US media co Tribune buys VCs-backed TV programme guide What's On India for $27M



US-based Tribune Digital Ventures, the technology and innovation arm of Tribune Company, has acquired Mumbai-based TV search and electronic programme guide (EPG) data provider Whats On India Media Pvt Ltd, which operates under the brand What's On India.

Tribune's Asian subsidiaries, including Tribune Digital Ventures Singapore Pte Ltd, are purchasing all shares of What's On for $27 million, subject to standard adjustments, Tribune said in a statement.


This acquisition will help Tribune expand its TV listings and video metadata footprint to more than 50 countries in 30-plus languages, and reach more than 600 million pay TV subscribers. Post the acquisition, What's On will continue to operate out of its Mumbai office, and its leadership team will remain with the company.

"The acquisition fits with our broad strategy of diversifying revenue and scaling our metadata business to meet increasing client demand," said Peter Liguori, CEO of Tribune Company. "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.  With What's On, we will have a new presence in markets with significant opportunity," he added.

Founded in 2006 by Atul Phadnis (CEO), former vice president of TAM Media Research, What's On provides EPG data and TV search products for 16 countries, including India, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Qatar, Bahrain, Indonesia, Kenya and Sri Lanka.


The firm claims it delivers data for more than 1,600 TV channels, and helps power more than 50 million set-top boxes through the region's leading cable and IPTV (internet protocol TV) services. What's On's customers include Star TV, Discovery Networks, Hathway Cable, Qatar Telecom, Samsung and Sony.

What's-OnWhat's On is backed by Sequoia Capital, Nexus Venture Partners and Intel Capital. Last November, IFC had disclosed it is looking to lead a $6 million funding round in the company with equity commitment of $4 million.

The latest deal marks yet another transaction where a strategic acquisition of a VC-backed venture has provided an exit to the venture investors. Lack of such exits has been proving to be a roadblock in flow of risk capital to Indian startups in the past. However, a string of deals over the last year or so has provided multi-baggers to early-stage investors of Indian startups.


These include Globo Plc's acquisition of mobile apps developer Sourcebits Inc late last month; Naspers' acquisition of online bus ticketing startup redBus.in; Facebook's acquisition of Little Eye Labs, an app performance tools startup; Hitachi's buying of payment solutions firm Prizm Payment; GSN's acquisition of bingo game creator Bash Gaming, and ibiboGroup's acquisition of angels-backed bus tracking and analytics platform Yourbus.in.

"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.

Tribune is a media company operating businesses in broadcasting, publishing and interactive mode. Its broadcasting group owns or operates 42 television stations. In publishing, Tribune operates daily newspapers including Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, Sun Sentinel (South Florida), Orlando Sentinel, Hartford Courant, The Morning Call and Daily Press. The company also owns Gracenote, an entertainment technology and metadata company, which it acquired earlier this year.


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.

Edelweiss Capital served as the investment banker for What's On in this deal.

(Edited by Joby Puthuparampil Johnson)


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