Wibbitz, an Israeli text-to-video startup, has raised an $8 million Series B round led by NantMobile, with participation by existing investors. The funds will be used to expand into the U.S. via a new New York City office, headed by CEO and co-founder Zohar Dayan, who brought me up to speed on the company yesterday.
Wibbitz uses natural language processing to quickly turn publishers' text articles into short videos. The process begins with Wibbitz's technology digesting the article via algorithms meant to emulate a human reader's behavior, identifying key people, main points and the theme, resulting in a summary of about 20% of the full article.
iSpot.tv, which monitors ads in over 100 national TV networks and then correlates real-time digital actions such search, social and video viewing, has raised a $21.9 million series B round, led by Insight Venture Partners, with participation from existing investor, Madrona Venture Group. The new funds will be used for product development and increased staff.
In a world where ads are everywhere, with TV viewing becoming more fragmented, and viewers distracted by mobile devices, iSpot.tv's value to advertisers is that it helps them understand the TOTAL impact of their TV ads, including "earned" subsequent digital actions.
I'm pleased to present the 273rd edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
Since Verizon announced it was acquiring AOL for $4.4 billion earlier this week, there has been a ton of media coverage, with lots of speculation about what the deal means for Verizon going forward. This is at least partly due to the companies doing a relatively poor job of articulating the deal's strategy.
In this week's podcast, Colin and I weigh in as well, focusing mainly on how AOL's video, programmatic and video syndication assets could mesh well with Verizon Digital Media Services, which already provides back-end delivery and monetization to video content providers (see here and here). Combining the two seems like the biggest point of leverage to Colin and me, yet we note that Verizon didn't even mention a VDMS role in any public comments on the deal.
Meanwhile, in a week when the pay-TV industry suffered its first-ever first quarter loss of video subscribers, we also discuss how Verizon seems intent on innovating beyond the traditional multichannel bundle.
Listen in to learn more!
Verizon's surprise $4.4 billion acquisition of AOL, looks like mostly a bet on video, mobile, and programmatic, with content likely the odd man out.
The deal gives Verizon a bigger play in 3 of the biggest trends in the media business - the explosion of personalized, on-demand video viewership, the massive adoption of mobile lifestyles via smartphones, and the shift to automated, data-driven ad buying through programmatic platforms. AOL has been pursuing all of these over the past few years through internal growth and acquisitions.
On last Friday's podcast, Colin and I discussed the failure of the $45 billion Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger. I asserted that a key reason the deal didn't get approved was due to the rise in customer experience expectations. Today I'm going to flesh that out further, and describe why customer experience is becoming key to defining the video industry's winners and losers.
First, it's important to understand that the traditional notion of "customer service" has been supplanted by the far broader concept of "customer experience" - the TOTAL perception of ALL of our touchpoints with any company we do business with. Because we now live in an unprecedented time for humanity - when everything we need or want is just a handful of clicks away, anytime we choose, the bar has never been higher for our expectations of customer experience.
I'm pleased to present the 271st edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
We had recorded last week's podcast just prior to the news that Comcast was dropping its merger bid for Time Warner Cable, so first up this week we share thoughts on why the deal collapsed.
In my view, the perception of the deal transformed from being cable-centric to being broadband-centric, largely due to the rise of online video usage. As a result, Comcast, post-merger, having 57% of American broadband connections under the new 25 mbps definition, became a sticking point (never mind that it actually has 56% on its own, reflecting its aggressive broadband infrastructure upgrades).
This is a key irony of the deal's failure - Comcast has invested billions in technology, but its woeful customer service ultimately undermines these investments and defines its reputation. In a hypothetical world where Comcast was a "most admired company," (like Apple, Amazon, etc.), I think it's quite possible regulators would have actually welcomed the Time Warner deal.
