The WIR: MFE Cleared to Take Control at ProSieben, UK Households Ditched SVOD in Q4, and IPG Expects Low Tech Spend to Continue

Tim Cross 09 February, 2024 

In this week’s Week in Review: MFE’s pan-European ambitions take a step forward, UK audience turned off SVOD at Christmas, and IPG targets a better 2024 after slight dip in organic net revenues.

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Austrian Regulator Clears Way for MFE to Take Control at ProSieben

Austria’s competition regulator on Thursday approved MFE-MediaForEurope’s plans to up its stake in fellow European broadcaster ProSiebenSat.1, which paves the way for MFE to gain de facto sole control of ProSieben.

MFE has built up its stake in ProSieben over the years, while speaking of its desire to build a pan-European broadcasting powerhouse. MFE now has a 26.6 percent stake in ProSieben, and last year announced plans to gain direct control over a further 2.29 percent, according to Reuters. With this large a share, MFE could control the majority of voting rights in shareholder meetings at ProSieben, given shareholder turnout at these meetings of between 53-56 percent. Thus, this proposed increase drew the attention of Austria’s competition regulator.

MFE gave the Austrian body a number of assurances, including that ProSieben’s Austrian arm would retain editorial independence. As a result, the share increase has been given the green light.

UK Households Ditched SVOD Subscriptions During Q4

Most major streaming services lost subscribers during Q4 2023 in the UK, according to measurement body Barb. The Establishment Survey showed that 18.8 million UK homes (65.4 percent) had access to an SVOD service in Q4, down from 19.3 million (67.3 percent) in Q3. Paramount+ was the only major SVOD service to gain subscribers, with 1.99 million UK homes (6.9 percent) in Q4, up from 1.93 million (6.7 percent) in Q3. Barb also published an estimate for the Netflix ad tier for the first time, suggesting 1.45 million UK homes (5.1 percent) had access to the ad-supported Netflix service. The SVOD subscriber bases declined as follows:

  • Netflix: Q3 – 16.7 million (58.2 percent); Q4 – 16.3 million UK homes (56.7 percent)
  • Amazon Prime Video: Q3 – 13 million (45.3 percent); Q4 – 12.4 million UK homes (43.1 percent) 
  • Disney+: Q3 – 7.6 million (26.7 percent); Q4 – 7.3 million UK homes (25.6 percent) 
  • Apple TV+: Q3 – 2.2 million (7.8 percent); Q4 – 1.98 million UK homes (6.9 percent)
  • NOW: Q3 – 1.9 million (6.5 percent) ; Q4 – 1.82 million UK homes (6.4 percent)

IPG Sees Continued Low Spending from Tech and Telco Clients

Agency holding company Interpublic Group posted organic net revenue growth of 1.4 percent in Q4 last year, beating analyst expectations for the quarter, but nonetheless resulting in a full-year organic decrease of 0.1 percent. And after a tough year for the company, CEO Philippe Krakowsky said he’s still seeing muted spending from tech and telco clients, an issue which has plagued the American group across the year.

And Krakowsky said he expects continued dampened spending by these clients, as well as the ongoing conflict in the Middle East, to continue to impact growth this year.

Despite this, he said the company’s investments in growth areas like addressable targeting capabilities and retail media mean he’s hopeful for improved performance in 2024. IPG is forecasting organic net revenue growth of between 1-2 percent.

The Week in Tech

IAB Tech Lab Calls Out Privacy Sandbox Limitations

Google’s Privacy Sandbox has been found to “lack support or face limitations” in several crucial functions, including video advertising and frequency capping, according to testing by IAB Tech Lab. “Challenges in managing invalid traffic, ad serving latency, cost efficiency, data security, algorithm integrity, and maintaining brand safety and fraud protection underpin the need for evolving discussions around core functionality unavailable,” said the report. IAB Tech Lab invited stakeholders to participate in a 45-day period for public comment on the analysis.

X Continues Video Push with WWE

X has signed a two-year deal with the WWE to launch a weekly wrestling series on the social media platform (formerly Twitter). The partnership continues X’s push into video, following the company’s work with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson. The announcement also comes hot on the heels of Netflix’s $5 billion deal with the WWE to obtain rights to its flagship RAW show. 

