The WIR: TF1+ is Off to a Strong Start, Roblox Rolls Out Video Ads, and Paramount Receives $26 Billion Offer from Sony and Apollo

Tim Cross 03 May, 2024 

In this week’s Week in Review: TF1 reports strong Q1 ad growth, Roblox rolls out video ads, and Sony and Apollo up their bid for Paramount.

Top Stories

TF1 Reports 6.6 Percent Ad Revenue Growth After Streaming Revamp

TF1 revenues were up 6.7 percent YoY during Q1, according to the French broadcaster, driven by a 6.6 percent uptick in advertising. This strong ad revenue in turn came from both linear TV, which grew by 4.4 percent, and streaming, where the launch of its revamped service TF1+ saw revenues grow by over 43 percent.

On the linear front, TF1 said revenues were boosted by strong viewing figures, and recovery in ad investment from most major brand sectors. And in streaming, the launch of TF1+ has delivered a significant reach boost compared to MYTF1, the group’s previous on-demand offering. TF1+ reached 35 million users in March, compared with an average of 28 million per month for MYTF1 last year. And TF1+ isn’t yet available on all platforms where MYTF1 is, meaning there’s substantial room for further growth.

Across the rest of the year, the French broadcaster plans to continue strengthening its streaming offering. In Q2 TF1+ will roll out ‘Synchro’, a recommendation engine designed to make it easier to select streaming content for coviewing. And coinciding with the men’s Euros this summer, the platform will add a new AI-enhanced tool providing audiences with custom post-match highlights.

Roblox Rolls Out Video Ads

Gaming platform Roblox started rolling out video ads this week, placing virtual billboards inside its virtual worlds. The company said the roll-out gives advertisers access to Roblox’s nearly 72 million daily active users, half of whom are Gen-Z. Initial brands deploying video ads on Roblox include e.l.f beauty, Walmart and Warner Bros. Discovery.

The company began testing video ads in November as part of efforts to boost revenues. Creators of the virtual worlds who opt to show the video billboards will also receive a portion of ad revenues. Video inventory will be sold through Pubmatic’s supply-side platform (SSP) as part of a partnership announced last month.

“By advertising on Roblox, brands can create deeper connections and engage tens of millions of Gen-Z users,” Stephanie Latham, VP Global Brand Partnerships at Roblox, told Reuters. “We are also in beta with some partners on what a cost per completed view product would look like on Roblox and so expect to have more specifics later this year.”

Sony Pictures Entertainment and Apollo Make $26 Billion Cash Bid for Paramount

The bidding war for Paramount heated up in a hectic week for the media giant, with its primary suitors both putting in raised bids for the business.

Production company Skydance, whose bid is backed by RedBird Capital Partners and KKR and is preferred by controlling shareholder Shari Redstone, upped its offer early in the week. Skydance wants to buy Redstone’s shares and merge Skydance with Paramount while keeping the company public, according to the FT. Its revised offer included payments to ordinary shareholders, to make the deal more attractive to them.

However Sony Pictures and Apollo Global Management have now increased their joint bid too, making a $26 billion cash bid to take the company private, a significant premium on Paramount’s current $22 billion valuation. This deal would combine Paramount with Sony Pictures, making Sony Corp. the majority owner of the combined company.

This week also saw CEO Bob Bakish step down from Paramount, reportedly due to disagreements over the bidding war with Redstone. Bakish was replaced by a three-person ‘office of the CEO’: CBS CEO George Cheeks, Paramount Pictures CEO Brian Robbins and Chris McCarthy, president and CEO of Showtime/MTV Entertainment Studios and Paramount Media Networks.

The Week in Tech

Barb Prepares to Integrate Return Path Data from Connected TVs

UK TV measurement body Barb this week issued an invitation to tender for ‘Barb Panel Plus’, the next iteration of Barb’s audience measurement service which will combine Barb’s panel-based data with big data sources. Barb Data Plus will replace Dovetail Fusion, a service which folds broadcasters’ own device-level viewing data from their on-demand services, adding more big data sources to strengthen Barb’s measurement. Barb says Barb Panel Plus will build on Dovetail Fusion, adding in return path data from connected TVs and set-top boxes, among other sources, as well as first-party server data. Read more on VideoWeek.

Google Adds GenAI Tools to DV360 

Google is integrating more AI functionality into its ad buying platform, Display & Video 360 (DV360), the search giant announced on Monday. The tools include an “audience persona” feature, whereby advertisers can describe their intended audience. Google AI then generates a combination of audience segments that matches the description. “We’re continuing to make Google AI an essential part of DV360, seamlessly integrating it into your workflows and bringing generative AI capabilities,” said Kristen O’Hara, VP, Agency, Platforms & Client Solutions at Google.

