Former DoubleClick Execs Launch Video Ad Rights Management Firm

Aiming to solve a “vexing and challenging problem” facing online video, three former DoubleClick officials today launched FreeWheel, a company with patent-pending technology designed to automate, for publishers and portals, many decisions about video ad revenue.

The New York-based company said three major clients — Joost, NextNewNetworks and Jumpstart Automotive Media — have already signed up to use its “Monetization Rights Management” (MRM) technology, described as a platform that can determine on the fly who is permitted to sell ads against syndicated or networked content, who shares the money and how much is distributed to each recipient.

“The focus of what we are doing is to solve a vexing and challenging problem in the industry,” said FreeWheel co-founder and co-CEO Douglas Knopper, former CEO of Bitpass and SVP and GM for ad management at DoubleClick. “The real question is, who gets to sell the ads, under what conditions and who gets paid how much?” Knopper said the music industry “somewhat solved” a similar problem through the use of digital rights management (DRM). But unlike MRM, DRM is “a constraining solution,” he said.

“It doesn’t allow the content to be distributed beyond a very limited set of users,” said Knopper. “The way we see the world… consumers want the videos to be distributed far and wide. They are OK with it being ad-supported.”

Knopper asserted FreeWheel’s MRM works with content owners and distributors to allow them to make decisions on when an ad is first supposed to appear, who gets to sell the ads, which ads get served and how the revenue is “divied up.”

Joining Knopper at FreeWheel are the company’s other co-founders, Jonathan Heller and Diane Yu. Heller, who is co-CEO, spent six years as the operating officer of the DoubleClick Media Network, followed by positions as COO/CFO of Visible World and VP/General Manager at Yahoo. Yu, FreeWheel’s CTO, was VP of Engineering at DoubleClick, where she was involved in the development of the DART ad serving platform.

In its launch announcement, FreeWheel suggested its MRM approach might resolve one of the disagreements underlyling the current Writers’ Guild strike. It explained that, since revenue sharing from digital marketing is at the center of the dispute, “MRM’s ability to account for complicated dispersals automatically” would avoid the unclear “Hollywood Accounting” practices that provoked the strike.

Knopper said one challenge facing FreeWheel is winning over content owners, distributors and publishers that already have payment systems in place. “They don’t want to rip out their existing systems,” he said. “What’s happened is the problem has kind of stalled the industry. They are just not syndicating their content and the ones that are are doing it manually or with a hodgepodge of systems that aren’t meeting their need.”

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