01/11/21: Media Tech Update


Medias First Morning Read


Monday January 11, 2021

Twitter has acquired social broadcasting app Breaker, which will shut down January 15 as its team joins Twitter to help “improve the health of the public conversation.” “Here at Breaker, we’re truly passionate about audio communication and we’re inspired by the ways Twitter is facilitating public conversations for people around the world,” said Breaker CEO Erik Berlin in a blog post. “We’re impressed by the entrepreneurial spirit at Twitter and enthusiastic about the new experiences that the team is creating.”

Tegna and FreeWheel, a Comcast Company, announced a new multi-year deal aimed at enhancing Tegna’s business operations, including using FreeWheel’s Strata platform to process electronic orders through ePort, an automated platform that enables purchasing ads from local television stations. Tegna currently connects with agencies through FreeWheel’s ePort platform, enabling its sellers to receive electronic orders from buyers, send makegoods back to the buying platform, and receive revisions electronically. CTV/OTT ad platform Premion, launched by Tegna in 2016, will continue to use FreeWheel’s Strata ad management platform to enable more than 1100 agencies access to Premion’s video inventory.

Nexstar Inc. has integrated a custom Gaming Hub from VENN, the live 24/7 streaming network for gaming and entertainment, across Nexstar Inc’s websites and mobile apps. It’s the first content to come from the companies’ new partnership, announced in October. “It’s no secret that gaming and esports are booming this year, and VENN sits at the center of that trend,” said Karen Brophy, President of Nexstar Inc.’s Digital Division. “This partnership enables us to bring new content and advertising opportunities to our consumers and advertisers.”

After Twitter permanently banned President Trump’s account, following Friday afternoon tweets it said violated the company’s policy against the glorification of violence, Apple and Google removed Twitter alternative Parler from their app stores. Amazon, which provides backend cloud services, said it was removing Parler from its web-hosting service late Sunday night. “We’re aware of continued posting in the Parler app that seeks to incite ongoing violence in the U.S.,” said a Google spokesperson. Wrote Amazon in a letter to Parler, “We cannot provide services to a customer that is unable to effectively identify and remove content that encourages or incites violence against others.” Responded Parler chief executive John Matze in a text to the NY Times, “Big tech really wants to kill competition.”

Days before Twitter’s ban on his account, President Trump issued an executive order prohibiting transactions for eight Chinese-owned apps, including Wechat, Alipay, CamScanner, SHAREit, Tencent QQ, VMate and WPS Office. The order also directs the Secretary of Commerce to evaluate others. The ban targets apps that “access and capture vast swaths of information from users,” with “an intent to use bulk data collection to advance China’s economic and national security agenda.”

Vislink, focused on collection, delivery and management of live video, announced the launch of its IP Link 3.0. The ATSC 3.0 advanced Studio-Transmitter Link system is aimed at enabling broadcasting service platforms to access new avenues for monetization. “The ATSC 3.0 advanced visual standard allows audiences to enjoy a media-rich TV broadcast system with game-changing video and audio quality improvements, as well as a pathway for exciting features like interactivity and participation,” said Sean Van, Product Manager, Live Production. “The IP Link 3.0 allows broadcasters to easily upgrade to ATSC 3.0 and carry the higher quality IP video data out from the studio to transmitter sites over RF links.”

SoDA, a data management and analytics firm, announced that JB&A Inc., distributor of broadcast, post-production and pro AV technologies, will distribute SoDA data management software. “Our partners have been clamoring for an agnostic platform that brings clarity to data insight and movement, and we are excited to add the data management platform to our portfolio and to be working with the SoDA team,” said Nick Smith, JB&A Technology Vice President. “With SoDA, our partners can build a cost-effective and simple data management solution saving them both time and money as all of the disparate tiers of storage can be aggregated and managed under a single application interface.”

Cable One family is prepping a new IP-based TV service, Sparklight TV, for an early 2021 launch. “Our transition to IP-based TV service will enable us to reclaim spectrum in our network needed to continue to expand the capabilities and speeds of our core high speed data product and provide the communities we serve with the fastest and most reliable internet service,” said Ken Johnson, SVP of Technology Services. “This is even more critical now, with the tremendous increase in customers working and learning from home.”

LG Electronics and Alphonso announced an investment by LG of nearly $80 million in Alphonso. LG will become Alphonso’s largest investor with a controlling stake of more than 50%. LG plans to integrate Alphonso software and services, including Alphonso’s linear and OTT analytics, targeting, advertising, media planning and Video AI capabilities, with its range of home entertainment products. Alphonso’s combined offerings will create an owned and operated first-screen, cross-device advertising platform with integrated analytics platform for LG TVs and the smart TV marketplace.

