The WIR: Netflix Expands its Ad Offering, YouTube Takes On Ad Blockers, and Amazon Scrutinises its Content Spending

Tim Cross 07 July, 2023 

In this week’s Week in Review: Netflix adds to its ad offering, YouTube tackles ad blocking, and Amazon scrutinises its content spending.

Top Stories

Netflix to Offer Episodic Ad Campaigns

Netflix is expanding its ad offering with targeted and tailor-made formats, the FT reported on Monday, after the streaming giant held talks with ad executives in Cannes. According to the marketers, the streaming service plans to offer “episodic” campaigns that would present sequential ads across related shows.

“They’ll know what you’ve seen,” said one exec. “So the old days of making episodic work may be back because before you could never guarantee what people have seen already. Now you can write 15 episodes of an advert and guarantee that the viewer will see them in the right order. So that’s really interesting.”

Another marketer said the level of targeting on Netflix “could get really, really interesting” for brands. They also suggested the advertising partnership with Microsoft would end next year as Netflix builds out its own ad tech, and that the company is planning to introduce advertising to its growing gaming business.

YouTube Tests Anti-Ad Blocking Measures

YouTube will deny playback to viewers using ad blockers, The Verge reported this week, as part of a small test of anti-ad blocking technology. The trial ask users which YouTube detects are using ad blockers to either disable it completely, or tweak the settings so YouTube ads aren’t blocked. If they don’t, viewing is cut off after three videos.

“We take disabling playback very seriously, and will only disable playback if viewers ignore repeated requests to allow ads on YouTube,” said Google spokesperson Oluwa Falodun. Users could also be prompted to upgrade to YouTube Premium for ad-free viewing.

Amazon Questions its Own Content Spending

Amazon CEO Andy Jassy is scrutinising the company’s content spending, according to Bloomberg, as the firm looks to cut costs and over 27,000 jobs. Last year, Amazon spent $7 billion on content, up from $5 billion the year before. Daisy Jones & the Six, The Power and Dead Ringers all cost more than $100 million to produce, but failed to make Nielsen’s top 10 US streaming titles. And the $462 million first season of Rings of Power only retained 37 percent of its US viewers.

The review comes as Amazon conducts a company-wide cost cutting programme, which will also see 27,000 jobs cut across the business.

The Week in Tech

MediaMath Files for Bankruptcy

MediaMath, a demand side platform, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last Friday. The filing followed a rocky few years for the New York ad tech firm, which had been unsuccessfully exploring a sale since 2020. MediaMath was in acquisition talks with Verve Group, but discussions broke down on Thursday. The company owes up to $500 million in liability costs, alongside a $150 million loan payment to Goldman Sachs. MediaMath was forced to refinance last year, resulting in founder Joe Zawadski being ousted as CEO, and Searchlight Capital Partners taking a controlling stake in the company.

Elon Musk Threatens to Sue After Meta Launches Twitter Competitor ‘Threads’

Meta this week launched Threads, a new text-based social media app explicitly designed to compete with Twitter. Threads, which doesn’t yet run any ads, picked up users quickly, reporting thirty million sign-ups on its first day. And Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg has big ambitions for the app, saying that “there should be a public conversations app with 1 billion+ people on it […] Twitter has had the opportunity to do this but hasn’t nailed it. Hopefully we will”.

Shortly after the launch, Twitter CTO Elon Musk threatened to sue Meta over the launch, accusing the company of “systematic, willful and unlawful misappropriation” of Twitter trade secrets and IP. Musk says Meta has access to this information thanks to its hiring of ex-Twitter staff.

IAB Tech Lab Releases Clean Room Specifications

IAB Tech Lab has been working on a number of specifications and guidelines for data clean rooms, as part of an effort to ensure interoperability between different tools and services. And this week Tech Lab announced the first stable launch of its ‘Open Private Join & Activation’ (OPJA) specification, as well as its Data Clean Rooms Guidance and Recommended Practices.

The OPJA specification is a novel protocol that enables advertisers to activate audiences with their first party data without leaking private information, designed to be used across different data clean rooms. The clean room guidelines meanwhile outline the basic concepts and terms which publishers and advertisers need to understand, as well as questions which they should be asking tech vendors.

Spotify Could Add Full-Length Music Videos

Spotify is considering adding full-length music videos to its app, Bloomberg reported on Friday. The music streaming service is reportedly speaking to partners about the project, which aims to help it compete with YouTube and TikTok by expanding its video capabilities. Spotify currently allows musicians to upload 8- and 30-second clips, as well as hosting video podcasts.

