Comcast and Paramount’s streaming service SkyShowtime launches in the Nordics this month

Comcast’s Sky and Paramount announced the official launch date for SkyShowtime, a new European streaming service. It will initially launch in Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden on September 20, 2022. The content lineup for the service includes a combination of titles from Paramount+, Showtime, and Peacock, giving subscribers over 10,000 hours of content all on one platform.

At launch, the SkyShowtime app will be available in the Nordics via Android devices, iOS devices, tvOS, and the SkyShowtime website. The monthly subscription price for each country varies. SkyShowtime will be DKK 69 in Denmark, €6,99 in Finland, NOK 79 in Norway, and SEK 79 in Sweden.

The streaming service is replacing Paramount+, which rolled out in the Nordics just this past year in March 2021. Paramount+ subscribers in the Nordics will move over to SkyShowtime once it launches.

SkyShowtime will expand to the Netherlands later this year. In 2023, the service will become available in 17 more countries, including Albania, Andorra, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Spain. In total, SkyShowtime will be available to subscribers in 22 territories by next year.

The streaming service will not only feature popular TV series, films, and local original programming, but it will also offer exclusive premieres of first-run theatrical films from Paramount Pictures and Universal Pictures. Content will be available in 18 different languages.

Comcast’s Sky and Paramount are looking to grow their subscriber bases in any way they can, and this new launch is an attempt to reach more customers. According to Sky, the 20+ European markets comprise 90 million homes.

The joint streaming venture between Comcast and Paramount Global (formerly Viacom CBS) was previously announced in August 2021. SkyShowtime finally received full regulatory approval in Europe in February 2022.

Comcast and Paramount’s streaming service SkyShowtime launches in the Nordics this month by Lauren Forristal originally published on TechCrunch

Comcast launches SportsTech startup accelerator with NASCAR and others

Comcast NBCUniversal believes its can access startup innovation while supporting future Olympic gold-medalists.

The American mass media company launched its new SportsTech accelerator today, based in part, on that impetus.

TechCrunch attended a briefing with Comcast execs at 30 Rock NYC to learn more about the initiative.

The SportsTech accelerator is a partnership across Comcast NBCUniversal’s sports media brands: NBC Sports, Sky Sports and the Golf Channel.

The program brings in industry partners NASCAR, U.S. Ski & Snowboard and USA Swimming — all of whose sports broadcast on Comcast NBC channels.

Starting today, pre-Series A sports technology startups can apply to become part of a 10-company cohort.

Accepted ventures will gain $50,000 in equity-based funding and enter SportsTech’s three-month accelerator boot camp — with sports industry support and mentorship — to kick off at Comcast’s Atlanta offices August 2020.

Boomtown Accelerators will join Comcast in managing the SportsTech program, with both sharing a minimum of 6% equity in selected startups.

Industry partners, such as NASCAR and U.S. Ski & Snowboard, will play an advisory role in startup selection, but won’t add capital.

An overarching objective for SportsTech emerged during conversations with execs and Jenna Kurath, Comcast’s VP for Startup Partner Development, who will run the new accelerator.

Comcast and partners aim to access innovation that could advance the business and competitive aspects of each organization.

From McDonald’s McD Tech Labs to Mastercard’s Start Path, corporate incubators and accelerators have become common in large cap America, where companies look to tap startup ingenuity and deal-flow to adapt and hedge disruption.

Toward its own goals, SportsTech has designated several preferred startup categories. They include Business of Sports, Team and Coach Success and Athlete and Player Performance.

SportsTech partners, such as NASCAR, hope to access innovation to drive greater audience engagement. The motorsport series (and its advertising-base) has become more device-distributed, and NASCAR streams more race-day data live, from the pits to the driver’s seat.

“The focus has grown into what are we going to do to introduce more technology in the competition side of the sport…the fan experience side and how we operate as a business,” said NASCAR Chief Innovation Officer Craig Neeb.

“We’re confident we’re going to get access to some incredibly strong and innovative companies,” he said of NASCAR’s SportsTech participation.

U.S. Ski & Snowboard — the nonprofit that manages America’s snowsport competition teams  — has an eye on performance and medical tech for its athletes.

