The WIR: NBCU’s Linda Yaccarino in Talks to Become Twitter CEO, Meta Launches an AI Sandbox for Advertisers, and Jeff Green Compares SPO Drama to Reality TV

Tim Cross 12 May, 2023 

In this week’s Week in Review: Linda Yaccarino is reportedly set to take the top job at Twitter, Meta Launches an AI sandbox, Jeff Green says SPO drama is mostly manufactured, and Disney rethinks its streaming strategy.

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NBCU’s Linda Yaccarino in Talks to be Appointed as New Twitter CEO
Elon Musk said on Thursday he has “hired a new CEO” for Twitter, believed by the WSJ to be NBCUniversal advertising chief Linda Yaccarino. Musk added he will transition to the role of CTO and executive chair in the next few weeks.

Yaccarino is well known throughout the ad industry thanks to her time at NBCU, where she has spent more than a decade, and she was a key figure in the launch of NBCU’s ad-supported streaming service Peacock. Her appointment might help to restore advertisers’ confidence in Twitter. She herself is well aware of advertisers’ concerns towards the platform, having quizzed Musk onstage at industry conference Possible last month.

Whether she can restore advertisers’ confidence while adhering to Musk’s ‘free speech absolutism’ remains to be seen. Also this week, former Fox News host Tucker Carlson announced plans to relaunch his show on Twitter. The anchor was sacked by the network after his claims of vote rigging cost Fox $787.5 million in a defamation lawsuit.

Meta Launches AI Sandbox for Advertisers
Meta this week announced the launch of a new ‘AI Sandbox’ for advertisers, essentially a testing ground for new ad products which use AI, including generative AI.

Among the tools initially available are a new background generation tool, which creates a background for an ad based on a text prompt. The sandbox also contains tools to generate variations of text with an ad, and ‘outcropping’ which can extend a picture or video asset (using AI to generate the new content) in order to fit different aspect ratios. Meta says these tools are initially available only to a select number of advertisers, but they will be expanded to a wider group in July. Eventually, Meta plans to fold these AI features into its mainstream ad products.

The Trade Desk’s Jeff Green Compares SPO Debate to TV Drama
The Trade Desk reported its first quarter financial results this week, with revenues up 21 percent year-on-year. CEO Jeff Green cited continued shifting of TV budgets towards CTV and the growth of retail media as two major drivers of the company’s growth.

On a call with investors to discuss the results, Green was asked for his stance on developments around supply-path optimisation (SPO). The Trade Desk’s launch last year of OpenPath, a product which gives buyers direct access to a selection of publisher inventory, was interpreted by some as a move to disintermediate supply-path platforms. And in recent weeks the debate around SPO has intensified as Magnite and PubMatic, two of the world’s largest supply-side platforms, have launched their own products which provide direct access to video inventory without the need for a demand-side platform.

Green suggested that a lot of the discussion around SPO and these various products is akin to “reality TV”, stating that there’s “so much effort to create drama in our space”. Namechecking both Magnite’s ClearLine and PubMatic’s Activate alongside OpenPath, Green said that all of these efforts simply aim to forge clearer paths between buyers and sellers, with no direct intention to disintermediate other parts of the ad tech ecosystem.

The Week in Tech

PubMatic Launches New SPO Product ‘Activate’
The supply side has taken another leap across the aisle, as PubMatic on Monday announced a new product called Activate, enabling brands and agencies to buy CTV and online video inventory directly through the SSP. Activate allows buyers to carry out non-bidded direct deals on PubMatic’s programmatic platform. The SSP suggested the solution could lead to increased revenue on both sides of the aisle.

Macy’s Adds The Trade Desk DSP to Media Network
US department store Macy’s has added The Trade Desk’s DSP to its media network, the retailer announced on Monday, giving advertisers access to its audience segments. The deal grants marketers exposure to 42.7 million active shoppers at Macy’s, as well as 4.1 million at Bloomingdale’s, according to the company. “By working with The Trade Desk, we are empowering advertisers to optimise their media campaigns with a highly desirable and engaged audience set,” said Macy’s Media Network VP Melanie Zimmermann.

