The WIR: Paramount+ Explores Streaming Partnerships, Instagram Tests Non-Skippable Ads, and UN Secretary General Calls for Fossil Fuel Ads Ban

Tim Cross 07 June, 2024 

In this week’s Week in Review: Paramount looks into streaming partnerships, the UN Secretary General calls for a ban on fossil fuel ads, and Instagram tests non-skippable ads.

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Paramount Explores Streaming Partnerships for Paramount+

Amid ongoing takeover drama, Paramount set out its strategic vision at its annual shareholders meeting on Tuesday. Following the departure of Bob Bakish in April, the new leadership laid out plans for $500 million in savings, sale of its non-core assets, and potential joint ventures with other streaming companies. 

The co-CEOs, George Cheeks, Chris McCarthy and Brian Robbins, said there had been “a significant level of inbound interest” from potential partners looking to join forces with Paramount+, “all of which recognise the value of our content.” The company is looking to   license more titles after their first run on Paramount+. “We need to think how we grow the revenue of our vast library, and more importantly, expand demand for our content,” said co-CEO Brian Robbins. 

The newly formed ‘office of the CEO’ is also targeting $500 million in annual savings by reducing expenses and selling off assets, alongside plans to refine its international strategy. “We’re confident our business can be run more efficiently by adjusting to the realities of the environment today,” added co-CEO George Cheeks.

UN Secretary General Calls for Ban on Fossil Fuel Ads

UN Secretary General António Guterres this week called for governments around the world to ban fossil fuel businesses from running ads, to help combat climate change. Speaking at an event in New York, Guterres described coal, oil, and gas companies as the “godfathers of climate chaos”, and said that advertising has helped them spread misleading narratives around themselves and their impact on climate change.

While there’s been pushback within some parts of the industry against running ads for major polluters, shown by the recent backlash against Havas for taking on Shell as a client, few governments have taken strict action. France passed a law back in 2022 banning fossil fuel businesses from advertising, though there are exceptions within that law. Natural gas companies for example are exempt, and fossil fuel businesses can still sponsor events. The governments of Canada and Ireland are considering similar measures.

But Guterres urged “every country to ban advertising from fossil fuel companies”, and for “news media and tech companies to stop taking fossil fuel advertising”.

Instagram Tests Non-Skippable Ads

Instagram is testing non-skippable ads within its primary feed, Reels, and its stories feature, Meta has confirmed to the BBC. Currently the app allows users to swipe or scroll past ads within all of its various content feeds, but now the company is trialling a feature called “ad break”, displaying a countdown before ads can be skipped – similar to the way ads are presented on YouTube. “We’re always testing formats that can drive value for advertisers,” Meta said in a statement.

While Meta is hardly struggling for ad dollars, the industry’s heightened focus on measuring attention could threaten some investment across its services. YouTube’s pre- and mid-roll formats don’t guarantee attention, since viewers can still switch tabs or scroll down the page, but they can’t simply be skipped past like ads on Instagram. And social platforms including YouTube are still figuring out monetisation on ultra short form video feeds, which is harder to monetise due to the short content and lack of pre- and mid-roll. These forced ad breaks within Reels could provide a solution.

The challenge will undoubtedly be balancing the added value for advertisers against the negative impact on user experience.

The Week in Tech

Seedtag Acquires Beachfront Media for Contextual CTV Targeting

Seedtag, a contextual advertising company, has acquired Beachfront Media, a sell-side platform (SSP), for an undisclosed amount. The contextual ad tech firm has been building out its TV advertising business over the last few months, launching its Contextual TV product in March to provide contextual targeting on CTV ad buys. This week’s announcement builds on those capabilities, as the Beachfront SSP provides direct access to CTV inventory. Read more on VideoWeek.

Google Ordered to Face Ad Dominance Lawsuit in London

Google has been ordered to face a £13.6 billion lawsuit relating to its dominance of the ad tech sector in London, where Ad Tech Collective Action is seeking damages on behalf of UK publishers, apps and websites. Google appealed to London’s Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) last month, urging the judicial body to block the case. But on Wednesday CAT ruled that the suit would proceed towards trial, which is unlikely to take place before the end of 2025. “This is a decision of major importance to the victims of Google’s anti-competitive conduct in ad tech,” said Claudio Pollack, a partner of Ad Tech Collection Action. “Google will now have to answer for its practices in a full trial.”

