The WIR: OpenAI Unveils a Text-to-Video Tool, TF1 Reports an Ad Market Rebound, and The Independent Enters Talks to Run BuzzFeed in UK&I

Tim Cross 16 February, 2024 

In this week’s Week in Review: OpenAI unveils impressive text-to-video capabilities, TF1 sees positivity in the ad market, and The Independent enters talks to take control at BuzzFeed UK & I.

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OpenAI Announces Text-to-Video Tool Sora

AI giant OpenAI on Thursday unveiled Sora, a new text-to-video tool which turns human-inputted text prompts into videos up to a minute long. And while OpenAI admits the tool has significant weaknesses in its current state, the early demo footage released by the company is very impressive. For the time being, Sora is only being made available to a few visual artists, designers, and filmmakers for feedback, as well as red teamers (specialists who find weaknesses in tech tools) who will assess the risks.

Sora works similarly to the various text-to-image products which are currently available. The user inputs a text prompt (one example given is ‘A movie trailer featuring the adventures of the 30 year old space man wearing a red wool knitted motorcycle helmet, blue sky, salt desert, cinematic style, shot on 35mm film, vivid colors‘) and the tool creates a short video based on that prompt.

OpenAI acknowledged Sora’s current weaknesses. “It may struggle with accurately simulating the physics of a complex scene, and may not understand specific instances of cause and effect. For example, a person might take a bite out of a cookie, but afterward, the cookie may not have a bite mark,” said the company. “The model may also confuse spatial details of a prompt, for example, mixing up left and right, and may struggle with precise descriptions of events that take place over time, like following a specific camera trajectory.”

Nonetheless even in its current state, the tool would have significant uses for the industry. Agencies are already using text-to-image tools to create basic illustrations and conceptual images for internal work (where the results don’t have to be perfect) – Sora could be used in a similar manner. But the impressive content demonstrated by the demo shows that a future in which quality video can be quickly created and cheaply – by both media companies and creative agencies – may not be too far away.

TF1 Revenues Declined in 2023 Despite Ad Market Rebound

TF1 posted declines in both its fourth quarter and full-year revenues for 2023, but noted that the ad market “rebounded in the second half” of the year. The French broadcaster said ad revenues fell 2.1 percent YoY during 2023, but actually rose 1.7 percent in the second half.

“After a first half in which uncertainties regarding inflation had an impact on advertisers’ investments, the second half of the year saw an increase compared to 2022, due to the return of certain sectors (food, automotive, etc.) and also boosted by the broadcasting of the Rugby World Cup in September and October,” the company said.

The commercial broadcaster also announced plans to invest in data and ad tech, while making its TF1+ streaming service “the leading free streaming platform in France” by strengthening its data strategy. “The platform has got off to a very promising start, with high visitor numbers and usage figures,” according to TF1.

Independent Enters Talk to Run BuzzFeed and HuffPost in UK & Ireland

UK newspaper The Independent is in talks to take control of the UK and Ireland operations of digital publishers BuzzFeed and HuffPost, various outlets reported this week.

BuzzFeed founder and CEO Jonah Peretti told UK staff that the company is exploring a partnership with the Independent which would give the newspaper commercial and editorial control of BuzzFeed’s UK businesses. These include BuzzFeed UK, HuffPost, Tasty, and Seasoned, but not any US brands (including HuffPost US) according to The Guardian.

Peretti said that the talks put BuzzFeed “in a strong position to join forces with a local partner who can expand resources on the ground, unlock more strategic value for the brands, and take our UK business to the next level”. Meanwhile a source from The Independent told The Guardian that a deal would be “an opportunity for us to extend our reach and find a different generation, to keep growing and be a global player,” adding that “a different generation and different margins is a pretty attractive offering.”

The Week in Tech

X to Let Advertisers Target Individual Creator’s Videos

X (formerly Twitter) is adding new targeting features for video ads running on creator content, the social media company announced on Monday. The tools will be available later this month. The ‘Creator Targeting’ functionality will allow advertisers to place ads against a “curated list of premium content creators”, the social firm said in a blog post. It added that X has amassed more than 80,000 creators since launching its ad revenue sharing program in July 2023. Read on VideoWeek.

