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The Tickle File is ftm's daily column of media news, complimenting the feature articles on major media issues. Tickle File items point out media happenings, from the oh-so serious to the not-so serious, that should not escape a shorter, more informal format.

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Week of December 4, 2017

Broadcasters hesitate on Olympics broadcasts, fans still interested
"decision not yet adopted"

Russian sports fans will be really disappointed next February when national television channels back-out of broadcasting the 2018 Winter Olympic Games from Pyeongchang, South Korea. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) banned official Russian national teams from all events for flaunting anti-doping rules and procedures. Russian athletes will be allowed to compete as “Olympic Athlete from Russia,” said the IOC statement (December 5), without the Russian flag on uniforms.

Russian State broadcaster VGTRK indicated the Rossiya 1 TV channel would not broadcast from the South Korea Winter Olympics “if our athletes can only participate under a neutral flag and not under the flag of Russia,” quoted by (December 5). Channel One, indirectly owned by the Russian State and expected to broadcast some Olympic events, did not offer comment to RBC. Uncommitted was Gazprom Media, owner of sports channel Match TV, saying a “decision on holding the broadcast has not yet adopted.” (See more about sports and media here)

Russians are ardent fans of winter sports - from hockey to ice skating. A pop-poll published by Vedomosti (December 6) showed seven in ten Russians (69%) want the Winter Games broadcast regardless, the remainder saying “nobody is interested” in watching foreign athletes. Most Russians (91%), according to the poll, took the IOC decision negatively; 5% thought the suspension was correct because “our sports must be free from doping.”

Russian sports rights marketing Telesport acquired TV rights to the 2018 Winter Olympics and the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics for about US$40 million when Discovery Communications excluded Russian rights from its successful European bid for Eurosport. French rights were also excluded.

Ad forecasts up, gobbled by Google and Facebook
"faster than expected"

Internet technologies made possible a whole new world of fun for the advertising people over the last decade. Now the party planners - Google and Facebook - are known as “the duopoly,” not a term of endearment. Cheap ad placement on websites nobody wants their children to see is now a problem.

WPP’s media buying subsidiary GroupM presented, right on schedule, global ad spending forecasts for 2018. As expected, they said more money will pour into advertising. Zenith, subsidiary of Publicis, and Magna, subsidiary of IPG, forecast the same, more or less. “The transition to a digital-centric media world accelerates as digital ad sales continue to grow as fast – and often faster – than expected,” said Magna forecasting chief Vincent Letang, in a statement (December 4). (See more about ad spending here)

Total ad spending in 2018 will be up year on year 4.3%, projected GroupM, to US$558 billion. Increases accrue most to regions with fastest growing GDP (gross domestic product) driving consumer spending, meaning Asia/Pacific. The US market will continue to provide the biggest share of ad spending growth due to “falling unemployment, real wage growth of 2.5% and a 17-year high in consumer confidence.”

But digital advertising - banners and videos on websites - still captures the imaginations of ad people, though a bit more dystopian with concerns over “brand safety.” The lift in 2018 will be slightly less than 2017, 11.3% versus 11.5% while the digital pie share will increase to 36.4% from 34.1%. More client money will pour into ad-tech and data services, new revenue streams for the ad people. (See more about digital advertising here)

Controlling that are Google and Facebook, which take 187% of digital ad spending growth. This “is exceedingly bad news for the balance of the digital publisher ecosystem,” said the GroupM summary. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission opened an inquiry (December 5) into “how digital platforms such as Facebook and Google operate.”

TV busting out kids channels all over
radical changes

More international distribution is coming for big US television broadcaster Viacom. Its Viacom International Media Networks (VIMN) subsidiary has long placed TV channels with cable and pay-TV operators around the world. Expansion - and channel shuffling - will come in the new year.

VIMN is shuffling kids channels in Poland. Nickelodeon HD will be replaced by a Polish version of Nicktoons HD. The Viva Polska music channel was replaced by a locally produced version of MTV Music in October. In Poland the broadcaster offers six 24 hour cable channels, a few with localized content. Nicktoons is largely a cartoon channel with some Nickelodeon programs.

New for Viacom will be free-to-air channels in Russia; Nickelodeon, Paramount Comedy and VH1 Europe. Media regulator Roskomnadzor approved licenses for terrestrial broadcasting in the Krasnodar region, reported RBC (December 4) saying: “This radically changes their status.” The channels will no longer be subject to advertising restrictions and, as a licensed broadcaster, can be carried all over Russia by satellite.

Also in October VIMN launched the Paramount+ pay-TV movie channel in Denmark, Sweden and Norway. VIMN has several sub-divisions, generally by region or language, and is based in London. Long-time VIMN executive David Lynn was named chief executive in January, shortly after Bob Bakish was elevated to Viacom chief executive.

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