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msg Publicly Traded Company Analysis -- Q4 2019

Overall insights

  • Advertising funds the internet. Let me say again, advertising funds the internet. Though amazing to me that marketers have so little leverage even though they are driving the success of the Internet.

  • Significant conversations on Google Chrome and the death of the cookie, it permeated most of the calls, most companies had a POV but it is really wide open with the only clear winners being Google, Facebook, and Amazon. Maybe the cookie never gets replaced?

  • Broadcast and Cable TV advertising and ratings are basically both flat Y/Y, except for the NFL

  • Scatter is once again strong across all TV companies

  • Most companies anticipate robust political advertising in the back half of 2020

  • Advertising attribution works best when you have actual purchase data like Amazon

  • Sports betting is/should be the NEXT big thing for some of these companies

  • I believe Microsoft will sell Bing. Bing generates about $7.5 billion in annual revenue. Netflix, Disney, Viacom, Target, or Walmart should buy Bing. Of course, Amazon, Google, and Facebook would want the Bing asset but would not be allowed to purchase the asset.

  • YouTube with $15B in 2019 revenue sucks at monetization compared to Facebook with $70B, both have 2.0B+ WW users. I believe YouTube is intentionally reducing the ad load to provide the best customer experience at the expense of Linear TV

  • Advertising business for the non-Triopoly is very hard for the TV companies

  • Price increases coming from subscription services

  • Digital companies continue to embrace direct response advertisers, performance media is here to stay

  • Spotify is trying to own podcasting but is the juice worth the squeeze, will it ever be that big? Why aren't Google, FB or Amazon in this space?

  • Relevant ads work the best

  • Criteo seems to have some really good identity assets, will another company come in and buy the tech?

  • Does some company swoop in and buy eBay and try to turn it into the next Amazon?

  • Apple news, once heralded as the savior for publishers, was hardly mentioned

  • Google’s Doubleclick line of business had very little Y/Y growth

  • Netflix, one of the biggest media tech platforms in the world, can’t compete with the Triopoly. If not them then who?

  • Owning content is better than renting

  • Small businesses drive the Triopoly, exact opposite of the Super Bowl which had just over 100 advertisers

  • Facebook and Google trying to figure out shopping and the Amazon retail juggernaut as media companies try to figure out the affiliate model

  • The Hulu ad-supported RPU come out even higher than the ad free -- this surprised me and makes me rethink ad supported TV models

  • The Laggards (e.g., Pinterest, Spotify, Twitter, SNAP, Hulu, Bing, LinkedIn, Roku, Pluto, etc.) most all have an overabundance of supply and need more advertiser demand as they all try to improve their self-service tools and better measure ROI/attribution for marketers (The Laggards -- a next generation scaled digital media company that has logged in users, relies on advertising and is an order of magnitude behind the revenue of Google, Facebook, and Amazon)

Best of

  • Best quote FOX -- There are also positive signs that Sundar Pichai at Google has a thoughtful appreciation for the profound social influence of high-quality journalism

  • 2nd best quote News Corp -- Now seeing the early benefits from our long battle for equitable treatment by the dominant tech platforms

  • 3rd best quote TTD -- Google is in a tough position, if they were to get rid of targeted advertising for everyone else then I think they have an antitrust problem. If they were to not do anything then I think they have a privacy problem. So I think they're just trying to figure out what's the right thing to do with both of those. And in a very Google like way they're going to try to engineer their way into something that's better.

  • Best Listen -- TTD Q4 earnings call

  • Most Surprising -- YouTube revenue figures

  • Most improved -- The agencies, since I just pulled out cookie data it became a more interesting listen

Company Specific Comments

  • Netflix -- Doesn't want to go into advertising because of the tremendous power of Google, Facebook and Amazon.

  • Apple -- No real data revealed on Apple News + no and no mention of SAFARI. Lots of chatter about the Corona virus and its impact on the business

  • Facebook -- Super serving small businesses to drive growth, 140 million small businesses use the service and 8 million small businesses advertise on Facebook. Launched Checkout on Instagram with a small closed beta in Q1 2019, and have been building the experience, and now hundreds of businesses in the U.S. are experimenting with Checkout. Taking the time to get this right and growing fully so people and advertisers can benefit over the long term. Facebook Y/Y total reported revenue growth rate in Q1 2020 to decelerate by a low to mid-single-digit percentage point as compared to our Q4 growth rate. Factors driving this deceleration include the maturity of the business as well as the increasing impact from global privacy regulation and other ad targeting-related headwinds. While we have experienced some modest impact from these headwinds to date, the majority of the impact lies in front of us.

