The WIR: Now TV Stalls in the UK Streaming Wars, Google in Talks to Pay News Publishers, and Reports Suggest the UK Government Wants to Scale Back the BBC


In this week’s Week in Review: BARB’s data show Now TV’s struggles in the UK’s streaming wars, Google enters talks with publishers over paying for news content, and reports suggest the UK government is serious about scrapping the BBC licence fee. To receive an update on the industry’s top stories every Friday, sign up to the weekly Video Round-Up.

Top Stories

Now TV Stalls in UK Streaming Wars
Over 50 percent of UK households are now subscribed to at least one of Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Now TV according to BARB figures released this week. But while Netflix and Amazon are continuing to grow quickly, Now TV is stalling, with its household penetration having dropped over the past two quarters. Netflix is now in 12.35 million UK homes, up from 11.77 million the previous quarter, while Amazon Prime Video reaches 7.14 million homes, up from 6.4 million the previous quarter. But Now TV fell from 1.84 million homes in Q4 to 1.69 million homes in Q4.

All three services were up compared to the previous year however, with Amazon Prime the fastest growing at 35 percent. This was likely due in part to Amazon’s broadcasts of Premier League football games at the end of the year, which Amazon said attracted record sign-ups to its service.

Google in Talks to Pay Publishers for News
Google is in talks with publishers over paying for their content, which would be used in a new Google news product, the Wall Street Journal reported this week. The move would mark a significant change in tack from Google, which has so far resisted paying to show snippets of publishers’ news stories within its Google News search results. The company has come under pressure in Europe where publishers have started pushing for compensation from Google News. But Google hasn’t backed down – in France for example, is has chosen to prune back its News tab in response to new laws which would otherwise have forced it to pay.

The deals being discussed would see publisher content appear in a free Google product according to the report, though talks are still at an early stage.

New Reports Suggest that UK Licence Fee will be Scrapped
The Sunday Times reported this week that the UK government is preparing to scrap the television licence fee which funds the BBC, and to force the BBC to turn into a subscription service instead. The Times reported that the BBC might be forced to sell off some its radio stations, reduce the number of TV channels it runs, and scale back its website as a result of the changes. Prime Minister Boris Johnson was reported by The Times’ sources to be “firmly of the view that there needs to be serious reform”.

The Week in Tech

EU Poised to Force US Tech Giants to Share More Data with Smaller Rivals
EU regulators announced plans this week plans to more heavily regulate companies developing machine learning enabled technologies, as they seek to reign in the US tech giants and fight for technological sovereignty from the US. The EU is reportedly considering forcing big tech companies to share more of their machine learning data with smaller rivals, in order to prevent them from building an unassailable advantage over potential competitors, according to the WSJ.

Google Plans to Move UK Users’ Data Outside of EU Jurisdiction
Google confirmed this week that it is planning to move UK users’ accounts outside of the reach of EU privacy regulators following Britain’s withdrawal from the EU. They will instead be brought under US jurisdiction, which Google says will make it more accessible for British enforcers post-Brexit. Sources told Reuters that GDPR protections would still apply after the move (so long as the UK keeps GDPR enshrined within its own law), but that US/UK agreements on data would make it easier for UK authorities to request and access data where necessary.

Taboola Adds Subscription Offering to Taboola Newsroom
Taboola this week announced a new subscription offering for Taboola Newsroom, its tool for publishers designed to help them A/B test headlines and images and measure article performance. Taboola says the new subscription offering well help publishers better understand and engage with subscribers by showing which articles are driving conversion, how subscribers are engaging with content, and determining the ‘propensity to subscribe’ via machine learning-based modelling. Taboola says Newsroom has seen a 70 percent increase in adoption by publishers over the past year.

Flashtalking and Nielsen Debut Enhanced Data-Driven Offering
Flashtalking and Nielsen this week announced an enhanced offering which the two say more effectively powers and analyses data-driven marketing for CPG and retail marketers. Building on their existing relationship, Nielsen is now a preferred vendor and will provide Flashtalking customers with insight into how their digital marketing is driving incremental offline sales with Nielsen Attribution for CPG. “Historically, many CPG advertisers have lacked granular insight into the impact of different creative concepts on actual sales performance, and instead have been reliant on poor proxies for performance such as clickthrough rates,” said John Nardone, CEO of Flashtalking. “Our companies are glad to be able to fill this void and give advertisers a view of what’s really working and what isn’t from a creative perspective, tied to actual results.”

The Week in TV

RTL Should be Allowed to Merge with ProSiebenSat.1 says RTL Group CEO Rabe
Thomas Rabe, head of European media giant Bertelsmann and its broadcasting arm RTL Group, said this week that RTL should be allowed by regulators to merge with German broadcaster ProSiebenSat.1, in order to be able to compete with international streaming giants. “It is vital that sensible partnerships, and even large mergers, are allowed in order to create national champions in television – for example between RTL and ProSiebenSat.1,” said Rabe in an interview with German newspaper FAZ. “Otherwise, national companies will simply have no chance in a few years against the giants from Silicon Valley.” Read the full story on VAN.

