Apple’s Music Tech Firm Looks to Push Into TV Ads

Gracenote aims to make advanced and social TV ads a reality

Given then the meteoric growth of second-screen TV viewing, coupled with the excitement surrounding Web-connected TV, advertisers are drooling over the possibilities of advanced TV advertising. Of course, so was Google, Microsoft, and pretty much everyone who was ever involved in the now-infamous Canoe endeavor.

Still, that’s not stopping some powerful tech companies from trying to make TV ad delivery a lot more like online advertising (in terms of its powerful precision, not lousy pricing).

Gracenote, a subsidiary of Sony Corporation of America, believes it can help bring more sophisticated, data-driven ad targeting to TV. The company also promises that it can help advertisers sync their messages to ads and content viewers consume on their mobile and tablets while watching TV.

How? Well to date the company has built its business by powering the music recognition/recommendation technology used by Apple’s iTunes. All in all, Gracenote licenses tech to a few thousand companies, including Amazon, Google, Ford and General Motors.

"We’re the biggest tech company you’ve never heard of,” said Stephen White, president of Gracenote.

However, there’s a slight catch. Gracenote needs to get lots of TV networks on board. Otherwise, there’s nobody out there to sell its addressable TV offerings, and no inventory to optimize. The company isn’t there yet, acknowledged White, but the plan is to work will all the top players in the TV business.

More recently, the company has branched into video. Through a proprietary video fingerprinting technology, White claims that Gracenote can recognize what’s airing on a person’s TV, and then dynamically insert ads into that content during commercial breaks using all sorts of demographic and audience data. Think of an Gracenote as an ad decisioning vehicle along the lines of FreeWheel, which focuses on Web video.

Plus, Gracenote can deliver synchronized Web ads to mobile devices.

"The TV itself is becoming much more capable, and it plays a more central role in the entertainment experience," said White. "We think we can build better ad targeting."

To that end, the company has announced new partnerships with both Invidi, which helps facilitate addressable ads through set-top box software, along with the video content management firm mDialog.