The WIR: DOJ Prepares Antitrust Charges Against Google, AT&T Considers Selling Xandr, and BBC’s New Boss Warns Channels May be Axed

In this week’s Week in Review: The DOJ prepares to file antitrust charges against Google before the end of the month, AT&T considers selling Xandr, and the BBC’s new director general begins making his mark. To receive an update on the industry’s top stories every Friday, sign up to the weekly Video Round-Up.

Top Stories

Justice Department Set to File Antitrust Charges Against Google This Month
The US Department of Justice is gearing up to file antitrust charges against Google later this month, according to a report from the New York Times on Thursday.

According to the Times’ report, Justice Department officials, spurred on by Attorney General William Barr, have set a deadline at the end of the month to have the investigation into Google wrapped up. A number of lawyers involved in the investigation are said to have opposed the deadline, wanting more time to build a stronger case against Google. And some have been concerned that Barr’s primary motive with the deadline is for action to be taken against Google prior to the upcoming presidential election, in order to give President Trump a boost.

AT&T Considers Selling Xandr
US telco AT&T is considering selling its advanced advertising unit Xandr, the Wall Street Journal reported this week, in an effort to balance its books.

Xandr was launched just over two year ago, after AT&T paid $1.6 billion to acquire ad tech company AppNexus. AT&T believed the combination of its rich subscriber data, Xandr’s ad tech infrastructure and inventory from WarnerMedia (which it also bought in 2018) would make it a powerful player in digital advertising.

But AT&T has been disappointed with Xandr’s growth, according to the WSJ report. And as the telco looks to sell off assets to pay off some of its debts, it now sees Xandr as a dispensable part of its business.

BBC’s New Director General Warns Channels May be Axed
Tim Davie, the new director general of the BBC, said that significant changes to the organisation’s structure are on the horizon. Davie warned that in his view, the broadcaster risks slipping into complacency, and that it has “no inalienable right to exist”.

In a speech broadcast to BBC staff, Davie said that the broadcaster is likely to scale back its offering. He said the BBC has spread itself too thinly, and may cut as much as 20 percent of its current offering in order to focus more on quality. And Davie also warned that TV and radio channels will be cut if they don’t offer value to the BBC’s audiences.

The Week in Tech

Apple Delays IDFA Changes
Apple this week said it is giving app publishers more time to prepare for changes to its advertising identifier, the IDFA, which will force apps to ask for explicit permission prior to using it. The IDFA changes had originally been planned to come into force with the release of iOS 14 later this year. But Apple now says developers will have until early next year to prepare for the change.

InfoSum Raises $15 Million and Hires Brian Lesser
Data and identity specialist InfoSum this week announced it has completed a $15 million funding round led by Upfront Ventures and IA Ventures. The company has also hired Brian Lesser, former CEO of Xandr, as its executive chairman.

Google to Pass On Digital Tax Costs to Advertisers
Google this week revealed it plans to pass the burden of new digital taxes in Europe on to advertisers. The tech giant is introducing new fees in the UK, Austria and Turkey, in line with new taxes on digital companies which have been introduced in each of these markets.

Facebook Says Russian Agency Created Fake News Outlets to Target Left Wing Voters
Facebook said this week it has identified a number of fake news outlets, created by Russia’s ‘Internet Research Agency’ (which interfered with the 2016 US election), to target left wing voters on its platform. The pages and groups for these fake outlets have now been removed.

DoubleVerify Launches Custom Contextual Targeting Beta
DoubleVerify this week announced the beta launch of its Custom Contextual Targeting solution. DoubleVerify says the new solution lets advertisers execute contextual targeting within their campaigns, and is intended to assist advertisers with compliance with global initiatives like the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).

The Week in TV

ITV Falls Off FTSE 100 as Shares Slide
British broadcaster ITV this week fell off the FTSE 100, a share index comprised of the 100 companies with the highest market cap listed on the London Stock Exchange. ITV was last relegated from the FTSE 100 back in 2008 during the financial crash.

ECJ Rules in Vivendi’s Favour in Case Against Mediaset
Mediaset’s plans to create a pan-European broadcasting giant were dealt a fresh blow this week. Mediaset is looking to combine its Italian and Spanish businesses, as well as its holding in German broadcaster ProSiebenSat.1, under one holding group called MediaForEurope. But Mediaset stakeholder Vivendi opposes these plans. And the European Court of Justice  this week ruled that an Italian law forcing Vivendi to give up its stake in Mediaset (which would have neutered Vivendi’s ongoing effort to block Mediaset’s plans) goes against EU rules.

Netflix Makes Some Originals Free for Non-Subscribers
Netflix this week made a selection of its most popular Originals, including Stranger Things, The Two Popes, and When They See Us, available for free without a subscription. Netflix says the idea is to give potential subscribers the ability to try the service before they buy, but some have seen it as a precursor to a potential ad-supported subscription tier.

Discovery Deutschland Completes Tele 5 Acquisition
Discovery Deutschland has completed its acquisition of German free-to-air channel Tele 5, according to Broadband TV News. The deal was agreed back in July.

Ex-YouTube Original Cobra Kai Reaches Number One on Netflix
Cobra Kai, the Karate Kid spin-off which started off life as a YouTube Original, this week jumped to the top of Netflix’s rankings after being licensed by the streaming giant.

US Local TV Stations Launch Joint Streaming Service VUit
More than 200 local TV stations in the US this week launched VUit, a new ad-supported streaming service. All stations owned by Gray Television are available on VUit, as well as a selection of Meredith Corp’s stations, and a number of others.