The Trade Desk Announces Retail Media Partnership Following Strong 2023

The Trade Desk’s shares jumped 18 percent on Thursday after the DSP reported strong earnings for 2023. Revenues climbed 23.4 percent during Q4 and 23.3 percent for the full year. The company additionally announced a retail media partnership with Nectar360, enabling brands to target audiences using Nectar data from Sainsbury’s and Argos. Also this week, The Trade Desk began extending OpenPath, its supply-path optimisation (SPO) product, to CTV media owners. OpenPath offers buy-side clients access to inventory without going via an SSP.

FreeWheel Launches SPO Product Connecting Buyers to Video Inventory

FreeWheel, a video technology company, has launched a supply-path optimisation (SPO) solution called Beeswax Inventory Desk. Billed as an “inventory creation service”, the product offers buyers direct access to premium video inventory. “The Beeswax Inventory Desk delivers a curated package of premium video ad inventory to meet campaign objectives with automation and efficiency,” said the company. FreeWheel acquired the Beeswax DSP in 2020.

Roku Warns of Future Challenges After Strong Q4

Roku shares fell 15 percent on Thursday, after the TV and streaming company warned that 2024 posed a “challenging” environment for media and entertainment spending. But Roku posted strong results for Q4, adding 4.2 million accounts to reach 80 million active accounts – although average revenue per user (ARPU) was down 4 percent. Regardless, the firm saw gains in net revenue (+14 percent), platform revenue (+13 percent) and device revenue (+15 percent) during the quarter. “Roku has the tools and expertise to drive engagement, which is critical in an ad-supported environment,” the company said in a letter to shareholders. “With our platform advantages, first-party relationship with 80 million Active Accounts, and deep user engagement, we are well-positioned to accelerate revenue growth in future years.”

DoubleVerify Takes Tiered Approach to MFA Inventory

DoubleVerify (DV), a media measurement and verification specialist, has launched tiered brand suitability categories to control made-for-advertising (MFA) inventory. The company notes that unlike ad fraud, MFA inventory is not inherently invalid, and many advertisers may choose to run ads on these sites. The tool uses AI to assign MFA sites a tier (Low, Medium or High) based on their ad monetisation activities, ad traffic sources and approach to content creation. DV said this allows brands to control the level of protection that suits their requirements. “DV’s AI-powered MFA brand suitability categories offer marketers a groundbreaking, nuanced approach to effectively tackle MFA challenges,” said DV CEO Mark Zagorski.

Teads and VIDAA Offer Native Display Inventory on CTV

Teads, an ad tech firm, has partnered with VIDAA USA, the Hisense operating system (OS), to offer advertisers CTV native display inventory. The “direct-to-glass” offering is now available to brands and agencies in the US, UK, Mexico, Brazil, Italy, Australia, and Canada. “Our exclusive partnership with VIDAA further elevates our global CTV footprint to ensure a premium omnichannel offering that simplifies digital and TV buying,” said Teads Co-CEO Jeremy Arditi.

Adform Joins Science Based Targets Initiative for Carbon Reduction

Adform, a demand-side platform (DSP), has joined the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), aligning the DSP with the group’s near-term emission reduction targets. The SBTi is a collaboration between the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), the United Nations Global Compact, the World Resources Institute (WRI), the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), and the We Mean Business Coalition. Last year Adform also partnered with Ad Net Zero and Scope3.

Barb Contracts CFlight Surveys to BVA BDRC

Barb, the UK’s TV measurement body, has awarded the CFlight Landscape Study to consultancy firm BVA BDRC. The study will enable Barb to accurately estimate the size and profile of TV and streaming audiences. It will see BVA BDRC interview 8,000 UK adults. The results will be fed into CFlight, the cross-platform advertising metric that Barb took over last month, to inform the calculation of reach and frequency across linear and VOD services.

Privacy Groups Warn European Regulators Over Meta’s Paid Ad-Free Service

European regulators have been urged to oppose Meta’s paid ad-free services on privacy grounds, Reuters reported on Friday. A group of 28 privacy advocates told the European Data Protection Board (EDPB) that the ad-free versions of Facebook and Instagram, launched in Europe last November, effectively amount to a privacy fee. The joint letter warned that the model was likely to be copied by other companies. The signatories included NOYB, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, Wikimedia Europe and the Electronic Privacy Information Centre.

