The WIR: Quantcast Faces GDPR Investigation, YouTube Makes Original Content Free, and UK BVOD Ad Revenues Grow Thirty Percent

In this week’s Week in Review: Quantcast comes under investigation for a potential breach of GDPR, YouTube makes its original content available for free, and UK BVOD revenues see impressive growth. To receive an update on the industry’s top stories every Friday, sign up to the weekly Video Round-Up.

Top Stories

Quantcast Under Investigation for Potential GDPR Breach
Tech giant Quantcast is the latest company to be placed under investigation over a potential breach of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC), which is also currently investigating Facebook, Apple and Twitter among others, confirmed this week that it has opened an investigation into Quantcast. This follows a complaint from Privacy International made to the DPC, which also named ad tech companies Criteo and Tapad.

“The purpose of the inquiry is to establish whether the company’s processing and aggregating of personal data for the purposes of profiling and utilising the profiles generated for targeted advertising is in compliance with the relevant provisions of the GDPR,” the DPC told TechCrunch. “The GDPR principle of transparency and retention practices will also be examined.”

YouTube Removes Paywall for Original Content
YouTube confirmed this week that its YouTube Originals shows will soon be made available for free, supported by ads. YouTube’s original content has so far has only been available through YouTube’s paid subscription service YouTube Premium, which also provides ad-free viewing across the site.

The content is a mixture of TV-like shows with big budgets such as Karate Kid reboot ‘Cobra Kai’, and smaller scale projects featuring YouTube creators like Liza Koshy and Dude Perfect. It’s been hard to measure these shows’ success. Some shows have proven popular – Cobra Kai’s first season was nominated for an Emmy, and has a 100 percent rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. But YouTube has generally kept quiet about how many users have actually signed up to Premium, though back in 2016 it was reported to have just 1.5 million subscribers. YouTube says that its original content will be available to advertisers through bespoke sponsorships or Google Preferred lineups.

UK BVOD Ad Spend Grows Nearly Thirty Percent
Ad revenues for the UK’s broadcaster video on-demand (BVOD) services reached £391 million last year, representing 29.4 percent year-on-year growth, according to the Advertising Association/WARC Expenditure Report released this week. The report forecast that BVOD ad revenues will continue to grow rapidly over the next few years too, up 26.3 percent this year, and a further 20.2 percent in 2020.

Overall, the report found that UK ad spend rose 6.3 percent year on year, reaching £23.6 billion, marking the ninth consecutive year of market growth. “With further growth predicted for both 2019 and 2020, UK advertising looks set to deliver over a decade of continuous growth,” said the Advertising Association’s chief executive Stephen Woodford. “Like all UK industries, we hope to see a positive resolution of the Brexit situation, with business-friendly data, immigration and trade outcomes that could further boost this forecast growth.”

The Week in Tech

Google’s Ad Revenue Growth Slowdown Continues
Google’s ad revenues in Q1 reached $30.7 billion year-on-year, representing 15.3 percent year-on-year growth. While these figures are by no means bad, this is the lowest growth rate for Google’s ad revenues (which make up around 85 percent of Google’s total revenues) in over three years. Google parent company Alphabet’s share price has fallen by over ten percent since the results were released.

Google did not delve much into why the slowdown occurred, but many have speculated that competition from Amazon is drawing ad spend away from Google. However Amazon’s own ad sales growth rate has also slowed down significantly.

Alphabet Share Price

Facebook Continues ‘Pivot to Privacy’
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg used his company’s F8 developer conference to talk more about Facebook’s push into privacy, declaring that “the future is private”. The privacy focus will include a complete “re-plumbing” of Facebook’s infrastructure, and the integration of messaging capabilities across Facebook owned apps WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram into one product with end-to-end encryption.

VideoAmp Raises $70 Million in New Funding Round
Video ad tech company VideoAmp announced this week that it has raised $70 million in a new funding round led by The Raine Group and joined by Ankona Capital. This brings total investment in the company up to around $106 million, with Mediaocean and RTL Group among the previous investors. VideoAmp, which matches marketers’ first party sales and conversion data with ad exposure data to help measure and optimise campaigns, says the funding will be used to expand its customer success and data science teams. Read the full story on VAN.

YouTube Reintroduces Third-Party Ad Serving in Europe
YouTube is reintroducing third-party ad serving on reserved buys in Europe after scrapping it last year in anticipation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Third-party ad serving will now be enabled via a new API-based framework, which Google says ingests ads it receives from other ad servers, before serving those creatives via Google’s own systems. Vendors currently signed up to provide third-party ad serving are Innovid, Extreme Reach, Adform, and Flashtalking, according to Google’s developer blog. Sizmek is also listed as a vendor, although its status is currently unclear – while Sizmek’s data management platform (DMP) and demand-side platform (DSP) were sold to Zeta Global last week, its ad server is still up for sale. Read the full story on VAN.

