Will AT&T's HBO Max Be Blocked By Rivals?; Google Sues Over Antitrust Probe

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Distribution Dilemma

AT&T is leaning into its 34 million HBO subscribers to drive sign-ups for its forthcoming HBO Max streaming service. But it may face roadblocks in working with competitive cable providers on distribution, Digiday reports. AT&T has yet to sign on any distribution deals with competitors to carry HBO Max, who see the streaming service as a Trojan horse for AT&T to steal their customers. Comcast is facing the same issues in getting pay TV providers to carry Peacock, NBCU’s streaming service launching in April 2020, as cable providers weigh whether distributing competitive services will help or hurt their overall businesses. Despite a compelling pitch to sell HBO Max wholesale for pay TV providers to package the way they want and to include advanced analytics from Xandr in the buy, cable operators may demand cheaper prices to carry the service, require the ability to advertise on HBO Max content or demand cheaper carriage deals on linear TV. “That’s part of the problem with combining distribution and content,” said Alan Wolk, co-founder and lead analyst at consulting firm TVRev. The other [pay-TV providers] feel that this is an easy ticket away from them.” More.

Texas Confidential

 Google is suing Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to try and ensure that its confidential business info doesn’t get disclosed to rivals as part of the multistate antitrust probe he’s leading, Reuters reports. Paxton’s investigation, which he announced last month, includes participation from nearly every AG in the nation, with the exception of California and Alabama. He’s already sent Google a subpoena that includes more than 200 questions and demands for info about the company’s advertising business. Google is worried because Paxton hired three outside consultants to support the probe, two of whom have worked for either competitors or critics of the company. Google’s skin is thin when it comes to what it considers private information (its own, at least). A portion of FTC commissioner Rohit Chopra’s dissenting opinion in the recent case against YouTube over COPPA violations was a redacted section about how much money Google makes from behavioral advertising. Conspiracy theory: Either Google threw its weight around or the FTC’s three Republican commissioners didn’t want to offend the company.

Still Paying Bills

The fallout from Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal isn’t over yet. The platform will pay more than $600,000 to the United Kingdom’s Information Commissioner’s Office for its role in the privacy scandal, which breached data protection law by allowing Cambridge Analytica to scrape data on 87 million people without consent. The fine was issued in October 2018, but Facebook has spent the past year litigating appeals back and forth between parts of the UK government, NPR reports. Facebook has also responded by restricting the data app developers access via Facebook APIs. “We are pleased to hear that Facebook has taken, and will continue to take significant steps to comply with the fundamental principles of data protection,” said ICO Deputy Commissioner James Dipple-Johnstone in a statement. More.  

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