The WIR: The ICO Remains Concerned About Ad Tech, Eyeview Closes Down, and Apple Enters Talks to Buy MGM


In 2019’s final Week in Review: The ICO lists its remaining concerns with ad tech, Eyeview closes down as it runs out of cash, and Apple enters talks to buy MGM. To receive an update on the industry’s top stories every Friday, sign up to the weekly Video Round-Up.

Top Stories

ICO Remains Concerned About Lawlessness of Some Ad Tech Practices
UK data regulator the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) today gave an update on its ongoing investigation into ad tech and real-time bidding (RTB), listing a few specific areas where it’s concerned that current practices are illegal. Simon McDougall, executive director for technology policy and innovation at the ICO, said the regulator has “significant concerns about the lawfulness of the processing of special category data which we’ve seen in the industry, and the lack of explicit consent for that processing”. The ICO also has questions over whether “reliance on contractual clauses to justify onward data sharing is sufficient to comply with the law”.

The update comes exactly six months after the ICO issued its ‘Adtech Update Report’ which warned the industry to clean up its act. It brings to an end a six month period in which the ICO has sought to engage with the industry to learn more about ad tech, and hear industry participants’ concerns and questions. The ICO will now evaluate its findings, and will provide a further update in early 2020 on its position, and any action it decides to take.

Eyeview Closes Down
Video ad tech company Eyeview is closing down, having run out of cash, Digiday reported this week. The company will cease operating at the end of the year, with all of the company’s workers being laid off, according to the report.

Eyeview had previously raised nearly $80 million in funding, but chairman Greg Coleman told Digiday that funding had dried up as the company had struggled to turn profitable. Coleman said that the company had taken a change of course a few years back, seeking to become one of the big programmatic players instead of focusing on its specialism in performance-driven video advertising. And as it tried to get back on track, venture capital money was not forthcoming. “We went to the marketplace and talked to VCs but nobody in the VC world is investing in ad tech – it’s really quiet,” he said.

Apple in Talks to Buy MGM
Apple is reportedly in talks with MGM Holdings and US college athletic conference the Pac-12 Conference, as it seeks to bolster the content catalogue for its global subscription video on-demand (SVOD) service Apple TV+, the Wall Street Journal reported this week. Apple is reported to be considering paying for broadcast rights for Pac-12 Conference’s college football games, and also mulling over buying MGM outright.

A deal for MGM could be expected to costs as much as $10 billion, according to the WSJ, and would give Apple rights to some big name properties, including the James Bond  film franchise and the Fargo TV series. Apple’s service so far has bet entirely on originally produced content, leaving its library much thinner than competitors, an MGM acquisition could help fix this.

The Week in Tech

UK’s Competition Watchdog May Break Up Google & Limit Use of First-Party Data by Social Platforms
The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said today that it is considering a range of “separation remedies” for Google, which might possibly result in the separation of Google’s ad server from the rest of Google’s business. The CMA also said that first-party data, a major source of the US tech giants’ power in digital advertising, isn’t necessarily safe from privacy regulation. The watchdog said today it is considering forcing social platforms to allow consumers to use their services whilst denying the platforms the right to use their data for personalised ads without users’ consent. Read the full story on VAN.

Telaria and Rubicon Project to Merge
Supply-side platforms Telaria and Rubicon Project have agreed a stock-for-stock merger, the two companies announced on Thursday. The two claim the merger, which has already been approved by the boards of directors of both companies, creates the largest independent sell-side advertising platform. The companies have a combined market cap of over $700 million at the time of writing.

Once the merger is completed, Rubicon Project CEO Michael Barrett will act as CEO of the combined company, while Telaria CEO Mark Zagorski will be named president and COO. Read the full story on VAN.

Smart Acquires DSP LiquidM
Smart AdServer this week announced its acquisition of demand-side platform LiquidM from Bertelsmann. LiquidM’s technology will be integrated into Smart’s technology stack which the company says will let it offer digital advertisers, agencies and trading desks enhanced access to premium publishers’ inventory across all major supply sources.

