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Microsoft Pushes Advanced Ad Needle

Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), looking to secure a spot at cable's advanced advertising table, has snapped up Navic Networks , the companies announced today.

Waltham, Mass.-based Navic develops a wide range of interactive TV applications, including some voting and polling services that synch up with live programming. (See Microsoft Nabs Navic .)

However, its most promising developments have come in the area of interactive and addressable advertising. Last fall, the vendor launched Admira, a media placement service that taps into data culled from set-top boxes. (See Navic Intros Admira.)

That component could come into play as major players -- Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), Cox Communications Inc. , Charter Communications Inc. , Bright House Networks , and Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) -- embark on a cross-MSO advanced advertising initiative rechristened last week as Canoe Ventures LLC. (See Verklin Picked as Cable's Canoe Captain and Introducing 'Canoe Ventures'.)

Although Canoe Ventures has not identified any official technology partners, industry sources indicated last year that Navic was one of the vendors being considered following a request for information (RFI) issued by CableLabs . (See Cable's 'Canoe' RFI Paddles Toward Deadline.)

Terms of the deal weren't disclosed, but Multichannel News reported this afternoon that Microsoft got Navic for about $230 million, outbidding Canoe Ventures for the advertising vendor. A spokeswoman for Canoe Ventures declined to comment on the report, noting only that the initiative is still in its early stages.

A Microsoft official also had no comment on the report. Navic, however, is slated to become a wholly owned subsidiary of Microsoft and join the company's Advertiser and Publisher Solutions (APS) division. Eight-year-old Navic has raised about $43 million.

Earlier this year, Navic broadened its potential deployment footprint significantly when it obtained validation to run on the iGuide navigation system from Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) and Gemstar-TV Guide International Inc. (Nasdaq: GMST). Navic already has applications running on boxes hooked into the Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) digital cable platform. (See Navic's Next Stop: Motorolaville .)

Before obtaining Moto validation, Navic had developed an impressive list of major service provider customers, including Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH), Time Warner Cable, Cox, Charter, Comcast, Bright House, and Canada's Vidéotron Telecom Ltd. Navic, which competes with the likes of OpenTV Corp. (Nasdaq: OPTV), says its applications are running on 35 million set-tops.

Microsoft back in the game?
Microsoft has had trouble getting its software and applications deployed in cable set-top boxes in the U.S. Last year, it lost its last significant U.S. cable set-top toehold when Comcast jettisoned Microsoft's Foundation Edition software and interactive program guide from the MSO's Seattle market.

But, with Canoe Ventures getting ready to sell its platform to cable programming networks, it appears Microsoft may have timed its latest foray into cable correctly this time around -- provided its deal for Navic did not rub the major MSOs the wrong way.

The Navic deal also dovetails with Microsoft's $6 billion acquisition of aQuantive, which aims to bring Internet-like precision to the world of cable video-on-demand. (See Microsoft On Demand , Microsoft to Buy aQuantive, and Charter Tests Dynamic VOD Ads.)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

thebulk 12/5/2012 | 3:38:23 PM
re: Microsoft Pushes Advanced Ad Needle I think this is a good move for Microsoft; they need to redefine themselves as a company all together. With the growing popularity of open source software they will no longer be able to brand themselves as a software company. Luckily they have there fingers in a lot of other endeavors.

But I must say I am surprised to not see Google playing a role here.
imapedestrian 12/5/2012 | 3:38:04 PM
re: Microsoft Pushes Advanced Ad Needle Why is MSFT excited about Navic?

There are other players around that also have a great footprint with the cable MSOs. Everstream, for example, has similar offerings and a better IP position.
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