“Wearable technology [to measure performance]…is an area of interest…and things like computer vision and artificial intelligence for us to better understand technical elements, are quite interesting,” said Troy Taylor, U.S. Ski & Snowboard’s Director of High Performance.

US Ski Team

Credit: U.S. Ski & Snowboard

Some of that technology could boost prospects of U.S. athletes, such as alpine skiers Tommy Ford and Mikaela Shiffrin, at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

In a $7.75 billion deal inked in 2014, Comcast NBCUniversal purchased the U.S. broadcast rights for Olympic competition —  summer and winter —  through 2032.

“We asked ourselves, ‘could we do more?’ The notion of an innovation engine that runs before, during and after the Olympics. Could that give our Team USA a competitive edge in their pursuit for gold?,” said Jenna Kurath.

The answer came up in the affirmative and led to the formation of Comcast’s SportsTech accelerator.

Beyond supporting Olympic achievement, there is a strategic business motivation for Comcast and its new organization.

“The early insights we gain from these companies could lead to other commercial relationships, whether that’s licensing or even acquisition,” Will McIntosh, EVP for NBC Sports Digital and Consumer Business, told TechCrunch.

SportsTech is Comcast’s third accelerator, and the organization has a VC fund, San Francisco-based Comcast Ventures — which has invested in the likes of Lyft, Vimeo and Slack and racked up 67 exits, per Crunchbase data.

After completing the SportsTech accelerator, cohort startups could receive series-level investment or purchase offers from Comcast, its venture arm or industry partners, such as NASCAR.

“Our natural discipline right now is…to have early deliverables. But overtime, with our existing partners, we’ll have conversations about who else could be a logical value-add to bring into this ecosystem,” said Bill Connors, Comcast Central Division President.

Amazon Product Managers Look For Another Way To Score

Will soccer be the ticket to getting Amazon access to Europe?
Will soccer be the ticket to getting Amazon access to Europe?
Image Credit: Nathan Rupert

The Amazon product managers have a real problem on their hands. They are in charge of one of the more popular brands in the world and the creation of their Amazon Prime service has only made the company even more popular. However, as we are all aware of, what you did for me yesterday is nice, but what I’m really interested in is what you will be doing for me tomorrow. The Amazon product managers are under a lot of pressure to continue to update their product development definition and keep growing the brand. One part of the world where Amazon would like to become bigger is Britain. What the product managers need is a way to hook more customers.

Say Hello To Soccer

In the U.S. if you wanted to get more people to use your service, then you could strike a deal with the NFL to be permitted to broadcast football games. It turns out that in Britain the same rules apply. What the Amazon product managers have gone and done is to buy the rights to broadcast a collection of soccer games from none other than the most popular sports league in the world: the English Premier League. Now that’s something to add to your product manager resume. Before everyone with an Amazon Prime membership starts to get too excited, you need to understand that there are some limitations to what has been agreed to. The broadcasting rights will be limited to only Britain. Amazon Prime members will be able to see a selection of 20 games per season.

What is important here is that this agreement represents a big boost to Amazon’s brand new effort to provide access to live sporting events. So what’s going on here? Amazon has been very successful in entering a number of other businesses including groceries and healthcare. If they can leverage this soccer contract they may be able to start to reduce the power that traditional broadcasters hold based on their domination of sports broadcasting. There are limits to Amazon is going to be able to provide in their sports package. There will not be any of the Premier League’s marquee offerings. It will also only include two rounds of play during the season. One of the matches that will be covered will be in the middle of the week. The next will be on the December 26 Boxing Day holiday. What works in Amazon’s favor is that the Premier League is the only major league in Europe who schedules games to be played on that day.

This is not going to be Amazon’s first entry into the sports broadcasting arena. In the past, Amazon has experimented with the broadcasting of major sports leagues. Previously Amazon broadcasted 10 NFL games on Thursday night. These are the NFL’s least popular games. In order to obtain the rights to broadcast these games, Amazon paid the NFL US$50 million. The broadcasting was so well received that the Amazon product managers went ahead and renewed their contract with the NFL for the next two years. Amazon’s agreement with the Premier League covers 3 seasons. The plan is for Amazon to stream the games onto it’s Prime Video network. The cost of the Amazon Prime service is $106 per year.