“LiquidM’s proven record in innovation will boost Smart’s commitment to creating Value Path Optimisation emphasising full transactional transparency,” said says Arnaud Créput, CEO of Smart AdServer. “This will enable conflict-free, premium value and low-fee buying so both advertisers and publishers can flourish in a shared-interest approach.”

Smartly.io Receives €200 Million Investment from Providence
Finnish social video advertising tech platform Smartly.io this week announced a majority investment of €200 million from Providence Equity Partners, which has bought a majority stake in the company. The deal values Smartly.io at €300 million, according to the WSJ. Providence says it will partner with management to help accelerate the growth of Smartly.io through acquisition and organic investment.

“Smartly.io is uniquely positioned to play a lead role in a market where brand and performance work is converging,” said Laura Desmond, an operating partner at Providence who will become chairperson of the board at Smartly. “Together, we intend to grow the company’s presence in the U.S. and globally, expand to other platforms, and build relationships with brands and their partners to create value for all.”

Xperi and TiVo Merge
Xperi  and TiVo this week announced they have entered into a definitive agreement to combine in an all-stock transaction, which they say represents approximately $3 billion of combined enterprise value. The merged company will operate under the Xperi brand, though TiVo’s entertainment services will keep TiVo branding.

TiVo made its name as an early seller of digital video recorders (DVRs), while Xperi licenses media tech solutions. “Together, we will be able to integrate TiVo’s leading content aggregation, metadata, discovery, and recommendation capabilities with our home, automotive, and mobile technology solutions to help our customers create experiences that excite and delight consumers,” said Jon Kirchner, CEO of Xperi, who will become CEO of the combined company. “Additionally, the combined company will continue to unlock the value of our strategic and sizeable patent portfolios by bringing together our deep industry expertise and powerful innovation engines”

The Week in TV

Ninety Percent of Netflix’s Subscriber Growth is Coming from Overseas
Ninety percent of Netflix’s subscriber growth is now coming from overseas markets, the WSJ reported this week, as the streaming service faces heightened competition in the US. Subscriptions in EMEA have more than doubled since the beginning of 2017, reaching 47.3 million, while Latin American subscriptions have almost doubled, from 15.4 million to 29.3 million. In the US and Canada meanwhile, subscriptions have grown from 54.5 million in Q1 2017 to 67.1 million in Q3 this year.

Sky May Not Carry BritBox
Sky is reportedly losing interest in carrying BritBox, a joint streaming service launched by the BBC and ITV, on its Sky Q set top box. The Sunday Times reports that Sky currently feels BritBox doesn’t provide enough extra value for customers for it to be worth investing in a partnership. While BritBox already has distribution deals with BT, Freeview and Samsung, it would be a big blow for the nascent service to not be available on Sky Q.

Peacock Rumoured to Offer $10 Per Month Ad-Free Streaming
NBCUniversal’s upcoming streaming service ‘Peacock’ will offer an ad-free subscription tier priced at $10 per month, as well as a $5 per month tier with limited advertising, according to The Information. This would give the service a similar model to Hulu’s albeit with cheaper pricing. But compared to other new entrants, the service could risk seeming expensive to consumers (ignoring their preferences for one service’s content catalogue over another’s). Disney+ costs $7 per month, but many have picked up either discounted or free subscriptions thanks to various promotions Disney has run (though these customer will have to pay the full price eventually). Apple TV+ meanwhile costs $4.99 per month, though it has a far small catalogue than Peacock’s.

The Week in Publishing

Instagram Bans Influencers from Promoting Vapes and Guns
Facebook this week announced that influencers on Instagram will be banned from promoting products relating to vaping, tobacco, and weapons. Instagram already banned advertising of these products on its platform, but the new announcement stretches the rule to cover branded content as well. Meanwhile branded content that promotes goods like alcohol or diet supplements will require special restrictions, according the Instagram’s blog post.

