One of the biggest questions for ad industry insiders is the extent to which the preexisting relationship between Amazon and FreeWheel, announced in early February, will continue.
Although neither Amazon nor FreeWheel have confirmed whether their video ad-serving work would go on after the pending Comcast acquisition, Aravindh Vanchesan, director of the digital media research program at research firm Frost & Sullivan, said Amazon would have other options available if that deal were to flounder.
The ecommerce giant could initiate partnerships with other video ad-delivery platforms such as BlackArrow, Adobe Primetime or LiveRail, for instance.
“They are more than capable of working with or even acquiring some of these smaller companies themselves and integrating it within their platform like Comcast is doing with FreeWheel,” Vanchesan said. “It does raise some questions about the future viability of an Amazon/FreeWheel partnership given that Comcast has inserted itself into the picture like this.”
For his part, BlackArrow President Nick Troiano believes Comcast’s attempt to acquire Time Warner and the synergies it’s pursuing around Xfinity.tv could compete with Amazon.
“Amazon was one of the few companies that represents an over-the-top play that could theoretically threaten the pay TV industry,” he said. “We saw the Amazon and FreeWheel deal as Amazon taking a first step into delivering advertising in on-demand environments.”
Amazon’s on-demand environment is Amazon Prime Instant Video, accessible by Amazon customers who’ve purchased the value-add package Amazon Prime. Members can use Amazon Prime Instant Video to access on-demand video, TV and exclusive Prime member exclusives. And the ecommerce company is “almost certainly” working on creating original content à la Netflix's "House of Cards" and "Orange Is The New Black," Vanchesan said.
Variety this week reported alleged moves on Amazon's part to develop four original content series after a 10-program pilot began last month. Amazon-produced content would likely appear on Amazon Prime Video and one way to monetize that would be through the delivery of targeted ads, according to Vanchesan.
The impact of Comcast’s FreeWheel purchase reverberate well beyond Amazon, of course. There will be a period of “wait-and-see” now as existing FreeWheel customers such as DirecTV and DISH will be forced to make the decision to stick around or cut the cord. But, it’s not the first time the cable company and its subsidiaries have crossed paths with competitors.
Comcast-owned NBCUniversal, for instance, already used FreeWheel for multiplatform advertising before DirecTV invested in and launched DirecTV Everywhere with FreeWheel. As more networks and operators plan for a multiplatform future, content, delivery and ad monetization will ultimately be the top three concerns for these companies.