US TV ad market remains flat

According to Matrix Solutions’ 2018 Midyear Ad Spend Report, an emergence of political advertising spend in primary Democrat and Republican elections leading to the midterm elections, which has seen a 264% growth rate, was largely the driver in the first half of 2018. When excluding political ad spend from the findings, broadcast, digital broadcast and radio witnessed an overall 4.90% contraction compared to last year at the same time.

When excluding political ad spend, local continues to be down at a 3.25% contraction rate, with national at a contraction rate of 0.77%, demonstrating flat growth at a national level without a political factor.

When excluding political ad spend, overall media ad sales in broadcast experienced a contraction rate of 5.86%. Digital broadcast on the other hand is booming—media ad sales grew across nearly every category at an average rate of 13.21% when including political ad spend, and at 13.03% when excluding political.

When looking at ad spend figures from specific industries, the following categories were key areas of growth across broadcast, digital broadcast and radio: Services (6.62% growth); financial services (5.16% growth); and home improvement (0.54% growth).

“According to our data, overall ad spend throughout the year, to date, has remained relatively flat when including the buoyancy that always comes from political campaigns, and without there’s a clear contraction,” said Mark Gorman, CEO at Matrix Solutions. “It’s a trend that’s continued from the findings of our 2017 Ad Spend Report, which means for these traditional platforms, they need to better arm themselves to grab a larger slice of the overall advertising spend pie to remain competitive.”

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Viacom acquires AwesomenessTV – $350mio

Viacom has agreed a deal to acquire AwesomenessTV, a youth-oriented digital media company. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, however, Viacom is paying reportedly well below the $650 million valuation of the company- with sugeestions the sale price is closer to $350 million.

AwesomenessTV will be integrated into Viacom’s portfolio of brands and live within the Viacom Digital Studios division headed by president Kelly Day, formerly chief business officer of AwesomenessTV.

Current AwesomenessTV CEO, Jordan Levin, who has been with the company since May of 2017, will be leaving following a transition period post-acquisition.

Viacom sees AwesomenessTV as boosting its push to produce original premium digital programming with social-video distribution for young, mobile audiences at scale. The metwork reaches 158 million unique users with some 300 million monthly views. In addition, AwesomenessTV brings with it a full production studio with an existing library of more than 200 hours of long-form TV series and feature films.

“Awesomeness has done an incredible job building their brand into a digital media powerhouse for today’s most sought-after and hard-to-reach youth audiences,” Day said in a statement. “The team brings strong digital expertise, deep connections with top talent and influencers, a world-class television and film studio, and a robust branded content team and creative agency that will accelerate the growth and scale of Viacom Digital Studios.”

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Trump Threatens Investigation of Twitter

President Donald Trump threatened a government investigation of Twitter, just the latest volley at edge providers from inside the Beltway, where real ‘fake new,’ Russian election meddling, third-party data sharing and more have D.C. rethinking the hands-off approach to social media platforms.

The President tweeted Thursday:

That appears to be a reaction to conservative group Project Veritas’ undercover video purporting to have uncovered such “shadow banning” of conservative political thought by Twitter, based on a conversation with someone identified as a former Twitter software engineer recorded in a causal setting without his knowledge.

Project Veritas is dedicated to exposing the so-called “deep state,” the idea that there is a “shadow” government cabal working to manipulatepolicy against the interests of the Trump Administration.

Vice News Thursday followed up on the Veritas story Thursday (July 26), which is almost certainly what the President was reacting too since it talked about shadow banning a spokesperson for Trump’s son, Donald, and the head of the RNC.

Certainly Project Veritas saw it as validation for its original video release. “We are excited to see what the President plans to do, and we will be happy to offer our assistance,” said Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe.

Hill Republicans have been complaining about what they see as an online effort to promote liberal speech and suppress conservative thought. At an FCC oversight hearing this week, for example, Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) talked about the online attacks against conservative FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and suggested it was a truism these days that conservatives had to be careful when expressing their opinions.

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OTT Growth Is Explosive, But Challenged By Silos

OTT audiences are increasing in volume and engagement, but the channel must still overcome issues related to content discovery, measurement and fill rates.

