Q&A with Itamar Benedy, Co-Founder & CEO at Anzu.io

Itamar Benedy, CEO and Co-founder of Anzu.io, was previously the CEO of Glispa, a Berlin-based advertising firm with €100M in annual revenues, a team of 250 people, and 9 international offices. Itamar led the acquisitions of JustAd, a playable ads start-up, and Relevantech, a Telecom monetization platform. Previously, Itamar served as the VP of Marketing at Sport.com and Yoga.com, leading the user acquisition, monetization, and analytics teams. He guided Sport.com to become a market-leading fitness firm and transformed mHealth into a business with over 40 million downloads across 30 apps. With a decade of experience in mobile and marketing, Itamar is a member of the Mobile Steering Group Board of IAB, and the Young President Organization (YPO). He was also nominated for Forbes Israel 30 under 30 in 2016.

There has also been a common misconception amongst brands that gamers are not their audience, but when you consider that they make up a third of the population, you can see that this is not true. The pandemic had a significant impact on exposing this audience and shifting the mindsets of advertisers.



MEDIA 7: Could you please take us through your professional journey?
ITAMAR BENEDY:
Since day one at AppWiz, which was my first foray into the exciting world of AdTech, I was hooked. All those years ago, I saw AdTech as a wide-open canvas for innovation and meaningful advancements. My mission was – and is – to create breakthrough products that have the power to change the way humans and ads meet and interact with one another. A core technical background coupled with a passion for business drove me to create technologies that would chart the future of digital advertising. With over a decade in the mobile marketing space, I clearly understood the industry’s problems. So, I teamed up with gaming product guru Ben Fenster and master software architect Michael Badichi to solve the biggest issues in video game advertising which included a lack of scalable tech and cutting-edge solutions, the disruptive nature of in-game ads, and the vast gap between advertisers and developers which was leaving massive audiences inaccessible to brands. It was also getting increasingly difficult for developers to monetize without sacrificing the gaming experience. The three of us set out to make advertising in games better when we founded Anzu in 2016, and we’ve been disrupting the industry ever since!


M7: Which industry benefits the most from an in-game advertising platform like Anzu.io?
IB:
The gaming audience is hugely diverse, made up of individuals from all ages, backgrounds, genders, nationalities, and cultures. Due to this diverse nature, in-game advertising suits businesses across all different industries and vertices. You can see this when you look at many of our top clients who are spread across many sectors, including retail, telecoms, technology, automotive, travel and tourism, and leisure.

There has also been a common misconception amongst brands that gamers are not their audience, but when you consider that they make up a third of the population, you can see that this is not true. The pandemic had a significant impact on exposing this audience and shifting the mindsets of advertisers. We saw many who had never run an in-game campaign before shift a considerable amount of their budgets over while they could not advertise outdoors. Extremely low fraud levels, viewability rates way above the industry average, and the massive exposure that in-game offers have seen most continue to shift budgets over, even as much of the world begins to emerge from the pandemic.


As free-to-play continues to gain momentum and infiltrate all game genres, games studios will be forced to change their way of thinking to see in-game advertising as a sustainable business model if they want to continue making games relevant and accessible in this highly competitive landscape.



M7: Anzu.io has recently raised $9 million for a new generation of in-game advertising. Could you please tell us a little bit about this goal and how you plan to achieve it?
IB:
Traditionally, in-game advertising has only been thought of in terms of mobile games. We saw an opportunity to reset this way of thinking and introduce in-game ads to PC, console, and mobile. The industry is headed for a cross-play revolution where you will no longer be constrained by what device you own. Platforms like Roblox and Fortnite have become ‘play anywhere where you can join a game at home on your console, move to the study and pick it up on your PC and then carry it on via your mobile once you’ve left the house. This view is supported by many across the industry, and it's one of the reasons why we have received backing from many of the world’s leading games publishers and advertisers. With more people downloading ad blockers, giants like Google and Apple making big moves within the privacy space, and national and international regulations on data privacy becoming more stringent, advertisers have never been warier of where their ads appear and how they are measured. Users have also never been more mindful of how their data is used and where they are being advertised to.

