Time Inc. Acquires Viant, And It's All About The Data

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Why shouldn't Time Inc. take on Facebook? The 94-year-old media brand will acquire ad platform company Viant for its "people-based" marketing capabilities, the companies said Thursday.

Viant – an amalgam of companies that rebranded a year ago from Interactive Media Holdings (IMH) – includes the remains of MySpace, ad network Specific Media, video ad platform Vindico and Xumowill, a smart TV system.

Acquiring Viant will enable Time Inc. to target ads to specific audiences, link devices back to real people and help marketers attribute their ad spend, the company explained in its earnings call Thursday.

The idea is not exactly to become a Facebook, but rather to make sure it doesn’t lose out on data-driven ad dollars.

Most companies offer “data capabilities or premium content,” Time Inc. CEO Joe Ripp said. “We can offer both, and stand apart from those that offer one or the other.”

Ripp said Viant’s deterministic cross-device capabilities, its smaller but faster-growing business, were a key reason for the acquisition. The reason “Facebook is soaking up ad dollars is that they can target on mobile devices,” he said.

Viant launched its advertising cloud, including those cross-device capabilities, a year ago. It now comprises 40% of its business. Post-acquisition, Viant will run as an independent subsidiary. Time Inc. said it expects Viant to contribute $100 million in revenue in 2016. Much of that sum presumably comes from the Specific Media ad network business.

Time Inc. did not disclose the terms of the deal.

Post-acquisition, Viant’s deterministic data set will be infused with not only the 1 billion global MySpace accounts, but Time Inc.’s first-party data. That includes physical addresses and email addresses from Time Inc.’s 120 million print subscribers and 150 million digital users.

A big part of the deal is “what Time Inc. can do to strengthen Viant’s assets,” Viant CEO Tim Vanderhook told AdExchanger.

Viant’s advertising cloud includes measurement capabilities on television through automatic content recognition.

Eventually, that might help Time Inc.’s owned-and-operated properties. The company has been dramatically increasing digital video production, and stated in the earnings call it’s considering an over-the-top channel using the People and Entertainment Weekly brands.

The deal has been in the works for six months, according to Viant, and CEO Joe Ripp alluded to such a buy just last week. “There will be more acquisitions you will scratch your head about,” he said at the American Magazine Media Conference. “They’re about data. Money is going to Facebook because they have data.”

Besides the acquisition, Ripp highlighted one key milestone Time Inc. will achieve in 2016 during the earnings call: revenue crossover, where growth in digital revenues offsets print declines. That’s occurring even though digital was just $102 million out of $484 million in total ad revenues in Q4 of 2015, though that may change as Viant brings more digital ad revenue to the table.

That digital ad revenue will come from a combination of data and quality content -- that unique mix Ripp said drove the deal to begin with.

"There has been a huge focus on programmatic and laying pipes and plumbing," Vanderhook said. "The future is absolutely not about plumbing and pipes but data and content. That's the magic of putting those pieces together."

 

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