Axios Media Trends

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December 17, 2019

Good morning. Today's Media Trends is 1,742 words, a 7 minute read. Sign up here.

Programming note: Axios Media Trends is off for the next 2 weeks. By the time we return, California's Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) will have officially taken effect.

  • 🎧 In the meantime, I joined Digiday's Brian Morrissey to talk about covering media for Axios from Washington D.C. Listen here.

Situational awareness: Longtime NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke is retiring, Comcast said yesterday. He'll be replaced on January 1st by Jeff Shell, a TV and entertainment veteran who has been with Comcast for 15 years. Go deeper.

1 big thing: The future of owning content online

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Thirty years into the internet era, content creators in many industries, like digital news publishing and music, still believe copyright regulations favor the interests of digital content distributors and make it difficult for them to make money.

Why it matters: Countries around the world are trying to address outdated copyright rules to protect the owners of intellectual property across several industries.

  • The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) is expected to significantly modernize rules around intellectual property (IP), like digital music rights, movies and e-books.

In the digital news publishing business, global copyright provisions in Europe and Australia are trying to tackle compensation to publishers for the distribution of their content.

  • In Europe, Google has argued that restrictive copyright rules being proposed by the EU, similar to those that passed in Spain in 2014, would hurt small publishers. There have been examples of this argument being made by smaller publishers themselves.
  • In the U.S., a prominent newspaper trade group, The News Media Alliance (NMA), is also trying to pressure Google to pay publishers. The group's CEO, David Chavern, said in an interview with Axios that Google is using this narrative to lobby against future copyright rules in other countries that would require them to pay out publishers.
  • In Australia, the digital platforms arm within the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission put tech companies on notice if they're unable to address power imbalances with media companies. Google says in a statement to Axios that it's engaged closely with Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

In the music industry, Google-owned YouTube last year set up one of its most aggressive consumer-facing lobbying efforts ever to fight Europe's new copyright directive. The directive passed alongside the rule that forces Google to pay publishers in Europe.

  • Currently in the U.S., copyright laws favor distributors of music over owners of music rights. They place the burden on rights holders to track down infringing material file by file and send take-down notices. Content creators say this precedent has led to a game of whack-a-mole, because new files just pop up immediately.
  • What's next: The Copyright Office is reviewing the issue and is soon expected to issue a report on some of the problems.

The other side: Some legal scholars and activists feel the U.S. copyright regime is too protective of corporate ownership at the expense of fair use and public access to works, pointing to Congress' repeated extension of the copyright term.

2. Scoop: PBS creating LGTBQ broadcast show

PBS is creating a new broadcast show and digital series centered around issues affecting the LGBTQ+ community, PBS Head of Digital Studios Brandon Arolfo said at a small PRNEWS event in Washington on Friday.

Why it matters: PBS is a publicly-funded broadcast network that was created to help educate the public, including kids. The network has always pushed to showcase diverse voices. In the past, conservative groups have criticized PBS for using taxpayer dollars to fund LGTBQ-friendly content.

Details: The series will include roughly a dozen YouTube videos and a broadcast component.

  • In a statement to Axios, a PBS spokesperson confirmed that the company is "in the early stages of development" for the upcoming show, which at this point is untitled.

The big picture: It's not the first PBS series to focus on LGBTQ+ issues.

  • In May, PBS aired an episode of the popular kids show Arthur, which featured a same-sex wedding in the plot.
  • PBS aired “Tales of the City” more than two decades ago, which examined the LGBTQ community in San Francisco in the 1970s, although the company didn't itself produce the series.

The bottom line: “As viewer habits continue to evolve, PBS is working to align content across linear and digital platforms in order to meet viewers where they are," the spokesperson said.

3. Family-friendly media under pressure to modernize

Credit: Zola

Media brands are under pressure to change their standards of what "family-friendly" looks like.

  • The Hallmark Channel has now twice reversed course on an advertiser's wedding spot that features two women kissing. The network initially removed an ad from Zola, a wedding planning company, calling the commercial "divisive," before restoring it and apologizing the very next day.

The big picture: The pressure isn't just coming from activist groups, but also corporate advertising partners, which are under enormous pressure today to take a stand on social issues.

  • Advertisers like Toyota came under fire over the weekend by activist groups who were pressuring them to pull their ads from the Hallmark Channel, unless the network reversed its decision.

The bottom line: The industry is changing fast.

  • PBS is planning to increase its LGBTQ programming on broadcast and digital next year, sources tell Axios.
  • NPR was recently applauded for embracing a plurality of diverse voices on its air.
  • Disney hosted its first "Magical Pride" celebration at one of its theme parks in Paris earlier this year.
  • Highlights, a children's magazine, made headlines two years ago when it featured an illustration of a same-sex couple in an issue for the first time.

4. NEW: Attention Capital acquiring Girlboss

Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Girlboss Rally NYC 2018

Attention Capital, the new media and technology investment firm, announced Tuesday morning that it's acquiring Girlboss, a media company geared towards female millennials that was founded by female fashion entrepreneur Sophia Amoruso.

The big picture: It's the latest example of a venture group consolidating smaller media startups or struggling legacy media brands.

  • Attention Capital, which launched this past spring, is looking to only invest in companies that shape the attention economy.
  • The company partnered with James Murdoch's investment firm in August to acquire a controlling stake in Tribeca Enterprises, the producer of the Tribeca Film Festival.

