The WIR: Disney Mulls Offloading Linear Channels, Digital Ads Contribute A Fifth of Channel 4 Revenues, and US and EU Agree Key Data Sharing Deal

Tim Cross 14 July, 2023 

In this week’s Week in Review: Disney considers selling off linear channels, Channel 4 releases its figures for 2022, and the EU and US announce their new data sharing deal.

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Disney Considers Selling Off Linear TV Assets

Disney CEO Bob Iger has suggested selling the company’s linear TV assets. Iger, whose contract has been extended through to 2026, said ABC, FX and Nat Geo “may not be core” to the business. He noted that ESPN continues to perform and could take on a strategic partner as the channel transitions to streaming. But the linear business is struggling, the CEO acknowledged, and private equity firms could provide a potential group of buyers.

Disney has been gradually winding down its linear operations over the past few years, shuttering channels such as Fox and the Disney Channel as the content migrates to streaming service Disney+. The company is also exploring options to sell its Indian subsidiary Disney Star, or could seek a joint venture partner. Iger has previously announced plans to cut $3 billion in content spend, and has made 7,000 layoffs this year.

Digital Advertising Drives Channel 4 Revenues

Channel 4 revenues hit £1.14 billion in 2022, according to the UK broadcaster’s annual report released on Wednesday. The company said digital advertising revenues were up 14 percent YoY to reach £255 million, accounting for 22 percent of total revenues. The broadcaster aims to have 30 percent of revenues come from digital advertising by 2025.

Non-advertising revenues (including film and partnerships) reached £121 million, making 11 percent of total revenues. Added to the 22 percent from digital advertising, “this means one-third of Channel 4’s income was not from linear advertising,” the company said. Channel 4 also forecast full-year revenues in 2023 to again exceed £1 billion.

“Channel 4 is focused on being more digital as a broadcaster and more commercial as a business, transforming into a public service streamer,” said Channel 4 Chair Sir Ian Cheshire. “With a uniquely strong brand, Channel 4 is very well-positioned. However, we need Government’s help to address prominence, so young audiences can continue to find safe and trusted British video that reflects their lives. There is no time to lose.”

US and EU Agree Vital Data-Sharing Deal

A new transatlantic data-sharing arrangement came into force on Monday, following an agreement between the US and EU that restores the free flow of consumer data. The deal comes three years after the European Court of Justice struck down the previous regime, arguing that the “Privacy Shield” did not limit US authorities’ access to data in an equivalent manner to the European GDPR. A new executive order issued by US president Joe Biden imposes new obligations on the transfer of data, and according to the European Commission, provides adequate privacy protections to European citizens.

However it remains to be seen whether this new agreement will survive the inevitable challenges from privacy campaigners which ultimately toppled previous deals. None Of Your Business (noyb), the privacy group which filed complaints against previous deals, said it will contest this new deal too, saying that fundamental issues with previous agreements have not been addressed.

The Week in Tech

Roku Introduces Click-to-Buy Ads Via Shopify

Roku, a streaming hardware and CTV platform provider, has announced a new integration with ecommerce business Shopify which will enable viewers to purchase items sold on Shopify directly through Roku ads. Viewers who see the ads are prompted to press the ‘OK’ button on their remotes if they’re interested in purchasing the product. They are then taken to a page with more information about the product, and are able to complete a purchase using their remote via Roku Pay, Roku’s payments platform. Read more on VideoWeek.

Twitch Plans to Launch TikTok-Like Short-Form Feed

Twitch, Amazon’s gaming-focused live streaming video, has announced a new ‘Discovery Feed’ – acknowledging the importance of short-form even for platforms like its own which specialise in long-form video. The new feature, announced at Twitch’s own TwitchCon event in Paris, will be “a scrollable feed in the Twitch app that shows users a personalised mix of clips,” according to the company. It will show clips (sections of live streams which streamers or viewers cut out and present as standalone videos on the streamer’s profile) from a mix of creators regardless of whether they’re currently streaming or not. Read more on VideoWeek.

Microsoft’s Activision Takeover Cleared by US Judge

Microsoft has been cleared to proceed with its Activision Blizzard acquisition by a US judge, following a court case against the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC argued that the takeover would give Microsoft exclusive access to the Call of Duty games. But Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley said in her ruling: “The FTC has not identified a single document which contradicts Microsoft’s publicly-stated commitment to make Call of Duty available on PlayStation (and Nintendo Switch).” The UK Competition Markets Authority (CMA), which previously blocked the deal, then said it would consider proposals from Microsoft to address its concerns.

Elon Musk Launches AI Startup, Twitter Faces Legal Action Over Hate Speech

Twitter owner Elon Musk has launched xAI, an artificial intelligence startup aimed at building an alternative to ChatGPT. “I think it is going to be pro-humanity,” he said. Also this week, German non-profit HateAid and the European Union of Jewish Students (EUJS) launched legal action against Twitter for its failure to remove racist tweets. “All our efforts and advocacy have led nowhere and Twitter has become a space where antisemitism and Holocaust denial is just growing and growing,” said EUJS president Avital Grinberg. “This is so much bigger than us, so we needed the biggest and strongest tool that democracy has to offer and that is the law.”