Teads Launches CTV Offering in UK
Ad tech firm Teads is expanding its CTV offering in the UK, the company announced on Wednesday, following a series of in-market test campaigns. The launch enables brands to buy across TV, mobile and desktop through the Teads platform in the UK, alongside France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Canada and Brazil. The company has also integrated Comscore’s cross-platform targeting capabilities. “The geographic expansion of our CTV offering is driven by the success we have seen in the US and rapid adoption of streaming across the globe,” said Teads co-CEO Jeremy Arditi. “As video is in our DNA, we are excited to offer our clients the ability to reach audiences across every major screen.”

Meta to Pay Creators for Reels Performance
Meta has changed its creator payment terms for ads on its Reels product on both Facebook and Instagram. The payments are now determined by number of plays, rather than the earnings of ads. The company has invited “thousands more creators” to test the new policy on Facebook, with similar tests planned for Instagram. It also suggested incorporating “other signals” into payouts for creators. “With a performance-based model, creators can focus on the content that’s resonating with their audiences and helping them grow; advertisers get access to more ad inventory to reach more people; and people get a more consistent viewing experience with more relevant ads,” Meta said in a blog post

Captify, IRIS.TV Bring Contextual Analysis to CTV Buys
Search intelligence company Captify has announced an integration with content data firm IRIS.TV. The partnership allows marketers to use Captify to target brand-suitable video inventory across IRIS-enabled publishers. The deal brings video-level contextual data to CTV buys, including brand safety, suitability and topical analysis of every video. “As CTV continues to accelerate, brands and agencies are looking for better ways to deliver contextually relevant ad experiences,” said Nancy Neumann Grey, VP of Business Development, Data Partners at IRIS.TV. “By leveraging Captify’s search intelligence, buyers now have an easier way to activate and access video-level data to enhance their media buys confidently.”

Tremor International Adds Scope3 Data to CTV Inventory
CTV advertising firm Tremor International has partnered with Scope3, bringing its emission measurement to CTV inventory. Tremor’s SSP Unruly will provide access to Green Media Product curated deals across premium display, video and CTV. “CTV plays a key role in the future of our business and the industry at large, so it’s critical that we prioritise sustainability as our technology advances to support the convergence of traditional TV and digital advertising,” said Tremor CPO Karim Rayes. “Together with Scope3, we are taking a thoughtful approach to supporting the reduction of our industry’s carbon footprint while continuing to optimise our clients’ investments across emerging formats.”

CMA Launches Review into Generative AI Models
The UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has opened an initial review of AI foundation models, in order to assess the consumer impact of generative and large language systems. The review will consider five principles for the new technology: safety, security and robustness; appropriate transparency and explainability; fairness; accountability and governance; and contestability and redress. “It’s crucial that the potential benefits of this transformative technology are readily accessible to UK businesses and consumers while people remain protected from issues like false or misleading information,” said CMA Chief Executive Sarah Cardell. “Our goal is to help this new, rapidly scaling technology develop in ways that ensure open, competitive markets and effective consumer protection.”

The Week in TV

Disney to Combine Disney+ and Hulu This Year
Disney will combine its streaming services Disney+ and Hulu this year, CEO Bob Iger announced in the company’s earnings call. Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+ will remain available as standalone services but pricing looks set to increase and content likely to be cut, according to the plans.

The CEO also hinted that Disney would buy Comcast’s 33 percent stake in Hulu, a possibility that was previously “on the table” but seems stronger in light of plans to integrate the streaming services. “There seems to be real value in having general entertainment combined with Disney+,” said Iger. “And if ultimately Hulu is that solution, we’re bullish about that.”

WBD Says Streaming Division is “No Longer a Bleeder”
Warner Bros. Discovery’s (WBD) streaming division is “no longer a bleeder,” CEO David Zaslav said on an earnings call, expecting the DTC business to become profitable this year. HBO Max and Discovery+ revenues fell 1 percent YoY but turned a profit of $50 million, an improvement on last quarter when the segment lost $217 million. The streaming services added 1.6 million subs in Q1, driving 29 percent growth in ad revenues. However, overall WBD revenue was down 6 percent at $10.70 billion, missing analyst expectations of $10.75 billion, as the company still incurs the costs of its foundational merger. “We’ve come through some major restructurings and have repositioned our businesses with greater precision and focus,” said Zaslav. “And we see a number of positive proof points emerging, with DTC perhaps the most prominent.”

