Comcast buys Freewheel

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Comcast’s (Nasdaq: CMCSA) acquisition of advertising technology vendor Freewheel could result in a payday for DirecTV (Nasdaq: DTV), which bought an equity stake in Freewheel in January 2013.

When DirecTV announced its Freewheel investment last year, the satellite TV provider said it would also use FreeWheel’s ad-insertion technology with its DirecTV Everywhere service. It’s not clear how the acquisition of Freewheel by DirecTV’s biggest competitor could impact its relationship with Freewheel. A DirecTV spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday morning.

Dish Network (Nasdaq: DISH) and AT&T (NYSE: T), Comcast rivals, are also Freewheel clients.

Comcast and Freewheel didn’t disclose terms of the deal. But the MSO will reportedly pay up to $375 million to acquire the Seattle-based company. TechCrunch, which posted its scoop about a pending deal on Saturday, had reported that Comcast would pay up $320 million for Freewheel. Re/code reported Thursday that Comcast will pay $360 million for Freewheel, or up to $375 million if one includes compensation such as retention bonuses.

Freewheel co-founders Doug Knopper, Jon Heller and Diane Yu signed “multi-year agreements” to stay at the company, according to a blog post they wrote Thursday. “We look forward to continuing to play an important role within the TV ecosystem, working to the benefit of programmers, operators and our partners,” the Freewheel executives said in a joint statement.

Freewheel could help Comcast drive ad revenue as it migrates to an all-IP platform. Freewheel could also help Comcast monetize multiscreen video, if it eventually launches a virtual pay-TV service targeted at broadband homes nationwide.

Freewheel’s customers include Fox, Turner Broadcasting, Viacom (NYSE: VIA), A&E Networks, EchoStar’s Sling Media, Univision, Discovery Communications (Nasdaq: DISCA), Vevo and Sony’s Crackle service.

“Comcast looks forward to helping FreeWheel’s talented team grow their business and accelerate their ability to bring the best multiplatform video advertising solutions to their customers,” Comcast VP of Advanced Advertising Video Services Rob Holmes said in a prepared statement.

It’s not clear how the deal could impact advertising technology vendors such as SeaChange International (Nasdaq: SEAC) and This Technology, which have deals with Comcast. Officials at SeaChange and This Technology didn’t respond to requests for comment.

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