S4C Leads £9.5 Million Investment In IPTV Player Inuk

Welsh-language broadcaster S4C (hardly rolling in it, thanks to digital TV launches and falling audiences in the multichannel era) has teamed with VC house Wesley Clover to invest £9.5 in Inuk, an Abercynon-based TV-over-broadband operator.

Inuk packages channels under its Freewire brand, including Freeview stations and some premium channels. Inuk also does VoIP. Both are targeted at student halls of residence (now up to 100,000 students), old people’s homes etc.

S4C, which operates in place of Channel 4 on analogue platforms, is funded from advertising and a £97 million annual public grant. The investment comes via its S4CDM commercial unit.

S4C has in recent years spent on launching its S4C Digidol and S4C2 multiplatform digital channels but faces diminishing profile in the crowded marketplace. It’s not entirely clear why it is making the investment, expect CEO Iona Jones reckons Inuk “has the potential to become a mainstream digital television platform”. But IPTV is an increasingly crowded marketplace, with a variety of bigger players like Tiscali, Orange and BT (NYSE: BT) Vision struggling to gain mass adoption. It’s odd to see a broadcaster buy a distributor, though Inuk is catering to a specific segment. Aside from any future financial upside, S4C may consider carriage on Freewire a way to guarantee the student audience.