ComScore Allegedly Exploring Sale; NBCU's TV Advertising Holds Steady

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Settle An Old Score

Changes are afoot at comScore, but it’s unclear if those changes are for the better or the worse. Bloomberg reports comScore has enlisted Goldman Sachs to explore a potential sale, though no formal talks have begun. The measurement firm also just signed an agreement with Starboard Value giving the activist hedge fund four board seats in exchange for cash financing. ComScore told Broadcasting & Cable some of the cash infusion will go to cross-platform product development. The money may be helpful, but what comScore really needs is to present straightforward financial statements, Pivotal Research analyst Brian Wieser wrote in an investor note. The revamped board now expects to disclose finances in March, and many parties will be keenly waiting to see if comScore no-shows this deadline.

Touchdown For TV

Despite a year-over-year dip in broadcast ad revenue, Comcast’s NBCUniversal grew total revenues 4.4% to $33 billion in 2017. NBC expects to offset some of that softening through three big tentpoles – the Super Bowl, Winter Olympics and the World Cup on Telemundo as advertisers chomp at the bit. Super Bowl ads are commanding about $5 million a unit, a 15%-20% increase over last year, and are “essentially sold out,” NBCU CEO Steve Burke said during Comcast’s earnings call Wednesday. Although TV ratings are “flat,” at least they’re not declining. “TV advertising is holding its own,” Burke said. “Our dream is to take our TV advertising and make it more targetable, addressable, with more characteristics of digital.” And that promise bodes well for advertisers as the network rapidly approaches its upfront. Earnings.

Musical Chair(people)

President Trump is finally going to name a permanent chairperson to lead up the Federal Trade Commission. A White House spokesperson tells Reuters that Republican Maureen Ohlhausen, who’s been serving as acting chair since last January, will likely be put on a short list of people the president plans to nominate to a judgeship. Antitrust lawyer Joseph Simons, a Republican, is likely to get the nomination to replace her, while Rohit Chopra, a Democrat and former official at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, is expected to nab a commissionership. The appointments will probably take place in the “near future.” Otherwise, it’s going to get awfully lonely at the FTC. If Ohlhausen departs for more judgy pastures without a replacement being named, and Chopra isn’t confirmed, that would leave just one commissioner, Democrat Terrell McSweeny, to hold down the FTC’s fort.

Consent Needed

Facebook is getting its ducks in a row for GDPR, the European privacy regulation taking effect in May. The platform is creating a new global privacy center to “make it much easier for people to manage their data,” said COO Sheryl Sandberg at a Facebook event Tuesday. Facebook will also increase the number of staff working on safety and security to 20,000 by the end of the year. “Our apps have long been focused on giving people transparency and control and this gives us a very good foundation to meet all the requirements of the GDPR and to spur us on to continue investing in products and in educational tools to protect privacy,” Sandberg said. More at Reuters.

Blocking And Tackling

When Chrome enforces Coalition for Better Ads (CBA) standards in February, it will filter 16.4% of ads on its browser. Adblock Plus (ABP) blocks 92.7% of ads, according to an ABP report that compared the CBA to the Acceptable Ads Committee, an industry board established by ABP. “In fairness to Google, they had a lot of courage to step into the ad-blocking waters at all,” writes ABP operations manager Ben Williams. “We’ve always maintained our admiration for Google’s efforts, not to mention those of the CBA.” In using CBA to determine which ads to block, Chrome is legitimizing the Acceptable Ads program, said ABP. And Chrome is also legitimizing the controversial practice of making media companies pay for inventory access. Google is ABP’s largest revenue source, paying tens of millions of dollars per year to serve ads to ad-block users. [More on that from AdExchanger.]

Buy The Best?

In other Google news, the tech giant is testing a desktop search feature where high-intent queries, like “best outdoor grill,” return a “best products” carousel, according to The SEM Post. The new carousel isn’t sponsored and thus isn’t part of Google’s ecommerce search program. Instead, each product slide has the star rating and names media companies that have cited the product in relevant stories. It’s unclear how or if the media companies are being compensated by Google for helping boost consumer confidence. The carousel likely pre-empts browsers who might otherwise have clicked on a trusted publisher and (potentially) won an affiliate payout for the site. More.

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