Google Sets Ads.txt Only as Default on Display & Video 360
Google announced this week that it is making ‘ads.txt only’ the default setting on its Display & Video 360 demand-side platform (which was known as DoubleClick Bid Manager up until July last year). The company launched the ‘ads.txt only’ setting in a year ago, allowing advertisers to choose to buy only from publishers which had listed their authorised sellers in an ads.txt file, but the feature was originally opt-in. From August this year however, DV360 will by default only buy inventory from publishers which have placed an ads.txt file on their sites. Read the full story on VAN.

Ex-Roku Execs Launch CTV Ad Network Tetra TV
Two ex-Roku executives this week announced the launch of Tetra TV, a connected-TV focussed ad network. The company, led by Steve Shannon and Jim Lombard, says it pools ad inventory from over 100 streaming video content channels, allowing advertisers to buy inventory and dynamically insert ads across platforms including Apple TV, Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, Roku, PlayStation, Xbox, and smart TVs from Samsung, Vizio, Sony and LG.

“Ad-supported streaming TV is growing fast, but the viewing is fragmented across a wide array of devices and publishers creating siloed video ad inventory,” says Jim Lombard, Tetra TV’s chief revenue officer and co-founder. “Tetra TV navigates these complexities, unlocks premium ad inventory, and provides transparent reporting with universal measurement standards for advertisers looking to reach the growing streaming TV audience.”

More Ad Fraud will be Stopped This Year than Will Succeed
Advertising fraud rates are falling, and for the first time the majority of fraud attempts are being blocked before the buyer pays for the impression, according to White Ops and the ANA’s Bot Baseline Report for 2018-2019. The study found that fraud attempts amount to 20 to 35 percent of all ad impressions, but over half of of this is cut out by various preventative measures adopted by the industry. Read the full story on VAN.

TabMo Signs Up to Fenestra’s Blockchain Technology
TabMo has become the first mobile advertising demand side platform (DSP) to be a certified adopter of Fenestra’s blockchain technology, the company announced this week. As a Fenestra partner, TabMo says it can verify that its buying mechanics are in the best interests of the advertiser and that all the sources in the supply chain are premium and legitimate. Agencies and advertisers selecting to use the service have full visibility of how much money is spent on the inventory they buy and the amount that goes to suppliers along the chain between the agency and the publisher, according to a statement from TabMo.

Tremor Video DSP Launches Creative Studio
Tremor Video DSP this week announced the launch of its Creative Studio, which it describes as “a dedicated team of industry experts whose focus is on innovating video solutions for brands in an increasingly complex ecosystem”. “We are here to support brands and agencies at any stage, including pre- and post-production; everything from sharing best practices at the onset to customising existing video assets that message in the right manner to highly nuanced audiences,” said Les Seifer, senior director and head of creative at Tremor Video DSP. “Our team can also produce original video assets for clients.”

The Week in TV

Hulu Reports Rapid Subscriber Growth
US over-the-top (OTT) service Hulu this week reported its paid subscriber count has reached 26.8 million, suggesting that the company attracted almost four million new paying subscribers in the first four months of the year. Hulu is still far behind rival Netflix in subscriber figures, with Netflix reporting nearly 148.9 million global subscribers last month. But this is due in part at least to the fact that Hulu is not yet available internationally, which may change as majority owner Disney mulls over an international expansion. And domestically, Hulu is growing much faster than Netflix, which reported US subscriber growth of 1.7 million in Q1, forecasting slower gains in Q2 due to its recent price hike.

Sky Adopts NBCUniversal’s “Unified Advertising Metric” CFlight
Sky announced on Wednesday that it is adopting NBCUniversal’s cross-platform ‘CFlight’ metric across all of Sky Media’s content and platforms, as NBCU seeks to push global adoption of the metric. Sky and NBCUniversal have been gradually aligning their advertising solutions since NBCU owner Comcast bought Sky last year, with the two announcing back in March that Sky’s addressable TV advertising solution AdSmart is expanding to NBCU.  NBCU hopes the metric will be adopted widely beyond Comcast’s walls, and hopes the Sky roll-out as a way to help the metric gain global traction in other markets. Read the full story on VAN.

One in Four UK Households Considering Cancelling Their Pay-TV Subscriptions
Nearly one in four (24 percent) UK households say they are likely to cancel their pay-TV subscriptions according to research from Parks Associates, up from 12 percent in 2015. Unsurprisingly, the report attributed the growth in cord-cutting to the growing popularity of over-the-top (OTT) services. “Subscription streaming services, also called OTT service subscriptions, have become incredibly popular in the UK over the past two years, with 52 per cent of households subscribing to at least one,” said Parks Associates research senior director Brett Sappington.

Amazon Spent $1.7 Billion on Video and Music Content in Q1 This Year
Amazon reported in a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission that it spent $1.7 billion on video and music content during the first three month of this year, according to AdAge. This is the first time the company has broken down its exact spending on content, and while the figure is high, it still pales in comparison to Netflix, which will spend around $15 billion on content this year according to Bloomberg Intelligence.

