05/18/20: Media Tech Update

 

Medias First Morning Read
Monday May 18, 2020

Facebook acquired GIF-making and sharing website Giphy, which will integrate with the Instagram team. “People will still be able to upload GIFs; developers and API partners will continue to have the same access to Giphy’s APIs; and Giphy’s creative community will still be able to create great content,” Vishal Shah, Instagram’s VP of product, said in a blog post. Vishal also noted 50% of Giphy’s traffic comes from Facebook-controlled apps, with half of that on Instagram. “Both our services are big supporters of the creator and artist community, and that will continue,” he wrote.

NewsGuard Technology and Microsoft are teaming to offer NewsGuard, which rates the credibility of websites and social media, for free on Microsoft Edge. The web browser extension will show users trust ratings of over 4000 news and information sites. The price of the service is normally $2.95/month, but will be free for Microsoft Edge if the extension is used on the browser and downloaded in the Edge store. “Defending against disinformation campaigns is a key focus of our Defending Democracy Program,” said Tom Burt, Corporate VP of Customer Security and Trust at Microsoft. “NewsGuard’s work has become especially relevant because of its trailblazing efforts to root out online hoaxes related to health and healthcare issues, including those concerning COVID-19.”

Google is cracking down on ads that drain battery life or use up network data without the user’s knowledge. “To save our users’ batteries and data plans, and provide them with a good experience on the web, Chrome will limit the resources that a display ad can use before the user interacts with the ad,” Marshall Vale, a Chrome product manager, wrote in a blog post. When an ad reaches its limit, the ad’s frame will navigate to an error page, informing the user that the ad has used too many resources. Chrome is setting the thresholds to 4MB of network data or 15 seconds of CPU usage in any 30 second period, or 60 seconds of total CPU usage, said Vale adding that while only 0.3% of ads exceed this threshold, they account for 27% of network data used by ads and 28% of all ad CPU usage.

Apple has acquired startup NextVR, the virtual-reality streaming company. NextVR has worked to produce live and recorded VR content with partners including the NBA, NFL, HBO and Fox Sports, among others. Apple was mum on its intentions for the company, saying only, “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.”

TikTok is being accused of failing to abide by commitments it made to the Federal Trade Commission to protect children’s privacy. To settle charges last year, the video-sharing app agreed to get parents’ permission before collecting kids’ data, as well as to delete personal information and videos of any child under 13. Now, in a complaint filed with the F.T.C., consumer groups including the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood and the Center for Digital Democracy say TikTok continues to flout the law. “We take privacy seriously and are committed to helping ensure that TikTok continues to be a safe and entertaining community for our users,” said TikTok in a statement.

Twitter employees were notified that they can continue to work from home as long as they feel the need to. “Opening offices will be our decision, when and if our employees come back, will be theirs,” said Chief HR Officer Jennifer Christie. There will be no business travel before September, and no in-person company events for the rest of the year.

Instagram introduced new features to combat online bullying. “We know it can feel overwhelming to manage a rush of negative comments, so we’ve been testing the ability to delete comments in bulk, as well as block or restrict multiple accounts that post negative comments,” said the company in a post. “Early feedback has been encouraging, and we’ve found that it helps people, especially with larger followings, maintain a positive environment on their account.” Also rolling out are new controls that allow users to manage who can tag or mention them.

Parents now have more control over content on the Spotify Kids app. In addition to selecting whether a child is directed to the an experience for younger or older kids, the Listening History option will allow parents to see what their child has streamed over the past three months and block specific tracks.

Facebook has introduced a new section, Businesses Nearby, that shows users posts from businesses within a certain radius, offering them a way to “get “more virtual foot traffic as they move online to stay open.” Users can adjust the radius from 1 to 500 miles, and show their support with stickers.

Amazon Prime Video has released special backgrounds from their series for fans to join to use during video conferencing. Among the backgrounds are Fleabag’s Guinea Pig Café, The Expanse and the Gaslight Café from The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

VOICE Talks Presented by Google Assistant celebrates women in tech with an all-female show on Tuesday, May 26 at 2p on VOICETalks.ai. The lineup of women includes voice technology innovators, experts and influencers from Google, Tile, and Matchbox.io, hosted by Google’s Sofia Altuna.

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ADVERTISING

About $1 billion to $1.5 billion in commitments for third-quarter advertising is expected to be canceled, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. General Motors, PepsiCo and General Mills are among the big advertisers said to be looking to take advantage of their contractual option to cancel up to 50% of 3Q20 ad spend. While networks weren’t required to offer relief for second quarter commitments, with the coronavirus pandemic arriving past the cancellation notification deadline, they were flexible in extending deadlines. Negotiations to assist troubled sectors led to a 30% decline in national TV ad spend from February 17 through April 26 versus the same period last year.

Ad spend during Upfronts will drop 33% versus last year, according to a survey of 151 ad execs by Advertiser Perceptions. Nearly half of advertisers warned networks should not expect advertisers to commit to more than 90 days’ worth of TV, while 50% said they believed they can replace linear TV reach with OTT/CTV and digital video ads, and 41% predicted that networks will be forced to abandon the Upfront model altogether. Advertises voiced five main concerns:
· Scale: Will TV viewership contract again as states reopen?
· Dayparts: How will content gaps reshape audiences, especially for primetime, late night and cable?
· Sports/events: What will reallocation look like if tent-pole events cancel?
· Pricing: Will pricing flex to reflect actual viewing on linear and digital TV?
· Guarantees: Since they can’t trust future estimates, what’s their protection?
What’s the best strategy for linear networks? They “need to take the dollars they can get now, on whatever terms they can,” said Justin Fromm, EVP/Business Intelligence at Advertiser Perceptions. “Mostly, that will mean flexibility – being creative to allocate advertising across a network’s platforms and a willingness to return money as needed.”

