The WIR: Sunak Blocks Telegraph Sale, Thomas Rabe Announces RTL Exit, and BBC Goes FAST in America

Tim Cross 15 March, 2024 

In this week’s Week in Review: UK’s PM legislates against The Telegraph’s overseas sale, Thomas Rabe announces plans to leave RTL, and BBC launches a FAST in America.

Top Stories

Thomas Rabe to Leave Bertelsmann in 2026

Bertelsmann CEO Thomas Rabe will leave the RTL parent company at the end of 2026, the media executive told German press this week. 

“My contract runs until the end of 2026,” Rabe explained. “My plan is to then move on to other tasks.” He added that he aims to “leave the corporate world” and pursue no further executive positions. “I can only imagine taking on one or two entrepreneurial roles, but more as a supporter and advisor,” he said.

Rabe joined RTL Group as CFO in 2000, and was made CEO in 2019. He was appointed to the Bertelsmann executive board in 2006, becoming its chairman in 2012. He has been a staunch advocate of cooperation and mergers between European broadcasters in the face of intensifying competition from US streaming giants. 

RedBird IMI Considers Telegraph Sale After Sunak Blocks Takeover

RedBird IMI is looking to sell Telegraph Media Group, the FT reported on Thursday, after the UK government moved to block the investor’s full takeover.

The Barclay family regained ownership of the Telegraph in December, but RedBird IMI owns roughly half of the £1.16 billion loan they used to repay the debts they owed Lloyds Banking Group. £600 million of the loan from RedBird was to be converted into control of the Telegraph’s equity.

But on Wednesday, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he would change the law to prevent foreign state funds from buying British news media businesses, effectively blocking the takeover. RedBird IMI is around three-quarters funded by Abu Dhabi. The investment vehicle is reportedly considering a full sale, or could bring in US investors to replace the Abu Dhabi funding.

BBC News Goes FAST in the US

BBC News is launching as a free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) Channel in the US. The channel is a partnership between BBC Studios and AMC Networks, and will be available through Pluto TV, Samsung TV Plus, Plex, Xumo Play, VIZIO WatchFree+ and Sling Freestream. The 24-hour channel will air content from BBC News America, Verified Live and BBC Documentaries.

“This is a significant milestone for the BBC as this launch will more than double the current reach and availability of the BBC News channel in the US at a time when access to independent news and information is more important than ever,” said Tara Maitra, Chief Commercial Officer of Global Media & Streaming at BBC Studios. “We’re proud to launch this channel with the support of so many of the leading CTV/FAST platform partners as we continue to expand the footprint of BBC News and bring the BBC’s journalism to wider audiences in the region.”

The Week in Tech

CFlight Adds Traded Audiences to Cross-Platform Campaign Reports

Barb has announced its latest upgrade to CFlight, the cross-platform measurement solution. The upgrade adds extended reporting of traded audiences to the tool, which aims to measure deduplicated reach and frequency across linear and streaming channels. The measurement tool now carries 14 of the “most used” traded audiences, giving media buyers access to ad campaign performance across these audiences. They can now choose these key demographics when running a CFlight report:

  • ABC1 Adults
  • ABC1 Housepersons
  • ABC1 Men
  • ABC1 Women
  • Adults 16+
  • Adults 16-34
  • Adults 25-44
  • Adults 45+
  • Housepersons
  • Housepersons with Children
  • Men 16+
  • Men 16-34
  • Women 16+
  • Women 16-34

US House of Representatives Passes Bill Forcing TikTok to Divest or be Banned

The US House of Representatives has passed a bill which would force TikTok’s owner ByteDance to divest the app, or else place a nationwide ban on the app. The bill, which was introduced last week, passed by a landslide with 352 members voting for it and just 65 against. The proposed law already has the backing of the White House, but will still need to pass in the Senate if it’s to come into force. If this happens, ByteDance will have 165 days to sell off TikTok (plus any other apps it owns which run in the US). If it misses this deadline, app stores will be barred from providing access to the app in America. Read on VideoWeek.

X Reveals Plans for CTV App

X is planning to launch a CTV app very soon, according to reports confirmed by Elon Musk, as the company formerly known as Twitter seeks to compete with YouTube. The news was first revealed by inside sources, before Musk posted on X that the app was “coming soon”. The owner has been vocal in his ambitions to turn the social media company into a “video-first platform”, seeking to compete with YouTube and TikTok. According to Fortune, the app will be available on Amazon and Samsung smart TVs. The source said the product looks “identical” to the YouTube app, adding that Musk was “set on competing with YouTube.” Read on VideoWeek.

