The WIR: VideoAmp Lays Off 20 Percent of Staff, GroupM Launches Streaming Ad Format Initiative, and DPG Media Buys RTL Nederland

Tim Cross 05 January, 2024 

In this week’s Week in Review: GroupM launches a new streaming ad format initiative, VideoAmp lays off twenty percent of its staff, and DPG Media buys RTL Nederland.

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VideoAmp Lays Off Twenty Percent of Staff as CEO Steps Down

US-based TV measurement business VideoAmp has announced it is laying off just under 20 percent of its workforce, as founder Ross McCray steps down as CEO. The company did not give much context for the layoffs, simply stating that “in an effort to focus on the business’ growth priorities and key client needs and services, VideoAmp has made the strategic decision to restructure the organisation”.

McCray’s departure as CEO wasn’t linked to the layoffs. VideoAmp has announced a new executive team following McCray’s departure, with Peter Liguori, previously CEO of Tribune Media, taking the role of executive chairman, and Peter Bradbury, previously chief commercial officer at rival measurement company Nielsen, joining as chief commercial and growth officer.

This new leadership team will be tasked with establishing VideoAmp’s metrics as a trading currency in US TV advertising. This has been a big focus for Nielsen’s competitors in recent years as agencies have explored multi-currency strategies.

GroupM Launches New Initiative to Create Innovative Streaming Ad Formats

GroupM on Thursday announced the launch of the Ad Innovation Accelerator, a new initiative which will create new ad formats specifically for streaming services, in partnership with media companies and tech players. GroupM says it hopes to evolve streaming and CTV advertising beyond traditional 30-second formats, developing new offerings which enhance connections with audiences and drive measurable results.

Disney, NBCUniversal, Roku, YouTube, Telly, Brightline, and Kerv are the companies signed up at launch. GroupM says it will hold multiple working groups with these companies to establish goals and determine outputs, and the media agency is hoping to launch pilot programmes in the first quarter of this year. The Ad Innovation Accelerator will first launch in North America, and will roll out to other markets later in the year.

Many TV businesses already run streaming-specific ad formats, such as shoppable formats and ‘pause ads’ which appear when the viewer pauses content. One focus of GroupM’s initiative will be driving scale, by establishing formats which can be bought across different providers, and which run on different devices.

RTL Nederland Finds a Buyer in DPG Media

RTL Group has agreed to sell RTL Nederland to DPG Media, a multi-media company active in the Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark. The €1.1 billion transaction is expected to close mid-2024, subject to regulatory approvals. Last January, Dutch regulators blocked a proposed merger between RTL Nederland and Talpa.

“After our in-country consolidation strategy was blocked by the competition authorities in January 2023, the sale to DPG Media is the best strategic option for RTL Nederland and all its stakeholders,” said RTL Group CEO Thomas Rabe. “We are looking forward to the strategic partnership with DPG Media, working closely together on European solutions in advertising and streaming technology, international advertising sales and joint content development.”

The Week in Tech

Google Plans Ad Sales Shakeup, Faces 2025 Antitrust Trial

Google is planning a reorganisation of its ad sales unit, according to The Information. The department houses 30,000 staff, however it is unknown whether the restructuring plans will include redundancies. Meanwhile a US judge has scheduled a March 2025 trial for the lawsuit filed by Texas and other states, which accuses Google of abusing its advertising dominance. Texas attorneys had pushed for an August 2024 trial, according to Reuters, and argued that the delay was “allowing Google to abuse its market power for longer, at the expense of American consumers.”

Médiamétrie Rolls Out Renewed TV Panel

French TV measurement body Médiamétrie has kicked off the new year with a revamped audience panel, bringing more internet-delivered TV viewing under the lens of its Médiamat panel. For the first time, the panel will include households which don’t own a TV set, and will measure TV viewing on laptop, mobile, and tablet devices within panellists’ homes. The measurement body says the change will make its TV ratings more accurate, better representing the viewing habits of the entire French population.