The goal of the acquisition is to grow the brand and scale to new platforms, products, and events globally.

  • Girlboss's leadership team and headquarters will remain the same. The company plans to hire more people in technology, audio, events and sales.

What's next: As Axios has previously reported, Attention Capital is looking to raise nearly $500 million to invest in everything from measurement companies to news brands and entertainment upstarts, per sources.

👀 ICYMI: Brendan Ripp, former EVP of corporate advertising partnerships at Disney, has joined Attention Capital to lead the firm's revenue strategy.

5. Exclusive: Facebook funding Reuters deepfake course for newsrooms

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Facebook is spending six figures to fund a course on manipulated media and deepfakes for newsrooms, executives tell Axios.

  • The course material has been developed by Reuters, and Facebook is funding its international expansion as a part of the Facebook Journalism Project.

Details: The free e-learning course, called "Identifying and Tackling Manipulated Media," seeks to help journalists globally learn how to identify photos or videos that have been altered to present inaccurate information.

  • It's available online only, and takes about 45 minutes to complete.
  • Reuters and Facebook will do events and panels in 2020 together around the course.

The big picture: Facebook has invested a lot of resources in identifying deepfakes and manipulated video, but has been criticized for the way it enforces its deepfake policies.

  • In particular, critics focused on Facebook's decision to allow a doctored video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to remain on its platform.
  • The Reuters course, ironically, uses the Pelosi video as an example for newsrooms.

What they're saying: Hazel Baker, Reuters' head of user-generated content news-gathering, who created the course, says that the goal was to help newsrooms understand where and how they should be looking.

  • "Ninety percent of manipulated media we see online is real video taken out of context used to feed a different narrative," says Baker.

Read the full piece.

What's next: The FTC's preemptive strike on Facebook

6. Netflix to investors: Look, over here!

Data: SEC; Table: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios
Data: SEC; Table: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Netflix released its revenue and subscription data by region for first time yesterday, Axios' Kia Kokalitcheva writes.

  • Why it matters: It was a signal to investors to take a closer look at its growth potential overseas. The data from a regulatory filing showed the service has grown fastest in regions outside of the U.S. and Canada from 2017 to 2019.

Be smart: Netflix's streaming business in the North America is still growing, but the platform — like other consumer media companies — is increasingly looking to other regions to continue its growth when business inevitably slows down at home.

Go deeper: Video streaming growth in US stunted by crowded market

7. Newsrooms begin tinkering with 5G

Illustration:Sarah Grillo, Rebecca Zisser/Axios

The New York Times began conducting field tests of its new 5G technologies on the sidelines of Sunday's Giants vs. Dolphins game, executives tell Axios.

Why it matters: The New York Times head of research and development Marc Lavallee says that the company is preparing for a slew of 5G firsts next year, like the first 5G Super Bowl and the first 5G Olympics.

The first experiment at Sunday's game involved using a small device called a "backpack" that can transmit media through 5G signal available at the stadium. (About half of NFL stadiums are currently wired for 5G.)

  • Eventually, Lavallee says this will be all done through a mobile device. "The real transition point is next year, when you go from having not having widely available 5G service, to having more reliable access that you can actually use for reporting."

The second experiment took place in the late summer during Hurricane Dorian. The Times used 5G equipment as part of its reporting process to speed up the way it captured 360-degree videos and images of the storm's damage.

  • The Times has long used photogrammetry, or the practice of taking thousands of photos or videos of every single angle of an object or place and stitching them together to create a 360-degree photo or video, for AR and VR. Using 5G will make this much faster, and allow more detail.

The big picture: The New York Times set up a 5G lab at beginning 2019 with the backing of Verizon, knowing that a full 5G rollout would take years. It's one of several newsrooms beginning to experiment with ways that 5G will change journalism.

  • The Washington Post and Verizon rival AT&T announced a 5G partnership last month.
  • Verizon Media, which includes brands like HuffPost and Yahoo Sports, launched a 5G studio in Los Angeles in April to test faster content transfers.

Our thought bubble: 5G, for now, is like the new AR or VR. It's not widely accessible, but big newsrooms want to start experimenting with it so that they will be ahead of the curve when it eventually reaches mass consumer adoption.

8. Olympics, politics holding up falling TV empire

Data: MAGNA Advertising; Table: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios
Data: MAGNA Advertising; Table: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

If it weren't for the Olympics and the election next year, TV advertising sales would be down again next year, according to MAGNA, an advertising firm.

Why it matters: Engaged live audiences have become a commodity for advertisers, and they are willing to spend big.

  • In total, $10 billion is expected to be spent around the 2020 election cycle. That should help push local TV advertising spend to over $20 billion in the U.S. next year.

Driving the news: NBC Sports has sold $1 billion in national ad sales for Olympics, executives said on a call last week. The company is on track to beat its prior record of $1.2 billion in domestic ad sales during the Rio 2016 games.

  • NBC advertising executives noted NBC Olympics’ coverage of Rio in 2016 across all of its television platforms "delivered more than 3x the gross audience of the five major pro championships combined that year – the Super Bowl, NBA Finals, Stanley Cup Final, World Series, and NASCAR Homestead."