How Will This Help Amazon?

So why didn’t the Amazon product managers get all of the Premier League games? It turns out that the most popular soccer games that are contained in the biggest packages of match days which were snapped up by the British TV broadcasters Sky and BT Group. Sky has been broadcasting Premier League games since Sky was founded back in 1992. They purchased the rights to 128 games in a single season for 1.2B pounds per year. Starting to do business with Amazon may cause some problems for the Premier League in the future. The deal that they have struck with Amazon represents a turning point for them. It also represents a possible problem with saturating the market.

In a season of soccer, there are 380 games in total that are played. Sky and BT together will be broadcasting 180 of these games. The Premier League still wants people to show up and view their games at the stadium. In order to ensure that this happens, the U.K. still insists that games that start at 3pm on a Saturday are blacked out from being broadcasted. The cost of bidding on the rights of broadcasting soccer games has been increasing at a rapid rate over the past two decades. This has resulted in a number of questions about just exactly how high the prices could go. The first deal for broadcasting soccer matches from 1992 to 1997 was worth 191M pounds. The current three year rights deal came in at 5.1B pounds.

One of the big issues that the Amazon product managers are going to be facing as they move forward will be the cost to carry soccer matches on the U.K. prime channel. The good news for the Amazon product managers is that it is starting to look like the price to carry live soccer matches in Britain may have peaked. Note this this may only be limited to the domestic rights for the games – international rights could be a whole other story. The last time that the rights to broadcast the next season of soccer in Britain went on the market, the bids that came in did not exceed the 5B pound mark. In fact, two of the packages that were being offered ended up going unsold. This what what provided a window of opportunity for the Amazon product managers. They swooped in and purchased one of the unsold packages in order to start their broadcasting of Premier League soccer.

What All Of This Means For You

Everyone knows who Amazon is – they are that big online company that sells books, right? Well, the product managers at Amazon are, of course, under a great deal of pressure to continue to find ways to keep the company growing. In order to make this happen in the past they have expanded into new markets such as groceries and healthcare. Now they are looking at their product manager job description and they are ready to try something different: streaming live sporting events. In Europe.

The Amazon product managers have purchased the rights to stream 20 games that will be played by the English Premier League to Amazon Prime customers who live in Britain. This move represents an attempt by Amazon to go up against the broadcasters who have a hold based on their domination of sports broadcasting. There will be limits on which games Amazon can broadcast and when they will be played. Amazon already has some experience in the world of live sports broadcasting. They have an ongoing deal with the NFL to broadcast some U.S. games. Now that they are starting to broadcast soccer games in Britain this means that Amazon is going to be competing with British TV broadcasters Sky and BT Group. There are a lot of soccer games played each season. Some games cannot be broadcasted because the league still wants people to come to the stadiums and watch the games live. The cost of purchasing broadcasting rights has been increasing over time. Amazon was able to get started by purchasing a package of games that nobody else had wanted.

Amazon is making a bold move in starting to offer streaming of Premier League soccer matches in Britain. Considering how much the British love soccer, this may be a very wise move. Since the only way to view the matches is to be an Amazon Prime member, offering the soccer matches could help Amazon to boost Prime membership in the U.K. Only time will tell if soccer could be the key to Amazon product managers success in Britain.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: Next season do you think that the Amazon product managers should try to get more soccer games to broadcast?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

When you travel and you need transportation at the other end of your trip, what do you do? If you are like most of us, when you are buying your airplane ticket and making your hotel reservation you go ahead and call up an established rental car company and make a reservation. When you fly into the airport, you take the car rental bus to the car rental lot, pick up your car and you drive away. That’s all fine, but that is so old school. It turns our that there is a new way to get around and it’s changing the rental car product development definition and causing headaches for established rental car company product managers.

The post Amazon Product Managers Look For Another Way To Score appeared first on The Accidental Product Manager.

