The WIR: MRC Plans YouTube Audit, Writers Strike Hits WBD Earnings, and DMGT Teams Up with Qatari Backers for Telegraph Bid

Tim Cross 08 September, 2023 

In this week’s Week in Review: The Media Ratings Council plans to investigate YouTube, Warner Bros. Discovery feels the effects of the writers strike, and the Daily Mail owner plans a Qatari-backed bid for the Telegraph.

Top Stories

MRC to Investigate YouTube Over Co-Viewing Data and Adalytics Scandal

The Media Rating Council (MRC) is planning to audit YouTube in light of its controversial plans to trade on its own co-viewing data, and allegations by Adalytics that the Google-owned company has been selling fraudulent inventory.

The measurement watchdog is seeking a closer look at YouTube’s first-party data on how many people watch its videos on CTV, and the performance of the Google Video Partners programme, which has come under fire in recent weeks.

YouTube denies the accusations around its partner networks, but said in a statement: “We are committed to working with both third parties and the MRC on accrediting their solutions as well as our first-party metrics, including co-viewing.”

Writers Strike to Hit WBD Earnings, Live Sports Coming to Max

Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) has lowered its 2023 EBITDA forecast from $11-11.5 billion to $10.5-11.0 billion. The broadcaster said the ongoing writers and actors strikes could cause a $300-500 million hit to its earnings.

“While WBD is hopeful that these strikes will be resolved soon, it cannot predict when the strikes will ultimately end,” said WBD. “With both guilds still on strike today, the Company now assumes the financial impact to WBD of these strikes will persist through the end of 2023.”

Also this week, the company announced plans to add live sports to its Max streaming service later this year. For a short period the sports offering will be available at no extra cost, but starting next year customers will have to pay more for live sports.

DMGT in Talks with Qatari Backers for Telegraph Bid

The Daily Mail and General Trust (DMGT) is in talks with Qatari investors to launch a combined bid for Telegraph Media Group, the FT reported this week. The Daily Mail owner could bid over £500 million, according to people familiar with the situation.

“Over the past few years we have been approached and have had talks with a number of Middle Eastern investors who have shown an interest in participating in a bid for the Daily Telegraph,” said Sean Walsh, Chief Brand Officer and Managing Director, US Operations, DMGT.

“To date we do not have a formal relationship with any investors,” he added. “However, if we did, we would only do so if we have the majority of economic and equity risk, and the control needed to invest in the business and protect its editorial independence.”

The Week in Tech

Meta Considers Ad-Free Facebook and Instagram Under EU Scrutiny

Meta could launch paid, ad-free versions of Facebook and Instagram in the European Union, sources familiar with the firm have revealed, as the social media giant pushes to meet incoming EU regulation. According to The New York Times, insiders have suggested a subscription service that would remove ads in the Facebook and Instagram apps. The plans contained no indication of timings or cost structure, but noted that the company would continue to offer the free versions with ads in the EU. Read more on VideoWeek.

YouTube Pushes Further into TV While Fending Off TikTok

As YouTube viewing on the big screen has grown over the past few years, the company has spotted an opportunity to compete for traditional TV budgets. And YouTube has this week continued that push with a couple of updates to its CTV ad offering, which look designed to further foster a more traditional TV-like experience. Read more on VideoWeek.

Shorts Risk Cannibalising YouTube Revenues, Staff Warn

Senior YouTube staff are concerned that Shorts could risk cannibalising the company’s core business, the FT reported this week. According to insiders, YouTube’s short-form TikTok rival has drawn audiences away from longer videos on the Google-owned video platform. They suggested that long-form videos, which generate more revenue, are “dying out” as a format.

Roku to Lay Off 10 Percent of Staff

Roku, a CTV hardware and software maker, has announced it will lay off 10 percent of staff, close a number of offices and remove certain content from its streaming service. The company will incur impairment charges of $45-65 million for the layoffs, $160-200 million for the offices, and $55-65 million for the content. Roku also upped its Q3 revenue guidance from $815 million to $835-875 million.

Elon Musk Threatens to Sue Anti-Defamation League

Elon Musk is threatening to sue the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) for defamation, after the civil rights group found an increase in hate speech on X (formerly Twitter) under Musk’s ownership. He claims the company’s 60 percent drop in ad revenue is “primarily due to pressure on advertisers by ADL”, and that he has “no choice but to file a defamation lawsuit” against the antisemitism campaigners. Last month, X sued the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), which also observed a rise in hate speech during Musk’s tenure.

Nielsen Announces Layoffs

US measurement firm Nielsen is cutting 9 percent of staff, the company announced on Wednesday. According to Nielsen, the layoffs are designed to “bring costs in line with our revenues and ensure the company’s strength for the future.” Last year the business was acquired by a private equity consortium for $16 billion. Several senior executives left the company and management was restructured, creating a new audience measurement division.

