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Summary:

How did Intel Media manage to scale from zero to a nearly-finished pay TV service in less than two years? Part of it were a few key acquisitions.

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Intel’s plans to launch its own TV service by the end of the year is ambitious: The company wants to take on big, established TV providers like Comcast and Time Warner Cable, but only started working on its own offering at the end of 2011. So how did the company’s Intel Media subsidiary ramp up from zero to a near-finished product in less than two years? Part of it were three key acquisitions, which haven’t been reported before.

UI design, mobile apps and DVR tech

Intel Media boss Erik Huggers has made a point of saying that his TV service will look a lot better than what the competition is offering these days. At one point, Huggers called the existing cable TV user interfaces “absolutely dreadful, completely awful.” GigaOM previously reported that Intel Media was working with London-based design studio W12 Studios to reinvent the TV user interface, but it looks like the company also looked for some help closer to home.

Intel bought the Emeryville, Calif.-based design studio Archetype in May of 2012. Archetype, which was co-founded by brothers Luigi and Guido Rosso, previously worked for companies such as Amazon, Microsoft, Fox and Paramount. Guido Rosso’s Linkedin page states that Archetype worked on “graphical user interfaces for mobile, desktop, and TV-connected applications” for these companies, and some of the work can be seen in this demo reel:

I’ve heard from sources in the know that the two Rossos and some of their former Archetype colleagues now work on Intel Media’s UI, both on the company’s own set-top box and on applications for mobile devices.

With regards to these mobile apps, Intel is getting some help from another acquisition: The company bought Seattle-based mobile app startup Daily Interactive Networks in February, and Daily Interactive CEO Brian Monnin has since become Intel Media’s Head of Interactive Media. The startup previously built a number of iOS apps, including some apps for National Geographic.

The last part of the puzzle is Avtrex, a San Jose-based startup that Intel Media acquired in March of 2012. Avtrex spent more than a decade building software for consumer electronics companies to power TV sets and DVRs, and is now working on some of the underlying platform for Intel Media’s own set-top box and related services. Intel Media’s service won’t include a traditional DVR offering, but users will be able to catch up on content that aired within the last few days through a catch-up service that has been compared to the BBC’s iPlayer.

New offices in New York and Los Angeles

There’s no word on how much money changed hands for any of these acquisitions, but they all seem to be typical acquihires, with each company bringing 10 or fewer people to the Intel Media team. And it looks like Intel Media isn’t done growing: Reuters reported this weekend that the company is opening new offices in Los Angeles and New York to prepare for the launch of its service, which is likely going to be called OnCue.

Of course, to actually go to market, Intel needs more than just a great team. Key to its service will be the rights to content from the major broadcast and cable networks. Intel isn’t the only company trying to license network content for online pay TV offerings, but despite plenty of rumors, there’s little evidence that any of the new players has yet been able to lock down enough content for a compelling offering.

An Intel Media spokesperson declined to comment for this story.

  1. Leaving out a DVR seems a bit of a weakness as it’s difficult to see how users that are used to storing TV shows for weeks at a time will suddenly be happy with a few days of catchup. Also what about when you go on holiday for a week or two which will stretch beyond the few days catchup window – do you just miss those shows?

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