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Viacom has increased revenue from its addressable (data-based) advertising and branded content (native advertising and social) portion of its ad business by 29% year-over-year, the company announced as part of their quarterly earnings report Wednesday.

Why it matters: The network's efforts to increase this type of revenue via investments in ad technology are seen by many analysts as a core component of its offerings in a merger with CBS, which both companies are currently evaluating.

Viacom, which includes brands like MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon Group, has been building its data-based advertising capabilities over the past three years by striking individual data partnerships with the some of biggest pay TV providers, companies that own consumer data through set-top boxes.

This strategy means Viacom doesn't have to rely on a vertical merger with a telecom company to get the data it needs, but rather can acquire it piecemeal to build a robust data collection of its own — something analysts say could be a lynchpin in its merger with CBS.

  • Viacom CEO Bob Bakish is expected to tell investors on the company's Q2 earnings call that Viacom is poised to “pivot from stabilization and revitalization, to growth."
  • He will also note that the company's Advanced Marketing Solutions (AMS) division, the group that houses its data-based ads and branded content group, is critical to Viacom's future "because it provides incremental supply — in the form of both units and branded content — and enhanced features and targetability."

Viacom’s incremental efforts to break into the addressable advertising space began in 2015 when it launched Viacom Vantage, its data-driven ad-targeting product. Some of its other important moves over the past few years:

  • In March 2017, Viacom joined with Fox and Turner to launch OpenAP, a consortium of audience-based ad targeting that leverages data across the three networks.
  • In May 2017, Viacom struck an advanced advertising partnership with Altice USA.
  • In October 2017, Viacom reached a similar agreement with Charter Communications.
  • On Monday, the company announced a deal with Comcast.

The bigger picture: As Axios has previously noted, many other linear TV networks are also racing into data-based advertising sales.

  • The rise of streaming and content consumption across multiple devices has pushed marketers to think differently about the most effective way to reach their audiences. In today's connected world, that often means using audience data — not traditional TV ratings — as a currency for television ad buying.

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