Accusations Fly After Michael Kassan’s Sudden Departure From MediaLink

MediaLink CEO Michael Kassan has left the advisory firm under sudden and shady circumstances. Although Kassan claims to have resigned, MediaLink owner United Talent Agency (UTA) said he was fired over “misappropriation of company funds”. UTA has filed a lawsuit against Kassan, who in turn is suing for damages.

New Adalytics Report Tells a Story of an Industry Still Hooked on MFA

Despite pledges from players across the digital advertising supply chain to stop running ads on ‘made-for-advertising’ (MFA) websites, the majority of big advertisers are still having their ads show up on websites which clearly fit MFA definitions designed by industry trade groups, according to a new study from forensic ad tech business Adalytics. Adalytics’ study found that most Fortune 500 brands, as well as multinational non-profits and government bodies, are still running on MFA. And the majority of major DSPs, SSPs, verification vendors and media agencies are still playing a role in MFA transactions. This even appears to be the case for auction packages specifically advertised as being MFA free, and transaction types generally considered to be less exposed to MFA, such as private marketplaces. Read on VideoWeek.

Google Ordered to Face Online Video Ad Monopolisation Lawsuit 

Google this week lost a bid to dismiss a lawsuit brought by Inform, which accuses the tech giant of driving the digital media advertising company out of business. The New York judge found it plausibly alleged that Google unlawfully monopolised the online video ad market. The ruling allows Inform to proceed with its case to pursue millions of dollars in alleged damages. 

DoubleVerify to Measure NBCU Programming on CTV

DoubleVerify (DV), a measurement and verification business, will authenticate programming on CTV for NBCUniversal, the companies announced on Wednesday. The deal combines DV’s Video OmniTag technology and NBCUniversal’s data clean room, offering NBCU advertisers brand safety and suitability assurance, as well as content performance. “At NBCUniversal, we stand behind the safety and suitability of our content, and with this new partnership with DoubleVerify, we’ll be able to offer our advertising partners a new level of transparency against these metrics and more, with granularity down to the programme level,” said Dominick Vangeli, SVP and General Manager, Advanced Advertising and Partnerships at NBCUniversal.

Ex-Activision Boss Bobby Kotick Expresses Interest in Buying TikTok

Bobby Kotick, former CEO of Activision, has expressed interest in buying TikTok, according to the WSJ. TikTok owner ByteDance could be forced to divest the app if the US Senate approves a bill passed by the House of Representatives on Wednesday. Kotick stepped down as Activision chief when the gaming company was taken over by Microsoft at the end of 2023.

Reddit IPO Targets $748 Million, Launches New Ad Format

Reddit disclosed further details of its initial public offering (IPO) this week, as the social sharing platform seeks to raise as much as $748 million. Reddit and its existing shareholders are planning to sell 22 million shares for $31 to $34 each, according to the company. Also this week, Reddit announced a new ad unit called “free-form ads,” which resemble posts by users; a format designed to maximise engagement for advertisers that could prove less popular with users.

Google and Twitch Fined for Violating Italian Gambling Ad Ban

Google and Twitch have been fined by the Italian Communication Authority (Agcom) for breaching the nation’s ban on gambling ads. Google was fined €2,250,000, and Amazon’s Twitch €900,000. The decision marks the third time Google has been found in contravention of the rules.

NCBU, LiveRamp and Google Team Up for CTV Targeting 

NBCUniversal has partnered with LiveRamp and Google to enable ad targeting in CTV environments. The media company has implemented Google’s Display & Video 360 Publisher Advertiser Identity Reconciliation (PAIR), allowing marketers to use LiveRamp’s clean room to target customers without using third-party signals. “Helping our advertisers mitigate signal loss in their approaches is critical, but what makes this a transformative proposition is with Google and LiveRamp, we’re able to help marketers drive better results today,” said Ryan McConville, EVP Ad Platforms at NBCU.

EU Passes Landmark AI Governance Legislation 

The European Parliament on Wednesday passed the first piece of comprehensive legislation governing the use of AI in the EU. First introduced in 2021 before 800 amendments were made, the AI Act creates guardrails for deploying AI tools, covering intellectual property, data privacy and deepfake concerns. For instance, the law requires AI-generated election-related content to be clearly labelled. “We want our citizens to know that thanks to our rules, we can protect them and they can trust the businesses that will develop AI in Europe and that this is a way to support innovation,” said Brando Benifei, Italian Member of Parliament and co-author of the legislation.

