07/17/17: Reports: AT&T to split up telecom and media businesses after Time Warner merger

Good morning. It’s Monday July 17, 2017 and this is your your first early morning Digital briefing!

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If the AT&T/Time Warner deal gets final approval, it looks some major reorganization is in store. News outlets including Bloomberg, Reuters and The Wall Street Journal report that, once the acquisition is completed, AT&T plans to separate its media and telecommunications businesses, with each unit run by its own CEO. For the media division, that CEO will be John Stankey, who currently heads up DirecTV and other entertainment businesses. Though interestingly enough, the reports suggest that DirecTV actually may be shifted into the unit that focuses on AT&T’s traditional telecom business; John Donovan, who currently heads up technology and operations for the company, will oversee that division. Current AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson will reportedly maintain his role as CEO of the entire company.
In splitting up its media and telco businesses, AT&T may be trying to head off antitrust concerns. But for some organizations, those concerns remain. A group of 14 advocacy groups, including Public Knowledge and the Consumer Federation of America, recently sent a letter to the Department of Justice arguing that the AT&T/Time Warner merger would allow the company to “utterly dominate” the video distribution market. “Buying Time Warner would incentivize and enable AT&T to cement its dominance and benefit itself, at the expense of pro-consumer competition in the video distribution market,” the coalition argued. As things stand now, the merger is favored to land the government’s seal of approval – but it’s definitely not a done deal. 
Exorbitant headset prices have always been a major impediment to mass adoption of VR. That’s why, slowly but surely, Facebook is making the Oculus Rift and its accessories more affordable. The company is introducing a new bundle that includes the Rift headset, along with compatible Touch controllers, for $499. (As part of a 60-day promotion, that price will actually be $399 over the course of the summer.) The company has also lowered prices on dozens of its VR experiences and games. When the Rift initially debuted, it cost $600; the Touch controllers were an additional $200.
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Many publishers have been redirecting resources from Snapchat to Instagram, notes Digiday in a new report. While publishers that are active on the Discover platform remain committed to that area of the app, there are only 40 such publishers in the U.S. And as the report makes clear, other areas of the app – namely, its messaging features – are designed to be user-friendly, not publisher-friendly. Instagram, meanwhile, has cloned numerous Snapchat features, while adding publisher-friendly touches such as allowing creators to post links to external websites. (Snapchat finally launched a similar feature earlier this month.) “We’re making millions — 10 percent of our ad deals touch it in some way,” Bryan Goldberg, the founder of Bustle, told Digiday. You can check out the story here.
For all its recent struggles, Snapchat does have some good news to report: geofilter use has been growing rapidly. As TechCrunch reports, Snapchat geofilters – which allow users to create custom photo and video overlays tied to nearby businesses or landmarks – have flourished thanks in large part to partnerships with Foursquare and Factual. Snapchat has used location data from those companies to make geofilters available far and wide, even in small towns. Snap Inc. told TechCrunch that, every minute, geofilters are now viewed over 1.5 million times by message and Story viewers. That amounts to 2.16 billion views every day. Back in February, when Snap filed for its IPO, the number was about one billion.
ESPN has a new digital advertising chief. Travis Howe will now serve as SVP of Digital Ad Product Sales and Strategy. He’d previously served as EVP and GM of Global Platform Solutions at ad services company Mediaocean. At ESPN, Howe will report to Ed Erhardt, President of Global Sales and Marketing.
Signs abound that Pinterest is gunning to better compete in the social ad marketplace; just look at the tech giants they’re recruiting from. The company just hired Jon Alferness, a 13-year veteran of travel and shopping ad products at Google, to serve as Head of Ad products. And the company also hired Meredith Guerriero, Facebook’s Director of Health, Grocery and Politics to serve as Head of Partnerships for the East region. (Previously, Guerriero spent close to ten years working on Google’s ad products.) As previously reported by Recode, Pinterest has privately set a goal of $500 million in ad revenue for 2017.
… for the week of Monday, July 17 , through Sunday, July 13
– People Now at People.com, Monday-Friday at 8:30a ET and 11:30a ET. Guests include TV personality Vicki Gunvalson (Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Orange County), actor Harry Styles (Warner Bros. Pictures ‘Dunkirk’), and fitness guru Shaun T
Acorn TV: Midsomer Murders premieres today, July 17
Netflix: Aditi Mittal: Things They Wouldn’t Let Me Say, a new comedy special, debuts
Netflix: Ari Shaffir: Double Negative, a new comedy special, debuts Tuesday, July 18
– Netflix: Last Chance U, a new sports documentary, debuts Friday, July 21
– Netflix: Ozark, a new original drama series starring Jason Bateman and Laura Linney, debuts Friday, July 21
– Netflix: The Worst Witch, a new family/fantasy series, debuts Friday, July 21
– Amazon: Season 2 of animated family series Niko and the Sword of Light debuts Friday, July 21
Our Last Trivia Question: Actor/comedian Marc Maron has a role in which recently-premiered Netflix series? Answer: GLOW. Kudos to Len Appel-Branded Entertainment Network/NY, Andy Pittman-TAMU/TX, Dan Quitério-Understood/NY, Maureen Pearce-Charter Communications/NY, Louis Lewow-Lewow Media Group/GA, Scott Matthew Willence-ITN Networks/NY, Sheena Das-Disney Media/NY, Lauren Weeks-Viacom/NY, Fawn Sullivan-Chief Media/NY, David Westberg-SAG-AFTRA Federal Credit Union/CA, Lorrie Shilling/CA, Tom Moore-Kalt Productions/CA, Bill Graff-BeIN Sports/FL, Aaron Paquette-Screen Engine/ASI/TX, and David Korduner-DGA/CA
Follow-up: GLOW star Alison Brie also has a role on a different Netflix series. Which one? (Email [email protected] with your answer and be sure to include your name, company, city and state.)
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Game of Thrones is back. (Hallelujah.) The Wall Street Journal recently asked Kit Harrington – AKA Jon Snow – who he’d like to see on the Iron Throne when all’s said and done. Check out his answer here .
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JOB OPENING: ACCT EXEC, DIRECT RESPONSE/DIRECTavenue/Carlsbad CA: Build deep understanding of each client’s bus. & category needs. DR exp, pref Short Form. 10+ yrs exp mktg/Advrtsng DR TV pref’d. Job based out of San Diego office. Full info/apply HERE  (7/21)

JOB OPENING: MGR, CONSUMER MARKETING/NICKELODEON/NYC: Responsible for leading the marketing strategy, tactics and audience engagement for Nickelodeon series, tentpole events and TV movies. 3-5 yrs exp. Interest in Ent/TV, Marketing/Advertising, Children’s media. Full info/apply HERE (7/21)

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