No doubt you’ve already heard about the remarkable turn of events in the saga of AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner. As reported by multiple news outlets yesterday, the Justice Department’s Antitrust division is apparently telling AT&T it would have to commit to either divesting Turner (including CNN) or DirecTV in order to gain regulatory approval for the deal. Both are totally unpalatable to AT&T.
All of this puts Makan Delrahim, the recently confirmed head of the Antitrust division in the hot seat. Assuming he decides to block the deal and AT&T then sues the government, it will fall to Delrahim to make the government’s case that absent any divestitures, the deal would be anti-competitive. The bar is even higher for Delrahim because when he was a professor at Pepperdine, he said in a telephone interview with Canada’s BNN that he did not see the deal as a “major antitrust problem.” He explained that any Antitrust objection must be based on a belief that the deal would “substantially lessen competition” by “very defined legal and econometric standards” and that the burden of proof is on the government to prove this in federal court.
It’s a good day for video tech providers with Israeli roots as Wibbitz has announced a $20 million Series C funding and Connatix has raised a $15 million Series A round. The Wibbitz round was led by Bertelsmann Digital Media Investments, with participation from The Weather Channel, The Associated Press, TF1 and existing investors NantMobile, lool Ventures and Horizons Ventures and brings total funding to $30.8 million. The Connatix round was led by Volition Capital.
While the companies have different value propositions, they’re both playing to the broader industry trends of enabling publishers to enrich their properties with more video, which creates more opportunities for video advertising.
Video distribution platform Vemba has raised $6 million in a series A-1 round, bringing its total funding to $11 million. The new round was led by Time Warner Investments and SpotX, with existing investors Upfront Ventures and Bertelsmann Digital Media Investments participating as well.
Vemba’s CEO Garrick Tiplady told me in a briefing that the company’s vision is to become the industry standard platform for scale in video distribution on any device. Vemba’s platform allows content providers to create flexible models to distribute their videos and receive real-time analytics on their performance and monetization.
Penthera, which makes software to power video downloading to mobile devices, has raised $6 million from Liberty Global Ventures, the venture investment arm of Liberty Global International, which is the biggest international cable company and chaired by John Malone. Liberty Global is also a Penthera customer.
Penthera’s Cache&Carry software enables video providers to let their viewers download video to their iOS and Android mobile devices. Cache&Carry includes DRM support, configurable business rules, download queuing options, mobile DVR and “FastPlay” which launches buffer-free viewing.
There’s plenty of M&A and financing activity in the video adtech space, with the latest news coming this morning with RhythmOne acquiring YuMe for $185 million. The deal had been rumored for a while and unites YuMe’s demand-side capabilities with RhythmOne’s supply-side and programmatic platform. YuMe was one of the earliest video adtech players to go public, back in 2013, but has had a bumpy ride as the industry rapidly evolved.
Two video ad tech providers, Genesis Media and Altitude Digital, announced they have merged in a deal that is rooted in using data to optimize video publishers’ ad inventory. The new company combines Genesis Media’s technology to analyze publishers’ content, ads and audience with Altitude’s video supply side platform. The merged company will be called Genesis Media and be led by CEO Mark Yakanich, with Altitude’s Joe Grover becoming president and chief marketing officer.
TV data provider Alphonso has raised $5.6 million, led by Manifest Investment Partners and including individual investors such as former TV executive Jeff Sagansky. Alphonso plans to use the funds to increase domestic and global distribution and ramp up hiring. Alphonso said it’s been profitable since 2014 and has been customer-funded.
Alphonso is among the companies that is using data to improve the impact and efficiency of TV advertising. The company has built its Alphonso TV Data Cloud by tracking all of the programming and ads that appear on 200+ broadcast and cable TV networks in the U.S. plus top OTT services. In addition, Alphonso has its automated content recognition (ACR) embedded in 40 million+ set-top boxes, smart TVs and smartphones that monitor and record what viewers are watching in real time.
