Full year revenues also increased 32 percent to reach $1,578 million. “In an unpredictable macro environment, our growing relationships with agencies and brands is testament to the value of the open internet over the limitations of walled gardens,” said Jeff Green, founder and CEO of The Trade Desk. “More of the world’s leading advertisers are gravitating to fast-growing channels such as CTV and retail media, which offer premium value at scale.”

IAB Europe Requests Interim Measures in TCF Case
IAB Europe has requested interim measures from the Belgian Market Court, the latest step in its examination by the Belgian Data Protection Authority (DPA). Last month the DPA validated IAB Europe’s action plan, designed to address the regulator’s concerns about the trade group’s Transparency & Consent Framework (TCF) contravening GDPR. IAB Europe is now seeking interim measures to prevent the DPA from making changes to the TCF that may need to be rolled back when the Court of Justice of the European Union gives its final ruling in July 2023.

Google Brings Beta Privacy Sandbox to Android
Google is rolling out its Privacy Sandbox beta version for Android. Designed to provide privacy-safe alternatives to cookies, the browser toolkit is now available on a limited number of Android 13 devices. “Over the past year, we’ve worked closely with the industry to gather feedback and begin testing these new technologies,” Google said in a blog post on Tuesday. “Today, we’re entering the next phase of this initiative, rolling out the first Beta for the Privacy Sandbox on Android to eligible devices. With the beta, users and developers will be able to experience and evaluate these new solutions in the real world.” The company added that users will be able to control beta participation via their Privacy Sandbox Settings, either by blocking certain topics or opting out of involvement altogether.

DoubleVerify Introduces CTV Viewability Verification
DoubleVerify (DV) has unveiled a viewability verification tool for CTV. To be counted as Authentic, an ad must be fully viewed, by a real person, in a brand safe and suitable environment, within the intended geography, according to the company. “This release enables advertisers to address growing challenges in CTV, such as the ‘TV off’ issue, and offers insight into whether ads had the opportunity to make an impact across digital environments, in a consistent manner,” said DV CEO Mark Zagorski.

Disney Questions Nielsen Over Accuracy of Live Sports Ratings
Disney Advertising has reportedly voiced concerns to Nielsen over the accuracy of its live sports ratings. According to AdAge, Disney “hosted an unusual three-hour, closed-door meeting” with Nielsen execs, along with NBCUniversal, Paramount, Amazon, Google, Apple, the NFL, NBA, NHL, Omnicom, Publicis and GroupM. The meeting concerned data that “sheds light on the audience disparities” between Nielsen and, particularly when it comes to out-of-home viewership. There have also been “questions around Nielsen’s measurement” of Thursday Night Football on Amazon Prime, noted the report, as Amazon’s data “often showed a larger audience than Nielsen figures.”

IAB Europe Agrees on Sustainable Digital Advertising Definitions
IAB Europe’s Sustainability Standards Committee has published agreed definitions for sustainable digital advertising, including environmental, social and economic sustainability. “Sustainable digital advertising refers to the practice of using digital marketing and advertising techniques and technologies in a way that mitigates the negative impact on the environment and society, whilst also being economically viable,” reads the definition. “This includes the digital supply chain, and the technologies used to deliver the ad from the agency or advertisers system to the end user’s screen, and covers the three pillars of sustainability. This does not encompass the creative production process, advertised emissions, or activities outside of this scope.”

TikTok Introduces In-App Shopping
TikTok has launched an in-app checkout feature in the US, enabling brands to sell their products directly on TikTok. Participating brands so far include clothes retailer Pacsun and cosmetics retailer KimChi Chic. A small bag icon on their profile takes users to a product catalogue, with images, videos, descriptions and prices. Instagram introduced similar capabilities in 2018 but announced the removal of the shopping tab last month.

Google DV360 Adds CTV Features
Google has added CTV advertising features to its DV360 platform, Search Engine Journal reported this week. These include tools for evaluating streaming publishers’ unique and incremental reach, such as YouTube, Hulu and Roku; Deal ID forecasting for guidance on how a preferred or programmatic guaranteed deal might perform before running; and Instant Reserve for easier booking of YouTube CTV inventory.

