The WIR: Federal Prosecutors Open Investigation into Media Buying, Amazon Considers Building a Video Ad Server, and Comcast Wins Battle for Sky


In this week’s Week in Review: US federal prosecutors open an investigation into media buying practices by ad agencies including Havas, Amazon considers stepping into FreeWheel’s video ad serving territory, and Comcast wins the battle against Fox for Sky. To receive an update on the industry’s top stories every Friday, sign up to the weekly Video Round-Up.

Top Stories

US Federal Prosecutors Open Investigation Into Media Buying
Federal prosecutors in the US have opened an investigation into non-transparent media-buying practices conducted by the large agency holding groups, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. The FBI has reportedly over the past few months interviewing people within the industry about ad-buying practices, as was reported by Campaign back in June, and prosecutors have now begun issuing subpoenas as part of the investigation according the the WSJ. Havas was named as one of the companies under scrutiny, but others are also being investigated.

Amazon Considers Building Video Ad Server
Amazon has reportedly recently been discussing building its own video ad server which would compete directly with FreeWheel and Google’s video ad serving. It’s claimed the company has held conversations with big video players around licensing the tech. A report from Business Insider says that Amazon wants to build a video ad server primarily to serve its own streaming services, but that the potential to license out such a server has arisen during meetings Amazon has held with media companies.

Google has, over the past year or so, been muscling into FreeWheel’s specialist territory of serving video ads on streamed TV content. If Amazon does try to enter the space, it might be advantaged by it’s ability to build a server specifically to meet the needs of the current market, and to use its customer data for ad targeting.

Comcast Wins Battle for Sky
Comcast won last weekend’s auction for Sky, substantially beating out Fox’s offer in the final sealed bid round. Comcast’s final bid came in at £17.28 per share, representing a total bid of £30.6 billion, much higher than Fox’s £15.67 per share offer. Following the result, Fox has agreed to sell its own 39 percent stake in Sky to Comcast, handing Comcast full control of the British broadcaster.

The deal makes Comcast the largest pay-TV operator in the world, with 52 million customers, according to Reuters. Chairman and chief executive Brian Roberts echoed what he’d said when the takeover was first proposed, stating that Sky will help Comcast expand internationally. However, some believe the company has overpaid, and its stock fell by nearly eight percent when markets opened on Monday. The final price is much higher than than Comcast’s initial bid of £22 billion.

The Week in Tech

AT&T Unveils New Ad Division, Xandr
Following AT&T’s acquisition of AppNexus earlier this year, the telecoms company has unveiled its rebranded advertising division, ‘Xandr’. Xandr encompasses all aspects of the existing AT&T advertising & analytics businesses, including AT&T’s advanced TV business, AT&T AdWorks; AT&T’s data and analytics business; ATT.net and AppNexus, which will continue to support its US and global customers under the Xandr umbrella.

The company also announced that Xandr has entered into agreements with Altice USA and Frontier Communications to aggregate and sell their national addressable TV advertising inventory. AT&T says this marks the first steps towards creating a national TV marketplace for advertisers and premium content publishers.

BARB Launches Multiple Screen Reporting
UK TV measurement body BARB has for the first time begun to report multiple-screen television programme ratings. BARB is now producing daily viewing figures which break down the number of people watching television programmes on four screens: TV sets, tablets, PCs and smartphones. These multiple-screen viewing figures are the output of Project Dovetail, and will be released in three stages. Programme average audiences were released this week, with multiple-screen reach/time spent viewing and multiple-screen advertising campaign performance to be released in the future.

iSpot.tv Raises $30 Million in Funding
TV ad measurement company iSpot.tv announced this week it has raised $30 million in an investment round lead by Insight Venture Partners and Madrona Venture Group. This brings total investment in the company to $57.8 million. iSpot, which says it helps brands definitively attribute TV ad exposures, has seen revenue growth of over 100 percent year-on-year for five years running. The company says the new investment will be used to continue product innovations, and to expand customer success and sales operations.

UK Viewability Hits All Time High
UK viewability rates hit an all time high in H1 this year according to Integral Ad Science’s latest Media Quality Report. Viewability levels for desktop video ads reached 64.5 percent, while mobile web video ads hit 69 percent. The study also found that ad fraud levels remain higher among video ads than display ads, due to fraudsters chasing video’s higher CPMs. Overall fraud rates for video ads not optimised against fraud were 8.6 percent in H1 this year, while optimised ads saw fraud rates of only 1.4 percent.

Millenials and Gen Z Concerned About Data, but Accept Cookies Nonetheless says Report
Millenials and Gen Z in the UK are concerned about use of their private data online, but nonetheless accept the majority of cookies anyway according to a report from The Exchange Lab and Populus. The survey found that while 77 percent are so concerned about data usage that they don’t think the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) goes far enough, only 11 percent actually carefully consider before accepting cookies on websites they visit. The report also looked into these generations attitudes towards the online value exchange associated with advertising. Almost half (47 percent) said they were happy to share personal data with brands if they get something in return.

OpenX Joins IAB UK Board
OpenX this week announced the company is taking a board seat with IAB UK, a UK trade association for digital advertising. OpenX’s vice president of European partner services, Gavin Stirrat, will be representing the company on the IAB UK Board, joining over 20 other industry leaders including representatives from the likes of Google, Facebook, and Microsoft. “Quality is in our DNA at OpenX. IAB UK’s own quality initiatives align closely with our top priorities at OpenX, and I strongly believe this collaboration will prove immensely valuable in building a sustainable and fraud-free digital advertising ecosystem in the days, months and years to come,” said Gavin Stirrat.