‘TV by OpenX’ Rolls Out in Europe

OpenX, an omnichannel supply-side platform, this week announced it is launching ‘TV by OpenX’, a product which the company says combines the best of linear and programmatic TV buying models, in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Japan, and Australia. TV by OpenX pools direct-sourced connected TV (CTV) inventory from what it deems to be broadcast-quality publishers, which OpenX says is a first step towards true transparent, biddable CTV. Read more on VideoWeek.

Deutsche Telekom and Accedo Build XR Sports Streaming App

Deutsche Telekom this week announced plans for a new extended reality (XR) sports streaming app, which it will build with video tech firm Accedo. The planned streaming service will be an interactive version of MagentaSport, Deutsche Telekom’s sports streaming service. By integrating Magenta’s live streams and data feeds into Accedo’s XR platform, Accedo Xtend, the new app will play host to a range of interactive features. These include live statistics, multi-camera feeds, player cards, and 3D sponsored experiences, according to the companies. Read more on VideoWeek.

Nvidia Leads $50 Million Funding Round in AI Video Startup Twelve Labs

Chip giant Nvidia has made an investment in AI video company Twelve Labs, the South Korean startup announced on Wednesday. Twelve Labs uses AI to analyse video content and match elements to human language, create text based on the video content, and even edit short-form video. The Series A funding round raised $50 million, co-led by Nvidia’s venture capital arm NVentures and New Enterprise Associates. Existing investors included Index Ventures, Radical Ventures, WndrCo, and Korea Investment Partners. “The large language model (LLM) market is dominated by a handful of Big Tech corporations such as OpenAI, but we believe that Twelve Labs can become a global leader in the multimodal AI industry for video understanding,” said John MJ Kim, a principal at Korea Investment Partners.

Italian Watchdog Fines Meta €3.5 Million for Unfair Use of Personal Data

Meta has been fined €3.5 million by the Italian Competition Authority (AGCM) over “unfair commercial practices” relating to the use of personal data for advertising purposes. The regulator found that Instagram users were not properly informed about the use of their data. “We disagree with the Italian competition authority’s decision and are assessing our options,” a Meta spokesperson responded.

Yahoo Combines CTV and Linear Viewership Data for Planning Within DSP

Yahoo Advertising has launched a new dataset, Unified TV Audiences, enabling advertisers to view CTV and linear viewership in the Yahoo DSP. The dataset, which combines ACR and set-top box data, helps advertisers plan, activate and measure across 108 million US households, according to Yahoo. “As the landscape of TV viewership data becomes increasingly fragmented and complex, advertisers face the challenge of adequately targeting and measuring their audiences across TV platforms and channels,” said Yahoo CRO Elizabeth Herbst-Brady. “Unified TV Audiences solve for this by blending CTV and linear data so advertisers have a holistic view of the TV ecosystem, enabling them to more accurately reach their intended audiences, while optimising strategies, targeting and performance.”

Justice Department Rejects Google Cheque in Advertising Antitrust Case

Google’s proposal to pay the US Government for damages in order to avoid a jury trial has been rejected by the Justice Department, according to Reuters. The Government is suing the tech giant over alleged dominance in digital advertising, seeking to break up the company’s ad tech business. The lawsuit accuses Google of overcharging government agencies upwards of $100 million for online ad purchases. Google responded that the government “manufactured” the claims to obtain a jury trial, arguing that the case should be heard only by a judge. It attempted to pay the damages to that end, but the Justice Department declined. “Google has fought hard to keep its anticompetitive conduct shielded from public view,” said the Justice Department. 

Comcast and TransUnion to Create Addressable Audiences   

Comcast Advertising has partnered with TransUnion, a global information and insights company, to build audience segments for addressable TV. The ads business will be able to match Comcast audiences with TransUnion’s identity graph. Advertisers on Comcast platforms can then run campaigns against these custom segments. “Our integration with Comcast Advertising will provide advertisers with a better understanding of their high value audiences, including the size of a specific audience, to activate against and deliver addressable campaigns to households via linear and streaming TV,” said Gareth Davies, SVP Product Management at TransUnion.

Scope3 Launches Always-On Carbon Emissions Reporting Tool

Scope3, a supply chain emissions data business, has launched a new tool for brands and media buyers to track their ad emissions. The ‘Media Reporting’ tool provides “always-on” reporting of carbon emissions across digital ad campaigns. These are displayed in the Scope3 Collaborative Sustainability Platform, allowing buyers to compare emissions to market benchmarks, simulate carbon and waste reduction against performance for their campaigns, and initiate recommended actions to decarbonise. “By combining performance and emissions into a singular view to help brands make the smartest choices for their business, this evolution of our platform brings us a giant step closer to a decarbonised advertising ecosystem,” said Anne Coghlan, Co-Founder and COO at Scope3.

