The WIR: Paramount Passes Peak of Streaming Investments, Condé Nast Encounters Video Challenges, and Disney+ Upgrades Ad Tools

Tim Cross 03 November, 2023 

In this week’s Week in Review: Paramount+ investment starts paying off, Condé Nast encounters volatile video landscape, and Disney+ upgrades its targeting and measurement capabilities.

Top Stories

Paramount Passes the Peak of its Streaming Investments

Paramount says its investment in its streaming business has peaked ahead of schedule, meaning costs will start coming down and losses within the streaming division are narrowing.

The media giant said in its Q3 financial results that it has continued adding subscribers to its global streaming services, reaching 63 million by the end of Q3 (up two million from the end of Q2). Meanwhile its loss-cutting measures – including sunsetting the standalone ‘Showtime’ streaming service, raising prices, and bringing cable shows onto its flagship Paramount+ service – have all proved fruitful. Total losses in Paramount’s direct-to-consumer segment were $238 million across the quarter, down from $424 million in the previous quarter.

“We continue to execute our strategy and prioritise prudent investment in streaming while maximising the earnings of our traditional business,” said Paramount president and CEO Bob Bakish in a statement accompanying the results.

Condé Nast Cites Social Video Challenges as it Cuts Staff

Publishing giant Condé Nast is cutting around five percent of its headcount and consolidating its office space, as the company focuses on cutting costs and driving efficiency. The changes come partly as a result of an internal restructuring, but also a reflection of the challenging straits publishers find themselves in.

One current difficulty for Condé Nast highlighted in an internal memo sent by CEO Roger Lynch is the “volatile” digital video landscape. Lynch said that consumers have shifted in large numbers to short-form video, leading to overall growth in Condé Nast’s video audience. But monetisation of this content is currently insufficient.

Part of Condé Nast’s restructuring is designed to cater to this volatile video landscape. “We have begun restructuring our top-line leadership teams across editorial content, audience development and video to solidify their place at the center and heart of the company,” said the internal memo, as reported by Variety.

Disney+ Adds Targeting and Measurement, Launches Ad Tier in UK

Disney+ has upgraded its ad targeting and measurement tools, Disney announced this week. The company has made Disney+ inventory biddable through private marketplaces, and made its first-party data graph available for targeting on the AVOD service. The service will additionally offer reach and frequency measurement based on data from iSpot and Data Plus Math, alongside outcomes-based measurement from Innovid, Cuebiq and Foursquare.

Disney+ also launched its ad tier in the UK on Wednesday, expanding the reach of its ad offering. The Standard with Ads plan costs £4.99 per month and features up to 4 minutes of ads per hour.

The Week in Tech

Captify Launches CTV Measurement Product

Captify, a search intelligence company, has launched TV Search Lift, a TV study that evaluates CTV campaigns using search data. The offering enables brands to measure the effects of a CTV campaign on viewer search behavior in real time, according to the company. “Entering the CTV landscape is a natural evolution of our solutions that will offer unprecedented insights for a channel that has so far lacked the precision and measurement of traditional digital campaigns,”  said Isaac Gerber, Global Director of Commercial Insights at Captify.

IRIS.TV Brings Video-Level Data to Equativ’s Ad Server

Equativ, a French ad tech firm, has announced a partnership with IRIS.TV, a contextual targeting business. The deal brings IRIS.TV’s video-level data to Equativ’s ad server, supply- and demand-side platforms. This allows Equativ to create a new marketplace where publishers can integrate the IRIS_ID into contextually relevant video and CTV inventory. “By integrating the IRIS_ID with Equativ, we look forward to providing advanced ad decisioning capabilities that are unique in the marketplace,” said Sean Holzman, EVP Ad Platforms and Agencies at IRIS.TV.

