FTC Back To Full Power; Splitsville For Kantar And WPP?

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FTC OK Go

The Federal Trade Commission is finally at full power. More than a year into Trump’s presidency, the Senate voted Thursday to confirm a full new slate of commissioners: three Republicans and two Democrats. It was in the nick of time. Acting chair Maureen Ohlhausen and Democratic commissioner Terrell McSweeny have had one foot out the door for months. The FTC will now be led by antitrust champion Joseph Simons, a Republican who headed up the commission’s competition bureau during the George W. Bush administration. The slate is rounded out by Christine Wilson and Noah Phillips on the Republican side and Democrats Rebecca Slaughter and Rohit Chopra. They live in interesting times: The FTC will soon be tasked with policing internet service providers when the FCC gives up oversight with the repeal of net neutrality. The agency is also in the midst of investigating whether Facebook’s handling of the Cambridge Analytica scandal violated its 2011 consent decree. Bloomberg has more.

Holding On

The WPP-owned market research company Kantar is in talks with banks and private equity firms about a potential managed buyout from the holding company, reports the British newspaper The Times. Eric Salama, Kantar CEO for the past 15 years, is reportedly looking for a valuation of about $4.8 billion – 10 times its 2017 profits. Chatter about a WPP breakup has been rampant since Martin Sorrell left the company amid allegations of misconduct. Many analysts (and executives) believe selling off pieces of its main business would generate value beyond its current $20 billion market cap. Salama and other WPP chiefs have said they prefer not to see WPP broken up, but the due diligence is important, should investors push for a Kantar sale. The Drum has more.

Cable Guys

The steady drip-drip of cord-cutting continues, Shalini Ramachandran reports for The Wall Street Journal. In Q1 alone, 122,000 Charter subscribers flew the coop, “a far worse outcome than the roughly 40,000 subscriber losses Wall Street analysts expected.” The news wasn’t much better among Charter’s competitors. Comcast lost TV customers for the fourth quarter in a row, AT&T saw video revenue declines and Verizon lost 22,000 Fios video customers. More. Meanwhile over in streaming land: Netflix’s stock is up 62% this year.

Instaturfing

A cottage industry of Instagram-boosting services are spamming the social platform – not with bots but with automated, inauthentic engagement from actual accounts, reports Alex Kantrowitz at BuzzFeed. Many top brands and social media management or PR agencies use the solutions, and fake engagement factories “have become must-haves for many looking to build a business or gain exposure on the internet.” Third-party technology for automated likes and comments is against Instagram’s terms of service, but the startups are allowed to operate. More.

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