Brands Brief: CBS, Viacom Boards Form Exploratory Committees for Potential Merger

Top Stories

  • CBS Corp. and Viacom Inc. said in separate statements that their boards have formed exploratory committees to evaluate a potential merger. A deal would reunite two important parts of the Redstone family media empire — CBS’ broadcast television network and Viacom’s cable channels and film studio — that split more than a decade ago. (CNBC)
  • In an effort to combat fake news, YouTube will begin labeling videos from what it identifies as state-funded broadcasters and providing relevant clips from credible news sources alongside videos of what it defines as conspiracy theories. The company did not provide a timeline or additional details, such as how it would select conspiracy theories. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • Apple Inc., Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Inc. all delivered strong quarterly earnings this week. Apple reported record quarterly revenue but forecast a lower-than-expected outlook for the current quarter; Google beat revenue estimates but missed estimates on earnings per share; and Amazon beat earning estimates for its fourth quarter, with $1.86 billion in net income. (CBS News)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Washington Auto Show 12 p.m.
PR Daily Video and Visual Strategy Virtual Summit 12 p.m.

A data-driven look at the future of mobility

An exclusive look at new survey research data that explores consumer receptivity to auto industry innovations, including electric and self-driving cars, energy sources, and even auto insurance.


Amazon CFO: advertising was a ‘key contributor’ to revenue growth
Eugene Kim, CNBC

Amazon had a blowout fourth quarter earnings report on Thursday, and part of it has to with its advertising business, according to CFO Brian Olsavsky. In a call with analysts on Thursday, Olsavsky said advertising was a “key contributor” to Amazon’s North American sales growth, and pointed out how ads on the site are helpful to both customers and sellers on Amazon.

NFL Advertisers Pay Record-Breaking Prices Even as Ratings Drop
Gerry Smith, Bloomberg

The NFL has lost millions of viewers in recent years. Advertisers are sticking around anyway.

Why Companies Spend So Much on Super Bowl Ads
Elliot Bentley, The Wall Street Journal

Total spending on Super Bowl ad slots is five times larger than it was in 1995, and the average price paid for 30 seconds of airtime is now over $5 million. That doesn’t include production costs, which can be anywhere from $1 million to $5 million.

‘NYT’ Launches Ad Focused On Football, Traumatic Brain Injury
Melynda Fuller, MediaPost

Launched just days before one of the sports world’s biggest events of the year— the Super Bowl — The New York Times’ new ad, part of their “The Truth is Hard” campaign, focuses on traumatic brain injury, a topic that has plagued both the league and its players for the past few years.

Droga5 Parts Ways With Creative Chief Ted Royer Amid Internal Investigation
Lindsay Stein, AdAge

Droga5 says it has parted ways with Chief Creative Officer Ted Royer two days after putting him on leave and hiring an outside firm to handle an internal investigation in the shop’s HR processes.

Media and Entertainment

CBS and Viacom Boards Form Exploratory Committees and Hire Bankers to Mull a Deal
Liz Moyer, CNBC

CBS and Viacom are nearer to officially starting talks on reuniting. The companies said in separate statements Thursday that their boards have formed exploratory committees to mull a deal. Viacom said it has hired outside legal advisers and will hire bankers.

HBO’s Online Channel Surpasses 5 Million U.S. Subscribers
Gerry Smith, Bloomberg

HBO’s online customers in the U.S. have more than doubled in the past year to more than 5 million thanks to sales of subscriptions on Amazon and new streaming TV services like DirecTV Now, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Awesomeness Launches First DreamWorksTV OTT Offering Via Amazon
Dade Hayes, Deadline Hollywood

DreamWorksTV, the kids and family brand controlled by Awesomeness, is launching an OTT service on Amazon Channels.

Saving Gawker and Alt-Weeklies From Deletion
Daniel Victor, The New York Times

Journalists and readers have feared that gems like these could disappear from the internet if wealthy owners of Gawker and L.A. Weekly wanted to eliminate what they deem to be unfavorable coverage elsewhere on the sites.

Social Media and Technology

YouTube to Label State-Funded Broadcasters in Drive Against Misinformation
Jack Nicas, The Wall Street Journal

YouTube said it is planning changes to give users more context for videos promoting conspiracy theories or state-sponsored content, the latest effort by an internet giant to clean up its platform amid criticism over its role in spreading misinformation.

YouTube Go is Launching in Over 130 Countries
Chaim Gartenberg, The Verge

YouTube announced today that its YouTube Go app is launching in over 130 countries. YouTube Go is a redesigned version of the regular YouTube app (available only on Android) that’s designed for places with poor connectivity or expensive cellular data prices.