The Week in TV

ProSieben Reports Strong Finish to Tough Year as MFE Seeks Control

ProSiebenSat.1 has issued preliminary results for 2023, a year of significant ups and downs at the German broadcaster. Though its full-year earnings came in below those of 2022, a more positive fourth quarter brought the year to a strong close for the media group. The company’s Q4 2023 earnings beat expectations with a “significant increase” in EBITDA, which climbed 11 percent YoY to reach €335 million during the quarter. But this wasn’t enough to offset a weaker first half of the year. ProSieben’s EBITDA for the full year was €578 million, representing a 15 percent YoY decline. Group revenues were also down around 7 percent YoY, amounting to 3.85 billion during 2023. Read more on VideoWeek.

M6 to Launch New Streaming Service with €100 Million Investment

M6, the French commercial broadcaster, has announced plans for a new streaming service, in the face of continued revenue declines at the TV business. The RTL-owned broadcaster said the new streaming service will be developed by Bedrock, a streaming technology joint venture between M6 and RTL. The service will be accessible from all screens and will host free content with ads, aiming to “strengthen the Group’s value proposition for advertisers.” To realise the new service, M6 will invest up to €100 million in its streaming business. Read more on VideoWeek.

Canal+ Becomes Viaplay’s Largest Shareholder

Canal+ has become the largest shareholder in Viaplay, following a recapitalisation programme at the Nordic streaming firm. The programme included raising Canal+’s holding to 29.33 percent, and PPF’s to 29.29 percent. “Our group’s support to Viaplay is a new testimony to our ambition to become a global player in video entertainment and extend the group’s footprint internationally, with a focus on Europe, Africa, and Asia, as also shown very recently by our offer to acquire the entire share capital of Multichoice Group and our investment in leading Asian steaming platform Viu last year,” said Maxime Saada, CEO and Chairman at Canal+ Group.

Paramount to Cut 800 Staff

Paramount Global is laying off about 800 employees, according to Reuters, representing 3 percent of the media company’s workforce. Paramount has been impacted by the Hollywood strikes last year, as well as the effect of a soft advertising market on its TV business. “These adjustments will help enable us to build on our momentum and execute our strategic vision for the year ahead – and I firmly believe we have much to be excited about,” Paramount CEO Bob Bakish said in a memo to staff. Paramount Global is currently eyeing a sale, with Skydance Media, Warner Bros. Discovery and Allen Media Group all circling the company. 

Walmart in Talks to Acquire Vizio

Walmart is in talks to acquire TV manufacturer Vizio, according to the Wall Street Journal, in a deal worth more than $2 billion. The acquisition could make the retail giant a key player in the CTV ad market, competing with Amazon, Roku and Google. Vizio’s smart TVs also include a free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) service. Shares of Vizio jumped 25 percent following the report, while Roku’s fell 8.8 percent.

AMC Sees Streaming Gains as Ad Revenues Decline

AMC Networks saw a 20 percent YoY fall in domestic ad revenues during 2023, the TV company revealed on Friday. AMC cited “anticipated linear ratings declines, a challenging ad market and fewer original programming episodes within the year, partly offset by digital and advanced advertising revenue growth.” Streaming revenues were up 13 percent YoY, with 11.4 million streaming subscribers at the end of the year. “In the fourth quarter and across 2023, we continued to see success in the areas that will drive this company forward – programming, partnerships and profitability,” said AMC Networks CEO Kristin Dolan. “I’m encouraged that this year we were able to grow streaming revenue and strengthen our subscriber base.”

Amazon Faces Lawsuit Over Ads on Prime Video

Amazon is facing a lawsuit over the introduction of ads on Prime Video. The California filing accuses the tech giant of violating state consumer protection laws, by altering the terms of agreement for subscribers who had signed up for an ad-free service. The class action seeks at least $5 million and a court order barring Amazon from engaging in further deceptive conduct.

RTVE Launches Spain’s Public Broadcaster SVOD Service in Europe

RTVE, the Spanish public service broadcaster (PSB), has launched its SVOD service, rtveplay+, across Europe. The streaming service is available through a paid subscription with a free seven-day trial period. “RTVE wants this platform to constitute a springboard to make Spain’s thriving audiovisual industry known throughout the world,” said the PSB.

Zee Files Revenue Loss After Abandoned Sony Merger

Zee Entertainment, an Indian media company, has filed a 3 percent YoY revenue loss for the latest quarter. The company cited the impact of the Cricket World Cup, which was broadcast by Disney Star. Zee said it also expects ongoing high costs related to its failed merger with Sony. 

