In the news this week: Comcast wins Sky bid, and Instagram founders resign

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There’s never a quiet moment in the media industry, and this week was no exception, with two major pieces of news that could have major ramifications for advertisers, albeit in very different ways.

Comcast gains full control of Sky

On 22ndSeptember, it was announced that Comcast, the American telecommunications giant that offers digital cable TV, internet and telephony services, had won the bidding for Sky, at a cost of $38.8 billion, beating 21stCentury Fox. Four days later it emerged that Fox would also be ceding its pre-existing 39% ownership to Comcast for $15 billion, giving full control of Sky to Comcast.

A year of mega-deals

This is the latest in a series of ‘mega deals’ over the last 12 months, where content distributors and creators are merging in an attempt to confront the existential threat posed by the rapidly growing streaming companies such as Netflix, and the tech giants who are ‘scope creeping’ into TV; in June, AT&T acquired Time Warner for $85 billion, and the following month Disney beat Comcast to buy 21stCentury Fox for $71 billion. In an industry quirk, it was then Comcast who effectively beat Disney, as 21stCentury Fox’s new owners, to the purchase of Sky; Sky was originally going to be part of the deal that sold 21stCentury Fox to Disney.

A global footprint and more original content for Comcast

Comcast’s purchase of Sky will be a major boost to their global footprint: Sky has 23 million subscribers in the UK, Ireland, Germany, Austria and Italy, and has launched an over-the-top service in Spain and Switzerland, meaning Comcast will be better equipped to fend off the likes of Netflix and other tech giants. The acquisition also bolsters Comcast’s original content capabilities: Ovum’s chief entertainment analyst, Ed Barton, said ‘they could look at licensing content on a combined basis, which would lower the cost on a per-subscriber basis, if you have something you can show to a European and US audience.’ This merging of content would also mean a larger library to leverage as they roll out into other markets globally.

Combining technical know-how

The cultural affinity between Sky and Comcast could also be important for advertisers; it is likely, even inevitable, that they will combine their technical and data assets to forge ahead with an addressable advertising offering which will make TV as targeted as online.

Instagram founders announce their resignation

The other big news for the media and tech industries this week was the departure of Instagram’s co-founders from the company, which they announced on Tuesday and which sent Facebook’s share price tumbling. Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger founded Instagram in 2010, before selling it two years later to Facebook for $1 billion – an almost unprecedented amount for a two-year-old start-up. It has since become the jewel in Facebook’s crown and its fastest growing revenue generator.

A snub to Zuckerberg?

Sysrom and Krieger said that they were leaving the company to explore their ‘curiosity and creativity again’.  That is being seen by many as a veiled snub to Facebook and its founder Mark Zuckerberg, who have made a raft of unpopular changes to Instagram, in many cases in an attempt to boost traffic to the core Facebook platform. Sysrom and Krieger wouldn’t be the only ones to leave following differences with the Facebook CEO – last year, WhatsApp founder Jan Joum quit over privacy disagreements with his bosses, who were keen to monetise the service.

Monetising the jewel in Facebook’s crown

As discussed at length in the press and in previous ECI Thinks posts, Facebook has in recent years been battered by criticism of its approach to data privacy, fake news allegations and for allowing foreign interference into national election campaigns – and its user base is showing signs of disengagement as a result. Instagram has largely escaped these problems: it has more than a billion active monthly users and successful updates such as its stories feature, messaging and IGTV have seen off competitors from the likes of Snapchat. In this context, it’s unsurprising that Zuckerberg and his team are so keen to squeeze as many ad dollars as possible out of Instagram; Lynette Luna, a principal analyst at GlobalData, said “Facebook’s strategy has been to allow companies it has purchased to operate independently to garner growth, and then monetise. When they start monetising that’s when there’s a little conflict with the founders.” Systrom and Krieger may well have wanted to retain the independence to run Instagram as they wanted.

It is not yet known who will replace Systrom and Krieger, but it will be interesting to see if changes to Instagram, particularly to its revenue model and integration with Facebook, accelerate in the wake of their departure

Thumbnail image: Shutterstock

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