BSkyB buys Acetrax to be its connected TV Trojan Horse

While pundits prefer to focus on phone hacking, News Corp’s part-owned UK pay-TV operator BSkyB is buying further in to internet TV.

Last Wednesday, the operator quietly acquired Acetrax, a service that offers on-demand paid movie rental and purchase to internet-enabled TVs and other devices, according to Wednesday’s earnings disclosure.

Its Sky News UK TV channel will also become available in the U.S. and Canada for the first time via Livestation for $2.99 a month, the pair announced separately.

  • BSkyB already delivers its live and on-demand TV programming, including on-demand movies, to devices including Xbox and iPad.
  • And by the summer it will launch Now TV, a new brand for carrying movie, sport and entertainment bundles to viewers over a similar range of devices on a more flexible, one-month contract.

“The (Acetrax) acquisition will support the continued development of Sky’s OTT activities and further strengthen relationships with connected device manufacturers and content providers,” BSkyB’s earnings report says.

This shows Sky is now serious about online distribution in the post-satellite era…

Zurich-based Acetrax already has apps on Samsung, LG, Panasonic and Toshiba internet TVs; laptops and tablets from Samsung, Lenova, Acer, Asus and Toshiba; and is even embedded on chipsets from Realtek, Awox and Sigma.

Acetrax is hoping to have 60 million apps embedded by 2015. And it operates in Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Italy, France and Ireland, as well as the UK.

It is understood the Acetrax brand will remain in operation.

It’s unlikely Sky would have hit many roadblocks in rolling its new service out to new devices. But the deal could mean significantly easier carriage, even at the system level, for either BSkyB’s Sky- or Now TV-branded services.

“Through the acquisition, Sky will add to its experience and expertise in online video streaming, to help complement its expanding OTT activities, which include Sky Go and the forthcoming Now TV service,” a BSkyB spokesperson tells paidContent.

“In addition to Acetrax’s existing platform, Sky will also build on the existing relationships the company has established with connected device manufacturers and content providers.”

BSkyB says Acetrax gross assets as at December 31, 2011, were £2.3 million. Acquisition price was not disclosed.

Health despite controversy

Addressing City analysts about phone hacking on Wednesday, BSkyB CEO Jeremy Darroch sought to distinguish BSkyB from News Corp, which owns 39.1 percent of the operator and which has postponed its earlier bid for remaining shares.

Behind the headlines, BSkyB is fundamentally a successful TV, internet and telco company…

Nine-month operating profit rose 15 percent to £908 million on five percent higher revenue of £5 billion, as subscribed households reached 10.55 million.

Users for its Sky Go out-of-home viewing app rose 24 percent to 2.6 million in the year’s first quarter, after Sky widened distribution to include Android and added its Sky 1, Sky Living, Sky Atlantic, Sky Arts 1 and Sky Sports F1 channels to the offering.