The WIR: Amazon Prime Video Announces Ads Plans, FAST Channels Face UK Regulation, and Rupert Murdoch Steps Down

Tim Cross 22 September, 2023 

In this week’s Week in Review: Amazon announced new ads plans, FAST channels face Ofcom regulation in the UK, and Rupert Murdoch steps down as chairman of News Corp and Fox Corp.

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Amazon Prime Video to Carry Ads Next Year

Amazon will introduce ads on Amazon Prime Video from early 2024, the company announced this morning. Existing users will automatically be on the ad tier, with the option to pay an extra $2.99 per month for the ad-free plan. 

“To continue investing in compelling content and keep increasing that investment over a long period of time, starting in early 2024, Prime Video shows and movies will include limited advertisements,” said Amazon. “We aim to have meaningfully fewer ads than linear TV and other streaming TV providers.”

The roll-out will start in the US, UK, Germany and Canada, with France, Italy, Spain, Mexico and Australia to follow later in the year.

FAST Channels Could Face Stricter Content Regulation in UK

The UK government announced this week it is considering extending Ofcom’s content rules, which broadcasters have to comply with on traditional linear TV channels, to cover internet-delivered channels on smart TVs as well. The change would mean that free ad-supported streaming TV channels in the UK would have to obey Ofcom’s regulations, or risk fines or other sanctions.

The UK’s Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer, speaking at the Royal Television Society Cambridge Convention, said a consultation has been launched on whether to bring these currently unregulated channels into the scope of Ofcom’s Broadcasting Code. “Any change to regulations must strike a balance between protecting people – particularly the young and vulnerable – while protecting freedom of speech, and not unduly burdening the TV industry,” she said.

The UK has already announced similar moves to level the playing field between traditional TV businesses and their newer competitors. The proposed media bill would bring regulation of all on-demand streaming services more in line with those owned by UK public service broadcasters.

Rupert Murdoch Steps Down as Chairman of News Corp and Fox

Rupert Murdoch, the 92-year-old media mogul, announced this week that in November he will step down as chairman of news businesses News Corp and Fox Corp, handing the reins to his eldest son Lachlan Murdoch. The move essentially ends Murdoch’s 70 year media career.

Murdoch’s media empire isn’t as big as it once was, with major assets 21st Century Fox and Sky having been sold off to Disney and Comcast respectively in recent years. But it’s still substantial – Fox Corp runs major US TV players Fox News and Fox Sports, while News Corp’s holdings include The Wall Street Journal, The Sun, and TalkTV.

Rupert Murdoch will still have an influence in these businesses, given he owns the family trust which holds the majority of shares in News Corp and Fox. But Lachlan will now have sole formal charge of the two businesses. This raises immediate questions of whether there will be a shift in focus for News Corp. Kelvin MacKenzie, the former editor of The Sun, told The Guardian that Lachland is likely to prioritise investment elsewhere in the world, stating that he “doesn’t give a f*** about the UK”.

The Week in Tech

Microsoft Introduces Video and CTV Ads

Microsoft Advertising will start offering video and connected TV (CTV) ads, the company announced this week at DMEXCO. Advertisers will be able to create video and CTV campaigns directly through Microsoft’s advertising platform, leveraging the company’s first-party data points, including user activity from Bing, Microsoft Edge and Microsoft Start. The platform uses machine learning algorithms to develop audiences based on product preferences, demographic information and browsing history, the company said. The video and CTV ads will be deployed across CTV services, including Max, Hulu and Bloomberg, as well as online publishers, such as MSN, Huffington Post and the Wall Street Journal.

Barb Upgrades API to Include BVOD, SVOD and Video-Sharing Services

Barb, the UK’s TV measurement body, has upgraded its API to include BVOD, SVOD and video-sharing services. The revamped API now displays all data available in its panel viewing file, including viewing on PCs, tablets and smartphones. The data is updated daily in line with Barb’s delivery schedules. “We developed our API in response to the demand from our clients for flexible access to and manipulation of our viewing data using their own tools, and this upgrade provides both more data and versatility in how clients can use our data,” said Jim Jarrett, Head of Research Operations at Barb.

Google Admits Increasing Ad Prices Without Telling Advertisers

Google has been raising ad prices without telling advertisers, an executive testified on Monday. Jerry Dischler, VP for Google’s advertising products, told a federal antitrust trial that the company raises the reserve pricing at auctions by as much as 5 percent. He admitted the aim was to meet quarterly revenue targets, in order to avoid negative market response. “We tend not to tell advertisers about pricing changes,” Dischler said.

