iHeartMedia To Acquire Programmatic Radio Platform Jelli

Radio giant iHeartMedia said Monday it will acquire programmatic radio platform Jelli. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

iHeartMedia has been working with Jelli since 2015 to power its private marketplace, SoundPoint, which represents programmatic inventory on its 850 broadcast radio stations. Jelli also powers Katz Expressway, the independent programmatic marketplace run by radio sales rep firm Katz. Jelli will continue to power Expressway, which will remain independently run by Katz.

Jelli’s platform automates radio buying, adds a targeting layer and allows buyers to better measure spend. Its ad server, which is installed in 2,300 radio stations across in the United States, allows buyers to target, measure where an ad ran and understand how many people heard it in real time.

Through SoundPoint, buyers can also layer on iHeartMedia’s first-party data from its digital properties to target buys against audiences.

“We look at what Facebook and Google have accomplished by bringing data to the mix and offering advertisers control and insights, and we’re trying to mirror that,” said Brian Kaminsky, president of ad product, programmatic and data operations at iHeartMedia.

Jelli, which manages $2 billion in media through its platform, will operate as a standalone company within the iHeartMedia group and continue working with broadcast radio stations and buyers across the industry.

“Buyers look for a common platform for radio advertising,” said Jelli CEO Mike Dougherty. “They want to standardize their process and workflow as they move to programmatic.”

In addition to investing in its core programmatic toolset, iHeart plans to make it easier to integrate Jelli with agencies’ demand-side platforms and explore using it in emerging areas like voice. iHeart also wants to more deeply integrate its own analytics into Jelli’s platform so self-serve buyers can access them directly without having to go through a sales rep.

For Jelli, the opportunity under iHeart to combine digital and broadcast audio buying and analytics in one interface was enticing, Dougherty said.

“It really excites our team to think through [how to bring] what we’ve built for the broadcast industry in a multiplatform world,” he said.

Buying programmatically is a big change for broadcast radio buyers and sellers, who previously transacted on Nielsen demos and syndicated research, and could wait up to three months for invoices to see if their spots ran.

Hundreds of advertisers are buying through SoundPoint, Kaminsky said. In November, Horizon Media said it would use Jelli for all of its upfront buys in addition to spot buys.

“We’ve seen pretty ubiquitous demand from the buying community to leverage data on broadcast radio so it isn’t off in a silo,” Kaminsky said. “The entire industry, almost without exception, is moving in this direction. We need to prepare ourselves to participate there.”

For iHeart, which is awaiting a hearing on a Chapter 11 bankruptcy it filed in March, Jelli is the second big purchase it has made this fall. In September, the radio giant purchased podcast network Stuff Media for $55 million.

Kaminsky said the ongoing bankruptcy proceedings will not affect future acquisition plans.

“I think we’re in a pretty good position right now,” he said. “The two acquisitions we’ve done have been relatively easy because they fit into our portfolio.”

IHeartMedia is also looking at the growing smart speaker space.

“That’s green field,” Kaminsky said. “I know it’s a place we’re going to spend some time in.”

This year has seen a flurry of programmatic audio transactions, as traditional players make land grabs for more modern ways of doing business. Pandora acquired programmatic audio platform AdsWizz in March before receiving a $3.5 billion offer from subscription radio giant Sirius XM in September.

“Audio has reached this apex moment,” Kaminsky said. “This is our opportunity, as the biggest audio company in the United States, to really stake our claim.”

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