Rovi is announcing the acquisition of video discovery startup Fan TV today. The deal will add to Rovi’s portfolio of cloud-based guide offerings for service providers, while also giving it some consumer-facing apps. And for Fan TV, the acquisition could help bring its streaming set-top box to more consumers.
The acquisition seems like a decent fit for both companies. Rovi, which sells technology to power the video guides of various service providers and consumer electronics companies, gets a new cloud-based service it can offer up to its existing customers through the deal. Meanwhile, Fan TV gets backing from a Rovi sales force that can give it much-needed help with distribution.
Fan TV has taken a pretty circuitous route to get to this place. Originally called Fanhattan, the company was borne out of the Vuze BitTorrent business and established as a new video discovery platform at a time when there was no good way to find content across multiple different streaming services. By acquiring the Open Movie Database back in 2010, it hoped to power the guide, navigation, and search of various consumer electronics devices like smart TVs.
Before Fanhattan could do that, though, the company released a consumer-facing iPad app that aggregated titles from various different over-the-top streaming services. The idea was to help consumers find the content they wanted to watch, regardless of the service, and then deep-link into whatever app had a given movie or TV show.
Last spring, after adding a number of new features and content providers to its platform, the company announced its most ambitious plan yet — it rebranded as Fan TV and introduced a streaming set-top box it hoped would replace the cable box most consumers were used to. Designed by Yves Behar, the box was supposed to bring an improved user interface to cable customers who have gotten used to navigating streaming services on Roku and Apple TV devices. One year later, the company announced its first deployment with Time Warner Cable, which would allow customers to purchase the Fan TV device.
But initial sales have been slow, in part because TWC just recently started making the box available to customers. Fan TV founder and CEO Gilles BianRosa said the box was soft-launched at the end of August, and TWC has only begun marketing it to customers within the last few weeks.
That’s what happens when you work with a partner that’s as big as Time Warner Cable, which is currently the second-largest cable company behind Comcast. But BianRosa says getting a customer of TWC’s stature was all a part of its plan.
“When we announced the device, everyone said no one would work with us,” he said, noting that working with someone like TWC could entice smaller operators to offer the device. Now that it’s a part of Rovi, it will have the support of a sales force that already counts operators like Charter and Dish among its customers.
Rovi meanwhile gets a cloud-based discovery guide that it can sell to CE manufacturers and operators independent of Fan TV’s set-top box. Being able to combine live TV, DVR, and over-the-top streaming services as part of its guide is something it had been working on building already, but the deal will accelerate the availability of such an offering.
There’s also an interesting tie-in with the recent Rovi acquisition of voice search technology provider Veveo. With it, Rovi could bring voice control to a group of apps and devices that are powered by Fan TV.
All Fan TV employees, including its founders, are expected to join Rovi’s discovery group. And for now at least, Fan TV will continue to have its own office. It will also continue to offer up its consumer-facing mobile and tablet apps for content discovery, something BianRosa says is important to help improve its B2B products.
Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but Re/code reported last night that Fan TV’s investors were unlikely to have gotten all their money back. It’s difficult to track down exactly how much money the company has raised — in part due to its winding corporate history — but an SEC filing from May notes that it had most recently closed $8.4 million in funding. Re/code reports the company was seeking about $15 million for an acquisition.