AT&T, Time Warner Defend Merger to Lawmakers

AT&T and Time Warner executives this week appeared before a subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee to respond to lawmakers’ concerns about their US$84 billion merger. Their testimony came at a time of high public skepticism of institutional power. Rival content and mobile providers applied further pressure with questions about the impact the deal would have on competition and pricing.

AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner would serve to disrupt existing models of traditional cable provider dominance by letting consumers watch television whenever and wherever they wanted to, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson told the Senate Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights.

The launch last month of DirecTV Now is one example of the kind of innovative programming options the Time Warner acquisition would provide, he said, and greater control over content would force traditional cable operators to offer more of the features and functionality that consumers actually want.

Cable Killer

“This transaction will help us break out of that box and reshape the competitive landscape,” Stephenson said at the hearing. “It will provide AT&T with a stable of major content from Time Warner that will serve as a launching pad to support a broad array of video offerings, including ones designed for mobile.”

The merger would help speed the deployment of 5G mobile, he added, noting that AT&T already was committed to that, but that the merger would help offset the costs of buildout and speed its pace.

However, the merger would lead to higher costs for other providers trying to access Time Warner programming, including HBO, CNN, Turner, and other major networks, argued Gene Kimmelman, CEO of Public Knowledge.

It also would give AT&T an unfair advantage due to its ability to provide zero rating, by giving its customers access to that content and not counting it against existing data plans.

A number of committee members, including Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., raised concerns about the impact that would have on consumer choice and pricing, and the ability of independent content providers to compete with the combined AT&T and Time Warner behemoth.

“If this transaction is found to be anticompetitive, the need to compete with other companies is not a justification,” Klobuchar said. “The solution for less competition is not even less competition.”

Precedent Set

There was no new information presented at the hearing that suggested the merger would not be approved, said telecom analyst Jeff Kagan, but there likely would be conditions attached.

Other network content provider acquisitions — like the Comcast purchase of NBC and Verizon’s acquisitions of AOL and Yahoo — were approved, he noted, and AT&T and Time Warner similarly operate in two separate industries.

“Conditions may be centered around making sure the new company plays fair in the marketplace with competitors,” Kagan told the E-Commerce Times, which is “something they already said they would do.”

Prior to the election, the Trump campaign raised concerns about the deal, centering on the potential concentration of too much power in one company, noted Tim Mulligan, senior analyst at Midia Research.

Further, AT&T shareholders should be concerned about the premium being paid for Time Warner, he told the E-Commerce Times, as the assets “are being valued on pre-digital-distribution models of monetization.”

There is nothing about the merger that is in the public interest, argued Christopher Mitchell, director of community broadband networks at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, although he noted that he hasn’t studied the issue closely since Wednesday’s hearing.

“When I speak to small cable companies and ISPs, they are deeply opposed to more consolidation,” he told the E-Commerce Times. “They fear their ability to compete effectively in a world of such giants with so much market power.”

Among the key concerns are the fact that customers who watch Time Warner content on the AT&T network will not be faced with the same bandwidth caps that other networks will charge, thus giving consumers another incentive to switch over to AT&T.

David Jones is a freelance writer based in Essex County, New Jersey. He has written for Reuters, Bloomberg, Crain's New York Business and The New York Times.

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Intuit’s $12B Mailchimp Purchase Breathes New Life Into Email Marketing

Intuit on Monday announced an agreement to acquire Mailchimp, a global customer engagement and marketing platform for small and mid-market businesses, for $12 billion in cash and stock advances. The purchase could be the linchpin that thrusts the mostly financial software company into solving more fertile mid-market business challenges for its customers.

The planned acquisition is part of Intuit’s mission to become an AI-driven expert platform. With the acquisition of Mailchimp, Intuit will accelerate two of its previously-shared strategic big bets: to become the center of small business growth and to disrupt the small business mid-market, said the company in its announcement.