Twitch Launches TikTok-Style Short-Form Video Platform

Twitch, the Amazon-owned live streaming platform, has launched its own short-form video offering. The Discovery Feed product will allow viewers to scroll through shorter clips taken from the longer livestreams. Amazon will hope the new feed can attract TikTok users, with the threat of a ban looming over the Chinese-owned company.

Apple Tests ‘Web Eraser’ Ad Removal Tool in Safari

Apple is testing a new tool for its Safari web browser which would allow users to remove parts of web pages which they don’t want to see, including ads, AppleInsider reported on Tuesday. The ‘Web Eraser’ tool would enable users to erase specific portions of web pages, with the change carrying over between different sessions. As a result, users could remove the parts of a publisher’s page where ads typically appear – a feature which already appears in popular ad blocking software 1Blocker. 

Verve Group Unveils Mobile ID-less Solution

Verve Group has unveiled ATOM 3.0, the ad tech firm’s mobile ID-less solution. ATOM 3.0 is an on-device targeting solution for iOS, which Verve says can predict the traits of anonymous users in a privacy-compliant manner, and reach more than 1.5 billion users across 10,000 apps. “The vast scale of ATOM 3.0 ensures advertisers and publishers can maintain addressability and engagement with their audience, while respecting user choice,” said Verve Group. “Excitingly, it will be made available for free for publishers and advertisers at the start, with the focus to foster widespread adoption and to maximise its impact across the digital advertising ecosystem.”

Innovid Joins Ad Net Zero

Innovid, a CTV ad tech firm, this week announced it has joined Ad Net Zero, the sustainability-focused trade association for the advertising industry. The move signals Innovid’s commitment to carbon reduction, according to the company, as it seeks to prioritise the sustainability of its products and solutions. “On our journey to net-zero, Innovid is proactively identifying and acting on ways to reduce our environmental impact and embrace eco-friendly practices throughout our global offices – and joining Ad Net Zero underscores that commitment,” said Innovid CMO Dani Cushion. “Ad Net Zero is driving change by bringing our industry together to remove carbon emissions in advertising, and we are proud to be a part of it.”

GumGum and Assertive Yield Reduce Bidstream Carbon Emissions

GumGum, a contextual advertising business, announced it has reduced its bidstream carbon emissions by 38 percent. The sustainability push was delivered in partnership with Assertive Yield, a traffic-shaping specialist. The companies said the technology helped GumGum avoid an average seven tons of CO2 emissions per day, primarily from network transmission. “Our collaboration with Assertive Yield has been transformative, allowing us to unlock deep insights into our inventory and demand with incredible precision,” said Kara Petrocelli, Senior Director of Platform Operations at GumGum. “The Traffic Shaping solution has enabled us to make more informed decisions, optimising both our performance and environmental impact through effective supply path decarbonisation.”

The Week in TV

ProSieben Investors Vote Down MFE’s Spin-Off Proposal

ProSiebenSat.1 investors have voted against the proposal by its main shareholder MFE to split up the German media firm. ProSieben’s annual general meeting saw 70.95 percent of shareholders back MFE’s motion, falling just short of the required 75 percent. The proposal was to spin off the broadcaster’s e-commerce and online dating assets, with MFE pushing the company to focus on its core TV business.

Paramount Sees Recovery in Ad Revenues

Amid the disruption regarding its ongoing bidding war (see top stories) Paramount reported its Q1 financial results, in which total revenues were up six percent year-on-year, with Paramount’s traditional TV, streaming, and film businesses all recording growth. And ad revenues were a major contributor: linear TV ad revenues were up 14 percent year-on-year, while streaming ad revenues grew by 31 percent. Read more on VideoWeek.

Freely Launches in UK with Hisense, Vestel and TiVo

Freely, the broadcaster-backed streaming service, has launched in the UK, combining live and on-demand content from the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5. The app is available on smart TVs from Hisense, with Freely TVs on sale from today, as well as Vestel TVs running the TiVo OS platform. The streaming service has also expanded its lineup of UK public service broadcaster (PSB) content to include STV and S4C, bringing the Scottish and Welsh channels to the new platform. Read more on VideoWeek.

FuboTV Drops WBD Channels as Feud Heats Up

FuboTV, a sports streaming service, has dropped TNT Sports and other Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) channels from its lineup, due to an ongoing dispute with WBD. Fubo said WBD demanded renewal fees that were above market rates, accusing the media company of “unfair and anti-competitive practices” that penalise Fubo and “cheat consumers”. The dispute came to a head over the planned sports streaming joint venture between WBD, Disney and Fox, which Fubo called a “sports cartel” in a lawsuit filed in February.