CMA Warms Up to Microsoft Activision Merger

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has provisionally approved Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard, after the tech giant proposed remedies addressing the reasons the CMA blocked the original deal. The watchdog initially ruled that the takeover would harm competition in the cloud gaming sector. But under the new submission, Activision’s cloud gaming rights would be sold to a third-party, Ubisoft, thereby stopping Microsoft from restricting access to games like Call of Duty. Also this week, Microsoft suggested introducing ads on free-to-play Activision titles on PC and mobile, including Call of Duty and Candy Crush.

Scope3 Makes Emissions Data Publicly Available

Scope3, a carbon measurement firm, has made its emissions data open to the public. Previously the information was only available to Scope3 customers. The business tracks carbon emissions for advertising, publishing and tech companies across the media supply chain. “Buyers are starting to compare and understand where there are pockets of really high-emissions inventory that they’re buying from, but that they didn’t know was a problem,” Anne Coghlan, COO and co-founder of Scope3, told AdExchanger

Google Fights €2.42 Billion EU Antitrust Fine 

Google is seeking to overturn a €2.42 billion fine at the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). The fine was imposed in 2017 for market abuse related to Google’s shopping services. On Tuesday, Commission lawyer Fernando Castillo de la Torre argued that the company used its algorithms to unfairly favour its price comparison shopping service, in breach of EU antitrust laws. The tech giant claimed there was insufficient evidence of anti-competitive behaviour. “Companies do not compete by treating competitors equally with themselves,” said Google lawyer Thomas Graf. A non-binding ruling is expected on 11th January 2024.

Microsoft SSP to Distribute ID5 ID for Cookieless Targeting

ID5, an identity specialist, has announced a partnership with Microsoft Advertising. Microsoft Monetise, a supply-side platform, will distribute the ID5 ID, a cookieless identifier used by publishers to deliver personalised ads. “The collaboration with ID5 reinforces our commitment to empowering publishers with solutions that align with evolving consumer privacy expectations,” said Ewa Maciukiewicz, Principal Group Product Manager at Microsoft.

Comscore, VideoAmp and iSpot Receive Conditional Certification From Currency JIC

The US broadcaster-backed currency joint industry committee (JIC) has granted “conditional certification” to Comscore, VideoAmp and iSpot. The JIC evaluated the measurement firms’ levels of transparency and access to census-level data. Early next year, the JIC will decide which contenders receive full certification as currencies. The certified companies will have access to the JIC’s streaming data product, including first-party data from Paramount, Warner Bros. Discovery and NBCUniversal.

YouTube Stops Russell Brand Monetising Videos

YouTube has blocked Russell Brand from monetising his videos, according to the New York Times, after the actor and comedian was accused of sexual assault. Brand’s recent videos include denials of the allegations, as well as the dissemination of anti-vax conspiracy theories. “If a creator’s off-platform behavior harms our users, employees or ecosystem, we take action to protect the community,” said a YouTube spokesperson. 

The Week in TV

UK Broadcasters Announce ‘Freely’, a Joint CTV Service

The BBC, ITV, Channel 4, and Channel 5 announced on Monday that they are developing a joint CTV offering called ‘Freely’, which is set for launch in 2024. The joint service, specifically designed for smart TVs, will carry free IP-delivered streams of the participating broadcasters’ channels, as well as on-demand content.

The project is being handled by Everyone TV, previously known as Digital UK, the organisation joint-owned by all of the above broadcasters which handles free TV platforms Freeview and Freesat. The aim is for Freely to come pre-built into new smart TVs, meaning users won’t have to download the app in order to access it. Read more on VideoWeek.

Ofcom Decides Against Relaxing Ad Break Restrictions for PSBs

Ofcom said on Tuesday that it will not remove any of the stricter TV advertising rules which apply only to commercial public sector broadcasters, placing lower limits on the amount of ads they’re able to run. The media regulator last year announced a consultation on whether it should remove these rules, which could have allowed PSBs like ITV, Channel 4, and Channel 5 to run longer and more frequent ad breaks. But Ofcom has decided not to follow through. “While we remain of the view that there may be merit in harmonising TV advertising rules by relaxing the additional restrictions on PSBs, we have decided to retain the status quo for the time being,” the regulator said in a statement. Read more on VideoWeek.

“Stagnant” Economy is Dragging Down ITV Says Carolyn McCall

ITV could be “dragged down” for the rest of the year, warned CEO Carolyn McCall, due to the ongoing advertising slump. “It’s proving to be quite a hard second half,” she told a Royal Television Society event on Thursday. “Advertising revenue will be a drag for us so all our results will be dragged down. The UK economy is not doing very well.” McCall took aim at the Government’s role in the “stagnant” economy. “The thing that the Government can do for the creative economy is to start growing the economy,” she said. “They talk about growth all the time but where are the initiatives to properly grow the economy?”

