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January 24, 2024
Zone TV, a developer of free, ad-supported streaming television (FAST) channels and interactive TV apps, has been acquired by Block Communications, the parent company of Buckeye Broadband and MaxxSouth Broadband.
The acquisition of Zone TV from ES3 comes together about 15 months after Block Communications participated in a $22.5 million investment in Zone TV aimed at accelerating Zone TV's interactive TV and FAST strategies.
The financial terms of today's deal were not disclosed. Block is acquiring Zone TV's assets, including its intellectual property, Zone TV CEO Jeff Weber told Light Reading in email exchange. He said about 25 Zone TV employees are joining Block Communications.
Weber, a 30-year TV industry vet who led the launch of AT&T's U-verse service, will continue to run Zone TV in the wake of the acquisition.
Zone TV started off with walled garden-style, interactive TV services (such as its Santa Tracker app and a specialized app for HBO's "House of The Dragon" series) for set-top boxes offered via its "Engage" platform.
The company later expanded into the FAST market using a blend of manual and AI-assisted techniques to build and program a range of streaming channels covering genres such as gaming, food and autos. Zone TV has about 60,000 assets under license to fit that format.
Zone TV's distribution partners include Comcast, Rogers Communications, Cox Communications, Videotron, Buckeye Broadband and Xumo, the Comcast-Charter Communications national streaming joint venture.
Zone TV also has a distribution agreement with the National Content & Technology Cooperative (NCTC), an organization that cuts tech and programming deals for hundreds of small and midsized operators. Zone TV's content is also available on several platforms, including TiVo, Apple (iOS and tvOS), Android, Fire TV and Roku.
Zone TV will also look to expand distribution on smart TVs and other connected devices in the first half of 2024, Weber said.
'Clear mandate' to expand Zone TV's content slate
As for priorities following the acquisition, Weber said there's a "clear mandate to improve the content lineup we are offering – both AVOD [ad-supported video-on-demand] and FAST channels … Expect to see our lineup transform over the next several months."
Zone TV, he added, will also focus the company's marketing and targeting capabilities and compete in the streaming sector with 20-plus niche content collections to help create a broad offering.
Zone TV is not currently profitable, but the unit is expected to turn the corner in 2025 as Zone TV grows the business, Weber said.
Senior Editor, Light Reading
Baumgartner also served as Site Editor for Light Reading Cable from 2007-2013. In between his two stints at Light Reading, he led tech coverage for Multichannel News and was a regular contributor to Broadcasting + Cable. Baumgartner was named to the 2018 class of the Cable TV Pioneers.
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