In response, we have put ad quality at the heart of everything we do, bringing real-time data and existing digital industry standards in-game across mobile, PC, and console. We also partner with the world’s leading ad verification and certification companies to protect advertisers and their campaigns. As part of this drive, I’m excited to announce that we’ve just been awarded the TAG Brand Safety Certified Seal under the Intermediary category and the Gold Standard Certification 2.0 from the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB), UK. Together, these certifications demonstrate Anzu’s ongoing commitment to promoting a safe, secure, and fraud-free ecosystem that benefits the entire advertising chain. We also strive to put the gamer first, above everything we do. To achieve this, we work with advertisers, publishers, and players to ensure our ads are integrated within the games and sit natively within the experience, complementing the gameplay rather than taking anything away. I firmly believe that our cross-platform focus, commitment to producing a safe and secure platform, and our drive to always put the gamer first will allow us to accomplish our mission to build the best in-game advertising platform which reaches every gamer on the planet while upholding the interests of advertisers, publishers, and players everywhere.


M7: What do you see as the biggest challenges in the industry and Anzu.io this year?
IB:
Navigating Covid-19 has been a considerable challenge for us and will continue to be for some time. We are a global company, so it’s been a challenge not to see each other in person. I was lucky enough to get over to our HQ in Tel Aviv recently, and it was amazing to connect with everyone and hear from all areas of the business. There’s something special in meeting in the flesh, and Covid-19 has made many people realize just how much we took for granted before. As I mentioned, we are working with several industry-leading certification companies and bodies to bring advertising standards to in-game advertising. However, this is an ongoing task and one that needs cooperation from all sides of the industry. In-game advertising has traditionally always been thought of in mobile, and most AAA console and PC games have followed a pay-to-play model. With the rise in popularity of AAA free-to-play games like Fortnite and Genshin Impact, this is beginning to change; however, many AAA games publishers are still focused on the pay-to-play model. As free-to-play continues to gain momentum and infiltrate all game genres, games studios will be forced to change their way of thinking to see in-game advertising as a sustainable business model if they want to continue making games relevant and accessible in this highly competitive landscape.


Act fast as once you see an opportunity, it's highly likely that someone else has noticed it too. Within the fast-changing world, it's also easy for competitors to spring up and overtake you if you’re not focused on the future.



M7: How has the Covid-19 era influenced the growth of in-game advertising?
IB:
Covid-19 helped to emphasize just how big the gaming industry is. Yes, Covid-19 helped turn a lot more people to gaming. Many who were gamers pre Covid-19 ended up spending more time gaming to pass the time inside, however contrary to popular belief, gaming did not begin to reach massive numbers during Covid-19. The players were already there. Covid-19 simply revealed to the world just how big this industry is -- something that many companies like ours have been educating advertisers on for some time. A perfect storm of titles exploding overnight (Genshin Impact, Animal Crossing, Among Us), a new era of consoles launching, F2P platforms like Fortnite and Roblox attracting kids in their millions, and experimental experiences like live in-game concerts and virtual fashion launches helped keep gaming within the headlines and top of mind for advertisers during the lockdown. As a result, there was a huge shift in the way brands and agencies began to think of gaming, resulting in more execs, CEOs, and key decision-makers seeing gaming as an essential marketing channel rather than just somewhere to do experiential marketing with leftover budgets.


M7: Knowing what you know now, what advice do you have for your younger self?
IB:
The advice I would give is to be data-driven, ensuring that your decisions are backed up by relevant research and insights. Act fast as once you see an opportunity, it's highly likely that someone else has noticed it too. Within the fast-changing world, it's also easy for competitors to spring up and overtake you if you’re not focused on the future. The last piece of advice I would give is to hire senior people and let them do what they do best -- it’s very easy to take on everything yourself, but there comes a time when you need to look to others for help and know that they are experts within their fields for a reason.

ABOUT ANZU

Anzu is the world’s most advanced in-game advertising solution. Operating across mobile, PC, and console platforms, Anzu blends real-world brand ads directly into video games, esports tournaments, and live streams, opening up colossal new audiences for brands in unprecedented creative ways. Simultaneously, Anzu empowers game developers and game publishers to introduce sustainable revenue streams that preserve the gamer experience while maintaining full control over gaming environments. Anzu, which operates across all geos and game genres, partners with global advertisers such as Pepsi, Vodafone, and Samsung and game studios such as Ubisoft and Nacon.

