Bebo Owner Leads Takeover Of UK TV Site SeeSaw, Arqiva Keeps 25 Percent

The rumours are true – after missing out on buying MySpace (NSDQ: NWS) last month, Criterion Capital Partners is acquiring SeeSaw, the UK on-demand TV service, paidContent:UK has learned.

The service is actually being bought by a consortium comprising Criterion (which will take the majority), together with financial funds and Hollywood investors including ex InterActiveCorp programming head Michael Jackson (a former BBC executive), who will be chairman, and ex Walt Disney (NYSE: DIS) Imagineering president Dan Adler (who ran for Congress this year). But SeeSaw owner Arqiva, best known for running terrestrial broadcast transmitters, will retain a stake.

SeeSaw’s management team, including controller John Keeling and commercial director Matt Rennie, will stay with the service, including the majority of its 28 staff. SeeSaw had been due to shut on June 20 after Arqiva earlier announced it was seeking strategic options, but remained open when buyer interest emerged. So this means no interruption for SeeSaw’s users, which numbered 900,000 in May.

SeeSaw shows BBC Worldwide, Channel 4 and Channel 5 shows and launched early in 2010 after Arqiva bought the technology assets of Project Kangaroo, the proposed BBCWW/C4/ITV (LSE: ITV) VOD JV that was struck down pre-launch by UK competition authorities on antitrust complaints, despite millions in development costs.

Though, under Arqiva, SeeSaw has struggled to profit from either a hefty volume of pre-roll ads or an alternative subscription video model, that technology, built by Ioko, is still reckoned to be sound, and capable of scaling.

The Hollywood executives on Criterion’s contacts list suggest some kind of roll-out State-side, but it is not yet known whether that will mean deploying the technology alone or will go as far as a full SeeSaw U.S. launch – something that may require a rights and would put SeeSaw up against Hulu.

Nor are there yet thought to be any firm plans to link SeeSaw with Bebo, which, under Joanna Shields, launched its own grab to host TV material and produced its own sponsor-funded original shows.