NFL Ratings Slip; Amazon's Ad Biz Crosses The $1 Billion Mark

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Disputing The Undisputed Champ

Looking back on a tumultuous NFL season – with painfully low ratings out of the gate followed by anxious excuses and an unexceptional late-season bounceback – all that’s clear is that the broadcast industry’s faith is shaken. “The argument that live events, or live sports, or the NFL, are immune to that pressure seems like wishful thinking,” writes Recode’s Peter Kafka. The NFL’s struggles mirror broadcast in general, but pro football has powered the entire linear category through tough times (NFL games are a double-digit percentage of total viewers for CBS, ESPN, NBC and Fox). The NFL still owns 45 or so of the top 50 broadcasts over any given year, so don’t mistake its ratings slip for something more sinister, but it’s no coincidence the league is looking to first-party data monetization as a new revenue stream and potential hedge against declining TV viewers. More at The WSJ.

Amazon’s Promise

Amazon’s ad business cleared $1 billion last year, which is well below Google’s $80 billion or Facebook’s $26 billion but still big. Amazon has focused on sponsored product ads, which are “off to a great start,” said CFO Brian Olsavsky. But it’s also testing pre-roll video ads and using audience data from across its portfolio (including the Prime subscription program, the central ecommerce market, Twitch, Alexa-enabled devices and the mobile app). "We believe the long-term potential of Amazon's advertising business is still largely overlooked despite Amazon's large reach (over 300m active customers)," writes UBS analyst Eric Sheridan in an investor note. More at Business Insider.

Oh, Snap

Snapchat’s blockbuster IPO filing revealed impressive financials, but user growth is decelerating. Its active user base remains strong, but Snap is struggling to add new people to the platform at the pace it did early on. Snap’s gain in daily active users declined to 5 million in Q4 last year, down from a peak of 21 million in Q2. In its S-1 filing, Snapchat attributes declining user growth to “accelerated growth in user engagement earlier in the year, diminished product performance and increased competition,” a nod to Instagram, which has made aggressive moves to replicate Snapchat’s signature Stories product (and steal its potential users in the process). Some on the street draw a foreboding association with Twitter and GoPro, both of which sorta-kinda resemble Snap and saw early growth followed by stagnation.

Empty Nest  

Speaking of Twitter, the company’s talent exodus continued last week with the departure of Ali Jafari, the VP of partnerships who’s been with the company since 2011. Jafari is off to Nextdoor, a private neighbor-based social network, reports BuzzFeed’s Alex Kantrowitz. Jafari follows COO Adam Bain, CTO Adam Messinger, product SVP Kevin Weil, engineering SVP Alex Roetter and global media VP Katie Jacobs Stanton exiting in the past year [AdExchanger coverage]. More.

Medium Rare

Shortly after laying off a third of its staff [AdExchanger coverage], Medium is launching a subscription product. Subscriptions could offset declining revenues from sponsored content, which CEO Ev Williams said shows only “incremental improvements on the ad-driven publishing model,” which is “a broken system on the internet.” The startup has followed up every lead in pursuit of revenue – ads, online magazine publishing, sponsored content, publisher tech licensing and subscriptions – but the trail is still cold. TechCrunch has more.  

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