Skinkers second round funding

30 10 2007

Back in July beyondnessofthings reported on Skinkers, a U.K. based company which has been working with Microsoft on a software solution for streaming of live TV. econsultancy reports that the company has just sealed a deal for US $16m (£8m) in second round funding from a consortium led by Acacia Capital Partners. Consortium members include Spark Ventures, which provided $3.5m (£1.7m) in February 2006.

Skinkers will reportedly soon start trialling its LiveStation product with broadcasters





EchoStar snaps up Slingbox creator

25 09 2007

The Krikorian clan must be rubbing their hands with glee, having closed a deal with U.S. DBS operator EchoStar, which sees Sling Media acquired by the latter in a cash and options deal valuing it at US $380 million.

The privately-held company, founded in 2005 by brothers Blake and Jason Krikorian, brought the Slingbox to market, a placeshifting device capable to streaming TV signals from virtually any kind of device in the home to anywhere else with broadband connectivity.





Online TV: mind the gap(s)

8 09 2007

Warner Bros. has finally relented to pressure from Walt Disney Co.’s ABC network and granted on-demand streaming rights for shows it produces for the latter, the strongest suggestion yet that the nets are sensitive to consumer feedback over why some shows are offered for online catch-up, while others aren’t.

Under the terms of the two-year deal, ABC will stream Warner-made shows via ABC.com and keep all ad revenue during the first year. In year two, Warner retains all revenue and gets to offer the same shows on a download-to-own basis, for on-demand streaming and as DVD box sets. Is it just me thinking that ABC ended up with the better side of the deal?

Since its launch in September 2006, the player has streamed all or part of 134 million episodes, ABC data shows. ABC was the first U.S. broadcast network to offer its prime time shows for free on the ad-supported player.

The most interesting part of the deal, however, is that in year two, all of the shows offered by Warners will continue to be branded in ABC’s colours, with viewers given pointers back to ABC’s site.





Blinkx to offer ‘Prom Queen’ sequel, expands niche titles

30 08 2007

Blinkx, the self-styled ‘world’s largest video search engine’ has unveiled a raft of new content partnerships in the past couple of days, including the sequel to Prom Queen, the Emmy-nominated online drama produced by Michael Eisner’s Vuguru new media studio.

Starting today, new two-minute episodes will be available via Blinkx, with further episodes added daily during the three-week series run. Blinkx and Vuguru will share revenue, based on number of views.

More than 15 million people watched the first series when it premiered last Spring, with the majority of traffic driven through an exclusive premier window with MySpace.

In an announcement on Tuesday, Blinkx said it had signed 28 new content partnerships with niche and specialist content providers, expanding still further the breadth and depth of its offer.

Broadband TV channels Cycling TV and Wedding TV are among the new partners, alongside music video site Eye Music Network and professionally-produced video travel guides from GeoBeats

Last June it was reported that Blinkx is working on its own video aggregation service to rival Joost, due to launch this autumn.





Content distribution just got smarter

20 08 2007

Echoing a similar deal between Google and Viacom prior to the former’s acquisition of YouTube, Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane and Disney Channel actress Raven-Symone are to create original web video content, which Google will then distribute to target demographics via its AdSense  contextual advertising network.

MacFarlane will create around 50 animated shorts, while Symone will craft a series of ‘how to’ videos targeted at teens and tweens. The US $10 million bill for content creation is being underwritten by Media Rights Capital (MRC), the film financing vehicle in which ad group WPP, AT&T and Goldman Sachs have all taken stakes. Revenues from the ads embedded in each film will be split between MRC and Google.

MRC’s backers have given it a warchest of US $400 million per year — enough to finance 10 indie movies, five or six TV series and 10 to 20 broadband video series. The company has built its business on acquiring rights bundles where traditional studios have feared to tread; for example, it snapped up non English and Spanish-speaking territory rights seven-times Oscar-nominated Babel, which achieved $114 million in box office takings, 70% of which was from non-U.S. markets.

Variety is heralding the MRC/Google deal as one which throws open the doors to mass distribution for indie-produced content, while allowing each respective party to concentrate on the bits of the business they’re best at. In a further sign that online video distribution has passed the tipping point, the same report quotes MRC digital president Dan Goodman: “We’re looking at this as a business-model, not as a pilot.”





‘YouTube killer’ gets cash injection

10 08 2007

Ramping up to the mooted autumn launch of NBC Universal / NewsCorp. online video joint-venture codenamed ‘Newsite’, the companies yesterday disclosed that they have swapped 10% of equity for the venture in return for US $100 million from Providence Equity Partners. The deal values the new service at $1 billion and, say paidContent, is the strongest hint yet that the partners may be looking to float the company.





Blockbuster bags Movielink

10 08 2007

Blockbuster has acuired Movielink LLC, the online movie downloads service established by five major Hollywood studios in 2002. Terms were not disclosed.

The Wall Street Journal claims a source familiar with the deal put the acquisition price tag at “less than $20 million”. paidContent puts it lower still: “we do know that there is a surprisingly low cash amount involved (much lower than WSJ’s)” 

Update 15 Aug 07: According to a filing yesterday with the U.S Securities and Exchange Commission, Blockbuster paid just $6.6 million in an all-cash deal.

