Comcast has acquired video ad manager FreeWheel for $375 million cash, validating reports that have been circulating since the weekend, but at a higher valuation than rumored. The deal is subject to customary regulatory approvals and is expected to close in a couple of weeks. FreeWheel will become an independent operating subsidiary within Comcast, comparable to how thePlatform and STRATA, two prior Comcast acquisitions, function. FreeWheel's 3 co-founders, Doug Knopper, Jon Heller and Diane Yu have signed multi-year employment agreements.
Rovi is acquiring Veveo, a search and recommendations technology provider for video and mobile/connected devices, for $62 million cash plus $7 million in incentive payments. In a briefing, John Moakley, Rovi's EVP of Data Solutions, explained that Veveo's search and recommendations are attractive as a compliment to Rovi's core metadata and analytics solutions. Rovi has been working on its own search and recommendations capabilities which Veveo will now augment. John sees the combined end-to-end product as leapfrogging other solutions in the market.
I'm pleased to present the 214th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia. Note the interesting coincidence that we're publishing our 214th podcast on 2-14-14; hopefully it's some sort of good omen :-)
In today's podcast Colin and I parse the $45 billion Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger, announced yesterday. As I wrote, I see the deal as all about helping Comcast achieve further scale that is required in order to succeed in today's video environment. Colin notes that after TWC's bruising battle with CBS, during which it lost hundreds of thousands of subscribers, the merger will shift some power away from broadcast and cable networks.
We also discuss regulatory issues, net neutrality, the companies' bet that cord-cutting won't accelerate any time soon and lots more. There are many angles to the merger, which we'll continue discussing as the merger review unfolds.
Listen in to learn more!
Click here to listen to the podcast (22 minutes, 7 seconds)
It looks like Apple will be the first casualty of the Comcast-TWC deal. Just yesterday Bloomberg reported that Apple was negotiating with TWC for it to become the first pay-TV operator to make its programming accessible in a new, upgraded Apple TV device. Assuming the report is accurate (and who knows, given the spin game TWC was playing to rebuff Charter's bid), it's pretty fair to say that Comcast will have no interest in Apple getting its nose under the TWC tent.
Comcast has announced that it will acquire Time Warner Cable in an all-stock transaction valued at $45.2 billion. Comcast is already the biggest video and broadband provider in the U.S. and will now get even bigger, assuming the deal is approved. Comcast has committed to divest around 3 million of TWC's video subscribers to stay below 30% of the total U.S. pay-TV market, so the combined company would have approximately 30M video subscribers. Broadband subscribers would be a little less than 30M.
For me, the big takeaway from the deal is that in the broadband era, scale matters a lot - and to compete effectively, a company simply has to have it. Nearly ubiquitous broadband and wireless connectivity, plus massive proliferation of devices, have enabled online-only players to have easy access to massive global audiences. This context has helped fuel the rise of companies including Google, Facebook, Amazon, YouTube, Netflix, Twitter and many others. With innovative services and solid execution, it's now possible to create huge businesses quicker than ever.
Online video platform Kaltura has raised $47 million, bringing its total capital raised to date to approximately $100 million. The round was led by new investors SAP Ventures, Nokia Growth Partners, Commonfund Capital and Gera Ventures, along with participation from existing investors. Kaltura plans to use the new funding for product development and to expand internationally in Brazil, Mexico, China, Japan, Australia, Singapore and Korea.
Categories: Deals & Financings
Extreme Reach has closed its $485 million acquisition of DG's TV ad business, approximately 6 months after announcing the deal. Extreme Reach's CEO and co-founder John Roland told me this morning that all DG customers are being transferred to Extreme Reach's cloud-based delivery platform. The combined company will have $270 million in revenues and 750+ employees.
As John explained, while the short-term tactical benefit of the deal is to gain significant scale in the core business of delivering TV ads to over 7K different broadcast TV stations in North America, the longer-term, more strategic play is to better position Extreme Reach for the fast-approaching era of multi-screen advertising.
Jivox, a multi-screen interactive ad technology provider, has raised a $5.8 million Series C financing. The round was led by Fortisure Ventures, with participation by Shah Capital and existing investors Opus Capital and Helion Advisors. Jivox intends to use the financing to grow its sales and marketing plus further build out its Jivox IQ video ad creation/management platform.