At A&E Networks, OTT’s share of audience is up 150% compared with decreases in engagement across desktop and mobile. At Bloomberg, 30% of its OTT audiences watch for 30 minutes or more compared with less than five minutes spent watching digital video.

“It’s a powerful channel for people who want to engage with us for a longer period of time,” said Julia Beizer, Bloomberg’s chief product officer, speaking at Tune’s Postback conference in Seattle on Thursday.

But it’s still a chore and a half for viewers to find the shows they’re looking for. Each platform is essentially its own little fiefdoms of content, of “closed universes,” Beizer said.

“A lot of our audience today comes from organic brand loyalty, but is that us reaching new audiences? No. And we really want to do that,” she said. “To reach the kind of audience you want to reach from an audience perspective, you have to build on five platforms and that’s expensive. There’s not a lot you can leverage from one to the other.”

And measurement remains a big challenge. Even though some of the streaming players are rolling out ad measurement tools, they’re not usable across platforms.

A&E, for example, has a partnership with Roku, which recently launched its own ad tracker that allows networks and brands to see post-install advertising performance. It’s a step in the right direction, but visibility doesn’t extend beyond Roku’s offering, said Jen Taylor, senior director of digital marketing at A&E Networks.

“That is one solution for one partner, not a solution that solves all of our partner relationships,” she said, and while tracking engagement is easy enough, “where people are coming from and how they’re getting there? It’s all a bit of a black hole.”

To try and get a better handle on the attribution piece, Starz is starting to make a bigger effort at measuring awareness and user engagement long before someone downloads its OTT subscription app.

“We started off from a perspective of the usual cost per subscriber and balancing that against lifetime value or ROI,” said Robin Chacko, SVP of Starz. “What we’re doing now is trying to integrate a little more of what the upper funnel does for us in terms of softening prices and what the leading indicators are for impact, so we can raise or lower our bids.”

But as a subscriber-based service, Starz doesn’t have to worry about another challenge still facing the OTT space: getting advertisers to buy ads.

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Dutch RTL mulling news updates via smart speakers

Dutch RTL Nieuws is preparing itself for the arrival of smart speakers to bring news updates, sports updates and ‘gossip updates’.

Speaking to the Dutch SVDJ website, RTL Nieuws deputy editor-in-chief Marc Schreuder said that it is particularly important for video content companies to follow developments of this kind, as screens can also be controlled by speech in the future. Since last week RTL News is looking for a freelance audio editor, who will not only produce content for smart speakers, but will also contribute ideas about new audio concepts.

The right tone of voice is one of the things being considered. Smart speakers feel a bit like a friend in the house. “That’s why I am convinced that the tone of an audio update can be a lot more personal,” said Schreuder.

RTL is currently waiting for Google and Amazon to launch their smart speakers on the Dutch market. The Amazon Echo speaker is already available, but does not respond to the Dutch language yet. Google has announced that it will launch a Dutch Google Home speaker by the end of the year at the latest, but has not yet given a launch date.

Live Linear TV Drops: Only 39% Go There First

What do TV viewers look at first when they switch on their sets? According to new data from Hub Entertainment Research, only 39 percent start out with live linear TV from a pay TV service, a decline from 47 percent last year.

Today, 48 percent of viewers are more likely to start their viewing with a time-shifted or on-demand option, such as Netflix, Hulu, or a DVR.

Viewers have more options than ever, and live TV is no longer the go-to. Hub finds that the average viewer now has 4.5 different video options to choose from—such as live, DVR, on-demand content, Netflix, Hulu, and more—a rise from 3.7 options in 2014. Hub notes that 50 percent of adults 18- to 34-years-old subscribe to two or more of the three most popular subscription services (Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon).

Live viewing is down in all age groups. While 56 percent of viewers 55-years-old and above still start out with live TV, that’s a drop from 66 percent last year. And for young adults (age 18 to 34), only 26 percent start out with live TV (a drop from 35 percent last year).

