Video ad platform SpotX has made an undisclosed investment in SpringServe, an independent OTT and connected TV ad server, extending an existing partnership. SpotX is owned by RTL Group; it says it reaches 50 million CTV households per month and it acquired server-side ad insertion provider Yospace last year. SpringServe was founded in 2015 and serves publishers and content owners.
The deal underscores how viewership is moving to OTT and CTV, driving publishers and content owners to seek stronger monetization of every view and manage their inventory in more sophisticated ways across programmatic and direct sold. I reached out to both companies for more details on what the deal will mean for them, the broader market and their respective roadmaps going forward as viewership of OTT and CTV accelerates. Below is what they shared with me:
Now that NBCU has revealed its launch plan, pricing and forecast for the Peacock streaming service, some quick math shows how much Comcast missed out on by not buying out Disney’s stake in Hulu. VideoNuze readers will recall this is what I proposed back in May 2018 (“Why Comcast Should Take Control of Hulu”) when Comcast and Disney battled to take over Fox. With Disney and Comcast each owning around 30% of Hulu at the time, as well as Fox owning around 30% and AT&T 10%, it was clear that whoever ultimately bought Fox would assume majority ownership of Hulu.
At the time I articulated all the reasons why, as part of any deal Comcast might make to step away from Fox, it should negotiate to take control of Hulu. Instead Comcast prioritized Sky (which it ultimately bought for $39 billion) and made a subsequent deal with Disney to sell off its Hulu stake. Disney also acquired AT&T’s approximately 10% stake in Hulu, making it Hulu’s 100% owner. Taken together, the moves make Disney CEO Bob Iger look like a genius, even if Disney was overcoming a late entry into the streaming party.
Comcast could have likely acquired the 70% or so of Hulu it didn’t own for around $13-15 billion, based on the $5.8 billion Disney ended up paying Comcast for its 30% share (Comcast also has an upside based on Hulu’s valuation in 2024) Comcast could have done this in reverse. All of this is assuming Disney would have sold its share to Comcast. My hunch is there was a deal to be had if Comcast had said it wouldn’t bid up Fox’s valuation, in turn saving Disney billions of dollars. All in all, it would have been a very modest deal for a company Comcast’s size.
I think all of my original reasons why Comcast should have acquired Hulu still stand up pretty well a year and a half later. But now some quick math also reveals that acquiring could have generated nearly $6 billion/year for Comcast and NBCU and the springboard it could have become for Peacock, before even factoring in cost savings. I suppose it is worth keeping in mind that had the deal gone the other way, Comcast wouldn’t have received the $5.8 billion for its share in Hulu, but then again Comcast didn’t need the cash, so does that really matter?
In my view there are 5 key things to understand, 3 that relate to subscription revenue and 2 that relate to advertising revenue.
I’m pleased to present the 479th edition of the VideoNuze podcast, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
Q2 was a very tough quarter for pay-TV operators, with cord-cutting soaring to a record level. This week we dive into the numbers and discuss why things have changed so dramatically since Q2 ’18. Then we transition to the Viacom-CBS deal, which was formally announced this week. Colin sees substantial upside, leveraging Pluto TV, which Viacom acquired earlier this year.
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Comcast and Disney have announced a deal under which Comcast can effectively transition out of its 33% ownership stake in Hulu beginning in January 2024. The exit can occur at either Disney’s or Comcast’s instigation and at an assessed market value of Hulu that won’t be less than $27.5 billion. That means Comcast’s 33% stake could be worth approximately $9.1 billion though that could be reduced to a minimum of $5.8 billion if Comcast doesn’t fund any of Hulu’s capital needs between now and January 2024.
Looking for confirmation of the outsized rewards of being well-positioned in the booming connected-TV (CTV) ad space? Then look no further than the Q4 ’18 and full year 2018 performance of 3 public companies representing 3 different vantage points on CTV ads - Telaria, The Trade Desk and Roku - all of which reported strong results in the past week, powered at least in part by their CTV success.
I’m pleased to present the 454th edition of the VideoNuze podcast, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
Colin’s site published a provocative piece this week focused on whether YouTube is doing as much as it should for its vast network of content creators. In our first segment this week we debate this question. Colin asserts YouTube isn’t, while I counter it’s likely doing as much as it feels it needs to, and especially focuses on its biggest creators. We do agree that with YouTube’s audience still growing and advertisers returning, the question may be moot anyway.
We then dig into this week’s deal by Brightcove to acquire Ooyala’s OVP business, joining two traditional competitors. For me the deal illustrates the rising bar video platforms must meet for both publishers and users, driven by in-house technology found in Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, YouTube and others and the need for greater scale. From a strictly financial standpoint, Brightcove’s move seems savvy and opportunistic.
