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Week In Review: Are CBS and Viacom Getting Rehitched, Amazon Acquires Sizmek’s Ad Server

1. Are CBS and Viacom Getting Rehitched?

The on-again/off-again romance between CBS and Viacom looks like it’s back on again. At least that’s what CNBC is saying (and they usually know what they’re talking about.) 

Why It Matters

As Tim Stenovic, Hope King and I discussed yesterday on Cheddar, the remarriage was sort of inevitable. As in people would have been more surprised if it did not happen than if it did.  Les Moonves was the big hold-up originally, but we all know what happened to him. So with that roadblock removed, it was more a question of “when” rather than “if.”

There’s also the irony that while Moonves’s main concern was that Viacom would drag CBS down, the shoe now seems to be on the other foot. Tightly laced and ready to run.

Bob Bakish has enabled quite a turnaround at Viacom, correctly betting on the fact that (a) brands that needed to reach the 18-34 year old Demo (Gen Zennials?) would not be sated by Instagram and Snapchat alone, and (b) no other network group was even remotely positioned to claim to reach that group.

So he made some clever purchases—influencer marketing group WHOSAY, AwesomenessTV (the only successful MCN–remember them?) and the biggest of the FASTS, Pluto.

Together with Viacom’s existing properties like content creation studio Velocity, they create a one-stop shop for advertisers and a way for Viacom to work around the fact that audiences on linear are shrinking rapidly.

Why It Matters More

Because OTT.

CBS already has a strong OTT platform in CBS All Access. And another one in Showtime. They’re also allegedly in the market for STARZ. Viacom has Pluto and a motherlode of library content from Nick, MTV, VH1, BET, Paramount et al.

Combine all of that together and you have a formidable Flix. Made even more formidable by the fact that CBS has been doing this since 2014 and so they’ve had time to iron out all the kinks, figure out what works and what doesn’t, give some thought (and budget) to customers retention and churn reduction.

What You Need To Do About It

If you’re one of the upcoming Flixes then this complicates your launch even further, though I can’t imagine it comes as a surprise. Steady the course, figure out what it is you actually stand for, what it is you’re actually offering, how it differs from what people are already getting from you via the MVPDs and why they’d want it. (You know, the obvious stuff.)

Because CBS/Viacom is going to be a serious competitor.

If you’re a viewer, be happy, because this could wind up being one of your favorite Flixes.

If you’re an MVPD, well, carriage fee negotiation time just got a whole lot less fun.

2. Amazon Acquires Sizmek’s Ad Server

Amazon bought out Sizmek’s ad server and DCO (dynamic content optimization—e.g., seeing that someone is from San Francisco and sticking a photo of the Golden Gate Bridge in the ad) server businesses today in a move that was not all that surprising: Sizmek declared bankruptcy a few months back, and Amazon wants to take on Google.

Why It Matters

Google and Facebook are walled gardens, meaning that they rely on their own data to fuel ad buys and everything that happens in the entire process is Google or Facebook related.

Sizmek was the largest of the independents meaning they did not rely on a closed data loop. It’s a testament to the power of the Duopoly that they went belly up.

Amazon is also a walled garden, likely even more of one, since it will use the data it has to drive users to buy whatever is being advertised from Amazon and they’ll also have data to match ad impressions to sales, which is the sort of direct correlation that many brand managers dream about.

Sizmek was attractive to brands that didn’t want Google’s walled garden approach and it’s likely that some of them will not be happy about the Amazon takeover either, especially brands whose products cannot be sold on Amazon (yet) like insurance and financial products, and brands whose own ecommerce sites compete with Amazon.

Still, Amazon has allegedly been pitching agencies hard and most brands not in the aforementioned categories are expected to stick around.

Amazon is still feeling its oats in regards to its ad business, figuring out how to best take advantage of all that data.

Note too, that while of this activity is around the digital ad marketplace rather than television (and Amazon Prime is ad-free) it’s not hard to see how it could be translated to TV or why brands might look favorably on commercials that drove viewers to Amazon where a direct correlation to sales could be obtained.

What You Need To Do About It

If you’re a consumer, relax. Amazon is not going to sell your shopping history to anyone so they can chase you around the web with creepy ads for things you randomly clicked on or already bought.

If you’re Google, watch out behind you!

If you’re a brand that sells things on Amazon, this could be a great way to reach your target. If you’re not, and you want to avoid walled gardens, it’s time for Plan B and hopefully you’ve been busy figuring out what your move is, post-Sizmek.

If you’re the TV industry, bear in mind that Amazon quite likely already has a plan in place for you and how they’re going to use all that data to place TV commercials too.