Fan Controlled Football announced three new strategic partnerships with technology brands Chatalyze, Ambidio and Earbuds, geared toward enhancing the fan engagement experience. “The ethos of Fan Controlled Football is putting the game in the hands of the fans. We are so excited to partner with such innovative forward-thinking companies as we pioneer a new category of fan engagement in professional sports, not only enhancing our gameday experiences but giving unprecedented access to our players, coaches, and team owners,” said Jennifer Rottenberg, CMO for Fan Controlled Football.

Gracenote, a Nielsen company, is launching a new live sports solution designed to help smart TV and auto manufacturers enable dynamic sports experiences. Leveraging Gracenote Global Sports Data, CE manufacturers and automakers can integrate real-time team statistics, recent game results and live updates to TV and video home screens and auto infotainment systems. “Live sports are an increasingly important differentiator for entertainment platforms seeking to increase user engagement,” said Simon Adams, Chief Product Officer of Gracenote. “With Gracenote Global Sports Widgets, CE companies and automakers can easily launch new sports experiences which maximize audience engagement and drive consumption while minimizing development costs and engineering resources.”

Samba TV is also aiming to enhance the viewing experience, teaming with TV manufacturer Vestel Group on new AI technology. Picture Perfect would be embedded within the TV so it can recognize and optimize the quality of content playing. “The promise of AI is to make our lives easier and, within the living room, we believe AI should remove the manual steps of setting up your television for the best viewing experience for sports and all of the latest movies and video games,” said Samba TV Co-Founder and CEO Ashwin Navin.

Google employees announced plans to unionize with the Communications Workers of America Local 1400. The stated goal of the Alphabet Workers Union, open to temporary and full time workers, is to protect members from issues including pay disparity and retaliation.

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Retail digital ad spend was up 22% year-over-year, and fitness ad spend across digital, TV and print was up over 2x, according to a report from people-based marketing platform LiveIntent and advertising intelligence platform MediaRadar. The study, exploring how COVID-19 impacted holiday advertising in 2020, analyzed ad spending across email, digital, TV and print, between October -November. “Despite the pandemic decreasing ad spend overall this year, this holiday season saw relatively healthy digital spend numbers,” said Kerel Cooper, Chief Marketing Officer at LiveIntent. “As we saw earlier this year at the beginning of the pandemic, people are continuing to engage with ads served in emails. This engagement gave advertisers the confidence to know that they would be able to reach and convert consumers ahead of the holidays on email.”

People-based advertising software company Viant announced new capabilities for Adelphic, its self-service DSP for omnichannel advertising. Innovations include:
· Improving Adelphic’s Queries Per Second (QPS) efficiency
· Machine learning that powers fraud detection, viewability prediction, goal optimization and bid shading
· An enhanced user interface and experience
“These platform improvements make it even easier for our clients to plan, buy and measure at scale while delivering the transparency and performance they expect,” said Fabrizio Blanco, Viant’s CTO. “Our clients’ satisfaction and productivity while using our software is our primary focus and will continue to be critical to our success going forward.”

DoubleVerify, the software platform for digital media measurement, has made Brand Suitability Tiers, first announced in November, generally available for advertisers and publishers. Brand Suitability Tiers offer 13 categories of content tiered by three levels of risk, determined by content type and topic. “At a time when brand alignment with appropriate content has never been more important, our launch of Brand Suitability Tiers delivers a more nuanced and brand-specific way to assess content and context,” said Mark Zagorski, CEO of DoubleVerify. “Through Brand Suitability Tiers, advertisers are able to carefully balance brand reputation protection and campaign scale, while publishers are empowered to better meet advertiser expectations and maximize yield for the quality content they produce.”

Advanced TV platform company Cadent is expanding its addressable advertising management platform in Europe in partnership with Liberty Global. Cadent has now expanded its automated addressable linear and VOD Advertising Platform into Liberty Global’s Irish footprint, Virgin Media Ireland, with its continental European markets to follow starting in 2021.

Kantar announced an exclusive partnership with AI-powered search intelligence company Adthena. Kantar will integrate Adthena’s worldwide search data into its ad Intelligence platform in the US, Brazil, Denmark and France. Bain Capital Private Equity acquired 60% of Kantar from WPP in 2019.

With movie attendance down dramatically during the pandemic, cinema advertising network National CineMedia has teamed with Coinstar to reach movie fans via adPlanet, a new digital advertising platform at Coinstar kiosks in grocery stores. The Coinstar adPlanet network delivers dynamic visuals and tailored message capability by geography, demographics, brand behavior, and interests. NCM’s new Digital Out-of-Home group will sell adPlanet media on a national, regional, local, and programmatic level.


