News Corp. Buys Big Stake in U.K.-based Online Ad Specialist

News Corp.’s one-year-old international ad network, .Fox Networks, has acquired a majority stake of utarget, a European ad network that specializes in pop-under online video ads.

In announcing the deal, .Fox Networks — a unit of Fox International Channels — said the purchase will give extra opportunity for video advertising to News Corp.-owned sites, third-party publishers, and advertisers. Hernan Lopez, president of .Fox Networks and COO of Fox International Channels, wouldn’t reveal the terms of the deal other than to say “it’s a low-eight figure number.”

Utarget, Lopez said, is a leader in the use of pop-under video for online advertising. “Pop-unders are the most effective online ad format, bar none,” he said. “Utarget pioneered the technology of putting a video player on a sub-site. The advantage that brings to a Web site publisher is that it allows them to capitalize on the growth of online video ads without having to invest in online video content.”

Phil Cooper, utarget’s founder and CEO, will remain in charge of the company that will now be called utarget.Fox. The new entity will work with the Fox Interactive Media Audience Network to “pursue network advertising relationships with News Corp sites and other third parties, further bolstering News Corporation’s efforts in the online advertising space,” explained the acquisition announcement.

London-based utarget represents more than 630 United Kingdom-based Web sites it describes as being “top tier.” Lopez said he’s not permitted to name them. “But if I showed you the list, you would recognize every single name,” he said. “Because utarget’s product is so unique — no other company offers it — it creates true value for publishers.”

Lopez said Fox International Channels (FIC), involved with international television ad sales for 15 years, is a leader in the field. “On the other hand, online video is a big opportunity that so far hasn’t fully taken off,” he said. “Inventory is limited and online video is usually placed by, or overseen by, ad agencies with which Fox International Channels has great relationships.”

With utarget.Fox, Fox International Channels can offer online video formats that advertisers can coordinate with their television advertising purchases, said Lopez. He said the pairing will also help publishers — even those with no video content — by giving them access to FIC’s and .Fox’s base of international advertisers.

.Fox has about 150 people in its sales force and utarget has about 40, said Lopez. “And then there is Fox’s television sales teams around the world,” he added. “All-in-all, we’ll have a combined sales force of well over 300 in 33 cities around the world.”

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