Paramount to Cut 25 Percent of US Staff, Closes MTV News
Paramount will cut 25 percent of its US team across Showtime/MTV Entertainment Studios and Paramount Media Networks, and will shutter its MTV News division. The announcement follows disappointing Q1 earnings for the broadcaster, as strong streaming results fail to make up for weak TV ad revenues. The job cuts include the departure of Jessica Zalkind, SVP of talent and series development at MTV Networks, and Todd Radnitz, SVP of original unscripted series at MTV Entertainment Group and Paramount+. Meanwhile the company has concluded its intimate Upfront meetings, claiming it is “not going back” to the traditional presentations it abandoned this year. “This just works better,” said Paramount advertising president John Halley.

RTL Ad Alliance Introduces Shoppable Formats
RTL Ad Alliance has introduced a “Shoppable Package” of ad formats, based on test campaigns run on streaming service RTL+. The formats include the Shoppable Spot Frame, where a frame is placed around the ad with a shopping button that leads to an interactive ATV microsite, product showcase and QR code for purchases; and the shoppable Dynamic Sitebar for desktop and mobile, where the product shop window is integrated over a large area without the need for an additional QR scan, also enabling contextual integration through keyword targeting.

MYTF1 Lands on Amazon Fire TV in France
TF1 streaming service MYTF1 arrived on Amazon Fire TV this week, making the app available on Amazon Fire TV Sticks, Fire TV Cube, Echo Show 15 and compatible smart TVs. MYTF1 includes 5,000 hours of on-demand content, as well as FAST channels for Drama, Comedy, Anime, Kids and Reality. “Our partnership deal with Amazon marks another milestone in the rollout of MYTF1 across all screens, with 85 percent of French households with a connected TV now able to access the platform,” said Claire Basini, TF1 Group EVP of B2C Activities.

AMC Streaming Revenues Rise as Subscribers Fall
AMC saw its streaming revenue rise 29 percent YoY to hit $141 million in Q1, despite losing around 300,000 subscribers in the quarter. “While this represents a slight decline from last quarter, the bigger context is our focus on attracting and retaining higher value subscribers,” said AMC CEO Kristin Dolan. The broadcaster plans to introduce advertising to its streaming service AMC+ this year in further efforts to maximise ARPU. Meanwhile ad revenues fell 20 percent to $161 million, with “lower linear ratings and a soft overall ad market” expected to impact the year ahead.

DAZN, beIN Join Task Force to Tackle Sports Piracy
Sports streaming company DAZN and Qatari broadcaster beIN have joined a task force to tackle sports piracy, which allegedly costs the industry tens of billions of dollars each year. LA-based anti-piracy group Ace (Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment) will work with police, Interpol and Europol to pursue enforcement action, according to the FT. “Intellectual property theft of live sports content is an industry issue, negatively impacting all sports and sports fans and needs a global concerted effort to meaningfully tackle it,” said DAZN CEO Shay Segev.

The Week for Publishers

New York Times Receives $100 Million Per Year from Google
The New York Times is set to receive $100 million per year from Google, the Wall Street Journal reported this week, as part of a deal which covers the NYT’s involvement in Google News Showcase, as well as the publisher’s use of Google’s ad products.

News Corp Sees Slight Improvement in Ad Market
News Corp said it saw an improvement in the ad market during the first quarter of the year, at odds with the trend seen by the majority of news publishers at the moment. Advertising revenues within its news media segment were down by five percent, but on a constant currency basis were up two percent year-on-year.

Barry Diller Aligns with Axel Springer and News Corp to Combat AI
Media mogul Barry Diller, chairman of digital publisher IAC, says his company is working with Axel Springer and News Corp to prepare a legal response to the threat of AI, Press Gazette reported this week. Speaking at the Sir Harry Evans Summit on investigative journalism, Diller said the three companies may push for a change to copyright law, to prevent consumer-facing AI tools like ChatGPT from harvesting publisher content, a growing concern for publishers.

NYT Plans Subscription Hikes Amid Falling Ad Spend
The New York Times posted lower than expected revenues in its Q1 financial results this week, with digital ad revenues down by nearly nine percent year-on-year. CEO Meredith Kopit Levein said that “advertising continues to experience near-term, cyclical challenges,” adding that the company is looking to increase prices on a number of its subscription products to counteract falling ad revenues.

