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DataXu Gets $10M From Sky As Pay TV Giant Buys Into Programmatic Ad Tech

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DataXu, a Boston-based startup that provides analytics and other tools for programmatic ads, has picked up another round of funding. Sky, the UK-based pay-TV provider part-owned by 21st Century Fox, has made a $10 million investment in the company.

Considering DataXu (pronounced “data zoo”) is reportedly valued at $1 billion-plus, it’s not a massive stake but it is a strategic one: Sky plans to use DataXu’s demand-side buying ad tech in its current services as well as work together on future products. DataXu claims that its platform processes some 100 billion “digital advertising opportunities” daily globally, and Sky’s advertising division Sky Media plans to tap into that.

Additionally, Sky Media “will also work closely with DataXu to explore a number of new opportunities, including extending the reach of Sky Media’s revolutionary advertising product, Sky AdVance; leveraging DataXu’s market-leading experience in helping advertisers buy addressable TV ads programmatically; and harnessing the power of data and analytics to drive superior marketing results,” the company’s said in a statement.

DataXu’s valuation is not being disclosed in this round, but CB Insights, which compiles finance data on startups and other tech companies, tells us that it has marked DataXu as part of the “unicorn club”–  with a valuation over $1 billion — since 2015. DataXu tells TechCrunch that its 2014 revenues were $167.5 million, up from $100 million the year before. (These are the latest figures the company discloses, a spokesperson tells me.)

In years past, the startup was also rumored to be exploring an IPO; however, there was no comment on this today from a spokesperson. We will update this story when and if we find out more.

DataXu was one of the early movers in programmatic ads. The company had its start in 2007 co-founded by MIT academics and tech entrepreneurs, but it made its big debut at a TC event back in 2009 with what it said was the world’s first real-time ad optimization system working across exchange platforms from the likes of Google, Microsoft and Yahoo.

Unsurprisingly, the aggregation model is more widely used today, as it gives advertisers a better and more efficient way of buying and managing media campaigns across a wider range of properties. Companies that compete with it include AppNexus, Media Math and Open X among others.

“This investment will help us develop a deeper understanding of programmatic advertising, and play our part in shaping the market as it progresses,” said Jamie West, Deputy MD at Sky Media in a statement. “Combining Sky’s knowledge, experience and innovation in advertising with DataXu’s programmatic marketing expertise will provide exciting opportunities for both businesses, and most importantly, for Sky’s advertising partners.”

DataXu has now raised nearly $76 million in funding, including a $27 million round in 2013. Its investors include Atlas Venture, Flybridge Capital, Infocomm Investments, Menlo Ventures and Thomvest Ventures.

Sky appears to be its first strategic backer.

“This strategic investment allows DataXu to partner with a true, global leader in television and media,” said Mike Baker, DataXu Co-Founder and CEO in a statement. “DataXu and Sky have strong alignment on the future of programmatic and advanced television; and this investment ensures our two companies continue to learn and grow together.”

Other investments by Sky include stakes in OTT video company TV4 Entertainment, online video aggregator Pluto TV, online sports network Whistle Sports, IP streaming service provider Roku and VR startup Jaunt.