Rovi Takes Fanhattan

Adding an advanced discovery and navigation system as well as an IP-based set-top to its video technology portfolio, Rovi Corp. said it has acquired Fanhattan, a startup that is currently selling its Fan TV products through a partnership with Time Warner Cable.

Rovi said it’s buying Fanhattan in an all-cash deal, but isn’t disclosing the amount. Re/code reported that Fanhattan has been looking to sell in the neighborhood of about $15 million and that investors have put “at least $40 million into different incarnations of the company over the years.” Of recent note, this SEC filing dated March 13, 2014, shows that Fanhattan had sold about $8.39 million of a total offering of roughly $18 million.

Founded in 2010, Fanhattan has specialized in the development of a cloud-powered advanced user interface that blends live TV with video-on-demand and over-the-content that’s matched up with a video discovery system. Under the Fan TV brand, the company has also built a small IP-based set-top box and a touch-based, button-less remote control device. Fanhattan has also developed a Fan TV app for the iPad.

Following a splashy debut of its products and strategy at the D11 conference in May 2013, Fanhattan has centered its strategy on forging partnerships with MVPDs. After connecting with Cox Communications on the MSO’s “FlareWatch” technical trial, which was shut down last fall, Fanhattan followed that with a partnership with Time Warner Cable, whereby the MSO is currently offering live and on-demand content on the Fan TV platform via the TWC TV app. Under that still-active partnership, TWC customers can buy Fan TV box and remote control for $149. On average, buyers are spending about 4 hours per day using Fan TV, according to Rovi. This video posted by BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield shows the Fan TV/TWC set-up in action.

Although TWC does not appear to be promoting the offer heavily beyond this FAQ on the MSO’s website, “Fan TV is unlike what’s out there today,” Mike Angus, TWC’s SVP and GM, told Multichannel News in April soon after the MSO and Fanhattan announced the deal.

But Fan TV’s long-term position with TWC is a bit of a question as the MSO and Comcast move ahead on their proposed merger. Regarding whether the Fan TV service will end for TWC customers after that deal closes, “It is too early to comment on that,” the FAQ reads.

Rovi, which has relationships with a large array of major MVPDs and consumer electronics companies, will be looking to rapidly expand the reach of Fan TV’s platform.

The acquisition also marks an expansion of Rovi’s investments in next-gen video guide and navigation technologies and products, coming about nine months after Rovi struck a $62 million deal to acquire Veveo, a maker of a voice-based, personalized search and discovery platform.

Rovi said Fanhattan will accelerate its vision to deliver next-gen guidance and discovery using cloud, user interface and hardware technologies.

A Rovi spokesman said via email that the company intends to continue to offer Fanhattan’s products, including the Fan TV box, on a stand-alone basis. Rovi is also “very open” to working with the company’s OEM partners should they want to license the platform and build their own solutions. “We are particularly excited about scaling the Fan TV offering with service providers all over the world,” the official added.

Rovi also plans to integrate Fan TV with its existing offerings, “including integrating search, recommendations and conversational interfaces acquired through Veveo for the next-gen user interfaces and user experiences for television and video consumption.” Rovi will also fuse Fanhattan’s cloud capabilities with its own cloud and multi-screen initiatives, but has not established a timeframe on when it expects to complete that integration.

Rovi said “almost all” of the Fan TV employees are joining 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, SVP and GM of Rovi’s Discovery unit, and will continue to lead Fanhattan, with that team continuing to report into him.

“We believe the Fanhattan technologies and team will complement Rovi’s advanced metadata, semantic discovery, and predictive analytics capabilities to offer truly differentiated solutions to our customers,” Javaid said, in a statement.