Move Networks Acquires UK-Based IPTV Provider, Inuk Networks

Move Networks--a Utah-based company which offers patent-pending technologies for delivering live and on-demand HD-quality broadband video with no buffering (its technologies are used by, among others, ABC, Fox, The CW, ESPN360, Pro Sieben and Televisa), and which last year announced that Microsoft had joined its Series C funding round--announced Wednesday that it has acquired UK IPTV provider, Inuk Networks. In its press release announcing the acquisition, Move described Inuk, which has been reported to have been struggling financially in recent months due to the expense entailed in building out its IPTV infrastructure, as offering "a next-generation television platform, which builds on the traditional television experience, but opens new opportunities for monetizing customers with targeted advertising, converged applications and a unique PC/Mac multi-room solution." The acquisition follows a "strategic partnership" between the two companies that was announced last year (see [itvt] Issue 8.06 Part 2A).

Inuk's product line-up includes 1) a wholesale IPTV platform which the company says can be white-labeled by any service provider or retail brand aspiring to deliver a TV service; 2) a multi-room "virtual set-top box" application, called igloo, which is designed to emulate the operation and user interface of a standard set-top box on PC's and Macs, and is billed as delivering all the features and functionality of an IPTV set-top, regardless of browser, codec or conditional access system (note: according to Inuk, igloo can be customized with an operator's look-and-feel; offers full EPG functionality; supports MPEG-2 and MPEG-4-encoded viewing in both windowed and full-screen modes; enables PVR functionality via a PC's existing hard drive; presents on-screen information and standard TV controls as a graphical overlay on top of the video image; and comes with built-in infrared USB remote control capability); and 3) a branded triple-play service, called Freewire, which has been launched in a number of university campuses and residence halls in the UK, Ireland and Canada, and which Inuk has been attempting to bring to a broader consumer market for some time now.

Move Networks says that by adding Inuk's IPTV platform and virtual set-top box technology to its own video publishing and adaptive streaming technologies, it will be able to provide service providers, broadcasters and consumers with a "true TV experience," over both the open Internet and closed networks, using a mix of multicast and rate-adaptive video delivery. The company claims that the Move-Inuk HD and SD video processing platform will be "the most complete IPTV solution, combining high-fidelity viewing, functionality and enhanced features," and will allow broadcasters and operators to offer viewers an "Internet television experience with high-definition video and no buffering or skipping, in a TV-like interface with features you would expect on a digital TV service such as immediate channel change, Electronic Program Guide, on-screen overlays, reminders, PVR and access to a VOD menu." "Inuk's IPTV platform is well positioned to deliver these new consumer expectations, and Move Networks' proprietary adaptive streaming and video publishing platform delivers an HD viewing experience via the current Internet infrastructure today," Move Networks executive chairman, John Edwards (who recently stepped down as CEO), said in a prepared statement. "This means Move Networks and Inuk have the critical components in place to support commercial deployments."

Move also promises that it is committed to developing and growing the Freewire platform, which it says will launch in the US and Scandinavia later this year. "The Move-Inuk combination is a perfect marriage of technologies and business models," Inuk president and CEO, Marcus Liassides, said in a prepared statement (note: for an in-depth interview with Liassides, see [itvt] Issue 7.65). "We will offer a solution that augments traditional linear-based programming, allowing more consumers to experience television on their own schedules for a personalized viewing experience. We are excited to serve those consumers with a true two-way interactive television service."

In other recent news from Move Networks:
--Last month, the company announced the appointment of Greg Butterfield, managing partner of SageCreek Partners and former president of Symantec's Altiris business unit, as an independent director. According to the company, Butterfield has extensive experience in systems management: during his tenure at Altiris (where he was president and CEO, prior to its acquisition by Symantec in 2007), Move Networks says, he led the company to eight consecutive years of revenue growth and profitability, growing annual revenues from $3 million to $229 million. His resume also includes executive positions at Vinca, Novell and WordPerfect. He won the 2002 Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year award, and served as chairman of the Utah Information Technology Association from 2003 to 2005. He holds a BS in business administration and finance from Brigham Young University.
--In February, the company--along with Springboard Productions, iStreamPlanet, and AT&T--was tapped by the Recording Academy to provide live and on-demand broadband video coverage of the non-televised segment of the Grammy Awards. The segment, which was hosted by Wayne Brady and Tia Carrere, featured around 100 award categories, together with live musical performances. It was available on-demand on grammys.com for a month. The live stream of the Grammys pre-telecast was produced by Springboard and delivered by iStreamPlanet. The latter company managed onsite content acquisition and onsite encoding and transcoding, and built a custom media player that incorporated Move Networks' adaptive streaming technology. It also handled content integration with the Grammys Web site and ingestion into AT&T's CDN. "This is the first year that the Grammys and Grammy.com have used our adaptive streaming technology," Move Networks' John Edwards said in a prepared statement. "It delivered a TV-like viewing experience without the buffering and stalling frequently associated with Internet webcasts."
--At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, January, the company announced that it had optimized its media player with a simplified user interface for Intel Atom processor-based mobile Internet devices (MID's) and netbooks. The development of the MID- and netbook-optimized user interface follows Move's August, 2008 announcement of support for Intel Atom processor-based MID's, and is billed by the company as addressing the fact that media consumption is becoming increasingly mobile. "Technologies from companies such as Intel are transforming television, turning it into a medium where viewer choice is never compromised by quality," Move Networks' John Edwards said in a prepared statement. "Intel's advanced MID and CE platforms are moving us one step closer towards a world where television programmers and distributors can deliver high-quality Internet television programming to screens on any Internet-connected device." Added Pankaj Kedia, director of global ecosystem programs at Intel's Ultra Mobility Group: "Internet television access on mobile devices will increasingly become mainstream. As Internet TV shifts from PC's to always-connected mobile devices like MID's and netbooks, consumers will be able to access high-quality content wherever they go. By bringing together Intel's high-performance Atom processor and the Moblin-based OS with Move Networks' advanced Internet television delivery technology and services, we are providing consumers with more choices and access to Internet video content."
--The company also used CES to trumpet statistics which it claims show that usage of its platform is increasing significantly. It claims that, in 2008, it streamed over 100 million hours of HD content and over 180 million total hours of HD and SD content combined, and experienced 100% growth in the number of people watching broadband video delivered via its adaptive streaming technology (from 25 million unique viewers in 2007 to 55 million unique viewers in 2008). It also says that, according to a study it conducted last year, 1) 70% of the college-age demographic have watched TV online; 2) 55% watch more than half of their TV programming via the Internet; and 3) 85% of survey respondents preferred the viewing experience provided by its adaptive streaming technology over that provided by Flash-based streaming. At the time it announced the statistics, Move claimed to stream 60% of the most popular TV shows and 11 of the top-20 primetime shows, as well as 600 live events per month. The release in which Move Networks announced the statistics also quoted John Edwards as saying "the goal of the company is to allow people to watch Internet television programming everywhere at any time. As we move forward," Edwards continued, "we're taking it beyond the laptop to mobile devices, set-top boxes and even gaming consoles." Edwards added that the push for embedding Move software on other devices was coming from both consumer electronics manufacturers and content owners.
--In addition, the company used CES to announce the release of a beta version of an enhanced SDK for new and existing device manufacturer partners. According to the company, the new "Device SDK" extends its Internet TV services to Linux-based devices for multiple semiconductor architectures. It says that it is enabling it to work with CE manufacturers to extend its technology to multiple new platforms.

 

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