Microsoft Launches Monetisation Platform to Rival Google AdSense

Microsoft has launched pubCenter, an ad platform designed for small publishers to monetise their websites. The ad server was first developed in 2009 but has been repositioned as a competitor to Google’s AdSense. Microsoft said pubCenter serves ads that are relevant to the website’s content. It is available on pilot release in the US, with global roll-outs planned in the coming months.

Nielsen Scraps Plans to Discontinue Legacy TV Ratings

Nielsen has reversed its decision to sunset its three- and seven-day TV viewing ratings. In 2020 the ratings giant said it would retire its average commercial minute (C3 and C7) metrics, in a move towards more precise data. Instead, Nielsen will combine panel data with larger viewing data sets based on C3 and C7 metrics. The firm will also offer new impression-level measurement and panel-only ratings when requested by clients. The data will be available through Nielsen ONE, the company’s new cross-platform measurement dashboard.

Meta to Charge €12.99 Per Month for Ad-Free Facebook and Instagram Apps

Meta has revealed its plans for ad-free versions of Facebook and Instagram, designed to comply with EU regulation. The subscriptions will cost €9.99 per month on web, and €12.99 for iOS and Android. The move coincides with a ban on “behavioural advertising” on Facebook and Instagram, first imposed by Norway before being extended to the EU. “On 27 October, the EDPB adopted an urgent binding decision … to impose a ban on the processing of personal data for behavioural advertising on the legal bases of contract and legitimate interest across the entire European Economic Area,” said the European Data Protection Board (EDPB).

Twitter Now Worth Less Than Half the Amount Musk Paid

X is worth less than half the value of Twitter, The Verge revealed this week. On Monday, employees at the social media firm were awarded equity at a value of $19 billion, 55 percent less than the $44 billion Elon Musk paid for the company a year ago. Meanwhile Fidelity, one of the investors in Musk’s takeover, has decreased the value of its investment by nearly 65 percent in the last 11 months.

UK Trade Bodies Publish Guidance for Generative AI in Advertising

Trade bodies ISBA and the IPA have published 12 principles for the use of generative AI in advertising. The principles include that AI should be used responsibly and ethically, AI should not be used in a manner likely to discriminate or show bias against individuals or particular groups in society, and advertisers and agencies should consider the potential impact of the use of AI on intellectual property rights holders and the sustainability of publishers and other content creators. “The use of AI has grown exponentially in all industries, bringing with it huge opportunities as well as a wealth of new legal, regulatory and ethical challenges that need to be understood and addressed,” said Richard Lindsay, Director of Legal & Public Affairs at the IPA.

CMA Calls for Further Google Privacy Sandbox Testing 

The UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has called on advertisers, publishers and ad tech vendors to test Google’s Privacy Sandbox tools, requesting results to be submitted by the end of Q2 2024. The watchdog’s latest quarterly report said Google has adhered to the last round of commitments, meaning the third-party cookie deprecation deadline of H2 2024 still holds, providing the Sandbox testing does not reveal that the tools unfairly favour Google. “We would like to reassure the ecosystem that deprecation of third-party cookies can only take place once the competition concerns, identified by the CMA during its investigation, are addressed by Google,” said the regulator.

The Week in TV

My5 to Merge with Pluto TV

Pluto TV and Channel 5’s catch-up service My5 are to merge in the UK, parent company Paramount announced this week. Due to launch in 2024, the new offering will combine Pluto TV’s free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) channels with on-demand content from Channel 5. Paramount said the product incorporates BVOD, FAST, AVOD and live TV. The announcement also suggests considerable technological investment, enabling greater personalisation for both advertising and content. Improved access to data should allow advertisers to more effectively target campaigns, and viewers to receive relevant programme recommendations. Read on VideoWeek.

Roku Reports “Solid Rebound” in Video Ads in Q3

Roku reported a “solid rebound” in video ad revenues in its Q3 financial report, fuelled by significant year-on-year growth in viewing. Roku, which owns CTV software and hardware as well as its own streaming service The Roku Channel, said that streaming hours in Q3 26.7 billion, up 4.9 billion hours year-on-year. The number of active accounts using Roku meanwhile reached 75.8 million, up 2.3 million from the previous quarter. Read on VideoWeek.

