WPP announces another merger, fusing Geometry and VMLY&R

WPP announces another merger, fusing Geometry and VMLY&R
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Updated 18 November 2020

WPP announces another merger, fusing Geometry and VMLY&R

WPP announces another merger, fusing Geometry and VMLY&R
  • VMLY&R Commerce, which will operate as a distinct company within the VMLY&R global network, will be fully operational from Jan. 1, 2021, according to the announcement

Advertising group WPP has announced the merger of its Geometry and VMLY&R global businesses to form VMLY&R Commerce, a new end-to-end “creative commerce company” combining the talent and scale of both.

It comes just days after WPP announced the merger of its Grey and AKQA agencies to form AKQA Group.

VMLY&R Commerce, which will operate as a distinct company within the VMLY&R global network, will be fully operational from Jan. 1, 2021, according to the announcement. The integration of the agencies’ teams and assets will continue throughout the year.

WPP said that the merger will combine the commerce capabilities of both businesses to serve clients at a time of unprecedented global growth in e-commerce. The newly formed agency will be led by Beth Ann Kaminkow, previously the global CEO of Geometry. It aims to help connected brands grow by unifying client strategies around commerce to drive brand equity and conversion.

“Consumer experiences today are centered on commerce, making it increasingly important to our clients’ marketing and media decisions,” said Kaminkow. “As the pandemic accelerates new consumer behaviors and expectations, commerce is fast becoming the next channel for the most creative engagements and experiences.

“With the launch of VMLY&R Commerce, we can now offer our clients creative commerce at scale, harnessing data and technology to build brands and sell products across channels.”

Geometry has proven to be a key partner in helping clients navigate the new commerce landscape, according to the merger announcement, while VMLY&R has also experienced substantial momentum across its customer experience practice, expanding its e-commerce business with client partners.

The merger aims to provide a best-in-class, end-to-end service to clients, leveraging the combined assets of the Geometry and VMLY&R networks, which between them have more than 11,000 employees in 80 countries.

It will use Geometry’s proprietary Living Commerce platform to guide strategic commerce consultation, development and activation across retail, design, experiential and innovation disciplines. The platform provides insight into how, when and why people buy, to deliver creative commerce solutions.

“I’m thrilled to work with Beth Ann on the evolution of our collective commerce offering through VMLY&R Commerce,” said Jon Cook, VMLY&R’s global CEO. “We have been partnering closely across many clients and it is clear we share a vision and belief in the role commerce plays in a consumer’s journey and creating connected brands.

“Importantly, we both have a deep passion for leading our businesses with a focus on culture — both internally and with our client partners, which is essential in creating a new company built for the future.”

WPP CEO Mark Read said: “2020 has seen explosive growth in e-commerce as brands adapt to a new reality. This new company will offer outstanding creativity, industry-leading commerce expertise, and sophisticated data and technology skills to help brands grow in an omni-channel world. It also meets clients’ needs for simple, tightly integrated propositions from their marketing-services partners.”


Netflix shares tumble as subscriber growth cools

Netflix shares tumble as subscriber growth cools
This Aug. 13, 2020 photo shows a logo for Netflix on a remote control in Portland, Ore. (AP)
Updated 21 April 2021

Netflix shares tumble as subscriber growth cools

Netflix shares tumble as subscriber growth cools
  • Netflix executives had cautioned in past quarters that the pandemic fueled a surge in subscriptions, with people who would have eventually signed up jumping on board sooner than they might have

SAN FRANCISCO: Netflix shares plunged Tuesday after the leading streaming service reported cooling growth in paid subscriptions that had caught fire during the pandemic.
While revenue jumped 24 percent in the first quarter of this year when compared to the same period in 2020, paid memberships grew less than expected to 208 million, Netflix said in its quarterly earnings release.
New subscriber additions were some two million below Netflix's forecast.
"We believe paid membership growth slowed due to the big Covid-19 pull forward in 2020 and a lighter content slate in the first half of this year, due to Covid-19 production delays," executives said in the release.
Netflix reported profit was up to a stunning $1.7 billion on revenue of $7.2 billion, as subscribers weathered price increases.
The Silicon Valley-based company said it expected subscriber growth to accelerate anew later this year as it releases sequels to hit shows.
"We had those ten years where we were growing smooth as silk," Netflix chief executive Reed Hastings said on a streamed earnings call.
"It is just a little wobbly right now."
Netflix executives had cautioned in past quarters that the pandemic fueled a surge in subscriptions, with people who would have eventually signed up jumping on board sooner than they might have.
"We continue to anticipate a strong second half with the return of new seasons of some of our biggest hits and an exciting film lineup," Netflix said in an earnings letter.
A shift from traditional television to streamed services such as Netflix remains a clear trend, according to the company.
However, competition is also ramping up from Disney, Amazon and other titans.
"More and more new streaming services are launching, reinforcing our vision that linear TV will slowly give way to streaming entertainment," Netflix said.
"We're working as hard as ever to continually improve our service so that we are the best entertainment option available."
But the sharp deceleration suggested slower growth ahead from Netflix, sending shares down some 11 percent in after-hours trade.
Hastings said that competition in the streaming television market has been consistently fierce, with Amazon Prime and Hulu as rivals for more than a decade.
The cooling is a "sign that the world is coming back to more normal at the expense of Netflix," tweeted Gene Munster of the investment firm Loup Ventures. "We think the long-term growth is flattish."