Studio founders including Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Universal Studios and Warner Bros. are believed to have lavished $100 million on the service, which failed to capture public imagination as a consequence of its owners’ failure to back it up with significant marketing effort.

The acquisition bolsters Blockbuster’s online video services and will likely put troubled competitor Netflix under even greater pressure.





NDS buys online video specialist

9 08 2007

In a development which demonstrates that a growing number of broadcast pay TV platforms will be adding online video services, NewsCorp.-controlled interactive TV and conditional access specialist NDS is to acquire the rich media distribution technology company CastUp for US $11.3 million.

Founded in 1999, the Israeli developer of IP streaming media products counts HP, IBM, Microsoft and Orange among its customers





Of minnows, big ponds and wonky economics

3 08 2007

More consolidation among U.K. ISPs… Three weeks ago it was Tiscali’s £210 million acquisition of Pipex which turned heads in the City. While at the beginning of July and less likely to register as a big money deal, but noteworthy given who one of the players is, BT bagged small ISP Brightview Group for £15.8 million.

So if the Tiscali / Pipex deal was about extending reach (to 55% of the U.K. population) and unbundling more local exchanges, then what’s the motive behind the BT / Brightview deal? If both were based on subscriber numbers alone, Tiscali values 1.8 million Pipex customers at less than a penny each, while BT thinks Brightview’s 62,000 customers are worth a whopping £254 each.

Arguably, BT has purchased a relatively upmarket subscriber base: Brightview is a white label ISP for retailers Waitrose and John Lewis, alongside its own brands, Madasafish and Global Internet.

Reuters quotes Bridgewell analyst Dan Gardiner, who said the deal highlighted BT’s consolidation strategy within the ISP market of focusing on small, bolt on acquisitions of high quality customer bases rather than mass market players.

Expect lots more of this over the coming months as smaller, independent operators struggle to maintain margins for a product which has been reduced to mere commodity.





Disney bags kids social network

2 08 2007

club_penguin.pngThe Walt Disney Company has paid US $350 million, potentially rising by the same amount again based on performance over the next two years, for pre-teens social network Club Penguin.

Launched in late 2005, the service provides an ad-free, snow-covered virtual world for six to 14-year-olds to interact with eachother. Following the takeover, Club Penguin will be re-named Disney Club Penguin and be used to cross-promote other Disney properties.

Last reported figures state 700,000 subscribers (each paying $5.95 / month) and 12 million active users, mainly based in North America; though post-acquisition Disney has big plans for expanding the property in Asia and Japan. Competitors include Webkinz, Stardoll, Gaia, Habbo Hotel and Viacom-owned Neopets.





Amstrad: “You’re hired!”

31 07 2007

amstrad.jpg 

The consumer electronics manufacturer used to be a byword for cheap and cheerful hi-fi tower systems, the company even introduced the concept of mass market PCs to the U.K., but now Amstrad (shortform for the Alan Michael Sugar Trading Company, after its no-nonsense founder Sir Alan Sugar, and sometime frontman of The Apprentice) has been sold to BSkyB.

For the last few years Amstrad has been churning out set-top boxes for the U.K. satellite platform, including Sky+ DVRs. The deal is to be worth £125 million, or £1.50 per Amstrad share.

A briefing note from industry analysts Ovum can be found here.

Edited 2 Aug 07 to add comment from coverage in the Financial Times yesterday: “Sky said the Amstrad acquisition would give it more control over the design of new products and help it accelerate development. Analysts expect Sky to use Amstrad’s expertise to create high-margin products such as high-definition set-top boxes and personal video recorders.”





Nokia swoops on Twango

24 07 2007

Consolidation in the social networks and video sharing space continues with news that start-up Twango has been acquired by Nokia, just nine months after its launch.

Nokia was said to be drawn by the ease-of-use of Twango’s mobile interface.

“The Twango acquisition is a concrete step towards our consumer Internet services vision of providing seamless access to information, entertainment, and social networks – at any time, anywhere, from any connected device, in any way that you choose. We have the most complete suite of connected multimedia experiences including music, navigation, games, and – with the Twango acquisition – photos, videos, and a variety of document types,” said Anssi Vanjoki, Executive Vice President and General Manager, Multimedia, Nokia.

“When you combine a Nokia N-series multimedia computer that is always on, always connected, and always with you together with a rich media sharing destination like Twango, people will have exciting new ways to create and enjoy rich media experiences in real time.”

Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, though the Seattle Post-Intelligencer points to a Wall Street Journal report suggesting that the price tag was “less than [US] $96 million”.





Deal watch: Lionsgate buys in to Break.com

12 07 2007

Lionsgate has taken a stake of $21 million (= 42% of equity) in blokey-targeted video aggregator Break.com, reports Bloomberg.

Break.com attracts around 1.3 million daily unique users, each consuming around 12 videos per day. The company already has content deals with NBC Universal, Endemol USA and Twisted Pictures.