A fast-growing Ottawa software firm that helps broadcasters navigate the widespread disruption in their business has landed a key investment from media and entertainment giant Time Warner Inc.
You.i TV said Tuesday the U.S. conglomerate's venture investing arm led a $12-million (U.S.) Series B financing. Other investors involved in the funding deal include U.S. private equity firm Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors LP, which invested $15-million (Cdn) in You.i last year, and Vancouver venture capital firm Vistara Capital Partners.
Time Warner has also signed on to use You.i's software engine to power three of its channels: TBS, TNT and Turner Classic Movies' new direct-to-consumer app, FilmStruck. Turner will also standardize its application development on the You.i platform.
"Delivering video directly to consumers is becoming vital to the media industry, and offering a compelling user interface and app experience is an important piece of this value chain," said Time Warner Investments managing director Scott Levine, who is joining You.i's board. "We were immediately impressed with the You.i TV products, seeing how they create high-quality, unique branded experiences across multiple device platforms, while powering higher engagement rates with users."
You.i founder and CEO Jason Flick called Time Warner's investment and adoption of his technology "a ringing endorsement for the impact our products are having in market."
You.i makes a software engine similar to that used by video-game developers that allows broadcasters to use a common computer code to build digital platforms for their viewers to access their content, whether through set-top boxes, smartphone, tablets, desktop computers or video game consoles.
Using the tool for multiple platforms from the same code translates into time and cost saving for broadcasters, who would otherwise build customized offerings for each medium.
Using You.i tools, designers can easily build rich, feature-laden, viewer-friendly apps on top of the software engine. For example, Corus' TreehouseGO app, which viewers can access on smartphones and tablets, features rubbery-looking buttons aimed to appeal to kids, such as a duck that swims along a show's elapsed time scale and a bouncing ladybug that serves as the volume button. Broadcasters pay licensing fees to You.i to use its app.
You.i hatched in 2009 as an offshoot of Mr. Flick's Ottawa-based mobile software firm, Flick Software. During its first three years, You.i helped other mass-market electronics makers, including Kobo and Canon, build iPhone-like user interfaces using its software.
In 2012, the company shifted its business, anticipating demand from broadcasters to "app-ify" and tailor their offerings to different media to help them "own the glass" regardless of the device, as Mr. Flick put it.
The move paid off. The company added big-name clients including Corus Entertainment, Shomi, Sony and the Canadian Football League as customers to help power their digital properties and has doubled in size each of the past three years, surpassing $20-million in revenue in its most recent fiscal year, with about 180 employees. Last month, the company hired veteran IBM and Cognos executive Dan Beer as chief operating officer. Last sprint Mr. Flick was named to the advisory board of Turner Ad Lab, a high-profile initiative led by Turner Broadcasting to help broadcasters transform the way they present and sell content in the new multi-platform digital era.