M6 Publicité Launches Addressable Campaigns with Four French Telcos 

M6 Publicité, the broadcaster’s ad sales house, has launched addressable campaigns via the set-top boxes of four telcos: Bouygues Télécom, Orange, SFR and Free. The first campaign is for coffee brand L’OR Barista, owned by drinks company Jacobs Douwe Egberts. Havas Media France handled the media campaign. “The arrival of Free on the Segmented TV market will significantly increase the number of addressable households and better respond to brands’ targeting strategies,” said M6. “For M6 Publicité, this is the opportunity to accelerate the development of Segmented TV and to confirm its growth ambitions in this growing market.”

MLB Pitches D2C Streaming Service

Major League Baseball (MLB) is looking to launch its own streaming service for the 2025 season, the organisation’s commissioner has revealed. The proposed offering would offer local live broadcasts for at least half the teams in the league’s 30-strong lineup. At an owners meeting in Florida, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred told reporters: “Realistically, my target to having a digital package I can take to market would be for the ’25 season.” MLB rights are currently held by a range of regional sports networks, with local blackout policies limiting viewers’ access to their nearest teams. Read more on VideoWeek.

Disney Enables Emotion Targeting with ‘Disney’s Magic Words’

Disney has announced it is launching a new contextual advertising tool for its streaming services Disney+ and Hulu, which will enable advertisers to target and tailor ads based on specific moments, moods, or emotions. The product, called ‘Disney’s Magic Words’, is entering beta testing, with GroupM, OMG, IPG Mediabrands, Publicis Media, Dentsu, and Horizon Media all signed on as beta partners. Magic Words uses AI-based tools to analyse the content on-screen within its library of content, including the items and characters appearing within scenes, any brands present within content, and the mood and emotion of individual scenes within TV shows and films. Disney says it then uses proprietary metadata tagging to label its library of content, enabling advertisers to target based on these properties. Read more on VideoWeek.

Lionsgate Revenues Fall Despite Strong Showing for Streaming 

Lionsgate revenues fell 2.5 percent YoY in Q4 2023, the media company revealed in its latest earnings, citing the impact of the Hollywood strikes on its studio business. But the Media Networks segment, which includes the Lionsgate+ streaming service, saw a 10 percent YoY increase in revenues. Last month, the company acquired Entertainment One (eOne) for $375 million, and is preparing to launch Lionsgate Studios as a publicly traded content company.

The Week for Publishers

The Guardian Hit by Nine Percent Ad Revenue Drop

UK newspaper The Guardian saw its ad revenues fall by 16 percent in the nine months up to December 31st, Press Gazette reported this week, as a tough ad market took its toll on the newspaper. This brought ad revenues beneath The Guardian’s previous budgeting, while membership revenues and other revenues also fell short of expectations. This has created a budget shortfall, raising the potential for cuts, though nothing is confirmed yet.

IAC Sees Better Days Ahead with Return to Ad Growth

Digital media holding company IAC, which owns major publishing group Dotdash Meredith, said the company has turned a corner after a difficult few quarters, with signs that revenues are improving and profitability is approaching. Dotdash Meredith has posted a series of revenue falls in a tough ad market, but in Q4 reported flat total revenues. Digital ad revenues meanwhile were up by nine percent, thanks to an uptick in traffic and digital ad revenues.

DMGT Sees Drop in Ad Revenues

The Daily Mail & General Trust (DMGT), which owns the Daily Mail, the i, Metro, and New Scientist, posted a five percent fall in consumer media revenue for the year ending 30th September. This was due in part to a three percent fall in online ad revenues, while print revenues dropped 16 percent year-on-year. Overall revenues for DMGT grew however, with a strong performance from the company’s B2B events business.

Haymarket Group Posts Ten Percent Revenue Growth

Specialist publisher Haymarket Group posted a ten percent increase in revenues for its last financial year ending 30 June 2023, the company reported this week, with total turnover reaching £183.1 million. Haymarket attributed the growth to its “balanced portfolio of diversified revenues in its chosen markets, most notably medical, marketing-communications and automotive”.

UK Regional News Media’s Share of Ad Revenues Has Plummeted, find Press Gazette

Ad revenues captured by the UK’s regional news media have plummeted since 2007, according to analysis from Press Gazette. News media’s capture of total UK ad spend has fallen from 39 percent to 6 percent in that time, according to Press Gazette’s data. And regional news groups have been hit particularly hard. For example, revenue for regional papers owned by Reach sat at £300 million in 2022, compared to £1,134 million in 2007. And the total number of journalists employed across these papers has fallen from 4,050 to 1,500.

