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TidalTV Targets Ads for Set-Tops, TV Everywhere

Backed by $16 million in new funding from Comcast Interactive Capital and other investors, TidalTV Inc. is looking to position itself as a key player enabling everything from targeting ads to individual set-tops to improving advertising yields for TV Everywhere products.

TidalTV CEO Scott Ferber tells Light Reading Cable that the company isn’t looking to compete with other firms hawking targeted advertising technology to cable operators and advertisers, including Invidi Technologies Corp. , Canoe Ventures LLC (the cross-MSO initiative), Visible World , and Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)'s Navic Networks .

“They’re enablers for us. They’re hugely valuable pieces of the ecosystem,” Ferber says. (See EBIF Gets an Upgrade and Invidi Bows 'Entry-Level' EBIF.)

Baltimore-based TidalTV is one of a growing number of companies that's aiming to one day target ads to individual homes and even individual set-tops within those homes. It hopes to deliver those targeted video spots to viewers by analyzing anonymous data collected from set-tops.

But while Invidi, Navic, and other firms have seen limited trials and small deployments from Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), and other providers, targeted advertising technology isn’t yet available on enough set-tops to draw a significant investment from media buyers for the sector. (See Comcast Shines Spotlight on Ad Trial, Comcast Bulks for Baltimore Ad Trial , and Comcast Gets Dynamic With VoD Ads .)

Ferber estimates that there are fewer than 1 million digital set-tops deployed in the U.S. today capable of receiving ads designed to target individual receivers. “I think two years from now, you’ll have 40 million household penetration. I think that’s what we need.”

Most cable MSOs aren’t focused enough on enabling targeted advertising, Ferber believes: “I wish it was more important to them.” [Ed. note: Last year, Canoe Ventures backburnered an addressable ad project and instead placed its near-term focus on an interactive campaign powered by Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format (EBIF).]

TidalTV is pitching its yield optimization products to cable operators, programmers, and advertisers. In addition to its efforts to develop targeted advertising for the cable industry, the company is also focused on deploying optimization and yield management products tailored to online video.

While Comcast Interactive Capital is an investor, TidalTV hasn’t announced any deals to supply products for Comcast’s digital cable or online video efforts. But Ferber did note that he expects TidalTV to become “more and more prevalent in places like advanced television, online video, [and] TV Everywhere.”

It’s still very early in the days of TV Everywhere deployments from Comcast and other cable operators. Comcast launched its TV Everywhere service, Fancast Xfinity TV, in December. (See Comcast to Expand 'Xfinity' to DSL Subs and Comcast's 'Xfinity' Goes Live ).

Earlier this week, Verizon introduced HBO GO -- the premium channel’s TV Everywhere service -- to its FiOS TV customers. But it still hasn’t launched a product with the scope of the dozens of networks offered by Fancast Xfinity TV. (See Verizon Gets First Taste of 'HBO GO' Portal and Xfinity Gets Into the Games ).

Time Warner Cable is developing a TV Everywhere product, and technology vendor Synacor Inc. is shopping a TV Everywhere solution to Charter Communications Inc. and dozens of smaller MSOs. (See Synacor Sizes Up ‘TV Everywhere’ .)

One of the biggest obstacles programmers face in offering online access to their series and movies is determining the ad load to include in the shows, and the types of ads to distribute. Firms like TidalTV are looking to make a business of targeting the most effective ads to online viewers, and optimizing yield for media buyers.

Advertising giant WPP’s GroupM is one of TidalTV’s first customers. It struck a deal in October to license its ad decision technology to the firm and handle ad optimization and yield management for its addressable TV advertising products.

Ferber says TidalTV is also pitching its technology to operators that could use it to enhance their local advertising inventories.

TidalTV’s investors include New Enterprise Associates and Valhalla Partners, which led its first round of funding ($15 million) in March 2008. Earlier this week, those venture capital firms joined Comcast Interactive Capital in making a $16 million investment in the company. (See Comcast Backs TidalTV.)

— Steve Donohue, Special to Light Reading Cable

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