  • Amazon -- Advertisers appreciate the fidelity they can provide around shopping outcomes. Amazon is uniquely positioned to do this given their retail business.

  • Alphabet/Google/YouTube -- YouTube reached $15B in ad revenues in 2019 growing at 36%, Y/Y and it now has over 20 million music and premium paid subscribers and over 2 million YouTube TV paid subscribers. Speaking of shopping, people can now easily buy products in YouTube's home feed and search results making it possible for advertisers to reach even more audiences. YouTube advertising revenues were $4.7B in Q4, up 31% Y/Y, driven by substantial growth in direct response and ongoing healthy growth and brand advertising, which remains the largest component. In the ad supported proportion of YouTube, we pay out a majority of revenues to our creators

  • Alphabet/Google/Doubleclick -- Network advertising revenues were $6B, up 8% Y/Y led by growth in Google Ad Manager.

  • Ebay -- Promoted Listings delivered $136 million of revenue, up 75%. Over 1.1 million sellers promoted more than 320 million listings in the quarter

  • Verizon/Verizon Media Group -- $2.1B in revenue flat Y/Y. NFL live stream traffic up significantly Y/Y and MGM sports betting partnership launched. I am still amazed that they have so much advertising revenue.

  • AT&T/Warner Media -- Turner Advertising revenue decreased due to lower audience delivery at Turner’s domestic entertainment networks that was partly offset by higher pricing. Xandr had $607 million, up just 7% Y/Y. Made the strategic decision to give HBO Max exclusive streaming rights for top programs including Friends, Big Bang Theory and other popular shows. In the past, we would have sold these externally.

  • Comcast/NBCU -- Advertising revenue in the quarter decreased 19.1% due to a comparison to record political spending in the prior year period. Excluding political, advertising revenue in the fourth quarter was consistent with the same period last year. Though saw improved MSNBC performance. Broadcast Advertising, adjusting for political, would have been up low single digits, reflecting strong NFL results and the benefits of higher upfront pricing, partially offset by ratings declines. Anticipate robust political advertising in the back half of the year.

  • Microsoft -- Search revenue increased 6% below expectations, primarily driven by lower Bing volume. 675 million LinkedIn members. No mention of LinkedIn advertising revenue.

  • Disney/DTC -- More than 10 million sign-ups for Disney+ by the end of an as of Monday February 2, we were at 28.6 million paid subscribers. About 20% of the Disney+ subscribers came from Verizon ESPN+ we ended the quarter with 6.6 million paid subscribers, and as of Monday February 2, we were at 7.6 million. Hulu ended the quarter with 30.4 million paid subs and as of Monday, February 2, the number was 30.7 million. For Hulu most of the subscribers have the ad-supported and RPU come out even higher than the ad free for Hulu

  • Disney/Advertising -- ESPN's domestic linear advertising revenue was down 4.5% in the quarter due to lower average viewership primarily for NBA and college football regular-season games, which more than offset an increase in viewership from Monday night football. When you look at ad revenue across all ESPN domestic ad platforms, which include digital and addressable advertising revenue reported, then ESPN's total domestic ad revenue in the first quarter was roughly comparable to the prior year. So far this quarter, ESPN's domestic linear cash ad sales are pacing up 2% compared to last year. Total Broadcasting ad revenue was lower in the quarter, driven by lower political advertising at our owned stations and a decline at the ABC Network.