TVPlayer Signs Deal with ViacomCBS
OTT live TV service TVPlayer has signed a deal with ViacomCBS to carry its channels in the UK, including free-to-air channels Channel 5, 5USA, 5Star, 5Select and Paramount Network alongside pay channels MTV, Comedy Central and Comedy Xtra.

SVOD Penetration in US Reaches 78 Percent
Seventy-eight percent of US households now have a subscription to at least one of the three major SVOD services – Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu, according to Leichtman Research Group. This is up from 69 percent in 2018.

The Week in Publishing

LadBible Launches “Fully Transparent” Video Ad Offering
LadBible this week launched a new video ad buying tool, LadX, which the social publisher said offers complete transparency to advertisers. For ads shorter than ten seconds, LadX offers 100 percent completed video views at a guaranteed £0.02 cost per completed view. For video ads over ten seconds, the pricing changes to a cost per mille of £8.

Facebook Says it May Ban News Sharing in Australia
Facebook said it may ban sharing of news on its platform if proposed legislation is passed in Australia, which would make companies like Facebook pay to republish news. “Assuming this draft code becomes law, we will reluctantly stop allowing publishers and people in Australia from sharing local and international news on Facebook and Instagram,” said a statement from Facebook. “This is not our first choice – it is our last. But it is the only way to protect against an outcome that defies logic and will hurt, not help, the long-term vibrancy of Australia’s news and media sector.”

Quartz Doubles its Subscriber Count in a Year
Digital publisher Quartz has reach over 21,000 paying subscribers, having doubled its subscriber count in less than a year according to The Drum. Quartz says its “Need to Know” newsletter which covers the pandemic has helped drive subscriptions, as has content focusing on mental health and commuting in the COVID era.

Snapchat Sees Over 28 Million New Downloads in August
Photo and video sharing app Snapchat recorded over 28 million new downloads in August, according to app analytics company Sensor Tower. This represents 29 percent year-on-year growth.

Facebook Watch Reaches 1.25 Billion Viewers Per Month
Facebook this week claimed that Facebook Watch, its hub for video content, now reaches 1.25 billion people per month. This equates to just under half of Facebook’s monthly active user count.

TikTok Includes Publishers in Creator Fund
TikTok will allow established publishers to take a slice of its $1 billion fund set aside for creators, Digiday reported this week. Publishers, like individual creators, will have to have more than 10,000 followers on TikTok to be eligible for funding, according to the report.

Pinterest Tightens Political Ad Rules Ahead of US Election
Pinterest has updated its rules on political advertising ahead of the US presidential election in November. Pinterest will no longer run ads on politics-related search terms, and will not promote political content on its home page, according to Adweek.

Amazon Integrates Twitch into Amazon Music
Amazon has integrated its live streaming video platform Twitch into its music streaming offering Amazon Music. Several musicians have used Twitch to reach audiences during lockdown, and musicians can now embed their Twitch live streams directly into their Amazon Music profiles.

RCapital Partners Buys Majority of Archant
Investment group RCapital partners has reached a deal to buy 90 percent of British publishing group Archant, which has hit troubled times. Two of Archant’s holding companies – Archant Limited and Archant Community Media Holdings Limited – will enter administration as part of the deal.

The Week for Agencies

Mark Read Apologises for Ageist Comments
WPP CEO Mark Read apologised this week after being accused of making ageist remarks during a call discussing the holding group’s financial results. Read responded to an analyst’s question about whether WPP had the right mix of skills within its staff by saying “We have a very broad range of skills, and if you look at our people – the average age of someone who works at WPP is less than 30 – they don’t hark back to the 1980s, luckily.”

Coca-Cola to Focus on Marketing for Growth
Coca-Cola said this week it is reorienting its marketing efforts in order to drive more growth for the brand. As part of this, the soft drinks giant is reinforcing leadership in several of its marketing categories.

Droga5 Lays Off Seven Percent of US Staff
Accenture-owned agency Droga5 has cut seven percent of its US staff as a cost-cutting measure due to pandemic-related financial difficulties. The cuts affected all departments and levels of seniority, according to Business Insider.

Brands Still Aren’t Certain About 2021 Budget
Brands are still mostly unclear about what their marketing budgets will look like in 2021. In a survey run by trade group the IAB, only nine percent of respondents said they have a very clear idea of their budget for next year, while a further 21 percent said they are “somewhat clear” on next year’s budget.

Hires of the Week

Channel 4 Hires Veriça Djurdjevic as CRO
Channel 4 has hired Veriça Djurdjevic in the newly created role of CRO. Djurdjevic, currently CEO at PHD UK, will have overall responsibility for all of Channel 4’s key commercial revenue streams.

MTG Picks Maria Redin as Group President and CEO
Modern Times Group has hired Maria Redin as its new group president and CEO, with immediate effect. Redin previously served as group CFO.

ViacomCBS Promotes Olivier Jollet to EMEAA Role
ViacomCBS has chosen Olivier Jollet for the newly created role of senior vice president emerging business. Jollet will continue in his current role as European MD for ViacomCBS-owned PlutoTV.

This Week on VAN

News and Magazine Publishers are Starting to Experiment with Original Content on CTV, read more on VAN

Finally, Agencies are Pushing for Meaningful Change from Social Platforms, read more on VAN

Can Conversion Modelling Solve Attribution Headaches in the Post-Cookie World? read more on VAN

Ad of the Week

Apple, Over-Sharing

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