Daily Mail Announces New Audio/Video Podcasts

The Daily Mail has announced it is launching two new podcasts, as part of its effort to grow out AV revenues. The two new series, called Straight to the Comments and The Sidebar, will both be entertainment based and, presumably, air on podcast platforms and video platforms like YouTube (assuming they follow the same formula as the Mail’s existing series). “Audio and video are a real focus for us as a business right now – from a consumer and commercial perspective,” said Dominic Williams, CRO at Mail Metro Media. “These two new series launches couldn’t be more fitting for MailOnline and bring exciting new opportunities for our advertising partners. It’s an exciting step on our ambitious AV journey.”

The Week For Brands & Agencies

Publicis Groupe Tops New Business Rankings for 2023

Publicis won the most new business out of any agency group in 2023, according to consultancy R3’s new business rankings, More About Advertising reported this week. Publicis won $700 million worth of new business last year according to R3 – $385 million in creative and $315 million in media – helped by its Pfizer win. WPP meanwhile ranked second, bringing in $525 million worth of new business ($390 million in creative, and $135 million in media).

Ubisoft Awards Global Media Duties to Starcom

Games maker Ubisoft has awarded global media duties to Publicis-owned media agency Starcom, Campaign reported this week. The account covers 17 European markets including the UK, and Australia, according to Campaign. The account was previously held by WPP’s GroupM.

Sustainability Remains a Priority, but Significant Progress is Still Lacking finds IAB Europe Report

Sustainability remains a focus for the industry, according to IAB Europe’s new report ‘State of Readiness – Sustainability in Digital Advertising’, with respondents to IAB Europe’s survey saying sustainability is one of their top three current business challenges. But sustainability drives within companies are still at quite early stages according to the report. Many are still concentrating mostly on reduction of greenhouse gases, but few say they’ve actually made significant progress. Read more on VideoWeek.

Publicis Groupe Plans Expansion for Rebranded B2B Unit

Publicis Groupe has launched a new dedicated B2B unit within its EMEA operation called Publicis Pro, which will draw primarily on Octopus Group, an agency acquired by Publicis UK three years ago. Publicis Pro will offer services covering strategy, creative, influence and commerce. And the new unit will serve an expanded area, as Publicis aims for it to become a European centre of excellence, drawing on staff from across Publicis’ European offices.

Havas Acquires B2B Marketing Agency Ledger Bennett

Havas has acquired Ledger Bennett, a UK-based global B2B marketing agency, for an undisclosed fee, the agency group announced this week. Ledger Bennett will now be branded as ‘Ledger Bennett, a Havas Company’ and join the organization under Havas Media Network. Havas says the acquisition is part of a continued evolution of its operating model as it branches out its offering and the types of clients it serves. Havas Media Network UK launched a dedicated B2B unit, Havas Business, back in 2022.

Majority of Influencers Don’t Disclose Ads

The majority of influencers fail to disclose when they’re running paid ads, despite often being obligated to do so, according to a study from the European Union. Ninety-seven percent of those surveyed by the EU said they post commercial content, but only 20 percent said they systematically disclose when a social media post is an ad.

Hires of the Week

News UK Names Richard Wiles as Director of Data

News UK has named Richard Wiles its new Director of Data. Wiles joins from the publisher’s sister company News Corp Australia, where he served as General Manager for Consumer Growth and Data. He replaces Tom Jackson who was recently appointed News UK CTO.

Guardian Appoints Pooja Bagga as Chief Information Officer

The Guardian has appointed Pooja Bagga as Chief Information Officer. Bagga previously spent seven years leading IT initiatives at Royal Mail Group, following stints at British Airways, Transport for London (TFL) and International Airlines Group (IAG).

This Week on VideoWeek

MLB Pitches D2C Streaming Service

Disney Enables Emotion Targeting with ‘Disney’s Magic Words’

X to Let Advertisers Target Individual Creator’s Videos

As Brands Drive Higher ROI on Advertising, Should They Spend More or Less?

ProSieben Reports Strong Finish to Tough Year as MFE Seeks Control

M6 to Launch New Streaming Service with €100 Million Investment

Sustainability Remains a Priority, but Significant Progress is Still Lacking finds IAB Europe Report

Having the Right Metrics is Key to Unlocking Advanced TV Success

Ad of the Week

Samsung, The Break Up Edit

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About the Author:

Tim Cross is Assistant Editor at VideoWeek.
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