Anzu Partners with IAS to Track In-Game Ad Viewability

Anzu, an in-game advertising company, has teamed up with Integral Ad Science (IAS) to launch a viewability measurement product for gaming environments. The solution tracks invalid traffic across 2D and 3D settings, within the IAS Signal platform. “Our expanded partnership with Anzu brings IAS’s powerful viewability and invalid traffic measurement products to 3D in-game settings for the first time, demonstrating our leadership in the gaming space while providing marketers with even greater levels of transparency and actionable data to deliver results for their campaigns,” said IAS CCO Yannis Dosios.

IAB Europe Releases Sustainability Agreement

IAB Europe has released a new sustainability declaration, signed by 20 National IABs and Federations across Europe. The European IAB Common Commitment Agreement on Sustainability maps an approach to measuring carbon emissions, the regulatory and policy taxonomy, and standardisation of best practices for the delivery of digital ads. “The aspiration to reduce CO2 emissions in the digital advertising supply chain will test our capacity to act in unison more than any other policy or business goal,” said IAB Europe CEO Townsend Feehan. “The Common Commitment we are announcing today is a modest but critical step, enabling our European network to collaborate at an unprecedented pace internally and bringing critical mass to our engagement with global partners.”

The Week in TV

New RTÉ Director General Stands Down Executive Board

RTÉ’s new director general Kevin Bakhurst has stood down the company’s executive board on his first day in office. The move follows a financial scandal at the Irish public broadcaster, which revealed that RTÉ had made undisclosed payments to presenter Ryan Tubridy, and led to the resignation of former director general Dee Forbes. The board will be replaced with an interim leadership team, according to a letter to staff. “Change will be essential if we are to rebuild trust in public service broadcasting in Ireland and in RTÉ,” said Bakhurst.

Ad Sales Decline in TV Upfronts 

US TV networks have seen their ad sales decline in the upfronts this year, Variety reported on Monday. This marks the first drop in the volume of advertising commitments since the pandemic, falling across every area except sports. The report claims the networks offered “rollbacks” to advertisers, cutting their CPMs by as much as 5 percent to secure sales.

Rakuten TV Adds FIFA+ FAST Channel

Rakuten TV has announced a new FIFA+ FAST (free ad-supported streaming TV) channel, launching on its service ahead of next week’s Women’s World Cup kickoff. The channel will be available in Europe, featuring FIFA+ Originals and archive content, including full match replays and highlights from past FIFA World Cups and Women’s World Cups. “Sport has been an important vertical for Rakuten TV’s FAST offering, and adding FIFA+ to our line-up reinforces our strategy in always improving the service with recognisable and relevant brands to our local markets,” said Rakuten TV CEO and President Cedric Dufour.

Viaplay Withdraws Full-Year Guidance for 2023

Viaplay Group, a Nordic streaming company, has withdrawn its full-year guidance for 2023. The announcement follows the departure of CEO Anders Jensen and downgrading of the group’s annual sales forecast, tanking its shares by 60 percent. The company said there is no change to the Q2 2023 guidance, with updates expected on 20th July. Newly appointed President and CEO Jørgen Madsen Lindemann has also initiated a review of the group’s operations. 

ITV Cools on All3Media Acquisition 

ITV is no longer “actively exploring” the acquisition of production company All3Media, the UK broadcaster said on Friday. News of the potential purchase emerged last month, with ITV said to be in advanced talks with the company behind Fleabag and The Traitors. The commercial broadcaster has not completely ruled out a deal, stating it “continues to monitor” the situation.

DAZN Scores Women’s World Cup Highlights in Germany

DAZN will show highlights from the FIFA Women’s World Cup, available through the DAZN app in Germany. The sport streaming service acquired the rights from SportA, the sports rights agency of German broadcast groups ARD and ZDF. Also in Germany, DAZN will stream the UEFA Women’s U-19 European Championship. 

The Week for Publishers

The Guardian Plans to Launch European Edition in August

British newspaper The Guardian is planning to launch a new European edition of its digital site, its first new foreign edition in eight years. The launch adds 11 new editorial roles who will work specifically for the European edition, while the Europe site will also see other Guardian content relevant for them. “We have ambitious plans to build on our growing European audience, to serve them better and persuade both readers and advertisers to support the Guardian’s world-class journalism,” said Anna Bateson, chief executive of Guardian News & Media.

AP and OpenAI Partner to Explore AI’s Use in News

The Associated Press (AP) and AI giant OpenAI have announced a new partnership which will see the two businesses explore uses of AI technology in news. Under the deal, a portion of AP’s archive news content will be made available to OpenAI, while the AP will get access to OpenAI technology and expertise. “Generative AI is a fast-moving space with tremendous implications for the news industry. We are pleased that OpenAI recognizes that fact-based, nonpartisan news content is essential to this evolving technology, and that they respect the value of our intellectual property,” said Kristin Heitmann, AP senior vice president and chief revenue officer.