Productions delays caused by the pandemic have resulted in the release of many original Netflix shows being delayed until the second half of this year, according to the company.
"While the roll out of vaccines is very uneven across the world, we are back up and producing safely in every major market, with the exception of Brazil and India," Netflix said.
The streaming television service expected to spend more than $17 billion on a wide range of content, much of it original.
New seasons of hit shows set for release later this year included Sex Education, The Witcher, La Casa de Papel (Money Heist), and You.
Original films slated to arrive included the finale to The Kissing Booth trilogy; Red Notice starring Gal Gadot, Dwayne Johnson and Ryan Reynolds, and Don't Look Up which has a cast including Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Cate Blanchett, Timothee Chalamet, and Meryl Streep.
Netflix is also investing in shows made by talent outside the US, finding "locally authentic stories" from around the world resonate with viewers.
"We're increasingly seeing that these local titles find significant audiences around the world, which supports our thesis that great stories are universal," Netflix said.,
Examples of recent local language hits included Lupin, a series based on French novels telling tales of a daring gentleman burglar, according to Netflix.
A second season of Lupin is due out later this year.


Samsung to launch remote control button for Shahid VIP

Sam Barnett, MBC GROUP CEO, and President of Samsung Electronics Middle East and North Africa Sungwan Myung. (Supplied)
Sam Barnett, MBC GROUP CEO, and President of Samsung Electronics Middle East and North Africa Sungwan Myung. (Supplied)
Updated 20 April 2021

Samsung to launch remote control button for Shahid VIP

Sam Barnett, MBC GROUP CEO, and President of Samsung Electronics Middle East and North Africa Sungwan Myung. (Supplied)
  • Shahid VIP becomes first MENA streaming service to have dedicated branded button on Samsung Smart TV remote controls

DUBAI: The premium subscription-based service of Shahid, and Samsung Electronics, have linked up to bring an exclusive Shahid VIP branded button to the new Samsung Smart TVs launched this year.

The partnership marks the first time a MENA-based streaming service will have its own branded button on a Samsung Smart TV remote control.

The South Korean multinational was also the first TV provider to launch Shahid VIP’s Smart TV app.

Buyers of the new Smart TVs might also have the chance to receive a free subscription to Shahid VIP.

Sam Barnett, CEO of MBC Group, said: “Two of the biggest brands in entertainment are coming together to provide a game-changing experience for at-home viewers.

“This is the first time Samsung has integrated a MENA-based streaming service on its TV remote. And this makes Shahid VIP easier to watch for an even bigger audience this year.”

Sungwan Myung, president of Samsung Electronics MENA, said: “It’s extremely exciting for us to be partnering with the region’s No. 1 broadcaster and the world’s leading Arabic streaming platform.

“Our partnership with Shahid VIP provides our users with an extensive library of premium content that caters to a variety of tastes.”


StarzPlay to broadcast new shows during Ramadan in partnership with Abu Dhabi Media

StarzPlay to broadcast new shows during Ramadan in partnership with Abu Dhabi Media
Updated 20 April 2021

StarzPlay to broadcast new shows during Ramadan in partnership with Abu Dhabi Media

StarzPlay to broadcast new shows during Ramadan in partnership with Abu Dhabi Media
  • StarzPlay subscribers will have access to a range of GCC and Arabic programming by the UAE media firm throughout Ramadan
  • Earlier this year, the companies collaborated to live-stream Ultimate Fighting Championship events across the MENA region

DUBAI: Abu Dhabi Media has extended its strategic agreement with StarzPlay to broadcast six new Arabic and GCC drama series during the holy month of Ramadan.

Earlier this year, the companies collaborated to live-stream Ultimate Fighting Championship events across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

As part of the extended partnership, StarzPlay subscribers will have access to a range of GCC and Arabic programming by the UAE media firm throughout Ramadan.        

