SeaChange International, the big TV software-services company, has scooped up Timeline Labs for $22 million in cash and shares, with another $2.5 million in possible additional stock payouts based on future performance. Just last week Timeline and SeaChange announced NewCoin, an initiative to better measure local TV ratings, through a joint venture that also includes Fox TV Stations, Univision and Tribune Media.
Timeline’s software tools pull together stories and posts on social media targeted to a specific area, then allows a broadcaster or online site to quickly create a localized video service that curates and displays those stories while creating visualizations tied to the stories and trends. The company’s clients in broadcast and online have used the service to create local sports-news operations, entertainment sites and more.
Timeline investors have come from a number of big entertainment and tech firms, with a board that includes former William Morris Agency Chairman Jim Wiatt and former Fox Interactive and interim Yahoo CEO Ross Levinsohn. Timeline’s clients include FOX Television Stations, Sinclair, Media General and Tribune, and some online companies.
“This deal really brings the 21st Century to TV,” said Jay Samit, who became SeaChange’s CEO two months ago. It also allows the small Timeline operation, which was founded two years ago, to quickly scale up with international reach and backing.
Timeline’s capabilities pair well with the software-oriented direction that Samit said he wants to take SeaChange, for years the powerhouse creator of “middleware” that runs the back-end operations of broadcast and cable operations around the world, including all the major U.S. and European cable operators.
For example, Samit said, the Timeline software could be used to discover that today’s death of Joe Cocker had happened, and automatically feed that information, and Cocker’s involvement in An Officer and a Gentleman, to update recommendation software for a company’s on-demand movie services. Highlighting the film in recommendation pages could quickly drive additional business, he said.
“We can now provide soup to nuts,” Samit said, for companies trying to create so-called Over The Top video services. Such services deliver programming over the Internet to apps on videogame consoles like Sony’s PS4, streaming devices such as the Apple TV and Roku and to PCs, tablets and smartphones. Such OTT services are becoming an increasingly popular way for many people to get highly specialized content from video providers whose operations otherwise might not scale well in traditional broadcast and basic-cable settings.
Samit said “100 percent” of Timeline’s staff, led by founder and CEO Malcolm CasSelle, will stay on after the deal closes, now anticipated to happen in February. One Timeline board member designated by its equity holders will join SeaChange’s board.
“Unlike its competitors, Timeline Labs provides best-of-breed search capabilities across multiple social networks to surface breaking and trending news for top media organizations,” CasSelle said in a statement. “It also features visualization tools that let broadcasters and other news teams do what they do best: tell stories and break news. Our teaming with SeaChange is an exciting stage for Timeline Labs. We anticipate cross-selling opportunities that will help us to extend our platform to new customers including multiscreen and OTT service providers in new geographies.”
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