Netflix rival Iflix offloads its Africa business to focus on Asia

Iflix, the emerging market Netflix competitor that’s backed by Sky, is leaving Africa to double down on its business in Asia.

The Malaysia-based company announced today it has sold the remaining shares in its Africa business — Kwesé Iflix — to Econet Group, the telecom firm that is already an investor in the business. The deal size is not disclosed. Kwesé Iflix covers the Iflix service in eight countries — Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe — with plans to expand to four more soon.

The completion of the deal means that Iflix’s total market coverage is trimmed to 23 countries, including India, markets in Southeast Asia, the Middle East and more.

“It has been an incredible journey and learning experience, launching our service in Africa. The acquisition by the Econet Group, our regional partner and Africa’s leading broadcast network, is a significant milestone for the African business, and further reinforces Iiflix’s commitment to our core markets in Asia, particularly Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines which continue to grow from strength to strength,” Iflix co-founder and CEO Mark Britt said in a statement.

Iflix CEO Mark Britt said the company will double down on Asian markets after exiting its Africa business (Photo by studioEAST/Getty Images)

Iflix has raised nearly $300 million to date from investors that include British broadcaster Sky, U.S. Hearst Communications, broadband and TV provider Liberty Global and Malaysia-based Catcha Group . Its most recent funding round was $133 million in August 2017.

Econet-owned pay TV firm Kwesé bought into the company’s Africa business in February 2018, therein creating the rebranded ‘Kwesé Iflix’ joint venture. Since then, Iflix has divested its stake until finally exiting the business as announced today.

Iflix offers a freemium service with a paid tier that costs around $3 per month. It claims an audience of “millions” of users. Its biggest rival is Netflix, which has begun testing more aggressive pricing in Malaysia — Iflix’s home market — through a mobile-only package that lowers its subscription cost to RM17, or around $4, each month.

Moves like that put Iflix and other regional players such as Hooq — which doesn’t operate in Malaysia — under pressure if Netflix decides to press ahead and expand its cheaper subscription to more markets in Asia.

Both Iflix and HOOQ pivoted to freemium earlier this year, and Iflix, in particular, has doubled down on supply. The Malaysian firm this month initiated a $5 million program to back around 30 independent content makers across Asia as it bids to widen its local programming library to compete with rivals which, in Asia, include traditional TV.

Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman announce the name of their stealthy mobile video startup

On stage at Vanity Fair’s New Establishment Summit in Los Angeles, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman unveiled the name of their highly-anticipated mobile video company known until now as NewTV.

The name is Quibi, short for “quick bites,” per a note on its new website: “Something cool is coming from Hollywood and Silicon Valley — quick bites of captivating entertainment, created for mobile by the best talent, designed to fit perfectly into any moment of your day.”

The short-form video service, launching next year, will operate on a two-tiered subscription model similar to Hulu, per Deadline. Quibi is cooking up original content with Oscar-winning filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, Southpaw director Antoine Fuqua and Spiderman director Sami Raimi, as well as Get Out producer Jason Blum and Van Toffler, the CEO of digital media production company Gunpowder & Sky.

The Hollywood Reporter says the del Toro project “is a modern zombie story,” the Fuqua project is “a modern version of Dog Day Afternoon” and the Blum project, titled Wolves and Villagers, could be compared to Fatal Attraction.

Katzenberg, the former chairman of Walt Disney Studios and founder of WndrCo, a consumer tech investment and holding company, has raised $1 billion for Quibi from Disney, 21st Century Fox, Entertainment One, NBCUniversal, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Alibaba Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Madrone Capital and several others. He hired Meg Whitman as Quibi’s CEO in January.

Quibi, given Katzenberg and Whitman’s entertainment and business acumen, is expected to compete with the biggest players in the space, including Instagram, Netflix and Snap, which today announced Snap Originals. The new effort will have the ephemeral messaging service rolling out 12 new scripted shows on its app from Keeping Up With The Kardashians creator Bunim/Murray, Friday Night Lights writer Carter Harris and more.

Quibi is hiring aggressively, recently bringing on former Viacom executive Doug Herzog, former Instagram product manager Blake Barnes and former Hulu chief technology officer Rob Post, also per THR.

