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29 October 2015

Deals, Launches and Products

Modern Times Group, owner of the Nordic Viasat satellite TV services, has sold off its Russian pay TV businesses and other TV services influenced by Russian policy, for just $45.5 million. Russia rushed laws through its parliament for 2016 which ban foreign investors owning more than 20% in media outlets due to its paranoia over news reporting of the Ukraine crisis. Clearly MTG needed a long term fix for the fact that it had channels in Russia. The buyer is a subsidiary of Baring Vostok. Cynics may suggest this is a holding position until Russia becomes outward looking again, after which MTG will re-acquire the assets at a slightly higher price.

UPC Romania, part of Liberty Global says it has bought Nova Sat, which despite its name is a local cable operator, based in Suceava, for an undisclosed fee, says financial paper Ziarul Financiar. Nova Sat is one of the few remaining independent players in the market with just 20,000 subscribers. UPC Romania has recently said it wants to reach one million subscribers and has 870,000 prior to this deal, so just another 5 or 6 deals to go.

Alcatel Lucent said that Den Networks, one of India’s largest cable TV services reaching 13 million homes, will build out broadband using Alcatel’s 7360 and 7368 ISAMs and its 5520 Access Management System plus IP routing and switching devices. Alcatel equipment will provide GPON fixed access. India has just 12 million DSL lines, and a few million cable broadband lines, and most of the 267 million internet users think the internet is something you get on your phone. Den Networks will use fiber to take its broadband service to 8.5 million homes over the next 3 years. In some areas the GPON is providing backhaul connectivity, and existing coax will be used for the ‘last-mile’.

UK set top specialist Amino Technologies gave a downbeat trading update this week saying the company expects a second half shortfall in revenue versus expectations within its core Amino business, taking profits below expectations, to around what was achieved last year. It took the opportunity to mention that merger synergies with Entone and Booxmedia were ahead of plan. The Board pointed to its sales execution issues, industry consolidation and delays as operators introduce 4K UHD services.

French telco holding company Altice said this week it has agreed to sell 30% of Cablevision in the US to BC Partners and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board for just $1 billion. This was alluded to when the deal was originally cut and earlier this year Altice bought US cable firm Suddenlink from BC Partners and CPP Investment when they also retained 30%. This now means it has full funding for the $17.7 billion deal and it should close in the first half of 2016, pending regulatory approvals.

US hosted media firm Brightcove this week launched Brightcove Lift, an advertising optimization system, which helps publishers, broadcasters and OTT providers to maximize video ad revenue across mobile and the desktop. It uses a combination of server-side ad insertion and an HTML5 player management service. Brightcove said that Lift defeats ad blockers and that Vox Media has already agreed to use it.

Satellite firm SES thinks its SS4C service which uses a combination of software defined networking (SDN) and DTH can bring ultra-fast broadband to widely dispersed communities after a Government funded project tested it in the UK through a company called Satellite Internet. Some 61.5% of people participating in a free one-month trial signed up a one-year contract and it is now being rolled out in other areas such as national parks. SES says it has rolled out 60 similar community networks in Germany.

Alibaba Group results for the quarter ended September 30, showed revenue of $3.5 billion up 32%, and free cash flow of $2.1 billion. Mobile customers made 62% of transactions and mobile revenue was $1,655 million, a rise of 183%. Its cloud computing business also accelerated, up 128% to $102 million. Gross Merchandising Volume (how much cash went through the system) was $112 billion, up 28% year on year.

European satellite business SES said this week that Global Eagle Entertainment has signed multi-year, multi-transponder agreement, doubling its SES satellite capacity, to meet demand for inflight entertainment and connectivity services. It has taken extra capacity on six SES satellites, along with teleport services.

Yahoo said that it delivered the first free stream of a regular season NFL game and reached over 33.6 million views across all devices on Yahoo and Tumblr. The game was the Buffalo Bills against the Jacksonville Jaguars, live from London’s Wembley Stadium. There were 15.2 million unique viewers tuned in.

Ambarella the chip company whose last generation chip was behind many real time encoder products, has introduced S3L, a low-power IP camera SoC which enables real time HEVC video encoding in cloud-based home monitoring and mainstream professional IP cameras. It is based on a 1 GHz ARM Cortex-A9 CPU with L2 cache and floating point. This is directly aimed at saving storage in cameras, but may lead to more professional encoding products. The S3L includes multi-exposure HDR imaging, 180-degree fisheye lens correction and a high performance CPU for intelligent video analytics. Ambarella introduced a 4K S3 SoC last year.

Online French music service Deezer has pulled its planned IPO indefinitely “due to market conditions.” It had wanted to raise $343 million on the French stock market, but will now review fundraising options, although it says it has plenty of money right now. It is likely that Apple Music has dented its subscriber growth.

C’est Fait. Ericsson has closed its purchase of US encoder maker Envivio with all shares acquired for $4.10 a share. As the offer expired there were 93% of the shares offered, and having achieved that number it could then force the rest to be sold. The Envivio Nasdaq stock will now be closed down.

US encoder maker Harmonic says that telecommunications operator Entel Bolivia has deployed a headend from Harmonic for its direct-broadcast satellite service. It uses Electra encoders, Pro-Stream stream processors, and DiviTrackIP statistical multiplexing to deliver 124 SD and 20 HD channels, plus some radio.

Swedish flash memory video appliance provider Edgeware has won a significant deal in the US, at Cincinnati Bell, which will use its Video Consolidation Platform and CDN for OTT VoD and nPVR services and Catch up TV.

UK telco British Telecom’s acquisition of EE has been given provisional approval from the Competition and Markets Authority in the UK. This was perhaps the biggest hurdle to the deal, unless the European Commission chooses to get involved, which it has shown no sign of so far.

Google says it will actually start delivering mobile services using its Project Loon technology working in Indonesia with the three largest MNOs. The service will begin in 2016.

Arris announced Q3 numbers with revenue down 13.1% to $1,221 million, and net income of 26.3 million. It threw off $213 million in cash and had $781.1 million in the bank at the end of the quarter and said its results were in line with expectations. It forecast next quarter in the range of $1,100 million to $1,150 million. CEO Bob Stanzione says he is confident that Arris can weather current economic difficulties, but says it will be easier once Arris has merged with Pace.

British Telecom said it added 82,000 retail broadband customers, which it says represents 51% of the DSL and fiber market net additions, adding 212,000 in fiber taking the fiber base to 3.4 million. It reached 200,000 mobile customers, which will be dwarfed once it acquires EE. BT TV added 106,000 customers, taking its customer base to 1.3 million. This service now offers 182 channels, including BT Sport and AMC channels. BT revenue was unchanged at £4.4 billion in the quarter with profit before tax at £706 million, up 2%.

comScore said this week that its pre-bid technology solution, Bid Ratings, is now live in eight leading programmatic buying platforms, including AppNexus, Centro, Netmining, RhythmOne, TubeMogul and Turn. comScore Bid Ratings allows media buyers to offer programmatic inventory by bidding only on inventory that meets their campaign requirements. The solution is available in several global markets, such as Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Spain, the U.K. and the U.S.

Arxan, the security business which provides a software hardening toolset for Apps, has said its system is now available on tvOS, the new Apple TV platform. In the past it has protected most video based phone apps, and some non-video, on iOS, and it now appears it is shifting over to meet the anticipated demand on tvOS. It claims that a number of the existing Apps on Apple TV are already protected with Arxan.