ViacomCBS Q4 Profits and Revenues Disappoint
ViacomCBS’ share price is down 17 percent following disappointing Q4 results in which both revenues and profits fell short of expectations. The results, the first since Viacom and CBS’s merger, showed Q4 revenues down two percent year-on-year to $6.87 billion. Total ad revenue was down two percent to $3.03 billion, which ViacomCBS attributed to “significant declines” in political advertising compared with the prior-year quarter. But the company highlighted the growth of its streaming video revenues as a positive, which reached $1.6 billion for the full year.

Vodafone’s Unitymedia Merger Faces Legal Action
Three German network operators, Deutsche Telekom, Tele Columbus, and NetCologne, are all challenging the EU’s approval of Vodafone’s acquisition of Unitymedia, arguing that the deal distorts competition in the German market. Vodafone agreed to a number of conditions when the EU gave its approval last year, but the three German operators will argue that these aren’t sufficient to protect German consumers’ interests.

The Week in Publishing

TikTok Adds a Family Safe Mode in the UK
Video sharing app TikTok rolled out a family safety mode in the UK this week, allowing parents to link their children’s accounts with their own, giving them control over safety settings on their children’s accounts. Parents can then toggle features like a restricted mode, which automatically filters potentially inappropriate content, as well as TikTok’s messaging feature and screen time controls. TikTok says the new family safety mode will be rolled out in other European markets in the coming weeks.

HQ Trivia Shuts Down
HQ Trivia, a live quiz show mobile app which let users compete for prizes at set times of the day, shut down this week as investors were no longer willing to continue supporting the business. CEO Rus Yusupov said in a company-wide email on Friday that a potential deal with a new investor had fallen through, and without access to funds, the company would cease operations and move to dissolution. The app, launched in 2017, grew very popular thanks in part to the large cash prizes on offer, which reached up to $400,000. But in its last broadcast last week, the prize pool was just $5 from host Matt Richards’ own pocket.

YouTube Lays Out Priorities as it Turns 15
YouTube celebrated its 15th birthday this week, with CEO Susan Wojcicki taking the opportunity to lay out the company’s priorities for the year ahead in a blog post marking the occasion. Alongside making YouTube “the best place for creators”, Wojcicki said partnering with the music industry is a high priority. She claimed that YouTube paid out over $3 billion in ad and subscription revenue to the music industry last year. Working with media companies to extend their audiences was also listed as a focus for the years ahead.

Twitter Runs Ads for Human Organs
A Gizmodo report this week highlighted apparent problems with Twitter’s vetting of promoted content on its platform, with Twitter reportedly allowing an account called ‘Organ Market’ to promote tweets advertising human kidneys. Twitter has since removed the offending account, and told Gizmodo that it is “constantly investing in both our automated and human review processes and systems”.

The Week for Agencies

Havas 2019 Revenues Rise 2.6 Percent
Havas Group revenues grew 2.6 percent in 2019 to €2.38 billion according to owner Vivendi’s Q4 financial results published this week, though organic growth was down 1.0 percent. Net revenues (which for Vivendi means revenues minus pass-through costs rebilled to customers) meanwhile were up 2.8 percent to €2.26 billion. Havas Group said its media business performed well in 2019 thanks to its ‘Meaningful Media’ approach it launched last year.

AA to Champion Advertising as a Social Good in Parliamentary Reception
British advertiser trade body the Advertising Association this week said it will celebrate the ad industry’s contribution to society in its Parliamentary Reception next month. The AA says it will use the event, hosted in the House of Commons with an audience of politicians, civil servants, and industry leaders, to showcase the new Credos report ‘Advertising Pays 8: UK Advertising’s Social Contribution’. The report finds, among other things, that the industry annual contributes £1 billion worth of media inventory and resources, while agencies provide three percent of their time, to pro bono work for good causes.

Hires of the Week

FreeWheel Hires Virginie Dremeaux to Drive Addressable TV Efforts
FreeWheel this week announced it has hired Virginie Dremeaux as executive director of product and sales marketing international. Dremeaux, who joins from Canal+, will focus on accelerating the launch of FreeWheel’s latest addressable TV solutions according to the announcement.

LadBible Chooses Colin Gottlieb as Chief Growth Officer
LadBible has taken on Colin Gottlieb as its new chief growth officer, the publisher announced this week. Gottlieb is known as the co-founder of Manning Gottlieb OMD, and has previously served as Omnicom Media Group EMEA’s chief executive

The Trade Desk hires Patrick Morrell as Director of Strategic Publisher and TV Development
The Trade Desk this week announced the appointment of Patrick Morrell as director of strategic publisher and TV development. Patrick joins The Trade Desk following eight years at Channel 4, where he worked as agency investment lead.

Claude Ruibal Joins Horse & Country TV Board
Horse & Country TV announced this week that Claude Ruibal, an experienced digital sports media executive, has joined its board. Ruibal most recently worked for Infront, and has also held roles at Google and Universal Sports Television Network.

This Week on VAN

Vevo’s Consumption in the Living Room is Growing Faster Than Anywhere Else, read more on VAN

RTL Should be Allowed to Merge with ProSiebenSat.1 says RTL Group CEO Rabe, read more on VAN

Advertisers Are Still Slow to Exploit Shoppable Video, read more on VAN

Is TURTLEDOVE the Future for Behavioural Targeting in a World Without Cookies? read more on VAN

Why Bridging the Gap Between Commercial and Editorial is Key for Dugout, read more on VAN

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