FreeWheel Launches Ad Product Suite, Boosts Competition With Roku

FreeWheel released the next generation of its ad exchange on Tuesday.

The Comcast-owned ad server built off its legacy ad exchange, enhanced by technology from its acquisition of StickyAds in 2016, for its updated ad product suite, DRIVE. The new exchange is designed to let marketers more easily buy over-the-top (OTT), set-top box video on demand and digital video inventory from any of FreeWheel’s opted-in publishers.

StickyAds gave FreeWheel a more sophisticated ad exchange than the one it previously had. FreeWheel integrated StickyAds’ SSP into its ad server in order to make transacting easier for publishers.

In June, FreeWheel partnered with Nielsen to better measure across OTT. This development, coupled with other new perks, like being able buy inventory in real time, makes DRIVE a better version of what FreeWheel already had. At least, that’s the plan.

“What we’ve seen in the market is there’s an interest in getting aggregate scale,” Neil Smith, general manager of FreeWheel Markets, told AdExchanger. “We want to be a complementary media product [to direct sales] so we can take the complementary demand and position ourselves against the Rokus of the world.”

In June, Roku launched its Audience Marketplace, allowing publishers to sell inventory based on first-party audience data. With DRIVE, FreeWheel is a new entrant into the increasingly crowded – and competitive – world of OTT.

“If you go to buy that aggregate [inventory] from Roku, you’re buying a planet,” Smith said.  “If you come and buy from DRIVE and marketplace on FreeWheel, you’re getting the universe.”

Smith said FreeWheel’s DRIVE and relationships with publishers, in addition to its measurement partnership with Nielsen, give it an advantage over exchanges offered by Roku, Apple TV and Amazon Fire.

Smith said DRIVE has been in beta since the spring but declined to disclose the number of clients using it.

May the best exchange win.

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