  • IAC/DotDash -- Don't need any more verticals, lot of opportunities in our existing verticals. All of our acquisitions that we've done in that business are very small, they get a lot of attention because the media likes to cover media. The other area that's been growing fastest is our performance marketing where we're not just selling the impressions and we've done a very nice job selling impressions but also selling transactions. Most of the big platforms blocking cookies and what cookies do is they just put a mark on a user's computer just to identify that user in one way or, or identify some traits of that user. And so that's been historically an important tool for a lot of advertisers. That tool is not nearly as important to DotDash because we don't need it. Hugely proud of the repeat rate on advertisers. So we entered 2020 with a good base of advertisers, those advertisers are significantly repeating and now we're adding new advertisers to grow on top of that

  • Meredith -- Digital advertising revenue grew in the high-single digits driven by growth in traffic, impressions per visit, rates along with strong video performance. Traffic to our digital properties grew to nearly 155 million monthly unique visitors and All Recipes had 50 million unique visitors over the Thanksgiving Holiday. Non-political spot advertising is currently pacing up slightly compared to the prior year. Beginning to see more meaningful political related advertising dollars for markets in Presidential primary states. Building an integrated digital platform and strengthening our data and audience targeting tools. Creating more video, the market for digital video related advertising is expected to grow 30% faster than non-video display advertising, and accounts for more than half of the total digital display ad spending in 2020 according to eMarketer. We are seeing early and strong results from our video production work with video views and revenues across our owned and operated sites up in the double-digits in our fiscal second quarter. integrating relevant commerce experiences into our brands to drive affiliate and consumer revenue. We work with more than 400 retailers to drive premium high quality leads and buyers to their online stores. Building an integrated digital platform and strengthening our data and audience targeting tools. The new platform brings together the legacy Meredith and Time Inc. digital assets to a common content management system, front end templates and a proprietary data insights platform. We expect this new platform will offer a more personalized experience that drives engagement for our consumers at scale, richer audience insights, contextual targeting for our advertising partners, and faster speeds and greater efficiency for us across our digital network.

  • Fox -- Had the largest revenue day in TV history generating around $600 million of gross revenue and providing an unmatched platform for over 100 advertisers from the pregame through the Masked Singer. And we delivered extraordinary ratings for our advertising, distribution and NFL partners. And our advertising markets, both national and local, are buoyant, as illustrated by the current scatter market where we see pricing well over 20% higher than upfront levels. The upfront was up 10% and scatter is now up over 20% on top of that. National networks categories that are leading this intensity include financial, insurance, the streamers, technology, and foreign auto. The FOX News audience is increasingly sought after by more and more advertisers as they look to reach a large engaged audience particularly across Middle America. In aggregate, total regular season football viewing on Fox, NFL, and college football combined was up 14% over 2018

  • Viacom -- Pluto TV with over 22 million monthly active users in the U.S. up 75% year over year and we expect to exit 2020 with approximately 30 million MAUs domestically. Advertising remains very strong with scatter premiums in both broadcast and cable with 25% to 35% above upfront. Broadly speaking, the issue remains supply not demand and related to that we are all seeing strong and growing demand for premium digital video. Strategy of combining linear with our advanced marketing solutions. It is really resonating in the market and as promised it is delivering robust growth despite impression headwinds. It is allowing us to dramatically outperform all cable competitors.

  • News Corp/WSJ -- Now seeing the early benefits from our long battle for equitable treatment by the dominant tech platforms. In particular, our deals with Apple and Facebook are beginning to yield financial dividends, and we welcome their respect for the premium journalism produced by the talented professionals in News Corp. There are also positive signs that Sundar Pichai at Google has a thoughtful appreciation for the profound social influence of high-quality journalism.

  • NY Times -- Ended 2019 with approximately 4.4 million digital subscriptions, as well as 850,000 print subscriptions for a grand total of 5.3 million. This week, we begin to roll-out a price rise to a subset of our tenured digital-only new subscription base. We warned in our last call that the big spurt in digital advertising 32% year-over-year, which we saw in Q4 2018, would make Q4 2019 a tough quarter for us and we guided to a decline in the mid-teen percentages. In fact, we did a little bit better than that posting an 11% year-over-year decline. The past few years in digital advertising have been generally tough for premium publishers with the major digital platforms taking nearly all of the growth in the market and the shifts from desktop to mobile and from direct sell to open market programmatic both accelerating. We achieved that by reducing our reliance on generic digital display and developing distinctive new offerings in areas like branded content and marketing services and podcasting as well as by improving our product offering and performance on mobile. The pressures on the broader industry are likely to continue in the coming years and will continue to transform our advertising business to respond to those. We're successfully forging large-scale partnerships with the world's leading brands and building revenue from audio and other new sources like last year's brilliantly successful Food Festival. This year, we'll launch formal new first-party data based advertising solutions to create new privacy safe ways of reaching our engaged and valuable audience. We're ahead of many of the world's other publishers in all of this we believe, but the pivot will take us time to complete. We expect to return to year-over-year revenue growth from our digital advertising business by the second half of 2020. But this growth rate will be relatively subdued and below that 7% CAGR for those and some subsequent quarters as the balance of the business shifts.