Mediahuis Buys Euractiv
European news publisher Mediahuis, whose titles include the Irish Independent, De Standaard, De Telegraaf and the Luxembourg Times, this week bought Euractiv, a news outlet focused on EU policy. Mediahuis said the acquisition is part of a wider strategy to grow into “a leading European media group,” according to Press Gazette.

Haymarket Cuts Staff at Motoring Titles
Special interest publisher Haymarket is cutting up to 12 percent of staff across its motoring titles, including Autocar and What Car?, citing ongoing turbulence in the automotive industry. The publisher says it has seen a fall in ad spend from car brands, its primary clientele, as car production has been hit by supply chain issues.

The Week For Brands & Agencies

Sorrell says AI is Making S4 More Effective and Efficient
Sir Martin Sorrell, executive chairman of S4 Capital, said clients are increasingly looking at how AI can help bring down costs, and that the growth of AI can help his company “improve the effectiveness and efficiency of what we do”. The comments came as S4 Capital reported its Q1 financial results, with organic net revenues up 6.8 percent year-on-year.

Forrester Urges Industry to Ditch the Pitch
Media research business Forrester released a new report this week urging ad agencies to ditch the traditional pitching process for winning new business, claiming it to be inefficient and ineffective. The report found that $12.5 billion is spent on pitching each year, despite the fact that brands often end up choosing an agency based on cost. Forrester instead suggested brands should commission paid work from agencies, which then can they use to judge whether to build a longer term relationship with those agencies.

Stagwell sees Three Percent Drop in Q1 Revenues
Advertising holding group Stagwell reported its Q1 financial results this week, with total revenues down three percent year-on-year. CEO Mark Penn partly attributed the decline to a particularly strong Q1 last year, and said he expects the company to return to double digit growth in later quarters. However the group has cut around 300 roles as a cost saving measure, in light of the results.

Byron Allen Sues McDonald’s Over Lack of Commitment to Black Media
Media entrepreneur Byron Allen has filed a second lawsuit against McDonald’s, claiming that the fast food chain lied about commitments to funding Black-owned media via its ad spending. McDonald’s pledged in 2021 to boost US ad spend with Black-owned media from two percent to five percent by 2024. But Allen, who says his Allen Media Group represents over 90 percent of US Black-owned media, hasn’t seen an increase.

All In Census Finds “Some Progress” in Industry Inclusivity
The results of the latest All In survey, which charts the state of diversity and inclusion within the industry in the UK, finding that some small progress has been made. The proportion of respondents who said they feel a sense of belonging in the industry rose two percentage points to 71 percent, while reports of the presence of negative behaviour fell one percentage point to 15 percent. However there’s still plenty of work to do; for example three in ten Black respondents said they are likely to leave the industry due to discrimination and/or a lack of inclusion.

US Ad Employment Saw Steady Rise in April
Employment in advertising, public relations, and related services rose by 2,100 jobs in the US in April, according to AdAge’s analysis of data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. This was the biggest monthly gain since last summer according to AdAge.

Hires of the Week

Kara Osbourne Becomes UM UK & Ireland CEO
Kara Osbourne, currently global chief product, data, and technology officer for media at Dentsu, has been hired by UM to become its new CEO in the UK and Ireland, Campaign reported this week.

Thomas Follin Joins Canal+
Thomas Follin, the ex-CEO of French broadcaster alliance Salto, has joined Canal+ as its new chief global transformation officer.

Cadi Jones and Poppy Hill Join Pixability
Pixability announced two new hires this week, with Cadi Jones joining as managing director in EMEA, and Poppy Hill joining as managing director in APAC.

This Week on VideoWeek

PubMatic Joins the Race to Cut Out DSPs in Video & CTV Deals, read on VideoWeek

How AI is Revolutionising the Future of Digital Creativity, read on VideoWeek

Alternate Currencies to be Given Airtime at Upfronts, read on VideoWeek

Can Attention Metrics Quantify the Value Gap Between TV and Digital Video? read on VideoWeek

ITV’s Ad Revenues Fall by Ten Percent, read on VideoWeek

Ad of the Week

IKEA, Proudly Second Best

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About the Author:

Tim Cross is Assistant Editor at VideoWeek.
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