Roku Revenues Rise in Q1

Roku revenues rose 19 percent YoY during Q1 2024, the smart TV and streaming firm revealed in its latest earnings call, reaching $882 million in net revenue. The company added 1.6 million households during the quarter, bringing its total streaming households to 81.6 million. Streaming hours also climbed 23 percent YoY, but average revenue per user (ARPU) remained flat on $40.65. Roku additionally forecast $935 million in revenues for Q2, representing a 10 percent YoY increase.

Apple TV+, Netflix and Local Players Show Strength in Kantar Data 

AppleTV+ was the fastest-growing SVOD service globally during Q1 2024, according to Kantar’s latest report. Netflix also continued to perform well, with strong retention rates and high subscriber advocacy levels. Kantar additionally noted growth in local VOD services across various markets; Movistar+ in Spain, Joyn Plus+ in Germany, and Kayo in Australia all recorded increases in paid subscribers during the quarter. “AppleTV+ maintained its momentum from 2023 with strong subscriber growth, while Netflix shone in Europe, and local services like Movistar+, JoynPlus+, and Kayo showcased stellar performances in their respective markets,” said Andrew Skerratt, Global Insights Director at Kantar Worldpanel.

Vivendi Conducts Feasibility Study into Planned Split 

Vivendi is progressing with a feasibility study into plans to split its business into four separate companies, the French media giant said on Monday. The move would divide Vivendi into the TV business Canal+, advertising firm Havas, and a publishing and distribution group. The conglomerate posted an 87 percent YoY jump in Q1 sales, with Canal+ revenues up 4.3 percent YoY during the quarter.

Kantar Media Finds Older Irish Viewers Turning to Streaming

Irish adults spend 24.2 hours watching TV per week, according to new data from Kantar’s TGI research. The analysis found that older viewers are increasingly adopting BVOD and SVOD offerings, with 22 percent of pre-war Irish adults now using SVOD services. Netflix remains the most popular streaming service in Ireland, but RTE Player and Amazon Prime Video are growing in popularity.

The Week for Publishers

The Telegraph is Up For Sale Again After RedBird Deal Collapses

The Telegraph is once again looking for a buyer after its £600 million deal with RedBird IMI, a partnership backed by US investment firm RedBird Capital Partners and the UAE’s vice president, fell through. The RedBird deal came under scrutiny from the UK government, given the UAE’s involvement, which could have given the UAE direct influence over a UK newspaper. And RedBird this week announced it is walking away from the deal, restarting a bidding war for The Telegraph.

Condé Nast Puts Live Content as the Centre of its Video Strategy

International publishing giant Condé Nast used its annual NewFronts pitch to advertisers this week to announce a big expansion of its video output, with 100 new pilots and 235 returning digital video series planned for the coming year, alongside increased live video output. The group, which has been one of the more successful mainstream publishers on YouTube, last year merged its editorial team with its video team, signifying its focus on video. Read more on VideoWeek.

Gannett’s Turnaround Continues with Sustained Digital Revenue Growth

US publishing group Gannett reported continued digital revenue growth in its Q1 results this week, continuing the company’s turnaround following a tough period which saw its share price fall by 80 percent between 2021 and the end of 2022. The publisher, which owns USA Today and a host of local news brands, saw 8.1 percent growth in total digital revenues year-on-year, with 5.3 percent growth in digital ad revenues. The company expects total revenues to be down across 2024 as a whole due to its print business, but is eyeing a return to growth in 2025.

Financial Times Signs Licensing Deal with OpenAI

The Financial Times (FT) this week announced a deal with OpenAI, the company behind generative AI tools including ChatGPT, Dall-E and Sora, allowing the tech firm to use FT content to train its AI models. The announcement makes FT the latest in a string of publishers to strike such agreements with the Microsoft-backed startup, following similar deals with Axel Springer, Le Monde and Associated Press. As well as licensing the FT’s material to OpenAI for developing GenAI tools, the partnership will also allow ChatGPT to respond to questions with summaries from FT articles. Read more on VideoWeek.

Axel Springer Signs New Advertising and AI Partnership with Microsoft

European publisher Axel Springer this week announced it has agreed a new wide ranging deal expanding its partnership with Microsoft across advertising, AI, content, and cloud computing. The deal will see Axel Springer expand its ad tech partnership to the US, where political publication POLITICO will use Microsoft Advertising’s ad tech stack and POLITICO inventory will be available through the Microsoft Advertising Network. On the AI front, the two will work together on new AI-driven chat experiences based on Axel Springer’s journalistic content.

Reach Revenues Dented by Referral Declines on Social Platforms

UK publishing group Reach reported group revenues were down by 6.7 percent year-on-year in its Q1 financial results this week, with digital revenues specifically down by 8.5 percent. While yield per page was up year-on-year, total page views were down by a third, which Reach attributed to the deprioritisation of news content by major tech platforms.

