Tribune Digital Ventures has acquired electronic program guide provider What’s On to help it expand in developing markets like India and the Middle East. The $27 million acquisition will also help Tribune bring more data about foreign programming to its existing markets.
The deal will bolster a rapidly growing division within Tribune. Digital Ventures is the recently created technology arm of the media services company, which is focused on developing products to serve a growing market of providers offering digital video services.
Tribune bolstered its European program guide business through the acquisition of Gracenote in a deal that closed earlier this year. The What’s On deal will complement that purchase by expanding its footprint in some important new markets, most notably India, where What’s On is the largest provider of EPG data.
India is the third-largest market for cable services behind the U.S. and China, and it’s growing fast. Today the country has 175 million subscribers, and there’s an expanding middle class signing up to those services.
What’s-ON also serves other markets, including the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Qatar, Bahrain, Indonesia, Kenya and Sri Lanka. Altogether, it powers EPG data for more than 50 million set-top boxes in the region.
Rich Cusick, GM of the video side of the business, said What’s On serves an incredibly complex market that is characterized by thousands of different local lineups that change frequently. In addition to building technology to deal with those issues, it also has pretty good personalization tools for viewers.
He said that in the same way mobile service leapfrogged landline service in many developing markets, digital video services are surpassing traditional analog video services. As a result, a lot of the technology What’s On has built to serve digital operations can be applied to future services in more established markets like the U.S. or Europe.
With the acquisition, Tribune will offer TV listings and video metadata in more than 50 countries and more than 30 languages to more than 600 million pay TV subscribers. Furthermore, it’ll be able to use metadata that it gets from What’s On to bolster an increasing amount of foreign programming that is served into its existing footprint.