Europe’s Top Court Rules Against Meta in Ad Data Case

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has ruled in favour of Germany’s antitrust watchdog in a court battle against Facebook and Instagram owner Meta, in a decision which will limit Meta’s ability to share data between its various platforms for use in targeted advertising in Germany. The CJEU’s decision is significant not only for the blow it deals to Meta’s ad business in Germany, but also for the legal precedent it sets in Europe: that antitrust regulators can rule on data privacy matters so long as there is sufficient connection between the two. Read on VideoWeek.

Advertisers Retreat From Twitter Over Post Limits

Twitter has imposed limits on the number of tweets users can view each day, in a move met with disapproval by the ad industry. According to Reuters, advertisers have criticised the company for turning away its most engaged users. “This certainly isn’t going to make it any easier to convince advertisers to return,” said Jasmine Enberg, principal analyst at Insider Intelligence. “It’s a hard sell already to bring advertisers back.” Elon Musk said the limits were intended to prevent data scraping on Twitter, though the higher limits for verified users suggest the plan was also to encourage subscriptions.

Yahoo Plans Return to Public Markets

Yahoo is planning to return to public markets, CEO Jim Lanzone told the FT on Tuesday. The exec said the Apollo Global Management-owned media firm was financially ready to go public, and will be aggressively pursuing M&A opportunities. “The company has a great balance sheet, we’re very profitable,” added Lanzone.

The Week in TV

UK Government Suggests Channel 4 Produces In-House Content 

Sir John Whittingdale MP, Minister for Data and Digital Infrastructure, has expressed concern about Channel 4’s dependence on ad revenue. “We know that the climate at the moment is a lot tougher than it has been,” he told the Culture, Media and Sport Committee on Tuesday. Whittingdale said the government’s Media Bill will relax restrictions preventing Channel 4 from creating its own content, but will not force the broadcaster to produce in-house content. “We have been concerned about the dependence of Channel 4 on advertising revenue and their inability to diversify in the way that ITV has been so successful,” he said. “This gives them this opportunity to do so.”

FIFA Teams Up with Sky Media for Ad Sales

FIFA has appointed Sky Media its exclusive ad sales house for FIFA+ across Europe. The partnership helps monetise the streaming service as it expands on CTV apps and FAST channels. “This collaboration comes at an exciting time as we prepare to showcase the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023,” said Romy Gai, Chief Business Officer at FIFA.

North America Will Cease Holding Majority of OTT Market Next Year

In 2024, North America will no longer make up the majority of global OTT subscription revenues, according to forecasts from Ampere Analysis. North America is set to drop below 50 percent of total revenues next year, marking the first time the region has not held the majority of the market since the launch of Netflix in 2007. “The decline in revenue market share for North America is driven by a slowdown in growth in North America as OTT households reach saturation,” said Toby Holleran, Research Manager at Ampere Analysis. “Alongside this, growth in Western Europe is also a driver, with the region set to represent around 20 percent of global OTT subscription revenues by 2025.”

Channel 4 Adds Disney Shows, Extends Formula 1 Deal with Sky

Channel 4 has signed an agreement with Disney to bring 10 series to its BVOD service, including Scandal, Bones and The X-Files. Also this week, Channel 4 extended its partnership with Sky, keeping Formula 1 coverage on the public service broadcaster through to 2026. “We’re thrilled to have struck another Formula 1 deal with Sky and are delighted to once again bring UK audiences Formula 1 for free,” said Channel 4 CEO Alex Mahon.

The Week for Publishers

G/O Media Begins Using AI to Create Content

Digital media group G/O Media, which owns titles including Gizmodo, Kotaku, Jezebel, and The Root, has begun using generative AI to create content across several of its publications according to Adweek. The AI trials are initially limited to AV Club, Gizmodo, The Takeout, and Deadspin, according to an internal memo seen by Adweek. AI-generated articles will not appear on these publishers’ homepages, and are designed to capture search traffic, according to the memo.

City AM Owners are Open to a Sale

The owners of business newspaper City AM are searching for new investment, but are also open to a sale of the business, they collectively announced this week. City AM is half owned by a Dutch consortium, with chief executive Jens Torpe and managing director Lawson Muncaster each owning a 25 percent stake. A statement released by the owners said that a new owner would be able to “build on the brand’s recognition and rapidly diversify and expand City AM’s revenue streams”.

Axel Springer Agrees Deal with ChatGPT

European media giant Axel Springer this week announced the launch of a new plugin for OpenAI’s ChatGPT chatbot, which will make up-to-date reporting from its news brand BILD available within ChatGPT. Users will be able to run queries relating to BILD reporting within ChatGPT, with the chatbot then surfacing the relevant information. This follows a similar move last month for fellow Axel Springer news brand WELT, which also made its reporting available within ChatGPT via a plugin.

