• FreeWheel: Helping Monetize the Syndicated Video Economy

    Readers of VideoNuze know that for a long time I've been a big proponent of syndication as a key building block for broadband video success. In last week's webinar I explained that I see this trend only accelerating as content providers increasingly shift from aggregating the most eyeballs to accessing the most eyeballs. That means syndicating video far and wide through social networks, portals, broadband aggregators and others is fast-becoming a key success factor.

    Yet aggressive syndication presents a complex set of issues around how to control and optimize the advertising to all those dispersed viewers. Absent the right set of tools to administer each deal's terms, there's a bias toward simplicity and hence, under-optimization. For example, I continually hear that all the broadcasters' syndication deals are 90-10 ad revenue splits. In some cases a plain vanilla approach like this may be fine. More likely though, to have a biz dev person's hands tied to very limited deal terms because of a lack of technology solutions significantly constrains the ecosystem.

    FreeWheel is a new company aimed at unlocking these constraints with its "Monetization Rights Management" or MRM technology platform. MRM is a full ASP platform that empowers content providers' biz dev teams to cut creative revenue/inventory sharing with syndication partners and then have ad sales teams follow through with far more intelligence about how to implement these deals and sell inventory. The result is revenue optimization for all parties. I caught up with CEO Doug Knopper, co-CEO and co-founder of FreeWheel last week to learn more.

    FreeWheel sits on top of existing ad management systems, as a sort of cross between a digital traffic cop and a green eyeshade - dynamically managing and allocating ad inventory, while keeping track of all ads and revenue across the content provider's syndicated network. MRM interfaces to a content provider's and partner's content management system through FreeWheel's API, allowing MRM to implement its predetermined business rules alongside the content being sent to partners. Clearly there's a huge network affect opportunity for FreeWheel - the more partners its early content provider customers get to implement MRM, the easier FreeWheel's sale will be to subsequent content providers.

    FreeWheel reminds me a lot of Signiant, which I wrote about recently. Signiant is more focused on content distribution in a syndicated economy, while FreeWheel is focused on ad management. But both companies share a common purpose of greasing the skids for both content providers and distributors to play ball with each other with the intention of driving more video views and advertising revenue.

    FreeWheel has signed up Next New Networks, Joost and Jumpstart Automotive Media as initial clients. The company was founded by three former DoubleClick executives, has 40 employees and has raised 2 rounds from Battery Ventures, though the total is undisclosed.