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Evolve Media’s Evolution Into Video

BrianFitzgeraldLifestyle content and blog network Evolve Media is evolving its ad formats along with its publishing assets.

Evolve historically competed with such vertical media and ad services hybrids as Say and Federated Media. Over the last 15 years, it has acquired 50 vertical interest and publisher assets (sites like Crowd Ignite and BabyAndBump), according to its cofounder and president Brian Fitzgerald, investing also in performance marketing and publisher technology.

Evolve will likely acquire more content providers generating between $5 to $15 million in revenue, Fitzgerald noted. And it will increase its emphasis on video. In 2011, Evolve Media rolled out an ad-supported video distribution platform and services group, SpringBoard Video. As part of that platform, Evolve is beta-testing a native video ad format, called INgage, with three advertisers. The format launched last Wednesday.

“You have such a march to market by agencies and advertisers to buy and audit on a viewability metric that many are utilizing multiple vendors and they’re asking publishers to be judged by or held accountable to methodologies, measurements and results that are completely independent or unverified,” Fitzgerald said.


Will SpotXchange Remain A Standalone SSP?

MikeShehanWith video ad tech deal activity surging, independent players must decide whether to go it alone, brave the impending volatility of public markets or sell.

Facebook acquired video supply-side platform LiveRail for an estimated $500 million in early July. Yahoo one week later snapped up video distribution platform RayV, which answered some questions about its video content delivery plans, but opened up more about monetizing those assets. And last week, video demand-side platform (DSP) TubeMogul boarded the IPO roller coaster, debuting at a lower-than-planned $7 per share before surging to a peak of $11.50 on its first day trading on NASDAQ.

“The reason we’ll probably see more transactions here is it’s not just three or four big digital companies making the buys – you can predict three or four Comcast-like companies making deals there, too,” said Dave Morgan, CEO of Simulmedia. “Everybody has to have a play in video because that’s the growth engine in digital at this point, in addition to mobile.”

This begs the question: What will happen to standalone video platforms like BrightRoll and SpotXchange?

Mike Shehan, SpotXchange’s founder and CEO, spoke about the evolution of the platform and where its tech will fit in the future.

AdExchanger: Are you an ad server or SSP doing yield management for publishers?

MIKE SHEHAN: We definitely view ourselves as a video ad monetization platform for the supply side – the publishers. But it’s really a combination of components that make up our platform. It’s not just an SSP. It’s not just an ad server. We view ourselves really providing a next-generation ad server for publishers and ultimately, everything we offer is designed to achieve two goals for publishers. One is for them to achieve higher yield. And two, drive down their operational cost as much as possible.


Video Ad DSP TubeMogul Makes NASDAQ Debut


Updated with comments from Brett Wilson, TubeMogul's CEO

Video demand-side platform (DSP) TubeMogul ($TUBE) made its NASDAQ debut Friday. While its share price was projected at only the $7 to $8 range  below previous predictions of $10 to $11  within only an hour of trading, TubeMogul's share price increased to $9.84.

At the top of the hour, the company broke the $10 mark, with price per share climbing as high as $10.78, a 30% increase from early projections.

It remains to be seen how TubeMogul will perform compared to previous video ad platform IPOs. Initially, it seemed like TubeMogul, aspiring to raise $93 million by selling some 7.2 million shares, would barely break the $50 million mark as a result of its lesser share price.

According to one investment source, "major Internet media companies owning 'ad tech stacks' (including supply-side platforms like what Facebook bought with LiveRail and exchanges), at a minimum ties up large chunks of inventory from the top five (AOL, Yahoo, Facebook, MSN, YouTube), making it more difficult for the independent players."

The source described a "rush for exits by VCs." Although ad-tech valuations remain rich and appetite by investors and buyers is still high, "that can change so quickly and VCs aren't taking chances."

"TubeMogul  is rather differentiated in the market, I'd say, with the fast growth of ... a self-serve platform revenue model," commented Sorosh Tavakoli, founder and CEO of sell-side video ads platform Videoplaza. "This business is highly scalable and very much in line with where the market is going."


