Comcast Wraps FreeWheel Deal

Comcast has closed its acquisition of online ad campaign company FreeWheel, agreeing to a higher price than the one that circulated over the weekend as the MSO and the vendor were finalizing the deal.

A person familiar with the deal confirmed a Re/code report that Comcast will pay up to $360 million for FreeWheel, and as much as $375 million when retention bonuses and other compensation are factored in. It was originally believed that Comcast was to pay about $320 million to land the San Mateo, Calif.-based company.

FreeWheel said the Comcast acquisition will enable it to execute on a grander scale.

“FreeWheel’s mission has always been to unify television advertising wherever content is viewed,” company co-founders Doug Knopper, Jon Heller, and Diane Yu said in a blog post announcing the deal. “To make this a reality, the industry needs an enterprise advertising platform that works on all screens, across the entire ecosystem, at scale. Comcast’s investment in our business and our future innovations will accelerate our ability to deliver on our vision, providing us with the strength and staying power that our clients demand, while maintaining our commitment to the success of our extensive and diverse customer base."

Knopper and Heller (FreeWheel’s co-CEOs) and Yu (CTO) said they have each signed multi-year agreements to stay in their respective roles.

A source familiar with the deal said FreeWheel will operator independently and to continue serving its clients, closely following the structure of Comcast’s acquisition of video publishing specialist thePlatform in 2006.

Founded in 2007, FreeWheel clients include Comcast corporate cousin NBCUniversal, Fox, Turner, AOL, Sky, Dish Network, Discovery Communications, DirecTV, Vevo, AT&T, Viacom, A+E Networks, Crackle, and Revision3, among others. Investors include Steamboat Ventures, Turner Broadcasting System, Battery Ventures, Foundation Capital, and DirecTV, which announced it had taken an equity ownership stake in the company in January 2013. According to Re/code, FreeWheel booked $22 million in revenue in 2013.

FreeWheel’s competitors include Black Arrow, which Comcast uses for its VOD dynamic ad insertion on set-top boxes, DoubleClick (acquired by Google in 2007 for $3.1 billion), and Auditude (acquired in 2011 by Adobe Systems).