The WIR: Amazon Announces Ad-Supported Streaming Service, Innovid Raises $30 Million, and AT&T Pairs Turner Ads with Xandr Data

In this week’s Week in Review: Amazon announces ‘Freedive’, a new streaming service; Innovid raises $30 million for CTV investment; AT&T begins funnelling subscriber data into its linear Turner ads; plus the highlights from CES. To receive an update on the industry’s top stories every Friday, sign up to the weekly Video Round-Up.

Top Stories

Amazon Launches Free Streaming Service Through IMDb
Amazon’s film-ratings website IMDb announced this week the launch of a new ad-supported streaming service called ‘Freedive’, which hosts a selection of TV shows and movies. The content will be available without a subscription via mobile, laptop, and Amazon Fire TV Devices. IMDb had already hosted a small amount of video content, mostly film trailers, interviews, and a few film-focussed original series, and all of these will be migrated to Freedive, which is currently only available in the US.

The scale of Amazon’s ambition for Freedive remains to be seen – it could be viewed either as Amazon’s long awaited big move into the AVOD space, or a smaller scale experiment before a potential release of an ad-supported version of Prime Video. Regardless, it will mark a significant ramping up of Amazon’s video ad offering.

Innovid Raises $30 Million for CTV
Video ad tech company Innovid on Monday announced it has raised $20 million in funding from the Goldman Sachs Private Capital Investing group, which it says will be invested in its connected TV (CTV) capabilities. With total investment in the company now standing at $52.6 million, it is planning to add 70 new staff to its 220-strong workforce, and will open new offices in Germany, France and Japan in the next quarter. Innovid is also looking at possible acquisitions, according to co-founder and CEO Zvika Netter.

“With this funding, Innovid will further advance its end-to-end CTV platform creating a more efficient workflow, while solving industry measurement challenges and expanding its global footprint to meet the evolving needs of its international client base of brands, media and creative agencies, and publishers,” said Netter.

AT&T’s Turner to Boost Ad Offering with Xandr Data
Turner announced on Tuesday it will be using AT&T subscriber data to boost its linear TV ad offering, starting in Q1 this year. This follows AT&T’s data, available through its ad unit Xandr, being made available on Turner’s digital properties late last year. The move has been expected since AT&T completed acquisitions of both Turner and ad tech company AppNexus last year.

“AT&T brought our companies together as part of a vision of developing a modern media company, a key part of which is modernising present day advertising,” said Donna Speciale, president of Turner ad sales. “The groundwork has been laid, and now we have the fortune of tapping into Xandr to supercharge our capabilities already out in the marketplace. This will be a win for marketers and for our viewers as the experience becomes more relevant to them.”

This Week at CES

CES returned to Nevada this week, and while sex toys and an Apple billboard may have grabbed the headlines, there’s been plenty more showcased that holds slightly more significance for the TV and video space:

CES isn’t quite what it once was in terms of exciting new TV tech. While there were a number of 8K TVs on show, many are questioning whether we really need any more improvement in TV quality. And the other innovations showcased this year, like LG’s roll-up TV and Samsung’s modular TV have both been seen before.

But perhaps the most interesting TV announcement was not a new piece of tech, but Apple’s new push into the TV space. The company announced a number of TV’s and speakers will be getting AirPlay 2 support, marking a shift in strategy away from primarily pushing its video services only on its own devices. Samsung, an old rival of Apple’s, revealed a new iTunes movies and TV shows app will be debuting on Samsung Smart TVs this spring.

5G was, perhaps predictably, a big talking point at CES this year, as the next generation of wireless tech slowly becomes a reality. A number of tech makers showcased 5G products, including chip-makers Qualcomm and Intel, while Verizon announced it is working with Walt Disney Studios to explore 5G opportunities in media and entertainment.

But while 5G products are making their way onto showroom floors, several companies have been called out by critics who say they’re dishonestly jumping on the 5G hype to promote non-5G products. AT&T was criticised for displaying ‘5G E’ indicators on 4G mobile phones – AT&T described 5G E as an evolution towards 5G, not 5G itself. Meanwhile a group of cable operators announced the development of ’10G’, which in this case refers to 10 gigabit internet speeds, and is unrelated to 5G.

CES was relatively quiet on the video front this year, but there were a couple on interesting products on show. Synamedia exhibited an AI system which it claims can track when people are sharing their account details on subscription services like Netflix and Amazon Prime (maybe not a crowd-pleaser, but good news for the SVOD services). HTC meanwhile announced its plans for a completely different style of SVOD service, ‘Viveport Infinity’ for its VR headsets, which it hopes will become ‘the Netflix of VR’.

