SpotX Invests In SpringServe, As TV Consolidates Supply-Side Tech

The video advertising platform SpotX has invested in supply-side ad server SpringServe, the companies said Monday.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Though the deal is not an outright acquisition, SpotX and SpringServe will collaborate on new features that shared customers can use, said SpotX COO Sean Buckley.

SpringServe and SpotX are both supply-side video ad tech vendors, but don’t exactly overlap, because SpotX is an exchange and SSP that hooks into advertisers, while SpringServe is an ad server for video and CTV content companies.

In other words, SpotX decides which buyers win impressions across its supply network, while SpringServe is the ledger individual publishers use to track the ads they route into the programmatic ecosystem.

“The market is looking for closer alignment between all these pieces in the sell-side ecosystem,” said SpringServe co-founder and CEO Joseph Hirsch.

The OTT and CTV ad tech category is difficult for independent ad tech, Hirsch said. “There are pressures in the market that encourage consolidation.”

SpotX, which is owned by the large European broadcaster RTL Group, has acquired video ad tech point solutions in the past. Last year it bought Yospace, a server-side video platform that places programmatic ads in on-demand content. The investment in SpringServe means the ad server becomes part of a single supply channel for the companies’ shared customers, Buckley said.

The companies are also planning CTV-focused product updates that are only possible when the SSP and ad server go to market together, he said.

Consider “inventory splitting”: A CTV content publisher with apps on Roku and Amazon Fire TV sells most of its inventory itself, but might pass 20%-30% of impressions to the OTT platforms. If the programmer is carried by TV services such as Sling or DirecTV Now, or partners with a smart-TV manufacturer like Samsung, inventory is dealt out to those partners as well.

To help publishers avoid over-serving ads and frustrating viewers, SpringServe’s inventory router product syncs with platforms like Roku and Fire TV to avoid serving an ad if Roku or Amazon recently served the same ad to the same viewer.

SpotX and SpringServe will also work on podded ad delivery, Buckley said. In TV land, campaigns often have parameters, for instance barring competitive brands from advertising during the same show or within an hour of an ad placement. Those rules are built into the ad server, he said, but that process will run more smoothly when paired with SpotX’s bidding tech.

Another new market opportunity is addressable linear TV ads, Buckley said. Getting the workflow right so advertisers can plan TV campaigns on a programmatic platform requires a deep integration and joint forecasting between the exchange and the ad server, he said.

Product collaboration aside, the CTV and OTT ad tech market is stacked against small, independent players.

Last month, for instance, the Amazon SSP announced that it would remove the SSP fee entirely for advertisers using the Amazon DSP to buy its inventory. AT&T’s Xandr and Verizon Media also zero out SSP fees.

For publishers that work with two, three or even more different point solutions in their supply-side stack, it’s easy to default instead to a platform that cuts its fees to zero, even if they’d rather not give more control to the walled garden giants.

“It’s a tough space. And we’ve clawed our way to this position,” Hirsch said. “We consider the investment from SpotX as a signal to the market that we’re ready for center stage.”

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