Yahoo Gets Video Distribution With Rayv; Is A Video Ad Platform Next?

yahoo rayvYahoo finally has its video distribution platform.

Following flirtations with Hulu, Dailymotion and NDN, the company pulled the trigger Friday on Rayv, an Israeli company focused on high-quality video.

In a post on Yahoo-owned Tumblr, Yahoo’s VP of cloud platform and services, P.P.S. Narayan, described how the deal is meant to enhance Yahoo’s “underlying technology infrastructure” in video.

“Yahoo is focused on growing video users and monthly streams, and while we’re only getting started, we’re very focused on this in 2014,” Narayan wrote. Yahoo did not disclose financial terms.

Rayv’s website, now dominated by a message about the acquisition, describes Rayv’s “full end-to-end solution that enables improved high-quality streaming for our online and mobile video content partners.”

BrightRoll CEO: Why The Buy And Sell Side Must Unite

TodSacerdotiVideo ad platform BrightRoll is looking long-term. In the words of Tod Sacerdoti, its founder and CEO, “we’ve been focused on building an alternative stack to Google for a long time.” And BrightRoll’s got just the man to do it.

Barely a day after it brought on DoubleClick vet Bruce Falck as COO to scale up the eight-year-old company, Facebook moved in on video ad platform LiveRail to ramp up publisher relations and move aggressively into video ad tech. Sacerdoti expects every digital ad tech company without a video platform will need to buy or build their way into that stack, but ultimately – the ones that unite the buy side, sell side and marketplace functionalities under one roof – will emerge victorious.

Sacerdoti spoke with AdExchanger in the first of a series of interviews examining the different vendors in the video ads ecosystem.

AdExchanger: Is BrightRoll an ad server?

TOD SACERDOTI: We historically have really tried to stay away from any acronym definition of our company. If you want to build a viable, long-term standalone business, you need to be unified across buyers and sellers, which means you need buy side tools, sell side tools and a marketplace where they can transact. That’s really where we’ve been focused on building products. It’s interesting with some of these point solutions where people say, “Well I’m only focused on one side of the business” and then they’re acquired and their story immediately changes, but the reality is, in the end, anyone who’s going to be competitive long-term will have buy side and sell side tools under the same roof. Facebook now has that in video. Obviously, Google has it. And we’ve been focused on building an alternative stack to Google for a long time. We have buy side tools, sell side tools and we do serve the majority of the ads on our platform today.


Programmatic ABC: TV Network Names Data-Driven Sales Chief

MikeDeanABC on Thursday appointed Mike Dean to the newly created post of VP of programmatic and data-driven sales. He will report to Pooja Midha, ABC’s SVP of digital ad sales and operations.

Dean most recently served as VP of media platform sales and solutions for programmatic video ads platform Videology, which he joined in 2011 as senior director of publisher services.

ABC recently revealed details about a programmatic private exchange it developed with video ad server FreeWheel and AOL’s technology. Although none of the network’s premium linear inventory was available through the trial, marketers could apply first and third-party data to ABC video inventory via buy-side platforms, said Adam Gerber, ABC’s VP of sales development and marketing, during a recent panel hosted by Simulmedia founder and CEO Dave Morgan.

“Video is going to be the battleground between the traditional TV companies and the digital companies,” Morgan told AdExchanger. “The existing TV companies need to find ways to buttress themselves from digital, which really means being a part of that ecosystem.”


Is SundaySky The Criteo Of Video?

MarkFlahartyThe SundaySky has shifted. Since the video ad company launched its SmartVideo platform in 2011, it has ramped up its focus on personalized ads and video content. It’s an evolution for a company whose platform was first used by brands like AT&T to create videos for customer messaging.

SundaySky has raised $40 million in funding to date from investors like Liberty Global Ventures and Comcast Ventures and appointed its first EVP of advertising, Mark Flaharty, Criteo’s former North American sales chief and YouTube sales alum. Flaharty is looking to scale the platform’s brand business and direct publisher partnerships.