Nielsen Begins Measuring YouTube CTV in UK, Germany, and Italy Among Others

Nielsen has announced it is expanding its measurement of CTV advertising on YouTube to 11 new markets: Australia, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Philippines, South Korea, Thailand, and the UK. The move is a significant step in Nielsen’s rollout of Nielsen ONE, its cross-screen measurement initiative aiming to provide deduplicated reach and frequency measurement. Nielsen says it will begin offering deduplicated reach and frequency measurement across mobile, computer and CTV in the UK in Q2 this year, with the other markets to follow in Q4. This will be a precursor to four screen deduplicated measurement, folding in linear TV as well, in the second half of the year.

Snap to Cut 10 Percent of Staff Amid Disappointing Ad Sales

Snap plans to cut around 10 percent of staff, the Snapchat owner announced on Monday. The next day, the company announced Q4 2023 revenues of $1.36 billion, missing Will Street estimates of $1.38 billion. Snap shares slumped more than 32 percent in light of the results.

User Growth Drives Ad Revenues at Pinterest

Pinterest ad sales climbed 12 percent in Q4 2023, reaching $981 million. Though the results fell short of Wall Street expectations, the social sharing site saw its user base grow by 11 percent YoY, reaching 498 million. The company said the user growth drove its ad sales, with targeted, direct response ads now making up more than two-thirds of its business, up from one-third in 2022. “Brands are responding by using our full suite of products to drive even better campaign performance,” said Pinterest CEO Bill Ready. “Pinterest is the rare business where the interests of users and advertisers are aligned.”

YouTube Reaches 8 Million YouTube TV Subs, Grows Shorts Viewing on TV

YouTube has amassed 8 million subscribers on YouTube TV, its paid streaming service, CEO Neal Mohan announced on Tuesday. The update highlighted YouTube’s push into CTV, with viewers watching a combined one billion hours of YouTube content on their TVs every day. Mohan also said the Shorts product averages over 70 billion daily views, and Shorts consumption is growing on TVs. “Creators are thinking about how to optimise their content for the living room, and it’s easy to see why – it’s where their audience is watching!” said Mohan.

NBC and Pixellot Offer Free Livestreaming for Youth Sports

NBC Sports Next’s SportsEngine, a livestreaming platform owned by NBCUniversal, has teamed up with Pixellot, a video tech company, to offer livestreaming capabilities at sports venues across North America. The partnership will enable free streaming of youth and amateur sporting events with Pixellot’s AI-automated cameras. “By integrating Pixellot’s state-of-the-art camera technology with our SportsEngine Play streaming platform, we’re setting new standards in sports broadcasting, making it easier and more affordable for venues to not only share their sporting events with a wider audience but also benefit from a new revenue stream,” said Brett MacKinnon, SVP & General Manager, Youth & Recreational Sports at NBC Sports Next.

Consumers Accept Ads in Free Services but Want Data Transparency

Almost 70 percent of consumers agree it’s fair to receive ads in exchange for free services, according to IAB US. And 91 percent “would react negatively” if they had to start paying for the websites or apps they currently use for free. However, 49 percent said websites/apps do not give enough information about how their personal data is used. “The ad industry must reinforce to consumers that sharing their data is both safe and beneficial to them,” said IAB CEO David Cohen, “including the fact that by default, advertising is not selling consumers’ data.”

Lumen and TVision Bring Attention Measurement to LG TVs

LG Ad Solutions has partnered with Lumen Research and TVision to help advertisers measure attention for ads served on LG TVs. The solution combines TVision’s attention-based panels and Lumen’s attention measurement suite, to offer advertisers metrics such as viewable impressions, average view time, and attention per 1000 impressions. “CTV advertising is the holy grail for brands that want to connect with their audiences on the largest screen in the home,” said Tony Marlow, Chief Marketing Officer at LG Ad Solutions. “As advertisers realise this and continue to invest more in CTV, they are calling for greater insight into how to identify the right inventory. Attention insights, married with our ACR data, will help them better understand the opportunity, advocate for budget allocation, and maximise their investments.”

RTL Radio Deutschland Taps Smartclip for Programmatic Ads

RTL Radio Deutschland has announced a new collaboration with smartclip, RTL’s ad tech unit. The partnership will see all RTL Radio group stations in Germany using smartclip‘s smartx platform to distribute digital ads. “The targeting options provided by the smartx platform will enable partnering radio stations of RTL Radio Deutschland to create a relevant ad experience for listeners without collecting or sharing personal identifiable information with third parties,” the companies said. “Both pre-roll and mid-roll spots can be booked programmatically and directly as part of the agreement.”