Twitch Briefly Faces a €2.5 Billion Lawsuit Over Premier League Privacy
Russian internet company Rambler Group this week filed, then quickly withdraw, a lawsuit against Twitch suing the streaming platform for €22.5 billion in damages relating to privacy. Rambler owns the digital distribution rights for the English Premier League in Russia, but claimed 36,000 cases of copyright infringement on Twitch as various users broadcast Premier League games on the live streaming platform. Russian telecoms regulator Roskomnadzor threatened to ban Twitch in Russia shortly after the complaint was filed. But Roskomnadzor has dropped its threat, and Rambler has dropped its case, as they say Twitch removed offending content.

“Twitch will continue to, as has always been the case, effectively and swiftly address any violation of its terms of service with the removal of unlicensed copyrighted content,” said a spokesperson for Twitch, according to the BBC.

Reuters Partners with Facebook Journalism Project to Tackle Deepfakes
Reuters announced this week that it is partnering with the Facebook Journalism Project to help newsrooms around the world spot deep fakes, and other forms of manipulated media. The two have released an e-learning course, ‘Identifying and Tackling Manipulated Media’, which they say is designed to help newsrooms identify and reject manipulated video, images and audio.

“It’s a threat we at Reuters encounter every day, and this new course puts that expertise into practice to educate journalists and newsroom about identifying manipulated media to help stop the spread of misinformation,” said Jess April, director of strategic partnerships & program management at Reuters. “Providing trusted news and intelligence to the world is at the heart of what we do and sharing our knowledge of this growing threat is critical to that mission.”

The Week for Agencies

Dentsu Cuts Three Percent of Global Workforce
Dentsu Inc. announced a restructuring this week which will see the Japanese agency group cut 11 percent of its workforce in seven markets (Australia, China, Singapore, the UK, France, Germany and Brazil), meaning a roughly three percent reduction in its global workforce. The announcement came as Dentsu cut its full year forecast for net profit to 6.2 billion yen, a massive fall from its previous forecast of 35.8 billion yen. Dentsu said the downgrade was caused by under-performance in its overseas operations.

Bruin Sports Capital Buys Two Circles from WPP
Sports media and tech holding company Bruin Sports Capital this week bought a majority stake in sports marketing agency Two Circles from WPP, in a deal which values Two Circles at $42 million. Bruin has bought an 80 percent stake in London-based Two Circles according to the Wall Street Journal. Bruin founder George Pyne told the Journal that Bruin plans to invest more money in Two Circles to help it expand in the US.

Hires of the Week

NBCU Chooses Jeff Shell as New CEO
NBCUniversal has appointed Jeff Shell to succeed Steve Burke as CEO, as Burke prepares to leave the company next year. Shell, who has taken charge of NBCU’s film and network television businesses for the past year, will take on the new role from January 1st next year.

Hearst Names Kristen O’Hara SVP and CBO
Publisher Hears Magazines announced this week that Kristen O’Hara has been appointed SVP and chief business officer, starting January 6th. O’Hara has previously been an exec at both Snap and WarnerMedia

Flashtalking Announces Giorgia Costa as Client Services Director Italy
Flashtalking this week announced the appointment of Giorgia Costa as client services director, Italy. Based in Milan, Costa will closely support Flashtalking’s clients in the region to ensure smooth integration with its technology, according to the announcement.

This Week on VAN

Evolving Consumption Habits Call for Cross-Screen Strategies, read more on VAN

Hulu Buys a DSP, and Google Creates a Streaming Device: Philip Inghelbrecht’s Five Predictions for 2020, read more on VAN

SSAI is Causing Problems for CTV Measurement, read more on VAN

UK’s Competition Watchdog May Break Up Google & Limit Use of First-Party Data by Social Platforms, read more on VAN

Ad of the Week

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