Abdul Raheem Al-Bateeh Al-Nuaimi, acting general manager of Abu Dhabi Media, said: “This ongoing agreement with StarzPlay is in line with Abu Dhabi Media’s commitment to strengthening the reach of our digital and entertainment content through strategic partnerships.”

The collaboration is also aimed at increasing digital engagement for Abu Dhabi Media’s Ramadan campaign “Hatha Waqtaha,” which features a line-up of programs and productions with Emirati, Gulf, and Arab stars, he added.

The titles on StarzPlay streaming throughout Ramadan include “A’liqoun,” “Bayn Anf w Shafatyn,” “Bukhour Al-qasa’ed,” “Nabd Mu’aqat,” and “Heen Ra’at.”

Khaled Benchouche, senior vice president for strategy and original content at StarzPlay, said: “We have recorded a growing demand for original Arabic programming and have steadily built our content library.

“With our new partnership with Abu Dhabi Media, we will have a wider breadth of some of the most popular Arabic programming and are delighted to bring this additional choice of quality programming during Ramadan.”


EXCLUSIVE: Jawwy TV subscribers get access to discovery+

EXCLUSIVE: Jawwy TV subscribers get access to discovery+
Updated 15 min 14 sec ago

EXCLUSIVE: Jawwy TV subscribers get access to discovery+

EXCLUSIVE: Jawwy TV subscribers get access to discovery+
  • Jamie Cooke, senior executive at Discovery Inc., discusses regional partnerships, group’s streaming ambitions

DUBAI: In January, as many businesses around the world grappled with the economic impacts of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, mass media company Discovery forged ahead with the global launch of its streaming platform discovery+.

In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, discovery+ launched in the same month through a partnership with StarzPlay.

Then in February, Discovery signed a partnership with Saudi Telecom Co. (stc), through its media arm Intigral, to provide discovery+ content to Jawwy TV subscribers in a branded area on the platform. Users can sign up for the add-on subscription, which will be valid for 12 months.

The two companies also plan to make the discovery+ app available to stc’s mobile customers in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Bahrain as an added value to the existing service.

The partnership will come into effect on Wednesday when existing and new Jawwy TV subscribers can take advantage of a complimentary subscription to the discovery+ add-on.

Each month, new documentaries will be uploaded to the platform across content categories such as lifestyle and relationships, home and food, true crime, adventure and natural history, science, technology, and the environment.

Jamie Cooke, group senior vice president and general manager for Discovery Inc. in central eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Russia, told Arab News that there was no defining moment when Discovery – a traditional TV company – decided to launch a streaming service.

“We have known that we needed to make that shift as the whole industry is having to make. We have just been very mindful about when the right moment is,” he said.

Although the global launch of discovery+ only happened this year, it was being tested as “Dplay” in certain markets for more than five years.

Cooke pointed out that it had been a “gradual process” to put together all the parts to make the streaming platform a success, from gathering the right skill sets to experimenting with the kind of content.

“When we think about the streaming industry as a whole, it’s a very crowded environment where most players are competing for the same audience with the same kinds of content,” he added, referring to scripted shows that drive a lot of the streaming services.

“We had a very clear, consumer proposition, which is this idea of a definitive, non-fiction, real-life subscription streaming service. We took the best of what we are, which is the fact that we are a definitive destination for unscripted storytelling, and that’s what we need to focus on.”

That was also the driving force behind the company’s strategy to form partnerships instead of launching as an independent platform.

“The key to our success will be partnerships,” said Cooke, who noted that discovery+ had linked up with Verizon in the US, Sky in the UK, and Vodafone across parts of Europe. There was “great power” in partnerships, he added, because “they bring a lot of subscribers, and we bring a lot of services.”

The company’s current priority was to focus on existing partnerships in the MENA region and get them to work, but it was open to looking at other regional partnerships in the future.

The streaming platform is forming two kinds of partnerships: Telecom providers and streaming platforms. For now, Cooke is “agnostic” on whether one is better than the other as the streaming service only started in January. “It is just about putting our content where consumers are,” he said.

In the MENA region, in particular, he pointed out that while Discovery had a good brand presence it did not have a subscriber base from a digital point of view, which explained the partnership with StarzPlay.

He added that people were spending more than 50 percent of their time watching unscripted content, and “we are the world’s leading provider of unscripted content. So, why would we set ourselves up as a competing service when actually we’re kind of complementary?”

Discovery also recently extended its partnership with beIN across the region for its linear channel service.