The only solution of its kind to bring real-time analytics and existing digital industry standards in-game, Anzu’s patented, adaptive technology features blended, yet highly viewable IAB-compliant ad formats. Anzu’s full suite of one-of-a-kind AdTech integrations includes ad viewability, brand lift measurement, audience verification, data enrichment, and fraud detection in partnership with industry leaders such as Moat, Comscore, Kantar, and Nielsen. Anzu has raised $17 million to date from investors including WPP, Sony Innovation Fund, BITKRAFT Ventures, and HBSE Ventures. Learn more at https://www.anzu.io/.

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Applications

TelevisaUnivision and Charter Communications Announce Strategic Renewal, Expanding Distribution of Linear Networks

Charter Communications | January 25, 2024

TelevisaUnivision and Charter Communications, Inc. (NASDAQ: CHTR) today announced a multi-year agreement to extend and expand their partnership. This agreement provides Spectrum customers with continued access to the most-watched Spanish-language news, sports and entertainment programming in the country. The modern deal framework is designed to enhance Spectrum's ability to serve the massive U.S. Hispanic audience with expanded access to an unprecedented amount of Spanish-language content. As part of the arrangement, TelevisaUnivision will create a new ad-supported premium subscription version of ViX, set to launch later this year. It will be available at no additional cost to Spectrum customers who receive TelevisaUnivision channels as part of their Spectrum TV Select or Mi Plan Latino packages. ViX's "Premium with Ads" offering will give viewers access to the entire ViX Premium content offering, including exclusive original series, novelas, comedies, movies, thousands of live exclusive soccer matches and tens of thousands of hours of library content with a moderate advertising load. The combination of ViX's premium streaming programming with TelevisaUnivision's market leading linear channels will create an unmatched Spanish-language content offering available to Spectrum customers at no incremental cost. In addition to giving Spectrum customers access to the forthcoming ad-supported premium version of ViX, the agreement enhances Charter's flexibility to offer its video customers high-value linear and over-the-top TV packages. TelevisaUnivision's U.S. channels will be included as an integral launch partner in a new, innovative, low-cost Spanish-language internet-delivered video package that Spectrum will launch in the coming months. "We're pleased to enter into an innovative deal with Charter that underscores a shared commitment to the growing Hispanic market and prioritizes their needs and interests, ensuring TelevisaUnivision's leading content remains available to viewers for years to come," said Mike Angus, Executive Vice President, Global Distribution and Streaming Partnerships at TelevisaUnivision. "This deal demonstrates the value we can deliver to our partners and consumers by continuing to invest in both the linear and streaming platforms to create a complementary Spanish-language content ecosystem." "We appreciate TelevisaUnivision's willingness to fully support our new distribution framework, which is good for customers and a significant step forward for the video ecosystem," said Tom Montemagno, Executive Vice President, Programming Acquisition for Charter. "With this agreement, our customers will continue to enjoy access to TelevisaUnivision's extensive Spanish-language programming, including entertainment and live sports, across multiple platforms. This furthers our goal of providing value to customers by including streaming apps with Spectrum services." Spectrum provides customers with access to TelevisaUnivision's networks, including Univision, UniMás, Galavisión, TL Novelas, TUDN, FOROtv, Bandamax, De Película, De Película Clasico, Telehit and Telehit Música. About TelevisaUnivision TelevisaUnivision is the world's leading Spanish-language media company. Powered by the largest library of owned Spanish-language content and a prolific production capability, TelevisaUnivision is the top producer of original content in Spanish across news, sports and entertainment verticals. This original content powers all of TelevisaUnivision's platforms, which include market-leading broadcast networks Univision, Las Estrellas, Canal 5 and UniMás, and a portfolio of 38 cable networks, which include TUDN, Galavisión, Distrito Comedia and TL Novelas. The company also operates the leading Mexican movie studio, Videocine, and owns and operates the largest Spanish-language audio platform in the U.S. across 35 terrestrial stations and the Uforia digital platform. TelevisaUnivision is also the owner of ViX, the largest Spanish-language streaming platform in the world. For more information, please visit televisaunivision.com. About Charter Communications Charter Communications, Inc. (NASDAQ:CHTR) is a leading broadband connectivity company and cable operator serving more than 32 million customers in 41 states through its Spectrum brand. Over an advanced communications network, the Company offers a full range of state-of-the-art residential and business services including Spectrum Internet®, TV, Mobile and Voice. For small and medium-sized companies, Spectrum Business® delivers the same suite of broadband products and services coupled with special features and applications to enhance productivity, while for larger businesses and government entities, Spectrum Enterprise provides highly customized, fiber-based solutions. Spectrum Reach® delivers tailored advertising and production for the modern media landscape. The Company also distributes award-winning news coverage and sports programming to its customers through Spectrum Networks.

