Former Acxiom spin-off pays $150 million for Boston startup to jumpstart data-driven TV technology

by Wesley Brown ([email protected]) 1,096 views 

The Acxiom spin-off now based in Silicon Valley has emerged from its self-imposed transition period to announce a $150 million acquisition that will allow the former Arkansas data marketer to offer innovations that tie smart TV, mobile and online technologies to the same digital platforms.

On Monday (June 24), San Francisco-based LiveRamp announced it has entered into a definitive agreement stock-and-cash deal valued at $150 million to acquire Data Plus Math of Boston to provide the “ecosystem with a more effective way to buy, sell and measure data-driven television.”

“While TV continues to be the most engaging screen in the household, the landscape is shifting,” said Scott Howe, former Acxiom CEO who now serves in the same role at LiveRamp. “Data and technology have transformed the relationship a brand can have with its consumer on TV, creating tremendous opportunities to improve how TV inventory is bought, sold and measured.”

Howe continued: “We are excited for Data Plus Math to join the LiveRamp family and look forward to working closely with its deeply experienced team of industry experts. Together, we will accelerate LiveRamp’s TV efforts and offerings and unlock the amazing power of data-driven TV for the entire ecosystem.”

Based on an overview of the deal, LiveRamp will pay out $120 million in upfront cash for DataPlus Math and another $30 million in time-based stock equity. Company officials said the deal will extend LiveRamp’s omnichannel identity and accelerate the firm’s TV growth with a contribution of $5 million of revenue in fiscal 2020 and $20 million by fiscal 2021.

The deal is expected to close in LiveRamp’s fiscal second quarter, which ends Sept. 30. In addition, LiveRamp said it expects the transaction to increase the former Arkansas data marketer’s operating loss by nearly $27 million due to higher non-cash compensation and estimated amortized costs over the life of the purchased assets.

Nearly a year ago, the former Acxiom Corp. sold its legacy data marketing division to New York City-based Interpublic Group of Cos. (IPG) for $2.3 billion. Following that deal, the Arkansas tech firm founded in Conway in 1969 transferred the Acxiom brand to IPG, changed its name to LiveRamp Holdings Inc. on. Oct. 1, 2018, and moved the company’s headquarters to the West Coast.

Shortly after separating from its Arkansas roots and changing its stock symbol to “RAMP,” the San Francisco identity platform also entered into a “transition period” to contemplate its next phase of growth, including terminating and modifying all compensation plans and benefits programs related to the former Acxiom Corp.

Lauren Dillard, the company’s investor relations spokeswoman, told Talk Business & Politics at the time that the San Francisco-based digital marketing firm expected the ongoing transition period to extend through the first quarter of 2019, which ends June 30.

On April 11, LiveRamp completed its first post-Acxiom deal with the acquisition of Faktor, an Amsterdam-based privacy and content-management platform that allows consumers to manage their online data. No terms of that deal were disclosed.

Before Monday’s deal was announced, LiveRamp and Data Plus Math had earlier formed a strategic partnership in October 2018, shortly after the company’s decision to split Acxiom in half. Through that partnership, Data Plus Math provided reports on TV advertising campaigns for LiveRamp’s programmer and agency clients, which includes over a dozen of the nation’s largest media companies.

Founded in 2016, Data Plus Math is headquartered in Boston and has about 25 employees, including co-founders John Hoctor and Matt Emans, who serve as the company’s CEO and CTO, respectively. Both Hoctor and Means are expected to remain with the company, whose investors included Comcast Ventures and Greycroft Partners, a Wall Street technology investment fund.

“On the heels of our strategic partnership announced last year, we’re incredibly excited to now be joining LiveRamp,” Hoctor said. “TV remains the most effective way for brands to quickly reach their audience, build their brand and drive product sales. Unfortunately, as consumer’s viewing habits have evolved, TV measurement has struggled to keep up. With LiveRamp, we’re changing that.”

In trading Tuesday, LiveRamp’s shares were down $1.79 (3.7%)  at $46.50 on the Nasdaq stock exchange.

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