The WIR: AT&T’s DirecTV Continues to Lose Subscribers, Digital Publishers Launch Video Measurement Alliance, and Ebiquity Warns that UK Broadcasters are Reaching ‘Tipping Point’

In this week’s Week in Review: DirecTV subscriber numbers continue to drop, digital publishers launch a new alliance, and Ebiquity finds UK broadcasters reaching a ‘tipping point’. To receive an update on the industry’s top stories every Friday, sign up to the weekly Video Round-Up.

Top Stories

AT&T Stocks Fall as Subscribers Continue to Plummet
AT&T shares fell by over five percent on Wednesday after the company’s Q4 financial results, which showed falling subscription numbers for its DirecTV satellite service. DirecTV satellite subscribers fell by 408,000 in Q4 to 19.2 million. But perhaps even more worryingly for AT&T, subscriptions to DirecTV Now, its digital subscription streaming service, were also down for the first time, falling by 269,000 to 1.59 million. DirecTV Now was seen as a key motivator for AT&T’s acquisition of DirecTV, helping it to reach cord-cutters, but now it seems the cord-cutters are cutting off this service too.

However there was better news for AT&T elsewhere, with its ad tech unit Xandr seeing a 48.6 percent increase in ad revenues, and its media arm WarnerMedia posting operating income gains in all business units.

Vice, BuzzFeed and Group Nine Launch Video Measurement Initiative
Digital publishers Vice, BuzzFeed and Group Nine Media (owner of Thrillist, NowThis, The Dodo and Seeker) have teamed up with social video analytics company Tubular Labs to launch the ‘Global Video Measurement Alliance’ (GVMA). The alliance says it aims to create standards and a new measurement solution for video content to help brand partners measure reach and engagement levels for their videos, giving them a better understanding of return on investment. The three publishers are inviting more partners to get on board.

“Existing content measurement solutions do not adequately measure against the KPIs brands are interested in most. We all know the time spent engaging with content is proven to increase brand recall and lift but is still an afterthought,” said Josh Cogswell, president of digital at VICE. “We look forward to Tubular Labs and GVMA helping advertisers better gauge our premium, high impact ad opportunities.”

UK Broadcasters are Reaching an Advertising ‘Tipping Point’ says Ebiquity
Within the next five years, TV may no longer been as reliable for advertisers seeking cost effective reach as it is today, warned research firm Ebiquity in a new report this week. Ebiquity predicts that with TV audiences falling among younger generations and households with children, linear TV in the UK will become vastly more expensive for advertisers looking for reach. The company predicts that by 2022, ‘cost per thousand impacts’ on UK linear TV will rise by 70-90 percent for 16-34 year olds, and by 30-50 percent for households with children.

“We are saying that unless action is taken by advertisers and broadcasters, that by 2022 TV will no longer hold the crown as having the highest return on investment on a media plan. Advertisers will need to re-evaluate their media plans and investment,” said Ebiquity chief strategy officer Christian Polman.

The Week in Tech

Taptica in ‘Advanced Talks’ to Acquire RhythmOne
Mobile ad tech business Taptica confirmed on Wednesday that it is in advanced talks to buy RhythmOne in an all-share deal which would create a company worth £260 million. The deal would see Taptica shareholders take a 50.1 percent stake of the new company, while RhythmOne shareholders would own the rest. Having formally announced its intentions, Taptica now has until February 26th to make an offer, though Sky reports a deal could be struck as early as this week. Read the full story on VAN.

Good Times, Bad Times for Facebook
Facebook once again beat analyst expectations for earnings and revenues in its Q4 financial results on Thursday, generating quarterly revenues of $16.9 billion, and a profit of $6.88 billion, 61 percent growth year-on-year. And the company revealed its next path to growth, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg announcing plans to integrate the messaging functions of its various apps – WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger. This would allow users to communicate between the separate apps for the first time, giving them a combined reach of 2.6 billion users.

