Finance

An M&A expert predicts 2020 will be a big deal for tech deals, with Tubi TV being snapped up and Samba TV getting sold

  • Adtech companies view TV as the next big area of growth, and this year has seen deals from Roku, Viacom, and LiveRamp take place to capture an increasing amount of ad dollars.
  • Elgin Thompson, managing director of technology investment banking at JMP Securities, predicted that 2020 would be another big year for TV-tech deals for companies looking to beef up their OTT products.
  • Thompson said ad-supported streaming services and measurement firms would be hot acquisition targets in 2020 and that adtech firms trying to make the pivot to OTT are likely acquirers.
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The TV advertising industry started to crack in 2019.

As cord-cutting grew and linear viewing declined, Disney, WarnerMedia and NBCUniversal bet big on new streaming services and advertisers started to shift dollars away from traditional TV. Adtech companies rushed to grab a piece of the pie by launching everything from new ad-buying systems to analytics software that tracks ad performance.

The year also brought some big deals. Roku bought adtech company Dataxu, Viacom acquired PlutoTV for $340 million, and LiveRamp bought DataPlus Math for $150 million. Last week, Rubicon Project and Telaria announced they planned to merge next year to form a bigger OTT advertising company.

Elgin Thompson, managing director of technology investment banking at JMP Securities, said those types of deals are likely to accelerate in 2020. Unlike Google’s dominance in display and search advertising, adtech companies see an opportunity to jump ahead of Google in building out the infrastructure and relationships with marketers for OTT.

“Google doesn’t dominate television — everyone who was text-based in the past year now wants to be in the OTT space” he said.

Here are three deals he thinks could happen in 2020.

Tubi TV gets snatched up

The glut of new streaming services is a mix of subscription and advertising-based models. Two of this year’s most prominent streaming launches are ad-free: Disney+ and Apple TV Plus. Comcast and NBCU’s Peacock and WarnerMedia’s HBO Max that are planned to roll out next year and in 2021 will include some ads.

For that reason, ad-supported services like Pluto TV, Tubi TV and Xumo are building up their own adtech stacks and funneling some of the spend from TV to OTT. With Viacom buying Pluto TV this year, Thompson said Tubi TV could get acquired next year because it has an advertising model that takes direct aim at Netflix, he said.

Innovid or TripleLift make a big OTT acquisition

Adtech companies including TripleLift, Innovid and Amobee made big pivots into OTT this year.

One challenge for adtech companies is that the technology used to serve and measure display ads doesn’t work in over-the-top advertising. For that reason, Thompson said TripleLift or Innovid could acquire an OTT company next year. TripleLift is working on building custom ad formats like product placements for streaming services, and Innovid makes interactive ad formats like skippable ads. Thompson also mentioned Simpli.fi, an adtech firm that helps marketers buy local OTT ad space, as a potential acquirer in 2020.

“To the extent that they can’t build their own [tech stacks] they will look to acquire best of breed,” he said. ” The challenge is these technologies are still new.”

TV measurement firms like Samba TV will be a hot target

Comscore and Nielsen have long been the ad industry’s primary way to measure TV advertising and both companies are shifting towards measuring connected TV advertising.

Big digital measurement firms Integral Ad Science and DoubleVerify have also started measuring OTT platforms over the past year, but Thompson said a number of TV-focused adtech firms like Samba TV and iSpot.TV could be hot acquisition targets next year because they’ve been dedicated to solving TV measurement for years.

“That’s all they’ve ever done,” Thompson said about Samba TV and iSpot.TV. “That is a critical component in the development of OTT.”

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