TiVo's acquisition of Digitalsmiths for $135 million, announced yesterday, is further evidence of the cloud's increasingly important role in powering video discovery on TVs and devices. According to Jeff Klugman, TiVo's EVP/GM of Products/Revenue, who shared background on the deal with me, Digitalsmiths' leading cloud-based content discovery and recommendations technology will give TiVo greater flexibility to serve pay-TV operators with branded and white label solutions independent of TiVo's hardware.
When Google drops $3.2 billion in cash on an acquisition, as it did yesterday with Nest Labs, maker of the Nest self-learning thermostat, you know there are some big, long-term visions playing in the background.
Most of the reviews I've read involve the companies capitalizing on the still nascent "Internet of things," where all devices are intelligently connected, exchanging valuable information that improves our lives. Even though Google and Nest were pretty vague in their joint announcement, I more or less buy into this rationale for the acquisition.
But, looking at the deal through my video-centric prism, I can also see some interesting possibilities coming from a tight integration between Nest and Chromecast, Google's hot-selling connected TV device.
Free, short-form mobile video news is becoming a hot area of focus for established media companies. The latest evidence is this morning's announcement by NBCUniversal News Group of a minority investment in NowThis News as part of a broader content development collaboration involving all of NBC's news brands.
The investment follows the December acquisition of leading short-form mobile video news creator Newsy by E.W. Scripps for $35 million. That deal followed the launch by the New York Times, in late November, of the "New York Times Minute," a 3 times per day 1 minute video compilation of 3 top news stories of the moment which itself came on top of many other new video offerings from the Times. Meanwhile, in late December News Corp. acquired Storyful for $25 million to accelerate the use of short user-generated video in its and others' reporting.
And all of these follow numerous clip-oriented video news initiatives by a wide range of established and earlier-stage news organizations across both general and vertical subject areas (e.g. sports, entertainment, travel, etc.).
Aereo announced late yesterday that it has raised $34 million in Series C financing. Adding to the $20.5 million in its Series A and $38 million in its Series B, Aereo has now raised a total of $92.5 million. The new funding will support Aereo's ongoing regional rollouts, plus new hiring and technology. Of note, the new financing includes Gordon Crawford, a well-known media investor, whose involvement certainly gives Aereo further credibility.
Aereo is currently live in 10 markets, and said yesterday it plans to be live in 15 by the end of Q1. That's a downward revision from its expansion plan announced a year ago, which was to be in 22 cities by the end of 2013. Last September Aereo announced technical issues delayed its Chicago launch and hasn't updated when that area will go live.
Brightcove announced this morning that it is acquiring Unicorn Media for approximately $49 million, a savvy move to expand into cloud-based video ad insertion, which is particularly beneficial for mobile devices.
Unicorn has differentiated itself by enabling content providers to dynamically insert ads in the cloud, rather than in the video player. By "stitching" ads in the cloud, Unicorn obviates some of the major issues in video ad insertion today, including delays and buffering caused by the video player switching between content and ad playback. These diminish the user experience, in turn causing abandonment which hurts overall consumption and monetization.
Newsy, which creates short-form video news segments that are syndicated to major third-party online publishers, has been acquired by E.W. Scripps for $35 million in cash. According to the announcement, Scripps was attracted to Newsy for its approach to curating news, its national brand, potential to enhance content from Scripps' 17 local TV stations and the growth potential of online video. Newsy will operate as a wholly owned subsidiary in Columbia, MO.
I've been a big Newsy fan and recently met up with its CEO and founder Jim Spencer and VP of Marketing Alexandra Wharton. Newsy has a very interesting approach to creating original content, but not doing original reporting. That means it doesn't send reporters out to the field, but rather curates the best video and text news from multiple sources, writes its own scripts and creates its own graphics, capturing the essence of stories in under 2 minutes. All underlying sources are clearly identified and have links back to them.
Clearleap has raised a new round of $20 million led by Susquehanna Growth to help accelerate TV Everywhere deployments by content providers and pay-TV operators both domestically and internationally. With the new financing, Clearleap has raised $36 million to date. Clearleap plans to hire 150 employees over the next 18 months.
