• Inside FreeWheel’s Acquisition of French SSP StickyADS.tv

    FreeWheel has acquired Paris-based video supply-side platform StickyADS.tv, for an undisclosed sum, the companies announced this morning. StickyADS.tv is one of the largest independent SSPs and has a team of approximately 100, including a beachhead in the U.S. that was established last Fall. The companies have been working together since last year, including an integration when StickyADS.tv was one of the initial SSPs to join FreeWheel’s Preferred Partners program.

    FreeWheel’s co-CEO and co-founder Doug Knopper told me that the acquisition was in direct response to customers’ requests to have a single platform to manage both video ads that are direct sold and those that are transacted programmatically. FreeWheel’s customers are among the biggest broadcasters, cable networks and online publishers, and while Doug said direct sold still accounts for the vast majority of inventory for its customers, they recognize how critical programmatic has become and are aggressively positioning themselves for the future.

    In fact, FreeWheel was already down the road building its own SSP capability when it decided the buy strategy was the better route. StickyADS.tv gives FreeWheel a stronger presence in Europe, which is a key growth market for the company, while also beefing up its programmatic and private market capabilities in the U.S. where FreeWheel is already widely adopted. Despite now owning its own SSP, Doug said FreeWheel will continue to integrate with other SSPs per customer requests, just as StickyADS.tv will continue to integrate with other ad servers.

    Doug noted that FreeWheel itself expects 30-40% of video ads to be transacted programmatically within the next few years and wanted to ensure it was serving customers properly. One of the things Doug said StickyADS.tv had done particularly well was integrating with demand-side platforms (over 90 to date), which immediately accrues to FreeWheel’s customers’ benefit.

    Doug also noted how pivotal having Comcast, with its resources and capabilities, was to completing the deal. FreeWheel itself was acquired by Comcast just over 2 years ago, and Doug said Comcast supported the StickyADS.tv deal with a full corporate development team. FreeWheel will pass 500 employees this quarter, up from 180 when the Comcast deal was done.