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15 November 2018

App disruptor You.i TV plots overseas expansion with $23m funding

Canadian UI developer You.i TV made a name for itself in 2016 when it landed a $12 million Series B funding round led by Time Warner. Two years later, You.i TV has almost doubled the size of its latest funding with $23 million secured in a round headed up by Causeway Media Partners. A company claiming figures like 1,075% growth over the past five years and outlining a plan for international expansion is certainly worth some time – with You.i TV looking like a company fixed on a collision course towards disruption.

You.i TV’s growth is perhaps best compared to the trajectory of a more familiar name, Accedo, but while both are thriving in the TV app game, others in the video user experience space, namely Ooyala and newly acquired Massive Interactive, have encountered major difficulties when trying to scale out and target new markets, as again we come back to that dirty word commoditization. But clearly the market situation is not so black and white.

Lucidity may arise from investigating what differentiates the company. You.i TV has set itself apart from the competition by developing an in-house technique for building apps dedicated to video streaming services via a cross-platform SDK, in a manner which essentially sidesteps SDKs of the major OS platforms and even games consoles.

While others have followed stringent rules laid out by Google and Apple to the letter, You.i TV has prospered from a heavy GPU-focused approach involving smooth graphics performance at 60 fps and a fluid screen rendered UI to suit video applications, with a design workflow allowing production app changes in just 5 minutes.

This unique method of writing and maintaining a single codebase has helped developers defragment multiscreen app ecosystems which have grown convoluted in nature – with You.i TV boasting customers including AT&T, Fox, WarnerMedia, NFL, Twitch and, most recently, A+E Networks.

So the $23 million will be put towards expanding the 170-person team outside the US to gain some international recognition, as well as adding to its developer community and “reimagining the ad experience” – a hint towards the type of customers You.i TV will be targeting.

The core technology product, Engine One, which is now a decade old, has undergone a number of changes since the company first caught our attention following its Time Warner funding round. Now on version 5.0, Engine One has added support for the JavaScript application framework React Native as well as remote asset management features to allow media companies to speed up and better monetize video app experiences. You.i TV gives the example that developers can configure applications to retrieve all UX elements dynamically from a server, including layout, styling and motion, without requiring recertification.

Further features added this year include improved flexibility for native platform web UI integrations on mobile devices, a redesigned and simplified cross-platform build system, improved custom debugging tools, C++ 11 compatible libraries, and more control over app elements including animations, focus and data modeling.

It also recently had its Engine video app approved by Samsung as an app development solution for the Tizen TV OS. The two companies worked together to adapt the You.i Engine to Samsung’s Tizen TV Native Client (NaCl) implementation, to allow developers to take advantage of the cross-platform workflow to develop Tizen TV apps. It claims presence in 90 million households, including those with Apple TV and Roku devices, but oddly there is no support for Android TV as of yet.

Time Warner again played a hand in the latest round of funding but this time under AT&T ownership as the rebranded WarnerMedia, joined by Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors and Vistara Capital Partners.

Bob Higgins, a partner at Causeway Media Partners who will take a seat on You.i TV’s board, said, “We’ve been courtside watching media companies endeavor to get the user experience right, knowing that the consumer is the ultimate arbiter of what can make or break a business these days. Today, content owners trade-off between engagement and monetization and we think You.i TV’s product unlocks unlimited potential for changing that equation.”