Media Movers: An Opinionated Look at the Week That Was

Media Movers: Opinionated Look the Week
Cheyne Gateley/VIP

TikTok starts feeling the pain of data privacy concerns 

Generation Z has permission to freak out now: TikTok was recently banned in India due to data collection concerns and now faces a potential U.S. ban, according to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. This will force new CEO Kevin Mayer to build up trust between Bytedance and U.S. regulators suspicious of TikTok’s China-based ownership. Mayer doesn’t have experience in this type of political maneuvering, but no time can be wasted as the anti-Tik Tok movement picks up steam (see: Wells Fargo TikTok ban, Ninja’s TikTok denouncement). Timing of all this is terrible as TikTok just unveiled its self-serve ad platform for marketers. TikTok’s headaches are reminder that although data privacy issues may not be enough to cause users to flee en masse, they can prompt governments to cut off access to users en masse. 

Disney weathers backlash as it starts its U.S. theme park reopenings 

Disney’s catch-22 is that it needs to reopen its parks to start alleviating its over-stressed business; parks account for about 80% of its overall domestic revenue, with Disney World being the biggest revenue generator. But opening Disney World is drawing major criticism that it could end up helping spread coronavirus. Depending on who you ask, social distancing at Disney World was either exemplary or terrible on opening day. Either way, things appear to be going well for the park’s recovery — tickets have already sold out for July. For Disney’s part, it’s at least trying to mitigate super-spreading accusations by requiring face masks. Florida, one of the states worst-hit by COVID-19, doesn’t have a mask mandate (20+ other states require masks in public). But all it takes is one slip-up and Disney will have a major PR fiasco on its hands.

Quibi’s user base shrinks amid free trial expirations 

Just when matters couldn’t seem to possibly get worse for Jeffrey Katzenberg, they somehow do just that. Quibi’s 90-day free trials, which were offered until the end of April, started to expire on July 6th. So it stands to reason Quibi’s internal metrics probably saw a steady drop-off in active users throughout this month. Sure, Disney+ and Apple TV+, which respectively offered promotional yearlong packages and trials, will also face shedding periods come November. But Quibi’s shedding may be the most serious of the bunch as it has had the most limited cross-platform availability and weakest content offering of the three. This thesis already seems to be coming true: Sensor Tower on Thursday estimated that just 8% of free trial users converted to paying users, which Quibi dismissed as way off the mark.

Facebook falls way short of meeting ad boycott demands

Boycott organizers Free Press, Color of Change, Anti-Defamation League, and NAACP leaders met with FB management on Tuesday to discuss 10 demands aimed at curbing the spread of hate on the platform, but there was little resolution. At this point, it’s pretty clear that Mark Zuckerberg is pretty content to not radically overhaul Facebook’s content moderation efforts that its detractors so badly desire. The company has repeatedly signaled a blasé attitude toward the financial impacts of the boycott, so it seems like Facebook and the boycott movement are now just playing a game of chicken. Prediction: Facebook won’t fold first.

Twitter’s (apparently short-lived) search for subscription dollars

Even the faintest whiff of the smallest product tweak never fails to generate headlines for Twitter. The company seemed to quickly walk back its mention of a subscription push that was in a job posting spotted last Wednesday by various outlets, but it still raises the question of what type of paid offering would make most sense for the social platform. If Twitter was squarely focused on appeasing regulators, a paid ad-free tier could make sense. That would allow the company to push a subset of users toward a premium corner of Twitter where potentially misleading ads couldn’t reach them, Twitter could argue. If the company was focused on catering to creators, a Patreon-like subscription offering would make sense, as Twitter’s creator monetization offerings are not nearly as robust as a platform like YouTube’s is.

Nielsen backtracks on delaying out-of-home measurement

It seems like Nielsen simply can’t avoid getting publicly criticized by its clients. Networks accused Nielsen of “blindsiding” their ad sales efforts with its decision to delay its out-of-home (OOH) measurement offering. The anger stems from the networks who were looking for an easy way to make brands more willing to buy up inventory amid the pandemic. But Nielsen later in the week walked back its OOH delay plans after getting eviscerated, meaning networks need not worry about restructuring upfront deals factoring in OOH metrics. The backtracking lessens the chances of networks ultimately letting their Nielsen contracts lapse, which is important for a company that just laid off 3,500 staffers in a cost-cutting effort. 

Epic seals $250 investment from Sony

The Epic-Sony deal is good for both sides, although it could especially beneficial for Sony. Fortnite is showing no signs of flaming out and generated $400 million in April alone. With the new investment, we may see Epic work in more Sony-owned IP into Fortnite. But the ultimate prize from this new investment is that it helps Sony build good faith with Epic, which just this year announced it would start publishing the games of independent developers. This good faith could help Sony secure certain Epic-published games as exclusives for its upcoming PlayStation 5 console.

AMC greatens coronavirus defenses with $300 million financing deal

The debt restructuring deal reported late Friday that will bring in $300 million couldn’t come at a better time: The embattled exhibition giant just delayed its reopening amid spiking COVID-19 cases and the “Tenet”/”Mulan” delays. The funding will help AMC deal with the headaches that remain in front of it — for one, some states like Arizona could give AMC the runaround (greenlighting theater reopenings and backtracking in quick succession). Second, it’s still very much a guessing game on how quickly movie admissions will recover once giant chains do reopen. Recent theme park attendance gives some idea of willingness to reconvene in public, though that’s an imperfect comparison given AMC is offering an indoor experience.