The WiR: WPP Set to Name Mark Read as CEO, Amazon Plans Ad-Supported Video App, and Johnston Press Blames Facebook News Feed Changes for Tough H1


In this week’s Week in Review: WPP reportedly prepares to announce Mark Read as its new CEO, Amazon plans an ad-supported video service for its Fire TV devices, and Johnston Press blames a difficult H1 on changes to Facebook and Google’s algorithms. To receive an update on the industry’s top stories every Friday, sign up to the weekly Video Round-Up.

Top Stories

WPP Set to Name Mark Read as New CEO
WPP is set to name Mark Read as its new CEO, with the announcement expected next week according to a report from the FT. Read has been running the group as co-chief operating officer alongside Andrew Scott since Sir Martin Sorrell resigned as CEO back in April. Reports had surfaced in recent weeks that David Kenny, who leads IBM’s Watson and Cloud Platform, was the favourite, but it appears WPP has opted for an internal promotion instead. Read will be tasked with directing the company through a transitional period as it faces increased competition from consultancies, increased in-housing by brands, and pressure to simplify its structure.

Amazon Planning Free, Ad-Supported Video App
Amazon is reportedly planning to launch a new ad-supported video app for users of Amazon Fire TV devices, according to a report in The Information. The new service, ‘Free Dive’, will be run as a completely separate entity to Amazon Prime Video according to the report, and is reaching out to studios to license TV shows for the service.

Amazon’s ad revenue has been rising in recent years, and the company already runs video ads on platforms like Twitch and IMDB (which will be building the new service). Many expect it will sooner or later launch an ad-supported version of Prime, and as VAN reported last month the company appears to be on the lookout for people to help build such a service.

Johnston Press Blames Facebook News Feed Changes for Difficult H1
British publisher Johnston Press blamed Facebook’s deprioritisation of publishers on the News Feed, as well as changes to Google’s search algorithm, for a tough first half of the year in which revenue fell by ten percent. The group, which owns over 200 regional and local titles across the UK, said it its results that underlying ad revenues were down 15 percent year-on-year. “The continued challenges posed by Google and Facebook, seen most recently through algorithm and news feed changes, have contributed to total digital revenue decline,” said Johnston Press chief executive David King.

The Week in Tech

Amobee Completes Videology Acquisition
Amobee this week closed its deal to acquire video ad tech company Videology for $101 million, following its successful bid for the business’ assets last month. Videology founder, chairman and CEO Scott Ferber will join Amobee as chief innovation officer in conjunction with the acquisition. “Amobee’s successful acquisition of Videology’s assets gives our clients a next generation approach to reach and engage customers on a global scale across multiple devices and screens,” said Kim Perell, CEO of Amobee.

Oath Reportedly Scanning Emails for Advertiser-Friendly Data
Oath is reportedly breaking industry convention and scanning emails for advertiser-friendly data to sell, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. The company is reportedly pitching a service to advertisers which scans over 200 million Yahoo Mail inboxes for data, bucking the trend seen among other big tech companies – Google for example stopped scanning messages in Gmail for data last year.

TVSquared Enters Japanese Market
TVSquared this week announced the opening of TVSquared Japan. The company said that the Tokyo-based offices will provide on-the-ground support for the world’s third-largest advertising market, where TV ad spend is expected to reach more than $15 billion this year.

The Week in TV

RTL Group Reports Strong H1 Thanks to Local VOD and In-House Production
European broadcaster RTL Group beat expectations in it’s first half financial results, reporting revenue growth of 2.3 percent to €3.046 million. The company attributed the results to strong growth in digital, helped by it’s strategy of developing locally-focussed video on-demand services. RTL’s production arm, FremantleMedia, also has particularly strong first half, and the broadcaster has now dropped its interest in an acquisition of Dutch production company Endemol Shine, preferring to focus on developing its own scripted shows with its current resources.