Intuit’s acquisition of Mailchimp sends a great message to all entrepreneurs around the globe that venture capital is not always necessary, observed Michael Kawula, co-founder of CBA, a marketing agency for YouTube monetization. Mailchimp is a bootstrapped success story that has not raised any outside venture capital.

“This is a very clever growth strategy for Intuit, who wants to get in front of SMBs, which is difficult and expensive. Similar to HubSpot’s recent purchase of The Hustle newsletter, a much smaller acquisition, this also is brilliant,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

The acquisition marks a significant impact in industry, according to Osiris Parikh, sales marketing manager at Lilius. He also sees the deal as another reminder that email marketing is not dead — and data is power.

“Intuit has made a strong move to broaden its portfolio and become a leader in catering to the needs of SMBs. It is also a great story of success during Covid-19,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

Deal Basics

Intuit provides a global technology platform that makes TurboTax, QuickBooks, Mint, and Credit Karma. Intuit and Mailchimp will offer an innovative, end-to-end customer growth platform that allows customers to get their business online. It will also enable them to manage marketing, customer relationships, payment processes, and access insights and analytics, along with optimizing their cash flow and staying compliant with experts at their fingertips, according to Intuit.

Key to this process is Intuit’s ability to enable businesses to combine their customer data from Mailchimp and QuickBooks’ purchase data to get the actionable insights they need to grow and run their businesses with confidence.

“We’re focused on powering prosperity around the world for consumers and small businesses. Together, Mailchimp and QuickBooks will help solve small and mid-market businesses’ biggest barriers to growth, getting and retaining customers,” said Sasan Goodarzi, CEO of Intuit.

Mailchimp brings to Intuit technology at scale along with global customer reach.

Founded in Atlanta, in 2001, Mailchimp began by offering email marketing solutions. The company evolved into offering customer engagement and marketing automation processes fueled by an AI-driven technology stack. Mailchimp’s data and technology spans 70 billion contacts and more than 250 rich partner integrations. Its AI-powered automation at scale fuels 2.2 million daily predictions.

“Over the past two decades, we have vastly expanded and evolved Mailchimp’s platform to help millions of small businesses around the world start and grow,” said Ben Chestnut, CEO and co-founder of Mailchimp.

Why Mailchimp’s Worth It

While the email marketing sector is pretty crowded, Mailchimp stands out in terms of size and scope. The company reportedly has 13 million total global users, 2.4 million active monthly users, and 800,000 paid customers, noted Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.

“Plus, half of its customers are outside of the U.S. Additionally, while people tend to focus on the mass/might of large enterprises, small businesses are really the heart and soul of most economies,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

The acquisition likely represents a lucrative opportunity for Intuit to integrate Mailchimp data with QuickBooks and provide greater analytical capabilities to customers. The synthesis of financial and marketing data in this case provides valuable and actionable insights about an organization’s clients, added Lilus’ Parikh.

“It’s also a great diversification of offerings to centralize SMB operations through one platform and benefit from Mailchimp’s established user base,” he said.

Another supporting factor for Intuit’s interest in Mailchimp is the renewed stature of email, according to Elice Max, co-owner of EMUCoupon and someone who has been involved in online marketing for eight years.

“Email marketing has made a comeback in recent years. With increased digitization caused by the pandemic, all digital mediums including email have gained a renewed importance,” she told the E-Commerce Times.

Email Marketing’s Resurgence

Technology giants are looking to build more integrated and holistic solutions. Microsoft recently bought Clipchamp, a video production tool. Both companies are looking to build platforms for the new tech-savvy SMBs, Max Suggested.

“More than anything, it means a renewed confidence in the field. Experts have been talking about the death of email marketing for a while now. But a $12 billion acquisition by a big player like Intuit means email promotion is alive and kicking,” she said.

Another factor is Intuit keeping its eye on the ball. It is important to remember the significance of Mailchimp as the pioneer in marketing automation and email marketing in particular.

