The WIR: Roku Expands its European Footprint, Apple TV+ Pricing Hints at Strategy, and US States Launch an Antitrust Probe into Google

In this week’s Week in Review: Roku expands its presence in Europe, Apple TV’s pricing hints at the overall strategy behind the product, and Google faces an antitrust investigation from 48 US states.To receive an update on the industry’s top stories every Friday, sign up to the weekly Video Round-Up.

Top Stories

Roku Follows Amazon with European Expansion
Just a week after Amazon announced it is expanding its Fire TV OTT platform in Europe, Roku revealed its own European expansion. The company announced it is expanding its smart-TV licensing programme, which allows smart-TV manufacturers to build Roku’s OTT operating system into their devices, into Europe. Hisense will be the first European Roku TV partner, and is expected to launch Roku TV models in the UK in Q4.

The news follows hot on the heels of Amazon’s announcement that Fire TV smart TVs will be available in Europe for the first time, while Fire TV sticks are debuting in new European markets too. Both Roku and Amazon’s OTT platforms have a strong presence in the US, but they have less penetration in EMEA. The prize for the winner is significant – wide distribution of their platforms allows the companies to charge high prices for content promotion, and to take a large cut of ad revenue from OTT services they distribute.

Apple TV+ Price Point Hints at Hardware Sales Strategy
Apple this week revealed its pricing plans for its upcoming subscription video on-demand (SVOD) service, Apple TV+. The service will cost $4.99 per month, significantly cheaper than rivals like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+, but a year’s free subscription will be provided with any purchase of an iPhone, iPad, Apple TV or Mac.

The announcement hints at Apple’s strategy with the service – that it’s designed to help shift hardware and boost usage of the Apple TV OTT platform, rather than to exist as an entirely standalone service. As The Guardian’s UK tech editor Alex Hern speculated, if Apple TV+ drives customers to access the OTT platform more regularly, it could boost revenue Apple makes from channel subscriptions bought via its platforms as it becomes a go-to destination for streaming content.

US States Launch Google Probe
A bipartisan collection of attorneys general representing 48 US states, plus Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, announced this week they’ve launched an antitrust investigation into Google. The investigation will focus on Google’s dominant position in digital advertising, though it’s scope may expand as the probe progresses, said Texas attorney general Ken Paxton. The group has already sent Google a civil subpoena requesting information about its ad business.

Google is already under investigation by the US Justice Department over antitrust concerns, alongside fellow big tech players Facebook and Amazon. Google maintains that its power in digital advertising hasn’t led to a lack of competition in ad tech, releasing a blog post this week titled “The ad tech industry is crowded and competitive”. Google says it faces stiff competition from “household names” likes Adobe, Amazon, AT&T, Comcast, Facebook, Oracle and Horizon, as well as from the likes of Telaria, Rubicon Project and The Trade Desk.

The Week in Tech

Low Buy-Side Adoption is Holding Back Ads.txt
IAB Tech Lab’s ads.txt initiative, designed to help cut down ad fraud and domain spoofing in digital advertising, is being held back by low adoption and awareness from the buy-side, according to IAB Europe. IAB Europe’s ‘Attitudes to Programmatic Advertising 2019’ report, released on Wednesday, found that while 56 percent of publishers sell the majority of their inventory with ads.txt files attached, only six percent of advertisers and 26 percent of agencies say the majority of the inventory they buy is verified by ads.txt. Read the full story on VAN.

Amid Mounting Regulatory Threats, Google Picks Up Two Legal Wins in Europe
The threat of increased regulation continues to loom over Google, with the recent antitrust investigations launched by 50 US states and territories adding to existing federal investigations in America, alongside similar moves by European governments and regulators. But the search giant picked up two wins in Europe on Thursday as Europe’s top court ruled against two separate initiatives from Germany and Hungary which targeted Google. Read the full story on VAN.