Amazon Eyes MX Player Acquisition
Amazon is exploring the acquisition of Indian streaming service MX Player, currently owned by media conglomerate Times Internet. At least two more companies, including Zee-Sony, have expressed interest in the business, according to TechCrunch’s sources. Times Internet bought MX Player for $140 million in 2018, and the service now has more than 300 million global users.

Roblox Seeks Major Ad Revenue Growth Through Self-Serve Platform
For all the excitement around metaverse marketing in some corners of the industry, opportunities for brands are still relatively sparse. Roblox, a videogame where the majority of content is user-generated, looks like the exception. It has a large player base, up to 65 million average daily active users. And it’s working to grow out a fleshed out ad offering, with plans to launch a self-serve ad platform later this year. Read more on VideoWeek.

EU Green Lights Telecoms Advertising Joint Venture
The new ad tech joint venture (JV) between Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefónica and Vodafone has received regulatory approval from the European Commission, setting the stage for the use of telco data in digital advertising. The European telcos will each take a 25 percent stake in the holding company, to be based in Belgium and run by independent management. A shareholder-appointed supervisory board will oversee the running of the group. Read more on VideoWeek.

Cadent Integrates Google Cloud for CTV Activations
Cadent announced a new integration with Google Cloud, using clean room technology to activate audiences across screens. Shared media clients can use Cadent’s Aperture Audience Studio and Viewer Graph, along with Google Cloud and Clean Room infrastructure, to securely deploy audiences to Google Ad Manager. “Given our partnership and shared clients, it’s fitting that Google is our first partner to join our clean room integration marketplace for advertisers,” said Mari Tangredi, SVP, Audience Solutions at Cadent.

TripleLift Cuts 20 Percent of Staff
TripleLift has cut 100 staff in the US and Canada, according to AdExchanger, representing 20 percent of its workforce. The move intends to counter disappointing growth, recessionary fears and slowing ad spend, the company said. “We did not react quickly enough to the changing landscape and build appropriately for this leaner phase,” CEO Dave Clark wrote in a memo.

Seedtag Unveils Contextual Targeting Tool
Ad tech firm Seedtag has introduced a new cookieless targeting solution. Contextual Profiles combines two types of real-time signals to evaluate the likelihood of a user being receptive to an ad: web-context signals (AI analysis of content) and situational context signals (such as location, time of day, weather or screen orientation). “We deliver ads based on all these web-context and situational signals so at the end of the day what really matters to us is what a user is reading and what this user is showing interest in in real time, not the persona behind the screen,” said Nathan Salter, UK Head of Performance at Seedtag.

The Week in TV

Fox Turns Down $2 Billion Offer for Tubi
Fox turned down unsolicited offers for its Tubi streaming service, according to Bloomberg, reflecting the boom of FAST channels in the US. The offers exceeded $2 billion, the sources said, more than four times what the company paid for the business. Reports suggest CEO Lachlan Murdoch intends to keep hold of Tubi, which Fox acquired for $440 million in 2020. Last week the company revealed that Tubi’s sales grew 25 percent in Q4 to surpass $200 million. Digital TV Research has forecast FAST revenues in the US to double to $30 billion by 2026.

Netflix Offers Australian Advertisers Their Money Back
Netflix is giving Australian advertisers their money back after failing to deliver projected audiences, B&T reported on Monday. The brands in question reportedly signed year-long agreements with the streaming giant, which has declined to comment. The report follows similar stories from the US in December, when Netflix reimbursed advertisers after only hitting 80 percent of the numbers it promised. “The challenge with Netflix was always going to be, because they’re an outlier, that they didn’t have any existing infrastructure,” said Omnicom CIO Kristiaan Kroon.