TF1 Pub to Launch Data Clean Room

TF1 PUB, the media sales arm of French broadcaster TF1, will launch a data clean room on 2nd October. The MyData solution was developed using LiveRamp’s Safe Haven Technology. TF1 said advertisers will be able to match their first-party data to the TF1/MYTF1 user base, activate campaigns without sharing their data, and measure the impact in compliance with GDPR. “It is crucial for us to legitimise the performance of our media by investigating new deterministic measures by reconciling conversion and exposure data in the post-cookie era,” said Sylvia Tassan Toffola, General Director at TF1 PUB.

RTL Deutschland Forms AI Working Group

RTL Deutschland has formed an interdisciplinary AI Circle, designed to share knowledge from AI activities across different business units. Through the exchange of ideas, the media firm aims to strengthen its content, marketing and discovery offerings. “The world is changing – especially through generative AI – at a rapid pace that has never been experienced before,” said Karin Immenroth, Chief Data & Analytics Officer at RTL Deutschland. “With our newly founded AI Circle, we can examine and evaluate challenges and opportunities for our company even more quickly and in a more targeted manner in order to create a competitive advantage and added value for RTL Deutschland.”

M6 Publicité Updates TV and Cross-Video Offering

M6 Publicité, the French broadcaster’s sales house, has updated its TV offering with three commercial products: M6 with targeted adults, Puissance TNT Plus, and Puissance Kids Plus. The commercial broadcaster also introduced a cross-video sponsorship offer; All Screens includes program sponsorship on all points of contact, across linear TV, the 6play AVOD service, and social media platforms, including Snap and X. The programmes available to sponsor include Married at First Sight, Qui Veut Etre Mon Associé?, and W9 reality shows.

Combined AVOD/SVOD Revenues to Reach $20 Billion by 2029

Netflix, Disney+, HBO and Paramount+ will generate hybrid AVOD/SVOD revenues of $20 billion by 2029, according to Digital TV Research, up from their current $6 billion. The revenues will be evenly split between AVOD and SVOD, the research predicts. “These forecasts are a lot lower than our previous ones as the platforms have delayed and/or scaled back their expansion plans,” noted Simon Murray, principal analyst at Digital TV Research.

ITV Wins England Men’s Football Coverage

ITV has won exclusive rights to England men’s football, as part of a four-year deal with UEFA. The commercial broadcaster takes the rights from Channel 4 whose contract expires in 2024. 

ITV will show all the national team’s matches outside of major finals, including World Cup 2026 and Euro 2028 qualifiers. “We’re delighted to bring the England men’s team back to ITV, which keeps coverage of their progress between major tournaments on free-to-air television,” said Niall Sloane, Director of Sport at ITV.

The Week for Publishers

The Guardian Launches European Digital Edition

At a time when several European publishers are targeting growth in America, The Guardian is looking to Europe to grow its business, as the news publisher this week launched a new European digital edition. “The Guardian’s correspondents have been covering European affairs for more than 200 years,” said Katharine Viner, The Guardian’s editor-in-chief, “and we’re delighted to be expanding even further with new reporters, specialists in crucial Europe-wide themes such as the environment, culture, community affairs and sport, and an array of new European columnists”.

Industry Reports Suggest Rising Publisher Digital Ad Revenues

Reports from Boostr and Operative suggest that publisher digital ad revenues were on the up in Q2 this year, after a disappointing Q1, Digiday reported this week. Boostr’s data for examples found that digital publishers’ ad revenues in Q2 were up three percent year-on-year.

New Independent CEO Lays Out Growth Plans

Christian Broughton, the new CEO of The Independent, says that e-commerce, Independent TV, reader revenues, expansion in the US and AI are the five major growth drivers which the paper will lean on under his leadership. Speaking to Press Gazette, Broughton said he hopes to double The Independent’s revenues, using these growth drivers.

Hearst Magazines Sees Signs of Ad Growth in 2024

Hearst Magazines has seen an uptick in advertisers’ requests for proposals relating to 2024, Hearst Magazines EVP and global chief revenue officer Lisa Howard told Digiday this week, a positive sign for the year ahead. And the publisher has also seen growing interest in brand building and awareness campaigns, after a period in which many were focussed on performance.

Newsroom Adoption of AI is Still in Early Stages

Four in ten newsrooms have not changed their approach to AI since 2019, despite the rapid developments in capabilities during that period, according to research from LSE. But 85 percent say that they have experimented with generative AI technologies, and 80 percent expect an increase in the use of AI in their work in the coming years.

The Week For Brands & Agencies

WPP Wins Nestlé Media Account

WPP’s OpenMind, a media agency which sits within GroupM, has been chosen as Nestlé’s sole media agency in Europe following a review. Nestlé previously worked with a number of different agencies across Europe, but has chosen to consolidate media responsibilities within one agency. Nestlé says this new contract will enable “better decision-making and media planning to allow campaigns to build brands and win consumer attention at scale”.