The Week in TV

RTL Resets its Streaming Expectations After Selling Dutch Business

European broadcasting giant RTL Group has reset its targets for its overall streaming business, having agreed to sell its Dutch arm RTL Nederland to DPG Media last year for €1.1 billion. And while RTL expects streaming revenues to drive a return to growth this year, following a dip in total revenues last year, the reworked targets make it harder to judge the group’s streaming progress. RTL’s previous headline targets for streaming were to reach 10 million paying subscribers and €1 billion in streaming revenues in 2026, while also aiming for profitability by this point. Now, having sold off RTL Nederland and its Videoland streaming services, these targets have been lowered to 9 million paying subscribers and €750 million in revenues. Read more on VideoWeek.

Pay-TV-Only US Households Down to 5 Percent

Just 5 percent of US internet households have only a pay-TV subscription, according to Parks Associates. And while pay-TV operators are forecast to keep losing subscribers to streaming services, those streaming companies can also expect increasing losses. The research suggests that consumer churn for streaming services averages at roughly 50 percent across the year, meaning one-half of an SVOD service’s user base will sign up and quit within any given year.

Reliance Industries Buys Out Paramount Stake in Viacom18

Reliance Industries is buying out Paramount’s stake in Viacom18, a joint venture between Reliance and Paramount. The agreement sees the Indian conglomerate buy Paramount Global’s 13 percent share for $517 million. The deal increases Reliance’s stake in Viacom18 to 70.49 percent, and follows the company’s multi-billion dollar merger with Disney India. Reliance is chaired by Mukesh Ambani, considered the richest person in Asia and ninth-richest in the world.

TF1 Turns to Twitch to Reach Young Audiences

French broadcaster TF1 is turning to Amazon-owned live streaming platform Twitch in an effort to reach younger audiences, launching a Twitch-based version of its ‘Danse avec les Stars’ (Dancing with the Stars) format. The broadcaster has already previously used young talent from social media, including Twitch, on its regular version of Danse avec les Stars to try to attract new, younger audiences to the show. Now the new version, ‘Danse avec les Stars d’Internet’, will exclusively feature social media celebrities. And the new show will be broadcast live on Twitch itself, alongside TF1’s new streaming platform TF1+. Read more on VideoWeek.

FC Barcelona Launches New Streaming Service

FC Barcelona has launched its own streaming service, Barça One. The service will be free with ads, with the option to pay for an ad-free subscription. Barça One replaces the La Liga team’s previous offering, Barça TV+, and will house 1,500 hours of content including archive matches.

Netflix Ad Tier is Driving Growth Says Omdia

Netflix subs climbed 5.5 million in the US and 1.8 million in the UK last year, according to Omdia. The research firm cited the introduction of the ad-supported tier and password-sharing crackdown as key growth drivers for the streaming giant, which lost subscribers the previous year. “The introduction of ad tiers allow subscribers who didn’t consider before full price tiers to subscribe to a cheaper alternative with almost the same content – more than 30 percent of Netflix new additions come from the ad tiers,” said Maria Rua Aguete, Senior Research Director, Media and Entertainment at Omdia. 

Titan OS Expands FAST Channel Lineup

Titan OS, an independent TV operating system, has expanded its lineup of free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) channels. The FAST network now includes channels from Euronews, Bloomberg TV, Red Bull TV, CHILI, FUNKE Digital, Blue Ant Media, Insight TV, and Love TV Channels. “By presenting FAST and broadcast channels together, we are taking steps to improve the viewer search experience – something that will become increasingly important to the entire industry as the dramatic increase in adoption of CTVs across Europe continues,” said Lucas Llop, VP Advertising at Titan OS. “The easier content discovery is, the more effective monetisation options there are for content providers and manufacturers, and the better cut-through opportunities there are for advertisers.”

The Week for Publishers

Thomson Reuters Touts $8 Billion AI War Chest

Thomson Reuters has an $8 billion war chest set aside for AI-focused investment, including acquisitions and internal tech development, chief executive Steve Hasker told the FT. Hasker said that AI is already bringing in new income, as Reuters has struck a number of deals giving AI providers access to its content. But the company also wants to directly offer AI services itself, getting the most out of its broad data provided by its research and reporting.

Le Monde and Prisa Media Sign ChatGPT Partnerships

French newspaper Le Monde and Spanish publisher Prisa Media have both signed deals with OpenAI which will enable the tech company’s ChatGPT tool to provide snippets of their reporting, OpenAI announced this week. The deal will also allow OpenAI to train its models on the two publishers’ content. Axel Springer and Associated Press have struck similar deals, while others – most notably the New York Times – are taking legal action to prevent AI companies from harvesting data from their content.

G/O Media Sells Deadspin and Lays Off Staff

Digital media holding company G/O Media has sold sports-focussed publication Deadspin to Maltese media business Lineup Publishing, laying off all existing staff. G/O Media has been actively looking to offload parts of its portfolio during a difficult period for digital publishing, and has also sold feminist publication Jezebel and recommendations site Lifehacker in the past year.