AMC Merges Linear and Digital Sales
AMC Networks is merging its linear and digital sales divisions, as the US broadcaster aims to secure its digital future. The company was heavily hit by cord-cutting last year, resulting in 20 percent staff redundancies. This week AMC named Kristin Dolan its new CEO, following the departure of Christina Spade after less than three months at the helm. “Our new structure is designed to drive innovation and bring our most potent advantages and capabilities to market in a way that will make it even easier for our advertising partners,” said AMC CCO Kim Kelleher.

Lionsgate Posts $1 Billion Quarterly Revenues, Exits Seven Streaming Markets
Lionsgate posted $1 billion revenues for Q4 2022, with library revenues hitting $845 million and the partial sale of Starzplay Arabia generating $43 million. Conversely, the company incurred an $80 million restructuring charge in reorganising its media networks business, including its streaming division. SVOD service Lionsgate+ is set to exit France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Benelux, the Nordics and Japan by the end of Q1 2023. “On the face of it, this seems a surprising move,” noted Jaanika Juntson, Analyst at Ampere Analysis. “These countries make up almost two-thirds of Lionsgate+’s total subscriber count.” However, the exit territories have lower ARPU “due to subscribers accessing the service via discounted bundles.” The research suggested that the firm was “unable to fully leverage its existing catalogue of content” in these markets, offering fewer Lionsgate titles on its own streaming service (eg. 68 in Germany) than on rival services Amazon (136), Netflix (117) and Joyn (87). “The mini-major studio expects to fare better by licensing more of its titles to other services instead,” said Juntson.

Viaplay Gains Subscribers as Ad Revenues Falter
Viaplay has reported 83 percent YoY subscriber growth in Q4 2022, bringing its total subs to 7.3 million. The Swedish broadcaster posted 20 percent group organic sales growth and 10 percent Nordic organic sales growth for 2022, in line with the company’s full-year guidance updated in November. Total sales generated SEK 15.7 billion in 2022, driven by the Viaplay streaming service which delivered 48 percent of group sales. Read more on VideoWeek.

Paramount Braces for “Peak Losses” This Year
Paramount is expecting “peak losses” in 2023, as it prepares to merge Paramount+ with Showtime – a move that could cost $1.3-1.5 billion in content-related impairment charges. The merge is expected to save $700 million in the long-term, with subscription fee rises also coming this year. Paramount+ added 9.9 million subs in Q4 2022, approaching 56 million in total.

Research Reveals Limited Reach of Netflix With Ads
Netflix ad-supported customers “pale in comparison” to linear TV audiences, research firm TVB found this week. According to the study, the reach of local TV news in the New York market dwarfs that of Netflix Basic with Ads. Netflix’s top show on the evening of 9th November 2022 was The Crown with an estimated 5,040 viewers, compared with 915,191 watching the WABC news around the same time. “The comparison is extremely meaningful for the advertising community and brands,” said TVB President and CEO Steve Lanzano.

TF1, M6, and France TV Confirm Salto Closure
French broadcasters TF1, M6, and France Télévisions have confirmed that they are shutting down Salto, their joint subscription streaming product launched in 2020. The writing had already appeared to be on the wall after France TV announced its intentions to withdraw from the project back in January, but there had still been a possibility that a buyer could emerge to take its place. Now however, the three stakeholders have confirmed that the business will enter voluntary liquidation. Read more on VideoWeek.

Digital Video Viewing to Overtake Linear TV in 2023
Digital video viewing (including Netflix, TikTok and YouTube) will exceed linear TV viewing in the US for the first time this year, an Insider Intelligence report suggests. The research forecasts TV to account for less than half of daily viewing, dropping below three hours. Meanwhile average daily digital viewing climbs to 52.3 percent, at 3 hours and 11 minutes. “Given teens’ preferences for social and streaming video over TV, we can expect these trends to continue to shift in favour of digital,” said Insider Intelligence principal analyst Paul Verna.

Roku Plans DSP Partnerships Amid Flat Revenues
Roku has posted flat revenues for Q4 2022 ($867 million), despite adding 10 million accounts and boosting streaming hours by 23 percent YoY. The company put the disparity down to “a difficult year for investors and a difficult year for the advertising market,” and offered to “meet marketers where they’re currently transacting programmatically” in order to more effectively monetise its customer growth. Read more on VideoWeek.

