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Frontier Hops Into Cable's Ad Canoe

Canoe Ventures has locked oars with an industry outsider as the cable operator-backed VoD advertising joint venture attempts to paddle toward new deals designed to spur growth and open up new revenue streams.

That outsider is Frontier Communications, a telco that serves about 738,000 video customers across 29 states, including areas that came from its acquisition of Verizon Fios wireline footprint in Southern California, Florida's Tampa Bay region and parts of Dallas, Indiana, Oregon and Washington.

For Canoe, a venture backed by Comcast, Cox Communications and Charter Communications, the Frontier move represents two firsts -- a deal involving a non-owner, and the first to be signed with a service provider that is not a cable operator.

The new deal will broaden Canoe's VoD advertising footprint, open up more opportunities for its network and media partners (which include A&E Networks, AMC Networks, CBS, Discovery Networks and Disney, among others) and help Frontier enhance and expand its own VoD platform because it is now in position to sell more local ad avails, according to Chris Pizzurro, Canoe's VP of global sales.

Pizzurro said discussions between Canoe and Frontier got underway last year. Following some configurations and a pilot with one of Canoe's programming partners, Frontier is now onboarded with Canoe's dynamic VoD ad insertion platform and more programmers will be integrated in Q4 2019 and into Q1 2020.

Pizzurro said the technical work completed at Frontier could also be applied to other pay-TV providers that are outside the cable fold. "There's been the same ongoing discussion with others like we've been doing with Frontier," he said.

Expanding Canoe's reach to other multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) is critical to the joint venture as growth in its legacy cable footprint slows down. Although Canoe's ad impression totals grew 10% in Q3 2019, they dipped slightly for the first time in Q2 2019.

"The business is maturing," Pizzurro said. "We're starting to sell out and max out where our current footprint is."

That has caused Canoe to explore footprint expansion in the US and beyond. Pizzurro said Canoe has talks underway with pay-TV distributors in Canada, Latin America and Europe.

The Frontier deal, he said, shows that Canoe is open for business with non-owners and pay-TV providers of all types.

Pizzurro believes that non-cable operators will be eager to work with Canoe because such deals don't cross competitive streams in the traditional sense of residential pay-TV services. Rather than chasing the same consumer for pay-TV, Canoe and its programming and MVPD partners serve a different master: the national TV ad buyer.

"There's not that conflict here because you want to scale to the national tv buyer. That's the game here," Pizzurro said.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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