Telegraph Media Group Launches New Digital Hero Ad Format

Telegraph Media Group has launched a new ad format, Digital Hero, which the group says uses advertisers’ “images, videos, and behind-the-scenes stories” to create commercial content promoting partnered brands, which includes longforms, storybooks, shoppable units, polls, and quizzes. TMG partnered with independent agency the7stars to launch the new format, with jeweller brand Graff signed up as launch partner.

National World Looks to Sell Off Publishing Tech Provider

UK local news publisher National World is looking to sell off Press Computer Systems, a publishing tech business it bought alongside the Midlands News Association just six months ago, Press Gazette reported this week. Content and commerce management business Naviga is lined up as a buyer, according to the Gazette. National World came under fire last year for making a number of purchases, including PCS, despite facing overall financial difficulties.

The Week For Brands & Agencies

Vivendi Won’t Sell Havas, says Bolloré

French conglomerate Vivendi is considering splitting up its business into separate parts, which would involve spinning off agency group Havas as its own entity. But CEO and chairman Vincent Bolloré says this won’t be done by selling Havas to a third party, Adweek reported this week. Vivendi is currently working on a potential public listing for Havas, and Bolloré said if it wanted to sell Havas, it would be easier to do so without listing the agency group.

ISBA’s Origins Signs Up Samsung Ads as CTV Partner

ISBA’s cross-media measurement initiative Origin has signed up Samsung Ads as its ‘founding CTV member’, the two announced this week. As a member of the initiative, Samsung Ads will help develop cross-media measurement solutions which work across platforms and media types, including CTV.

Publicis Media Wins Spotify’s Global Media Account

Publicis Media has come out on top in a global review of music streaming platform Spotify’s media duties, the two announced this week. Publicis Media has created a dedicated team, Publicis OneVibe, to handle the account. IPG’s UM previously held the account, according to Adweek.

Bicycle Launches Performance Marketing Division

UK independent agency Bicycle is launching a new performance marketing division called Blade, Campaign reported this week. Services provided by Blade will cover paid social, paid search, programmatic, retail media, ecommerce, and SEO.

Havas Acquires Social Marketing Agency Wilderness

Havas has acquired Wilderness, a UK-based social media marketing agency which has worked with major entertainment clients including Universal and Sony Pictures. Wilderness will be integrated into Havas Play, a specialist division which helps brands engage with entertainment, sport, tech and fandom across a range of media types.

iProspect Adds US Market to Ferrero Media Remit

Dentsu-owned media agency iProspect has been handed expanded media duties for confectionary brand Ferrero, adding the US market to its remit. iProspect already handles the majority of Ferrero’s work outside the US, according to Adweek, and will now take on US media which was previously handled by GroupM’s Mindshare. This makes Ferrero iProspect’s biggest client, according to Adweek.

Marketing Majors Aren’t Leading to Marketing Jobs in US, finds Study

Nearly 60 percent of marketing majors in the US are working high-school level jobs five years after graduating, according to a new study from the Burning Glass Institute and Strada Education Foundation reported by Bloomberg. This is primarily due to increased competition according to Bloomberg’s report, with more students majoring in marketing, and the number of applications for marketing jobs having tripled since 2021.

Hires of the Week

Barb Promotes Caroline Baxter to COO

Barb has promoted Caroline Baxter to the role of Chief Operating Officer. Baxter joined the UK measurement body in 2022 as Research Operations Director, following a 12-year stint at Kantar.

Channel 4 Names Katie Jackson Interim CMO

Channel 4 has named Katie Jackson its interim CMO, with Zaid Al-Qassab set to leave at the end of the month. Jackson is MD of 4Creative, the broadcaster’s in-house creative agency.

Publicis Media UK Appoints Jane Holding as Chief Client Officer

Publicis Media UK has appointed Jane Holding as Chief Client Officer. Holding was the agency’s Client Managing Director for Samsung, and first joined Publicis agency Zenith in 2001.

This Week on VideoWeek

New Adalytics Report Tells a Story of an Industry Still Hooked on MFA

X Could Launch CTV App This Week

TF1 Turns to Twitch to Reach Young Audiences

Women’s Tennis Was a Smash for Advertisers in 2023 Says EDO

CFlight Adds Traded Audiences to Cross-Platform Campaign Reports

US House of Representatives Passes Bill Forcing TikTok to Divest or be Banned

RTL Resets its Streaming Expectations After Selling Dutch Business

Ad of the Week

Pepsi, AI Can Do That?

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About the Author:

Tim Cross is Assistant Editor at VideoWeek.
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