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Brightcove has inked a deal to acquire Ooyala’s online video platform (OVP) business for $15 million, with $6.25 million paid in cash and the remainder in Brightcove stock. The deal joins two companies that were among the earliest entrants in the video platform industry in the mid-2000s and competitors ever since.
Ooyala had been previously bought by Australian telco Telstra in a couple of moves in 2012 and 2014 for over $300 million. Then it and other Telstra video investments were written down completely in 2016 and 2018, resulting in over $500 million in charges. Last fall Ooyala was spun off to management.
I’m pleased to present the 438th edition of the VideoNuze podcast, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
On this week’s podcast, Colin and I take up the question I explored on Wednesday, whether Comcast should divest its 30% stake in Hulu to Disney, as CNBC reported it is interested in doing. Colin and I discuss the many benefits Comcast derives from having a front row seat with 3 senior executives on Hulu’s board. On the other hand, there are many reasons why Comcast would be compelled to sell.
Meanwhile, as part of its acquisition of Sky, Comcast will also be inheriting Now TV, the innovative OTT service Sky runs. Colin shares his personal experience with Now TV and some of the specific things Comcast might learn and consider bringing to its U.S. operations. As always, rights are a central issue to surmount.
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In the wake of Comcast’s winning $39 billion bid to acquire Sky over the weekend, CNBC has reported that Comcast may be looking to swap its 30% ownership stake in Hulu (plus other consideration TBD), for Disney/Fox’s 39% ownership in Sky (a deal for Comcast to buy that was reported this morning). CNBC said that Comcast sees “only limited value in owning a non-controlling stake in Hulu” given Disney’s 60% share once the Fox deal closes.
This logic is understandable and in addition, divesting the stake would also relieve Comcast of partly funding Hulu’s losses (reportedly almost $1 billion in 2017). On the other side of the coin, Disney would own 90% of Hulu and give up its non-controlling stake in Sky as Comcast takes control of it.
Jeffrey Katzenberg’s NewTV has officially announced a $1 billion financing led by Madrone Capital Partners and including all of the studios, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Liberty Global and Alibaba. Katzenberg has teamed up with Meg Whitman, formerly CEO of Hewlett Packard and eBay, whom he named CEO of NewTV earlier this year.
NewTV is the biggest bet yet on mobile video, a sector that has been a graveyard for other ventures (e.g. Verizon’s Go90, Samung’s Milk, Comcast’s Watchable, Vessel, Vine, etc.). Katzenberg believes things will be different for NewTV (still a placeholder name), by licensing short-form, high-quality content from studios and then creating two subscription tiers, one with a full ad load and one with a lighter ad load.
Katzenberg told the WSJ that NewTV programming could run over $100K per minute, comparable to network TV. Episodes will run 10 minutes or less.
Comcast has officially dropped out of the bidding for the 21st Century Fox assets, clearing the path for Disney to move forward. Comcast still plans to pursue Sky in the UK. But by dropping its Fox bid, Comcast has also foregone the opportunity to take control of Hulu (by virtue of combining its 30% stake with Fox’s 30% stake). Presumably now Disney will take control of Hulu.
I believe this is a major missed opportunity for Comcast, leaving the company under-optimized in the fast-changing premium video industry. As we all know, today’s key industry themes include the rise of cord-cutting and consumers’ move to lower cost skinny bundles, the shift to on-demand viewing, with the accompanying growth of ad-free SVOD services (e.g. Netflix, Amazon, Hulu), the rapid adoption of connected TV and mobile devices for viewing and the nationalization/globalization of video services, among others.
Wicket Labs, whose platform provides audience insights for subscription video services, has raised a $2.8 million round, led by WestRiver Group. Existing investors Madrona Ventura group and Divergent Ventures also participated. Wicket Labs was co-founded by Marty Roberts and Ian Blaine, previously executives at thePlatform, which was one of the industry’s first online video platforms, and was acquired by Comcast in 2006.
Topics: Wicket Labs
Late yesterday, Comcast made its $65 billion all-cash offer for key Twenty-First Century Fox assets official. The offer sets up a bidding war with Disney, which had already struck a cash and stock deal with Fox. My guess is that Comcast is going to end up prevailing and the bidding will actually be less heated than many expect. There are many dimensions to this drama, but here are 5 quick reactions I have.
I’m pleased to present the 421st edition of the VideoNuze podcast, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
On this week’s podcast we cover 3 different topics. First up is Comcast’s announcement this week this it plans an all-cash offer for the Fox assets Disney has agreed to buy. We don’t have time to fully analyze the move, but both of us see it as a bold doubling-down by Comcast on the traditional multichannel TV model. We speculate about whether Comcast should diversify with a skinny bundle offering, as I described yesterday in taking control of Hulu.
