Alphabet Is Investing In Early-Stage AI Startups; Addressable TV Budgets Are Growing

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AI Push

Alphabet is launching a venture fund within Google that will focus on early-stage AI startups. Called Gradient Ventures, the fund will “provide portfolio companies with capital, resources, and dedicated access to experts and bootcamps in AI,” Anna Patterson, founder and managing partner of Gradient Ventures, wrote in a blog post. “We’ll take a minority stake in the startups in which we invest.” So far, Gradient Ventures has invested in Algorithmia, a marketplace for algorithms and functions, and Cogniac, which uses AI to create visual models. Gradient plans to invest in 10 to 15 companies this year and will commit between $1 million to $8 million to each, according to CNBC. More.

Addressing TV Spend

Addressable TV budgets are growing, but remain a small slice of the overall pie, according to eMarketer. US addressable TV ad spend will grow 65.8% this year to $1.26 billion – just 1.7% of TV’s overall projected 2017 ad revenue. But! Addressable is on track to reach 4% of TV spend by 2019. Targeting capabilities on addressable TV are still limited mostly to age and gender. Meanwhile, programmatic TV spend will grow about 76% to $1.1 billion this year, commanding 1.6% of total US TV ad spend. “Addressable TV is a seller’s market. Even though cable and satellite providers have the capability to target 74 million US households, they are rationing the inventory,” writes senior eMarketer analyst Oscar Orozco. More.

Speaking Of Data

Amazon might let Alexa developers access transcripts of what people say, reports The Information. Amazon kept devs in the dark to preserve customer privacy, but it’s mulling the prospects of a reverse course as it feels some heat from Google. Namely, devs prefer building apps for Google Home because Google provides info on what people say, which is important if you want to work out the kinks on an app with a speech interface. “Giving developers access to transcripts would solve a big problem for Alexa developers,” the Information writes. “... For instance, if a pizza delivery app gets the toppings wrong – confusing pepperoni and pepperoncini – the customer might give the app a bad review. But the developer wouldn’t realize what had happened because it doesn’t get the transcript.” Read more.

Net Threat

Dozens of tech companies – and, strangely, a few telcos – joined forces on Wednesday to participate in an online protest supporting the Federal Communications Commission’s ill-fated net neutrality rules, which would require broadband providers to treat all internet traffic equally.  FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has been vocal in his desire to scrap the rules. Facebook, Netflix, Reddit, Google and other internet heavy hitters threw their weight behind the protest. AT&T and Comcast also issued statements of support for net neutrality. But are they calling their lobbyists home? The ISPs are no fans of net neutrality.

Divorce Proceedings

Vizio is suing LeEco, the Chinese electronics company that called off its $2 billion acquisition of the smart TV manufacturer. Vizio alleges LeEco wasn’t financially sound during deal negotiations and accuses the company of failing to fork over the remainder of its $100 million buyer’s termination fee. (Vizio claims it was only paid $40 million.) Vizio also claims that LeEco accessed “confidential customer information” to use for its own purposes and failed to make good on its joint venture agreement. The deal follows an FTC lawsuit against Vizio over “unfair and deceptive data collection.” More.

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