Rovi Adds Search Savvy With Fan TV

Rovi, the company known for video software and user interfaces for set-tops and mobile devices, now finds itself in the set-top business after snapping up Fanhattan, a startup that’s been selling an over-the-top video platform under the Fan TV banner via its marquee pay TV partner — Time Warner Cable.

Rovi also gains a critical weapon as personalized search and recommendations become increasingly important parts of any videosoftware arsenal in a sector featuring competitors such as ThinkAnalytics, Digitalsmiths (now part of TiVo), Jinni and ContentWise.

Founded in 2010, Fanhattan has developed a cloud-powered advanced user interface that stitches live TV, video-on-demand and over-the-top content to a video discovery and recommendations system.

That interface is matched up with a small Internet protocol-based set-top box and a touch-based, button-less remote control. Rather than fight it out in the streamingmedia consumer device market — dominated by Roku, Apple TV, the new Amazon Fire TV and the ever-popular Google Chromecast — Fanhattan focused on partnerships with programming distributors.

After connecting with Cox Communications on the MSO’s “FlareWatch” technical trial, which was shut down last fall, Fanhattan struck up a partnership with Time Warner Cable. TWC, the No. 2 U.S. cable operator, offers live and on-demand content on the Fan TV platform via its own TWC TV app.

That still-active partnership lets TWC customers buy the Fan TV hardware set-up for $149.

On average, buyers are spending about four hours per day using Fan TV, according to Rovi.

TWC hasn’t been promoting Fan TV heavily, but has given the product high marks. “Fan TV is unlike what’s out there today,” Mike Angus, TWC’s senior vice president and general manager, told Multichannel News in April, soon after the MSO and Fanhattan announced the deal.

With Comcast in the process of acquiring Time Warner Cable, Fan TV’s long-term standing at TWC is a bit of a question mark.

But the Rovi deal seems to ensure Fan TV’s products and mission will survive. Rovi has relationships with major MVPDs and consumer-electronics companies around the globe, and said it hopes to expand the reach of Fan TV’s platform.

Rovi plans to offer Fanhattan’s products, including its Fan TV box, on a standalone basis, and will also integrate the technology into its existing products, including its search, recommendations offerings, as well as a voice-based “conversational interface” that came way of Rovi’s $62 million acquisition of Veveo earlier this year, a Rovi representative said.

Rovi is also “very open” to working with any original equipmen t manufacturers that might want to license the platform and build their own solutions.

Rovi said “almost all” of the Fan TV employees will join the company. Fanhattan founders Gilles BianRosa and Olivier Chalouhi will stay on board to join the leadership team in Rovi’s Discovery Products Business Group. BianRosa will report to Omar Javaid, senior vice president and GM of Rovi’s Discovery unit, and will continue to lead Fanhattan, with that team continuing to report to him.