But there was bad news for Facebook too, as Apple banned a Facebook research app from its store for breaking privacy rules around data collection. The app saw teens and young adults paid $20 per month in exchange for Facebook tracking their activity across various apps and web browsers. Apple also blocked several apps used by Facebook internally, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Teads Signs Exclusive Global Partnership with Vice
Teads this week announced an exclusive global partnership with Vice Media to deliver both video and viewable display advertising across Vice brands. Teads’ said its Global Media Platform will enable Vice to scale both its video and viewable display inventory, and increase video and display ad monetisation through both its direct sales team as well as via Teads demand globally. “Vice is excited to be working alongside Teads, who we have found to deliver reliable and consistent high- quality brand video content through ad formats that perform yet respect our users’ experience,” said Vice Media VP of global programmatic solutions Alex Payne.

Study Finds 59 Percent of Non-Optimised Video Retargeting Ads Are Wasted
Fifty-nine percent of retargeted video ads which aren’t optimised based on consumer sentiment are wasted, according to research conducted by MAGNA, IPG Media Lab and ViralGains. The study tested two video ad journeys among 6,000 consumers in the third quarter of 2018. One group of consumers received a series of video ads optimised based on sentiment – specifically each viewer’s level of interest in the first video ad – gathered via a poll served immediately after the advertisement. The second group received a series of videos that were served based on exposure only. Where campaigns were sentiment driven, customers were twice as likely to visit the brand’s website, and 85 percent said the ads were interesting.

Privacy Groups Accuse Ad Exchanges of ‘Unlawfully Profiling’ Internet Users
Several privacy groups this week filed new evidence in existing privacy complaints in the UK, Ireland and Poland in which they claim that “ad auction companies” unlawfully profile internet users’ religious beliefs, ethnicities, diseases, disabilities and sexual orientation. The evidence, described here by Brave, pointed to existing IAB profiling categories like “IAB7-28 Incest/Abuse Support”, saying ad exchanges could use this category to target incest or abuse victims. Google meanwhile runs its own category list, which the campaigners say include “equally sensitive insights”.

The Week in TV

Apple Rumoured to Launch Streaming Service in April
Apple’s upcoming streaming service, which is as-yet unnamed, could launch as early as this spring, according to a report in The Information. Apple has reportedly been telling various content partners to be ready for the service to launch as soon as April. The service will be available via the existing Apple TV app, with some content provided for free and some available via in-app purchases. Much still remains unknown about the new service, including its price, but Apple has been spending heavily on original content, including a reboot of Steven Spielberg series Amazing Stories and series directed by Damien Chazelle and M. Night Shyamalan.

Altice Buys Majority Stake in Molotov
French telco Altice is set to buy a majority stake in French over-the-top (OTT) platform Molotov. Molotov, which says it has over seven million users in France, gives users a Netflix-style interface to choose from content currently playing on live channels. Altice says it hopes to drive further adoption for Molotov in France, as well as international expansion, in order to create “the Spotify of television”.

T-Mobile Streaming Service May Launch in Coming Weeks
T-Mobile is set to launch a free, ad-supported mobile video service in the coming weeks, according to report from Cheddar. Cheddar first reported that T-Mobile is planning to launch a mobile TV service based on licensed Xumo technology, but Xumo since tweeted a correction saying it’s working with T-Mobile on a “snackable content app” which will launch on two phones next month. This is however apparently a separate initiative from the “disruptive TV service” which T-Mobile CEO John Legere has previously said is in the works.

Hulu Begins Running ‘Pause Ads’
US streaming service Hulu has begun running ‘pause ads’ – ads which run when a viewer pauses a show they are streaming. Variety reported last December that Hulu and AT&T were both working on the format, and Hulu has now verified it is beta testing the ads with select advertisers in Q2 this year.

The Week in Publishing

TikTok Begins Testing Ads
Lip-syncing and short-form video platform TikTok has begun testing ads in the US and EU, according to a report from Digiday this week., a one-time rival to TikTok which was merged with TikTok last year, had begun running ads before the merger, but TikTok was yet to offer any formal ad units for brands. However users have now spotted pre-roll skippable ads appearing on the app, and TikTok has since confirmed it is testing out a variety of ad formats, including in-feed native video and camera filters.