We then turn our attention to Verizon's "Custom TV" packaging and ESPN's lawsuit. As I explained in Has Verizon Put ESPN Into a Public Relations Headlock Over Opaque "Sports Tax?" I think Verizon is making a brazen move to reign in sports costs. Colin and I agree it's the most startling thing yet to happen in a tumultuous year for the pay-TV industry.
Listen in to learn more!
Vessel announced a new financing this morning, which sources close to the company pegged at $57.5 million. The round was led by Institutional Venture Partners (IVP), which has also invested in Netflix, Twitter, Snapchat and other consumer-facing media companies. Prior investors Benchmark, Greylock Partners and Bezos Expeditions also participated. Total funding for Vessel now stands at approximately $134.5 million.
Video supply side ad platform Altitude Digital has raised $30 million from FastPay, a provider of liquidity and financial workflow solutions to the media industry. The new funds will be used for growing Altitude's ARENA platform and data infrastructure, expanding mobile capabilities and growing internationally. The new financing brings total capital raised to date to $45 million.
Topics: Altitude Digital
Programmatic TV technology provider clypd has raised a $19.4 million Series B round to expand all departments in the business, and enter new markets in Europe and Asia-Pacific. With the new round, clypd has raised approximately $30 million.
European broadcaster RTL Group led the round, with participation from prior investors. RTL has become a very active investor in U.S. online video and technology companies, buying a 51% stake in multichannel network BroadbandTV for $36 million in June, 2013, a 65% stake in programmatic video ad platform SpotXchange for $144 million in July, 2014 and acquiring fashion and beauty MCN StyleHaul for $107 million in November, 2014.
Boston-based YouTube ad buying platform Pixability has raised an $18 million Series C round, led by new investors Jump Capital and Edison Partners, with participation from existing investors. The new funds will be used for product development and international expansion. The company has raised $28 million to date.
Pixability's core capability is enabling brands and agencies to create and manage data-driven video ad campaigns targeting specific audiences within YouTube channels. This is extremely valuable because while YouTube's massive user base is very attractive to brands and agencies, the site's diverse content makes it virtually impossible to understand how to optimize YouTube ad spending.
Innovid has raised $10 million in additional capital from Cisco Investments and existing investors, bringing total capital raised to date to $37.6 million. The new funds will be used for product development. Cisco and Innovid announced a partnership back in September, 2013, to deliver interactive, contextual video ads to second screens.
Aside from the financing, the big news from Innovid is the huge growth in its Innovid Atom video ad serving platform for brands and agencies. According to CEO and co-founder Zvika Netter, who I caught up with on Friday, Innovid has gone from 20 brands using its platform last July, to 110 now. This is expected to rise to 145 by the end of Q2 '15. Included among these are Kraft, Disney, Toyota, Chrysler and dozens of others.
Integral Ad Science, which specializes in evaluating media quality for online advertisers, has acquired Veenome, a highly complimentary startup that measures specific contextual attributes of video ads. Veenome looks at web pages to determine things like whether ads are played in-banner or in-stream, how many players are on a page, what kinds of content is displayed, where the player was positioned, and more. Veenome builds on Integral's existing video ad evaluation technologies.
With the FCC voting 3-2 to enact net neutrality regulations under Title II of the 1934 Communications Act, the focus now shifts to how Comcast proceeds on its planned Time Warner Cable acquisition. The $45 billion deal, combining the two largest U.S. cable TV operators, was announced in February, 2014, and has been in the regulatory slow lane for months as net neutrality took center stage.
Once perceived as virtually guaranteed to be approved given Comcast's formidable lobbying apparatus, the deal is now seen as having no better than a 50-50 chance by many analysts. While Comcast continues to express confidence the deal will be approved and close in early 2015 (and even internally circulated a combined company organizational structure), the dynamic regulatory, political and industry landscapes make any bets on the deal's outcome a total crapshoot.
Video ad platform Teads has raised $30 million, half of which is an equity investment from existing investors Gimv, Partech, Elaia and BPI, with the other half in a mid-term line of credit from Bank of China, HSBC, BNPP and BPI. The new funds are intended to accelerate technology development and expand in the U.S. plus new areas including Brazil, Russia, South Korea and Japan.
