Count This: Gets $325 Million Investment From Goldman Sachs

Sean Muller iSpot
Sean Muller (Image credit: iSpot), a leader among the alternatives to Nielsen, received a $325 million investment from Goldman Sachs Asset Management, one of the biggest investments made in the increasingly competitive media measurement industry.

Goldman Sachs gets a minority interest in, which previously raised $58 million. Goldman joins Insight Partners and Madrona Venture Group as primary investors in will use the new funds to build out its real-time audience measurement, ad verification and campaign analytics platform. It said it will do that through adding engineering, expanding its sales force, and acquiring complementary businesses.

Also: The Front-Runner: How iSpot Became a Favorite To Claim Nielsen’s Measurement Crown

After Nielsen was found to have undercounted viewing during the pandemic and lost its accreditation from the Media Rating Council, the ad industry has been more enthusiastically looking at alternatives to Nielsen. Some of those alternatives might be used to buy and sell media in the upcoming upfront market.

The Goldman Sachs investment also comes at a time of intense financial activity in the ad tech and data business. Earlier this month, EDO, a measurement company co-founded by actor Ed Norton, got an $80 million investment from Shamrock Capital. Last year, another measurement company with data being considered as currency by media buyers and sellers, VideoAmp, raised $275 million

Companies in the sector are also making acquisitions to scale their capabilities, particularly in the CTV market. Innovid acquired TVSquared for $160 million in March after going public in a SPAC deal in December valued at $1.3 billion. Also last year Integral Ad Science bought Publica for $220 million.

Nielsen itself agreed last month to be acquired by private equity firms for $16 billion, including debt.

iSpot was singled out by NBCUniversal as being the leader in developing a cross-platform advertising measurement system that could serve as an alternative to Nielsen, whose own new system -- Nielsen One -- is expected to rollout next year and is being tested by The Walt Disney Co. along with media agency Magna.

Working with NBCU, iSpot’s system was put to the test in the first quarter measuring programming for media buyers and ad buyers, including the Olympics and the Super Bowl.

“We have been very impressed with iSpot’s world-class data analytics software platform and proprietary systems which have been purpose-built for the increasingly dynamic video measurement space,” said Leonard Seevers, partner and head of media investment for the private equity business within Goldman Sachs Asset Management. “We are incredibly excited to partner with Sean and the iSpot team to drive long-term growth and value creation together.” 

“We believe iSpot’s industry-leading scale in viewership data and its ability to deliver cross-screen audience and performance measurement in real time uniquely position the company to support the TV advertisement ecosystem in advancing the industry’s measurement standards,” added Joon Park, managing director at Goldman Sachs Asset Management. “We look forward to supporting the iSpot team in their exciting journey ahead.”

Goldman Sachs Asset Management has invested in other analytics, software and marketing technology companies including TransUnion, Innovid, GumGum and Human.

iSpot was launched by serial tech entrepreneur Sean Muller, who discovered he couldn’t find information about TV commercials online. He started iSpot in 2012 and it built a catalog of commercials and used smart TV automatic content recognition software to detect each time a particular ad ran and where it appeared. iSpot later licensed smart TV viewing data from Vizio’s Inscape unit to measure how many people saw each commercial.

“This team has modernized TV measurement and has achieved a lot of groundbreaking innovations for the industry in our first ten years in business,” said Muller, still the majority owner of the company. “As we enter our second decade, the investment and support from Goldman Sachs will help fuel the next generation of innovations and accelerate our ability to be the trusted cross-screen currency of choice.”

iSpot currently generates more than $100 million in recurring revenue, working with 400 large advertisers and media companies. 

iSpot has 350 employees and is headquartered in Bellevue, Washington, with regional offices in New York City, Los Angeles and Tel Aviv.

It has also been in on the acquisition business, buying Ace Metrix, which measures the impact of advertising creative, DRMetrix, which measures dynamic messaging detection and addressable advertising, and Tunity, which measures out-of-home TV viewership via its popular Tunity app.

Jefferies Group and Luma Partners acted as financial advisors to iSpot, and Fox Rothschild LLP provided legal counsel in connection with the transaction. Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP provided legal counsel to Goldman Sachs in connection with the transaction. ■

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.