“Watching TV shows live when they air is quickly becoming a relic of times gone by,” says Peter Fondulas, principal at Hub and co-author of the study. “The majority of younger consumers already consider services like Netflix their TV home base, but even older consumers are beginning to make on-demand sources their first stop for viewing. And all of that naturally has huge implications for an industry that’s already in a constant state of disruption—implications for how TV content is monetized generally, how ads are served up—not to mention how live TV services and vMVPDs, which have been touting their live TV networks, need to position themselves in the future.”

This data from Hub’s report Decoding the Default, which uses data from a June survey of 1,933 U.S. consumers with broadband connectivity who watch at least 1 hour of TV each week.

Streaming Records Are Set Every Day

The 2018 World Cup was the most streamed sports event in history. Concurrent streamers, peak bandwidth used, and authenticated viewers all smashed existing records.

What you need to know

FOX authenticated streaming set a record with 552,000 average-minute audience. The previous record was set for the 2018 NFC Championship game of 468,000.

vMVPDs saw record usage. Conviva, which handles 4-of-5 of the top vMVPDs, saw a record 9.12 million concurrent plays during the World Cup final. The previous record, 5.5 million, was set during the 2018 Super Bowl.

Akamai Technologies saw the peak bandwidth demand of 22.52 Tbps during the semi-final between France and Belgium. The record from the 2014 World Cup was 6.88 Tbps.

Bonanza for Fox Sports

Following the elimination of the US from the World Cup by a loss to Trinidad & Tobago in the qualification stage, Business Insider journalists hailed it as a disaster for FOX. How wrong could they have been! FOX paid $200 million for the rights to broadcast the tournament, and it looks like money well spent.

FOX and FS1’s World Cup coverage accounted for all of the top 20 shows among 18-49-year-old men during the last month of the 6-week tournament. The final between France and Croatia was the most watch non-NFL broadcast of any kind on FOX in 2018. It attracted an average audience of 11.8 million across FOX TV and streaming platforms. An even more remarkable achievement when you consider the game started at 11 AM Eastern, 8 AM Pacific.

The final also set streaming records. It attracted an average-minute audience of 552,000 on FOX’s streaming platforms. The 2018 NFC Championship game, which previously held the record as the largest authenticated Sunday event on FOX attracted 468,000.

Other games attracted even larger average-minute authenticated streaming audiences:

Croatia-England Semifinal: 830,000
France-Belgium Semifinal: 657,000
Brazil-Belgium Quarterfinal: 615,000

vMVPDs deliver

When the 2014 World Cup played out in Brazil, the only way to watch every game was through a pay TV operator. In the four years since, vMVPDs like YouTube TV, Sling TV, and DirecTV Now have acquired millions of subscribers. Each of the top vMVPDs carried Fox, FS1, and FS2 allowing subscribers not to miss a moment of World Cup action.

Conviva counts 4 of the top 5 vMPVDs as customers, giving it a unique view of how the industry is progressing. The company’s previous live streaming record occurred during the 2018 Super Bowl, which garnered 5.5 million peak concurrent plays. The 2018 World Cup final almost doubled that, with 9.12 million peak concurrent plays.

Conviva also tracks stream play attempts and the resulting successful plays.[i] The final between France and Croatia was the most streamed game, attracting 41.2 million attempts resulting in 34.9 million plays.

The World Cup was also a boon to vMVPD sign-ups. fuboTV, which has staked its claim as the sports leader among the vMVPDs, has a record 900,000+ app downloads during the tournament. The fubo TV app was the #3 most downloaded app in the App Store during the July 2 Brazil-Mexico match. The FOX and Telemundo apps took the top two spots.

Overall, vMVPDs performed very well during the World Cup. There was only one major incident. YouTube TV went down for an hour just before the second half of the England-Croatia semi-final match.

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How is Influencer Marketing Measured?

As influencer marketing grows in popularity, the industry that has sprung up around it has been trying to get to grips with how to measure campaigns more effectively. Advertisers no longer need to just throw money at a YouTuber or an Instagram star and then pray it has an impact — now there are plenty of metrics that brands can use track to both measure the impact of a campaign and inform pricing.

With the space evolving, and around 62 percent of marketers growing their influencer marketing budgets, VAN spoke to those working in the space to clarify what is and isn’t currently possible, and to gauge the direction the industry is heading.

