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.
A viewer finds an online video, clicks play and increasingly, expects a TV-like experience. Hundreds of millions of times per day around the world, this sequence of events happens, and it's only growing in frequency. While surging demand is great for the overall ecosystem, network providers / broadband ISPs are continually struggling to keep up with spiraling traffic, pressed to invest in their networks to create more capacity while still maintaining a strong ROI.
Therefore, any incremental improvement in networks' efficiency in delivering video traffic can quickly add up to huge cost savings, and that's exactly what Qwilt, which has raised another $16 million (led by Bessemer Venture Partners and bringing to $40 million total raised to date), does. Qwilt is in the "transparent caching" business, with networks deploying the company's software solution on off-the-shelf hardware at the edge of their networks to deliver the thin slice of most-frequently viewed video to their users.
Last Friday afternoon, Hulu's owners Disney, Fox and NBCU/Comcast (note NBCU/Comcast is a passive owner) announced that they wouldn't be selling Hulu, despite an active bidding process. Instead, the companies will retain their interests and plan to invest $750 million in Hulu to grow it. Although the principal reason for the sale was a disagreement over Hulu's business strategy, the announcement said Fox and Disney are "fully aligned in our collective vision and goals for the business (although what they actually are were not disclosed).
This was the second time a Hulu sale failed to materialize and I believe that once again, the reason was that Hulu's owners realized "you can't have your cake and eat it too." Translation: Disney and Fox wanted to retain all kinds of content rights and flexibility, yet still wanted a very high valuation for the business. Since Hulu's next-day broadcast rights are at the core of its valuation, Disney and Fox's attempt to chip away at them led bidders to reduce what they were willing to pay, obviously beyond the level at which Fox and Disney felt it was still worthwhile selling the business.
I'm pleased to present the 187th edition of the VideoNuze weekly podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia. During the short July 4th week news broke that Samsung acquired Boxee. Today, we discuss whether the deal makes sense and how much Samsung could benefit. Colin believes that Samsung will benefit by being able to integrate live broadcast TV more seamlessly into its Smart TVs, something that has been missing to date, but which Boxee excelled at with its Boxee TV service.
While that would be a step forward, it feels to me like a relatively limited value proposition, since cable TV networks wouldn't be included unless a CableCARD slot was available. Even as a second TV in the home as Colin proposes, a Samsung/Boxee Smart TV seems like it would have limited appeal, due to the rise of tablet-based viewing and the ability to access broadcast TV via Hulu, network sites/apps, pay-TV operator apps, etc. (a larger question raised is whether 2nd TVs have much of a future themselves).
While Colin and I agree that the rumored $30 million purchase price for Boxee is a drop in the bucket for a goliath like Samsung, it's not clear yet how much of a return they'll get.
Listen in to learn more!
Click here to listen to the podcast (19 minutes, 52 seconds)
Final bidding was scheduled to close last Friday in the Hulu sale process, with the list of potential buyers apparently narrowed to DirecTV, Chernin Group/AT&T and Guggenheim Digital Media. According to various reports (here and here), Hulu's active owners Disney and Fox (Comcast is a passive owner) have been insisting on a number of content licensing related deal points.
Hulu's next-day access to its 3 broadcast owners' hit shows has always been the heart of the company's value proposition. But a lot has changed in the online video landscape since Hulu was initially formed in March, 2007. As a result, in my view, there are at least 3 key reasons Hulu's owners are justified in bargaining hard over content licensing rights: the importance of TV Everywhere, the growth of well-funded over-the-top licensees and the potential of online video advertising. Following, I delve into each.
Innovid has raised an $11 million series C round from existing investors Sequioa Capital, Genesis Partners and T-Ventures, along with new investor Vintage Investment Partners. With the new round, the company has raised $27.6 million to date. Innovid CEO and co-founder Zvika Netter told me the company experienced a very strong Q3 and Q4 in 2012, contributing to 450% year-over-year growth. The new financing will help the company expand its ad platform beyond online, mobile and tablet to also reach connected TVs, game consoles, VOD and broadcast.
Innovid's technology platform allows advertisers to integrate interactive elements into their pre-roll video ads, increasingly the likelihood of engagement and improving ROI. As Innovid's iRoll gallery shows, these can include social sharing, links to mini-sites, special offers/commerce, supplementary content, etc. Interactivity is added to the ads easily through the iRoll Studio. Innovid also offers ad serving and advanced analytics that track exactly how users engage with the interactive elements.
