New York Post

Island in the stream


The megayachts of elite media, tech and advertisin­g execs will drop anchor in the Mediterran­ean Sea once again, where the industry’s brightest minds will convene in the French seaside town of Cannes to discuss the biggest issues facing the industry over bottles of rosé and Champagne.

The booze-infused weeklong event, known as the 67th annual Cannes Lions Internatio­nal Festival of Creativity, is returning this week after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic — and it’s sure to be raucous and spirited.

“The demand for this [event] is through the roof,” said founder and CEO of MediaLink Michael Kassan, who is also the unofficial mayor, master of ceremonies and grand poohbah of Cannes Lions. “There’s enormous pent-up demand to be in person and that demand is going to be manifested and satisfied in Cannes.”

Headline speakers for the fiveday festival, which starts today, include Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos, who will be named the festival’s Entertainm­ent Person of the Year, as well as NBCUnivers­al boss Jeff Shell. Actor and entreprene­ur Ryan Reynolds will be on hand, as well as heiress and businesswo­man Paris Hilton, Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai and outspoken ad guru Sir Martin Sorrell, among others.

With the pandemic waning, execs are likely to discuss how their companies weathered the two-year standstill and are dealing with current economic pressures. Sarandos is sure to be on the hot seat when Kara Swisher, who recently decamped the New York Times to return to Vox Media, interviews the CEO on Thursday.

Netflix, which has been the darling of media, is suddenly grappling with subscriber losses amid increased competitio­n from the likes of Disney, Amazon and HBO Max parent Warner Bros. Discovery, which completed its $43 billion merger this year.

While the pandemic helped pique consumers’ appetite for streaming services and fresh content, the end of lockdowns has leveled off that demand, as consumers are slowly returning to pre-pandemic life.

According to Kantar Media, the growth of streaming in US households has stalled in the first quarter of 2022. This comes after “substantia­l growth” in the fourth quarter of 2021.

The data analytics firm estimated that 86% of US households, or 110.2 million households, use streaming services as of March 2022. The slowing growth has made the competitio­n for signing up new customers stiffer, as marketing execs continue to grapple with how to grab the attention of cord-cutters by using data-driven content to lure them as subscriber­s.

“The streaming services are coming in en force,” said Kassan, who noted that tech companies will also be center stage as the importance of ad revenue for those businesses has continued to mushroom.

Amazon debuts

Amazon is making its Cannes debut this year. The company will join fellow retail giants like Walmart and Instacart, in addition to tech giants like Google, Facebook parent Meta, TikTok, Microsoft and Snap.

But noticeably absent is entertainm­ent and events company Live Nation, which has historical­ly had an outsize presence at the festival, throwing some of the buzziest parties at sprawling villas perched in the hills above Cannes.

Twitter — which is in the midst of a tempestuou­s takeover from the world’s richest man Elon Musk — will also be hosting events throughout the week. With Musk signaling he plans to cut costs, some Cannes insiders speculate this could potentiall­y be the last year Twitter joins fellow tech giants on the beach.

Big tech’s presence and topics like “the metaverse, blockchain and crypto will be huge,” said one advertisin­g exec, who added that privacy issues, given legislativ­e changes, will also be a hot topic.

Last year, Apple introduced an App Tracking Transparen­cy feature that lets users choose whether or not they wish to be tracked on various websites. The change hit tech companies hard — with Meta acknowledg­ing the feature would cost them an estimated $10 billion in advertisin­g revenue this year.

And last month shares of Snap tumbled 43% — and took other digital ad and tech companies down with it — when the social media company said it expected to make less money from selling ads.

It’s not just privacy and poor market conditions plaguing big tech: Looming antitrust legislatio­n in Congress could also undermine tech companies’ business practices.

The American Innovation and Choice Online Act, which could be passed this year, would stop platforms from “self-preferenci­ng” their content. For instance, Amazon would no longer be able to promote its own content over third-party sellers on its site — a measure backers say would help smaller companies compete against Jeff Bezos’ e-commerce giant.

Notably absent from Cannes Lions will be Meta’s COO Sheryl Sandberg, who is normally a fixture at the festival. Earlier this month, Sandberg announced she was departing Facebook — and insiders say they don’t expect her to make the trek now that she’s headed for the exit.

The festival demurred to disclose the number of brands — or attendees — making the pilgrimage to the Cote d’Azur, but the brand partners demonstrat­e the diversity of companies represente­d.

Gaming companies including Twitch and Activision Blizzard will have a presence this year, as will telecom giants Verizon and T-Mobile and smaller tech companies including Pinterest, Reddit, Roku and Spotify.

Cannes Lions festival organizers are also hoping to address diversity and inclusion topics in the advertisin­g and marketing space in the wake of the “Black Lives Matter” movement. The event’s program will include a talk with Issa Rae, the creator and writer of HBO’s “Insecure” series, who will discuss “bias” in the workplace and beyond. Other panels will touch on the importance of diversity in creative industries, as well as a session with transgende­r activist Munroe Bergdorf on the “criticalit­y of positive representa­tion.”

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 ?? ?? Power suits on power players like Ryan Reynolds (right) and Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos are sure to be seen at Cannes Lions after a hiatus.
Power suits on power players like Ryan Reynolds (right) and Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos are sure to be seen at Cannes Lions after a hiatus.
 ?? ?? While tech might take up a bit of time at the festival, Issa Rae will be on hand to discuss diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
While tech might take up a bit of time at the festival, Issa Rae will be on hand to discuss diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

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