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Week of April 24, 2017

Be nimble, be quick, get the money
"ambition unchanged"

If anything Vivendi principal Vincent Balloré projects the great confidence of a serial entrepreneur. Like many of that special tribe confidence is more important than a plan, certainly to shareholders and bankers. All proposed resolutions at the annual shareholders meeting (April 25) were approved, including M. Balloré’s re-election as chairman.

Being a multifaceted company Vivendi has several business targets. One illuminated by M. Ballore and chief executive Arnaud de Puyfontaine is developing a “Latin media powerhouse.” Assets of French pay-TV operator Canal+ were to be merged with Mediaset’s pay-TV business, Mediaset Premium. That may have sounded good at the time but, for a variety of reasons, it fell apart. Feelings being hurt, not to forget US$ 850 million, lawsuits flew.

Last week Italian communications regulator and competition authority AGCOM, reviewing a complaint from Mediaset principal shareholder Fininvest, ordered Vivendi to shed its holdings in Mediaset or Telecom Italia within 12 months. Fininvest is the investment holding company of the Berlusconi family. Vivendi holds a controlling 24% stake in Telecom Italia and a 29% stake in Mediaset, which it acquired late last year. (See more about media in Italy here)

"The law says we are not entitled to control the two companies,” said M. Ballore at the shareholder’s meeting, quoted by Italian business daily Il Sole 24 Ore (April 25). “We do not understand how we could control Mediaset as it is controlled by the Berlusconi family. However, we will certainly comply with what we are asked and will do what is necessary.”

While lust for Mediaset may have faded, Italian analysts suggesting AGCOM would accept Vivendi shifting its holdings to non-voting without reducing the stake, Telecom Italia is likely to get more attention. “Our ambition in Italy is unchanged,” said M. de Puyfontaine, referring to Telecom Italia as a “long term investment.” And, perhaps nodding to the Italian regulator, “Italian investments are welcome in France,” quoted by Milano Finanza (April 26).

M. Bolloré is quite fond of games. Vivendi is expected to pursue a majority stake in game developer Ubisoft. And, too, the 60% stake of advertising company Havas in M. Bolloré’s personal portfolio could be “merged” into Vivendi, said M. de Puyfontaine at the big meeting.

Ad bots exploring new worlds of fun and profit

Automated media buying, known as programmatic buying, is the least romantic side of the advertising business. Big data, algorithms and efficiency are, arguably, the polar opposites of stories, colors and creativity. Alas, media buyers have become bots or, at least, bot loving.

Tech giants Google and Facebook make a lot of money through their respective automated media buying platforms that place display and video ads with just a few clicks. There are, certainly, others facilitating real-time bidding and direct placement. Heretofore, this has been mostly an online realm.

As a very big company always looking to further scale its technology, Google will ad linear TV to the DoubleClick Bid Manager “within the next month” in the US. “By adding traditional TV buying into DoubleClick Bid Manager, we are taking the first step towards allowing advertisers and agencies to manage their video campaigns across digital and linear TV, in a more efficient and effective way,” said a Google statement quoted by TechCrunch (April 24). Presumably, this exciting new development will eventually swarm the planet. (See more about online advertising here)

The ad people are, again. happy. “Automated trading of linear TV is inevitable,” said Mindshare/Sweden digital strategist Benjamin Holmfred, quoted by Dagens Media (April 25). “The actual process as it is today is time consuming, obsolete and can be very dependent on individual experiences. Google is on the ball in the United States, but are the media houses, which own the warehouse, on the ball or do they want to own the store?” He doesn’t expect programmatic ad buying to extend to linear TV in Sweden in the short-term.

Not entirely unrelated, Google will be adding an ad blocking feature to its Chrome web browser. One of the reasons, the Wall Street Journal reported (April 19), is discomfort with existing 3rd party ad blocker providers. Blocked by default will be ads deemed “unacceptable” by the Coalition for Better Ads, an industry group against irritatingly slow loading ads and pop-ups.

Fake news is a job creator
"certainly no money"

Facebook is searching for a special someone to tackle fake news, reported tech news portal Recode (April 20). It will be an executive position requiring both news and tech “chops.” Recruiting the right person, apparently, is difficult and is being conducted off the grid.

The company has been hiring folks to deal with the problem, largely as a PR exercise. In January former CNN and NBC TV news anchor Campbell Brown was hired as head of news partnerships such as the newly created Facebook Journalism Project and the News Integrity Initiative. The new position will report to VP of news and video products Fidji Simo. (See more about fake news here)

When finally installed the new Facebook executive will also deal with Instant Articles, the two-year old feature designed to assuage the worst fears of publishers as well as speed up loading time. In recent weeks the (UK) Guardian joined the New York Times, Cosmopolitan and Forbes dropping Instant Articles. Big German publisher Frankfurter Allgemeinen Zeitung (FAZ) is sticking with Instant Articles but warily. “Unfortunately Instant Articles brings hardly any extra traffic and certainly no money,” said chief editor for online Mathias Müller von Blumencron, quoted by (April 23). (See more about social media here)

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