Washington Post Sees ‘Flight Back to News’ from Advertisers

While news is sometimes a tough sell for brands, the Washington Post’s new chief advertising officer Johanna Mayer-Jones said in an interview with AdExchanger that she’s seeing a “flight back to news” from advertisers. Mayer-Jones said that advertisers are looking for qualified audiences and safe adjacencies – she added that the Post is working on machine learning and AI-based brand safety tools to draw in more advertisers.

National Geographic Cuts Last Remaining Staff Writers

Science and nature publication National Geographic this week announced it has cut its last remaining staff writers, meaning it will now rely entirely on freelancers and editors to put together its content. National Geographic will also cease being sold on newsstands in the US next year, as a further cost-cutting measure.

NYT Replaces Sports Desk with The Athletic Brand

The New York Times is disbanding its sports desk, replacing its regular sports content with content from The Athletic, the sports specialist publication it bought for $550 million last year. The Times says the move won’t result in any job losses, with current staff offered positions elsewhere within the team. However the Times’ trade union expressed anger at the move, describing the news as ‘union busting’.

The Week For Brands & Agencies

OMG Acquires Financial Services Media Specialist Ptarmigan Media

Omnicom Media Group (OMG) has acquired Ptarmigan Media, a media agency which focuses on financial services businesses, for an undisclosed fee. Ptarmigan will remain a standalone brand, sitting within OMG. Its clients include HSBC, Barclays, Invesco, and RBC. “Combining our expertise with the scope and scale of Omnicom Media Group’s industry-leading tools and technology will have an exponential impact on the value we deliver to the world’s leading financial brands, bringing next-level purpose, planning and performance to the challenge of connecting our clients to the world’s financial decision-makers,” said Matt Ball, Ptarmigan’s chief executive.

Canadian Advertisers Pause Ads on Meta and Google Over News Blocking

Both Google and Meta have begun blocking news content on their platforms in Canada, as the result of a new law which required platforms to negotiate payments with publishers in order to be able to share their content. And a number of companies have now stopped running ads on these platforms as a result, including Torstar Corporation, Postmedia, Cogeco, and Quebecor according to Reuters.

iProspect wins Carlsberg’s Global Media Account

Drinks brand Carlsberg has awarded its global media account to Dentsu’s iProspect, following a competitive review. IPG agency Initiative currently holds the account, but chose not to take part in the review. WPP’s Wavemaker and Publicis Groupe’s Zenith also competed for the account.

Mars Claims Gender Parity in On-Screen Representation

Global food and pectate brand Mars has claimed to have reached its goal for representation of women within its advertising and marketing materials, with women now making up 49.9 percent of people who appear on-screen in its ads. Efforts to improve on representation began five years ago, when a global audit of Mars advertising found that women made up just 38 percent of characters in ads, and often were subject to stereotyping. Mars says it is now focusing on improving representation of disabled people, older consumers, and LGBTQ+ consumers.

Huge Makes Fresh Round of Layoffs

Digital agency Huge is making a new round of layoffs, Adweek reported this week, though the company has not revealed how many staff will be affected. In an internal memo seen by Adweek, CEO Mat Baxter ongoing economic challenges and changes in clients’ needs forced the restructuring.

Havas Takes Majority Stake in Uncommon

Havas has bought a 51 percent stake in London-based creative agency Uncommon, in a deal which values the agency at around £100 million according to the Wall Street Journal. And Havas sees the acquisition as a bet on human creative talent, at a time when many agencies are investing in generative AI capabilities. “Brands will be able very easily—without any advertising agency—[to create] an average creative campaign,” Yannick Bolloré, Havas’ chairman and chief executive, told the Journal. “The agencies that will be thriving in the future will be the ones with the best planners and the best creative executives.”

Hires of the Week

Johanna Mayer-Jones Becomes Washington Post’s First Chief Advertising Officer

The Washington Post has promoted Johanna Mayer-Jones, previously head of North America client partnerships, to the newly created role of chief advertising officer. Mayer-Jones will be responsible for growing revenues through advertising and client-based solutions reporting to the CRO.

Viaplay Group Appoints Simon Duffy as Interim Chair

Scandinavian broadcaster Viaplay has appointed Simon Duffy as interim chair, following Pernille Erenbjerg standing down from the chair position due to ill health. Duffy was an existing non-executive board director, and will chair the board until a successor is appointed.

This Week on VideoWeek

Wavemaker is Seeing AI “Fundamentally Change Everything”

AI’s Reality Check: How Ad Tech Can Avoid Being Swept Away by AI Hype

Twitch Plans to Launch TikTok-Like Short-Form Feed

BBC to Prioritise Commercial Income Amid Ongoing Licence Fee Freeze

Roku Introduces Click-to-Buy Ads Via Shopify

ProSieben’s Future Could be with Sky, Not Berlusconi Family

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About the Author:

Tim Cross is Assistant Editor at VideoWeek.
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