WBD Extends US Open Rights Deal
Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) has extended its partnership with the United States Tennis Association (USTA), allowing the broadcaster to air the US Open in 45 markets in Europe. The five-year deal includes exclusive access in 42 territories, with every match available to stream on Discovery+ and the Eurosport app. “As a trusted partner to the USTA, we have developed a proven strategy to harness the full scale of our channels and platforms to screen coverage to the widest possible audience,” said Trojan Paillot, VP Sports Rights Acquisitions and Syndication at WBD Europe. “This combined with our unrivalled tennis expertise, technology and storytelling ability means we offer fans a deeper and more engaging viewing experience year after year.”

Canal+ Responds to Government Threats of Licence Non-Renewal
Canal+ has hit back at France’s Minister of Culture, after she threatened two of its channels with licence non-renewal. French regulator Arcom has made around 20 interventions in C8 and CNews since 2019, Rima Abdul Malak commented, suggesting the watchdog takes permanent action against the Canal-owned channels. “The Minister is taking sides,” Canal+ Group said in a statement, accusing the politician of “invective against our channels.”

The Week for Publishers

News UK Seeks Five Percent Cut to Workforce
News UK, owner of UK news titles The Sun, The Times, and The Sunday Time, is limiting recruitment of new employees as it seeks to cut its headcount by five percent, the company has announced while presenting its quarterly earnings. Robert Thomson, chief executive of News UK’s parent company News Corp, said the business has been hit hard by high interest rates and inflation. However The Sun has seen strong digital ad revenue growth over the past quarter, thanks in part to its expansion into the US.

Footballco Leans on Video for Breaking News
After a strong financial year in 2022, football publisher Footballco is turning to video to drive further growth. The company says that reporting more breaking news via video is central to its plans for the year ahead, according to Press Gazette. Footballco says the move is in recognition of the fact that audiences often come to social media for breaking news, and are increasingly looking for video rather than written posts.

Politico Launches New Subscription Product for UK Tech Policy
Current affairs publication Politico is leaning further into subscriptions, launching a new ‘Politico Pro’ subscription specifically covering UK tech policy. Coverage will include a morning newsletter, news alerts and articles on developments in UK tech policy.

UK Publishers Look Past Open Programmatic for Ad Revenues in AOP Survey
The vast majority (86 percent) of UK publishers expect most advertising revenue growth to come from outside open programmatic marketplaces, the Association of Online Publishers (AOP) has found, suggesting hesitance over embracing a programmatic future. Read more on VideoWeek.

Eater London Closes Down
Eater London, a Vox-owned guide to food and restaurants in the UK capital, is closing down, the company announced this week. “Unfortunately, as a result of economic circumstances in the U.S. right now, a daily news and service outlet in London can no longer be a commercial priority for the business,” said editor Adam Coghlan in a farewell letter published on the site.

Time and Taboola Partner on Ecommerce Section
Time magazine has agreed a partnership with Taboola’s Turnkey Commerce division, which will see Taboola create a dedicated section of commerce-related content on Time’s site. The content will include product and service review roundups, tutorials, and how-to guides, which will be monetised via affiliate links.

Vice Media Secures $30 Million in Debt Financing from Fortress Investment Group
Vice Media has been handed temporary relief on some of its debt pressure via $30 million in debt financing provided by Fortress Investment Group, the Wall Street Journal reported this week. The funding will give Vice Media more time as it seeks a buyer – and Fortress is one of the first in line to get paid if Vice gets acquired, according to the WSJ.

BuzzFeed Launches First AI-Aided Quizzes
BuzzFeed launched the first of its AI-powered quizzes this week, at a time where newsrooms are increasingly experimenting with integrating AI into their reporting and content creation. The quizzes ask users to input various information, with the AI then doing the work of writing a response base on those answers.