Taboola has raised another $15 million, led by Pitango VC, bringing its total to date to $40 million. The Series D financing comes just 9 months after raising its last round of $10 million. Taboola will use the new funds for continued international expansion and product development. CEO and founder Adam Singolda told me the company has 70 employees currently and plans to double in size by the end of 2013.
Taboola's roots are in providing recommendations for content providers to better promote their own video within their sites and also for third-party video to gain wider, targeted distribution. Over the past year Taboola has also leveraged its underlying EngageRank recommendations technology to quietly begin distributing article recommendations as well (I noticed these last month on WSJ.com).
Anyone working in or around the video ad tech space knows how incredibly crowded and well-funded it is. So, when a couple of weeks ago I noticed that a company I was only mildly familiar with, Altitude Digital, announced it had raised $5 million, I was intrigued. While not a blockbuster-sized round, financings of this size signal that the investors, after having done their customary due diligence, see some "white space" still available to operate in. To learn more, I recently spoke to Devin Yeager, Altitude's COO, and Joe Salvador, VP of Video Operations.
Denver-based Altitude started up about 4 years ago as a display ad rep firm, but 2 years ago began building its own technology. More recently, Altitude has expanded into video, creating a new division called Visualtising. As a whole, the company is now processing about 12 billion display and video ad impressions per month. Altitude currently has 20 employees and is looking to double in size this year. It was also #54 ranked on Inc. 5000 list last year. Expanding Visualtising is the main purpose of the new financing.
Welcome to 2013! If you were mostly checked out over the past 1-2 weeks (or were only paying attention to the fiscal cliff roller coaster), you didn't miss a whole lot in the video world. However, there were 5 items that caught my attention which I briefly describe below:
It may be a fool's errand to question the thinking of an investor who's worth $14 billion, but after listening to Bloomberg's interview with Carl Icahn yesterday (embedded below) concerning his newly disclosed 10% stake in Netflix, it's hard not to conclude his understanding of the company is a mile wide and an inch deep. Unless he has some big vision for the company up his sleeve that he's not disclosing, Icahn seems more interested in a short-term bet on driving Netflix into a larger company's arms, than in positively influencing Netflix's murky strategic direction.
RAMP, which helps media companies optimize video discovery, has raised a $15 million Series C round, led by StarVest Partners, plus new investors Hearst Interactive Media and EDBI and including existing investors. With the financing, RAMP has raised $40 million to date. Funds are intended to pursue the enterprise market and also for international expansion.
Categories: Deals & Financings
Visible Measures, which provides video analytics and operates the Viewable Media video ad network, has raised another $21.5 million, led by DAG Ventures and including existing investors. The funds will be used to drive adoption of the company's products.
Visible Measures' CEO Brian Shin said that the company will achieve 300% revenue growth in 2012, for the second year in a row. That strong growth is aided by the April, 2011 launch of Viewable Media, the company's video ad network that is based on its core analytics platform. Viewable Media differentiates itself as performance-based and positions video ads as content that users can choose from on publishers' web pages. The company said that over one hundred brands and agencies have adopted Viewable Media since launch.
Video recommendations provider Taboola has announced a $10 million Series C financing this morning led by Marker LLC. With the new round, total capital raised to date is $24 million. Proceeds will be used for international expansion and product development.
Taboola's EngageRank now delivers 500 million recommendations per day to 130 million monthly users for publishers such as WSJ, NY Times, CNN, The Hollywood Reporter, USA Today and others. Monthly users have doubled since last November, when Taboola had 64 million users in the U.S. User growth likely reflects increased penetration with U.S. publishers, and also international growth in countries such as Germany (where Taboola recently announced a deal with OMS, a consortium of 30 newspapers), England, Israel, Brazil, France and Poland.
This week, Avail-TVN made a big splash at the Cable Show, announcing a $100 million financing from The Carlyle Group and the acquisition of the UK-based On Demand Group. As CEO Ramu Potarazu tells me in this interview, Avail-TVN isn't a household name, but it has become one of the most important players in distributing digital video globally. Ramu describes how complex the landscape has become for both content providers and service providers on the other and what roles Avail-TV has in the digital video value chain. He also touches on the disruption that is coming to the digital video advertising space due to dynamic insertion. Watch the video (8 minutes, 35 seconds).
Categories: Deals & Financings