• Cognitive Networks Raises $14.5 Million to Expand Smart TV ACR Platform

    Cognitive Networks has raised $14.5 million from new investor Hearst Ventures, existing investors DCM Ventures and Rogers Venture Partners plus two undisclosed strategic partners, to bolster its mission of "making smart TVs smarter." Cognitive's Automatic Content Recognition (ACR) on smart TVs detects in real-time what content is playing and then, via Cognitive's ENGAGE API, triggers a message back to the content provider or advertiser so that an interactive HTML5 app can be displayed to the viewer. The apps can be synched with either live or on-demand content and are fully opt-out by smart TV owners. The new funds will be used to further expand Cognitive's ACR platform.

    To date, Cognitive has announced that it is deployed with LG smart TVs, and that is working with two other, undisclosed "industry giants." As the prices of smart TVs have fallen, forecasts for their adoption have been raised. eMarketer, for example, believes there will be nearly 50 million smart TV users in the U.S. by the end of 2014, growing to nearly 79 million by the end of 2018. Smart TVs are also being helped by the introduction of 4K TV and greater content selection.

    These would be large addressable markets for Cognitive. The key to success will be striking deals with TV OEMs and then gaining adoption by TV networks and advertisers. It's not yet clear what viewers' reactions to these synched apps will be. But with the new funds, Cognitive looks well-positioned to benefit as the market takes shape.