Apple, Amazon, Google earnings: How 3 tech giants fared
CBS News

When three companies with a combined market capitalization of more than $2 trillion report earnings on the same day, investors can’t help but pay attention. So they had plenty to pore over after the stock market closed on Thursday, when tech giants Apple (AAPL), Amazon (AMZN) and Google parent Alphabet (GOOGL) all reported their latest earnings, for the quarter ending Dec. 31, 2017.

Snapchat is Now Selling Merchandise in Its App
Chaim Gartenberg, The Verge

Snapchat has dabbled in merchandise before, with branded towels, backpacks, and the infamous dancing hot dog costume. But now the company is taking things a step further with a full-fledged merch store that launched today in the app, which was first spotted by Taylor Lorenz on Twitter.

Instagram Brings Carousel-Style Ads to Its ‘Stories’ Section
Garett Sloane, AdAge

Instagram Stories—the Snapchat-style section where brands and publishers post series of vertical videos that disappear in 24 hours—will now let brands create up to three videos in sequence, instead of the one 15-second video limit that was in place.

Ally Wants People to Play With an AR App During the Super Bowl
Suman Bhattacharyya, Digiday

The ability to see a customer’s finances as an almost-tangible, visual representation may not be a mainstream part of online banking, but Ally is launching an augmented reality game to coincide with the Super Bowl to nudge customers to grow their savings.

Flipboard Cozies Up to Facebook-Weary Publishers
Max Willens, DigiDay

Now, it’s time for Flipboard’s charm offensive with publishers. This week, the mobile reading app rolled out full-page print ads in newspapers, including the Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal, and sites, including Axios, Vanity Fair and The Hollywood Reporter, just as publishers are increasingly seeking ways to replace their Facebook referral traffic.

PR and Marketing

Unilever Outshines American Rivals With Robust Sales
Saabira Chaudhuri, The Wall Street Journal

Unilever PLC bucked a trend hitting its American rivals, selling more products at higher prices during the final quarter of 2017.

UPS Plans to Ramp Up Spending After Struggles With Holiday Season Delays
Paul Ziobro, The Wall Street Journal

United Parcel Service Inc. will spend up to $7 billion this year to upgrade its delivery network, adding jumbo jets and automating facilities, as it tries to fix service issues that hurt profits during its latest quarter.

Where Does the N.F.L. Go After a Season of Division?
Mark Leibovich, The New York Times

A year of protests, backlash and presidential interference has exposed fault lines between the league’s players and its management — and even between the team owners themselves.

Airbnb CFO Departs Amid Tensions, Leaving IPO Timing Unclear
Olivia Zaleski, Bloomberg

Airbnb Inc. Chief Financial Officer Laurence Tosi is leaving the home-rental company amid tensions and a shakeup in the senior ranks. His departure raises questions about the timeline for an initial public offering, which now won’t come until next year at the earliest.

John Hennessy Replacing Schmidt as Alphabet’s New Board Chairman
Todd Haselton, CNBC

Alphabet announced on Thursday that it has appointed a new chairman, John L. Hennessy. Hennessy has been on the board since 2004 and Lead Independent Director since 2007.

United Changed Its Policy for Emotional-Support Animals. That Peacock Still Can’t Board.
Lindsey Bever and Eli Rosenberg, The Washington Post

Airlines that have begun talking about tightening restrictions on a proliferating array of “emotional support” animals on commercial flights may have found their case bolstered this week after a picture of a peacock that was reportedly denied a seat aboard a United Airlines flight traveled far and wide.

Opinions, Editorials, Perspectives and Research

Super Bowl So Male
Jeanine Poggi, AdAge

So much for advertisers being woke. Once again the Super Bowl is poised to be filled with commercials starring and appealing to a predominantly male audience.

I’m the Wife of a Former N.F.L. Player. Football Destroyed His Mind.
Emily Kelly, The New York Times

My husband, Rob Kelly, is a retired N.F.L. player. After five seasons as a safety beginning in the late 1990s, four with the New Orleans Saints and one with the New England Patriots, he sustained an injury to a nerve between his neck and shoulder during training camp that ended his career.

Why NFL Ratings Are Plummeting: A Two-Part Theory
Derek Thompson, The Atlantic

Every year, the story of the Super Bowl is partly a story of its gargantuan audience. Of the 20 most-watched TV broadcasts in U.S. history, 19 are Super Bowls. (The other one is the series finale of M*A*S*H.)

Kanye West Finally Gets His Fashion Right
Vanessa Friedman, The New York Times

New York Fashion Week may not begin until next Thursday, but as far as Kanye West is concerned, it has already started. He’s not on the official schedule, but this week he made his presence known nonetheless.