Exclusive: Silver Lake eyes digital media, makes Ex-NDS CEO Dave Habiger senior advisor

Private equity firm Silver Lake has tapped Dave Habiger to expand its work in the digital media space. Habiger, who until last year served as the CEO of U.K.-based pay TV set-top box maker NDS, is joining the firm as senior advisor to the value creation team.

Silver Lake is known for its investments in high-profile technology companies like Skype and Groupon as well as for a growing interest in the clean energy sector. But the firm has also been stepping up its presence in the media space. Last year, Silver Lake bought a reported 31 percent stake in Ari Emanuel’s William Morris Endeavour agency, with a specific focus on digital initiatives.

Habiger brings an interesting background to the table for Silver Lake. Before NDS, he was the CEO at Sonic Solutions, where he oversaw the transition from a software-based business to one focused on premium online video. Sonic Solutions ran Cinemanow, one of the first transactional video-on-demand platforms, and ended up powering the premium video offerings of companies like Blockbuster and Best Buy. Sonic Solutions eventually got bought by Rovi for $775 million.

NDS, on the other hand, has been focused on the other end of the premium video market: cable, satellite and IPTV service providers. But despite working with legacy distribution businesses, the company also looked to innovate through targeted advertising, advanced programming guides and more. Cisco (s CSCO) picked up NDS for $5 billion last year, and Habiger left the company when the deal closed.

Having worked in both worlds — over-the-top and traditional pay TV — gives Habiger a unique perspective on some of the key challenges the media business is facing. Many in the industry believe that the big technological problems with regards to digital content distribution have been solved. What’s left are questions around content rights and business models. Addressing these is going to require a lot of capital. Silver Lake’s appointment of Habiger could be a sign that the firm is seeing an opportunity to profit from this process.

Check out this interview I did with Habiger back in 2010 when he was still CEO of Sonic Solutions:

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