The Week in TV

Apple’s $1 Billion Content Budget Earmarked for Controversy-Free Shows
Apple has set aside $1 billion to spend on original programming, but CEO Tim Cook is insisting the company invests only in broad-appeal shows which are free of violence, politics, and risqué story lines. According to a WSJ report, Cook fears that since Apple is primarily a consumer products company, viewers have the ability to punish the business for making content they don’t like by boycotting its products, meaning it can’t afford to risk showing edgier content in the same way companies like Netflix can. Cook’s concerns were apparently first sparked while watching Apple’s first scripted drama, ‘Vital Signs’, which featured drug taking, gratuitous sex scenes, and gun violence.

Hearst Launches Private Connected TV Marketplace
Hearst Television this week announced the launch of Hearst Anyscreen, an over-the-top (OTT) advertising platform which will give brands preferred access to Hearst-owned programming through partnerships with content delivery businesses like Roku. “Hearst is particularly well positioned as a premium video publisher, both locally and nationally,” said Jordan Wertlieb, Hearst Television’s president. “When we combine our content assets and partnerships with key distribution platforms, we have a very special value proposition for our clients.”

Premium Video Ad Views Up 31 Percent in Europe
Ads run on premium video content saw total views in Europe shoot up 31 percent year-on-year in Europe, while total video views increased 22 percent, according to FreeWheel’s Video Monetisation Report for Q2 2018. ‘Big screen’ viewing on TV sets captured almost a third (30 percent) of all ad view during the period, which FreeWheel attributed partly to the FIFA World Cup. The report also found that direct-sold deals still dominate the market, accounting for 88 percent of premium video ads sold in Q2.

The Week in Publishing

Instagram Co-Founders Leave Company
Instagram’s co-founders,  Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, revealed this week that they are both leaving the firm, saying they want to look into creating new products elsewhere. The pair, who are CEO and CTO respectively, had reportedly had disagreements with the leadership of Instagram owner Facebook, with tensions starting as far back as 2014 when Facebook bough WhatsApp. The two had apparently been keen to avoid the heavy integration between Facebook and Instagram which Facebook’s leadership had sought.

Vox Media Expected to Miss Revenue Targets
Vox Media will reportedly miss its revenue targets for this year by a significant margin as digital ad revenues for the year disappoint, according to the WSJ. The company had apparently set a revenue target for 2018 of $200 million, representing 25 percent growth on last year’s income of $160 million. Instead, according to those close to the matter, the publisher fears it will struggle to hit double-digit percentage revenue growth.

eMarketer Lowers Snap Ad Revenue Forecast
Despite Snap’s efforts to make its platform more advertiser-friendly over the past year, eMarketer has significantly downgraded its 2018 ad revenue forecast for the company, lowering its prediction from $1.03 billion in March to $662.1 million. The adjustment comes from the fact that most ads on Snapchat are now bought programmatically, which is bringing down prices.

The Week for Agencies

WPP to Merge Young & Rubicam with VML
WPP announced this week its plans to merge two of its properties, US agency Young & Rubicam and digitally focused VML, into a new business called VMLY&R. The new business will be led by current VML chief executive Jon Cook. The move is part of new WPP CEO Mark Read’s efforts to simplify WPP’s structure, a strategy largely endorsed by analysts who believe the holding group’s sprawling network of agencies needs to be consolidated.

S4 Captial Debuts on Stock Market
Sir Martin Sorrell’s investment vehicle S4 Capital debuted on the London Stock Exchange today as it completed its reverse takeover of Derriston plc. Derriston has now officially been renamed S4 Capital, with Sorrell taking over as executive chairman. At time of writing, share prices sat at £1.45, slightly lower than the £1.47 that trading began at.

Partnerships of the Week

Adobe Advertising Cloud Debuts Partnership with Flashtalking
Adobe Advertising Cloud this week announced a new partnership with Flashtalking. Through an integration and joint roadmap, the two say their platforms will enable advertisers to analyse data on their own terms at a granular level. Advertising Cloud customers will now be able to activate Flashtalking’s pre-certified ad serving solutions. and similarly Flashtalking customers will be able to easily activate Advertising Cloud’s Creative, Search and omni-channel DSP solutions.

Hires of the Week

Omnicom Media Group Picks Johan Boserup as CEO of Global Investment
Johan Boserup has returned to Omnicom Media Group, joining the company as CEO of global investment. Boserup left Omnicom six years ago to join WPP’s GroupM, but returns now to replace Barry Cupples.

Kelly Williams Joins RTL AdConnect Board of Directors
RTL AdConnect announced this week that Kelly Williams, managing director of commercial at ITV, has joined the Board of AdConnect as part of a strengthening of the two company’s partnerships. Kelly Williams said “We are very pleased to continue and develop our partnership with RTL Adconnect to provide brands around the globe the opportunity to advertise with ITV. We have collaborated with fellow UK commercial broadcasters to highlight how TV is the most brand-safe, trusted and quality advertising environment and can extend that message to Europe through this partnership.”

This Week on VAN

How AppNexus Balances Buy-Side and Sell-Side Interests, read more on VAN

Sports are Driving Live Streaming at Scale says FreeWheel’s Bremond, read more on VAN

Auction Tweaking is Fine as Long as It’s Transparent says IPONWEB’s Shevlin, read more on VAN

Efficient Ad Targeting is Key to AVOD Success says Roku’s Duarte, read more on VAN

Journalism’s Current Business Model Isn’t Sustainable says Ozone’s Reeve, read more on VAN

Ad of the Week

Dolmio, The Battle of Dinnertime, AMV BBDO


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