How Competitors Overcome Google’s Privacy Lobby; Comcast Struts Its Stuff

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Borking Google’s Privacy Pitch

Judges and regulators have narrowly interpreted the consumer welfare standard – the mechanism that’s dictated U.S. antitrust enforcement for 40 years – so that a monopolistic business practice must be shown to directly affect consumer pricing. 

But that standard has failed the modern economy, writes Sridhar Ramaswamy, cofounder and CEO of the subscription-based search engine Neeva – oh, and the former head of Google’s search and ad products – in an op-ed at The Hill

Some examples are well-known. Google’s acquisition of YouTube or Facebook’s acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp had no demonstrable effect on prices…because they’re free. Ramaswamy also cites how VC-backed tech categories relied on investors to subsidize artificially low prices as a way to prevent competition in a category. 

“Big tech companies facing the daily pressure of returning value to shareholders end up prioritizing advertisers and ad revenue at the expense of consumers.”

It’s a nonpartisan column, though more Democrats prefer a broad interpretation of the consumer welfare standard. Ramaswamy nudges Republicans in that direction by pointing out that the term itself was coined by Robert Bork, a conservative former judge whose Supreme Court nomination in 1987 was scuttled by…then-Senator Joe Biden. 

The Peacock Flock

Peacock reported 28 million active accounts at the close of Q1, compared with 24.5 million at the end of last quarter, according to Comcast earnings Thursday morning. Of those 28 million accounts, 13 million are paid (compared with 9 million in Q4). In contrast, Netflix lost 200,000 subscribers during the same time period.

Peacock offers a free, ad-supported tier and an ad-free option at $10 per month – but it also has a $5 ad-lite option. It introduced this middle ground based on Comcast research showing 80% of consumers prefer ad-supported content over paying more for no ads. ¿Por qué no los dos? (Take notes, Netflix.)

The optionality seems to be working – many paid accounts are picking the cheaper choice, and they’re watching more content, too. Hours of engagement increased 25% year-over-year, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said on the earnings call.

But it’s not over yet. Content production and seasonality account for a huge chunk of the change. Peacock attributes much of its paid subscriber uptick to the Super Bowl and Olympics – the company “doesn’t anticipate this dramatic quarter-to-quarter growth to become the norm,” Roberts said.

With content production costs spiking, Peacock reported a net Q1 operating loss of $456 million.

Lights, Camera, Action

Snap has elicited chuckles since 2016 when it started calling itself “a camera company.”

The company released Spectacles, Snap-manufactured shades with built-in cameras. But it’s rich to call Snap a camera company – just check out Snap.com – when Snapchat only released a long-awaited Android app rebuild in 2019 because it relied so heavily on Apple’s camera. 

To be fair, Snap has released in-camera software. Other product manufacturers can embed Snapchat-esque augmented reality tech. FitBit does, for instance. And its Snap Camera download brings its signature filters to video services like Zoom and Twitch. 

But if Snap calls itself a camera company, shouldn’t it have a position in hardware other than one product that’s probably a collectible or practical joke purchase? 

Well, today the company put that rejoinder to rest with the launch of Pixy, a $230 drone camera. It costs as much as some large, remote-controlled drones, but its value comes in being small and autonomous. Pixy keeps one person in its focus and hovers nearby. It’s not a drone competitor – it’s a replacement for selfie sticks. 

Snap CEO Evan Spiegel tells Bloomberg the inspiration (and thus the name) came from the question: “What would it feel like if Tinker Bell were your personal photographer?” 

But Wait, There’s More!

Google now lets you limit gambling, dating, pregnancy and other sensitive ads. [9to5Google]

G/O Media, Owner of Gizmodo, Deadspin and the Onion, buys business site Quartz. [NYT]

TikTok and IRI partner to juice CPG’s MMM models. [release]

Did you apply for student aid online? Facebook saw you. [The Markup]

IAB Tech Lab Releases SHARC (Safe HTML Ad-Rich Media Container) for public comment. [release]

What brands need to know about in-game advertising. [Ad Age]

The ecom marketplace service Mirakl acquires Target2Sell, a personalization vendor. [release]

The attention economy slowdown. [Axios]

You’re Hired!

AdPredictive brings on Ali Levitan as EVP of business development and growth. [release]

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