The Week in Publishing

The Guardian Hits Profitability
The Guardian reported its first operating profit since 1998 this week, marking the successful turnaround of the business from losses reaching £57 million back in 2016, to a profit of £0.8 million today. The transformation comes at the end of a three year strategy implemented by CEO David Pemsel and editor-in-chief Katharine Viner shortly after their appointments in 2015. The Guardian simultaneously cut costs by shedding staff and switching to a cheaper format for the print version of its paper, while also raising revenues through strong growth in digital advertising and voluntary donations from Guardian supporters. “Although the significant turbulence in the global media sector shows no sign of abating any time soon, we have developed a set of core strengths which will help to ensure the Guardian’s ongoing independence and financial sustainability for the long term,” said Pemsel.

Altice USA Buys Cheddar Inc.
Cable operator Altice USA announced this week it is buying digital news streaming network Cheddar for $200 million. Cheddar, launched in 2016, focuses heavily on financial news, with its flagship newscast being broadcast from the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange. The streaming service puts out around 19 hours of content per day, and is available on a variety of platforms including Roku, Sling TV, Hulu, YouTube TV, PlayStation Vue and Twitter, claiming to attract 400 million video views per month. Cheddar’s founder and CEO Jon Steinberg will become president of Altice News, a unit which will include Altice’s other news properties News 12 and i24News.

Twitter Unveils New Video Content Partnerships
Twitter announced a series of new video content partnerships at its Newfronts event this week, including new deals with existing partners, and a few brand new partnerships. Among the announcements were new deals with Univision, The Players’ Tribune, The Wall Street Journal and Time Magazine, as well as extensions of existing deals with the MLS, ESPN, Bleacher Report and Bloomberg – Tech Crunch has the breakdown.

Vice to Block Some Sensitive Terms from Brand Blacklists
Vice announced this week it will no longer allow brands and agencies to include certain words and phrases on their ‘blacklists’, lists of words which brands don’t want to be found in any content their ads are placed next to. The phrases Vice is barring from blacklists include ‘climate change’, ‘feminist’, ‘LGBTQ’, ‘transgender’, ‘muslim’ and ‘immigrant’. Some brands had been blacklisting these phrases for fear of having their ads placed next to potentially controversial content. But Vice said that internal research found that blacklists which include these phrases end up restricting content which promotes diversity and inclusion.

The Week for Agencies

S4 Capital Profits Grow 37 Percent
Martin Sorrell’s investment vehicle S4 Capital’s gross profits grew 37 percent year on year, while sales rose 38 percent, in strong Q1 financial results. Sorrell said the strong performance was due to client interest in the group’s first-party data model, which he said has escalated in the new year. “Speed in all senses of the word is becoming a crucial competitive advantage and differentiator and we don’t have to set up an institute to learn that,” he added. “We just listen.”

Dentsu Aegis Network Pulls Funding for Woodstock 50
Dentsu Aegis Network announced this week that it has pulled funding for Woodstock 50, a festival that was to be held to mark the 50th anniversary of the original Woodstock. “It’s a dream for agencies to work with iconic brands and to be associated with meaningful movements,” the group said in a statement. “We have a strong history of producing experiences that bring people together around common interests and causes which is why we chose to be a part of the Woodstock 50th Anniversary Festival. But despite our tremendous investment of time, effort and commitment, we don’t believe the production of the festival can be executed as an event worthy of the Woodstock Brand name while also ensuring the health and safety of the artists, partners and attendees.”

General Mills Shifts to Project-Based Model for Agency Relationships
Global food brand General Mills has dropped 72andSunny as its agency of record, switching to a new model where it will work with different agencies on a project-by-project basis. The MDC Partners owned agency won lead creative duties in the US in 2016, but will now be just one of a number of agencies that General Mills’ sub-brands may choose to work with, according to AdAge.

Hires of the Week

Discovery Names Matthew Butler as GM of Travel Channel
Discovery has chosen Matthew Butler as the new general manager of its Travel Channel, promoting him from VP of programming and development.

Filippo Vizotto Joins Xaxis as EMEA Sales Director
Xaxis this week announced the appointment of Filippo Vizzotto as EMEA Sales Director. Joining from Shazam, Vizzotto has over 14 years of experience and will be responsible for amplifying Xaxis’ relationships with clients and agencies across EMEA.

This Week on VAN

YouTube Reintroduces Third-Party Ad Serving in Europe, read more on VAN

The Buy-Side View: Q&A with Schneider Electric’s Alexander Pasch, read more on VAN

Google Sets Ads.txt Only as Default on Display & Video 360, read more on VAN

Sky Adopts NBCUniversal’s “Unified Advertising Metric” CFlight, read more on VAN

VideoAmp Raises $70 Million in New Funding Round, read more on VAN

More Ad Fraud will be Stopped This Year than Will Succeed, read more on VAN

Ad of the Week

Ecover, L’Eau de Bebe, Uncommon

Subscribe to Weekly VAN Newsletter

Ad of the WeekAd TechAgencyConnected TVDataEuropeLegalMediaOTTPrivacyTechTVUS