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Tribune Digital Ventures buys out What’s-ON

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MUMBAI: Atul Phadnis’ What’s-ON, a television search and electronic programme guide (EPG) data provider for India and the Middle East, has been acquired by Tribune Digital Ventures, a technology and innovation arm of Tribune Company.

The move expands Tribune’s TV listings and video metadata footprint to more than 50 countries in 30 plus languages, reaching more than 600 million pay TV subscribers.

What’s-ON provides EPG data and TV search products for 16 countries, including India, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Qatar, Bahrain, Indonesia, Kenya and Sri Lanka.  Today, What’s-ON delivers data for more than 1,600 TV channels and helps power more than 50 million set-top boxes through the region’s top cable and IPTV services.  What’s-ON customers include some of the biggest TV networks, service providers and consumer electronics manufacturers, such as Star TV, Discovery Networks, Hathway Cable, Qatar Telecom, Samsung and Sony.

Earlier this year, Tribune had acquired music and video technology and metadata leader Gracenote.  The company’s sizable presence in EPG data in Europe, combined with Tribune Media Services’ (TMS) presence in North America, immediately positioned Tribune as a leading provider of TV data, as well as music, around the globe.  The addition of What’s-ON further extends this reach and strengthens Tribune’s position internationally.

“The acquisition of What’s-ON fits with our broad strategy of diversifying revenue and scaling our metadata business to meet increasing client demand,” said Tribune Company CEO Peter Liguori. 

“The strategic investments we made over the last year expand Tribune’s presence internationally and enable us to offer a trusted solution to cable, Internet and consumer electronics clients globally.  I’m pleased that with What’s-ON we will have a new presence in markets with significant opportunity and What’s-ON’s founder and CEO Atul Phadnis and his team will work together with Rich Cusick and Tribune’s existing TV metadata team to grow this area of our business,” he added.

India is the world’s third largest TV market, after the US and China, with an estimated 175 million homes and a growing base of digital cable subscribers, according to ABI Research.  The expansion of digital TV in Asia, featuring popular shows and movies, will enable Tribune to develop new technologies and services on top of its entertainment data that fuel discovery and recommendations on cable, satellite and over-the-top services.

“We felt it was important to find a company that shares our vision for the business and understands the growth potential for TV data and services in Asia. And we believe we have found that with the Tribune team. Tribune’s portfolio of entertainment technology and metadata will provide us a solid foundation to grow the business and expand our services throughout the region,” said Phadnis.

“Electronic program guides remain the primary vehicle for the discovery of TV shows and movies around the world,” said Rich Cusick, who oversees the TV metadata business for Tribune.  “While data remains the foundation of what we do, our evolution will be centered on data-driven services and features to help define new TV platforms and experiences for viewers around the world,” he added.

What’s-ON will continue to operate out of its headquarters in Mumbai.  Its leadership team, including Atul Phadnis, will remain with the company.  Tribune’s Asian subsidiaries, including Tribune Digital Ventures Singapore, are purchasing all of the shares of What’s-ON for $27 million subject to standard adjustments.

Edelweiss Capital served as the Investment Bank for What’s-ON.

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