In Buying StickyAds, FreeWheel Becomes A Full-Stack Solution

FreeWheelComcast’s acquisition of French video supply-side platform StickyAds on Monday will give its video ad tech division a serious boost.

Comcast’s video ad server FreeWheel will be able to streamline the way big TV broadcasters allocate inventory by embedding StickyAds’ private exchange tech into its own video ad server.

The capability will let FreeWheel’s TV broadcaster/publisher clients more intelligently manage yield.

Why does yield management need to be updated? Because advertisers increasingly value inventory on an audience basis, pricing around CPMs and getting away from the GRP-based currency traditionally used by TV publishers.

That trend is only going to pick up as broadcasters develop direct-to-consumer streaming options, leading to more inventory valued on an audience basis.

Lorne Brown, CEO of Operative (Comcast is one of its biggest clients), said the acquisition also could add a trusted SSP for media companies to work with, since many media publishers are suspicious that SSPs that originated in display take too big a cut.

Jon Heller, co-founder and CEO of FreeWheel, and James Rooke, its CRO, spoke with AdExchanger about the implications for the deal.


AdExchanger: What will StickyAds enable you to do that you couldn’t prior?

JAMES ROOKE: Because the majority of our client base is the top-end premium people who have scarce inventory, we need to give them the tools to do two things. One is give them the best opportunity for every impression they have to make the most money on that.

Having StickyAds’ SSP natively integrated into the FreeWheel ad server means when a user presses play, the FreeWheel client publisher can evaluate whether they give it to a direct-sold deal or a market demand deal if that impression is higher. We look at that impression and make sure it is compliant with the rest of the stream, and that it’s compliant to work in a live environment or set-top box VOD.

Can you share an example?

JON HELLER: Publishers want to know that if they allow for automated buying, they don’t break their livestream or put Pepsi next to Coke and all those parameters. StickyAds [is] a somewhat later entrant into the SSP market because they learned what to do for premium video as opposed to having grown from the display Wild West, and they’re a pure-play SSP with the benefit of being Eurocentric to help us with our growth expansion there. For media companies and publishers that sell television ads, they have to make a business out of selling things at upfront, selling things at scatter and through all of the different ways it can be monetized where it’s still high-quality and safe.

How is a TV private exchange different from a digital one?

JH: When people say private market or private exchange in TV, what they’re really saying is we went and negotiated a deal with a counterparty on the buy side that is a big marketer by themselves or a large holding company with a bunch of brands. The inventory is still guaranteed, but it’s executed in an automated fashion. The inventory is still guaranteed, but because they’re leveraging their own data or another set of data to enhance the value and target better, the physical methods of guarantees change a little bit. You see people wanting to buy the same way they’ve bought, but to use technology to execute it and deploy their data more efficiently so they can execute it for higher value.

Are you investing in more sell-side infrastructure now that Facebook/LiveRail has pulled back on video ad serving and SSPs?

JH: Full disclosure here: The reason you saw the deal at this time is we knew enough when we started to focus on the primary ad server and direct sales channel first, which was very intentional. These are the media companies for whom it is and will continue to be the dominant revenue channel.

Automation is going to create a complementary revenue channel, which means you can begin as the primary ad server, and add on SSP capabilities to create a holistic answer. You can’t start as an SSP and hope to piggyback on a primary ad server unless you have a full stack, which Google does too. We spent a lot of time working on syndication, roping in set-top box VOD, and frankly didn’t get to the PMPs because it was a secondary timing priority on purpose. Being a full-stack offering made buying, rather than building, a better option for us.

Edited for clarity and length.

 

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