Activist AT&T Investor Pushes Company to Focus on Telco Roots
Hedge fund Elliott Management Corp, which holds a $3.2 billion stake AT&T, this week criticised the company’s recent strategy, calling on it to focus on strengthening its core telco business. While AT&T, through acquisitions like Time Warner and AppNexus, is building itself into a media and advertising giant, Elliott complained of what it sees as a lack of “clear strategic rationale for why AT&T needs to own Time Warner”. And as the Wall Street Journal’s CMO Today pointed out, the complaint didn’t even acknowledge the role AT&T’s advanced advertising unit Xandr plays in its strategy.

Tremor Video Brings Native Ads to LG Smart TVs
Tremor Video is bringing its video advertising platform to webOS smart TVs from LG Electronics, the companies announced on Tuesday. The ad units will run on the LG smart TV’s home screen, which the two say will help to drive viewers to an app or drive tune-in campaigns for specific shows and movies. “Partnering with LG provides advertisers with a turnkey, cost-effective way to entice viewers with their brand messages before they enter another streaming service,” said Jay Baum, Tremor Video’s chief commercial officer.

DoubleVerify Partners with Snapchat to Authenticate Media Quality
DoubleVerify this week announced a partnership with Snapchat to authenticate ad viewability and prevent digital ad fraud and sophisticated invalid traffic (SIVT). DV says it is the only verification provider with coverage that extends across Snapchat’s Filter, Lens, Snap Ad (display and video) and Story Ad formats. “DV’s mission is to give advertisers clarity and confidence in their digital investment – across buying platforms, channels and media formats,” said Wayne Gattinella, CEO of DoubleVerify. “Our partnership with Snapchat deepens DV’s quality coverage across the social media ecosystem.”

The Week in TV

TV Networks to Add Out-of-Home Viewing to Nielsen Ratings
Nielsen plans from next September to begin out-of-home viewing to TV ratings, meaning that those viewing on shared screens at places like bars and airports, and those watching anywhere on phones or tablets, will be accounted for. The move will be welcomed by broadcasters who’ve felt aggrieved that Nielsen’s ratings in some cases haven’t included large portions of their audiences – CNBC for example stopped working with Nielsen years ago as Nielsen wasn’t counting those watching its business coverage in their offices, according to the Washington Post.

ProSiebenSat.1 and Vodafone Trial Addressable TV Bumper Ads
German broadcaster ProSiebenSat.1 and Vodafone are collaborating on addressable TV ‘bumper ads’ enabled by HbbTV. ProSieben has been active in rolling out HbbTV-delivered addressable advertising on its channels, but says the six second Vodafone ads are the first of their type to be delivered as addressable ads on linear TV. The company said if the trial is successful, it could be rolled out as a commercial product in the coming months.

Berenberg says Britbox is ‘Uncompelling’
Analysts Berenberg this week aired their doubts about ITV and the BBC’s joint streaming service Britbox, describing it as “uncompelling” compared to other subscription services set to launch soon. Britbox is already available in the US, but the upcoming launch of a UK version is seen as one of ITV’s (and to a lesser extent the BBC’s) big efforts to defend their home territory against US streaming services. But the low price points of Apple TV+ and Disney+, and Britbox’s low budget for original programming, means Berenberg “do not see a strong rationale for take-up of Britbox”.

The Week in Publishing

The Athletic Experiments with Advertising
Subscription sports publisher The Athletic has made its first move into advertising with the launch of an ad-supported podcast called ‘The Lead’, Bloomberg reported this week. The Athletic was founded in 2016, and has been making waves in Europe recently with an aggressive push into the UK market – the publisher started featuring dedicated coverage of the Premier League earlier this year, spending big to secure some of the country’s top football journalists in the process. But while it’s so far stuck with a subscription-supported model and made its ad-free experience a key part of its sales pitch, the launch of on ad-supported podcast suggests this anti-ad stance could be softened in the future.

Twitter Tempts Ad Spend with Agency Playbook
Twitter launched its Agency Playbook this week, designed to help advertisers and agencies get the most out of Twitter’s ad offering, in turn driving more ad spend onto the platform. The playbook gives guidelines on Twitter’s interest-based targeting tools, creative ad specs and analytic tools. It also gives data-backed advice on what makes for a good profile and a good Tweet for brands’ Twitter accounts.

