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Watchwith Acquires MAF Metadata Unit From Arris

Watchwith, which creates in-program on-screen advertising opportunities for TV networks, has acquired Arris’ Media Analysis Framework unit.

MAF uses cloud-based machine learning to automatically generate frame-by-frame metadata, creating the opportunity for data-targeted native advertising at scale.

“Our teams have worked closely together on this shared vision for years,” said Zane Vella, CEO of Watchwith. “And the result is the highly scalable, native digital video advertising solution the TV industry needs to compete with Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat and other native digital video distribution platforms.”

With the acquisition, several of the key Arris engineers that invented the technology will join Watchwith and open a new research and development office in Chicago. The group once worked for Motorola Labs, which had a role in inventing the cellphone.

This new project brings added intelligence to video at a time when traditional TV advertising is under pressure.

“In a world where networks are actively reducing linear ad loads, the need for contextually relevant native video ad products is high. And we’re making this move in order to meet that need in the marketplace at scale,” said Vella.

Metadata, time-consuming to compile by hand, can tell networks and operators when to start and stop commercials or when the kind of on-screen overlay unit Watchwith creates would be contextually relevant.

“The challenge is how to do it across an entire primetime block, how to do it with multiple dayparts, how to do it across 24-7-365 operations,” Vella said. “So this technology plugged into Watchwith is that solution.”

Watchwith licenses its products to networks, and MAF will be included. Vella expects that to result in more usage, which will lead to more revenue for Watchwith. Watchwith has already been adopted by network groups including Fox, NBCUniversal and Viacom.

“Watchwith is the optimal go-to market path for this valuable R&D, and our dedicated MAF team will play a new, highly strategic role within the Watchwith organization,” said Faisal Ishtiaq, PhD and MAF leader. “We understand temporal metadata is the fuel of the emerging video economy. Our teams are committed to creating new revenue opportunities for broadcasters and exciting new user experiences for their viewers.”

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.