Paramount Launches Programmatic Scalability and Efficiency CTV Solution

Paramount has announced Conduit, a new solution integrating programmatic platforms for CTV, aiming to drive scalability and interoperability for advertisers. Paramount cites Conduit as a global direct integration layer for the programmatic ecosystem, which includes Magnite, Google Ad Manager and all major supply-side platforms (SSPs). The product is the latest ad solution announcement from Paramount after they earlier this month revealed a cross-platform TV measurement partnership with for a new currency integrations collaboration. 

Disney to Pay $8.61 Billion for Comcast’s Hulu Stake

Walt Disney Co. is expected to pay at least $8.61 billion to purchase Comcast Corp.’s one-third stake of the Hulu streaming service. Hulu’s value is said to be far higher than the $27.5 billion floor that was agreed previously by the companies. Bob Iger, Disney CEO, is working to integrate Hulu into the company’s Disney+ streaming service, and is reported to be considering shedding Disney’s linear networks and selling a stake in the ESPN sports division.

Netflix Ad Tier Reaches 15 Million Global Monthly Users

Netflix has announced it has reached 15 million global monthly active users for their ad tier service, one year on from its launch. The streaming company is now focusing on new offerings and enhancements to the business, with sponsorships now available in the US and to expand globally in 2024. More measurement capabilities are expected to be arriving to advertisers around the world, and Netflix is looking to partner internationally with third-party providers to enable campaign verification next year. In Q2 2024, Netflix is also offering its advertisers a new binge ad format, which taps into viewing behaviour of watching multiple TV episodes in a row, as well as a QR code format.

UK Added 500,000 SVOD Households in Q3, Finds Barb

The number of UK households with SVOD access grew by 500,000 in Q3 2023, according to Barb. This brings the total number of SVOD households to 19.3 million. Netflix’s subscriber base grew from 16.5 million UK homes in Q2 to 16.7 million in Q3. Amazon Prime Video also jumped from 12.6 million to 13 million, while Disney+ climbed from 7.2 million to 7.6 million. NOW was the only major SVOD service to lose subscribers, falling from 2 million in Q2 to 1.9 million in Q3.

Amazon Prime Video Beats Netflix as Top US SVOD Service

Amazon Prime Video has overtaken Netflix as the most-used SVOD service in the US according to Parks Associates. The Streaming Video Tracker report placed Hulu in third place and Disney+ in fourth, while YouTube Premium entered the top 10 in tenth place. “For the first time, all three tech giants with notable streaming services – Amazon, Google, and Apple – made the top 10 top SVOD list, emphasising the power of the new platform players,” said Jennifer Kent, VP Research at Parks Associates. “We expect prices to continue to rise and more aggregation and bundling as media giants stake out their role in the future of entertainment.”

The Week for Publishers

BuzzFeed Looks into Complex Networks Sale

BuzzFeed is looking into a potential sale of the majority of Complex Networks, the digital media business it bought for $300 million two and a half years ago. BuzzFeed is negotiating a deal with ecommerce business Ntwrk, though BuzzFeed wants to keep hold of First We Feast, the food content brand behind the popular ‘Hot Ones’ YouTube series. For the rest of the business however, BuzzFeed is looking at a price of around $140 million, less than half the price BuzzFeed paid.

Digital Subscriptions Overtake Online Ad Revenues at the i

UK newspaper The i has grown its digital subscription revenues faster than anticipated, Press Gazette reported this week, with digital subscriptions having overtaken print subscriptions around three months ago. And revenues from digital subscriptions have started to outweigh revenues from digital advertising. Editor Oly Duff told Press Gazette that the paper expects digital subscription revenues to be paying for most of The i’s editorial budget within four years.

