DirecTV Tees Up 'TV Everywhere' Ads With FreeWheel

Operator Plans to Launch Video Ad Insertion for Mobile, Web Platforms Toward End of 2013

As the TV Everywhere saga slowly builds momentum, DirecTV is now looking at the next chapter: how to maximize ad revenue from multiplatform video content.

The satellite operator plans to launch a digital video ad-insertion solution, developed with FreeWheel, toward the end of 2013. DirecTV also has taken an equity ownership stake in FreeWheel; terms of the investment were not disclosed.

With the FreeWheel-based system, DirecTV will be able to let programming partners and advertisers deliver ads for mobile and Web platforms. The operator itself also will sell ads for TVE content. At some point, the system could deliver targeted ads based on demographic data, according to the companies.

Consumer awareness of TV Everywhere is still low today -- a survey last fall by GfK found that just 22% of pay TV customers had heard of the term -- and content is sometimes spotty.

But with better advertising capabilities, programmers will be more willing to jump into TVE with both feet, DirecTV senior vice president of digital entertainment products Tony Goncalves said.

“The buzz is about, ‘Why isn’t TV Everywhere everywhere?’” he said. “Being able to offer our programming partners seamless digital advertising will help us secure top content and provide our customers with the most robust ‘everywhere’ product available.”

Currently, the ads in DirecTV’s TV Everywhere content are placed by the programmers and they “tend to be outside the [Nielsen] C3 window,” Goncalves said. The satellite operator will have access to advertising avails in TVE content in a similar proportion to its traditional avails on linear feeds, he said.

A big concern of programmers remains the limited ability to measure TV Everywhere viewing on tablets, smartphones and other connected devices. Nielsen is working on measuring viewing across multiple devices, starting with the iPad, and is investigating new ways to track multiscreen viewing, according to Scott Brown, Nielsen’s senior vice president of client insights and strategic relations, speaking on a panel at CES earlier this month.

DirecTV hasn’t identified programmers it is working with on the initiative. Currently, the DirecTV Everywhere lineup includes on-demand content from 36 networks, including those from A+E Networks, Scripps Networks Interactive, Viacom Media Networks, HBO, Showtime Networks and Starz Entertainment.

FreeWheel’s clients represent more than 70% of channels in the standard pay TV lineup, according to the New York-based company. They include ESPN, Fox, NBCUniversal and Turner Broadcasting System. “Our work with DirecTV allows us to continue our efforts to connect the largest content owners with the broadest distributors to increase video syndication,” said Doug Knopper, co-founder and co-CEO of FreeWheel.

DirecTV’s investment in FreeWheel will give the operator insight into the vendor’s product roadmap and help it develop “deeper relationships” with industry leaders and key partners, according to Goncalves.