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No overlap, all the benefits – Amino, 24i a match made in heaven?

Consolidation struck twice in quick succession this week in varying fields of the video vendor ecosystem. UK IP video technology supplier Amino Communications has acquired Dutch video app developer 24i Media for a fee of €24.1 million ($27.1 million). The deal is a lesson in how legacy can be turned to advantage and 24i Media is an example of a rapidly rising software outfit which has targeted all the right markets – and rarely do we see an acquisition with such minimal overlap and highly complementary product lines.

Amino agrees with our opening gambit, describing the long and short of the deal as all about integrating 24i’s smart framework with the Amino TV back-end with an immediate eye for increasing market share in the Android TV operator tier market.

“The acquisition is part of a planned strategic program pushing Amino’s next natural evolution,” explained Amino’s SVP of Marketing and Product Management Jamie Mackinlay, speaking to Faultline Online Reporter this week.

Mackinlay sang the praises of 24i’s impressive modular framework for quickly deploying apps, a capability which provides Amino with value by getting into the deployment mix earlier. The front-end expertise of 24i will allow the Amino side of the merged business to shape the opportunity and ultimately increase the value in the vendor’s total available market.

Customers including Videoland, Pathe Thuis, Fox Sports, Blim and Viacom have adopted 24i’s tailor made and off the shelf apps, purpose built for OTT and multiscreen, complementing the legacy Amino client base which includes operators DNA Oy in Finland, PCCW and MTNL India. Customers which are crying out for more IP video software capabilities.

Mackinklay admitted that Amino has been tasked with building UIs in the past but nothing on the level of 24i and another exiting target is the smart TV market which he described as 24i’s “center of excellence.”

24i’s experience in building TV apps and hankering for a robust UX fits well with the Amino ambition to become one of the market’s leading Android TV operator tier technology suppliers – expanding its software revenues as the company continues its hardware-to-software evolution.

Both vendors have an interesting back story and, serendipitously, our NAB coverage from earlier this year featured the two side by side in a write up from the Vegas show. Did we unknowingly sow the seed from which the love affair eventually blossomed?

Playing Cupid isn’t our remit, but 24i Media has been busy marrying its own technologies recently. It bolstered its internet TV app technology in May last year with the purchase of Czech HbbTV app agency Mautilus, for an undisclosed sum, one of two M&A moves by 24i in 2018 after buying multiscreen video platform provider Vigour in March, which the company said at the time reflected the record growth it experienced in 2017. These buyouts were made with an eye for strengthening its framework with new features which have increased its value substantially.

Amino has made the point that operators can extend the life of a lot of legacy equipment including set tops by replacing the software. It had already prepared the ground for this initiative by developing its Enable software specifically for legacy set tops, released in July 2017. Since then, Amino has put together this program incorporating systems integration skills with the software to offer operators a legacy preservation service. US service provider Cincinnati Bell was cited by Mackinlay as a customer for which Amino upgraded 150,000 ZTE set tops in the field with its Enable software – saving Cincinnati Bell $20 million. It has achieved similar feats for operators with large footprints of legacy Samsung and Huawei set tops, we are told.

The Enable software allows legacy IPTV set tops to be upgraded to support OTT content in a hybrid mode. There is specific provision within the software to help operators finally migrate from Mediaroom without having to replace installed set tops which has been a little embarrassing for Ericsson’s own migration strategy, since spun off as MediaKind.

Both vendors have secured recent contracts. Amino’s most recent public deployment deal came in May through Dutch ISPs Delta and Caiway, both owned by Swedish private equity firm EQT, which selected Amino to power TV services on a shared platform. AminoTV is providing IPTV over multicast and OTT over fiber to support multiscreen services including linear broadcast, network DVR and time-shift. Delta and Caiway were merged into Delta Fiber Netherlands last year but continue to operate as separate brands.

24i, meanwhile, rolled out a suite of video apps for North American SVoD platform Pureflix.com in April, integrating its SmartOTT technology with the existing Comcast Technology Solutions backend. 24i also won a deployment at Sinclair Broadcast Group earlier this year, powering the new streaming service STIRR with 24i’s SmartTemplate and AppCore products to build apps across various screens across Apple TV, Android, FireTV, Roku and iOS. This module-based technology allows customers to customize and repurpose the UI across a number of connected devices.

Speaking of Sinclair, 24i has also been active around ATSC 3.0, launching a product at this year’s NAB show enabling advertisers to better target ads based on parameters such as channel, genre and location. It says the software is designed to improve OTA services while combining broadcast and broadband.

One of Amino’s most fabled contracts was at Telecom Italia, where it delivered approximately 150,000 set tops over 3 batches, although back in 2010 it had the Cubovision contract snatched away by Technicolor’s Mediaplay set top. Okay, it’s a little unfair on Amino to reference a nearly decade-old switch out but we feel this is representative of the company’s calm and collected transition to TV software while Technicolor appears to be flapping around trying to sell off the set top business it bought from Cisco.

The other act of OTT video consolidation this week came as Ooyala sold its Flex Media Platform to Dalet (see separate story in this issue), which is a move we feel is more representative of a heavily commoditizing market than Amino’s purchase of 24i Media. We say that because workflow technologies are among the most heavily commoditized in the market while the set top and app development fields have evolved and adapted, although there is perhaps a small element of commoditization creeping in as with most technologies.

“Not only does 24i’s leadership in UI/UX and TV/Online video apps complement our product line-up, but 24i also shares our vision of where the industry is headed, and the agility and culture of innovation required to get it there profitably,” said Amino CEO Donald McGarva.

Martijn van Horssen, 24i Media CEO, added, “With our combined technology stacks and highly professional and motivated teams, our post-acquisition mission remains exactly the same – to provide the solutions and services that innovate video experiences across all TV platforms on any device to enable Amino customers to deliver valuable consumer engagements.”

Amino will inherit some 140 employees from 24i Media to strengthen its workforce of 170 and we have been assured that the lack of overlap between the two vendors means no cuts are necessary.

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