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9 May 2019

Super-sense Sky takes You.i TV investment, joining WarnerMedia

Long before Comcast came sniffing around Sky, it was always worth taking a deeper dive whenever the European pay TV powerhouse made an investment in a technology vendor due to its acute sense of smell for emerging trends. Now under ownership of the US cable giant, every investment must be put under the microscope – with the latest being Canadian UI developer You.i TV.

The announcement highlights how Sky’s investment, for an undisclosed sum, comes after You.i TV last month claimed to have cashed in more deals in 2018 than in every other year of operation combined, with international business accounting for 30% of total revenues. We can confidently say though that Sky has had its eager eye on You.i TV significantly longer than a month.

In fact, it transpires Sky was part of the $23 million Series C funding round secured in November 2018, headed up by Causeway Media Partners, in turn arriving two years after You.i TV’s big Series B break in the form of a $12 million injection round led by Time Warner.

So, what’s all the fuss about? You.i TV pegs itself as a leader in software tools for addressing cross-platform app development, setting 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.

Newer frontiers include adding support for the open source development framework React Native, spearheaded by Facebook, enabling customers of You.i Engine One – its core technology product – to access the benefits of a “unified app strategy” as well as “a video-first design and development toolset”.

The pitch is that developers can configure applications to retrieve all UX elements dynamically from a server, including layout, styling and motion, without requiring recertification.

Take Android TV operator tier for example. Operators continue to doubt the credibility of the technology and vendors like You.i TV talk about a perceived challenge among operators concerning a custom launcher – primarily cost concerns about writing a one-off piece of UI code which can’t be expanded across an operator’s device portfolio.

A recent blog post from You.i TV addresses these qualms, “With You.i Engine One and its React Native-based development environment, operators can develop a single application suitable for all devices, where the only necessary changes between each device are design changes to accommodate touchscreen versus TV screen user interaction; and code changes to accommodate platform-specific features like broadcast tuner integration or integration with Google’s app launching APIs. The vast majority of code and design can otherwise stay the same between devices and screens, leading to huge economies of scale and a much cheaper cost of ownership.”

Unlike previous investment rounds, You.i TV and Sky have decided not to specify where the cash will be channeled. But we assume it’s much the same story as in past rounds, focusing on increasing investments in international expansion efforts outside North America, as well as adding to its developer community. Android TV is one specific product push, while You.i TV has also been making in-roads into in-app advertising experiences, so we expect more noise from the vendor in this sector going forwards.

It would be of little surprise to hear about You.i TV giving Sky a helping hand in updating the Now TV app as part of Comcast’s European expansion efforts, although we doubt anything of this ilk will be made public.

David Beazley, Director of Software Engineering at Now TV, said, “Sky and You.i TV share a vision to connect customers to great content, via easy, frictionless user experiences. Through this investment, both Sky and You.i TV will be able to share learnings and gain insights into how world-class viewing experiences can be easily replicated across multiple devices.”

Beazley will join the You.i TV board alongside representatives from AT&T, Causeway Media Partners, and Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors.