The WIR: US TV Networks Launch Addressable TV Advertising Consortium, Facebook’s Data Deals Come Under Criminal Investigation, and RTL Spurns ProSieben’s Streaming Joint Venture

In this week’s Week in Review: US TV Networks announced ‘Project OAR’, federal prosecutors investigate Facebook, and RTL chooses to go it alone with SVOD. To receive an update on the industry’s top stories every Friday, sign up to the weekly Video Round-Up.

Top Stories

US TV Networks Launch Addressable Advertising Consortium
A host of US television networks have launched a consortium aimed at creating new standards for addressable advertising on smart TVs. The initiative, Project OAR (Open Addressable Ready) will see data company Inscape develop a watermark standard for addressable advertising on both linear and on-demand television, which will work with smart TV maker Vizio (Inscape’s parent company). The hope is that other smart TV makers will take on the standard too, simplifying the delivery of addressable ads at scale across smart TVs.

Disney Media Networks, NBCUniversal Media, CBS, Discovery, AMC Networks, Hearst Television and Turner are all signed up to the initiative, as are AT&T’s Xandr and Comcast’s FreeWheel. “Project OAR aligns well with FreeWheel’s objective of supporting the industry to deliver scalable, addressable advertising solutions that will help make television an even more valuable platform for brand marketers,” said FreeWheel general manager Dave Clark. “Bringing an addressability standard to Smart TVs nicely complements solutions already available from MVPDs.”

Federal Prosecutors Conduct Criminal Investigation into Facebook’s Data Deals
Federal prosecutors in the US are conducting a criminal investigation into data deals struck by Facebook, the New York Times reported this week. A New York grand jury has reportedly subpoenaed records from two smartphone makers to gain insight into what sort of data Facebook was sharing with them. The new investigation piles more pressure on the social media giant, which was already being investigated by the Justice Department over data leaks which had seen Facebook user data obtained by Cambridge Analytica, who had then used it for ad campaigns designed to influence the 2016 US presidential election.

Facebook told the NYT that it is currently cooperating with investigators, and is taking the probe seriously.

RTL Rejects ProSieben’s Joint Streaming Service
European media group RTL said it wont join German broadcaster ProSiebenSat.1’s project to create a ‘German Hulu’, preferring to build up its own streaming services instead. RTL Group CEO Bert Habets said that the business would lose a lot of time entering into “complex negotiations” with ProSieben and other participants, which currently include Discovery, ZDF and WELT. Instead, RTL has big ambitions for its solo-offerings, aiming to build a top-three streaming platform in each of its markets and to triple the total subscriber count to its subscription video on-demand (SVOD) services in the next three years. To do so, RTL has pledged to invest €350 million in its SVOD products during this time period.

The Week in Tech

Google Removed 2.3 Billion Bad Ads Last Year
Google revealed fresh details this week of its efforts to “enable a safe digital advertising ecosystem”. Scott Spencer, director of sustainable ads at Google, said in a blog post that the company took down 2.3 billion ads last year which didn’t comply with new and existing policies, including ads for ticket re-sellers, ads for bail bonds and phishing ads. Spencer also said that Google is launching a new policy manager next month in Google Ads which will give advertisers tips on common policy mistakes, “to help well-meaning advertisers and make it easier to create and launch compliant ads.”

Lords Committee Calls for ‘Digital Authority’ to Help Regulate Big Tech
The UK should establish a new ‘Digital Authority’ to co-ordinate the various regulators which oversee the big tech companies, the House of Lords Communications Committee said on Saturday, with the release of its ‘Regulating in a Digital World’ report. The committee says that tech companies have so far failed to adequately tackle online harms, and that while the UK has strong and effective regulators, the fact that responsibility for the likes of Google, Facebook and Amazon is split between a number of organisations leaves gaps and overlaps in regulation. Read the full story on VAN.

Facebook Introduces New, More Granular Ad Relevance Metrics
Facebook announced this week it is replacing its single relevance score with three new metrics. The relevance score is designed to show whether an advertiser’s Facebook ads were relevant to the audience they reached, and the new metrics will measure relevance across three dimensions:

  • Quality ranking: How an ad’s perceived quality compared with ads competing for the same audience.
  • Engagement rate ranking: How an ad’s expected engagement rate compared with ads competing for the same audience.
  • Conversion rate ranking: How an ad’s expected conversion rate compared with ads that had the same optimisation goal and competed for the same audience.

FreeWheel Hosts First ‘Upfront’ Event
Comcast-owned ad tech company FreeWheel this week hosted its first upfront style event, designed to pitch its capabilities to the buy side. The event primarily touted FreeWheel’s new attribution features, as well as the launch of FreeWheel Media, a reorganisation and re-branding of existing FreeWheel businesses which brings together its buy-side accounts and ad-serving business.

The Week in TV

Channel 4 Confirms Interest in BritBox
Channel 4 CEO Alex Mahon this week confirmed that the broadcaster is in conversation with ITV and the BBC around joining the UK version of their joint subscription streaming service BritBox. Channel 4 has been trialling its own ad-free subscription video on-demand (SVOD) service, but Mahon told the Media & Telecoms 2019 & Beyond conference audience that her company it having “positive and constructive discussions” around joining BritBox too.

Lords Committee to Ask If Public Service Broadcasters Are Worth Saving from Digital Competitors
The UK’s House of Lords Communications Committee this week launched a new inquiry asking whether there is a future for public service broadcasters (PSBs) given the challenges they’re facing from digital competitors like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. The committee has called for evidence on a number of questions, one of which asks whether PSBs are even worth saving, should they struggle to survive without government intervention. Read the full story on VAN.