The Week in Tech

RTL Group to Acquire OTT Specialist Yospace for $33 Million
RTL Group on Tuesday announced it is set to acquire Yospace, a UK-based video technology company. RTL Group will pay up to $33 million (approximately €29 million) before cash and debt adjustments. The transaction is expected to close 1 February 2019. Yospace has developed technology specialising in server-side dynamic ad insertion (SSDAI), which allows the replacement of ads from a broadcast stream with more targeted and personalised advertising. RTL Group said in a statement that the company believes that SSDAI is expected to become the de facto standard to seamlessly serve spots in premium streaming environments. Read the full story on VAN.

Google to Roll Out Its Chrome ‘Bad Ads’ Blocker Worldwide
Google has announced it is rolling out its ‘bad ads’ blocker on Chrome worldwide, after launching it in North America and Europe last year. The ad blocker specifically targets formats which don’t adhere to standards developed by the Coalition for Better Ads, those deemed to be most annoying and intrusive. Starting on July 9th this year, Chrome will block all ads which fall within twelve categories defined under the Better Ads Standards in all countries worldwide. Read the full story on VAN.

Roku Says Streaming Hours Up 68 Percent
Roku has released some initial data from its Q4 financial results, saying that streaming hours on the platform have increased 68 percent year-on-year. The platform also said that active accounts topped 27 million, a 40 percent year-on-year increase. “Strong active account growth and accelerating streaming hours point to consumers’ growing enthusiasm for streaming, making Roku America’s largest and fastest growing TV streaming distribution platform,” said Roku CEO Anthony Wood.

Nielsen Adds Mobile and OTT Viewing to Total Ad Ratings
US measurement company Nielsen on Monday announced it has added mobile and over-the-top (OTT) viewing to its Total Ad Ratings product, which it says will allow advertisers to better measure the cross-platform reach of their campaigns. Total Ad Ratings claims to give advertisers a de-duplicated view of a campaign’s reach across different devices, meaning advertisers can see the total number of people who saw an ad on each device, but also how many people saw the same ad on different combinations of devices. Read the full story on VAN.

TAG Certified Channels See 94 Percent Reduction in Ad Fraud
Ad fraud rates on Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) certified channels are 94 percent lower than the industry average according the first research into the impact of TAG’s anti-fraud initiative. The total invalid traffic rates on TAG certified channels was 0.53 percent, while the industry average fraud rate was found to be 8.99 percent, marking a 94.1 percent reduction in fraud rates on TAG certified sites. Read the full story on VAN.

MoPub Announces Partnerships with Pixalate and DoubleVerify
Twitter-owned MoPub this week announced new traffic quality partnerships with Pixalate and DoubleVerify. “We believe that MRC-accredited vendors like Pixalate and DoubleVerify offer the expertise, technology, data integrity and service needed to help us keep a clean exchange for the trillions of ad requests that we facilitate,” said Boris Logvinskiy, MoPub’s head of product.

The Week in TV

Hulu Reports Strong Subscriber Growth and Introduces Attribution Tools
Hulu gained eight million subscribers this year, reaching 25 million in total, it announced on Tuesday. Ad revenue also grew significantly, up 45 percent year-on-year to $1.5 billion, its highest ever annual ad income. However this growth has come at a cost according to the Wall Street Journal, with Hulu stakeholder Disney reporting increased losses from the streaming service last year. This was attributed to increased labour, programming and marketing costs.

The business is investing in its ad offering though to try and draw in even more ad revenue, and this week announced a new attribution product. The new offering, which is currently in beta, matches advertisers’ data with its own subscriber data to help brands measure business outcomes from their Hulu ads, according to AdAge.

NBCUniversal Plans 20 Percent Ad Load Cut
NBCUniversal said this week it plans to have cut twenty percent of its overall primetime ad load by 2020, as the broadcaster continues to experiment with reduced ad breaks as a way of boosting its linear channels. NBCU had already cut its primetime ad load by ten percent, and it seems the twenty percent target includes this ten percent which has already been cut.

“Innovations in premium advertising—from new ad formats, reduced ad loads, AI targeting solutions, automated systems to new measurement—are enhancing the viewing experience and helping more marketers tell better stories to build stronger brands,” said Linda Yaccarino, chairman of ad sales and client partnerships at NBCUniversal.

BBC Launches Public Consultation on Reinvention of iPlayer
The BBC has opened a public consultation on its proposed changes to BBC iPlayer, after regulator Ofcom ruled that the proposals constitute a material change to the BBC’s UK Public Services. The BBC is proposing having a longer initial period of availability for all programmes of at least 12 months, as well as hosting more archive content and box sets for new and returning shows on the service.

Sky Invests in Synamedia
Synamedia this week announced that Sky has taken a stake in the business, joining majority shareholder the Permira funds. Synamedia says Sky’s shareholding reinforces Synamedia’s position as a strategic long-term technology partner to a growing roster of market-leading pay-TV operators and media companies worldwide. Both Sky and its parent company Comcast are long-time Synamedia customers as well as strategic development partners.

