A New Bill Could Help Pubs Fight Big Tech; Smart TV Startup Disruptel Raises $1.1M

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New Deal

The fallout from the recent big tech vs. Australia beef is starting to hit closer to home. Reuters reports that US lawmakers are looking to avoid a similar brawl by hashing out a way to make it easier for news organizations to negotiate collectively with Google and Facebook when it comes to sharing ad revenues. A bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) introduced proposed legislation last week that would allow print, broadcast or digital news organizations to work together to win better distribution and payment deals from Facebook and Google. This arrangement would remain in place for four years during which time publishers would be protected from antitrust liability that normally would preclude them from collective bargaining. The bill comes after Google and Facebook’s recent clashes with lawmakers in Australia over paying publishers for news content. These latest wrinkles are separate from the intense antitrust scrutiny that both Facebook and Google face in jurisdictions across the world, including in the US and Europe.

TV Talk

The seed has been planted for tech startup Disruptel. The company, which develops artificial intelligence solutions that process real-time video content, has clinched $1.15 million in seed funding from a who’s who of investors, including dataxu co-founder and former CEO Mike Baker, dataxu co-founder Bill Simmons, Siri co-founder Adam Cheyer and Sky EVP Andrew Olson. Founded in 2017, Disruptel has a flagship product called Context that allows users to ask questions about the content on their connected TVs through their remote control and to receive immediate answers, including info about the people and items on the screen. For example, you could ask “What’s the name of the actor in the green shirt?” or say “I want to place a bet” while watching a sports game. Disputel CEO Alex Quinn came up with the idea when he was in high school … which wasn’t that long ago. Quinn is now 21 years old. Disruptel is hoping to partner with smart TV manufacturers and streaming services and go GA during the second half of this year. TechCrunch has more.

Resilient Strategy

WPP is weathering the COVID-19 storm and is poised to benefit as the economy recovers and clients start spending again. At least, that’s according to WPP CEO Mark Read. The Wall Street Journal reports that the ad holding company says it made numerous changes last year in the midst of pandemic-induced disruption that allowed it to be resilient in Q4 2020. Specifically, WPP pointed to its shrinking quarterly declines since the start of worldwide lockdowns last March and growth in areas such as ecommerce. GroupM alone saw a 40% increase in media activity meant to drive people to ecommerce. Organic net revenue decreased 8.2% in 2020 and fell 6.5% YoY in Q4. WPP saw a pre-tax loss of $3.9 billion in 2020 from a profit of $1.7 billion in 2019. Although the holdco reduced its headcount to just under 100,000 employees over the course of the year, from nearly 106,500 in 2019, it will reportedly start hiring again as it returns to growth this year. GroupM organic revenue was down 4.1% in the fourth quarter, which was similar to the third quarter.

But Wait, There’s More!

HBO Max is set to launch an ad-supported tier in June, and AT&T projects as many as 150 million global HBO Max and HBO subscribers by 2025. [Adweek] In other news, the streaming service already has $80 million in upfront advertising commitments for its planned launch. [MediaPost]

Former Facebook insiders explain why the company is making such a big fuss over Apple’s upcoming privacy change. (Facebook is especially worried about losing the ability to track view-through conversions.) [CNBC]

And in other big tech imbroglios: Google slammed Microsoft on Friday, accusing its rival of being self-serving in its backing of proposals to force tech giants to pay news publishers for content. [The Hill]

Global sales of connected TV devices reached new heights in the fourth quarter and Amazon was at the forefront, according to new data from Strategy Analytics. [Fierce Video]

Civis Analytics CEO Dan Wagner on why the demise of cookies could be the rebirth of the internet – and that’s a good thing. [LinkedIn post]

You’re Hired!

PHD brings on former Bayer exec Josh Palau as head of media and activation. [CampaignUS]

Joveo has appointed Raja (Raj) Balachandran as its general manager in the UK, and Karim Jelatat as its general manager for France. [Martech Series]

Ulta Beauty has elevated Dave Kimbell from president to CEO. [Adweek]

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