Towards More Standardised Pricing

In its early days of influencer marketing, the rarity of influencer campaigns meant that prices tended to be negotiated on a case by case basis, as Sheetal Sahota, a senior manager at Rakuten Marketing, explained to VAN, “As part of our affiliate business, we’ve always worked to connect advertisers to content creators. In the beginning, for example, we might have just asked how much we’d have to pay for a certain level of exposure.” In some instances, this method is still used by some of the larger influencers who are in a strong enough position to be able to set their own prices.

Maria Cadbury, managing director at publisher Evolve Media’s influencer marketing department The Studio, gave an example of one in-demand influencer she worked with who wanted to cut down the number of campaigns she worked on to maintain her authenticity. This influencer was able to quadruple her rates, knowing that limiting the number campaigns she worked on would make any she did work on more valuable.

But as influencer marketing has grown in scale and brands are working for with much smaller ‘micro-influencers’, negotiating prices with every individual influencer has become impractical, and so new, more standardised pricing models have emerged.

The social platform a campaign is delivered on might partly dictate the pricing model. YouTube for example tells you how many views a video has received, meaning YouTube campaigns can be measured on a fairly standard cost-per-thousand impressions (CPM) basis. On Instagram however this isn’t possible, meaning campaigns tend to be traded on a cost-per-thousand followers basis instead.

Some in the industry think these pricing models need to evolve further. Dafydd Woodward, global product lead of content and influencer marketing at GroupM, says the cost-per-thousand followers metric is too “broad and generic”.

“At the moment we’re asking is there a more genuine metric that we can trade on, for example cost per engagement, whether that’s a like, a comment or a view,” said Woodward. This model again would be very platform dependent, as different platforms offer a variety of forms of engagement.

Rakuten Marketing’s Sahota said she “wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the way the industry goes”, as there are already significant moves towards cost-per-engagement across the industry. For example Rakuten Marketing, which in many cases uses affiliate links to lead users from an influencer’s content to a brand’s domain, can already reward influencers for being the first click on a customer’s purchase journey.


When it comes to key performance indicators, again the social media platforms themselves dictate in part what is possible.

Total views is perhaps the most basic metric measured, and pretty much all of the most popular platforms will show creators the reach of a given post. More sophisticated insight though, for example into how many users watched the entirety of a video post, will vary between platforms. Snapchat, for example, only showed creators their story view counts until recently, but now offers more in-depth analytics, including things like average time unique viewers spent watching and completion rates, as well as audience demographics. Instagram meanwhile currently gives analytics for regular photo and video posts, but not for Stories.

Engagement too, whilst still not commonly used as a currency, is commonly measured as an indicator of campaign performance. Likes, comments, retweets, and any other forms of engagement all point to a deeper level of interest in a piece of content of course.

Sahota says brands have to be careful with how they interpret engagement for a couple of reasons. Firstly, larger influencers expect to see lower levels of engagement (in relation to their follower count), so advertisers shouldn’t necessarily think campaigns with popular influencers that receive lower engagement rates have been less successful if they are looking at reach or awareness as their main KPI. It’s more likely that people are less inclined to comment on content when hundreds of comments have already been made.

Further to this, it’s important to understand the relative value of each type of engagement on each platform. Blog posts for example should expect to see far lower numbers of comments than Instagram posts, so brand should value 100 comments on an Instagram post and 100 comments on a blog post differently.

Some also dive deeper into comments and hashtags related to piece of content to analyse their sentiment. Sahota says Rakuten Marketing uses AI to analyse the overall sentiment of comments, helping brands understand whether the post has had an overall positive, negative, or neutral effect on the brand’s image.

“That’s a great indicator of whether the audience is liking and commenting because they like they creator, or because they like the content,” she said.

If the campaign itself involves driving users to a specific destination, for example an online store or an app download, clicks through these links can be accurately measured. This is a more platform-independent metric, as advertisers can measure the amount of traffic coming from content posted across a range of social media sites.