Quibi did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Old media giants turn to VC for their next act

The Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 eras weren’t kind to the world’s largest media conglomerates, throwing their business models into question, creating whole new categories of content consumption, and bringing online competition to subscription and ad pricing. Many of the media giants from the 1990s and early 2000s remain market leaders with multi-billion dollar valuations, however, and have become active investors in startups as a tactic to help themselves evolve.

Of the traditional media companies that have committed to corporate venturing, there are two distinct strategies: those whose investing seems to be about replacing the historic classifieds section of newspapers and diversifying into a range of consumer-facing marketplaces, and those whose investing is concentrated on capturing an early glimpse (and early equity stake) in startups reshaping media.

Replacing Classifieds, Investing in Marketplaces

Mathias Doepfner, CEO of Axel Springer. The company’s startup accelerator is one of the most active in Europe. (Photo by Michele Tantussi/Getty Images)

Given the first crisis newspaper groups faced from tech startups in the 1990s and early 2000s was the rise of online classifieds sites (like Craigslist) and transactional marketplaces (like eBay and Amazon), the disruption of their lucrative classified ads revenue stream drove their attention to e-commerce.

Aside from Hearst, the major US newspaper and magazine chains – like Gannett, News Corp, Meredith Corp / Time Inc, and Digital First Media – haven’t made many investments in startups. Perhaps the financial straits of most US newspaper companies have left little cash for VC investments that won’t pay off for years in the future.

But in Northern and Central Europe, where news readership and even print publishing remain healthy by comparison, the leading media groups have been aggressively investing in marketplace and e-commerce startups across the continent over the last decade.

Europe’s leading publisher, Axel Springer has made itself an established player in the European startup scene. Axel Springer’s Digital Ventures team has backed marketplaces from Caroobi (for cars) to Airbnb, and their Berlin-based accelerator (run in partnership with Plug & Play) has invested in over 100 young startups, like digital bank N26, boat rental marketplace Zizoo, and influencer-brand marketplace blogfoster. In a move more strategic to its business, the 15,000-employee group made a large investment in augmented reality unicorn Magic Leap this past February as well, forming a partnership to leverage its content IP in the process.

Meanwhile, Norway’s Schibsted, Sweden’s Bonnier, and Germany’s Hubert Burda Media (best know to many in tech for their annual DLD conference in Munich) and Holtzbrinck Publishing are each globally active, multi-billion dollar publishers who operate active early- or growth-stage VC portfolios comprised mainly of e-commerce brands and marketplaces.

The most iconic corporate venture investment by a newspaper conglomerate (or any company for that matter) is without question the $32M check written into 3-year-old Chinese social web startup Tencent in 2001 by the South African publishing group Naspers (founded in 1915). Tencent, now valued around $400B, is Asia’s largest and most powerful digital media company and Naspers’ 31% stake was worth roughly $175B in March 2018 when it sold $10B in shares.

As a result, Naspers has transformed into a holding company that incubates, acquires, and invests in online marketplace businesses around the globe (though it still maintains a relatively small publishing unit).

The challenge for traditional media companies investing in startups beyond the realm of media is that even if wildly successful, those investments neither give them a distinct advantage in media itself nor make their business model like that of a tech company by way of osmosis. These investments can be flashy distractions to make management and shareholders call the company innovative while it fails to actually re-envision its core operations. Investing in Airbnb or BaubleBar doesn’t address the key challenges or opportunities a traditional publishing group faces.

Therefore the best case scenario in this strategy seems to be that these companies find enough financial success that they just transition out of the content game and become holding companies for other types of consumer-facing brands the way Naspers has. But even then the path seems uncertain: despite all its other activities, Naspers’ market cap is less than the value of its Tencent shares…it’s not clear that the best case scenario necessarily transforms the core organization.

Investing in the Next Generation of Media

Thomas Rabe, CEO of German media group Bertelsmann. Bertelsmann is unique in treating startup investments as a dedicated division of the conglomerate. (TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images)

The other track for “old media” giants has been to focus on venture capital as a means to uncover the future of the media business so the old guard can learn from the new generation of media entrepreneurs and react to market changes sooner than competitors. Intriguingly, it is consistent that the conglomerates who have taken this strategy are ones whose operations in television, radio, data, and telecom outweigh any involvement in newspapers.