Havas Faces Backlash After Shell Contract Win

Agency group Havas has faced industry backlash after winning Shell’s media account, previously handled by WPP. Pressure groups Extinction Rebellion and Clean Creatives had called on agencies to boycott the media review, and Havas has faced criticism over competing for the account. The Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative, a campaign to stop fossil fuel expansion, has reportedly terminated its contract with Havas PR agency Havas Red in response.

S4 Capital Lowers Guidance Citing Client Caution

Sir Martin Sorrell’s S4 Capital lowered its guidance for the year, forecasting a drop in like-for-like net revenues after previously predicting growth between 2-4 percent. Sorrell also announced the company has cut roughly 500 jobs over the past year, as tough macroeconomic conditions have led to client cutbacks. But while S4 is very exposed to cutbacks from tech businesses, Sorrell said he maintains confidence in long term growth being driven by tech clients.

Magna Raises US Ad Forecast, but Predicts TV Challenges

IPG media business Magna has raised its US ad spend forecasts for 2023 2024, having seen signs of general improvement in the economy. Magna now forecasts 5.2 percent total growth this year, up from its previous forecast of 4.2 percent. But most growth is going to digital players, with TV facing challenges relating to declining linear audiences and the ongoing Hollywood strikes. As a result, Magna expects total cross-platform TV ad revenues to be down by 0.7 percent next year.

Publicis Leads UK Trials of Cookieless Technology

Publicis Media and the UK Association of Online Publishers (AOP) have announced they will conduct a large scale test of cookieless targeting and measurement solution Anonymised. The companies involved say the test aims to demonstrate that privacy enhancing technologies (PETs) can support open and healthy competition in programmatic advertising to the benefit of publishers and advertisers, without compromising user privacy.

Brainlabs Secures PE Funding from Falfurrias

Full-service media agency Brainlabs this week announced it has secured new private equity funding from Falfurrias Capital Partners. The agency says it has seen top line growth of 800 percent since it first took private equity funding in 2019 from Livingbridge. Brainlabs founder Daniel Gilbert will continue to lead as global CEO, and Stephen Allan will remain full-time executive chairman. Falfurrias Capital Partners’ Alexander Jutkowitz, Geordie Pierson, and Joe Price, as well as the Ad Council’s Lisa Sherman will join the company board.

Creative Quality is Top Driver of Trust in Advertising

Creative quality is the top driver of trust in advertising in the UK, according to research from UK advertising think tank Credos, while advertising’s social contribution is the second biggest driver. Ad bombardment meanwhile causes the most damage to trust in advertising.

4As Partners with Carbon Calculating Platform

Industry trade group the 4As has partnered with 51toCarbonZero, a platform which helps businesses measure, analyse, and report their carbon footprints. Members of the 4As will get discounted access to 51toCarbonZero’s platform as a result of the deal.

Brands Are Failing Gen X on Social Media, Says Wavemaker

As advertisers pivot towards influencer-led social media strategies, brands may be missing an untapped Gen X audience, according to new research released today by GroupM’s Wavemaker. The study showed that Gen X is the fastest-growing generation on TikTok, now making up 28 percent of the user base, and that 92 percent of Gen X consumers use social media every day. Despite these high levels of engagement, just five percent of brand spend on influencer campaigns is targeted at Gen X, according to Wavemaker. Read more on VideoWeek.

Hires of the Week

Havas Promotes Nick Wright to Chief Growth Officer

Havas Media Network UK has promoted Nick Wright to the newly created role of Chief Growth Officer. Wright has been with Havas since 2013, mostly recently as Managing Director of Havas Entertainment.

ITV Names Simon Farnsworth CTO

ITV has appointed Simon Farnsworth as Chief Technology Officer. Farnsworth was previously CTO of News UK, following a six-year stint at Discovery.

GroupM Appoints Ryan Storrar and Claire Chapman

WPP’s GroupM has announced a pair of appointments: Ryan Storrar as GroupM Nexus CEO for EMEA and UK, and Clare Chapman as EssenceMediacomX CEO. Storrar joined Essence in 2016, while Chapman rejoins the company after two years as CEO for Carat UK.

Laura Fenton Becomes OMG UK CEO

Omnicom Media Group (OMG) has named Laura Fenton CEO of OMG UK. Fenton has been with OMG for almost two decades, having joined OMD UK as a graduate planner in 2004.

This Week on VideoWeek

UK Broadcasters Announce ‘Freely’, a Joint CTV Service

Ofcom Decides Against Relaxing Ad Break Restrictions for PSBs

Brands Are Failing Gen X on Social Media, Says Wavemaker

Reels and AI Are Driving Instagram’s Recovery, Finds WARC

Ad of the Week

BMW, The Guinea Pig Heist

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About the Author:

Tim Cross is Assistant Editor at VideoWeek.
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