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Comcast Spins Wheel for FreeWheel

Mari Silbey
3/3/2014

Not willing to stay quiet while the markets digest its planned buyout of Time Warner Cable, Comcast has now added FreeWheel, the popular online video ad-serving company, to its acquisition hit list.

A source close to the transaction confirmed press reports over the weekend that while Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) and FreeWheel Media Inc. have not concluded the deal, the negotiations are well advanced. The price of the planned acquisition rings in at roughly $320 million. (See also Comcast to Buy Time Warner Cable for $45.2B .)

Already the number-one cable provider in the US and owner of one of the top broadcast TV networks in NBC Universal , Comcast is now demonstrating its desire to control many of the video processing functions that lie between content creation and content delivery. FreeWheel's technology helps both service and content providers manage online ad sales and targeted ad delivery. The company, which was founded in 2007, counts NBCU, Fox Broadcasting Co. , Turner Broadcasting System Inc. , Discovery Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: DISCA, DISCB, DISCK), Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH), DirecTV Group Inc. (NYSE: DTV), and AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) among its many customers.

The pursuit of FreeWheel is just one more sign that Comcast is cementing its role not only as a content and distribution provider, but also as a major driver of the technology agenda for video delivery. In some cases, as with its subsidiary thePlatform Inc. (and likely with FreeWheel), Comcast is acting as a vendor to its own media properties along with many others. In other cases, as with the Reference Design Kit (RDK) and the Converged Cable Access Platform (CCAP) initiatives, the MSO is crafting a technology blueprint for both vendors and other cable companies to follow it into the cable future.

To be sure, Comcast is not the only major service provider seeking to use its scale and clout to advance its video delivery technology vision. Verizon has similar aims with its Digital Media Services business.

Most recently, Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) closed the acquisitions of both EdgeCast Networks Inc. , a content delivery network provider, and upLynk, a company with technology for uploading and encoding video streams. As with Comcast, customers for Verizon's DMS services include both media and distribution companies. Plus, Verizon struck a deal in late January to buy Intel Media's OnCue Cloud TV platform. (See Verizon Closes Acquisitions and Verizon Snatches Intel Media Assets.)

— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading

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msilbey
msilbey
3/6/2014 | 2:28:24 PM
And now the deal is done
The paperwork is signed. Put this one in the books.
albreznick
albreznick
3/5/2014 | 9:46:07 PM
Freewheeling
Comcast just keeps marching on. Guess this pending deal was in the works before the TWC deal. So how many other pieces of the puzzle does Comcast now need in the online video world? I wonder. 
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