Bloomberg Hails Success of Subscription Strategy
Bloomberg Media says that by the end of 2019, it’s on track to have double the number of paid subscriptions it had at the same point last year, according to Digiday. The financial publisher said that its subscription count by the end of 2018 was three times greater than it had expected, and that this growth has continued as it’s tweaked the workings of its paywall. “Revenue is becoming significant enough where we’re starting to think about revenue balance and how do you optimise between digital advertising and subscriptions,”, Bloomberg Media’s global head of digital and media distribution told Digiday.

The Week for Agencies

Sorrell Says S4 Will Double in Size by 2021
Sir Martin Sorrell, executive chairman at S4 Capital, says increased interest from major brands means his business is on course to double in size by 2021. S4 has already won work from brands including P&G, Coca-Cola and Nestle, and is increasingly being asked to pitch for major corporate accounts, according to Reuters. Sorrell says he is keen to take these opportunities, focusing on growing revenue at the expense of slightly lower earnings.

Unite Becomes First Trade Union to Sign Conscious Advertising Network Manifestos
Unite this week became the first major trade union to sign up to the Conscious Advertising Network’s (CAN) six manifestos, which are designed to help drive an ethical renaissance in the advertising industry. CAN’s manifestos cover fake news, diversity, consent, hate speech, ad fraud and children’s welfare, with each manifesto mapping out tangible actions the industry can take to help tackle these problems. “We now intend to take this initiative directly to other employers who recognise Unite to encourage them to consider how committing to better ethical frameworks can become part of their employment and advertising policies,” said Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner.

GroupM Says China is Home to 83 Percent of Ad Fraud
Eighty-three percent of global ad fraud originates in China, according to data from GroupM, which put the total value of ad fraud at $22.3 billion, almost eleven percent of all digital ad spend. North America meanwhile accounts for 11.6 percent of ad fraud according to GroupM, while EMEA accounts for 3.6 percent. The media agency said the severity of the problem in China is partly due to a lack of adoption of verification tech in that market.

Hires of the Week

Interpublic Picks Philippe Krakowsky as COO
Interpublic Group has chosen longtime executive Philippe Krakowsky for the newly created position of chief operating officer. Krakowsky has been with Interpublic for 17 years in a variety of roles, and will continue to serve as chief strategy officer and chief talent officer.

Publicis Sapient Hires Kristi Erickson as Chief Talent Officer
Publicis Sapient has hired Kristi Erickson, founder of Mosaic Talent and a 25 year veteran of Accenture, as its chief talent officer. Erickson’s remit will include promoting inclusion and talent development within Publicis Sapient.

Cleve Gibbon Joins Wunderman Thompson as NA CTO
Wunderman Thompson has chosen Cleve Gibbon as its new chief technology officer in North America, it announced this week. Gibbon, who currently work’s as chief marketing technology officer at Cognifide, will continue in his current role while taking on the new responsibility.

Paul Frampton to Lead Control v. Exposed in Europe
Former Havas Media Group UK chief executive Paul Frampton has joined Googdway Group’s performance marketing agency Control v. Exposed as chief executive of its European arm.

This Week on VAN

How Zalando Fights Influencer Fraud #Video@DMEXCO19, read more on VAN

ProSieben’s Addressable TV JV with RTL Targets a Billion Euro Opportunity #Video@DMEXCO19, read more on VAN

Low Buy-Side Adoption is Holding Back Ads.txt, read more on VAN

Amid Mounting Regulatory Threats, Google Picks Up Two Legal Wins in Europe, read more on VAN

Ad of the Week

Tide, Laundry Night Debate

Subscribe to Weekly VAN Newsletter

Ad ExchangesAd of the WeekAd TechAgencyBrandsConnected TVDataEuropeMeasurementMediaOTTProgrammaticTechTVUSVerification