The Week in TV

Disney, Fox, and Warner Bros. Discovery Announce Sports Streaming Joint Venture

Warner Bros. Discovery, Fox, and Disney-owned sports broadcaster ESPN have announced they are forming a new joint venture to create a sports-specific paid streaming service in the US. The three companies will each own one-third of the new business, and plan to launch a new app this autumn. The service will combine live streams of linear sports networks currently owned by the three stakeholders, including ESPN, ESPN2, SECN, ACCN, ABC, FOX, TNT, TBS, and truTV. It will also include content from ESPN+, Disney’s existing sports streaming service. Read more on VideoWeek.

Freely Announces Q2 Launch and Major Smart TV Integration

Freely, the joint CTV app backed by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, will launch in Q2 2024, its developers announced this week. Everyone TV, Freely’s parent company, also released the first images of the app’s user interface (UI) and features. Smart TVs with Freely installed will feature a seven-day TV guide accessible via the Guide button on the TV remote. Through the TV guide, users will be able to navigate to on-demand content linked to shows they are watching live, the company said. Read more on VideoWeek.

Disney+ Loses 1.3 Million Subs

Disney+ lost 1.3 million subscribers in Q4 2023, Disney revealed in its earnings report, with price rises prompting cancellations during the quarter. Revenues for the entertainment division (comprising TV, film and streaming) fell 7 percent YoY to hit $10 billion. However, the streaming business narrowed its losses by $300 million, and expects to add 5.5-6 million subs in the current quarter. Disney also announced a $1.5 billion investment in Epic Games, the company behind Fortnite. “This marks Disney’s biggest entry ever into the world of games and offers significant opportunities for growth and expansion,” said Disney CEO Bob Iger.

MultiChoice Rejects Takeover Offer From Canal+ 

MultiChoice, a South African pay-TV company, has rejected a takeover bid from Canal+, the Vivendi-owned French TV channel. MultiChoice argued that the offer undervalues the company, and “does not provide a basis for further engagement”. But Canal+ has also upped its stake in the firm to 35.01 percent, beyond the 35 percent threshold that requires a mandatory buyout offer, prompting investigation by South African regulators. “The Panel is still engaging with MultiChoice and Canal+ to provide guidance and guidelines on how the matter is to be handled and addressed,” the Takeover Regulation Panel said in a statement on Tuesday.

Nearly Half of New Netflix Subs Opted for Ads in Q4, finds Kantar

Forty-eight percent of new Netflix subscribers opted for its ad-supported subscription tier in Q4 last year, according to Kantar’s global Entertainment on Demand study released this week. After initial questions over how the ad-supported tier would be received on a previously ad-free service, the ad tier has steadily picked up subscribers, reaching 23 million monthly active users according to Netflix executives. And Kantar’s data suggests the reach of Netflix’s ad tier will continue to grow rapidly, with around half of new sign-ups opting for ads.

Kantar’s data, drawn from the USA, UK, France, Germany, Spain, and Australia, suggests a wider shift towards ad-supported streaming, as ad-supported services grow and audiences plan SVOD cutbacks. Read more on VideoWeek.

Fox Ad Sales Slide 20 Percent 

Fox saw its revenues fall 8 percent YoY to reach $4.23 billion in the latest quarter, with ad sales down 20 percent. The US network noted unfavourable comparisons with 2022, when the Men’s FIFA World Cup and midterm elections boosted ad revenues. The company also announced a new sports streaming joint venture alongside Warner Bros. Discovery and Disney-owned ESPN.

France Surpasses 7 Million Addressable TV Households

Addressable TV is growing in France, with 7.1 million households eligible for segmented advertising at the end of 2023, up 6 percent compared with the second half of 2022. According to French trade bodies AF2M and SNPTV Pub, more than 1,100 advertisers ran over 1,600 addressable campaigns in 2023, up 46 percent YoY. Automotive represented 17 percent of campaigns, followed by Tourism/Restaurants at 13 percent.

EBU Launches Free Sports Streaming Service 

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) has launched a new sports streaming service, combining content from European public service broadcasters (PSB). Eurovision Sport is the EBU’s first D2C offering, available via desktop and mobile, with CTV and FAST launches slated for later in the year. “Currently only a third of sports fans have access to premium sports channels,” said Noel Curran, Director General of the EBU. “Through its free streaming, we hope Eurovision Sport will democratise access to live sports coverage and help grow individual sports through visibility and engagement, encouraging greater participation and making sure we are all ‘united by sport’.”

