Watchwith Buys a Piece of Arris

Watchwith said it has acquired Arris’s Media  Analysis Framework (MAF), a cloud-based machine learning and automated metadata-generation platform that adds smarts to Watchwith’s native digital advertising platform for premium video.

Arris’s MAF technology is designed to understand the content of video automatically and its context, which plays a big role in deciding when and where native ads (i.e. ads that are placed inside the show itself) are presented in the video that a consumer is watching,  Zane Vella, Watchwith’s CEO, said.

That metadata, he said, brings automation to the cue points in the video where it makes the most sense to place the native ads – which can be interactive overlays or on-screens polls.

And that “machine learning” element? “The more information we feed into it, the smarter it gets,” Vella explained, noting that the analysis is based on the underlying video itself as well as the audio, including natural language processing.

As for context, this placement system for native advertising uses a variety of “recipes” for different types of content, whether it’s a news cast, a sporting event, or a serialized drama.

He said this capability, which is already being used and tested on shows such as USA Network’s Mr. Robot and for campaigns for LG and Toyota, is not only important for digital video delivered on traditional platforms, such as set-top boxes, but also on over-the-top streaming devices and smartphones. “The opportunity and need to monetize those assets in new ways is growing,” he said.

And, for these systems to achieve scale, the decision engine that makes these decisions must shift away from manual processes and instead become automated, which, in turn, reduces operations costs. Watchwith says the new automated process has the potential to eliminate thousands of man-hours.

Watchwith also believes that achieving that level of scale is also vital because programmers must find ways to build and deploy native digital video ad platforms that can compete with those from the likes of Facebook, YouTube and Snapchat.

“At a time when networks are reducing linear ad loads, the need for native digital ad products like Watchwith is higher than ever before,” Vella said.

Watchwith’s partners include Fox, NBCUniversal and Viacom.

Watchwith and Arris aren’t strangers. Arris is an investor in Watchwith, and the two companies have been working together on integration and product development for years. Vella said it was decided that Watchwith’s acquisition of MAF represented the best go-to-market strategy for the technology.

Watchwith and Arris aren’t disclosing the financial terms of the deal, but “several” engineers from Arris, including MAF leader Faisal Ishtiaq, PhD, that developed the technology are joining Watchwith and opening up a new R&D office in Chicago.

The deal comes just the day after Arris agreed to sell its Whole Home Solution assets to Ottawa-based Espial.