Comcast and AOL Deals Highlight Collision Course Between Web Video and TV

Comcast and AOL Deals Highlight Collision Course Between Web Video and TV

Comcast has reportedly reached an agreement to buy online ad platform FreeWheel for $320 million. In this photo from Jan. 9, a Comcast cable truck works in front of a home in Mount Lebanon, Pa.
Two deals in three days illuminate collision course between television and web video.

Comcast is reportedly in talks to acquire online advertising platform FreeWheel for around $320 million, as the television cable provider continues to bolster its online assets.

FreeWheel allows online video content creators to serve ads alongside videos, and counts the likes of NBC Universal, Fox and ESPN among its clients. The news was first reported by TechCrunch on Saturday. A source familiar with the deal confirmed the news to Mashable.

The Comcast deal would not immediately affect FreeWheel’s business operations or its relationships with its clients, the source added.

Then on Monday, announced that it has struck a deal with Magna Global to include television ads in its programmatic buying platform. Bought by AOL in August, is an online ad market in which advertisers and publishers can buy and sell ads.

The inclusion of television ads in what was a digital platform highlights the demand from marketers to target prospective customers across various platforms as part of a single advertising strategy.

“Video buyers are now able to use a single technology platform to activate first- and third-party data and target relevant video ads to viewers across digital, mobile and linear TV environments,” wrote in a press release.

While much smaller than its acquisition of Time Warner Cable, the move would give Comcast a valuable asset as it continues to build out its streaming business. Comcast already offers the X1, a streaming content box, and Streampix, a streaming movie service.

The growth of online video, along with the ads that run before and after those videos, has spurred investment in companies and technology. The move also highlights the arms race between companies such as AOL and Comcast that were not traditionally competitors.

The ability to serve ads online now gives Comcast a just about complete vertical integration from content — it owns NBC Universal — and now ads that run through Comcast broadband through the company’s cable boxes. This is a business position that is almost unrivaled by any other content creator or Internet service provider.

For AOL, the ability to offer television real estate along with its digital ad properties removes another barrier between traditional and online media, as advertisers seek convergence between digital video and television advertising. AOL can now offer both in one place.

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