He spoke with AdExchanger.

AdExchanger: Is SundaySky a self-serve or managed services business?

MARK FLAHARTY: We are a full-service solution with a full-service creative team that will soup to nuts work with the client and any of their creative partners. We are creating themes for videos that are pulled together in real-time based on the behavior we see of that user. It’s something no other company has done: generate a video ad in real time via RTB. We have a full creative team.

We have a full business intelligence team, and account services team. That’s not to say in the future we couldn’t create a model much like Google’s for folks who never thought that video advertising was possible for them because they didn’t have the budgets for production or they were a direct marketer who didn’t believe in television because they thought they’d only get 20% composition of the audience.But when you can do 100% of the audience that they want to reach, not only are you able to bring performance and give a brain to video advertising through data, you’re able to open up video to marketers who never before thought it was possible or wanted it.


Iframing The VAST Problem Of Video Viewability

video hearabilityRemember the scene in the movie "Kill Bill, Vol. 2" where the vengeful heroine, the Bride, is buried alive in a coffin and has to pound her way out with her bare fists?

That’s your video ad.

It’s essentially trapped in a box and buried in the publisher’s web page, and whether it can get out and reveal any metrics to the advertiser depends on whether it can bash through the various impediments blocking it from the surface.

For the Bride, it was wood and dirt. For a video ad, it’s the iframe and the video player. After all, that video ad resides within a player situated in an iframe. (The iframe is a walled-in space on a web page, keeping the advertiser from manipulating the publisher’s site or accessing potentially sensitive information displayed on the page.)


If A Video Ad Plays And No One Hears It, Does It Make An Impression?

video hearability copyMissing in the Media Ratings Council’s (MRC) definition of in-browser video viewability (50% in view, playing for two consecutive seconds) is any stipulation around audibility.

This isn’t an oversight – the MRC chose not to institute an audibility requirement because the technology doesn’t exist to determine muting in all instances, said David Gunzerath, SVP and associate director of the MRC.

“While the ability to detect player muting is commonplace, we haven't yet seen anyone who has the ability to detect muting on the device itself,” he explained. “Until there's the ability to detect muting in any way in which it can occur, we didn't believe it should be a requirement of the guidelines.”

The problem with detecting muting on a device is less technical and more ethical. To do so would require installing code – not something consumers would likely appreciate and, even if they did, the permissions process would be unwieldy. As such, measurement tools can only tell if the ad ran on a muted video player.


Facebook To Acquire Video Ad Platform LiveRail

liverail-fbFacebook has agreed to buy video ad platform LiveRail, the companies said today. The acquisition will build Facebook's capabilities around video, both on its own platform and on those of other publishers. LiveRail customers include Major League Baseball (, A&E Networks, Gannett and Dailymotion, giving Facebook its first video ad server integration with premium video owners. 

Terms of the deal weren't disclosed, but in its talks with potential buyers, LiveRail was rumored to be asking $500 million.

Facebook's Brian Boland, VP ads product marketing, wrote in a blog post"We believe that LiveRail, Facebook and the premium publishers it serves have an opportunity to make video ads better and more relevant for the hundreds of millions of people who watch digital video every month. More relevant ads will be more interesting and engaging to people watching online video, and more effective for marketers too. Publishers will benefit as well because more relevant ads will help them make the most out of every opportunity they have to show an ad."

LiveRail positions itself as a video supply-side platform (SSP). Its technology helps media companies determine the optimal yield from their video pods. Last October, the company began supporting ad breaks similar to television breaks. These could be transacted in a programmatic manner and were designed to make it easier for TV buyers to extend their broadcast campaigns more easily into digital channels.

In a 2013 interview with AdExchanger, LiveRail CEO Mark Trefgarne said, "We're seeing more broadcast clients starting to deploy programmatic sales. As a result, more long-form content is coming into the  market, along with the opportunity to have breaks with more than one ad. That also brings with it a certain amount of complexity. That's what we're working to address and simplify."