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Alphabet Tracker: Eyes On TV, Ride Share

It’s been an interesting month for Alphabet stock (GOOG). After a rise of over 6 percent in the first month of 2017 to hit a high of $858.45, stocks slid down following a Q4 earnings report whose bottom line missed analysts’ consensus.

Alphabet saw its fourth-quarter profit grow in the mid-single digit percentages to $9.36, under the expected $9.64. Sales growth lagged by as much as 22 percent to $26.1 billion. By the beginning of February, shares were down to below $816. While not terribly low by any means, the slip brought GOOG stock below values seen in October of last year.

GOOG then spent the month of February climbing back up. As the calendar turned to March, GOOG was trading in the 830s once more. At the time of writing, GOOG was at $855.32, up 1.23 percent from Tuesday’s close. Alphabet’s current market cap sat just over $580 billion.

First up, Google is taking steps to address advertiser concerns over transparency. The company recently announced that both its ad platforms and YouTube would undergo an audit by Integral Ad Science, Moat and Double Verify for accreditation by the Media Rating Council — the industry group that creates the standards that advertisers buy media against.

“Transparency and trust are the core principles of our measurement strategy,” wrote Senior Director of Product Management, Measurement and Analytics Solution Babak Pahlavan in a company blog post. “We strongly believe in the need for third-party accreditation through the Media Rating Council (MRC)…We currently maintain over 30 MRC accreditations across display and video, desktop and mobile web, mobile apps and clicks, plays, impressions and viewability.”

The announcement from Google comes a few weeks after a similar move by Facebook, following controversy over inflated video metrics. Google’s ad technology platform DoubleClick is already accredited, the company said, along with many others.

With the push by digital marketers for greater transparency around ad data, additional accreditation can only work in Google’s favor — especially since the company recently announced a new YouTube TV service.

That’s right. Google subsidiary YouTube is going after cable television. The move looks to fight back against cord-cutting millennials who have spent the past few years ditching traditional cable providers for internet streaming services.

For the networks signing on to YouTube TV, the goal seems to be to regain their younger audiences by bringing content to where they’ll actually watch in a format they prefer. For Google and YouTube, it’s all about growing that advertising revenue.

“We’re bringing the best of the YouTube experience to live TV,” wrote the company in a blog post. “To do this, we’ve worked closely with our network and affiliate partners to evolve TV for the way we watch today. Meet YouTube TV. It’s live TV designed for the YouTube generation — those who want to watch what they want, when they want, how they want, without commitments.”

For $35 dollars each month, users will have access to live broadcasts and cable channels. The service reportedly includes Cloud DVR, allowing users to save an unlimited number of shows without having to eye storage. The user interface looks like a combination of a traditional cable experience and a personalized media experience à la Netflix or Hulu and allows cable streaming on mobile devices.

YouTube isn’t the only Google offshoot grabbing for market share in a major industry. Google-owned traffic and navigation app Waze is reportedly gearing up to expand its carpool service to cities in the U.S. and Latin America, said The Wall Street Journal.

Back in the summer of 2015, Waze began testing a carpooling pilot program in Tel Aviv, Israel. Testing then moved stateside to San Francisco in May of 2016. Seeing success in the pilot, Google then launched a full-blown Waze ridesharing service in the Bay Area.

Now, Google is positioning itself to compete with the likes of Uber and Lyft on the international rideshare market.

“If we were a startup, we couldn’t afford to take these sorts of long-term bets. With Google, we can,” Waze Chief Noam Bardin was quoted as saying. “And maybe at the end of the day, instead of a neighbor picking you up, a robot picks you up.”

Along with being connected via Google to a front-runner in the race to create autonomous vehicles (namely, Waymo), Waze may have some other advantages over the incumbent rideshare providers. The navigation company already has a pre-existing user base of some 80 million active users, said the WSJ. Additionally, Waze has years of app-sourced driving and optimized navigation data at their disposal.

It certainly doesn’t hurt that the current price of a ride with Waze is considerably less than competitor rates. A ride from downtown Oakland to downtown San Francisco reportedly cost some customers $4.50 on Waze’s Carpool platform — less than half of what the same trip would cost with Uber or Lyft.

Still, the pricing could easily change or become more variable as the service expands in scope — and with expansion come the regulatory issues that all other rideshare companies have had to face. While pushing out to more cities is a goal of Waze, the company has yet to release official word on which world cities are next in line.

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