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public relations

Comcast reaches for the Sky

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Comcast reaches for the Sky

A new twist in the ongoing tussle for ownership of Sky has seen shares of the company soar as media titan Comcast placed a £22 billion bid for the company. Last week’s surprise news triggered a takeover battle with Murdoch owned 21st Century Fox that looks likely to rival only Nedal vs Federer in length, complexity and sheer resilience. Yet with gold and silver medals at the Jewish Olympics, does the CEO of Comcast Brian Roberts hold the advantage point across the pond?

Comcast's offer has firmly placed a cat amongst the proverbial pigeons, coming after 2 years of merger talks between Fox and Sky that have been plagued by the red tape of political consent. Only last month, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) found the Murdoch bid “incompatible with public interest due to a lack of media plurality,” following intervention from (then) Culture Secretary, Karen Bradley. 

 

What calls for such intervention? 

The Murdoch empire already owns a third of British media under News Corp and 39% of Sky. Regulatory forces are set against further expansion; suggesting a full take-over of Sky could threaten the diversity of media opinion and leave an ever-increasing portion of the British media subject to the Murdoch agenda. 

Anne Lambert, chair of the CMA highlighted that "media plurality goes to the heart of our democratic process. It is very important that no group or individual should have too much control of our news media or too much power to affect the political agenda." Dare we mention Brexit, Trump or #fakenews? What appears in the headlines of our leading media outlets has always had the power to sway hearts and minds, of both voters and those who they elect to represent them. Potential for increased corporate involvement behind the scenes should inspire no truly democratic society. 

Enter Comcast, the NBC and Dreamworks owner, which is hoping to “use Sky as a platform for growth.” Shrek and Kung Fu Panda are planning their takeover of Europe, and this fairy-tale idea is being well received. On Tuesday 27th February Sky’s share price rose from £2.10 to £13.10, overtaking the Comcast bid of £12.50. The exact share prices matter less than what this reaction indicates, a clear excitement in the market over the deal. Heavy investment in NBC also signals support for its potential to retain and invest in Sky - Comcast is scoring points over Murdoch.

Fox’s 39% ownership of Sky adds complexity to this ongoing saga. Excluding Fox shareholders, the threshold is set at 81% for Comcast to gain the controlling interest in the firm. With Murdoch’s bid raising political risks and threats to media plurality it could well be game, set and match to Comcast. 

 

But why does media plurality matter? 

Media plurality hardly sets pulses racing down the pub, so why should PRs or politicians care? Ownership itself shouldn’t cause concern, provided editorial integrity and diversity of voices in our media sources is kept intact… so what else could be going on? 

Last Thursday, under a blanket of snow, Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport confirmed that the Leveson inquiry would go no further. The second stage of the process was set to consider the extent of unlawful or improper conduct within News International and other media outlets, and assess police conduct in investigations. 

Labour’s shadow culture secretary Tom Watson called the move “a disappointment, a breach of trust and a bitter blow to the victims of press intrusion.” Matt Hancock stressed that enough had been done, referring to the establishment of the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) and reform to policing practices. 

Cynics might argue that the current focus on media plurality serves as a convenient distraction from failing to go further on Leveson. What is clear though, is that this new episode in the series confirms the status of the British media as a world leading asset, though Murdoch's expansion hopes may remain simply pie in the sky. 

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Snapchat: where's it going and should you follow?

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Snapchat: where's it going and should you follow?

Snapchat, the image messaging / social media platform with over 180 million daily users, is arguably the defining generation dividing app. There are millions using it as their default for communicating and sharing, but most parents barely understand it beyond the warnings of drug dealers and inappropriate exchanges. Snapchat remains a wilderness for many "grown-ups." 60% of its users are under 25, compared to 40% for Instagram and 29% for Facebook. But if Kylie Jenner is tweeting that she’s ditched the app, should your brand or campaign even bother trying to get their heads round it?

 

A VERY BRIEF HISTORY OF SNAPCHAT

Snapchat was an instant hit. Within a year of its September 2011 release date, over 2 million images were being sent per day. First known as the sexting app with the sole function of sending auto-deleting images, a few years on and the app has (mostly) shed that reputation, whilst receiving a design facelift. Now there are ‘stories’ that stay up for 24 hours; a map where you can track your friends (which has unsurprisingly created a few privacy issues and caught out a few cheaters); and a ‘discover’ tab occupied by celebrity gossip, sports news, media companies and adverts. This is where you’d turn to for updates on the Kardashians, footballers and anyone that falls under the category of rich and famous.

 

A MAKEOVER AND A MELTDOWN

Last month, Snapchat unleashed a redesign (we'll spare you the details incase the ins and outs already confuse you) which has been criticised for confusing and obscuring some of its user’s favourite features. The backlash has included a million-strong petition (enough to earn 10 debates in Parliament), celebrity stamps of disapproval and dropping share prices. The “all publicity…” line rings true here as the controversy has helped drive a 55% increase in downloads. Whilst some are predicting Snapchat’s decline, increased downloads and a loyal, young and traditionally hard to reach audience mean there are still opportunities for campaigns and brands to take advantage of.

 

HOW SHOULD YOU USE IT?

Smart, funny and weird content on Snapchat can still go viral, as proven by the bizarre popularity of the ‘Dancing Hot Dog’ filter last summer. Cadbury’s released a filter that turned your eyes into Creme Eggs, which, whilst expensive to produce and promote will be front and centre and people will share it.

Shrewd and savvy companies are now trying to make short clips that are funny and natural, matching the lo-fi look of user-made content. The way Snapchat adverts blend into other news and user content means that while the 10 second videos used for Instagram may work, they’re often too slick and stand out as advertising.

For the 2017 general election, Snapchat teamed up with the Electoral Commission to add a filter that encouraged people to register to vote. The Vote Leave Campaign and Donald Trump’s team both claimed the platform was important in their electoral victories. How vital they were is up for debate, but clearly Snapchat is the best place to go if you want to target under 25s and get your message or product in front of them.

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New research shows top media trends to watch...

New research shows top media trends to watch...

In the last month, BARB and Ofcom have both brought out their latest research into media consumption. We look at the key trends and lessons for PR professionals, questioning whether the days of the humble press release are numbered. 

We also provide a list of other useful sources if you want to take a deeper look...