Harry Hugo, co-founder and chief campaigns officer at The Goat Agency said that his company can track how many clicks a piece of content on any platform gets, how these clicks are converted to downloads, and how those downloads are converted into sales. Rakuten Marketing meanwhile uses affiliate links to track directly when audiences move from a social media post the the brand’s website, although this still isn’t completely platform-independent. Instagram for example doesn’t allow affiliate links within posts, making affiliate links more awkward to use as they have to be posted in the influencer’s bio, or in the ‘swipe-up’ of an Instagram story instead.

The Inevitable Fraud

Of course several of these metrics are liable to being tampered with by wannabe influencers who pay for followers, bot-driven views, likes and comments in order to dupe brands into working with them. The issue was raised at this year’s Cannes Lions festival when Unilever CMO Keith Weed pledged not to work with influencers who buy followers.

Weed’s concern reflects the worries still held by many advertisers, and reignited the debate around how prone to fraud influencer campaigns are. Some are calling for the social media platforms themselves to do more to help identify anyone artificially inflating their follower or engagement counts.

GroupM’s Woodward says some platforms are fairly active in their efforts. “Instagram every now and again will go through a purge where they identify fake accounts and remove them,” he said. “But I don’t think the social media companies see it as their responsibility to ensure that accounts on their platforms are their genuine, or at least it’s not their top priority.”

Often this is just due to technical challenges of creating a solution that addresses all the concerns and needs of different brands and agencies, said Woodward, and the data advertisers get from these platforms is already by and large sufficient to weed out fraudulent influencers.

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Subscription OTT Market to Grow 24% in 2018

Nearly 765 million people worldwide will use a subscription over-the-top (OTT) video service at least once per month this year, according to the latest forecast from eMarketer. This total will represent 10.2 percent of the global population and 32.1 percent of digital video viewers worldwide.

The firm expects the global subscription OTT market will grow by 24.0 percent thanks to increasing internet penetration, faster speeds and a broader shift toward online entertainment. The shift is fueled in part by streaming giants like Amazon and Netflix increasing their content spend outside the country in an effort to boost international membership. Netflix alone added 4.47 million subscribers internationally in Q2 of this year. The streaming giant has remarkable user penetration rate in countries including Norway (62 percent), Canada (56.3 percent), Denmark (54.9 percent), and Sweden (50.2 percent).

All around the world consumers are turning to OTT services as a cheaper alternative to traditional pay TV subscriptions. In the UK, for example, new data from media regulator Ofcom (per Variety) shows SVOD subscritions outnumbering those to traditional pay-TV for the first time.

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YouTube Invests $25M Supporting News Orgs, helping Youtube

With authoritative news sources facing a crisis in the U.S. and digital competition bearing more than a little responsibility, YouTube announced it will spend $25 million to support news organizations and also take measures to combat the spread of fake news on its own platform.

The $25 million investment will help news organization around the globe adapt and profit from a video-centric world. A working group that includes Vox Media and India Today will help YouTube create new products for news organizations and improve the experience for viewers. YouTube will also provide direct funding in 20 markets to help news organizations create sustainable video operations in-house. These grants will help employees learn best practices for video, build up their production systems, and create formats that appeal to online video viewers. Finally, YouTube will provide support for news organizations through an expanded team of experts. This team will help news organization apply best practices and grow audience development initiatives.

Like Facebook, YouTube is owning up to its role in spreading fake news, and is taking steps to promote authoritative sources. Fake news creators take advantage of breaking news, for example, by creating sensationalist videos that rise to the top of searches before authoritative videos are available. Because reporters often publish articles before creating video reports, YouTube will offer short news previews on breaking news searches. These previews will link to full articles. Look for this to start in a few weeks. YouTube will also feature trusted news sources prominently on its homepage and in search results. It’s already begun featuring trusted local news sources in its TV app.

Combatting false information goes beyond the day’s news, which is why YouTube will include links to third parties such as Encyclopaedia Britannica and Wikipedia on topics often beset with conspiracy theories, such as the moon landing.

Viewers following an Encyclopaedia Britannica link will see the publication’s usual entry, as well as information prepared for them such as a quick summary of what is and isn’t known about the topic. The ideas is to engage the curious and give them context for creating informed opinions.

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