Disney Drops FreeWheel in Favor of Google Ad Manager

The Walt Disney Company has found its happily ever after with Google, not Comcast-owned FreeWheel.

After months of speculation, Google said in a blog post that Disney would implement its ad platform across its brands, including Disney, ABC, ESPN, Marvel, Pixar and Star Wars. The relationship will span all of Disney’s video and display inventory.

“We value all our partnerships and have great momentum in bringing on broadcasters, cable operators, live sports and video publishers to power their video businesses across screens, but Disney is significant because of its vast, premium global content,” Shane Peros, Google’s managing director of global partnerships, broadcast, media and entertainment, told AdExchanger in an email. “Through this long-term relationship, we’ll be collaborating with Disney to build for the future of video, and are excited to work together on new products and services that we’ll be unveiling down the road.”

FreeWheel previously handled ad serving across the Disney-ABC Television Group as well as ESPN.

A Disney spokesperson told AdExchanger that the selection of Google was unrelated to competitive concerns with FreeWheel parent Comcast, which also owns Disney rival NBC Universal and which lost out to Disney in a bidding war for 21st Century Fox.

This was a business decision squarely based on Google’s industry-leading technology and platform road map, a deep understanding of media use and advertising, massive scale and understanding and will help improve personalization and overall ad experience,” the company said in an emailed statement. “Additionally, we have had a relationship with Google previously in some aspects of business, and this simply expands the work we do with them.”

The assignment is a major victory for Google, which has been on the hunt for TV ad dollars but has signed few scaled customers.  Many have wondered at its chances, given broadcast networks’ wariness about competition from YouTube and tech platforms’ tendency to marginalize publisher inventory in the digital milieu.

Google may ultimately have won out partly on the strength of its cross-channel ad serving capabilities, according to Tracey Scheppach, CEO and co-founder of consulting firm Matter More Media.

“I think that what publishers or programmers and ultimately advertisers and their agencies are trying to do is to coordinate cross-media platforms, so trying to find a way to coordinate video with things like display, I think, is very important,” said Scheppach. “And I think Google’s doing a better job at that than FreeWheel.”

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