Piers Morgan Migrates to YouTube Amid Low TV Ratings

Piers Morgan is moving his TalkTV show to YouTube in a bid for larger audiences. Morgan’s interview with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak received around 50,000 viewers on TV, according to the Telegraph, versus 335,000 views on YouTube. “It’s clear there’s a huge global demand for the content we’re making, but the commitment to a daily show at a fixed schedule, with all the editing and time sensitivities that involves, has been an unnecessary straitjacket,” Morgan told The Times. “People are watching the content on YouTube rather than conventional television and I have no problem with that.”

Viacom18 to Take 60 Percent Stake in Disney’s Indian Unit

Viacom18, an Indian media company, is to take a 60 percent stake in Disney’s Indian operations. The preliminary agreement values the Disney Star business at $3.9 billion, a substantial write-down compared with 2019 when Disney acquired the company from Fox. Viacom18’s backers, Reliance Industries and Bodhi Tree Systems, will hold 51 percent and 9 percent of Disney Star respectively, with Disney retaining the remaining 40 percent.

TV Contributes “Lion’s Share” of UK Production Spend

UK production spend reached £4.23 billion in 2023, according to the BFI’s Research and Statistics Unit. The figure is in line with pre-pandemic levels of spending, but is 32 percent lower than 2022. The “lion’s share” of spend (68 percent) was contributed by high-end TV shows, the BFI noted, totalling £2.87 billion. “Whilst a level of film and high-end television production in the UK was disrupted by strikes in 2024, our industry continues to contribute billions to the UK economy and support a huge range of jobs,” said Ben Roberts, Chief Executive of the BFI.

DAZN Launches YouTube Channel for Branded Social Opportunities

DAZN has launched a YouTube channel, DAZN Sport, hosting the company’s athlete-focused programming. The company said DAZN Sport will reimagine formats and repurpose its content for social distribution. This includes creating sponsored and social-first content for brands to align themselves with tentpole moments, working with its content studio Team Whistle. “Working closely with Whistle, as our in-house social content studio, means we can combine expertise to further expand our monetisation strategy,” said Damian Smyth, VP Global Sales at DAZN. 

The Week for Publishers

New York Times Sees Steep Fall in Ad Revenue

The New York Times, a publisher which has managed to drive ad revenue growth when others have stuttered, posted an 8.4 percent fall in Q4 ad revenues in its financial results this week. Digital ad revenues specifically were down 3.7 percent. For the first quarter of 2024, the company expects a return to single-digit percentage growth for digital ad revenues, though it forecasts that overall ad revenues will be down.

Reach Strikes Data Deal with Amazon for Post-Cookie Era

UK publishing group Reach has struck a data deal with Amazon which will help Amazon provide targeting for advertisers on Reach’s websites, the FT reported this week. Reach will share first-party contextual data on which sorts of content certain types of users are reading, enabling Amazon to offer targeting based on that data without the need for cookies.

News Corp Digital Ad Revenues Returned to Growth in Q4

Publishing group News Corp posted three percent year-on-year revenue growth in its Q4 financial results, helped by strong performance by its digital real estate businesses. On the advertising side of things, revenues were down 5.6 percent year-on-year, but digital ad revenues grew for the first time since the first quarter of fiscal 2023.

Publishers Reject Generative AI and Google Sandbox in Latest AOP Survey

Publishers are focused on building their first-party data offerings in preparation for cookie deprecation, but uninterested in testing Google’s Sandbox tools, the Association of Online Publishers (AOP) revealed in its third annual survey. The study also found that one-quarter of publishers have editorial policies in place prohibiting the use of generative AI. The AOP asked the digital publishing industry about their attitudes to different challenges and opportunities facing their businesses, including cookie deprecation, generative AI and sustainability. The study found that publishers feel generally prepared for the future, rating their confidence an average 7.1 out of 10. Read more on VideoWeek.

Semafor Agrees Deal with Microsoft for AI Content Feed

News publisher Semafor has agreed a deal with Microsoft which will see the two develop an AI-based breaking news feed called Signals. The tool will help journalists research stories, find sources, and translate text from a variety of sources, according to Microsoft. These stories will then be available to readers through a dedicated news feed on Semafor’s various properties.

Politico Redesigns Site to Embrace AI Crawlers

While a number of publishers are taking legal action to fend off AI web crawlers, which scrape websites for data to fold into AI chatbot datasets, Politico is actively making its website easier for AI web crawlers to scrape, Press Gazette reported this week. Politico’s parent company Axel Springer has decided to embrace AI, signing a high profile deal with OpenAI. And Politico’s product and design chief Max Leroy told Press Gazette that the paper wants to ensure its content shows up in new places, including AI chatbot responses.