Next up we discuss new research from ACSI focused on the lagging role of movies in SVOD and Netflix specifically (which is being addressed with 86 releases in 2018). Lastly, we turn to data from Advertiser Perceptions showing ad buyers are only willing to pay a small premium to be in lighter ad load environments. I’ve previously speculated about whether the math would work for TV networks by reducing their ad loads.
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Yesterday’s confirmation by Comcast that it is preparing an all-cash bid for Fox assets that would top Disney’s current bid came as no surprise. All that remains now for this corporate drama to go into overdrive is the decision on June 12th in the AT&T-Time Warner court case. If that deal is approved (which I believe is likely), Comcast is expected to formalize its Fox offer almost immediately. As these machinations continue, one looming question is what will become of Hulu?
Hulu is of course a joint venture among Disney, Fox and Comcast (via its NBCUniversal acquisition), with each company owning 30% and Time Warner owning 10% (that’s rounding as Hulu employees also own a piece). That means the ultimate owner of the Fox assets - Disney or Comcast - will also become a majority owner of Hulu. It seems to me Hulu would be more valuable to Comcast, and indeed Comcast should be angling to try to figure out how to take control of Hulu regardless of how the larger Fox deal sorts out. Why?
A couple of weeks ago, RhythmOne closed its acquisition of YuMe, one of the original leaders in video advertising. The deal was announced last September and was valued at approximately $185 million. The deal is the latest in a series of mergers and acquisitions consolidating the fragmented video ad tech landscape. To learn more about the deal and RhythmOne’s plans, I interviewed Dan Slivjanovski, Chief Operating Officer.
VideoNuze: Explain what RhythmOne does and why it acquired YuMe
Dan Slivjanovski: RhythmOne connects advertisers to audiences through a combination of differentiated supply, innovative technology and data-driven insights. Our end-to-end platform, called RhythmMax, offers direct, efficient and effective connections, driving ROI for advertisers and publishers. We were founded in 2004, focused primarily on internet video search. In 2007, we became a public company, and are traded on the AIM exchange, or the LSE, in London.
I'm pleased to present the 400th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
In this week’s podcast Colin and I discuss our top 10 online video stories of 2017. It’s been another incredibly busy year with tons of industry innovation and progress. As always, it has been a lot of fun to analyze all of this and report on it. Let us know what you think of our choices, whether you agree or disagree!
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Unless there’s some big news, this will be my last post for 2017.
Happy Holidays to all!
Independent programmatic mobile video ad platform Beachfront Media has sold a majority stake to two private equity firms, Growth Catalyst Partners and PSP Capital, a fund started by Penny Pritzker who was previously Secretary of Commerce in the Obama administration. Deal terms were not announced.
As part of the investment, Bill Jennings, previously president of Page Science, will become CEO of Beachfront, with prior colleague Rich O’Connor becoming CFO. Beachfront co-founder and CEO Frank Sinton will become president, while is co-founder and wife Lisa Connell, will leave the business (both will remain owners).
Topics: Beachfront Media
Yesterday the U.S. Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division sued to block AT&T’s proposed $108 billion acquisition of Time Warner. The suit breaks with decades of past practice where the DOJ has permitted “vertical mergers” (deals between companies operating in different segments of an industry) accompanied by certain operational limitations (so-called “behavioral remedies”). AT&T has pledged to counter sue, which means the deal’s outcome will now be decided in court.
Though I’m not a lawyer, I’m willing to bet that AT&T is going to prevail for one simple reason: the DOJ’s complaint virtually ignores realities in the TV and video industries. It is only by ignoring these facts that the DOJ is able to lay its foundation for asserting that the AT&T-Time Warner would have too much power, potentially harm competitors and stifle innovation. AT&T’s task is to demonstrate the DOJ’s foundation is faulty, and therefore that its decision to block the deal is unfounded.
I’m pleased to present the 395th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia. Many thanks to Brightcove, this week’s podcast sponsor. Brightcove will be presenting insights on server-side ad insertion at our SHIFT Programmatic conference on Nov. 29th.
The Justice Department’s Antitrust Division has reportedly put 2 unpalatable options in front of AT&T to gain approval for its proposed acquisition of Time Warner: divest Turner (including CNN) or divest DirecTV, which was only acquired 2 years ago.
On today’s podcast, Colin and I discuss how incongruous it feels for the government to assert AT&T will be gaining too much market power by acquiring Time Warner. To the contrary, Colin and I believe the market power of all incumbent media and telecom companies has dramatically decreased as big digital players like Google, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Facebook, etc. have become leaders in advanced advertising and subscription business models.
Recognizing the massive disruptions, including accelerating cord-cutting, established providers are scrambling to reinvent themselves, with Disney’s decision to go direct to consumer with its most premium content the best example. We discuss how government limits on the ways established companies can reposition themselves for this era would be a major limitation.
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Click here to listen to the podcast (23 minutes, 31 seconds)