GumGum Launches Charity-Focused CTV Ad Unit

GumGum, a contextual advertising company, has announced a new charity initiative called GumGum Gives. Advocacy groups can use GumGum’s In-Video ad unit to spread awareness through CTV campaigns, the company said. The first organisations to use the offering are The Trevor Project, WildAid and digitalundivided. “The biggest benefit of In-Video is that it’s an extremely cost-effective and low-lift way to help these organisations meet audiences in the right moment as they watch streaming TV,” said GumGum CTO Ken Weiner.

The Week in TV

Channel 4 Launches US FAST Channels in Digital Advertising Push

Channel 4 has launched two free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) channels in the US, marking the UK broadcaster’s first foray into international markets on connected TV. The channels, 4 Adventure and 4 Emergency, will be available on the US streaming services Tubi, Plex and Xumo Play. Read more on VideoWeek.

Barb Takes Over Running of CFlight in the UK

Barb, the UK’s major TV measurement body, has today announced it will take over the running of CFlight, a cross-platform measurement solution, from January next year. The news brings together Barb’s own ‘gold standard’ measurement with CFlight tools, which enable advertisers to measure deduplicated reach and frequency of their campaigns across broadcasters linear channels and streaming services. Read more on VideoWeek.

Password Sharing Crackdowns Risk Subscriber Churn Finds Deloitte

Over one-third (35 percent) of SVOD users share their passwords with other households, according to research from Deloitte. And more than half (57 percent) of those password sharers would stop using the service if they had to start paying. Paul Lee, partner and global head of technology, media and telecommunications research at Deloitte, warned that cracking down on password sharing risks reducing the “buzz” around content which is important for the growth of a streaming service. “Word of mouth recommendations – in person or online – have long been key to SVOD’s popularity,” said Lee. 

Disney Expedites Hulu Talks With Comcast, Battles Charter Communications

Disney and Comcast have agreed to bring forward their Hulu sale talks to 30th September, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts announced on Wednesday. Comcast is expected to sell its one-third stake in Hulu to Disney, which owns the other two-thirds. There were less amicable discussions between Disney and Charter Communications, whose carriage deal negotiations are at a stalemate. Last week, Disney pulled ESPN, ABC and other cable channels from Spectrum, Charter’s cable service. Charter responded by flashing a message on screen that said: “We offered Disney a fair deal, yet they are demanding an excessive increase.”

German SVOD Subs to Overtake UK This Year

Germany is forecast to have more SVOD subscriptions than the UK by the end of this year, according to Digital TV Research. Germany is projected to reach 44.4 million subs at the end of 2023 (compared with 42.6 million in the UK), and will further outpace the UK over the next six years. “The UK is the most mature SVOD market in Western Europe,” said Simon Murray, principal analyst at Digital TV Research. “Germany, France, Italy and Spain will each add more subscriptions than the UK over the coming year.”

Serie A Considers Launching its Own Streaming Service

Italy’s Serie A is ready to launch its own media service if it does not receive suitable offers from broadcasters, according to the organisation. The football league held multiple rounds of talks with DAZN, Sky Italia and MediaForEurope in an attempt to improve bids submitted by the broadcasters for the rights to screen live matches, but Luigi De Siervo, Serie A Chief Executive, said: “We won’t back offers deemed as too low. We have the structure to offer [matches] directly to viewers, we are considering this option.” Serie A currently earns €930 million per season from the sale of its rights in Italy.

French AVOD and FAST Revenues Tripled Last Year

The French AVOD and FAST market generated €15 million in 2022, according to a joint study by Médiamétrie and NPA Conseil, tripling its total from 2021. This year the combined revenues are forecast to hit €8-8.5 million, the research predicts. The French FAST market comprises 292 channels, in French, from 77 different operators.

RTL Ad Alliance Bundles CTV and ATV Ads in “BigScreen Spot” 

RTL Deutschland’s Ad Alliance has launched a new offering that bundles addressable (ATV) and connected TV (CTV) inventory in a single booking. The BigScreen Spot offers different lengths and cross-genre capping at household level, according to the company. “On the way to maximum big screen reach, the BigScreen Spot is a very important building block because it bundles the ATV and CTV channels, which are currently in high demand,” said Ad Alliance COO Isabella Thissen.

Five Black-Owned Businesses Receive Channel 4 Advertising Airtime Boost

Channel 4 and Lloyds Bank have announced five Black-owned companies will receive free TV advertising and business support as part of their Black In Business initiative. Each of the business owners will receive £100,000 worth of airtime, six months of tailored marketing and business support from Channel 4, Lloyds Bank, and DOES, a social enterprise, and have a TV advert made for them. The businesses that will benefit from the initiative in question are Dalgety Herbal Teas, LØCI, The Gym Kitchen, The Turmeric Co, and TreasureTress.

The Week for Publishers

Meta Shutters News Tab Payments and Community News Project

Meta is winding down payments for publishers through its Facebook News tab in the UK, France and Germany, the tech giant announced this week. It will also stop funding the Community News Project, a fund designed to support local journalism in the UK. Meta said the move was part of “an ongoing effort to better align our investments to our products and services people value the most”, and has been met with concern by publishers. “This is a cynical move from a company that takes billions of pounds from the UK advertising market and built their Facebook platform in part by free riding the quality content that news publishers provide,” said Newsquest chief executive Henry Faure Walker.

