Tim Cook Pushes Back Against Epic Games; Xandr’s Future Is Unclear

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Tim Talks

Move over Epic, it’s Tim’s turn. The Apple CEO had his say in federal court on Friday as part of a lawsuit Epic filed after its hugely popular game Fortnite was removed from the App Store last year for flouting Apple’s requirement of a 30% cut of in-game revenues. Epic is arguing that Apple runs its store as an illegal monopoly because iOS devices don’t allow alternative payment systems. Cook pushed back, saying that opening up the iPhone to rival app stores would hinder users. And (shocker) he also said Apple isn’t a monopoly. Per the Wall Street Journal, Cook emphasized Apple’s commitment to security and privacy and his belief that third-party developers with their own app stores aren’t motivated to match the level of user protection that Apple provides with its App Store. Apple faces increasing threats from lawmakers and regulators around the world who’re examining the power it has over third-party software developers. Epic isn’t the only one ripping into Apple – business mogul Barry Diller blasted the company over its App Store fees in an interview with CNBC, saying that his companies, and others like them, are “overcharged in a disgusting manner.”

Xandr Scoop

Xandr remains with team AT&T following the WarnerMedia merger deal with Discovery, putting its future in question. AT&T’s acquisition of AppNexus in June 2018 generated a big splash as a core pillar of AT&T’s strategy to monetize (and justify) its acquisition of Time Warner. But AT&T has been exploring the sale of Xandr since last year. Adweek reports that those plans are now on hold because AT&T couldn’t find a buyer. Xandr had merged with WarnerMedia last year, but now its status as a lone unit may make the prospect of a future sale more straightforward. Insiders say Xandr has reverted back to its legacy business of helping to monetize third-party inventory compared to being proprietary tools for WarnerMedia assets. It’s not as if Xandr isn’t doing well: in Q1, spending on the platform soared 75% in digital video, driven by CTV, which saw ad spend increase 235%. Insiders noted the company’s progress in easing the often cumbersome process of CTV buys through its tech. [Related in AdExchanger: AT&T Will Hold On To Xandr As It Relinquishes WarnerMedia]

For Sale?

ViacomCBS may be a potential acquisition target. According to Barron’s, Bank of America Global Research media analyst Jessica Reif Ehrlich said that ViacomCBS is facing challenges as a “relatively sub-scale player” against Netflix, Disney and Amazon as the market shifts to streaming, even as it has been setting itself apart with its Paramount Plus and Pluto TV streaming services. At the top of Ehrlich’s list of potential buyers? Comcast – which owns NBCUniversal and Peacock. The acquisition of ViacomCBS, Ehrlich said, would create a powerhouse in film, an increased footprint in advertising-based video on demand with Peacock and Pluto, “and a deep breadth of entertainment assets.” Others who may swoop in for a buy include Amazon – which is reportedly in talks to acquire MGM – and even Apple, as a way to scale Apple TV Plus. Ehrlich also said that ViacomCBS’s multiple franchises at Nickelodeon, Paramount and CBS could make the company appealing to Netflix as part of a strategic shift in an increasingly competitive landscape. [Relates in AdExchanger: ViacomCBS Setting Itself Apart With Paramount Plus And Pluto TV]

But Wait, There’s More! 

Fewer than 20% of iPhone users have updated to iOS 14.5. And fewer than 20% of those have agreed to allow apps to track their activity to personalize advertising or measure marketing effectiveness, according to new data from Singular. [Blog]

Facebook is refusing to remove an attack ad falsely linking U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar to Hamas. [Business Insider]

Discovery’s first global campaign for its streaming platform makes a case for audiences craving specific categories of content. [Ad Age]

Paul Romer, once Silicon Valley’s favorite economist, has become a fierce critic of the tech industry’s largest companies and championed new state taxes on the digital ads sold by companies like Facebook and Google. [The New York Times] Meanwhile, Shoshana Zuboff, the author of “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism,” talks about why people should pay attention to how Big Tech companies are using their information. [The New York Times]

Cigna is consolidating its global marketing business with IPG. [CampaignUS]

In a down year, OMD remained the biggest media shop in the United States. [MediaPost]

You’re Hired!

FCB Global has tapped Omnicom vet Tina Allan for a new data science role. [CampaignUS]

Havas Media Group has hired Mike Bregman as chief data officer of HMG North America. [release]

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