Canal Launches New SVOD Service ‘Canal+ Series’
French broadcaster Canal+ on Monday unveiled a new ad-free subscription video on-demand (SVOD) service called ‘Canal+ Series’. But while recent data found that Netflix has overtaken Canal’s individual subscriber count, Canal+ CEO Maxime Saada said the new offering is not an answer to Netflix, but is designed to be complementary to streaming services offered by US competitors. The service will undercut Netflix in price though, starting at €6.99 per month for one users (compared to €9.99 for Netflix in France). And Canal’s new service has a number of features presumably aimed at differentiating the product in a crowded SVOD market. Read the full story on VAN.

Sports Streaming Service DAZN to Begin Running Ads
Sports-dedicated streaming service DAZN will begin running advertising and sponsorship placements this year for the first time, the company announced this week. The UK-based business has been steadily building up its portfolio of sports rights and expanding into new markets since its 2016 launch, but has so far only monetised its content through subscription fees. DAZN’s ad inventory will be sold through sales house DAZN Media alongside parent company DAZN Group’s other media brands, which include Goal, SportingNews and DAZN Media will also handle sales for the DAZN Player (formerly ePlayer), a video on-demand (VOD) service which is distributed through third-party sites including Mail Online, MSN, Mundo Deportivo and La Repubblica. Read the full story on VAN.

The Week in Publishing

News Corp and DMG Media Call for Big Tech Break Up
News Corp and DMG Media this week issued calls for Google and Facebook to be broken up, saying that the tech giants’ dominance of digital advertising is harmful to consumers and news publishers. The media companies made submissions to inquiries in Australia and the UK in which they made their cases for government intervention. “Google leverages its market power in both general search services and ad tech services to the detriment of consumers, advertisers and news publishers,” said News Corp in its submission to the Australian competition authority. “To remedy these harms, Google could either sell Google Search, or retain Google Search and divest the rest of its businesses to a third party.”

DMG Media meanwhile told the UK inquiry that Google and Facebook must be broken up horizontally and vertically, saying that Google should be forced to sell or divest in YouTube, Chrome and Android, while Facebook should be forced to do the same with Instagram and WhatsApp.

US Esports Ad Revenues to Pass $200 Million Next Year
US ad revenues generated by esports will reach $213 million next year according to eMarketer, representing 20 percent growth on this year’s expected revenues of $178 million. “Esports was once an under-the-radar activity for enthusiasts of multiplayer online games,” said eMarketer principal analyst Paul Verna. “Just a few years later, it’s a multimillion-dollar business in the US, with implications for game developers, players, leagues, teams, live venues, streaming platforms, TV networks, audiences and marketers.”

Hearst UK Doubles Down on Video
Hearst UK is nearly doubling its video team from five to nine staff, Digiday reported this week. The publisher says it has found success with its push into original video content, with pre-roll ad revenues growing 1000 percent in 2018 (from a small base). Hearst reportedly is focused primarily on creating more video content for its own-sites, though it is also looking at developing more original series for YouTube.

The Week for Agencies

Unilever Sees Efficiency Gains from In-Housing
FMCG giant Unilever claims to have seen positive results from handling more of its advertising in-house. The company said in its annual report that on-site agencies (which are actually run by a specialist in-housing agency Oliver) are able to “create brand content faster and more efficiently than external agencies”. Unilever also saw its marketing spend drop by over €500 million last year, though Campaign reports that this was largely driven by currency differences, rather than savings from in-housing.

ISBA Admits Fresh Brexit Concerns
UK trade body ISBA is worried that uncertainty around Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union will see the UK’s advertising industry take a financial hit, The Drum reported this week. ISBA’s director of public policy James Barge told The Drum that the organisation is working with the government to represent the industry’s concerns, saying that “if the broader environment is disrupted then we will see impacts to the vibrancy and spend in our sector as well as disinvestment at a commercial level”.

Vodafone Says In-Housing Media Buying Has Been “Overwhelmingly Good”
Vodafone’s global director of brand and media Sara Martins de Oliveira told Campaign this week that the results from bringing digital media buying in-house have been “overwhelmingly good”. Oliveira claimed that digital media buying has been between ten and fifteen percent “more effective” during the first year of in-housing.

Hires of the Week

Cindy Rose Joins WPP Board
Microsoft UK CEO Cindy Rose has been appointed to WPP’s board as a non-executive director, WPP announced this week. WPP chairman Roberto Quarta said Rose’s understanding of the role of technology in business transformation will help WPP pursue its new strategy for growth.

MediaCom Appoints Tom Curtis as Executive Media Director
MediaCom has promoted Tom Curtis, previously head of its Beyond Advertising business, as its first executive creative director. Dan Wood and Paul Tremain will take over his leadership role at Beyond Advertising.

YouTube TV Picks Lori Conkling as Head of Partnerships
YouTube TV has hired Lori Conkling as its new head of partnerships, where she will take charge of negotiating pay-TV content deals. Conkling previously worked for NBCUniversal as EVP of strategy and business development.

This Week on VAN

Lords Committee Calls for ‘Digital Authority’ to Help Regulate Big Tech, read more on VAN

Canal Launches New SVOD Service ‘Canal+ Series’, read more on VAN

Is Content Still King in the Data-Driven OTT World? read more on VAN

Lords Committee to Ask If Public Service Broadcasters Are Worth Saving from Digital Competitors, read more on VAN

Sports Streaming Service DAZN to Begin Running Ads, read more on VAN

Traditional Advertisers Fear DTC Brands’ TV Tactics says Tatari’s Inghelbrecht, read more on VAN

Ad of the Week

Doritos, #NowItsHot, Goodby Silverstein & Partners

Subscribe to Weekly VAN Newsletter

Ad ExchangesAd of the WeekAd TechAgencyConnected TVDataEuropeLegalMeasurementMediaOTTPrivacyPublishingStandardsTechTVUS