Reddit Begins Running Cost-Per-Click Ads
Reddit revealed this week it has begun selling cost-per-click ads, with all of its inventory on desktop, mobile web and app available to buy on a cost-per-click basis. This marks Reddit’s first performance-based offering, though the company says it plans to release more performance-focussed ad tools in the future.

Bloomberg Media Posts 16 Percent Revenue Growth
Bloomberg Media recorded 16 percent annual revenue growth in 2018 according to Campaign, and expects double digit growth again this year, after introducing a paywall in 2018. The publisher says it sold three times more subscriptions than its target, and that digital ad revenue growth has been strong too at 15 percent year-on-year.

The Week for Agencies

Unilever Calls for Industry Cooperation on Cross-Media Measurement
Unilever is calling on players across the industry to cooperate on a new system of measurement to measure campaign audience and impact over the short, medium and long term across digital, TV and social media. The company says it has made “significant steps” towards building a model that offers brands transparency on media performance, and that to accelerate progress it has now engaged the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA), as well as other industry bodies, brands, platforms and publishers.

“To realise our vision of a more transparent and high-quality digital ecosystem, our partnerships have been, and will remain, instrumental in developing an always-on, privacy-safe model for cross media measurement,” said Unilever CEO Keith Weed. “We are hugely encouraged that our digital and measurement partners worked with us to enable these significant steps towards solving the challenge of holistic media measurement.”

UK Ad Spend Growth Predicted to Slow Down Amid Brexit Uncertainty
Total UK ad spend growth will slow to 4.6 percent this year, falling from six percent last year, according to the Advertising Association/WARC’s latest Expenditure Report. Despite this fall in growth rates, WARC data editor James McDonald said the industry is in “rude health” overall, though the report suggested the outlook might be worse, depending on the way in which the UK leaves the EU. The prediction of 4.6 percent growth is based on the UK negotiating a favourable exit deal with the European Union – if this doesn’t happen, growth rates would be lower still.

Martin Sorrell Asked to Repay Expenses to WPP
Ex-WPP CEO Martin Sorrell has been asked to pay back some of his previous expenses, as his old employer has been sifting through his old expense claim, according to the Wall Street Journal. Sorrell has reportedly been asked by WPP to clarify some of his expenses charged to the company stretching back several years, including items for a New York apartment, travel for his spouse and child, and ski trips. The WSJ report also claimed that Sorrell has already paid back £170,000 to WPP after previous scrutiny of his expenses.

Hires of the Week

IAA UK Appoints Kirsty Giordani as Executive Director
The International Advertising Association (IAA) UK Chapter has announced the appointment of Kirsty Giordani as Executive Director, following Angus Grieve’s decision to step down. Giordani has previously spent ten years at CNN, most recently as Account Director, and has also volunteered for the IAA.

Greg Garunov Joins Sightly
Video advertising and analytics platform Sightly has hired Greg Garunov as its SVP of performance and partner strategy, it announced this week.  In this newly created role, Garunov will lead business development, manage partnerships and champion customer needs, according to Sightly.

Stringr Appoints Drew Berkowitz as SVP of Sales
Stringr this week announced the appointment of Drew Berkowitz to its leadership team as Senior Vice President of Sales. Stringr says the newly created position signals its growth in the media landscape and the company’s desire to address increasing demand for its product across content producers.

This Week on VAN

Influencers are at Risk of Breaching ASA Rules says Primas Law’s Kerr, read more on VAN

Should Amazon Buy Snapchat? read more on VAN

Taptica in ‘Advanced Talks’ to Acquire RhythmOne, read more on VAN

The Agency View: is Facebook Too Big to Fail? read more on VAN

Ad of the Week

Sonos, Mike ‘The Mic’ Milligan, DBP Donut

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