Snap Taps Samba TV for Entertainment Ad Measurement

Snap has partnered with Samba TV, an audience measurement company, to provide outcome measurement to advertisers. Media and entertainment brands advertising on Snapchat will be able to measure conversion outcomes using Samba TV’s VTR (View Through Rate) solution. This will help them understand how their campaigns drive new viewers to linear and streaming titles. “Our measurement reveals the best practices for how to leverage Snap for discoverability and brand engagement with a unique demographic accessible on the platform,” said Samba TV co-founder and CEO Ashwin Navin.

EX.CO Launches Vertical Video Player for Publishers

EX.CO, a video technology company, this week launched a new vertical video player for mobile and desktop. The product is designed to play video on publishers’ websites, with the aim of monetising their content in mobile environments. The format is based on the popularity of vertical video on social media platforms, such as TikTok and Instagram. It is built to play video with a 10:16 aspect ratio, according to EX.CO, enabling vertical video consumption without the need to rotate the screen. The player also uses swiping gesture controls, again inspired by social media apps, allowing users to navigate between videos.

Google Begins Blocking Third-Party Cookies for One Percent of Traffic

Google has begun blocking third-party cookies for one percent of traffic on its Google Chrome web browser, as it kicks off the long awaited (and delayed) process of sunsetting the tracking tool. The move is designed to let web publishers, advertisers, ad tech companies, and any other business which used third-party cookies test their ability to serve cookie-free traffic.

Google says that one percent of global Chrome users have been chosen randomly, and will be notified when they first open Chrome on either desktop or Android. For those users, third-party cookies will now be blocked by default. This means that publishers, ad tech companies, and other partners can’t drop or see third-party cookies for those users. Read more on VideoWeek.

LinkedIn Ups Ad Prices as Advertisers Flee X

LinkedIn has raised its ad prices by up to 30 percent, the FT reported this week, in order to capitalise on brands reallocating their spending from X. Ad revenues at the Microsoft-owned social media company reached almost $4 billion in 2023, up 10.1 percent YoY, and could climb 14.1 percent in 2024, according to Insider Intelligence. At the same time, X is expected to bring in $2.5 billion in 2023 ad revenues, down from over $4.5 billion before Elon Musk’s takeover.

TikTok Set Sights on US E-Commerce Expansion

TikTok is aiming to grow its US e-commerce business tenfold this year, seeking to reach $17.5 billion, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday. The ByteDance-owned company is expected to have made $20 billion in global merchandise value last year, mostly from Southeast Asia, but is planning to expand sales across the US and Latin America, according to Bloomberg’s sources. TikTok is vying to compete with Amazon, as well as other Chinese retailers such as Temu and Shein.

Social Media Companies Made $11 Billion From Ads Served to Children

Social media companies made billions of dollars by advertising to children in 2022, Harvard researchers have found. According to the study, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, X and YouTube made a combined $11 billion in the US from ads served to under-18s in 2022. Around $8.6 billion of the total came from children aged 13-17, plus $2.1 billion from under-12s. The findings also revealed that Snapchat derived 41 percent of 2022 ad revenues from under-18s, followed by TikTok at 35 percent, and YouTube at 27 percent. 

“As concerns about youth mental health grow, more and more policymakers are trying to introduce legislation to curtail social media platform practices that may drive depression, anxiety, and disordered eating in young people,” said senior researcher Bryn Austin. “Although social media platforms may claim that they can self-regulate their practices to reduce the harms to young people, they have yet to do so. Our study suggests they have overwhelming financial incentives to continue to delay taking meaningful steps to protect children.”

The Week in TV

ProSieben Pumps €80 Million into Local Content

ProSiebenSat.1 will invest an extra €80 million in content in 2024, the German broadcaster has announced, bringing its total content spend to around €1.05 billion. The investment will fund exclusive local content on ProSieben’s TV channels and streaming service Joyn. As part of this “programming offensive”, ProSieben will reduce its share of US licensed content. “We are now taking the next strategic step and will invest significantly more in local content from 2024, offering our viewers a unique programming experience to serve very different media usage interests and, above all, to differentiate ourselves from the competitors of Joyn,” said ProSieben CEO Bert Habets.