Top Advisor to Linda Yaccarino Leaves X

Joe Benarroch, Head of Business Operations at X (formerly Twitter), has left the social media company, the WSJ reported this week. Reports describe Benarroch as top lieutenant to CEO Linda Yaccarino, having previously worked together at NBCUniversal. Also this week, X announced it will formally allow publication of consensual and clearly labelled adult content.

The Week in TV

ITN and Open Origins Use Blockchain to Safeguard News Archive Against AI

ITN, a news production company, has partnered with tech firm Open Origins to protect its content from AI scraping. Using blockchain technology, each item in the ITN archive will be given a unique identifier. If the archive becomes corrupted, this makes it possible to cross-reference every image and video with its unique identifier. The deal marks the first of its kind in the UK, aiming to safeguard news content against AI-generated disinformation and deepfakes. “The ITN archive is a unique repository of Britain’s cultural history over 70 years and we are excited to be using new technology to protect this valuable asset,” said Tami Hoffman, Director of News Distribution and Commercial Innovation at ITN. “As the information ecosystem becomes increasingly polluted with synthetic material, news organisations will have to work hard to retain audience trust. Partnering with Open Origins allows ITN to reassure its viewers and clients by ringfencing the archive from future threats.”

Paramount Hears Rival Offers as Redstone Sours on Skydance Bid

Paramount chair Shari Redstone reportedly remains unhappy with Skydance Media’s offer for the media company, after the deal was recommended by the Paramount board last week. Sources said Redstone was displeased by Skydance reducing its $2.5 billion offer to provide additional cash for Paramount shareholders. On Tuesday, Reuters reported that Redstone’s disapproval has reopened the door to rival bidders, including Hollywood producer Steven Paul. 

MultiChoice Recommends Canal+ Takeover 

An independent MultiChoice board has recommended a takeover offer from Canal+, which would see the French stakeholder buy the remaining shares in the South African pay-TV company. The offer values Multichoice at ZAR 55 billion, which the board called “fair and reasonable”. The deal is expected to close by April 2025.

Netflix Reaches 58 Percent of UK Households Says Barb

The UK SVOD market added 700,000 subscribers during Q1 2024, according to Barb, with all major streaming services gaining customers during the quarter. The increase brings the total number of UK SVOD subs to 19.5 million, meaning 67.9 percent of UK homes now have an SVOD subscription. Netflix saw its ad tier households rise from 1.45 million (5.1 percent of homes) in Q4 2023 to 2.12 million (7.4 percent of homes) in Q1 2024, suggesting 12.7 percent of UK Netflix households are on the ad tier. Barb estimates that 16.7 million households have a Netflix subscription, representing 58 percent of UK homes.

ITV Announces £1 Billion in Planet V Bookings

Planet V, ITV’s self-service ad platform, has hit £1 billion in bookings since launching in October 2020, the broadcaster announced on Thursday. Planet V has attracted over 1,100 new advertisers to ITV since launch, according to the company, with 10 percent of annual digital ad revenues now sourced from the long tail of advertisers. The ad platform has also become the exclusive entry point for ITVX, and handles over 99 percent of ITV’s digital bookings. “Planet V has been a step change in the industry and has fundamentally changed how we engage with advertisers digitally,” said ITV Commercial MD Kelly Williams. It has been a key enabler of our digital ad growth, delivering sophisticated data-driven addressable advertising at scale.”

MFE Forecasts 6 Percent Ad Revenue Growth for H1 2024

MediaForEurope (MFE) has forecast 6 percent YoY ad revenue growth for the first half of 2024. CEO Pier Silvio Berlusconi made the announcement at a press conference on Wednesday. The forecast is in line with MFE’s Q1 results, which also saw a 6 percent YoY uptick in ad revenues.

Netflix Revamps App for Simpler Navigation

Netflix is revamping its app for the first time in 10 years, according to Reuters, as the streaming giant aims to increase the time that viewers spend on the platform, and draw subscribers to its ad-supported tier. The revamped user interface (UI) is designed to reduce the “eye gymnastics” that puts viewers off watching Netflix, with information spread across the UI. “We really wanted to make that simpler, more intuitive, everything easier to navigate,” said Pat Flemming, Senior Director of Member Product at Netflix. A subset of users will now see the new format, which includes enlarged title cards, reorganised information and easier-to-read details, such as when a title “spent 8 weeks in the top 10”.