Although headlines often indicated that television was dead or dying, that was not actually the case, said Cooke. Last year was the channel’s best ever globally for the linear portfolio audience, up 10 percent year-on-year, and audience growth exceeded the rise in total TV viewing.

And Discovery’s partnership with Jawwy included seven of its international linear channels: Discovery Channel, Fatafeat, TLC, Discovery Family, Animal Planet, Discovery Science, and Investigation Discovery, with more channels coming available in the near future.

“The lines between what is television and streaming are getting increasingly blurred,” Cooke added.

Streaming services can have 24/7 or scheduled channels on their platforms too.

For instance, Fatafeat launched its app in Saudi Arabia last month featuring a live feed so users could watch programs at the same time as they aired on television. This was the first time in the brand’s history that the channel had been made available in a mobile format.

The move was in line with Cooke’s belief that there was an opportunity for a hybrid version that combined traditional TV channels within a streaming environment.

He said: “We have rebranded ‘Genius Kitchen’ (app) to Fatafeat and we’ve put the linear channels inside the app. We are looking to hopefully have a lot of growth with that through Ramadan.”

 

BIO: Jamie Cooke

Jamie Cooke was appointed in October 2020 as general manager for Discovery’s business in central eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Russia.

He is also responsible for running the majority of Discovery’s pay TV channels throughout Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) as a whole.

Cooke has worked at Discovery for a number of years in EMEA roles, most recently as chief of staff for the EMEA region working on multimarket projects as well as leading the regional people and culture function.

He is experienced in the telecommunications industry across EMEA, having been heavily involved in strategy and transformation projects for Discovery.

His background is in human resources having worked with Discovery management to build the operations, teams, and culture across EMEA over the last 10 years, with a particular focus on acquisitions and integrations.

Cooke has a bachelor’s degree in archaeology and is a qualified executive coach.

 

 


Arab News, FII Institute partner to shed light on the future of regional media industry

Arab News Editor-in-Chief Faisal J, Abbas (L) and FII Institute CEO Richard Attias.
Arab News Editor-in-Chief Faisal J, Abbas (L) and FII Institute CEO Richard Attias.
Updated 20 April 2021

Arab News, FII Institute partner to shed light on the future of regional media industry

Arab News Editor-in-Chief Faisal J, Abbas (L) and FII Institute CEO Richard Attias.
  • Cooperation to produce research, panel discussions and industry level, government white papers

Riyadh: Arab News — the Middle East’s leading English language daily — is partnering with the Future Investment Initiative Institute to shed light on the future of the regional media industry. 

The year-long cooperation — marking the newspaper’s 46th anniversary — will see the co-production of a series of expert panel discussions, surveys, white papers and recommendations of how the industry can survive the digital disruption and create sustainable models for the future. 

“The past two decades saw traditional media dramatically impacted by rapidly developing technology. The rise of tech giants, social media platforms has created an uneven competitive environment and curtailed many traditional media outlets ability to have a sustainable growth model, be it through advertising or subscription models,” said Faisal J. Abbas, Editor-in-Chief of Arab News. 

“While technology has had a positive impact on many new businesses and individual content creators/influencers; it has meant that established, credible media organizations are left with no means to sustain the costly process of producing, editing and disseminating credible news. It has also made it easier for other entities to illegally benefit from, infringe on these organizations copy rights.” He added. 

The partnership between Arab News and FII Institute will see the larger impact of technology on economic models of media businesses discussed. It will also cover topics such as the negative impact of social media platforms on matters such as the rise of fake news, increase in hate speech and loss of personal privacy. 

“As part of the FII institute commitment to empowering the world’s brightest ideas to materialize and scale sustainability, we are delighted to partner with Arab News on this deep dive into the media industry, and find solutions to help the industry evolve and resolve its digital transformation issues,” said Richard Attias, CEO of the FII Institute.

“As such, we invite all key players — be it traditional media, tech companies, social media platforms, advertising agencies, government officials — to take part in the discussions as per the year-long agenda which will be announced soon. By including the relevant stake holders, we are sure our Institute and Arab News can help bringing points of view closer, identify exact issues and hopefully come up with creative solutions to all of them,” added FII Institute’s Richard Attias. 

The first deliverable of this cooperation, will be a white paper produced by the Arab News Research and Studies Unit (RSU) based in London. The paper, to be released in May, will be published under the title of “The Myth of Digital Transformation” and will seek to explain in detail the technical problems that face the media industry from a commercial perspective and what impact do they have on various levels. 

The paper will be available for distribution via Arab News and the FII Institute websites, and a panel discussion will be held following its release to shed light on its findings.