The FAST Track: AMC Networks announced the launch of five free ad-supported streaming channels on VIZIO SmartCast, an operating system that comes equipped with VIZIO Smart TVs. Channels include AMC Presents, Rush by AMC, Slightly Off by IFC, Absolute Reality by WE tv, and IFC Films Picks. “We set a goal last year of making our popular and critically acclaimed content as widely available as possible on emerging ad-supported platforms, which is great for the fans of our shows and for the advertising partners who reach fans through our AMCN Digital ad sales offering,” said Evan Adlman, SVP of Advanced Advertising and Digital Ad Sales for AMC Networks.

Music video platform Vevo is now available on Comcast’s Xfinity X1 and Xfinity Flex. To access the Vevo app, X1 and Flex customers can say “Vevo” into the Xfinity Voice Remote. “Music video viewership in the living room is rising, especially as families stay at home and watch TV together,” said Kevin McGurn, President of Sales and Distribution, Vevo. “Joining Xfinity’s entertainment library delivers our premium and brand-safe content to millions of fans when, where, and how they want it.”

Roku hit 51.2 million active accounts by the end of 2020, up from 36.9 million in 2019, estimates the company. Global data includes 17 billion streaming hours in 4Q20, and 58.7 billion over the course of the year, up 55%. “The world is moving to streaming and we look forward to continuing to help viewers, advertisers, content publishers, and TV manufacturers succeed in the Streaming Decade,” said Anthony Wood, CEO.

Streaming platform Kanopy struck a digital content partnership with Participant, the media company dedicated to positive social change. The content agreement offers a selection of Participant’s content to participating public library card holders. “Because social justice is a pillar of public libraries, adding to Kanopy’s thought provoking catalog allows Participant to connect with an already engaged audience, bringing added exposure to today’s most pressing social issues through storytelling,” said David Linde, CEO of Participant.

Discovery, Inc. and Vodafone signed a new long-term, multi-platform agreement that includes giving Vodafone customers in 12 European markets access to discovery+. The partnership covers Vodafone’s TV and mobile customers in the UK, Germany, Turkey, Italy, Spain, Romania, Portugal, Greece, Czech Republic, Hungary, Ireland and Iceland.

The National Basketball Association and SiriusXM have expanded their agreement to include additional streaming rights starting with the 2020-21 NBA season. The multi-year agreement will provide SiriusXM subscribers with the SiriusXM Premier Streaming Package access to live audio broadcasts for every NBA game. Subscribers with either a SiriusXM Premier or SiriusXM Essential Streaming Package will also get the talk channel SiriusXM NBA Radio.

Cinedigm announced two of its streaming channels, CONtv Anime and MyTime Movie Network, have launched on VIZIO SmartCast. “The future of video is streaming and VIZIO helps us effectively reach a growing audience of consumers who are seeking high-quality entertainment,” said Tony Huidor, GM of Digital Networks at Cinedigm.

ViacomCBS inked a new distribution agreement with Hulu that adds more content from its portfolio of networks to Hulu’s live TV subscription streaming service, Hulu + Live TV. The deal includes continued carriage of CBS broadcast stations, CBS Sports Network, Pop TV, Smithsonian Channel, and The CW, as well as continued distribution of Showtime. Added to the offering are BET, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Paramount Network, VH1, CMT, Nick Jr., TV Land, BET Her, MTV2, NickToons, TeenNick and MTV Classic.

Toonz Media Group is partnering with digital content distribution platform OTTera to provide the technology support for the Group’s new OTT platform.
OTTera will host and provide the technology support for Toonz Media Group’s OTT channel, as well as distribute the Toonz library across VOD platforms. The new platform will include over 1500 half hours of movie and episodic content.

FAST Studios has launched, aimed at investing in and operating free ad-supported streaming television channels. “The next generation of TV is shaping up quickly as the lines between OTT and linear continue to blur,” said Stuart McLean, CEO of FAST Studios. “We are seeing gaps and obstacles for current and future channel owners who need to act like broadcasters to compete. FAST Studios addresses these needs by acting as a strategic investor, operator and distributor of channels, lowering the barrier to entry while delivering broadcast quality channels and infrastructure.”

Global OTT streaming service VideoElephant TV has added Quick Hits News to its channel roster. “This is a remarkable time in which news consumption has skyrocketed and consumers are seeking timely information and insights that are presented professionally and credibly by experienced global journalists,” said Stacie Anthony, Head of OTT, VideoElephant TV.

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