With everything from legalized sports betting to consumer data regulations, 2018’s media headlines were anything but dull.  We’ve rounded up the top news from this year for your convenience and enjoyment:


  1. 2018 saw the first real increases in the transparency in the programmatic ecosystem. It has been a talking point for years, but this year the shift to 1st price auctions and the widespread implementation of ads.txt represented concrete steps taken.  Learn more in our Programmatic Report.
  2. In May of this year, the Supreme Court struck down a 1992 law that prohibited states from legalizing sports gambling, opening the door for them to make their own decisions. A handful of states have already legalized it (Nevada, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Mississippi, West Virginia, Delaware, and Rhode Island) and others are considering it. But, even in states where it’s not technically legal, we have to believe it has emboldened even underground betting operations. One direct result of this decision seems to be a TV viewing turnaround for the NFL; after three consecutive seasons of declines, ratings this season are flat or up slightly, depending on the demo.
  3. As linear TV ratings continue to decline, the networks began to make meaningful changes to their ad experiences to both improve viewing and increase revenue. Both NBC and FOX announced plans to implement shorter, one minute ad breaks in primetime, which our own research indicates does improve viewing outcomes. NBC recently announced plans to expand the effort next year, while FOX’s plans are a little more murky.
  4. A divided country and motivated voters led to fiercely competitive House and Senate races.  This brought in a record $4.3 billion of political advertising in the 2018 midterm elections.  Learn more in our latest US Ad Forecast.
  5. With issues of brand safety at the forefront of the industry discourse, we examined the impact of unsafe ad placement on campaigns.  Our study showed that consumers assume that brands will intentionally appear alongside negative content.
  6. Search advertising continues to evolve, tightening its stranglehold on digital advertising budgets. It represents nearly half of total digital spending, and audience targeting, enhanced search results, and looking forward, voice and visual search, will only augment that dominance.
  7. Virtual MVPDs, which tend to offer cheaper, slimmer TV bundles than their traditional counterparts and allow users to watch wherever they can connect to the Internet, had a strong year of growth. Part of the growth is due to their cost effective nature, and part is due to the portability of the experience (e.g. streaming a live sports event to your tablet while in the airport). And in the case of Hulu Live, which had a particularly strong year, it offers a “one-stop-shop” for live feeds and its extensive on demand library.  In second quarter, vMVPD gains actually offset traditional MVPD losses, although that trend was short lived.
  8. From the Cambridge Analytica political scandal in March to the data breach in September, Facebook has faced consistent negative publicity, and has been on a nearly continuous apology tour throughout the year.
  9. This year brought continued consolidation within the industry.  Examples include AT&T’s acquisition of AppNexus, Disney’s (pending) acquisition of FOX entertainment assets, or even IPG’s purchase of Acxiom.  Not only is this reshaping the media landscape, but it has also resulted in significant leadership changes.
  10. Data privacy was a huge topic of discussion in 2018, as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rolled out in Europe and California passed its own data privacy law here in the U.S., which will go into effect in January of 2020. Though the penalties for violating the GDPR in Europe can be harsh (the higher of 4% worldwide revenue or 20 million Euros), we have yet to see any companies brought to task. From consumer perspective, the effect has been a battery of opt-in messages from websites as companies seek to comply with existing regulations and future-proof themselves from any more that may come down the pike.. We plan to study the consumer perspective on ad personalization and data privacy in 2019.


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