Startup Vinyl Trading Desk, founded by longtime Altitude Digital COO Devin Yeager, has raised an initial round of $750K from FastPay. Devin told me in a briefing that Vinyl’s platform unifies and simplifies ad buying across video, search and social for clients starting with budgets as little as $1,500. The new funds will be used mainly for product development and building sales and marketing staff.
Topics: Vinyl Trading Desk
OpenSlate, which provides contextual data on YouTube channels to 600+ advertisers and agencies, has raised a $7 million round led by North Base Media and hired 2 new senior executives.
New COO JoAnna Foyle was most recently SVP of Enterprise Platform Services at AOL and will oversee client services, account management, enterprise partnerships and business operations at OpenSlate. Brian Quinn takes over as President of OpenSlate, a newly-created role, heading up domestic and international sales, business development and strategic partnerships. He was most recently Chief Revenue and Innovation officer at Triad Retail Media, which was acquired by WPP/Xaxis last October.
Teads, which pioneered the outstream video ad format that has been widely emulated, is being acquired by Altice, the multinational telecom provider. The purchase price is up to 285 million Euros, or approximately $307 million, with 75% paid at closing and the remaining 25% based on Teads’ 2017 revenue performance. Teads’ Executive Chairman Pierre Chappaz and CEO Bertrand Quesada will continue leading Teads.
For Altice, which previously acquired and combined 2 large U.S. cable TV providers Cablevision and Suddenlink over the past 2 years, creating the 4th-largest player in the industry, the Teads deal is a bid to increase its advertising footprint, which the company said will be 700 million Euros or nearly $650 million per year.
Online video is booming. But that doesn’t mean all industry initiatives will succeed. Two examples in just the past two days illustrate the point. Yesterday Verizon announced it was acquiring Vessel for an undisclosed amount in what appears to be a straightforward asset purchase and talent acquisition. And on Tuesday, Google Fiber announced that it was stopping all expansion into new markets. Both companies’ leaders, Jason Kilar at Vessel and Craig Barratt at Google Access, will be departing their positions.
While the two companies operate in distinct segments of the market - Vessel in content and Google Fiber in infrastructure - both were bets on new business models and consumer demand that do not seem to have panned out.
No doubt by now you’ve read all about AT&T’s plan to acquire Time Warner for approximately $85 billion - it was hard to miss the wall-to-wall press coverage over the weekend. As has been observed by a number of others, this deal is mostly about diversification, specifically AT&T’s desire to add another large revenue stream that offsets its declining wireless business.
Looked at through this lens, the deal represents a kind of “two plus two equals four” motivation; Time Warner brings a totally different set of revenues to AT&T, which makes the company less reliant on its sagging wireless business. If Time Warner can continue to perform at the same level as part of AT&T as it would have on its own, then AT&T wins because it achieved its diversification goal. The key of course is that AT&T didn’t overpay, in turn generating a suboptimal ROI. I’ll leave it to the Wall Street analysts to determine if the deal’s price is appropriate relative to Time Warner’s financial forecast.
Where the deal gets off track to me is the high falutin statements found in the companies’ press release that promise all kinds of benefits that are no more likely to happen as a result of Time Warner being owned by AT&T, and arguably, could actually be LESS likely to happen as a result of the deal. This is the risk that two plus two may actually LESS than four. This is the all too common outcome of many corporate mergers (with the infamous AOL-Time Warner one right at the top of the list).
Tout has raised a $26 million Series C round led by the Melohn Group, with new investors Windsor Media, Pittco Capital Partners and HL Capital, along with existing investors Seavest Capital, 819 Capital and the WWE. Michael Downing, Tout’s founder and CEO, told me in a briefing that it was an up round and was oversubscribed. Including the new round, Tout has raised $40 million.
