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Can FreeWheel make commercial breaks work in mobile TV?

Pre-roll mobile TV ads? That’s so last year. Get ready for mid-roll ads. Now content creators can wedge their wares right into the show, just like big brother national television. Commercial breaks could be the next big breakout if FreeWheel has anything to say about it, but are consumers ready for ads that will be more than a little tricky to scan through?

FreeWheel, the advertising tech company started in 2007, recently signed on ABC Television and will be handling its mobile advertising initiatives. FreeWheel has already netted big names such as FOX, NBC Universal, Turner and many more cable networks, providing the ad backbone that these channels need.

The hook that FreeWheel has, and what sets it apart, is the ads follow the shows, wherever they may be. ABC programming, for example, may be in a web browser, shown on Yahoo!, displayed in an iPad app, on a mobile smartphone, etc. There are multiple ways these days that consumers can catch their favorite programming. So much diversity is great, unless you are rolling out targeted advertising. FreeWheel works its ad manager system much like traditional web advertising, which is targeted and data-driven.

For example, when you are searching for travel, it’s no accident that you start to see more travel banner ads and articles on the web. FreeWheel works in much the same way, focusing on targeting the person playing back the video and serving ads that meet their needs. For instance, ABC’s app that offers full episodes will soon be rolling out “commercial breaks,” which will pop up in specific parts of the programming.

This goes beyond just pre-roll and post-roll. There is a captivated audience, who hopefully will be willing to sit through some targeted commercial breaks in exchange for full episodes. Mid-rolls now launching are growing at twice the rate of pre-rolls, and already comprise a full 25 percent of all ads on FreeWheel’s ad system.

FreeWheel has raised a total of $28.8 million from Battery Ventures, Foundation Capital, Steamboat Ventures and Turner Broadcasting System, so they are already committed for the long haul. They see mid-rolls as being the future of mobile TV ad revenue, and with mobile growing so quickly, they will have plenty of options and places to implement the systems. Consumer acceptance will have to be managed, and unlike regular TV, mobile ads are hard to skip, so it will be worth keeping an eye on FreeWheel this year to see how it all pans out.