Tuesday, March 17, 2020, 12:06 PM ET|Posted by Will Richmond
In all the virus craziness of the past few days, I didn’t have an opportunity to share an update on WURL, which last week announced key growth metrics for its first full year of operations. WURL is benefiting from all of the key trends around connected TVs (CTVs), CTV advertising, programmatic, direct-to-consumer and cord-cutting.
WURL offers a solution to ad-supported video providers and producers to efficiently deliver their live, linear and VOD content onto all of the most popular CTV devices. This is critical because, as has been said a million times in recent years, content providers are not technology companies. With the rare exception of behemoths like Netflix, Disney and Amazon, the vast majority of content providers don’t have the specific technology expertise in-house to navigate each CTV device’s detailed specs for stream formats, close captions, metadata and other things.
But as WURL’s CEO Sean Doherty explained to me in a recent briefing, while the content providers are initially attracted to WURL simply to deliver their content, WURL’s ability to help monetize their audience is what keeps them on the WURL network. WURL offers AdSpring, an in-house ad server, and as of last fall, AdPool, a CTV ad marketplace. AdPool is a complement to a content provider’s own direct or programmatic sales.
Aside from all that, last fall WURL also signed a partnership with Samsung to augment Samsung’s TV Plus streaming service in Europe (in effect bringing all of WURL’s content providers onto Samsung smart TVs.).
All of this has driven some impressive results for WURL: in the past 12 months the company said it has launched 180+ channels that reach 100 million CTVs in nine countries. Over 225 million hours of programming have been delivered with 1.2 billion targeted ads. Momentum has grown recently, with the number of ad impressions up 45% from Q3 ’19 to Q4 ’19.
Again, WURL is capitalizing on all of the key market trends. Two things come to mind:
One, while WURL at once delivers content to Roku, it is also enabling Roku-like capabilities on all other CTV devices (delivery, presentation, monetization), eventually at scale. This helps other CTV providers improve their offerings, and also helps content providers reduce their dependency on Roku (and Fire TV).
Two, WURL is enabling a massive volume of free, ad-supported content. Roku has long said “free” is the top search term, which is why it pursued The Roku Channel. Now, with even more free video, a consequence will be further pressure on paid SVOD services and pay-TV (i.e. cord-cutting). If more great free content is available, consumers will inevitably shift their time spent to it. All the more so if they’re tightening their belts due to a virus-induced recession.
WURL finds itself right in the middle of the action. If it can further scale the on-boarding of new channels and demonstrate increasing ability to monetize inventory, it will become an important player in the ecosystem.