The WIR: UK Ad Budget Growth Stalls, the BBC Pushes for European Broadcaster Cooperation, and YouTube Bans Dangerous Pranks and Challenges

In this week’s Week in Review: The IPA Bellwether Report claims that UK ad budget growth has stalled, the BBC’s Lord Hall pushes for greater European cooperation, and YouTube takes action against dangerous pranks and challenges. To receive an update on the industry’s top stories every Friday, sign up to the weekly Video Round-Up.

Top Stories

UK Ad Budgets Stall Over Brexit
UK advertising budgets stalled in Q4, ending six years of consecutive growth according to the IPA Bellwether Report released this week. The lack of growth was attributed to “uncertain political and economic” conditions, cause in part by Brexit turbulence. “Company-wide indecisiveness restricted the allocation of resources to marketers, as the wait-and-see approach to how the Brexit process will transpire appears to be the current strategy in place for many UK businesses,” said the report’s author Joe Hayes.

The Bellwether report followed analysis from Enders which said the UK advertising market will see a three percent recession if the UK leaves the EU without securing a trade deal. If however an appropriate deal can be secured, Enders expects to see growth of 2.7 percent.

BBC Pushes for Pan-European Cooperation to Fight Netflix and Amazon
The BBC’s director general Lord Tony Hall is pushing for greater cooperation between European broadcasters in order to fight the threat of digital streaming companies like Netflix and Amazon, according to The Times. Lord Hall is reportedly using his new position as head of the European Broadcasting Union to call for more collaboration, particularly in areas like content production. An extension of commercial ties could also see more European content appear on the BBC’s own streaming service iPlayer, according to the report.

YouTube Bans Dangerous Pranks from Platform
YouTube this week updated its terms of service, banning videos showing dangerous challenges and pranks. “We also don’t allow pranks that lead victims to believe they are in physical danger or that can cause real physical harm,” the company said in an update. “Dangerous or abusive pranks that may cause emotional distress to children are not allowed.”

The change comes in response to YouTube’s latest struggle with problematic content, as several high-profile YouTubers have posted ‘Bird Box challenge’ videos in which they’ve attempted dangerous acts like driving while blindfolded. But the Bird Box challenge is just the latest in a string of incidents on YouTube around harmful pranks and challenges, including last year’s ‘Tide Pod challenge’ which encouraged people to film themselves eating toxic detergent tablets.

The Week in Tech

AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile Pledge to Stop Selling Location Data
US telcos AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile have all pledged to stop selling user location data to third parties. An investigation by Vice’s Motherboard claimed to have paid a bounty hunter to track the location of a cellphone, using only its number, with the bounty hunter able to track it down using location data sold (indirectly) by the telcos.

DoubleVerify Buys Leiki
DoubleVerify announced this week it has bought Finnish brand-safety solution Leiki, for an undisclosed fee. Leiki claims its tech uses AI to ensure that ads are served next to appropriate and relevant content. “Leiki’s data-driven technology platform and advanced content classification expertise dovetail perfectly with DV’s global brand reputation offering – a core competency since our company’s inception over a decade ago,” said DoubleVerify CEO Wayne Gattinella.

Amazon Fire Reportedly Overtakes Roku
Amazon Fire TV reported that it has “well over” 30 million active users, seemingly beating out Roku, which earlier claimed to have 27 million active accounts earlier last week. However while Roku defines an active account as one which has streamed content in the last 30 days, Amazon did not say how it defines active users, reported CNET.

Sightly and Horizon Media Score Over 99 Percent in IAS YouTube Brand Safety Measurement Beta
Sightly and Horizon Media this week announced the results of a joint beta test using the newly released IAS YouTube Brand Safety and Suitability Solution. Sightly achieved over 99 percent brand safety for participating clients of independent media agency Horizon Media. The three companies say their partnership aims to empower media buyers by ensuring brand suitable environments on YouTube through which advertisers can reach only the most pertinent and applicable audiences.

The Week in TV

NBCUniversal Announces New Streaming Service
Comcast-owned US broadcaster NBCUniversal has announced a new streaming service to be launched in 2020, the latest addition to the increasingly crowded digital streaming space. The new service will feature both ad-supported and ad-free subscription tiers. The ad-supported version will be available to NBCUniversal’s pay TV subscribers in the US and other major markets for free, as well as Comcast Cable and Sky subscribers. The ad free version will cost an additional fee, which hasn’t been specified. Read the full story on VAN.

CBS and Nielsen’s Standoff Ends
US broadcaster CBS has resumed using Nielsen’s audience measurement services after the two reached a deal over fees. The two had been locked in a standoff, with CBS questioning Nielsen’s asking price, given what it sees as a lack of innovation from the measurement body, particularly around measurement on non-traditional devices. Terms of the new deal have not been disclosed.

Sinclair Broadcast Group Announces Streaming Service
Sinclair Broadcast Group, a US telco which owns hundreds of local and regional TV stations across the US, has announced it is launching a new live and on-demand streaming service called Stirr. Stirr will be ad-supported, with no login required, and will feature a mix of local news and entertainment, lifestyle and special interest channels. The app will be available on iOS and Android devices, as well as via AmazonFire TV, Apple TV and Roku.