“Intuit is looking to make a statement that it wants to become more than a financial software company,” Max observed.

QuickBooks Synergies

One of the motivations that lies behind Intuit’s purchase of Mailchimp is its desire to lead a revolution in the CRM capabilities of SMBs, according to Will Ward, CEO of Translation Equipment HQ . Think about the effect the pandemic has had on the popularity of remote work and the amount of remote SMBs being established.

“You would expect there to be a lot of growth potential here in the next few years. With Mailchimp and QuickBooks, Intuit is providing an end-to-end customer growth platform, and with around $20 billion invested already its belief in SMBs is evident,” Ward told the E-Commerce Times.

Like any other system that handles transactions such as orders and payments, you need to work closer to the actual customer channels. With the Intuit e-commerce product, launched about a year ago, this seems like a natural step by adding marketing automation and reaching out with its e-commerce offering to the MailChimp customer base, suggested Johan Liljeros, general manager and senior commerce advisor, North America for Avensia.

“The acquisition has added synergies between the platforms while still being able to operate as independent platforms. Looking at Intuit’s offerings, it appears they are moving towards expanding [into] digital transactional experience,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

Final Thoughts

Email marketers should be ready for disruption along with other business services providers. Intuit has been both savvy and aggressive in the way it built its business, effectively becoming the 800-pound gorilla of small business accounting and tax solutions, according to Pund-IT’s King.

“With that kind of ally behind Mailchimp, life is going to become a whole lot more ‘interesting’ for other email marketers,” he predicted.

The Intuit-Mailchimp deal should offer Intuit customers significant benefits, such as new solutions and services for bolstering their businesses. At the same time, the deal highlights the fact that old technologies can continue to be vital and dynamic.

“For years, many have claimed that email is dead or dying and quickly being replaced by whatever the tech du jour happens to be. Mailchimp — and now Intuit — beg to differ,” King quipped.

Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open-source technologies. He is an esteemed reviewer of Linux distros and other open-source software. In addition, Jack extensively covers business technology and privacy issues, as well as developments in e-commerce and consumer electronics. Email Jack.

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Adobe’s Frame.io Buy Answers Video Collaboration Needs

video production

Adobe on Aug. 19 announced it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire cloud-based video collaboration platform Frame.io. The acquisition joins Adobe Creative Cloud’s video capabilities with Frame.io’s cloud-first workflow functionality to create an end-to-end video collaboration platform.

With over a million users across media and entertainment companies, agencies, and global brands, Frame.io accelerates the production process by enabling video editors and key project stakeholders to collaborate using cloud-first workflows. The combination of Adobe’s creative software and Frame.io’s review and approval functionality will deliver a collaboration platform that expedites the video editing process.

Video creation and consumption are experiencing tremendous growth. Video teams must produce an ever-increasing volume of content. Each video project requires various stakeholders, including video editors, producers, agencies, and clients.

Today’s video workflows are disjointed with multiple tools and communication channels being used to solicit stakeholder feedback. Frame.io eliminates the inefficiencies of video workflows by enabling real-time footage upload, access, and in-line stakeholder collaboration in a secure and elegant experience across surfaces, Adobe said in its announcement of the deal.

When the acquisition closes, Frame.io co-founder and CEO Emery Wells and co-founder John Traver will join Adobe. Wells will continue to lead the Frame.io team, reporting to Scott Belsky, chief product officer and executive vice president of Adobe Creative Cloud. Wells and Traver started Frame.io in 2015.

 

The transaction, valued at US$1.275 billion, subject to customary purchase price adjustments, is expected to close during the fourth quarter of Adobe’s 2021 fiscal year. Until the transaction closes, each company will continue to operate independently.The closure is subject to regulatory approval and customary closing conditions.

Strengthens Creative Cooperation

Collaboration is the next wave of creativity, noted Adobe. Digital collaboration is now the foundation of all creative endeavors.

