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The Biggest Streaming Media Mergers and Acquisitions of 2013

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Significant acquisitions in 2013 set the stage for an interesting 2014. Major companies announced the purchase of key streaming media services, geared toward various parts of the media consumption supply chain, while smaller companies subsumed potential media tools to drive their place in the market.

Some of the acquisitions focused on delivery platforms, including web acceleration and aggregation of viewer eyeballs, while other acquisitions sought to fill gaps in the growing universe of devices on which consumers choose to view premium media content.

Three companies stand out for making multiple acquisitions this year: Verizon; Vitec Group, PLC; and Yahoo. In addition, Samsung made a set-top box (STB) buy that’s worth mentioning. Finally, KIT Digital died, only to be reborn with the oddly spelled name Piksel. If there is any trend indicative of yet another internet bubble, it’s the return of the Oddly Named Company, which last reared its head in 2007, the encore to 1999’s Year of the Ridiculous Name.

Then again, we still have Yahoo with us, and it seems to have stabilized in 2013 under the leadership of former Googler Marissa Mayer.

Samsung Subsumes Boxee

Let’s start with Samsung, and its unboxing of the acquisition of STB-cum-software streaming company Boxee.

We covered one of Boxee’s permutations, to that of a seemingly clever but ill-implemented online digital video recorder (DVR) during the Christmas 2012 season, in an article titled “Boxee and Walmart Put Disappointment Under the Tree.” What a difference 6 months makes, as Boxee found itself the target of Samsung’s desire to find relevance in the STB and smart TV space. The sale price was rumored at about $30 million.

As Streaming Media.com’s Troy Dreier pointed out, Boxee couldn’t find traction between its original software play and its later hardware play.

“Long before Boxee hardware, when most users ran Boxee on Apple TVs or Mac minis ... Boxee found eager adopters in hipsters and hobbyists (‘alpha geeks,’ as co-founder and CEO Avner Ronen called them),” wrote Dreier in “The Long Sad Tale of Boxee: A Look Back.”

Yet Boxee found that even alpha geeks didn’t want to go through the hassle of setting up software that couldn’t stream basic services such as Hulu. And by the time Boxee turned to the Boxee TV it marketed through Walmart, rival Roku had established the only seemingly viable alternative to Apple TV. With the Google TV stumbling, it made sense for Boxee to start looking for a suitor.

“Samsung has acquired key talent and assets from Boxee,” a Samsung spokesperson told The New York Times. “This will help us continue to improve the overall user experience across our connected devices.”

What we find most odd is that the Cloud DVR, a primary selling point for all Boxee TV units sold during the 2012 holiday shopping season, is being discontinued. With Samsung’s acquisition intent announced on July 3, 2013, Boxee wasted no time shuttering its cloud-based Boxee TV DVR service less than a week later.

“[T]he beta Cloud DVR functionality we provided to certain Boxee TV users will be discontinued on July 10th,” Boxee noted on its website. “You will not have access to your existing recordings after that date. We realize many of you loved the service, and we’re sorry it won’t be available moving forward.”

No word yet as to whether Boxee or Samsung will issue refunds for the Boxee TV product.

Vitec Group Acquires Teradek

Not too long after NAB, Vitec Group snapped up Teradek, placing the wireless HD and streaming device manufacturer into the Vitec Videocom division alongside more traditional broadcast solutions.

The move to acquire Teradek not only solidifies Vitec Group’s bona fides in the ever-merging broadcast and streaming integration worlds, but also gives the company its second acquisition in as many years, after it acquired Camera Corps Ltd. in 2012. The latter, a services arm, focused on remote cameras and tracking systems, camera-support systems, and full-service facilities to broadcasters for regional and international events.

Vitec Group should not to be confused with Vitec, the Paris-based company we’ve covered in earlier versions of Streamticker when Vitec acquired Optibase’s and Focus Enhancements’ video technology assets in 2010.

Verizon Snatches Up UpLynk, EdgeCast

Verizon made its first digital media acquisition of 2014 in mid-November 2013, as its Verizon Digital Media Services announced it had acquired the assets and operations of UpLynk. Less than 2 years old, UpLynk was hailed by Verizon as “a leading technology and television cloud company.”

“Simply put, this acquisition provides intelligent, scalable and more flexible ways of streaming video for our customers,” said Bob Toohey, president of Verizon Digital Media Services.

The secret sauce of UpLynk was its workflow integration for television broadcasting on the web. It tied its services into national broadcast infrastructures to deliver over-the-top (OTT) broadcast to multiple device types and operating systems.

“With this acquisition, Digital Media Services customers can take advantage of increased speed to market, simplified workflows and access to a highly efficient and data-rich broadcast cloud technology,” said Toohey. Verizon’s reach across The Pond should also provide an additional playing field if domestic U.S. broadcasters want to “broadcast” their stations to European OTT markets.

Shortly after Thanksgiving, Verizon pulled out the purse again, this time for a content delivery network (CDN) purchase in the form of EdgeCast.

“EdgeCast was on track to end this year with $100M in revenue and was projected to do $140M in revenue next year,” said Dan Rayburn in a December 2013 blog post. Rayburn noted the company had about 300 employees at the time of acquisition and had previously raised $74 million in capital, the bulk of which derived from a $54 million funding round in mid-2013. Estimates place EdgeCast’s valuation at $400 million, meaning it sold for about four times current year revenues.

Yahoo Doubles Down on Video

Yahoo also ponied up for multiple acquisitions this year, buying two streaming media companies in less than a week’s time.

The first acquisition was made on Dec. 3 for a company called Ptch. Yes, you read right: there is no I in Ptch, just like there’s supposedly no I in team. While the latter may be up for debate, what isn’t debatable is just how fast Yahoo chose to bring Ptch into its stable of apps, as the company was formed in late 2012.

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