The WIR: ITV Forecasts Coronavirus Hit on Ad Sales, Quibi Raises Another $750 Million, and the Independent Reports Third Straight Year of Profitability


In this week’s Week in Review: ITV’s 2019 performance is marred by forecasts of a coronavirus-led ad sales slump, Quibi brings its total funding pre-launch to $1.75 billion, and the Independent reports a third straight year of profitability after axing its print edition. To receive an update on the industry’s top stories every Friday, sign up to the weekly Video Round-Up.

Top Stories

ITV Expects Coronavirus to Dent Ad Sales
ITV warned in its full year financial results, released on Thursday, that it expects coronavirus to dent its ad sales this year as advertisers reign in their ad spend. The broadcaster said that it has already seen an impact on ad revenues as travel companies have deferred their spending, and that it expects total advertising to be down ten percent year-on-year in April (compared to its forecast of a two percent upswing in Q1).

The rest of the news from ITV however was broadly positive, with total external revenue for the full year up three percent to £3.3 billion. And while total ad revenues were down 1.5 percent, this was better than previously predicted. “Thanks to the hard work of our teams across the business, our full year results have come in ahead of expectations helped by revenue growth in the second half of the year in ITV Studios, advertising and online,” said CEO Carolyn McCall. “We are making good progress in each area of our strategy and our investments in data, technology, online and in streaming will enable ITV to be a sustainable, diversified and structurally sound digital media and entertainment business.”

Quibi Raises Another $750 Million Pre-Launch
Upcoming short-form mobile streaming service Quibi this week said it has secured $750 million in its second round of funding, which the company said will be used to help fund its tech and content production. This brings Quibi, which is led by founder Jeffrey Katzenberg and CEO Meg Whitman, to a total of $1.75 billion in funding. Quibi says this extra money should take the business into profitability as it prepares for its launch in April. The company has so far managed to gain the confidence of investors and advertisers (the service sold out of its first year of ad inventory last October), but analysts are still split on whether the app will take off.

The Independent Reaches Third Straight Year of Profitability After Nixing its Print Edition
UK news publisher The Independent this year announced a nine percent rise in its annual turnover, which reached £27 million for its 2018-19 financial year. It also reported profits of £2.3 million, marking the third straight year of profitability since it axed its print edition and went digital-only. The Independent says focus on its digital operations has seen strong growth in its global audience, particularly in the US, where it claims to have more monthly unique visitors than titles like Vice and Vox. “Few, if any, serious, quality newspapers in the world have successfully made the transformation from print to digital only,” said John Paton, chair of Independent Digital News and Media Ltd.

“Two keys to our success are a relentless focus on investing in growth areas, and support of a diverse range of revenue streams across advertising, licensing and syndication, and readers,” said chief executive Zach Leonard. “This has served us, our advertisers and growing international digital audiences well over the last ten years.”

The Week in Tech

mParticle Raises $45 Million in Series D Funding
Customer data platform mParticle this week announced it has raised $45 million in a Series D funding round led by Arrowroot Capital. This brings mParticle’s total funding to over $120 million. The new money will be used to scale the company’s global infrastructure, develop new solutions, and build out key partnerships according to mParticle.

Alongside the funding round, mParticle announced a new partnership with identity resolution platform LiveRamp. “With ‘LiveRamp for Targeting,’ brands can augment both their identity resolution capabilities, as well as the number of platforms where they can engage with their audience,” mParticle said in a press release.

DoubleVerify CEO Wayne Gatinella Steps Down
DoubleVerify’s CEO Wayne Gatinella stepped down from his position this week, following sensational claims about his personal life made by the New York Post. Gattinella denies the claims made by the post, describing them as “false and defamatory”. DoubleVerify will be led by board member Laura Desmond until a new permanent CEO can be found.

Pluto TV Releases “Most Significant Product Upgrade in Years”
Viacom-owned ad-supported streaming television service Pluto TV this week released ‘Project Venetia’, which it describes as the most significant update to the platform in years. Project Venetia sees Pluto TV get a new linear UX, an upgraded on-demand UX, and new features like channel favouriting and watch lists. Pluto TV also launched its largest ever consumer marketing campaign in the US, debuting its new tagline “Drop In. It’s Free.”

“Today marks another major step for Pluto TV in its mission to entertain the planet. Project Venetia makes it even easier for viewers to find and enjoy their favourite streaming TV programming,” said Tom Ryan, CEO and co-founder of Pluto TV. “And with our new brand campaign, we’re communicating the core value proposition of Pluto TV and inviting everyone to visit a bold new world of television.”