“We’ve entered a new era of connected creativity that is deeply collaborative, and we imagine a world where everyone can participate in the creative process,” said Belsky. “With this acquisition, we’re welcoming an incredible customer-oriented team and adding Frame.io’s cloud-native workflow capabilities to make the creative process more collaborative, productive, and efficient to further unleash creativity for all.”

 

Adobe’s acquisition of Frame.io brings Adobe Creative Cloud’s collaboration services to video and builds on recent innovations for creative collaboration. These include Adobe Creative Cloud Libraries, Cloud Documents, Design Systems in Adobe XD, Adobe Stock, and Adobe Fonts. Those assets combined with Frame.io will make it easy for teams to collaborate across Adobe Premiere Pro, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, and other Adobe Creative Cloud applications, according to Adobe.

Video workflows must empower all stakeholders. The combination of Frame.io and Adobe, Creative Cloud customers, along with video editors, producers, and marketers will heighten seamless collaboration on video projects with Frame.io workflow functionality built natively in Adobe Creative Cloud applications like Adobe Premiere Pro, Adobe After Effects, and Adobe Photoshop.

“Frame.io and Adobe share a vision for the future of video creation and collaboration that brings together Adobe’s strength in video creation and production and Frame.io’s cloud-native platform,” said Wells. “We’re excited to join Adobe to continue to drive video innovation for the world’s leading media and entertainment companies, agencies, and brands.”

Innovation benefits the video ecosystem. For instance, Frame.io customers and partners will benefit from the company’s robust plug-ins and third-party application support, along with the innovation generated by the combined Adobe Creative Cloud and Frame.io teams.

With the addition of Frame.io, Adobe Creative Cloud’s commitment to enabling collaboration across all stakeholders of creativity extends beyond Adobe’s applications to the growing number of third-party applications across the creative ecosystem.

Industry Overloaded

The continuing expansion of creative content has outgrown the industry’s ability to keep up with managing productivity, according to Anthony Welgemoed, CEO and co-founder of Ziflow. His company is an online proofing and collaboration solution with over one million users.

“The volume of creative content being produced still keeps increasing,” he told TechNewsWorld.

For example, a video ad stays relevant for only five days. All of these creative teams are having to do more with the same resource, he offered.

But technology has responded with new solutions, some of which are starting to include artificial intelligence and machine learning. These new tools coming to the market are helping creators produce content faster and better.

Some of these platforms are web-based and provide some of its features for free. Two such solutions he mentioned are Figma and Canva. Figma is a web-based graphics design tool with a real-time collaborative interface. Canva is a platform used by graphic artists to edit and create custom designs in a team environment.

But as competitors to what Adobe and Frame.io offer, such products do not address the biggest bottleneck content designers face, observed Welgemoed.

“The review and approval of this content leave great production teams with less time to be creative. So really, it is just a volume of content explosion that is still ongoing, as it has been for the last two decades,” he said.

Post-Production Video Team Solutions

Adobe’s acquisition of Frame.io will focus more awareness on the need for the industry to solve the growing content collaboration issues. More competition of content services is the endgame.

While Adobe’s latest acquisition will let it leverage Creative Cloud storage, other solutions are needed to help content designers with the reviewing and approval processes. Ziflow’s platform simplifies content review and approval with its online proofing software for marketers and creatives.

“We see two types of situations among content teams. Some design teams do not use anything at all. Others are still using back and forth email exchange,” said Welgemoed.

In most cases, content creators see Ziflow’s platform as a system of record for credit production teams. Ziflow has a copy of every version of content designers produce.

“We have every comment made by every content reviewer. So using all that data, we can start building models that we can then use to automate parts of that review process, and we believe this is where we can reduce that turnaround time very significantly by leveraging AI and ML,” he explained.

Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open-source technologies. He is an esteemed reviewer of Linux distros and other open-source software. In addition, Jack extensively covers business technology and privacy issues, as well as developments in e-commerce and consumer electronics. Email Jack.

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