Google’s Sandbox Will Limit Publisher Cookie Sharing to Five Websites

Google has revealed that Related Web Sets, a Privacy Sandbox tool which will allow limited use of third-party cookies between a publisher’s various owned websites, will be limited to five websites, plus one primary site. Related Web Sets is designed to maintain the ability of publishers to track and measure across various properties they own, but the limit of five will be tight for big publishing groups which own numerous web properties.

The Week For Brands & Agencies

Omnicom Beats Expectations with Q4 and Full Year Results

Agency group Omnicom posted better-than-expected financial results for Q4 and the full year of 2024 this week, reporting Q4 organic growth of 4.4 percent and full year growth of 4.1 percent. Advertising and media specifically saw 9.3 percent organic growth in Q4. The agency remains fairly optimistic about the year ahead, predicting full year growth of between 3.5-5 percent.

Infusing Media with Creative is Helping Publicis Win Pitches

Publicis Groupe reported its full year financial results for 2023 this week, posting 5.7 percent organic revenue growth in Q4, and 6.3 percent growth for the full year. The company is forecasting between 4-5 percent growth for 2024. On an earnings call following the results, CEO Arthur Sadoun spoke of how the group is increasingly breaking down barriers between media, creative, and data, saying that infusing media with creative is helping the group win a lot of pitches. Read more on VideoWeek.

Multiple Brands Put GroupM China Relationships Under Review

Three major brands – Yum Brands, Swatch, and Dyson – which work with GroupM China are reviewing their media accounts in the Chinese market, Campaign reported this week. GroupM China has had a rocky period recently, with three employees detained over bribery charges. Campaign also reported that long-standing CEO Patrick Xu resigned this week.

Vast Majority of Women in Marketing say Lack of Work-Life Balance Harms Mental Health

Ninety-three percent of women working in marketing and communications say a lack of work-life balance in the industry has had a negative impact on their mental health, according to new data from Bloom’s report ‘The Juggle’. The study also found that two-third of women of colour feel their ethnicity means they face unique challenges or barriers in achieving work-life balance. Meanwhile sixty-two percent of queer women agree that a lack of work-life balance has negatively impacted their personal relationships, compared to 47 percent of heterosexual women.

Expedia Group Signs First Global Ad Partnership with Netflix

Travel business Expedia Group has signed up as Netflix’s first global advertising partner, in a deal which will see Expedia run a multi-market campaign on Netflix’s ad-supported plan throughout this year. The deal also signs up Expedia as an alpha measurement partner in the UK and Brazil, meaning the two will work together to evolve and improve ad viewer experiences and success measurement.

ASA Bans BMW, MG, and TFL Ads for Misleading Environmental Claims

The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned ads from BMW, MG UK, TFL and the Greater London Authority (GLA) for making misleading environmental claims. Ads from the two car manufacturers made ‘zero emissions claims’, despite the fact that cars generate emissions in production, and through the production of electricity used to power them. The GLA and TFL meanwhile both made claims relating to London’s ultra low emissions zone (ULEZ) which the ASA found could be misleading.

US Advertising Employment Continues to Grow in January

Total employment in marketing, PR, and related services in the US continued to grow in January, reaching a new all-time high, according to AdAge’s analysis of data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Total employment in the sector rose by around 2000 compared with the previous month, bringing total employment to 521,300.

Hires of the Week

OMG UK Appoints First DEI Director

Omnicom Media Group UK has appointed Kiran Bance as its first DEI Director. She joins from Macmillan Cancer Support where she served as Head of Diversity and Inclusion. 

Stagwell Agency Assembly Expands Executive Team

Assembly, a Stagwell-owned media agency, has named James Wilde as Head of Growth & Marketing, and Lizzy Herbertson as Commercial Director in Europe. Wilde was previously Head of Growth at Wavemaker, while Herbertson has held leadership roles at Astus and Dentsu.

This Week on VideoWeek

Freely Announces Q2 Launch and Major Smart TV Integration

Competition Concerns Remain a Roadblock for Google’s Cookie Timeline

Publishers Reject Generative AI and Google Sandbox in Latest AOP Survey

Nearly Half of New Netflix Subs Opted for Ads in Q4, finds Kantar

Disney, Fox, and Warner Bros. Discovery Announce Sports Streaming Joint Venture

Infusing Media with Creative is Helping Publicis Win Pitches

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About the Author:

Tim Cross is Assistant Editor at VideoWeek.
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