Teads.tv, a provider of innovative video ad units, has raised $5.2 million in a Series A round by Partech Venture and Elaia Partners. As I wrote several months ago, Teads' big differentiator is that it enables premium text-based web pages to carry video ads as well. So in other words, rather than a premium publisher having to create expensive video in order to tap into the booming demand for online video ads, it can monetize existing web pages this way. the video ads only become visible when a pre-determined about of content has been consumed. Teads ads can also run in slideshows, music, video and social media.
The Internet is awash in free videos to watch. For consumers, that's been great news as there are more choices available today than ever. For independent content creators, the Internet offers an unparalleled opportunity to build audience and visibility. The problem is that for these creators, actually making money online has remained a tough nut to crack.
Now, a startup named LittleCast is giving content creators an easy way to sell their videos, via Facebook and in iOS and Android mobile apps. CEO Amra Tareen explained to me that the process is pretty straightforward - content creators just upload their videos to LittleCast and decide how much to charge. LittleCast transcodes the video into various formats and HD/SD resolutions and stores them in the cloud. They can then be published in LittleCast's media player on Facebook and in the mobile apps.
TV advertising and online video advertising are taking a big step toward being integrated today, as a result of a deal that Extreme Reach has struck to acquire DG's TV ad business for $485 million.
The deal brings under one roof the 2 big operators of networks that deliver ads to TV stations. In its latest annual report, DG said it delivers ads to approximately 5,900 broadcast and cable TV stations from 7,400 different media agencies. Earlier this year Extreme Reach told me that it delivers ads to 7,000 TV stations on behalf of 3,000 different agencies and advertisers. With the deal, DG will re-focus its efforts exclusively on online advertising, via its MediaMind platform, which it acquired in July 2011, along with numerous other smaller online advertising assets.
More interesting here for observers of the online video advertising space is that Extreme Reach will be in an even stronger position to pursue its strategic priority of integrating the delivery, tracking and reporting of "TV" ads and "online video" ads. I'm using quotes, because, as consumers have massively adopted connected/mobile devices and then use them to view premium video content, the distinction between the terms "TV" and "online" is becoming less meaningful. In other words, video is video, regardless of consumption device.
I'm pleased to present the 191st edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
This was a big week for online video advertising, with 3 key milestones: AOL's acquisition of Adap.tv for $405 million (the biggest of CEO Tim Armstrong's tenure), YuMe's IPO, and Tremor Video reporting solid 2nd quarter results, in its first quarter as a public company.
As I explained earlier this week, the success of AOL-Adap.tv is riding on 3 key market trends, the shift from linear TV style viewing to anywhere/anytime/any device viewing, the democratization of video production and distribution which has led to a plethora of online originals, and the influence of technology in the ad buying/selling process. AOL is seeking to capitalize on all this through Adap.tv's programmatic platform.
Meanwhile Tremor Video, whose stock has had a bumpy start since the company went public in early July, posted a strong 2nd quarter, with revenue growing by 41% year-over-year. As CEO Bill Day explained on the earnings call, key to this was a focus on premium performance-based in-stream video advertising, which grew from 20% of revenue in Q2 '12 to 34% in Q2 '13. Mobile was also a big contributor to the quarter, rising from 4% of revenue to 13% of revenue. Bill noted the company is highly focused on providing transparency and analytics around traditional brand metrics such as brand lift, engagement, completion rates, etc. to engage buyers.
More broadly, as Colin observes, online video is giving brands and content providers more flexibility to insert product placements and other deep product integration. I agree, though for the foreseeable future, I see the vast majority of online video ad revenue coming from more traditional pre-, mid- and post-roll advertising.
Click here to listen to the podcast (18 minutes, 57 seconds)
(Note: YuMe and Tremor Video's VideoHub are VideoNuze sponsors)
This morning AOL announced its biggest acquisition to date under CEO Tim Armstrong, buying Adap.tv for $405 million. The deal says volumes about the future of video generally and video advertising in particular. It also underscores the key role that AOL intends to play in helping shape the future.
To understand the deal, it's important to understand 3 of the most important trends in video today: 1) the shift from linear TV / living room viewing to anytime/anywhere/any device viewing, 2) the democratization of video production and distribution enabled by online delivery and 3) the growing importance of technology/data in the ad buying/selling process. Taken together, these trends portend a future of of massively scaled, yet highly personalized video viewing, monetized through targeted, higher-impact advertising.