  • Pinterest -- Great ads improve the user experience on Pinterest. When ads are relevant and useful, it's a win-win. The key here is making sure ads are relevant to our pinners interests. To serve ads that are relevant to the incredibly diverse range of ideas being explored on Pinterest, we need to increase the number of ads in our system, by bringing more advertisers and building tools that meet their needs. Building more robust desktop self-service tools so sophisticated advertisers can succeed with less accounts sales support, more creative tools so they can create inspiring content, in scalable measurement so they know the value they're getting from Pinterest. It also means navigating the evolving regulatory landscape around issues like targeting and measurement, so we can continue to deliver value even as the environment changes around us.

  • Roku -- Added a 4.6 million incremental active accounts in Q4 and ended 2019 with 36.9 million active accounts. Roku users streamed 11.7 billion hours in the quarter, an increase of 60% Y/Y. We predict that by 2024 roughly half of all U.S. TV households will have cut the cord or never had traditional pay TV. 175 or 88% of Ad Age’s top 200 spent with Roku. In 2019, all top 10 technology and telecom advertisers, as well as all top 10 consumer packaged goods companies, spent with Roku. With Dataxu technology in our repertoire, advertisers are not only able to use these capabilities when buying ads from Roku, but also when buying directly from publishers. Our sponsorship offering is designed to create high impact for brands and a rewarding experience for consumers. For example, a brand can "unlock” premium programming, present a “limited commercial interruption” movie, or sponsor a curated collection of content.

  • SNAP -- Platform is still extremely under-monetized given our massive reach among a differentiated and growing community, the high levels of engagement on our service, and our proven advertising products that drive measurable ROI for our partners. This means that we have a large volume of high-quality advertising inventory and the potential to meaningfully increase our average revenue per user over time, even in advance of monetizing our longer-term investments like gaming, and maps. Given our massive reach among young people, we also believe we have a strong value proposition for household brands that want to reach our audience at scale, but find it increasingly difficult to efficiently access our audience on linear television or other online platforms. We have seen early success with many brands, and believe there is a significant opportunity to scale their success across more advertisers, especially as television and desktop budgets represent three times the total mobile ad spend in the U.S., but advertisers are increasingly unable to reach our unique demographic on those platforms. As a result, we believe that we have the opportunity to continue growing annual revenue at a pace significantly faster than our peers. Focused on driving demand from advertisers to improve CPMs in our self-serve auction.

  • Twitter -- Continue our work on rebuilding the ad server which we expect to complete in the first half of this year. And to continue our work to come out with the new version of our mobile application promotion ad format, not just to help improve an existing ad format for us, that's important for our current advertisers, but also because this will give us a better path towards more direct response advertising over time.

  • Spotify -- 200% growth in podcast hours streamed Y/Y and it's clearer than ever to us that podcast listening is driving overall health in our business. We continue to be really optimistic about programmatic audio. We're investing in the technology side. When you think about the advertising side in Q4 alone we launched Dynamic Ad Breaks, so another product to help us monetize, the ad platform better. On the podcasting side, we announced the addition of streaming audio insertion, which is a tool which we think will help us monetize podcasts going forward as well. So in general, we expect advertising to be stronger in 2020 and we expect it to ramp throughout the year. So the progression should get better particularly as the podcast inventory grows. Programmatic is about 25% of ad revenue and growing. And we feel really optimistic about how big Programmatic Ad Studio as well our self-service tool, how well they're doing and how much they could continue to grow over time

  • J2 -- While the M&A pipeline is robust and we spent over $400 million in calendar 2019, we have not closed on a material acquisition in the last 4 months. This of course is part of the normal ebb and flow of our acquisition program and we are pleased with the potential of our current pipeline of deals.

