What in the World—Week of January 9

Sony unveils accessible controller

Sony has introduced a new accessible game controller for its PlayStation 5 game system developed in collaboration with accessibility experts and game developers.

According to a blog post, the highly customizable controller—which is codenamed Project Leonardo—includes a “robust kit” of swappable components, including analogue stick caps and buttons in different shapes and sizes. “It is built to address common challenges faced by many players with limited motor control, including difficulty holding a controller for long periods, accurately pressing small clusters of buttons or triggers, or positioning thumbs and fingers optimally on a standard controller,” says Sony.

Users can set up a “wide array” of control layouts while the distance of the analogue stick from the control pad can also be adjusted. “These components allow players to find a configuration that works for their strength, range of motion, and particular physical needs,” the company says.

Netflix seeing broad marketing support for ad tier

Netflix’s new ad-supported tier is performing well in its early days, with interest from a broad range of advertiser categories, says TechCrunch.

Speaking at Variety’s Entertainment Summit at CES last week, Netflix president of worldwide advertising, Jeremi Gorman said the streaming service has attracted ads from a broad assortment of categories, including CPG, luxury, automotive, and retail. She also said that the diversity of advertisers is good for viewers, since they won’t be forced to endure multiple ads from a single category.

While some advertisers have grumbled about what one called “Super Bowl CPMs,” Gorman said that the pricing is reflective of both limited ad inventory and its “premium content environment.” Between 85% and 95% of the streaming service’s content is currently available on the ad tier, she said.

Automakers optimistic after dismal sales in 2022
New car sales in the U.S. hit a low not seen since 2011 last year, although automakers are cautiously optimistic that the market is poised to rebound in 2023.

New vehicle sales totalled between 13.7 million and 13.9 million in 2022, representing a roughly 8% to 9% year-over-year drop, according to CNBC. A typical year before the pandemic produced sales of more than 17 million.

GM was an outlier with a 2.5% sales gain, but automakers like Ford, Hyundai and Kia all reported low single-digit declines, while Stellantis (formerly Fiat Chrysler), Nissan, and Honda reported drops of 13%, 25%, and 29.4% respectively.

The reason for the optimism is two-fold: parts and supply chain issues that were key contributors to lower sales, while demand from consumers and businesses has increased after inventories tightened during the pandemic.

Twitter to begin accepting political ads after three-year ban

Faced with major advertiser defections—with more than half of its top 100 advertisers having left the platform since it was taken over by Elon Musk—Twitter announced last week that it plans to “expand the political advertising” permitted on the platform in coming weeks, says Quartz.

The service is also relaxing its U.S. policy pertaining to cause-based advertising. In a tweet last week, the company said it will align its advertising policy with that of TV and other media. “As with all policy changes, we will first ensure that our approach to reviewing and approving content protects people on Twitter,” it said.

Former chief executive Jack Dorsey suspended all political advertising on Twitter in 2019, saying at the time that “political message reach should be earned, not bought.” The move was considered largely symbolic, since Twitter didn’t attract much political advertising.

European regulators slap Meta with $400 million in fines

Regulators in the European Union have fined Meta hundreds of millions of dollars for privacy violations, and have banned it from forcing users in its 27 member countries to agree to receive personalized advertising based on their online activity.

AP News reported last week that Ireland’s Data Protection Commission—which is Meta’s lead European data privacy regulator—imposed two fines totalling US$414 million in a pair of cases that could “shake up” Meta’s business model. The fines involved its Facebook and Instagram platforms, while another decision involving its WhatsApp messenger service is expected this month. The company plans to appeal.

Meta also faces what AP calls “regulatory headaches” from EU antitrust officials in Brussels, who last month accused it of distorting competition in classified ads.

Chris Powell