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Cable Technology Feature Article

February 05, 2013

Espial Solidifies Hybrid TV Play with ANT Acquisition

By Tara Seals, TMCnet Contributor

Espial (News - Alert), the Canadian smart-TV enabler, has finalized its announced £5 million (about $7.8 million) acquisition of U.K.-based ANT, in a gambit to build an HTML5 leadership role inside the IPTV (News - Alert) ecosystem—ideal for supporting hybrid TV services that combine broadband, over-the-top (OTT) and traditional linear cable/broadcast services.

ANT’s technology compliments the Espial portfolio, particularly in the hybrid TV arena. Espial works with Tier 1 and Tier 2 cable and telco companies to provide the brains inside the browser for smart TVs. It also enables TV Everywhere with middleware geared to providing a seamless user experience across viewing screens, and provides a platform for enabling hybrid TV with interactive and on-demand Web content presented within an operator’s TV experience.

ANT meanwhile specializes in building rich HTML5 interfaces and will give Espial the ability to build integrated HTML5 clients across set-top boxes and multiscreen devices which bolsters the hybrid opportunity. It helps that ANT is also a founding member of the HbbTV HTML5-based hybrid broadcast broadband TV standard—giving it an incumbent position inside the nascent market for hybrid TV within Europe.

"Delivering a high quality user experience across set-top boxes, smart TVs, tablets and smartphones is crucial to the success of today's TV service providers," said Jaison Dolvane, CEO of Espial, in a statement. "The ANT acquisition further strengthens Espial's position as an HTML5 market leader to help to accelerate TV service providers' transition to IP video delivery."

As more subscribers opt for OTT services, pay-TV providers must develop a strong multiscreen business model in order to retain and grow subscribers, according to a new report from Pyramid Research.

“The growth of OTT video services is disrupting the traditional pay-TV market and is dramatically driving traffic growth,” said Pyramid Research analyst Daniele Tricarico, “but more consumers are watching video on multiple screens, opening up for new opportunities for pay-TV providers and telcos to implement multiscreen business models.”

Hybrid approaches belp encourage migration from lower-value packages to higher-value bundles that include premium tiers of high-speed Internet, which is needed to support better quality streaming video. “All pay-TV providers also have the option to launch their own OTT-like video services and extend their reach to non-customers, thus generating additional revenue beyond the existing customer base,” Tricarico said.

ANT also gives Espial a better profile in Europe and Asia, where ANT has key customers including major TV operators, set-top box manufacturers and smart TV manufacturers.

The acquisition is strategic in another way as well: Espial gains a big talent pool asset in ANT’s 40 software engineers 60, which will combine with Espial’s 60 Ottawa-based software developers for a transatlantic team that also features a recruitment operation within Cambridge University.

After initially entering into a cooperation agreement with ANT on 30 November 2012, Espial purchased all of the outstanding shares of ANT in exchange for all cash consideration of £0.205 (about $0.32) per outstanding share.

Edited by Rachel Ramsey

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