Facebook Buys Programmatic Video Ad Platform LiveRail

LiveRail, a programmatic video advertising supply-side platform (SSP) that many projected to go public at some point in 2014, has found its exit elsewhere.

Facebook on Wednesday announced it has acquired LiveRail. Per a Facebook newsroom post, LiveRail clients include MLB.com, A&E Networks, Gannett, Dailymotion and others. The company was founded in 2007.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“We believe that LiveRail, Facebook and the premium publishers it serves have an opportunity to make video ads better and more relevant for the hundreds of millions of people who watch digital video every month,” Brian Boland, VP of ads product marketing and Atlast wrote in the Facebook newsroom post. “More relevant ads will be more interesting and engaging to people watching online video, and more effective for marketers too. Publishers will benefit as well because more relevant ads will help them make the most out of every opportunity they have to show an ad.”

Late in 2013, TechCrunch reported that LiveRail was eyeing a “late 2014” IPO after hitting a $100 million revenue run rate. Mark Trefgarne, LiveRail’s CEO, confirmed that an IPO was on the company's radar in an interview with RTBlog a few weeks later.

In that interview, Trefgarne said: “I think you will see more meaningful-sized IPOs than large-scale acquisitions. There just aren't that many companies that can pay the substantial cash required for major ad tech companies.”

He added: "Google, Yahoo, Facebook, AOL will certainly make some acquisitions, but from an absolute number and aggregate deal-size standpoint, expect to see more action from the public markets." The comments are ironic in hindsight, with Trefgarne and LiveRail finding one of the few companies with the “substantial cash required” to make a purchase.

It remains to be seen how the LiveRail team will be integrated into Facebook. Per a LiveRail blog post announcing the news, the company has 170 employees across four offices. LiveRail opened an office in Germany just one week ago.

“When we started talking to the team at Facebook about how we could work together, it quickly became clear that we shared a vision for the future of digital advertising,” wrote Trefgarne in the blog post. “They believed, as we do, that publishers deserve a new generation of audience-aware advertising technology. 

When reached for comment, both Facebook and LiveRail directed Real-Time Daily to the two blog posts mentioned above.

Some of the bigwigs in digital media advertising -- AOL, Google and now Facebook -- have made waves in the video space in the past year, starting with AOL’s acquisition of Adap.tv in August 2013. In June 2014, Google launched a premium video ad exchange and acquired mDialog, a video ad an analytics firm, with the intention of integrating the tech into DoubleClick for Publishers.

Facebook adds LiveRail to its tech stack which features its own real-time bidding (RTB) exchange, the Facebook Exchange. Facebook also boasts Atlas, the ad server it bought from Microsoft in early 2013, and the recently launched Facebook Audience Network. The addition of LiveRail will help Facebook publishers monetize video inventory across multiple screens.

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