Liberty butters up Samba TV with $7.5m, prepares for TV data overhaul

How can a major cable company pump up revenues for a steadily weakening pay TV business, with minimal capex and a rapid time to market? Almost every video technology vendor in the market will raise a hand, but Liberty Global provided one of many answers for us this week – dropping a $7.5 million investment in TV data outfit Samba TV.

Samba TV could be exactly what Liberty Global needs to boost operations across its 12 European countries, aggregating consumer viewing and purchasing habits then gearing the data towards targeted TV campaigns for programmatic advertising. Liberty could wrap its VoD assets with targeted ads, selling them programmatically to the highest bidders, before taking the bigger step of putting viewer data to use in dynamic ad insertion capabilities into its live streaming services, such as TV Everywhere.

These hypothetical use cases are not Samba TV’s run of the mill deployments, largely supplying broadcasters and marketers with audience measurement insights, from data collected on smart TVs, set tops and social media. Where Samba TV stands out is its vast presence in smart TVs, with software pulling viewership data from some 14 million US TV households. Liberty Global uses Cadent Technology for dynamic ad insertion in some of its TV operations, while SeaChange is present in other regions.

If a customer the size of Liberty Global comes along, presumably Samba TV could spin up a cloud instance over in Europe in no time at all – reaching millions of Liberty Global set tops and mobile app users without a lengthy switch out process. To replicate its US success in Europe, Samba TV may need to recruit a European partner akin to the US national panel for measuring household viewing data for advertising exposure – as advertising flavors between the two differ wildly. Yet Samba TV already has deployments across Europe on smart TV sets from Sony, Sharp, Element, Westinghouse, Seiki and more, so it’s unclear if the firm has already established relationships with European equivalents, such as the UK’s Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board (BARB), which has contracted WPP’s Kantar Media – the world’s largest advertising agency and, conveniently, a partner company of Samba TV.

Circling back to this week’s investment, adding to Samba TV’s $30 million funding round last June. The company said Liberty’s $7.5 million will go towards expanding its international presence, guided by Liberty, so expect to see the software appearing around Europe soon. Samba TV also hopes to “bring essential TV insights making audiences more addressable and measurable for agencies, brands and broadcasters across the world.”

Another notable partnership deal Samba TV has is with Hulu, offering sales effectiveness measurement tools. Hulu has a similar deal with Nielsen Catalina Solutions, the data giant Samba TV will be hoping to boot out of contracts.

Samba TV claims it analyzes 7,000 years of TV viewership a day across millions of households worldwide, which gives brands a holistic view of content and advertising consumption across broadcast, cable, OTT, apps and other digital platforms. Samba TV offers a real-time, opt-in TV viewership insights and connected device map, including 66 million devices for 1:1 mapping and to increase programmatic reach.

Liberty Global’s MD of advanced advertising and data, John Paul, said: “Samba TV is a true pioneer in the field of advanced advertising and we’re excited to be working with it as it expands the business in Europe. We look forward to working together to match its market-leading expertise in targeted advertising and consumer insight with the reach of our best-in-class broadband and video services.”

Ashwin Navin, CEO and co-founder of Samba TV, said: “The television markets in Europe are ready for the next generation TV experience and business model built on better data and greater personalization for consumers. Our work with Liberty Global and its partners, will enable us to reach even more clients interested in rolling out pioneering audience-based advertising models – and deliver those clients even more effective cutting-edge products and solutions”.

The current trend in broadcast advertising is to collect several giant broadcasters together and create a walled garden of advertising which is addressable by audience types, in order to control national TV ad markets, and Liberty Global could build a stake in multiple European TV ad markets with such an alliance.