Bertelsmann, Hearst, and 21st Century Fox have been the most aggressive corporate venture investors in startups working to shape the future of media, whether it be through streaming video services, crowdsourced storytelling platforms, or augmented reality.

With annual revenue over €17B, Bertelsmann is one of the largest media companies in the world, spanning television production and broadcasting (RTL Group), book publishing (Penguin Random House), newspapers, magazine publishing (Grüner + Jahr), and education. Unlike of media companies though, it treats venture investments in media startups as a key division of its company rather than as a side project.

The company’s core Bertelsmann Digital Media Investments (BDMI) invests across the US and Europe in companies like Audible, Mic, The Athletic, and Wondery (and in funds like Greycroft and SV Angel) but there are also the 3 regionally-focused funds investing in China, India, and Brazil plus the education-focused University Ventures fund it anchors in NYC. Collectively, Bertelsmann teams made 40 new startup investments in 2017 and generated €141M in venture returns, according to their 2017 Annual Report.

The investment arm of Hearst, one of America’s largest publishers with $10.8B in 2017 revenue, has likewise been a major backer of BuzzFeed, Pandora, Hootesuite, and Roku not to mention Chinese language app LingoChamp, live entertainment brand Drone Racing League, VR capture startup 8i, and dozens of other media-related startups. Hearst’s ownership in these ventures makes strategic sense: they provide market insights relevant to the core businesses, offer immediate partnership opportunities, and would be strategic acquisition targets that evolve the company’s position in a changing market.

21st Century Fox and Sky Plc (in which 21st Century Fox owns a 39% stake and is trying to acquire outright) have both made a whole slate of startup investments across the media sector in the last few years. In addition to its $100M investment in live-streaming platform Caffeine (announced on September 5) and similarly massive investment in WndrCo’s NewTV venture led by Meg Whitman, Fox has invested repeatedly in sports-centric OTT service fuboTV, hit newsletter brand TheSkimm, VR studio WITHIN, and fantasy sports app Draftkings with Sky often co-investing or building meaningful stakes in international startups like iflix (a leading streaming video service in Southeast Asia and the Middle East).

Since traditional media giants own extensive intellectual property of hit shows, films, and often exclusive rights to popular live events – not to mention established distribution channels to tens or hundreds of millions of people – there are immediate partnerships that can be signed to benefit both a startup and the incumbent. The incumbents often re-invest repeatedly to build their ownership and deepen the alignment between the companies, which rarely happens when media companies invest in marketplace startups.

Tencent’s always-be-evolving model

The new crop of digital media giants that includes Netflix, Snap, VICE, and BuzzFeed aren’t doing much if any strategic investing. Instead they’re keeping focused on growth of their core product offering. The notable exception is China’s Tencent.

In addition to dominating China’s booming messaging app sector with WeChat and QQ, owning 75% market share of music streaming in China, and being the world’s leading games publisher through its own studios (Riot Games, Supercell, etc.) and its minority stakes in Activision Blizzard, Epic Games, and others, Tencent has taken a strategy of investing often and early in promising digital media startups…and it has its tentacles in everything.

Based on Crunchbase data, Tencent has done over 300 investments in startups. It is likely the most active venture investor in China, where most of its portfolio is concentrated, but also backs Western media startups like SoundHound, Wattpad, Spotify, Smule, and Wonder Workshop.

Tencent can give distribution to these upstarts through its vast portfolio of digital properties and it can keep tabs on what new content formats or business models are gaining traction. It operates from a mindset of perpetually evolving, and trying to snatch up startups whose products could be key assets in the future of content creation, distribution, or monetization. This approach is one both old media giants and the next gen of unicorn media startups should consider.

The pace of innovation is moving so fast, and so many new doors are opening up – from subscription streaming and esports to voice interfaces and augmented reality – that corporate venture as a core strategy can unlock opportunities for the organization to evolve early, before it ends up being categorized as “old media”.