  • Criteo -- We believe the industry is long overdue in replacing cookies as the technique used to personalize ad targeting on the web, and we welcome concerted industry efforts to evolve beyond cookies in privacy-safe ways. We’re very well positioned for this shift. We have strong capabilities that put us ahead of the identity changes. All our solutions are developed in privacy-by-design ways and operate strictly under the consent of the user. Have an unrivaled ID graph. 95% of our 2 billion plus IDs in the graph already contain a significant number of non-cookie identifiers. We can make our graph even more flexible by adding more persistent identifiers and new identification capabilities through trusted partners. This makes our ID graph even less cookie-dependent over time and, added to the first point, a massive source of identity data. Accelerate our initiatives to build out a differentiated full-stack DSP, adding capabilities for upper-funnel marketing on top of our strengths in lower funnel, and offering more flexibility and transparency throughout the stack. Slow start that we’ve seen in Q1. We added 280 net new clients, ending the quarter with more than 20,200 clients globally, a 4% increase year-over-year, while maintaining high retention at 90% for all solutions. And from a supply standpoint, more than 4,500 direct publishers are now connected to one of our Criteo Direct Bidders on Web and App

  • The Trade Desk -- Total spend on our platform in 2019 was a record $3.1 billion. While advertising is about $725 billion today we expect it to pass $1 trillion in about seven years. Became the first DSP to go live with FreeWheel's unified yield products. This is effectively header bidding for TV. Even though the cookie-based Internet does not represent the bulk of our business and is certainly not part of the faster-growing segments of our business like CTV or mobile in-application, it's important. About 75% of the Ad Age top 200 advertisers spent at least $100,000 on our platform in the last 12 months. Google is in a tough position, if they were to get rid of targeted advertising for everyone else then I think they have an antitrust problem. If they were to not do anything then I think they have a privacy problem. So I think they're just trying to figure out what's the right thing to do with both of those. And in a very Google like way they're going to try to engineer their way into something that's better. We think video in all of its forms will be about half the $1 trillion advertising pie, we predict that CTV will be the quantum leap forward that eventually forces all walled gardens to change course. While the economics of CTV are putting pressure on walled gardens, so is the state of the privacy debate.

  • Rubicon -- Ad spend for the year came in at $1.12 billion versus $992 million in 2018, representing a growth rate of 13%. Take rate for the full year was 14%, which is slightly higher than the last take rate we reported of 13.8% in Q4 of 2018. Been operating in a cookie less world for over two thirds of our inventory for some time, as you know, in mobile apps and in other forms of media that cookies aren't being used and therefore, we've been able to figure out with our buyers, how to monetize that inventory. Demand Manager with 86 live contracts. Revenue is not yet material and our plan is to steadily grow it in 2020. We expect Demand Manager revenue to exceed $5 million in 2020. The current fee structure includes fees based on total spend that the tool manages and on average are in the low single digits. Our fee structure also includes CPM based pricing. Specifically in server side header, publishers will need to decide whether to further invest in additional engineering talent and additional serving costs on their own or choose Demand Manager

  • iHeart -- Like radio, podcasting provides companionship to the listener through intimate relationships developed with our podcast host with advertisers are seeing real impact from a medium that is driven by the power of its host and host-read ads. Radio is unparalleled reach and engagement in contrast to declines in ad supported TV is beginning to drive a shifting of media mix from other sectors toward audio. The overall podcasting U.S. revenue pie in the United States in 2019, the estimates are, again, all third-party ranges, but there are probably $400 million to $420 million, $430 million. There’s ranges out there for 2020 that go from, I think, $800 million, $850 million that, I think, Price Waterhouse has, to like $1 billion that Forrester has out there.

  • Gannett -- As of the end of 2019, we had over 800,000 paid digital-only subscribers and nearly $51 million in pro-forma. The digital-only circulation revenue category grew 46% on a pro-forma basis in 2019, and we expect it will grow another 35% to 40% in 2020. On the product front, we completed redesign of USA Today on Web and added several mobile features to modernize the design and significantly improved page load speeds. We also launched our first pilot of a marketplace business in Asbury Park. You can expect to see us launching more of these business models designed to directly connect our local buyers and sellers in the coming quarters. Digital advertising and marketing services revenues decreased 1.6% on a same-store basis at Legacy Gannett and 0.4% on a same-store basis at legacy New Media

  • Comscore -- Let me touch on Google's recent announcement that it would phase out third party cookies by 2022. We believe this works to our advantage. As you know, we are focused on privacy, and our evolving census-based network is designed to meet those demands. Also we measure consumer behavior through our unique digital panel where consumers have already opted in and share their media interactions across platforms. This combination of our panel and census networks gives Comscore distinctive and unique advantage and we can provide a full measurement solution, while protecting consumer privacy.