The Week For Agencies

Dentsu Posts Four Percent Organic Growth for 2022
Japanese agency group Dentsu posted 4.1 percent organic revenue growth in 2022, and is predicting a further four percent growth this year, the company announced in its financial results this week. Overall results were dragged down by slow growth in Japan, where organic revenue growth was just 0.4 percent. Dentsu’s ‘Customer Transformation & Technology’ segment, which includes Dentsu Digital in Japan and Merkle in international markets, was a key growth driver, up 17.5 percent year-on-year.

GroupM Adds Omnichannel Measurement to Carbon Calculator
GroupM this week released an update to its in-house media carbon calculator, which adds in new omnichannel measurement capabilities. The Channel-Level Carbon Calculator includes factors like the physical weight of non-digital media and has the ability to account for emissions associated with the production of the campaign creative, according to GroupM. Via a partnership with carbon measurement specialist Scope3, the calculator will also provide more data on emissions across digital media channels.

Mediahub Joins IPG Mediabrands
Interpublic Group has announced it is folding media agency Mediahub into the IPG Mediabrands network, Campaign reported this week, where it will sit alongside other media agencies including Magna, UM, and Initiative. Mediahub was previously part of MullenLowe, another of IPG network, before being spun out in 2019.

Omnicom’s TRKKN Rolls Out in UK
TRKKN, a digital analytics and cloud consultancy owned by Omnicom Media Group, officially launched in the UK this week. TRKKN launched in Germany in 2008 as a Google Marketing Platform and Google Cloud Platform partner, and has since expanded to offer a wider range of services across the Google marketing and cloud tech stack. The consultancy is now present in 13 markets including the US, Spain, Denmark and Portugal.

Dentsu Barred for Bidding for Government Project in Japan
Dentsu has been barred from bidding for government contracts for one year, due to the fallout of a continued bid-rigging scandal related to the Tokyo Olympic Games. Dentsu helped Tokyo win its bid to host the Olympics, and former Dentsu executive Haruyuki Takahashi played a big role in helping award contracts and bring in sponsors relating to the event. He is alleged to have accepted bribes and rigged bids during this process. This included taking money from potential sponsors and from venues seeking to host portions of the games.

Media.Monks Works on Generative AI Tools
S4 Capital agency Media.Monks is working on a series of AI-based creative and production tools, as it seeks to fold generative AI into the creative process, according to The Drum. The tools are being developed within a department called Generative.Monks, which was actually founded back in 2018, before the current bout of generative AI hype. But Media.Monks is expanding the group and hiring new workers as it seeks to capitalise on client demand.

Hires of the Week

Meta VP EMEA Takes on Northern Europe
Meta VP EMEA Derya Matras has added Northern Europe to her leadership remit, including the UK, Ireland and Nordics. The move follows Steve Hatch’s announcement of leaving the company later this year.

Permutive Announces Four Key Appointments
Permutive announced four key appointments this week: Kim Castelda as Chief People Officer, Chloe Grutchfield as General Manager of Publishers, Sean King as Vice President of Engineering, and Michael Kistler as General Counsel.

Ogury Enlists Emily Barfuss as CMO
Ogury has named Emily Barfuss as chief marketing officer. She previously served as CMO at Tremor International, following stints at Index Exchange and CBS Corporation. Barfuss has also won awards from Cynopsis, Folio and Women in IT.

This Week on VideoWeek

EU Green Lights Telecoms Advertising Joint Venture, read on VideoWeek

Broadcast or Video? The Choice Broadcasters Have to Make, read on VideoWeek

Viaplay Gains Subscribers as Ad Revenues Falter, read on VideoWeek

UK Publishers Look Past Open Programmatic for Ad Revenues in AOP Survey, read on VideoWeek

TF1, M6, and France TV Confirm Salto Closure, read on VideoWeek

Roku Plans DSP Partnerships Amid Flat Revenues, read on VideoWeek

Roblox Seeks Major Ad Revenue Growth Through Self-Serve Platform, read on VideoWeek

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About the Author:

Tim Cross is Assistant Editor at VideoWeek.
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