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SONY MUSIC MASTERWORKS LAUNCHES NEW JOINT VENTURE WITH UK-BASED LIVE ENTERTAINMENT COMPANY, ROAST PRODUCTIONS

PR Newswire | January 11, 2024

Sony Music Masterworks, a division of Sony Music Entertainment, today announced a new strategic venture with Roast Productions, a live entertainment company founded by Bonnie Royal and Michael Stevens. Based in London and operating internationally, Roast Productions focuses on producing theatre, concerts, and family entertainment events. Royal and Stevens will continue to lead the company's day-to-day operations and collaborate with Masterworks on the development of a range of new productions, working in close partnership with both Masterworks President Mark Cavell and Ollie Rosenblatt, founder and CEO of Senbla, a UK producer/promoter. Recent and current shows include MACBETH starring Ralph Fiennes and Indira Varma playing in Liverpool, Edinburgh, London and Washington DC; 2:22 A GHOST STORY in the West End (Apollo Theatre), touring in the UK and Australia; CHRISTMAS ACTUALLY, a Christmas variety show curated by "Love Actually" filmmaker Richard Curtis and produced in partnership with Senbla; the highly acclaimed West End run of VANYA starring Andrew Scott; and the new musical COWBOY BOB at the Alley Theatre in Houston, TX; as well as the 2024 UK tour of THE 13-STOREY TREEHOUSE based on the best-selling book by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton. The company will also offer production, general management, and marketing services in the West End and beyond. At the same time, Roast Productions is pleased to announce strategic agreements with National Theatre Productions and Various Productions, as co-producer for STANDING AT THE SKY'S EDGE at the Gillian Lynne Theatre opening in February, and with the Ambassador Theatre Group, as Creative Producer of the inaugural WIMBLEDON CHILDREN'S FESTIVAL at the New Wimbledon Theatre, launching in Summer 2024. Mark Cavell, President of Sony Music Masterworks, said, "I'm absolutely delighted to welcome Bonnie and Michael to the Sony Music Masterworks family. Their creativity and expertise will further support our endeavours in securing and creating new quality and original live productions that will captivate and entertain audiences across the globe, and provide first-class content for our other partners to promote and market." Bonnie Royal and Michael Stevens, Producers and Co-Managing Directors of Roast, commented, "It is an absolute honour to join Sony Music Masterworks and develop new work and new markets together. The strength of its vision and values makes it the ideal partner for us as we develop a diverse body of work in the UK and internationally." Sony Music Masterworks' agreement with Roast Productions is the latest in a series of strategic partnerships and acquisitions advancing its growth as a multi-faceted worldwide entertainment business operating in more than 30 countries. The network of companies includes Black Ink Presents, a Los Angeles-based creative design and production services company; Culture Creative, a production and project management team specialising in developing site-specific and bespoke projects in unique heritage and landscape settings; Netherlands-based GEA Live, which designs, represents and produces shows and experiences based on prominent IP in music, film, television, anime and gaming; The Luna Entertainment Group, the UK market-leader of open-air, drive-in and pop-up cinema experiences which also stages high quality location-based entertainment experiences, exhibitions and events; MAC Global, an award-winning, pan-regional concert promotion, talent management, events and production company based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Proactiv Entertainment, the live event producer and promoter based in Barcelona, Spain; Raymond Gubbay Ltd., the music, dance & Light Trail/Lightscape promoter; RoadCo Entertainment, the New York-based producing and distribution agency specialising in live entertainment experiences; Seaview, the Tony and Olivier award-winning media company with theatre, film, TV, and digital verticals; Senbla, the London-based producer/promoter of quality music, theatre and immersive events, shows and festivals and Terrapin Station