Unruly eyes faster growth in tough video ad market after News Corp sale

News Corp, which will get small stake in Tremor, has also entered into three-year partnership for outstream video.

Unruly: founded in 2006 and sold to News Corp in 2015
Unruly: founded in 2006 and sold to News Corp in 2015

News Corp has sold programmatic video company Unruly to Israeli tech business Tremor International at a much reduced price from what it paid in 2015.

In return for Unruly, for which it paid £58m in 2015, News Corp will get 6.91% of Tremor International stock, subject to an 18-month lock-up period. News Corp will also receive a total minimum revenue guarantee of £30m for the partnership.

News Corp and Tremor have also entered into a three-year partnership in which Tremor will have the exclusive right to sell outstream video on more than 50 News Corp titles in the UK, US and Australia. News Corp owns some of the world's biggest news brands, including The Sun, The Times and The Wall Street Journal.

Rebekah Brooks, News Corp’s UK chief executive, will join Tremor’s board of directors, as will Unruly chief executive Norm Johnston. 

Tremor – founded as Marimedia in 2007 and known as Taptica until last year, when it bought Tremor Video and changed the whole company's name to Tremor – uses technology based on artificial intelligence and machine learning at scale to enable data-driven mobile targeting and user acquisition. It bought RhythmOne, the digital ad specialist formerly known as Blink, last year and wants to scale internationally with two core revenue streams: mobile performance-based marketing and branded-video advertising. 

Ofer Druker, Tremor’s chief executive, told Campaign that the deal will enable Tremor to transition from being a "national player in the US to an international player". Unruly has more than 2,000 direct publisher integrations and unique demand relationships with advertisers. 

He said: "This market is competitive, but I’m looking at what we’ve achieved in the past few years: we grew a lot and were successful. We have been in line with our Ebitda targets, which were very high. The key to success is consolidation, no doubt, which is why we acquired Tremor and RhythmOne.

"Doing this deal is more of a partnership, not just an acquisition. Size in this business really matters – you need to enhance your capabilities when you have the right size. The market is going through a consolidation process and we need more capabilities to offer clients alongside the best service."

Tremor plans to retain the Unruly brand internationally, while it will be "side to side" with the company’s other brands in the US, Druker added. Regarding Unruly’s London office, he said: "It’s too early to say what will be the sign above the door."

Johnston, meanwhile, described the deal as a "win for everyone" and that it reflected News Corp’s desire to simplify its business, while Unruly would be able to scale faster as part of Tremor. Johnston took over the business in 2018 after co-founders Sarah Wood, Scott Button and Matt Cooke left

He told Campaign: "Whether that’s the data we have to expand UnrulyEQ into new ad formats and we’ll be able to add quite quickly to Tremor, geographically we’re quite complementary. One thing is consistency. We have a vsion of making online advertising better; to drive premium ethical brand-safe advertising, which is important.

"It’s not goodbye to News Corp… this is a quick path to scale our business and offer more opportunity to advertisers. Trying to do some of these things organically would take time. We’re just able to do a lot more vis-à-vis our competitors and this is the best means to do it."

Unruly was founded in 2006 and uses sharing data to predict if a film will go viral or ways to improve its chances of being viewed or shared.

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