Video ad impressions on connected TV platforms dropped to 37% of all ad impressions in 1Q20, a decline of over 21% from the fourth quarter of 2019, according to the latest Video Benchmarks Report from Extreme Reach. But despite the sudden CTV share decline, analysis of the data since then shows a rapid return to more “normal” levels, with CTV share up to 42% for April 15 – May 11. “The first quarter of 2020 reveals big changes that we surmise are a result of the unprecedented global health crisis,” said Mary Vestewig, ER’s Senior Director, Video Account Management. “That said, we are almost halfway through the second quarter, and now we are seeing a rapid rise in CTV share of impressions that suggests a return to a level of consistency indicative of a new normal.”

When marketers’ data is coming from an agency, “you should ask all the same questions regarding data quality that would of a vendor,” advises the ANA in its new report, “Data Sources for Media: A Buyer’s Guide.” Agency ownership of data assets can come with advantages for advertisers, the report notes, saying, “Integrated data sources can streamline the media buying process for the advertiser and the agency can tailor the offering to the marketer’s needs better than some other third-party data sources.” But marketers must still assess whether an agency’s data “is media or solutions neutral and in the best interest of its brands,” cautions the ANA.

Kantar completed an analysis of ads using neuroscience and AI machine learning to develop the best approach for TV creative in the current environment. The result was four “guardrails” for creatives to follow to ensure the highest level of receptivity, engagement and impact: Messaging rooted in deeper human understanding rates higher; Be clear on what your ad is meant to achieve; Deliver more value, even if you are in demand; and Stay true to your brand (don’t overstretch). Kantar is conducting the research in a series of waves, using AI as a predictive tool.

The E.W. Scripps Company and an expanded group from ViacomCBS have joined Project OAR, the consortium working to recommend open standard protocols for TV programmers and platforms to manage, sell and deliver more relevant advertising experiences. Scripps, which operates 60 local TV stations in 42 markets, is implementing addressable advertising across a growing footprint of local OTT apps. CBS was a founding member of OAR; now ViacomCBS’ entire TV footprint is represented. “We know the future of TV requires a smarter, more relevant approach to ad experiences,” said Mike Dean, SVP of Advanced Advertising at ViacomCBS, and one of the founding executives of OAR. “Giving the entire ViacomCBS portfolio representation inside of OAR underscores the serious investment we are making in the future of better programming and ad experiences.”

STREAMING

Hulu is being accused of throttling the quality of video service on web browsers to push subscribers to other devices. A suit filed in LA Superior Court, reported by Variety, alleges “defendants prefer that users use the Hulu applications because, compared to computer browsers, applications provide more direct access to consumers’ personal data.”

We’re on the verge of habit change here,” said Roku’s VP of Programming Rob Holmes at NAB Show Express, noting that consumers had been looking for more value in video products before the pandemic and the resulting economic downturn, and current conditions have only accelerated the trend. “We’ve seen ad-supported streaming grow faster than subscription or MVPD or virtual MVPD categories. We see this as a fundamental acceleration of a trend that we already had at hand, but we don’t see any signs of it slowing down,” added Holmes.

The deployment of Comcast’s Xfinity devices has surpassed one million. “Flex was designed to fit seamlessly into the lives of our Internet-only customers,” said Dana Strong, President, Xfinity Consumer Services. “It combines access to the top streaming services and the ability to control your home’s Xfinity devices….We are thrilled our customers are quickly embracing this device on such a large scale.”

“I attribute everything that has gone wrong to coronavirus. Everything,” Jeffrey Katzenberg told the New York Times of the disappointing launch of Quibi. The company estimates the streaming app has been installed by about 3.5 million customers so far during its free trial, a number Katzenberg said is “not close to what we wanted.” While Quibi was intended for use on smartphones, people sheltering at home are looking for content on the big screen. Now, Quibi is making moves to allow for viewing on TV screens, and scaling back on marketing money “until we are in an environment where we can get a return on our investment,” said Katzenberg.

Wurl, provider of streaming video distribution and advertising services for CTV, reports growth in 1Q20 included 97 news new channels added to the Wurl Network, for a total of over 400, and expanded content monetization through AdPool, its advertising marketplace. Ad impressions provided by the Wurl Network increased by 500% year over year, with total ad inventory up 56%, says the company.

VIZIO SmartCast TV’s ad supported apps and streaming TV services were up 88% the last week of April compared to the first week of March before stay-at-home advisories changed viewing behaviors, reports the company. Now it is expanding its free channel options with 20 new channels, among them Vanity Fair, Young Hollywood, GQ, Glamour, Tastemade, Mystery Science Theater 3000, Game Show Network and World Poker Tour.

Court TV, relaunched last year by Katz Broadcasting, is now available on YouTube TV. The original Court TV on cable ran from 1991 until 2008, when it was rebranded as truTV.

UK’s Goldfinch has launched streaming platform BirdBox.Film, with three channels of curated content around documentaries, drama and festival favorites. On the way are channels for horror, shorts and sci-fi. “BirdBox.Film adds a key direct distribution function to Goldfinch, which is totally in tune with the digital viewing habits of our modern audiences,” said Phil McKenzie, COO of Godlfinch. “Whilst our business plan is focused on the UK initially, the technology also gives us the opportunity to expand into other territories, and provide a white label service to festivals, markets, distributors and media companies. The platform also adds to Goldfinch’s vision of supplying a holistic package of services to content creators to finance, produce and monetise their ideas.”

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