Tout has flown relatively below the radar, but has made significant progress toward building out a classic “syndicated video economy” business, distributing premium video from over 230 different content providers including CNN, Fox Sports CBS, Scripps, Bloomberg and other to over 2,800 different publishers’ sites including Salon, Breitbrart, Independent Journal Review and others. Michael said that Tout now ingests 5,000-7,000 videos per day and drives 380M video views from 57 million unique viewers per month.
Multi-screen video app platform You.i TV has raised a $12 million Series B round, led by Time Warner Investments and including new investor Vistara Capital Partners and existing investor Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors. Funds will be used for product development and channel partner development. You.i TV includes among its customers Sony Crackle, Turner Broadcasting, Rogers Communications and Corus Entertainment.
Outstream video ad leader Teads has acquired Brainient, whose dynamic creative optimization (DCO) technology enables personalized, interactive video ads. Terms were not disclosed. Brainient aims to deliver customized ads tied to a user’s profile including their geo-location, device, time of day and other contextual information.
I'm pleased to present the 335th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
First up this week, Colin and I dig into Disney’s new $1 billion investment in BAMTech, the technology spin-off of Major League Baseball Advanced Media. We both like the move as it further positions Disney to capitalize on online delivery, while protecting itself from ongoing changes in viewers’ behavior. In this case, Disney’s sheer size gives it the resources to keep its options open.
Next up, Colin and I were both surprised by Hulu’s move earlier this week to jettison its free, ad-supported viewing service to a new partnership with Yahoo. Colin wrote a great piece earlier this week listing the 5 most important reasons why he thinks this was a mistake, which we discuss. Hulu continues evolving away from its roots, as it prepares to launch its skinny bundle next year, which brings its own set of challenges.
Listen now to learn more!
Click here to listen to the podcast (23 minutes, 51 seconds)
Say this for Disney - in just the past couple of years or so it has moved to cover virtually every bet for how online video might impact the company in the future.
With its Maker Studios acquisition, Disney expanded into YouTube-style content creation for kids and millennials. With DisneyLife, it’s moving into SVOD entertainment beyond its pivotal output deal with Netflix. Now with Hulu, it’s addressing cord-cutting and the potential of skinny bundles (as well as with deals with DirecTV Now, Sling TV and PlayStation Vue). And finally, with its new $1 billion BAMTech investment, it’s adding platform capabilities for direct-to-consumer live sports streaming. Plus, with the forthcoming ESPN OTT service, it will test its own direct-to-consumer sports offering.
On Monday, online video platform Kaltura announced that it has raised a $50 million “pre-IPO” funding from Goldman Sachs’ Private Capital Investing group. With the new investment, Kaltura has raised $165.1 million across 6 different rounds. Kaltura said the new capital will be used to “extend its footprint across all six continents, and to further its unique positioning as the ‘Everything Video’ company.”
I caught up with Ron Yekutiel, Kaltura’s Chairman, CEO and Co-founder to learn more about Kaltura’s strategy and the tailwinds that are helping drive the business forward. Kaltura has 450 global employees, with 250 working in R&D in Israel, 120 in the U.S. and the rest spread throughout global offices.
After months of rumors, Time Warner officially announced this morning that it was taking a 10% ownership interest in Hulu for approximately $580 million. Time Warner also announced that its ad-supported cable networks (TNT, TBS, CNN, etc.) will become part of Hulu’s “skinny bundle” set for launch early next year.
With Time Warner joining Disney and Fox in owning and guiding Hulu (along with Comcast, which is a silent partner), these 3 big cable and broadcast TV networks owners are taking the extraordinary risk of disrupting pay-TV, the very business model that has worked so well for them for decades.
Taboola, a large content recommendation platform, has acquired ConvertMedia, an outstream video ad provider with $50 million in annual run rate revenue and roots in display advertising. Taboola’s thumbnail recommendations at the end of text articles are found widely on major online publishers’ sites. The company provides 14-15 billion of these recommendations on a daily basis to over 1 billion unique users per month.