Watchwith Raises $8M For Its In-Program Video Ads

Watchwith, a startup offering an alternative to the standard pre-roll and mid-roll ads that delay or interrupt online videos, has raised $8 million in Series B funding.

The company says its technology can analyze the content of a video, then use that data to find the right moments to place “interactive overlay” ads. So instead of interrupting a video, these ads just sit (hopefully unobtrusively) at the bottom of the screen.

CEO Zane Vella is selling this as a way for TV networks to make money online. To be clear, he said “no one’s throwing out pre-roll,” but he argued that the networks are “trying to find a new mix” — so perhaps these ads allow them to run fewer interruptive ads.

Will everyone prefer these overlays to a standard pre-roll? I’m guessing that there will be differences in taste, but for what it’s worth, you’ve probably used this format already, since some networks do something similar during their regular broadcasts.

[vimeo 140143029 w=500 h=281]

FOX In-Program Examples from Watchwith on Vimeo.

“That idea of your phone being completely taken over by a string of commercials is far more frustrating than that same experience on a big-screen television,” Vella added. “I think it’s a combination of the form factor and the personal nature of it. You’re holding it in your hand — what are you supposed to do, look away?”

And from a marketer’s perspective, he said ads tend to be more effective when they’re viewed alongside content, rather than separately.

Watchwith customers include Fox, NBCUniversal and Viacom. Vella said that he started out working with TV networks because they set “a high bar in terms of quality,” but he’s open to partnering with other online publishers.

The company has now raised a total of $13 million. The new funding (which was partially revealed earlier this year in a regulatory filing) comes from Rogers Venture Partners and Samsung, as well as a new investor, telecom manufacturer Arris. Watchwith is also announcing that Brendan Moorcroft, former CEO of Interpublic Group’s programmatic unit Cadreon, has joined its board of directors.