California: FreeWheel, one of the largest platforms used by TV networks and major video distributors to serve ads alongside their content online, is to be acquired by Comcast in a $320 million deal. FreeWheel has become the go-to ad-serving platform for many TV networks that stream their content online.
Founded in 2007, Freewheel has racked up clients that include MLB.tv, ESPN, FOX, NBC Universal, Sky, Turner, and VEVO, among others.
It also signed up Amazon to begin serving ads alongside its streaming videos.
Comcast is interested in owning the technology for its own video ad platform. FreeWheel is expected to continue serving outside clients, particularly the networks that the cable company has partnered with for its own TV Everywhere services.
An acquisition by Comcast might seem like a conflict of interest among some of FreeWheel’s customers — in particular satellite TV provider DirecTV, which is a competitor to Comcast and an investor in FreeWheel.
But this wouldn’t be the first tech platform that Comcast has bought and run as a standalone subsidiary. In 2006 Comcast bought online video distribution startup thePlatform, which has continued to serve a number of cable providers and TV networks to deliver online streams of their content.
Other strategic investors in FreeWheel include Disney’s Steamboat Ventures and Turner Broadcasting System. The company had also raised institutional money from Battery Ventures and Foundation Capital over the years.
The acquisition would also mark the latest exit for a company in the video ad world. Last summer, both YuMe and Tremor went public. Adap.tv was acquired by TechCrunch parent company AOL. The last big video ad companies that are still private are LiveRail, which is targeting an IPO later this year, and BrightRoll.
This is a big deal for FreeWheel, but a a tiny acquisition for Comcast, which recently announced plans to buy Time Warner Cable for $45 billion.