Pluto TV new UX

GroupM to Feed Majority of Demand Through Index Exchange
WPP-owned media buying agency GroupM has signed a deal with supply-side platform Index Exchange which will see GroupM funnel the majority of its demand through Index, AdExchanger reported this week. The move is reportedly part of a supply-path optimisation effort, and is expected to help GroupM better manage its access to supply, as well as assist it in building an identity solution for the post-cookie world, according to the report.

The Week in TV

Roku Reportedly Considers Creating Roku Originals
Roku is considering commissioning original content, likely for its ad-supported OTT service The Roku Channel, Digiday reported this week. Sources close to the matter told Digiday that Roku has been in talks with media and entertainment companies about producing original shows for Roku, though these talks seem to be exploratory. A spokesperson told Digiday that Roku at the moment has not plans to create original content, though did not deny that the talks had taken place.

ProSiebenSat.1’s Revenues Up Three Percent in 2019, but Core TV Business Decline Continues
ProSiebenSat.1 this week reported its full-year results for 2019, in which it said group revenues were up three percent year-on-year to €4.14 billion. The media company’s digital and smart advertising business, which includes addressable advertising and ad revenues from its Joyn streaming platform, saw 38 percent growth year-on-year. But its core TV ad revenues were down five percent, meaning total external revenues in its Entertainment segment were down four percent to €2.5 billion.

ProSieben has increasingly been looking to diversify its business to combat this decline in its core revenue streams, and that strategy continued this week with the $500 million acquisition of US dating app developer Meet Group, via its ecommerce arm NuCom which it jointly owns with General Atlantic. Meet Group will be folded into NuCom’s existing dating business Parship Group.

DAZN to Expand to 200 New Markets Including UK
Sports streaming service DAZN this week announced it is expanding into over 200 new countries and territories this year, including the UK. The service has so far debuted in nine countries – Austria, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, Switzerland and the United States – but its global roll out has been slowed by the cost and difficult of acquiring sports rights in multiple markets. An upcoming boxing match booked for the service, featuring four-division world champion Canelo Álvarez, will be the first event available in the new markets. “Establishing DAZN as the global home of fight sports is just the first step and we couldn’t think of a better attraction for our inaugural event than Canelo’s traditional Cinco de Mayo Weekend fight,” said DAZN EVP Joseph Markowski.

DAZN will likely now look to acquire further sports rights as it attempts to establish itself in the new markets. Executive chairman John Skipper said in a conference last year that for the UK market, rights for the Premier League would be crucial, and rights for tennis would also be important.

BritBox Gets its First Original in Spitting Image Reboot
BritBox UK, the subscription video on-demand service jointly owned by the BBC and ITV, this week announced its first original series, a reboot of British satirical puppet show Spitting Image. Two new series have been commissioned for BritBox, with the first set to become available this August, and the second to follow next year. ITV and the BBC will hope the show the show is popular enough to draw in viewers amid competition from competing SVOD platforms, which as VAN has previously reported, have much larger puppet budgets.

The Week in Publishing

NYT Expects Coronavirus to Hit Ad Sales
The New York Times said this week it expects the global spread of coronavirus to hit its digital ad sales, which it forecasts to be down ten percent in the current quarter as advertisers pull back ad spend due to coronavirus-related uncertainty. The NYT had already been forecasting its digital ad revenues to be down this quarter, having fallen for the past three quarters, but had previously expected the drop to be in the mid single digits. But the publisher has been increasingly focused on subscriptions in recent years, and CEO Mark Thompson said so far coronavirus hasn’t had any negative impact on subscription revenues.

Twitter Trials Temporary Tweets, Called ‘Fleets’
Twitter this week tested a new type of tweet in Brazil, a temporary tweet which disappears after 24 hours which Twitter has dubbed a ‘fleet’. Fleets, similar to ‘stories’ on platforms like Instagram and Snapchat, are not visible on a user’s main profile, but are seen by tapping on a user’s profile picture. Fleets, unlike tweets, can only be replied to with direct messages, and are designed to allow users to share thoughts which they wouldn’t necessarily want permanently viewable.

Facebook Renews Interest in Live Sports with FA Cup Streams
Facebook Watch this week broadcast two FA Cup fifth-round ties, the first time Facebook Watch has live streamed FA Cup games. The move represents Facebook’s biggest step into sports live streaming in the UK, as it and other global tech companies continue to invest more in the area. Facebook exclusively streamed two of the eight fifth-round ties, with BT and the BBC picking up the rest of the broadcast rights. Read the full story on VAN.