Channel 4 BVOD Viewing Up 24 Percent in 2023

Viewing on Channel 4’s streaming service grew 24 percent YoY in 2023, according to the broadcaster. Channel 4 said viewers consumed more than 53.5 billion minutes on the BVOD service, with the Married at First Sight franchise emerging as the most streamed show of the year. “With our most streamed shows of the year ranging from a resurgent Great British Bake Off to surprise hit of the year, The Piano via the uncompromising drama doc Partygate, this list is testament to Channel 4’s commitment to delivering original, compelling and hugely entertaining shows with something to say about Britain and the way we live,” said Ian Katz, Chief Content Officer at Channel 4.

Canal+ and PPF Group to Increase Viaplay Holdings

Canal+ plans to up its stake in Viaplay to above 25 percent, the French company confirmed this week. Canal+ bought a 12 percent stake in the struggling Nordic broadcaster in July. Prague-based investment firm PPF Group is also planning to raise its 6 percent stake above 25 percent. The major investors owning over 50 percent of the company suggests a full Viaplay sale could be on the cards. 

Warner Bros. Discovery Acquires BluTV

Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) has acquired Turkish SVOD service BluTV. The companies have partnered since 2021, when Discovery+ launched on BluTV, and Discovery became a 35 percent shareholder in the Turkish business. In February 2023, BluTV added WBD’s Cartoon Network and Cartoonito, as well as HBO content, including The Last of Us and Game of Thrones. “Turkey has been an important investment territory for us for over 20 years and the acquisition of BluTV brings Turkey’s first local SVOD player into our portfolio,” said Jamie Cooke, GM CEE, Middle East & Turkey at WBD.

Lionsgate Buys Entertainment One, Prepares to Spin Off Starz

Lionsgate has completed its acquisition of Entertainment One (eOne) from Hasbro, in a deal worth $375 million. Hasbro purchased the entertainment company for $4 billion in 2019, before putting it up for sale in 2022. Lionsgate meanwhile is preparing to split its studio business from Starz, the TV and streaming business it acquired in 2016. The two will become separate publicly traded companies.

TIM Renews Serie A Streaming Deal with DAZN

Telecom Italia (TIM) has renewed its deal with DAZN to air Serie A matches over the next five seasons. The new agreement will see TIM pay the sports streaming company €43-46 million each year, allowing the pay-TV company to show the games on its VOD service TimVision. In October, DAZN secured the rights to show all Serie A games in Italy until 2028/2029 for €700 million per year.

The Week for Publishers

The New York Times Sues OpenAI and Microsoft for AI Copyright Infringement

The New York Times has filed a lawsuit against AI giant OpenAI and Microsoft, a major backer of the company, claiming that they have used its editorial content without permission in order to train AI models, breaching copyright. The Times’s suit says it has engaged in months of negotiations with OpenAI trying to reach an agreement on payments for licensing its content. No deal was reached, but the NYT’s content nonetheless fuels OpenAI’s models. The Times’s lawsuit included examples of when OpenAI’s ChatGPT has generated text nearly identical to the NYT’s content.

The Athletic Joins Apple News+

Sports specialist publisher The Athletic, which is owned by the New York Times, has signed up to Apple’s paid news subscription service Apple News+. The New York Times itself pulled out of the free version of Apple News (which shared ad revenues with publishers) three years ago, seeking to take more control over its relationship with its audience. The Athletic has been seeking ways to boost revenues since it was acquired by the New York Times, which has included running ads for the first time.

The Independent Pushes for US Growth with New US Editor

UK newspaper The Independent has hired a new US editor as it seeks to grow revenues in America, through creating more US-specific news content. Louise Thomas, who previously edited the US version of the Daily Mail’s Mail Online, will lead a 45-strong US editorial team. The move follows former chief executive Zach Leonard’s move to a new role of global COO and president of North America last year, which was designed to kickstart new US revenues growth.

At Least 8,000 Journalism Jobs Cut in NA and UK Last Year

At least 8,000 journalist jobs were cut by media companies across the UK, USA, and Canada last week, according to analysis by Press Gazette. Press Gazette tracked 7,961 job cuts last year, with almost half of these announced in the first quarter of the year. But since these were just publicly announced redundancies, the true figure would have been significantly higher, reports Press Gazette.

