A freemium over-the-top TV service has secured £5 million of investment in a round led by global media content company A+E networks.
TV Player gives its users access to all of the UK’s major free-to-air channels, and also provides a pay-TV bundle of more than 30 premium channels for just £4.99 per month, with no contract to sign. As part of the deal, TV Player will carry A+E Networks Blaze channel, which launched on September 20th.
The start-up has built an impressive audience of more than 1 million active users, targeting millennials, mobile users and households who have not previously used paid for TV services, and arguing that is building extra incremental audiences on top of traditional Pay TV operators.
Over 99 channels are available through the service, including 30 premium channels that are not available on Freeview. Channels include Comedy Central, Animal Planet, Cartoon Network and Eurosport as well as all BBC channels, and ITV1, Channel 4 and 5.
TV Player’s Channel Partners include UKTV, Sony Pictures, Amazon Web Services, Viacom and Global Radio.
TV Player say they will use the investment to “develop the content offering further and expand distribution of the service in the UK.” A marketing campaign is planned in the lead up to Christmas.
Says TV Player’s founder Adam Smith, “we are very excited about the investment and the backing it provides operationally and financially for the expansion of TVPlayer; with our investor’s support, we look forward to focusing on our efforts on customer acquisition and subscriber growth”.
As a result of the funding deal, which was also backed by existing investors as well as A+E Networks and Beringea, the growth investor, TV Player will de-merge from Simplestream, its current parent company, and plans to bring its management, technology and marketing teams in-house.
Founder Smith, and co-founders Lewis Arthur and Dan Finch continue to hold sizeable stakes in the company, Advanced Television reports.
TV Player’s COO Rob Hodgkinson commented “people who download music illegally through Napster are now paying for Spotify and we’re on the same journey. It’s easier to pay for Spotify than to pirate music and we want to do the same with live and catch-up TV.”
“We’re targeting the ‘cut the cord’ generation in the UK; they don’t want to pay for Sky but they are happy to pay for Netflix or Now TV. Millennials don’t want long term contracts, they want flexibility.”
Any mention of Spotify in start-up land is bound to get pulses racing. Widely regarded as one of the European start-up scene’s greatest companies, Spotify is perhaps one of a handful of European start-ups that could be mentioned in the same breath as the likes of Facebook, Snapchat, or indeed Hulu, the US TV Player equivalent, which turns over more than $1bn per year. TV Player’s turnover is currently just over £1m.
Advertising will play a key part in the TV Player’s growth and monetisation strategy, with the company pledging, besides investing heavily in the quality of its streaming service, to offer a range of sophisticated tools for advertisers, according to the Daily Telegraph.
Hodgkinson told the telegraph ““We can change the ad being shown to the consumer based on their preferences”.
The company also boasts a powerful analytics platform so advertisers can see what people are viewing in real time, and also says that around 20% of its current users are watching Indian language channels, and recognising a gap in the market for ex-pats keen to watch their home countries’ TV, they are about to sign a deal with Brazil’s Globo, to incorporate their content on the platform.
TV player works on mobile, desktop, tablets and even Apple TV and Amazon Fire.
With £5m investment TV Player surely has the potential to scale rapidly, as long as it can maintain its core tech infrastructure and keep viewers interested. A televised marketing campaign, one suspects, could catapult the service into the big time. The fact the company have successfully argued that Pay TV is both victimless, and hardly a crime any more, will stand them in good stead especially as the big TV companies may not see the service as a threat.