  • Nielsen -- Our digital transformation is our top priority, and we are investing where the market is headed to deliver solutions across both audience and outcome. For example, Google continues to adopt Nielsen total ad ratings in their work with marketers to demonstrate the incremental reach of YouTube. We will also begin to use our national TV data in their planning suite to help advertisers guide cross-platform investments across YouTube and television. Panels are a very consumer-friendly, privacy-friendly way to inform precise non-coverage models the visibility on how consumers are behaving. I would say there are good opportunities here. I also think we need to continue to engineer it, which is why we see us investing right now just to stay ahead of these changes.

  • Publicis -- The decision announced by Google will have a significant impact on the entire marketing ecosystem. Agencies, publishers a lot to be sure actually clients and customers. The truth is we still don't know at this stage what will replace cookies at Google Chrome. So I have to be cautious in what I'm telling you but there are some certainties that I can share with you at this stage. First when it comes to Publicis this announcement implied limited risk and a far bigger opportunity thanks to the acquisition of Epsilon. The data gathered by Epsilon is actually very diverse. It's online and offline. It's behavior and social demographic. It’s intent and transaction. Let's go into facts. Epsilon can see more than 55% of a non-cash transaction in the U.S. you are what you buy. Have gathered 200 million individual IDs which is a base to create customer relationships and out of those 200 million individual ids they are going up to 7,000 attributes to look at how people behave. So clearly this is why any decrease in sub party cookies will not materially impact Epsilon rich data sets

  • IPG -- Two-thirds of Acxiom business is just managing first-party data. With respect to cookies, I know everyone’s writing about it. We’ve been worried about the cookies and the regulatory environment with respect to Google now for years, and we’re building up ways to work around it. We’re highly confident we will have a solution in place to address that issue. And we’re working closely with Google and the other providers to make sure that in fact happens.

  • Omnicom -- With respect to your first question regarding cookies, honestly, we’ve been expecting this for some time now. It’s not new news to us. It will make targeting a little bit more challenging than it was in the past. Then it certainly will make Google stronger. But in anticipation of it, that’s why we work so diligently on the creation of Omni and the enhancements that we made to it.

  • WPP -- I think as far as cookies are concerned, I think the first thing is important to understand the background. There's increasing concerns from consumers and regulators about data and about data leverage. And a feeling that third-party cookies were a way for people to hover up data, if you like, across the Internet in a way that wasn't compliant with what people expected. And I think it's right that we're controlling this, and consumers need to consent to what's going on with their data. And I think what's happened with cookies is symptomatic of a larger trend within society, the people to have greater control over their data and how that's being used. And this is just one example of it. Secondly, we have to understand what's happening. So Google announced that they'll stop supporting third-party cookies inside Chrome. That's a position that's already even taken by Safari. And if you look at prices in programmatic auctions on Safari, they're lower than they are on Chrome, already, because there's less data, there's less value in those impressions. So I think programmatic media will be negatively impacted by this change. And that will make life harder for intermediaries, ad networks, affiliate networks, particularly people that rely on conversion tracking and cost per attribution, or cost per click pricing. Now at the same time, Google has said that they're going to build functionality into the browser that will allow the basic premises of what we need in terms of ad tracking so. Ad tracking, frequency capping, much of what we need to run a media campaign will be part of the browser, whether that will be an industry standard, a Google standard, we don't know yet. Probably, I think it's most likely to be a Google standard. Though, we'd like it to be an industry standard, and we're working closely with Google and what these standards will be. So I think in terms of the impact for the industry, clearly, I think it's going to be better for those companies that have logged-in users. So that's Google, Facebook, premium publishers, people with mobile applications. It will, to some extent, reduce the value of data generally in the ecosystems. It's harder to execute and make life tougher for intermediaries and people that don't have third party relationships. And I think the data owners, particularly those that rely on kind of cookies to value that data. I think it's going to make life sort of tougher. But what will make that even tougher is sort of the general trend towards regulation of how data we use it. For WPP overall, Programmatic that's heavily cookie dependent is a relatively small part of our business.

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