Amazon Prime Video Has Lowest SVOD Churn Rate Finds Parks Associates

Amazon Prime Video has the lowest churn rate of any SVOD service in the US, according to Parks Associates. The market research firm tracks churn data for 89 total services, including 85 SVOD services. The data suggests Prime Video has the lowest churn rate at 8 percent, while Discovery+ has the highest at nearly 43 percent. “Churn is part of the standard business model, but companies are working hard to minimise it and keep consumers engaged longer,” said Eric Sorensen, Director, Streaming Video Tracker at Parks Associates. “Amazon Prime Video has held the lowest churn rate for the last two years because it is included with Prime; however, Netflix continues to creep closer and reduce churn by adding more tiers of service and syndicated content.” 

Staccs Launches Music FAST Channels on Samsung TV Plus

Staccs, a free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) company based in Sweden, has launched two new music channels on Samsung TV Plus. Staccs TV Throwback and Staccs TV Celebrate will be available in the UK from 13th June. The announcement follows the launch of Staccs TV in the UK, Spain and Italy earlier this year. “We are delighted to introduce these two new FAST channels to the UK music scene,” said Staccs CEO Robert Kviby. “Our mission is to bring back real music television and with these themed channels, fans will be able to enjoy music in a very special way. Our partnership with Samsung is going from strength to strength, and these two new channels are a testament to this. Staccs TV Throwback and Staccs TV Celebrate will offer a unique blend of nostalgia and celebration, as well as showcasing how Staccs is genuinely building the best music TV platform around.

The Week for Publishers

Future Launches New Publisher Monetisation and Optimisation Tool ‘Elevate’

Future Plc, which owns a number of special interest titles, this week announced the launch of ‘Elevate’, a new suite of tools which it says are designed to help other publishers grow their various revenue streams. Publishers using elevate will have access to Future’s proprietary ad tech Hybrid and its audience data platform Aperture. Future says Elevate will also help publishers with growing their audiences and streamlining operations.

Immediate Media Sees Growth Across its Ads Business

Immediate Media, a publisher holding group which owns Radio Times, Good Food, and Top Gear Magazine among other titles, is currently seeing around 15 percent year-on-year growth in its ads business, CEO Sean Cornwell said in an interview with Press Gazette. Cornwell credited the company’s investment in ad tech as part of the reason driving the growth, enabling it to be flexible and creative in the solutions it offers partners.

LadBible Group Signs Advertising Deal with Peacock

LadBible Group has signed a deal with streaming service Peacock, which will see LadBible and its female-focused brand Betches create content based around Peacock shows. The seven figure deal, as reported by Adweek, is aimed at driving traffic to Peacock’s unscripted content. Lad Bible Group says the deal will be used as a case study to drive similar deals with other US-based brands, particularly those in the entertainment space.

The Sun Launches Clothing Line via ‘Fabulous’ Fashion Brand

The Sun this week announced it has launched a new clothing line under its ‘Fabulous’ brand: a section of the newspaper which covers beauty and fashion. The new clothing line marks a new revenue stream for the newspaper, as well as a means of reader engagement – The Sun said the clothes were designed with input from some of its readers.

News Corp Calls on Australian Government to Force Meta into Publisher Negotiations

Australia set the standard for legislation forcing tech companies to negotiate with publishers over payments for their content, bringing a law into force in 2021, but the government is in a standoff with Meta. Meta initially agreed deals with publishers, but most of those initial deals run out this year. Meta has no plans to renew them, saying it doesn’t get much value out of news, and could block users from posting news content if forced into negotiations. But News Corp Australia’s executive chairman Michael Miller said in a speech this week that the government should use its powers to force Meta into negotiations nonetheless.

Independent News Publishers are Seeing Their Content Labelled as Spam on Facebook

A number of small independent news publishers in the UK have reported frequently seeing their content posted on Facebook being flagged as spam and blocked on the platform, with no clear reason as to why, Press Gazette reported this week. The Independent Community News Network (ICNN) said it was aware of at least six publishers who had been affected, and Press Gazette said some local publications owned by large national groups have reported the same thing. The news comes at a time when many publishers are already struggling with falling traffic from social platforms.