Reader’s Digest UK Closes in “Unforgiving” Publisher Landscape

Reader’s Digest magazine is winding down operations in the UK after 86 years, its editor-in-chief Eva Mackevic announced this week. “Unfortunately, the company just couldn’t withstand the financial pressures of today’s unforgiving magazine publishing landscape and has ceased to trade,” Mackevic wrote on LinkedIn.

The Guardian Plans Voluntary Redundancies Amid Tough Ad Market

The Guardian is planning to make a small number of voluntary redundancies, as it seeks cost savings in a tough ad market, Press Gazette reported this week. The Guardian’s shift to focussing on reader donations makes it more insulated to fluctuations in the ad market, with advertising currently contributing 24 percent of revenues compared to 36 percent in 2016. But nonetheless, a mixture of low ad revenues and other revenue streams coming in below expectations has meant the newspaper is now looking to cut staff.

The Week For Brands & Agencies

Havas Posts Strong Q1 Growth as it Prepares to be Spun Off from Vivendi

Havas posted 6.2 percent year-on-year growth in total revenues in Q1, or 3.4 percent when ignoring the impact of currency changes and acquisitions, according to parent company Vivendi’s financial results released this week. North America revenues saw a slight increase, but overall revenues were boosted by solid performance in Europe, and strong revenue growth in Asia and Latin America. Alongside the earnings report, Vivendi said it is still exploring splitting off Havas and sister companies Canal+ and its publishing and distribution assets into three separate entities.

UM Wins Levi’s Global Media Account

Interpublic Group-owned media agency UM has been handed global media duties by clothing brand Levi’s, Campaign reported this week. UM has worked with Levi’s in North America since 2019, and has now been handed an expanded global remit following a review.

Adidas’ Marketing Spend Was Up by €56 Million in Q1

German sports brand Adidas said its marketing spend was up by €56 million year-on-year in Q1, as it continues to invest heavily in marketing. CEO Bjorn Gulden said marketing is a key driver of growth for the brand, and said it aims to spend roughly 12 percent of net sales on marketing – a figure which it hit exactly this quarter. Gulden said it will continue to target this figure in the years ahead, meaning marketing spend should grow if net sales continue to grow.

Colgate-Palmolive Reports Strong ROI on Ad Spend

Multinational CPG business Colgate-Palmolive said its advertising spend was up by 16 percent in Q1 this year compared to the year before, an increase both in overall spend and as a percentage of net sales. The company said it also expects strong levels of brand investment over the course of 2024, with advertising proving to be an effective growth driver. Noel Wallace, Colgate-Palmolive’s chairman and CEO said the company is being disciplined with its media spend, using data and analytics to justify investment and drive personalisation, and that ROI on ad spend has been strong as a result.

McDonald’s says Shifting Spend Away from Traditional Mass Media Drives Profitability

McDonald’s is continuing to invest heavily in advertising, but is increasingly focusing on personalised digital marketing powered by data gained through its loyalty programme, executives said on the company’s Q1 earnings call this week. “With the insights powered by our loyalty members, we will work to deliver the right message at the right time to the right consumer, encouraging those who already love McDonald’s to visit even more,” said Chris Kempczinski, McDonald’s’ CEO. “When we shift marketing investment from traditional mass media like television, print and billboard ads, to collective investment in modern and digital capabilities to personalise the experience, we drive profitability.”

Hershey Reviews its US Media Account

US confectionary brand The Hershey Company is reviewing its US media account, covering its core confectionary business which is currently handled by Horizon Media, alongside other parts of its business. Hershey is looking to centralise media operations across all its brands, which also include salty and protein food categories, according to AgencySpy.

Hires of the Week

Equativ Hires Amazon’s Claude Spasevski to Lead Retail Media Unit

Ad tech firm Equativ has appointed Claude Spasevski as SVP Data and Retail Media. Spasevski joins from Amazon, where he led retail media strategies for Amazon Ads and Amazon Web Services. 

RTL Deutschland Promotes Inga Leschek to CCO

RTL Deutschland has named Inga Leschek as Chief Content Officer. The management duties will be added to Leschek’s current role as Program Manager for RTL and RTL+.

This Week on VideoWeek

Financial Times Joins Publishers Signing Licensing Deals with OpenAI

Google May Have to Limit its Own First-Party Data Capabilities to Satisfy the CMA

Amid Turbulence at the Top, Paramount Reports Stabilisation in Ad Market

How Do You Measure TV Out Of Home?

Freely Launches in UK with Hisense, Vestel and TiVo

Barb Prepares to Integrate Return Path Data from Connected TVs

Telly is Seeing Social Budgets Coming into CTV

Meta Ad Revenues to Overtake All Linear TV in 2025

Condé Nast Puts Live Content as the Centre of its Video Strategy

Greater Transparency and Rigour is Needed to Mitigate Gen AI’s Brand Safety Threat

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About the Author:

Tim Cross is Assistant Editor at VideoWeek.
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