UK media giants call for independent oversight of Facebook, YouTube, Twitter

The UK’s leading broadcasters and ISPs have called for the government to introduce independent regulatory oversight of social media content.

The group of media and broadband operators in the tightly regulated industries spans both the state-funded and commercial sector — with the letter to the Sunday Telegraph being inked with signatures from the leaders of the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Sky, BT and TalkTalk.

They argue there’s an “urgent” need for independent oversight of social media, and counter suggestions that such a move would amount to censorship by pointing out that tech companies are already making choices about what to allow (or not) on their platforms.

They are argue independent oversight is necessary to ensure “accountability and transparency” over those decisions, writing: “There is an urgent need for independent scrutiny of the decisions taken, and greater transparency. This is not about censoring the internet, it is about making the most popular internet platforms safer, by ensuring there is accountability and transparency over the decisions these private companies are already taking.”

“We do not think it is realistic or appropriate to expect internet and social media companies to make all the judgment calls about what content is and is not acceptable, without any independent oversight,” they add.

Calls for regulation of social media platforms have been growing from multiple quarters and countries, and politicians clearly feel there is political capital to spend here. (Indeed, Trump’s latest online punchbag is Google.)

Yet policymakers the world over face the challenge of how to regulate platforms that have become so popular and therefore so powerful. (Germany legislated to regulate social media firms over hate speech takedowns last year but it’s in the vanguard of government action.)

The UK government has made a series of proposals around Internet safety in recent years, and the media & telco group argues this is a “golden opportunity” to act against what they describe as “all potential online harms” — further suggesting that “many of which are exacerbated by social media”.

The government is working on a white paper on Internet safety, and the Telegraph says potential interventions currently under private debate include the creation of a body along the lines of the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (which reports to Ofcom), which it says could oversee Facebook, Google and Twitter to decide whether to remove material in response to complaints from users.

The newspaper adds that it is envisaged by proponents of this idea that such a regime would be voluntary but backed with the threat of a legislative crackdown if the online environment does not improve. (The EU has been taking this approach with hate speech takedowns.)

Commenting on the group’s letter, a government spokesperson told the Telegraph: “We have been clear that more needs to be done to tackle online harms. We are committed to further legislation.”

For their part, tech platforms claim they are platforms not publishers.

Yet their algorithms indisputably create hierarchies of information — which they also distribute at vast scale. At the same time they operate their own systems of community standards and content rules, which they enforce (typically imperfectly and inconsistently), via after-the-fact moderation.

The cracks in this facade are very evident — whether it’s a high profile failure such as the Kremlin-backed mass manipulation of Facebook’s platform or this smaller scale but no less telling individual moderation failure. There are very clearly severe limitations to the self-regulation the companies typically enjoy.

Meanwhile, the impacts of bad content decisions and moderation failures are increasingly visible — as a consequence of the the vast scale of (especially) Facebook and Google’s YouTube.

In the UK, a parliamentary committee which has been probing the impact of social media amplified disinformation on democracy recently recommended a third category be created to regulate tech giants that’s not necessarily either a platform or a publisher but which tightens their liabilities.

The committee’s first report, following a long and drama-packed enquiry this year (thanks to the Cambridge Analytica Facebook data misuse scandal), also called for social media firms to be taxed to pay for major investment in the UK’s data protection watchdog so it is better resourced to be able to police data-related malfeasance.

The committee also suggested there should be an education levy also raised off social media firms to pay for the digital literacy skills necessary for citizens to navigate all the stuff being amplified by their platforms.

In their letter to the Sunday Telegraph the group emphasizes their own investment in the UK, whether in the form of tax payments, original content creation or high-speed broadband infrastructure.

Whereas U.S. tech giants stand accused of making lower contributions to national coffers as a result of how they structure their businesses.

The typical tech firm response to tax-related critiques is to say they always pay the tax that is due. But technical compliance with the intricacies of tax law will do nothing to alleviate the reputational damage they could suffer if their businesses become widely perceived as leaching off (rather than contributing to) the nation state.

And that’s the political lever the media firms and ISPs look to be seeking to pull here.

We’ve reached out to Facebook, Twitter and Google for comment.