The Week in Publishing

Verizon Won’t Open the Data Pipes for its Media Arm
Verizon has shut down the idea of using more subscriber data to bolster its media arm (née Oath, now Verizon Media Group), with CEO Hans Vestberg telling Axios that Media Group will need to “survive on its own merits”. Once pitched as a challenger to the duopoly, Verizon has struggled to make a success of its content business, announcing late last year that it won’t achieve its goal of becoming a $10 billion-a-year business by 2020. Nonetheless, Vestberg said his company will not “mimic Facebook or Google”, and that Verizon Media Group must succeed on the strength its content rather than Verizon’s data.

The company however clarified to AdExchanger that existing data sharing agreements between Verizon and Verizon Media Group, which use data from users who opt-in, will continue.

Condé Nast Expands Data Capabilities Through Spire
Condé Nast this week announced the expansion of its data offering Spire, which it says will offer advertising partners new data partnerships and optimisation features across Condé Nast’s digital and social platforms. “Spire gives us the ability to follow consumers through every stage of the purchase journey, and we can directly connect advertisers with the consumers they’re most interested in, at the earliest point of their purchasing decisions–when they’re discovering what they want to buy through our content,” said Pamela Drucker Mann, Condé Nast’s chief revenue and marketing officer.

Quartz Shrinks UK Commercial Team Amid Revenue Slow-Down
Quartz has cut four staff from its UK commercial team, representing nearly on-fifth of its commercial headcount in the UK, due to a revenue slowdown according to Digiday. “It’s only been in the last year that the UK team, which was responsible for nearly 25 percent of the company’s total ad revenue in 2017, experienced a slow-down in 2018, which we attribute to a number of factors, some of which are out of our hands, like the business uncertainty in the face of Brexit,” a Quartz spokesperson told Digiday. “Additionally, we’re implementing new strategies that allow us to focus on larger partnerships in the UK market, which we expect will reverse this short-term trend.”

The Week for Agencies

Dentsu Aegis Predicts Six Percent Growth in UK Ad Spend
Dentsu Aegis Network predicts ad spend growth in the UK will reach 6.1 percent in 2019, the highest in all of Western Europe, as Brexit concerns spur short-termism amongst brands. UK ad spend is forecast to reach £22.2 billion this year, and then grow a further 7.1 percent in 2020. “We have a raft of clients that will be affected by Brexit, but it’s swayed the conversations to digital and a short-term outlook,” said Carat UK chief executive Jo Sutherland. “The downside is that the conversations about brand-building are happening less.”

BAME Diversity Reaches Record Levels in UK Agencies, but C-Suite Still Lags
Diversity figures have broadly improved in Adland according to UK trade body the Institute for Practitioners of Advertising (IPA). The 2018 IPA Diversity Survey found that ethnic diversity among ad agencies is at a record level, with 13.8 percent of employees from a BAME background, up from 12.9 percent in 2017. The proportion of BAME individuals in C-suite roles has also improved but still lags far behind, sitting at 5.5 percent. Meanwhile there was a marginal increase in the number of women at C-suite level, increasing to 32.7 percent in 2018 from 31.2 percent the year before.

Sorrell Keeps Data Focus at CES
Speaking on stage at CES this week, S4 Capital executive chairman Sir Martin Sorrell spoke heavily on the importance of data to clients. He said the desire to in-house is driven partly by brands wanting to build up their own control of customer data. “Clients have become concerned about the amount of influence they’ve offloaded to agencies. The client feels so dependent on the agency,” he said. He also saw data as the key focus of the conference this year, with new connected devices providing new opportunities for brands to understand consumer preferences.

Hires of the Week

Disney’s Streaming Service Picks Joe Earley as Marketing Chief
Disney has announced it has chosen Joe Earley as EVP, marketing ad operations for its upcoming streaming service, Disney+. Earley most recently served as president of production company The Jackal Group.

Matt James Becomes Zenith’s Global Brand President
Publicis Media announced this week it is appointing Matt James as global brand president of Zenith. James previously headed up Zenith in Australia and New Zealand.

Virtue Names Cameron Farrelly as CCO
Vice Media’s in-house agency Virtue has hired Cameron Farrelly as its chief creative officer. The move comes at a time when Vice is investing more heavily in Virtue, with Vice Media CEO Nancy Dubuc pledging to funnel more resources into the agency.

This Week on VAN

Nielsen Adds Mobile and OTT Viewing to Total Ad Ratings, read more on VAN

TAG Certified Channels See 94 Percent Reduction in Ad Fraud, read more on VAN

RTL Group to Acquire OTT Specialist Yospace for $33 Million, read more on VAN

Should Advertisers Jump on the Bandersnatch Bandwagon? read more on VAN

Google to Roll Out Its Chrome ‘Bad Ads’ Blocker Worldwide, read more on VAN

Ad of the Week

Walmart Grocery Pickup, Famous Cars, Department W

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