DMGT Lays Out Benefits of Potential Telegraph Acquisition

The Daily Mail & General Trust (DMGT), owner of a number of news assets including The Daily Mail, has outlined its vision for a potential acquisition of British newspaper The Telegraph, currently being sold via an auction process. A spokesperson for DMGT told Vanity Fair that the business would keep The Telegraph editorially independent from its other titles, but find cost efficiencies elsewhere to save money. This money would then be used to fuel an international expansion for the paper, with the US in particular seen as a potentially fruitful market.

Reuters Reports Digital Ad Revenue Growth

Thomson Reuters reported total revenue growth of one percent year-on-year in its Q3 financial results this week, and six percent organic growth, while revenues within its Reuters News division specifically were up six percent (or three percent organic). This growth in Reuters News was driven by growth in digital ad revenues (though Reuters didn’t give a figure), as well as growth in transactional events.

News/Media Alliance Reports “Pervasive Unauthorised Use” of Publisher Content by AI

Influential publisher trade group the News/Media Alliance this week published a White Paper analysing the use of publisher content by generative AI, finding “pervasive unauthorised use” of publishers’ content by generative AI developers. “GAI systems have been developed by copying massive amounts of the expressive material published by the Alliance’s members, almost always without authorization or compensation, to create new products and services that frequently compete with Alliance member publishers,” said a statement from the alliance.

Top UK Digital News Brands See Fall in Audiences

Of the UK’s top 25 news websites, 23 saw year-on-year falls in their total audiences in September, according to Press Gazette’s analysis of Ipsos data. ITV, which saw five percent audience growth and Radio Times, which saw 29 percent growth, were the two exceptions. Of the top ten news brands, The Telegraph saw the sharpest fall at 27 percent while Mail Online was the most resilient, with just a two percent drop in its audience.

The Week For Brands & Agencies

Omnicom Purchases Flywheel Digital in $835 Million Deal

Agency holding group Omnicom has agreed to buy Flywheel Digital in what is described as their biggest acquisition ever, reports The Wall Street Journal. Flywheel is the digital commerce arm of Ascential, a UK-based media, events and analytics company, offering services to help brands sell on digital marketplaces such as Amazon, Walmart and Alibaba. E-commerce is becoming of increasing priority to Omnicom, with John Wren, Chief Executive at the company, saying, “E-commerce is a capability we have in part, but Flywheel are the leaders in this industry.” Flywheel’s 2,000 plus employees will join Omnicom as part of the arrangement, which is due to be completed in Q1 2024.

BVOD Advertising Climbs in the UK as TV Spend Remains Depressed

Ad spend in the UK climbed 1 percent YoY during the second quarter of 2023, according to the latest Advertising Association/WARC Expenditure Report, reaching almost £9 billion in total ad spend. TV spend was down by 12.8 percent YoY for the quarter and 11.5 percent for the first six months of 2023, suggesting that advertisers are pulling back from the high-commitment channel amid tough economic conditions. However, broadcaster video-on-demand (BVOD) spend was up, jumping 5.6 percent YoY during Q2 and 10.2 percent in H1. Read on VideoWeek.

Stagwell Projects Negative Growth for 2023 After Lowering Guidance

Agency group Stagwell this week lowered its financial guidance for 2023, now anticipating an organic net revenue decline of approximately 4 percent. The figure is a deviation from their previous forecast of 0-2 percent growth, and has been cited as being attributable to hindrances to the company’s expansion efforts and digital transformation challenges. Stagwell is continuing to spend money in progress areas, namely their advertising and marketing cloud, and the company expects a return to progression in Q1 2024.

Dentsu Names New Leads In Reorganised Corporate Structure

Japanese holding Dentsu is reorganising its corporate structure, grouping all creative, media and customer experience management by practice. Three practice leads have been appointed: Yasuharu Sasaki will become global chief creative officer, Will Swayne has been named global practice president for media, and Pete Stein becomes global practice president for CXM. The three leads will report to Jean Lin, who earlier this month was named group president of global practices. Dentsu states this will future-proof its media capabilities, including the use of its supply-side management platform Amplifi. As part of the new arrangement, Peter Huijboom will step down as CEO of media and global clients at the end of the year.