The Week for Agencies

Coronavirus Expected to Hit Ad Spend
Fears continue to grow around how hard the global spread of coronavirus will hit ad spend. Many now fear a global recession, likely to bring down advertising spend as businesses tighten their belts. And major events like the Summer Olympics and UEFA European Football Championship, which draw high ad spend, are at risk of being postponed or cancelled. Media agency Zenith, which had previously expected global ad spend to rise 4.3 percent this year, has said this number will be revised lower in the coming weeks due to coronavirus, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Finecast Expands into Canada
GroupM’s addressable TV business Finecast this week launched in Canada, its third market after the UK and Australia. Finecast claims this makes it “the first truly global platform” of its kind. “As the largest media advertising company in the world, GroupM is able to create the scale of partnerships required to find relevant audiences in the fragmented TV landscape,” GroupM Canada CEO Stuart Garvie said. “With Finecast, we have partnered with the top content providers, broadcasters, platforms and data providers in Canada to build this market that will inevitably add more value to consumers and advertisers.”

At launch, Finecast in Canada has partnerships with broadcasters including Bell, Rogers, CBC and Corus, and data partnerships with companies including Environics Analytics and Mastercard.

UK Government Backs Initiative to Protect UK Advertising Post-Brexit
The UK Advertising Export Group, an initiative backed by the UK’s Department for International Trade, officially launched this week. UKAEG is designed to promote the British ad industry’s exports via marketing campaigns, case studies, and a presence at trade events like SXSW. Trade groups including the AA, the APA and the IPA, as well as other industry members, are involved in the initiative. The Department for International Trade will provide financial support, as well increased access to its own efforts to promote British exports.

WPP Launches New Agency Brand ‘Black Ops’
Holding group WPP this week announced the launch of ‘Black Ops’, a new agency brand which will operate around the world, and will hand-pick talent to answer key client challenges according to Campaign. Black Ops will be led by MediaCom’s Asia-Pacific managing partner Nihar Das and Danni Mohammad, a strategy consultant for Grey London and Adidas. It’s first client is P&G brand SK-II, with which it has already worked on a campaign for the 2020 Olympic Games.

Hires of the Week

Karen Blackett OBE Chosen to Lead GroupM UK
WPP’s media investment group GroupM announced on Wednesday that it has appointed Karen Blackett OBE as its new UK CEO. Blackett will retain her current role as WPP’s UK country manager alongside her new position leading GroupM’s UK efforts. She replaces Tom George, who has been GroupM’s UK CEO since 2018. Read the full story on VAN.

ITV Names Rhys McLachlan as Director of Advanced Advertising
ITV has announced that Rhy McLachlan will become its new director of advanced advertising. McLachlan joins from Amobee (which has been working with ITV on its Planet V programmatic platform), where he was head of global TV strategy. In his new role he will be responsible for the development of Planet V, as well as partnerships with key digital and broadcasting platforms.

Channel 4 Hires Clare Peters as Deputy Head of Client Sales
Channel 4 has chosen Clare Peters for the newly created role of deputy head of client sales, part of a push from the broadcaster to boost direct sales to advertisers, according to Campaign. Peters joins from Manning Gottlieb OMD, where she is chief business strategist.

TVSquared Names Jo Kinsella President
TV attribution specialist TVSquared this week announced that former chief revenue officer and EVP Jo Kinsella has been appointed as president. In this role, TVSquared says Kinsella will lead its global commercial portfolio, including client relations and strategic partnerships across the advertising ecosystem.

Valerie Zeltser Appointed VP, Client Services as BidSwitch
BidSwitch, a wholly owned subsidiary of IPONWEB , has appointed Valerie Zeltser to the role of VP, Client Services. Zeltser will oversee BidSwitch’s client relations teams and strengthen the company’s strategic accounts to increase market growth through deeper engagement with buy and sell side partners, according to the company.

This Week on VAN

Facebook Renews Interest in Live Sports with FA Cup Streams, read more on VAN

The Industry Answers: If You Could Fix One Thing in Mobile Video Advertising, What Would it Be? read more on VAN

Karen Blackett OBE Chosen to Lead GroupM UK, read more on VAN

Across the Industry, Laziness and Inertia are Holding Back Advertising Innovation, read more on VAN

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