The Week For Brands & Agencies

Advertising is No Longer the UK’s Least Trusted Industry, finds AA

UK consumers’ trust in advertising has risen, meaning advertising is no longer the least trusted industry in the UK, according to new research from the Advertising Association. The AA’s Value of Trust report, produced with Credos, found that advertising now sits ahead of the government and the media in terms of public trust. Younger people are more likely to trust advertising, according to the AA’s data, while TV remains the most trusted advertising channel overall.

US Ad Revenues to Approach $400 Billion This Year

The ad industry is heading into the second half of the year with bright expectations, with US ad revenues projected to approach $400 billion in 2024, according to the latest forecast from Brian Wieser, principal of consultancy Madison and Wall. The projection represents 6.3 percent YoY growth, excluding political advertising, revised upwards from Wieser’s previous forecast of 5.6 percent. The forecast follows a stronger-than-expected Q1, which saw the US market grow by 10.1 percent, outperforming Wieser’s prior prediction of 8 percent growth. As a result of this strong performance, the economist expects 6.7 percent revenue growth in Q2. Read more on VideoWeek.

Havas Wins SEGA Media Duties for Newly Consolidated EMEA/ANZ Account

Video game maker SEGA has appointed Havas Entertainment to handle media strategy, planning, and buying in a newly consolidated account covering EMEA and ANZ markets, following a competitive pitch. Havas Entertainment has already worked with SEGA, but the new remit effectively makes Havas Entertainment its lead agency for media and creative.

Goodway Group Launches Media+, Aimed at Helping Agencies Grow

Goodway Group, a business which provides media execution services to agencies, this week announced the launch of Media+, a consolidated set of services which it says it designed to help agencies grow in a crowded marketplace. “Media+ gives agencies services to develop a competitive advantage and pitch, win and retain clients at a higher level,” said the company in a blog post. “For agencies who partner with Goodway, our services go beyond media to support a wider, more comprehensive range of services to build upon the talent, tools and resources you may already have in-house.”

IPG Appointed as Ultra Beauty’s Media Agency of Record

Ultra Beauty, an American cosmetics brand valued at over $18 billion, has handed Interpublic Group an expanded media remit, Ad Age reported this week. IPG’s Mediahub has worked with the brand for seven years, according to Ad Age, but Ultra Beauty has now appointed a bespoke group within IPG Mediabrands as its media agency of record. This team, ‘Team Beauty’, will handle programmatic, addressable, and social buying and planning, as well as Ultra Beauty’s retail media business.

Stagwell’s Assembly Bolsters Media Capabilities

Assembly, an omnichannel media agency owned by holding group Stagwell, this week announced it is bolstering its media capabilities by folding in Brand New Galaxy, which will lose its own branding and come under the Assembly brand. Brand New Galaxy is a specialist in digital commerce, with clients including Lindt, Ceer, and Mashreq. Assembly has previously worked extensively with Brand New Galaxy on client projects, according to Stagwell.

Hires of the Week

PubMatic Promotes Frankie Warne to Lead UK Commercial Strategy 

PubMatic, a supply-side platform, has promoted Frankie Warne to Senior Director, Advertiser Solutions, UK Agency Lead. Warne has been with PubMatic for seven years, during which time she has helped develop the UK division’s supply path optimisation (SPO) strategy.

Nexxen Adds Three New UK Roles

Nexxen, an ad tech business, has added three new roles to its UK team. Neil Cooke joins as Enterprise Sales Director, Luc Benyon as Director of Commercial Enablement, and Lucy Madden as Agency Lead for Interpublic Group.

Roku Enlists Microsoft and Spotify Ad Execs 

Roku has appointed Sarah Harms and Sal Candela as VP of Advertising Marketing and VP of Global Agency Partnerships, respectively. Harms spent five years at Microsoft, having started her career at WPP. Candela joins from Spotify, following a three-year stint at Omnicom Media Group.

This Week on VideoWeek

Paramount Board Recommends Skydance Deal in Step Towards Merger

In-Housing and AI Deliver Marketing Efficiencies for HP

Seedtag Acquires Beachfront Media for Contextual CTV Targeting

‘TV by OpenX’ Rolls Out in Europe

Ligue 1 Considers D2C Service for Upcoming Season

US Ad Revenues to Approach $400 Billion This Year

New Samsung Ads Report: How Advertisers Can Tap into the FAST Market

Deutsche Telekom and Accedo Build XR Sports Streaming App

The Video Advertising Guide 2024 is Now Available to Download

Ad of the Week

Apple, Swoop

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About the Author:

Tim Cross is Assistant Editor at VideoWeek.
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