The Week For Brands & Agencies

WFA Predicts Rapid In-Housing Rise at Major Multinationals

Two-thirds of major multinational businesses now have an in-house agency, and a further 21 percent are considering setting one up, compared to recent research from the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) and The Observatory International. And as these in-house agencies develop, brands plan to shift more work from their external agencies towards these in-house units. Online planning and buying appear to be significant areas of future growth, with 83 percent of respondents expecting to handle some social media buying in-house over the next three years (up from 37 percent right now). Meanwhile fifty percent want to take on digital media planning and buying tasks (up from 33 percent and 26 percent respectively).

Omnicom Closes Flywheel Acquisition

Omnicom announced this week it has closed its acquisition of Flywheel, Ascential’s digital commerce business. Flywheel will operate as a practice area within Omnicom, and will be led by Duncan Painter, previously Ascential’s CEO. “Flywheel’s best-in-class solutions are a game changer for our clients whose demand for digital commerce and retail media solutions continues to grow,” said Omnicom CEO John Wren. “When combined with our well-established offerings in commerce, media and precision marketing, we now have end-to-end services that outpace the competition.”

S&P Forecasts Strong Year for US Ad Spend

Ratings agency S&P has issued its forecast for US ad spend growth over the next two years, predicting 7.6 percent growth this year (including political advertising) and 4.3 percent next year. S&P says that overall, US advertising has “turned the corner” after a tough period, and it expects ad growth to significantly outperform US GDP growth (which it forecasts will be 1.5 percent this year).

IPG Sells Deutsch NY and Hill Holiday to Attivo Group

Interpublic Group this week announced it has sold two of its agency brands, Deutsch NY and Hill Holiday, to New Zealand-based advertising business Attivo Group. An IPG spokesperson indicated that the two agencies offered capabilities which are also covered by other IPG agencies, making them surplus to requirements. The value of the sale was not disclosed.

Omnicom Reports Progress in Programmatic Efficiency

Omnicom has made significant progress in increasing efficiency and reducing waste in programmatic buying by working more directly with supply-side platforms and implementing new standards, Digiday reported this week. Omnicom Media Group says that by applying standards recommended by the Association of National Advertisers (which released a new report on programmatic inefficiency in December), as well as its own standards, delivery on ‘made for advertising’ sites is down to one percent (compared to the 15 percent industry average).

Publicis Media Wins US Media Duties for Kimberly-Clark

FMCG brand Kimberly-Clark, which owns brands including Kleenex and Huggies, has selected Publicis Media to run media planning and buying in the US, following a competitive review. Publicis has created a specialist unit, K-C One, to serve the account, which will draw on capabilities from Epsilon, Spark Foundry, and Profitero. The account was previously held by GroupM’s Mindshare.

WPP Considers BT Chief for Chairman Position

WPP has reportedly approached Philip Jansen, currently chief executive of telco BT, about becoming its next chairman, Sky News reported this week. Jansen is due to leave BT Group in the summer, and WPP are considering him as a replacement for current chairman Roberto Quarta.

Hires of the Week

Disney’s Jeremy Helfand to Lead Amazon Prime Video’s Ads Business

Amazon has enlisted Disney’s Jeremy Helfand to lead Prime Video Advertising, as the streaming service begins serving ads. Helfand joined Hulu in 2018 as VP and Head of Advertising Platforms, before leading the advertising and data platforms at Disney+ and ESPN.

LG Ad Solutions Names Dave Rudnick SVP Engineering

LG Ad Solutions, the CTV advertising business, has appointed Dave Rudnick as SVP of Engineering. Rudnick joins from Vizio Ads, where he also served as SVP of Engineering and led the development of the company’s CTV platform.

This Week on VideoWeek

X Value Down by 71.5 Percent in Latest Devaluation

EX.CO Launches Vertical Video Player for Publishers

Médiamétrie Kicks Off Year of Change with Revamped TV Panel

Amazon Prime Video Could Deliver $5 Billion in Ad Revenues

Google Begins Blocking Third-Party Cookies for One Percent of Traffic

Ad of the Week

Coca-Cola, New Guy

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About the Author:

Tim Cross is Assistant Editor at VideoWeek.
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