Amazon Appears to Shut Down Criticism of US Open Coverage
Amazon this week appeared to shut down criticism over its coverage of the US Open tennis tournament as it temporarily disabled reviews for its streams of the event. The US Open is one of Amazon’s first major attempts at broadcasting live sports, but viewers left a number of reviews of the coverage complaining about poor picture and sound quality. As the tech giants begin to move into live sports broadcasting, some have maintained that they don’t have the experience or ability to deliver the same quality of broadcast that established TV players can, and this incident may bolster their case: at the time of writing, 80 percent of reviews of the coverage awarded it one star.

Vodafone and TPG Propose Merger
Australian telcos TPG and Vodafone Australia this week proposed a merger which would see TPG own 49.9 percent of the new TPG Telecom Limited, with Vodafone Group owning the other 50.1 percent. The merged company would be worth around $15 billion, and telco mogul David Teoh would reportedly be non-executive chairman, with Vodafone Australia’s CEO Inaki Berroeta taking the CEO role.

The Week in Publishing

Facebook Watch to Roll Out Worldwide
Facebook’s video hub Watch rolled out worldwide this week, just over a year since it launched in the US, the company announced today. Facebook’s fledgling video service will also open up the ability to monetise content to all creators, rather than just selected publishers as has been the case so far, though these capabilities will only be available initially in the UK, US, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. Read the full story on VAN.

YouTube Enables Unskippable Ads for All Monetisable Channels
YouTube revealed this week it will soon allow all creators who are able to monetise their videos to run non-skippable ads. The non-skippable format previously was only available to select channels, with the ad length restricted to either 15-20 seconds depending on the viewer’s location. The non-skippable format will be automatically enabled on all videos which already have skippable ads enabled, suggesting a shift from YouTube away from its skippable ‘TrueView’ format.

BrewDog Launches Streaming Platform
Craft beer maker BrewDog announced this week it is entering the video on-demand arena, launching a $4.99 per month streaming platform called ‘The BrewDog Network’. The service will feature a mix of licensed and original content all related to drinking in some way, and will serve as both a marketing tool and an additional revenue stream according to general manager Chris Burke.

Buzzfeed Turns to Donations to Support Ad Revenue
BuzzFeed News, the newly separated news arm of social publisher BuzzFeed, will begin asking users for donations to support its journalism according to a report from the Wall Street Journal. The company plans to ask readers to “help us report to you”, and will accept donations of between $5-$100, which could potentially be a precursor to the introduction of a membership system. Read the full story on VAN.

The Week for Agencies

eMarketer Predicts UK Digital Ad Spend to Grow 10 Percent Next Year
eMarketer forecasted this week that digital ad spend in the UK will grow from £12.98 billion this year to £14.27 billion next year, a 9.9 percent increase. A lot of this growth is expected to come from mobile, where spending is predicted to increase 15.5 percent next year.

Xaxis Launches Programmatic Hub to Help Chinese Brand Reach Global Audiences
Xaxis has launched a ‘programmatic hub’ designed to help Chinese brands run ad campaigns which reach international audiences, according to a report from The Drum this week. ‘The Outbound Hub’ will reportedly offer brands help with audience strategy and planning and multi-market campaign operations and optimisation.

Hires of the Week

Rachel Whetstone Joins Netflix as Comms Chief
Rachel Whetstone has left her at Facebook to head up corporate communications for Netflix, following a number of other departures from Facebook’s high-ranking executives in recent months.

Alex Hardiman Chosen as Product Chief at The Atlantic
Alex Hardiman has also left Facebook, leaving her role as head of news products to join The Atlantic as chief business and product officer.

This Week on VAN

Buzzfeed Turns to Donations to Support Ad Revenue, read more on VAN

Facebook Watch to Roll Out Worldwide, read more on VAN

Why Smart TV Makers Could Still Become Influential Players in the OTT Market: Q&A with VideoAmp, read more on VAN

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