Google Confirms Plans to Block News in Canada

Google has confirmed that it plans to begin blocking news content from its search, news, and discover platforms in Canada once the recently passed Online News Act comes into force. The new law will force online platforms to negotiate payments with publishers in exchange for distributing links to their content, but both Meta and now Google have said they will block news rather than agree payments.

UK News Associations Throw Support Behind News Payments Bill

Executives from the News Media Association and the Public Interest News Foundation, as well as the chief executive of ITN, have vocalised their support for proposed UK laws which would require online platforms to pay publishers and news providers in exchange for sharing their content (similar to the recently passed law in Canada – see above).

The Week For Brands & Agencies

IPG Joins AI Safety Coalition

Agency holding group Interpublic Group (IPG) has become the first agency group to join the Partnership on AI to Benefit People and Society  (PAI), a coalition of businesses across different sectors which seeks to ensure safety and equity in AI’s adoption across industries. The aim of PAI, which also counts Apple, Amazon, IBM, Microsoft, and OpenAI among its members, is to develop recommendations and resources to help protect against potential negative consequences of AI tools. These include AI’s impact of transparency and accountability, its social impact, its economic impacts, and its effects on the labour market.

Agencies Should See In-Housing as an Opportunity, Not a Threat says IPA

Advertising trade body the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) released a new report on in-housing this week, saying that agencies shouldn’t view in-housing as a threat to their businesses, but evolve their businesses to cater to it. The report picked out four trends shaping the evolution of in-housing: a shift in media spend from campaigns to ‘always on’ experiences; a shift in maturity, from in-housing as a newcomer to now being an established part of the marketing mainframe; a shift in value, from in-housing being focused purely on functional efficiency to incorporating more business-building capabilities; and a shift in value from ‘exclusive expertise’ to becoming ‘integrated partners’.

Havas Play Launches in UK

Havas this week launched Havas Play – Havas’ agency network covering entertainment, sports, technology, and fandom – in the UK. The move will see UK creative agency Cake combined with Havas Media Network UK’s content and partnerships division JUMP under one new offering headed up by Rosie Holden, who previously was CEO of Cake.

GARM Launches Generative AI and Metaverse Playbook

The Global Alliance for Responsible Media (GARM) has released a playbook for brands, agencies and platforms for weighing up brand safety and suitability issues relating to generative AI and the metaverse. GARM says the guide “provides foundational education on how these new innovations raise new brand safety and suitability considerations, raises key concerns for the industry, and where relevant highlights best practices and new ways of working to consider within the confines of a campaign”.

Omnicom Launches ‘Momentum’ ESG Solution in MENA

Omnicom Media Group this week announced it is launching its global ESG solution Momentum in the MENA region. Momentum runs a range of ESG-focused solutions for OMG clients, including a global ESG toolkit and a carbon calculator for forecasting carbon emissions from media plans. Elda Choucair, CEO of Omnicom Media Group MENA, said the solution “allows our clients to be accountable to the planet, to society and to their shareholders, all at the same time”.

Flora Owner Upfield Hands Media Duties to UM

Flora’s parent company Upfield, which also owns Stork, Bertolli, and I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!, has named UM as its global media agency of record, Campaign reported this week. Upfield also recently picked Lucky Generals to handle creative work in Europe.

Three New Agencies Join to IPA

The UK’s Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) announced three new members this week: media agency MNC, creative media agency Love Sugar Science, and creative agency Borne. “We are delighted to welcome three new agencies from three different cities into the IPA community: Borne in Norwich, Love Sugar Science in Manchester and MNC in London provide further evidence of the talent in our industry across the UK,” said Tom Mott, director of membership at the IPA.

Hires of the Week

Guardian Sales Director Joins Mail Metro Media

Guy Edmunds has joined Mail Metro Media in the newly created role of video and podcast media director. Edmunds previously spent 20 years at The Guardian, most recently as sales director.

NBCUniversal Promotes Donna Langley to TV Chief
NBCUniversal has promoted its film chief Donna Langley to also oversee TV content. Her promotion to chairman of the NBCUniversal Studio Group and chief content officer is part of a broader restructuring, as former TV chief Susan Rovner leaves the company.

This Week on VideoWeek

M6 Wants to Reduce Brands’ Fear Factor around Sustainability Messaging

AVOD and FAST Providers are Quickly Adopting Unified Auctions

MediaMath AfterMath: How Agencies and Creditors Have Been Faring

“The Media Market is as Dynamic as Ever”

Are SSPs and DSPs Cutting Each Other Out of the Picture?

Ad Duplication Still Needs Fixing on CTV

Europe’s Top Court Rules Against Meta in Ad Data Case

CTV Buyers and Sellers Need to Use the Same Anti-Fraud Solutions

Axel Springer Makes Rapid Moves to Embrace Generative AI

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About the Author:

Tim Cross is Assistant Editor at VideoWeek.
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