Teads is a supply side platform, which counts among its customers The Washington Post, Reuters, Forbes, The Telegraph, The Guardian and many others. Advertisers that have used Teads include AT&T, Cartier, Gucci, Microsoft, Nestle, P&G, Samsung and Volkswagen, among others.
Multi-screen video processing provider Elemental Technologies has raised a Series D round of $14.5 million, led by Telstra, with participation by Sky and existing investors. With the round, Elemental has raised $44 million to date. Funds will be used for product development and to support global growth.
I'm pleased to present the 254th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
As is our custom for the final podcast of the year, today Colin and I discuss our top 10 online video stories of 2014. Needless to say, it was an incredibly busy year for online video, making it quite a challenge to narrow our list to just 10 top stories. If you disagree with any of our choices, then as always, we welcome your feedback.
Stepping back and reviewing the list, I think there's an argument to be made that when observers look back 10-20 years from now, 2014 could well be viewed as the big turning point for online video - the year when all of the critical pieces to online video becoming a completely mainstream experience fell into place. These pieces include viewer acceptance, burgeoning content, robust monetization, wide deployment of connected devices and mobility. At a minimum, buckle up, because the stage has been set for a huge 2015.
Colin and I would like to thank all of our listeners for tuning into our podcast this year, and wish all of you happy holidays!
Video ad tech is a very hot space currently with lots of deals and financings, with the latest being Eyeview, which this morning announced a $15 million financing from existing investor Marker LLC. The new funds bring to $34.5 million the total amount the company has raised.
Eyeview describes itself as "fusing the effectiveness of TV video branding with the efficiencies of digital personalization." It does this by taking a standard TV ad or other video creative and dynamically customizing it to target individual viewers. The customizations can vary by things like specific advertiser offers, geography, viewer behavior, weather conditions, calendar events, etc. Basically any type of trigger that would help to drive engagement and take the video ad experience far beyond what's typical on TV.
Late yesterday Yahoo announced it's acquiring video ad platform BrightRoll for $640 million cash. The deal had been rumored for a while and is the latest in a consolidation trend in the video ad tech space (and larger online video space) over the past year. By my count, since the start of 2014, there have been over 20 different online video acquisitions in the U.S. alone, spanning ad tech, content creation, distribution, search/discovery and mobile.
The BrightRoll deal instantly makes Yahoo one of the leading players in programmatic video advertising, a significant growth area in the industry. Yahoo joins other big media companies that have also entered the programmatic video ad space via acquisition (e.g. Facebook with LiveRail, AOL with Adap.tv, RTL Group with SpotXchange, etc.). With all of these companies now emphasizing programmatic, growth will surely accelerate further.
Cloud-based encoding company Encoding.com has raised a $3.5 million Series B round led by video infrastructure provider Harmonic, with participation by existing investors. The new round brings to $8 million the total capital raised by the company.
The investment follows a partnership announced last April between the companies in which Encoding.com integrated Harmonic's ProMedia Carbon transcoding solution. That deal allows content providers and distributors who already use Carbon on-premise to tap into Encoding.com's Carbon deployment to meet transcoding demand spikes.
Discovery and analytics provider Rovi has announced its acquisition of Fanhattan, a startup offering cloud-based discovery solutions as well as the innovative Fan TV connected TV device. Fanhattan combines live TV, VOD and OTT in one search experience powered from the cloud, which is available to viewers either through the web, an iOS device or the Fan TV.
Omar Javaid, SVP/GM of Rovi's Discovery group told me the primary motivation for the deal was Fanhattan's cloud-based unified discovery technology, its team and the products. Fanhattan augments Rovi's existing next-generation discovery products. Rovi's customers include many pay-TV operators (Charter, Dish, etc.), device manufacturers (Apple, Samsung, Sharp, etc.) and online entertainment services (Shazam, Facebook, MTV, etc.).