Media faces upheaval — and deal opportunity

Hi and welcome to this weekly edition of Insider Advertising, where I break down the big media and advertising stories.

It's also our last newsletter until Dec. 30. But you can always sign up here to get this newsletter in your inbox daily.

This week: Media deals heat up, tensions at Roku, and big tech privacy battles.

What's next for media M&A 

The pandemic and rise of streaming video have wreaked havoc on the media and ad industries — and also paved the way for a lot of deal-making:

  • Digital media companies may have given up hope of being bought by the big media conglomerates, but SPACs may offer an avenue for the next big wave of consolidation. Ben Lerer's Group Nine, parent of millennial-aimed brands like NowThis and The Dodo, just created a SPAC to acquire competitors; could rival BuzzFeed be next?
  • As for what Group Nine et al might buy, the landscape is littered with small media companies that could benefit from economies of scale. We asked around and came up with 10, including Bustle and FuboTV. 
  • The rise of streaming TV ad buying and the need for privacy focused ad targeting tools is also fueling interest in M&A this year. MGM Studios is reportedly on the block, and we rounded up a bunch of adtech firms that could be snapped up next.
  • While digital media and adtech try to get bigger, 2021 could be the year of the Great Unraveling for big telco-media giants, with Comcast possibly spinning off NBCUniversal and AT&T chucking Turner as it reshapes itself around streaming TV.

Tensions at Roku

It's been a transformative year for Roku, which has gone a small-but-mighty maker of streaming boxes to aggressively growing a TV platform business.

But as Ashley Rodriguez writes, its shift from a pure-tech player to an ad-driven business has come at a price.

Roku's move into advertising has led to public spats with streamers like NBCUniversal's Peacock and WarnerMedia's HBO Max, riled some publishers, and irked some of its tech-side employees.

Read the details here: Roku insiders detail how it beat out Amazon and Google to dominate streaming TV and expand its ad business, but created new challenges and rankled some partners

Alphabet CEO Sundar PichaiStephanie Keith/Getty Images

Google, Facebook, privacy battles 

The tech giants' jockeying to position themselves as the most pro-privacy is resulting in some very public spats.

  • Google has come under scrutiny for dominating in digital advertising, search, and how the web itself looks, Shona Ghosh reported. Critics' central complaint has to do with Google's features that potentially threatens people's personal information.
  • Facebook for its part is battling Apple over its anti-ad tracking plans, saying they'll harm small businesses as well as its own ad revenue. (Facebook meanwhile is expanding tools to protect high-profile users' accounts)

One short-term beneficiary of all this: The publishers getting ad dollars from Facebook's lobbying effort.

Other stories we're reading:

  • Target is pitching advertisers on a program that shows if people buy a product after seeing an ad for it (Business Insider)
  • There are flickers of hope for local journalism. So far, it's not nearly enough. (The Washington Post)
  • Read the pitch deck former tech and ad execs used to raise $20 million to start a direct-to-consumer life insurance company (Business Insider)
  • Does the shoe fit? Try it on with augmented reality (The New York Times)
  • IAC announces plan to spin off Vimeo (Axios)
  • Thousands of fraudsters are selling via Shopify, analysis finds (Financial Times)

Happy holidays, and I'll see you in the New Year!

— Lucia


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