Stirr lands in an increasingly crowded market, with NBCU and Amazon both announcing new streaming services in just the last week. But Walmart on Thursday announced it will not be launching a new video streaming service, as some had expected, so that’s one less competitor to worry about.

Netflix Raises Prices as it Nears 140 Million Subscribers
Netflix’s subscriber count continues to grow, reaching 139 million by the end of last year, with 8.8 million joining the service in the last three months. Quarterly revenue reached $4.2 billion, up 27 percent year-on-year, but this fell short of expectations, with Netflix stock falling in after hours trading. Netflix share prices had, however, risen sharply earlier in the week as the streaming service announced plans to raise its prices by 13-18 percent in the US.

Discovery Applies for Dutch Broadcasting License
As Brexit uncertainty continues in the UK, Discovery became the latest broadcaster to seek an overseas license which would allow it to continue broadcasting across the EU. The broadcaster said it will retain a large hub in the UK, but is applying for a broadcasting license in the Netherlands. Discovery would not comment on potential job relocations that might occur as a consequence.

The Week in Publishing

MNG Enterprises Makes $1.36 Billion Offer for Gannett
Newspaper chain MNG Enterprises this week made a $1.36 billion offer to buy US media holding company Gannett, owner of USA Today and a host of regional and local newspapers. MNG Enterprises, also known as Digital First Media, is a stakeholder in Gannett, and says it is unhappy with the erosion of the business’ value under it’s current leadership, criticising what it calls a “questionable digital acquisition strategy”.

“Frankly, the team leading Gannett has not demonstrated that it’s capable of effectively running this enterprise as a public company,” said R. Joseph Fuchs, chairman of the board at MNG. “Gannett shareholders cannot sit by and watch further value erode while the Board casts about for a strategy and a leader, especially when there is an opportunity to maximise value right now.”

Facebook Pledges $300 Million to Journalism
Facebook announced this week it is pledging $300 million to journalism projects over the next three years, with a particular focus on helping local journalism, as part of its ongoing Facebook Journalism Project. Facebook’s VP of global news partnerships says the money will be used to help local journalists and newsrooms with their news gathering needs in the immediate future, and to help news organisations build sustainable business models.

Roku Adds, Then Quickly Removes, Infowars Channel
Roku users noticed this week that the service had started offering Infowars, a far-right conspiracy theory outlet owned by Alex Jones, on its devices. But as Infowars’ presence on Roku caught attention on social media, Roku pulled the channel, following in the footsteps of other video platforms, like YouTube, Facebook and Apple which banned Infowars last year.

The Week for Agencies

UK Ad Watchdog Cautions Influencers
The UK’s advertising watchdog the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) says it has cautioned between 200 and 300 social media influencers over not sufficiently labelling paid advertisements. Some of those cautioned failed entirely to labelled sponsored posts on platforms like Instagram, while others used labels which were deemed too ambiguous – #sp (meant to mean ‘sponsored post’) for example was ruled to not be clear enough according to Sky.

WPP Files Legal Complaint Against US Government Over Army Account
WPP has filed a legal complaint against the US government to the US Court of Federal Claims over its decision to award the army’s advertising account to DDB. WWP creative agency Possible argues that it’s pitch for the army account was inaccurately judged, and that DDB only won by undercutting its competitors in price, according to AdWeek.

IPG Prepares for Detroit Layoffs After Losing Chrysler Account
Interpublic Group confirmed this week that Universal McCann and affiliated agencies are laying off 213 Detroit-based employees, after the holding group lost the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles account. Universal McCann is cutting 116 jobs, Reprise Media is cutting 92 jobs, and Mediabrands Worldwide is cutting five, according to Crains Detroit.

Hires of the Week

Vevo Promotes Kevin McGurn to President of Sales and Distribution
Vevo has announced it has promoted Kevin McGurn to president of sales and distribution, from his previous role as chief sales officer. The new role will see McGurn work to maxmise revenue across all company partnerships.

JCDecaux Promotes New UK Chief Executives
JCDecaux has announced it has promoted Dallas Wiles, previously chief commercial officer, and Chris Collins, previously managing director of rail and retail, as its new joint UK chief executives. They replace Philip Thomas and Spencer Berwin, who have stepped down from the roles.

Stacey Edwards Joins Ad-Lib as Global Head of Ad Ops
Ad-Lib this week announced three new senior hires: Stacey Edwards as its global head of ad operations and finance, Scarlett Long as head of client services, and Charlie Ashe as sales lead.

Pixability Announces Leadership Team Hires
Pixability has announced a pair of strategic new hires to strengthen its executive team. Matt Duffy will be the new chief marketing officer and Lata Ahuja has been hired as the VP of engineering. Duffy most recently worked as CMO of weather tech startup ClimaCell, while Ahuja has previously built engineering teams as Carbon Black, Constant Contact and Cartera Commerce.

This Week on VAN

From Me to You(Tube): The Year Ahead for Video Advertising, read more on VAN

NBCUniversal Announces New D2C Streaming Service, read more on VAN

Can European Ad Tech Learn from Yospace’s Bootstrapping Approach to Growth? read more on VAN

Did Gillette’s ‘The Best Men Can Be’ Campaign Succeed? Here’s What the Data Said… read more on VAN

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