ISBA and Flock Launch Accessibility in Advertising Guide

The Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (ISBA), and Flock, a marketing transformation company, have launched a new guide on how to incorporate accessibility into their advertising campaigns. Branded as REFRAME: Guidance for Marketers, the guide is aiming to encourage advertisers to consider accessibility with a view to achieving an accessible advertising ecosystem by June 2024. Kerry Chilvers, chair of ISBA’s Inclusion Network, said, “Accessible Advertising has been a key priority for ISBA in 2023, collectively we want to make advertising available for all”.

IPA Reports Only 7 Percent of Women Catered Well to Menopause

The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) have reported there is more opportunity for brands and retailers to better cater to women going through the menopause. The IPA’s new report, The Menopause: The change we need to see, features data that is providing insight and advice to brands, as well as for agencies to support their workforces going through the menopause. Sophie Dimond, Insight Analyst at IPA, said, “The menopause is a complex area requiring a greater understanding from brands and employers”. Cara Brett, also an IPA Insight Analyst, added, “The purpose of this report is to raise awareness and improve understanding in this area for all.” 

GroupM North America CEO Kirk McDonald Stepping Down

GroupM, a media investment company, has announced its North America CEO Kirk McDonald will be stepping down from his role at the end of the year. Mindshare Global CEO Adam Gerhart will take on an interim CEO role while formal search for McDonald’s replacement takes place. McDonald, who held the role since 2020 having previously served as chief business officer and interim head of AT&T’s ad tech unit, was fundamental in getting GroupM to change its media investment strategy to focus more on social responsibility, although his next move is presently unclear.

Hires of the Week

InfoSum Appoints Aline Zenses as DACH Managing Director

InfoSum, a global data collaboration platform, has appointed Aline Zenses as its Managing Director (MD) for the DACH region. Zenses was previously MD for Northern Europe at SilverBullet, an IT consulting firm, and Head of Sales for Oracle Marketing Cloud, among positions with IPG Mediabrands, Microsoft and Google. Her new role will be overseeing the sales and business operations whilst spearheading expansion and growth in the DACH region.

Channel Factory Hires Sujoyee Chatterjee as Product Marketing Senior Director

Channel Factory, a brand suitability and contextual targeting partner, has announced Sujoyee Chatterjee as its new Senior Director of Product Marketing. Chatterjee has worked in ad tech and product strategy for over a decade, including a prior role as TikTok’s Global Product Strategy and Operations Manager for Brand Safety, Sustainability and Verification, as well as Senior Product Marketing Manager at Integral Ad Science. In her new role Chatterjee will be responsible for driving growth in all regions and developing communication strategies for Channel Factory’s proposition.

Innovid Names Alex Rowe as Senior Vice President of Enterprise Sales

Innovid, a CTV advertising and measurement platform, announced Alex Rowe as its Senior Vice President of Enterprise Sales in Seattle. Rowe will be tasked with leading Innovid’s enterprise sales concerns, collaborating with brand and agency clients in converged TV advertising through measurement and advanced creative technologies. Previously, Rowe acted as Vice President of Sales at Stackline, an e-commerce platform, as well as in managing positions with Amazon and Procter & Gamble.

This Week on VideoWeek

Household Frequency Capping on CTV Risks Underserving Individuals

Seamless User Experience is the Priority for CTV

BVOD Advertising Climbs in the UK as TV Spend Remains Depressed

CTV Buyers Need Single Marketplace They Can Trust

My5 to Merge with Pluto TV

Roku Reports “Solid Rebound” in Video Ads in Q3

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About the Author:

Tim Cross is Assistant Editor at VideoWeek.
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