Ad File Sizes Are Exceeding IAB Guidelines, Says AOP

The Association of Online Publishers (AOP) has complained that “many” ad creatives exceed IAB guidelines around file size. The inclusion of large third-party tags, which cover ad verification, tracking and brand safety, were found to be inflating the file size. The AOP said bigger files take longer to load, or will be blocked by the browser, thereby reducing viewability and ad revenues. “It can also cause discrepancies between the rates reported to the advertiser and those reported by the publisher, leading to tense negotiations over who should pick up the bill,” added the report.

Meta Sticks to Blocking News in Canada 

Canada has drafted rules designed to appease Alphabet and Meta’s concerns over the recently passed Online News Act, which compels tech giants to compensate publishers for news content in efforts. But Meta remains committed to blocking news on Facebook in protest at the Canadian law. “Today’s proposed regulations will not impact our business decision to end news availability in Canada,” said Rachel Curran, Public Policy Manager at Meta.

National World Journalists Vote to Strike

Journalists at National World, which owns The Scotsman and the Yorkshire Post, have voted to take three days of strike action. The decision concerns an ongoing pay dispute with the regional publisher, alongside redundancies at the company. “It marks the first time that a company-wide ballot over pay has been undertaken within this business … with our members having reluctantly accepted real-terms pay cuts or pay freezes from their current employer and previous owners for too many years,” said the National World NUJ Group Chapel.

The Week For Brands & Agencies

OMG Retains HSBC’s Global Media Account

Banking giant HSBC has chosen to stick with Omnicom Media Group for its global media planning and buying duties, following a competitive pitch process. WPP was the other player in the running during the final rounds of the pitch, according to Campaign – and WPP’s Mindshare previously handled the account for 13 years before OMG won the business in 2018.

One in Ten Agency Staff Have Quit Due to Pitching Stress

Eleven percent of agency staff have quit their company due to stress related to pitching, according to a survey run by presentation software provider Pitch. The survey of 1,029 agency staff across the UK and US found that 50 percent of participants reported feeling “burnt out” by pitching, and 11 percent had been medically signed off work due to pitching stress.

Beiersdorf Hands NA and Europe Media Duties to OMD

Omnicom’s OMD has won Nivea-owner Beiersdorf’s media accounts for North America and Europe. OMD already handled media duties in specific markets across the continents, but Beiersdorf is now moving to a new model, with one preferred agency operating across the entirety of the two regions, according to AdAge.

Dentsu Sticks to Hybrid Approach to Office Life

While many of the major agency groups have started requiring workers to return to the office for at least a few days a week, Dentsu is staying committed to a hybrid approach, with no return-to-office mandates. In an interview with Digiday Toni Handler, Dentsu’s chief people officer, said that the agency group sees this as a differentiator, and a reason why staff choose to work at the agency. “We’re choosing to invest in intentionally building connection (e.g. in-office networking and learning opportunities, etc.),” said Handler.

WPP Rolls Out Inclusive Leadership Training to All Employees

WPP says it will expand its inclusive leadership training, developed in partnership with MindGym, to all of its employees. WPP says the 12 week course is designed to drive behavioural change through a science-based approach, “equipping participants with practical tools to create an inclusive culture where everyone feels supported and encouraged to grow and reach their creative potential”. The agency group previously ran a month-long pilot with 1,000 managers across four countries.

Agency Employment at All-Time High in US

Ad agency employment in the US reached an all-time high in August, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The monthly report suggests that employment across advertising, public relations and related services rose by 2,900 jobs last month.

Hires of the Week

OMG’s Guy Marks Named PHD Worldwide CEO

Omnicom Media Group, an advertising, marketing and corporate communications agency, has announced Guy Marks as its CEO for its subsidiary PHD Worldwide. Marks will leave his current role as OMG’s Europe, Middle East and Africa CEO on 1st October, and will succeed Philippa Brown in his new position. 

MediaMonks Appoints Joanna Cotton UK Managing Director

MediaMonks, a content, data and media agency, has appointed Joanna Cotton as its new UK Managing Director. Cotton was previously the Global Managing Director for Inside Ideas Group, and Vice President and Client Partner for Critical Mass, a digital experience design agency.

LG Ad Solutions Announces Michael Hudes as New CEO

LG Ad Solutions, a CTV advertising company, has appointed Michael Hudes as its new CEO and president. His role will also see him serve as a member of the company’s board of directors. Hudes’ record in CTV and digital industries includes senior roles at Zenapse, Lyft, YuMe/RhythmOne, Clear Channel and Organic.

This Week on VideoWeek

Meta Considers Ad-Free Facebook and Instagram Under EU Scrutiny

How European Broadcasters Are (and Aren’t) Transforming Their Businesses

Channel 4 Launches US FAST Channels in Digital Advertising Push

Barb Takes Over Running of CFlight in the UK

YouTube Pushes Further into TV While Fending Off TikTok

Ad of the Week

Follow VideoWeek on Twitter and LinkedIn.


About the Author:

Tim Cross is Assistant Editor at VideoWeek.
Go to Top