Cable giant buys Philly ad targeter Audience Partners

Altice USA, the fourth-largest U.S. cable TV company since it bought New York's Cablevision Systems in an $18 billion deal last year, says it has acquired Plymouth Meeting, Montgomery County-based Audience Partners, an 80-person company whose CampaignGrid unit marries voter and consumer data to help politicians and advocacy groups target online and mobile ads. Price not disclosed. 

"Nine years ago I started a company in this little firehouse in Fort Washington," founder Rich Masterson noted in a social media post. "We now have 80 employees in five offices in the U.S. and Canada and partners in Moscow, Amsterdam, the Middle East and Europe." Altice ensures Audience "great management and a bright future," he added.

"It is a great outcome, and exceeded my expectations," Masterson told me this morning. "The Altice USA team is first class, and this will provide our staff with career opportunities. Everyone is staying with the company. We will also be expanding."

The deal includes all three Audience units — political, healthcare, and cable TV. Masterson clarified that his lieutenant Jeff Dittus, now Audience's CEO and chairman, "will be staying on as an employee, and I will remain in a consulting capacity."

Not full time? "Retirement does not suit me very well," Masterson told me. "I may spend more time at my Marco Island, Florida, residence," but he says eager to help Altice grow Audience overseas.

"This is a real success story for a bootstrapped Philadelphia startup that was started by accident," Dittus told me. Like Google's 2009 purchase of Center City-based Invite Media, which became "the self-serve platform for Google advertisers and agencies," Altice is making Audience Partners its "platform [to] power multiscreen advertising for the TV industry."   

CampaignGrid started as a mostly Republican firm; clients included New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and a string of Presidential hopefuls. "Today we are a nonpartisan platform used by campaigns and advocacy groups of all types," Dittus told me. 

Dittus says he's still amazed to reflect how his firm counts "ten of the nation's largest television companies and Internet service providers, reaching more than half the broadband homes in the U.S.," as clients for its "addressable, multiscreen advertising platform."

As viewers "seamlessly move across TV, mobile and computers to watch video and consume news, we are well-placed to help advertisers reach them and personalize the advertising," Dittus added.  

Dexter Goei, boss of Netherlands-based Altice NV's U.S. business, in a statement called Audience "a leading provider of data-driven, audience-based digital advertising solutions worldwide,"  adding that the company plans to use Audience to expand its New York-focused TV viewer data and individualized ("addressable") advertising services into "seamless multiscreen addressable solutions."

“This is an extraordinary moment for Audience Partners as we join Altice USA,” said Dittus, Audience chairman and CEO. He pledged "to combine Altice USA’s expertise in addressable television with our unique addressable digital solutions to meet the evolving needs of all of our clients across all platforms.”

Altice bought Suddenlink Communications in 2015 and New York's Cablevision Systems Corp. in 2016. Among U.S. cable TV-based media companies it trails only Comcast, Charter and Cox, with around 4 million customers. (Phone-based Internet and video systems AT&T and Verizon are also larger.)