Social-TV Startup Bluefin Labs Lands $12 Million Investment

A Bet that Social Data Will Become Essential for TV Marketers

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If there's any doubt that social TV is poised to become big business, Bluefin Labs is trying to put that to rest. The Cambridge, Mass.-based social-analytics startup has just closed a $12 million Series B round led by Time Warner Investments. SoftBank Capital is also participating, as well as previous investors Redpoint Ventures and Lerer Ventures.

Bluefin Labs CEO Deb Roy
Bluefin Labs CEO Deb Roy

Deb Roy, co-founder and CEO of Bluefin Labs, said the funds would be used to hire aggressively across sales and client-services divisions, as the makeup of the 40-person staff currently skews heavily toward tech, product and data roles.

"The business-oriented side of the business is definitely the minority, and we're going to start bringing some balance to that ," Mr. Roy said.

Bluefin Labs created a social-analytics dashboard that aggregates and analyzes comments about television shows and the sentiment of those comments in social networks. On one side, the findings can help networks make programming decisions based on viewers' real-time conversations about characters, plots and hosts, for example. For brand marketers and agencies, this product can help analyze which products or ads are received best and worst by viewers. The technology also provides marketers and media agencies with social-graph analyses that can help them identify the brand affinity or lifestyle choices of viewers of certain shows.

Mr. Roy said the round would allow Bluefin to invest in R&D that will dig deeper into social data to surface more precise learnings for both sellers and buyers of TV advertising.

"We want to invest in ratcheting up the sophistication, accuracy and granularity of both types of analysis," Mr. Roy said.

While networks as well as agencies subscribe to Bluefin's web-based dashboard currently, Mr. Roy said he expects more revenue and growth to come from the buy-side of the TV-ad business. Last year, Publicis' SMG began targeting ad buys based on Bluefin's analytics.

Mr. Roy said that Bluefin plans to expand internationally next year, with Japan a likely target market because of the strong growth of social media there and the presence in the market of new investor SoftBank Capital.

With the investment, Time Warner Investments' Rachel Lam joins Bluefin's board.

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