Entertainment, an artist management, tour production and sports/stadium consultancy company which specialises in family-friendly and brand-led events, immersive exhibits, game shows and charity concerts. ABOUT BONNIE ROYAL Over her career, Bonnie Royal has headed up an extensive and diverse portfolio of productions. Previously as Commercial Director of Fierylight, she worked with global brands including the children's entertainment icon PEPPA PIG for over 10 years (including 11 seasons in London's West End), and led the development and production of family titles such as Julia Donaldson's THE SMARTEST GIANT IN TOWN with Little Angel Theatre in 2020, which went on to have a sell-out UK tour and played an Olivier Award-nominated West End season. As Marketing Director, Royal's credits include The Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company: PLAYS AT THE GARRICK season (which included THE WINTER'S TALE starring Dame Judi Dench and ROMEO AND JULIET starring Lily James and Richard Madden) to HAIRSPRAY (London Coliseum), CIRCUS 1903 (Southbank Centre), THE 39 STEPS (West End) and FLEABAG (West End), as well as the West End transfers of The Almeida's MARY STUART and the National Theatre's HOME, I'M DARLING. Most recent projects include Rodgers and Hammerstein's OKLAHOMA! (West End) and THE PADDINGTON BEAR EXPERIENCE (County Hall). ABOUT MICHAEL STEVENS With over more than 20 years in the performing arts industry, Michael Stevens has focused on creative collaboration, with a sustained commitment to the commissioning and production of new works. His work in an Executive Producer role with organisations – including the Australian Chamber Orchestra, Melbourne Festival and Arts Centre Melbourne – led to dozens of new (and many award-winning) creations across theatre, musical theatre, dance, opera, circus, classical and contemporary music, film, visual arts and in the digital arena. Returning in 2016 to London, Stevens co-founded Fiery Angel Entertainment, with which he introduced CIRCUS 1903 to London for four seasons at Royal Festival Hall and Hammersmith Apollo and BARRY HUMPHRIES' WEIMAR CABARET at the Barbican Theatre. New productions have included GUYS AND DOLLS at the Royal Albert Hall, directed by Stephen Mear with an all-star cast, and the European premiere of DOLLY PARTON'S SMOKY MOUNTAIN CHRISTMAS CAROL at the Southbank Centre, as well as touring projects such as ROB BRYDON – A NIGHT OF SONGS AND LAUGHTER (80 shows at London Palladium and on tour around UK/Australia/New Zealand); PEPPA PIG – MY FIRST CONCERT (Royal Festival Hall, London Coliseum, & 90+ UK dates); BLACK BLUES BROTHERS (UK regional tour) and TUBULAR BELLS – THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION (50 shows at Royal Festival Hall and on UK tour). ABOUT SENBLA A leading producer and promoter of hundreds of live shows around the world annually, Senbla provides a wide range of services in support of performing arts productions, artist tours, large scale artist concerts, and concept-based shows, as well as theatrical and family entertainment events. Its extensive capabilities includes licensing and production, plus management of all aspects of global Intellectual Property rights. The company has worked on numerous recent productions including the 'Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse' concert with live orchestra which played 85 dates globally; Michael Bublé at the Bath Royal Crescent; a run of Lionel Richie UK shows; Diana Ross's recent UK Arena Tour; concert with live orchestra dates from Ennio Morricone, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Joss Stone, The Holiday, Love Actually, and A Muppets' Christmas Carol; opera events, the Disney 100 UK Arena Tour, and Circus 1903. Senbla also is an investor in theatrical shows including "Six" on Broadway and its US Tour, and is a co-promoter and producer of shows internationally.

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Anzu.io is an in-game advertising platform that brings the sophistication of advertising into video gaming and esports. Our Blended In-Game Advertising solution seamlessly integrates non-intrusive ads into the gameplay. With Anzu’s state-of-the-art programmatic technology and real-time data, brand a...

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