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Video/Media

TiVo leads Roku and Amino in MobiTV auction with baseline bid of $14.1M

TiVo/Xperi was revealed Tuesday morning as the baseline bidder for the assets of MobiTV, the bankrupt provider of video software and infrastructure services for dozens of US cable operators and telcos.

TiVo's baseline bid was $14.1 million. TiVo is an obvious fit, given that it operates a service provider business that's largely focused on small and midsized cable operators and telcos, similar to MobiTV's historic focus on tier 2/3 MSOs and telcos.

Adding MobiTV's tech and platform would fill some gaps in TiVo's arsenal, including MobiTV's multi-tenant headend equipped with IP video transport rights and extensive white label pay-TV app development and expertise for a wide range of TV streaming platforms, including Roku, Apple (tvOS), Amazon Fire TV and Android TV, as well as IoS and Android smartphones and tablets. MobiTV would also bring in dozens of additional service providers to the mix at TiVo, which completed its merger with Xperi in 2020.

As of this writing, the auction was in recess until 12:30 p.m. EST, as a group of the following additional qualified bidders considered their next move:

  • Roku, the streaming device and platform company that is currently in a high-profile fight with YouTube TV. A deal for MobiTV would give Roku a stronger leg up with cable operators and a way to expand the reach and influence of its streaming platform in the pay-TV arena.
  • Amino Technologies, the UK-based provider of IPTV software and streaming devices and a long-time MobiTV tech partner.

  • RPX, a patent-focused company that contends that it is not a patent troll that opportunistically licenses its patents. RPX notes that it does "buy potentially problematic patents in the open market," but does not "offensively assert or litigate the patents we own." RPX bills itself as a defensive buyer of patent rights in response to the rise in patent trolling. Last year, it secured licensing rights to more than 5,000 patents from Thomson Licensing SAS and Technicolor. In 2019, RPX inked a licensing agreement with Sisvel for more than 500 patents that make up Sisvel's Wi-Fi Joint Licensing program.
  • TV2 Consulting, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based company that provides support for IP video planning, deployment, tech integration, tools and support, with a current emphasis on Mediaroom, the IPTV middleware/platform currently owned and operated by MediaKind.
  • Vobile Group, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based company focused on protecting, measuring and monetizing online video content. According to the company, its copyright video content management technology supported 112 million subscribers as of March 31, 2021. Update: Vobile dropped out of the bidding on Tuesday afternoon.
  • Streaming TV Acquisition LLC. The individual companies involved with this group have not been publicly identified as of this writing. Notably, the National Cable Television Cooperative (NCTC), a group that strikes programming and technology deals on behalf of hundreds of independent cable operators and telcos, has previously suggested that companies in its membership team should partner up with a potential MobiTV buyer. Update: Light Reading has independent confirmed that Streaming TV Acquisition is a group of NCTC member companies participating in the auction separately from the NCTC organization itself as to avoid any possible conflicts.
  • VectorMax, originally identified as a qualified bidder by Light Reading, is not a bidder. However, another company, Aire, is among the qualified bidders, we are told.

Update: Auction will start with MobiTV patents

A wrinkle was added to the mix, with an announcement that the auction will now move to a "contingent sub auction" phase focused solely on MobiTV's intellectual property/patents, and not yet the "going concern" (business) piece of MobiTV that includes elements such as copyrights, source code and trademarks.

A quick search of MobiTV patents pulled up examples such as content recommendations based on a weighted feedback (No. 10,885,063); "non-intrusive" advertising presentation (US No. 10,643,238); search-based navigation of media content using elements such as closed captioning data and social media content (US No. 10,528,477); and a unified playlist used to aggregate content from multiple sources (US No. 10,264,322).

The patent auction will be used to formulate that value and possibly be paired up with another bid for MobiTV's going concern business. The debtors have authorized Roku and RPX to submit a joint bid.

The initial patent-focused round will be held as a single-round, sealed bid. Bidders for that piece will be bound to some strict terms. They include outbound license to any buyer of MobiTV's "going concern" business that must be royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive, non-sublicensable and non-transferable (unless one bidder ends up bidding for and winning all of MobiTV's assets).

Heading into the patent-focused phase, TiVo's baseline bid remains the bid to beat. If other bidders combine to top TiVo's bid, bidding between the patent bidder and a going concern bidder will be combined take on TiVo's bid.

At last check, the auction was set to reconvene at 3:15 p.m. EST.

Update (May 11, 3:25 p.m. EST): Amid multiple requests to do so, the bidding deadline for the IP/patent piece of MobiTV's bid has been extended until 4:30 p.m. EST. It has not been disclosed yet if any of the qualified bidders, other than TiVo, have made a combined bid for MobiTV's patents/IP and its going concern/operational business.

Update (May 11, 5:30 p.m. EST): The highest and best bid for MobiTV's IP/patent business was received from a joint venture of Roku and RPX for total consideration of $5 million in cash. The debtors will now solicit bids from any buyers that are willing to accept the license requirements attached to the IP/patents bid to determine if those bids results in an overbid to TiVo's current baseline bid.

Update (May 11, 5:55 p.m. EST): Amino said it accepts the Roku/RPX license/bid of $5 million and adds own $10 million bid for going concern side of the MobiTV business. Debtors need to determine cash and liabilities involved to understand the valuation and determine if this qualifies as an overbid of TiVo's baseline bid. Plan is to reconvene at 6:30 p.m. EST.

Update (May 11, 7:30 PM EST): Amino's bid has been qualified as an overbid, beating TiVo's baseline bid when Amino's $10 million bid (which includes $8.7 million in cash) is combined with the $5 million bid for MobiTV's IP/patent assets from the Roku-RPX joint venture. Amino's overbid accounts for the IP ownership of the Roku-RPX venture and also agreed to raise the minimum of transferred MobiTV employees from 50 to 60. TiVo is now on the clock to consider a new overbid.

Update (May 11 8:13 p.m. EST): TiVo has increased its bid for MobiTV's assets from $13 million to $14.4 million for the cash consideration, putting the new qualified overbid at $15.5 million. Amino now deliberating. For the next round, a qualified overbid would need to raise the stakes by $250,000, for a total minimum of $15.75 million.

Update (May 11, 8:34 p.m. EST): Amino declined to bid further, so TiVo stays in the driver's seat for MobiTV assets. Debtors are now to deliberate and reconvene at 8:45 p.m. EST.

Update: (May 11, 10:30 p.m. EST) The parties are still deliberating on the submission of a qualified overbid, but the debtors have decided to adjourn the auction until Wednesday (May 12) at 12 p.m. EST. Amino's latest bid, offered prior to TiVo's latest overbid, still stands heading into Wednesday morning. However, TiVo's latest overbid is considered the highest and best so far by the auction's consultation parties. More to come tomorrow.

Update (May 12, 12:15 p.m. EST): Day two of the auction is underway, with TiVo's bid of $15.5 million designated as the auction's "highest and best" bid. Amino requested (and was granted) a one-hour recess following conversations with the IP bidders (Roku and RPX) that it believes will result in an overbid that meets or exceeds the current auction minimums.

Update: (May 12, 1:24 p.m. EST): Amino has put forth a total bid of $16 million for MobiTV ($11 million from Amino for MobiTV's "going concern" assets/business, plus $5 million from a joint venture of Roku and RPX focused on MobiTV's IP/patent assets), that would beat TiVo's bid of $15.5 million. Auction is now in recess to confirm the value of the Amino overbid.

Update (May 12, 1:55 p.m. EST): Amino's overbid (for grand total of $16 million, when combined with the $5 million from the Roku/RPX JV) has been verified. TiVo quickly overbid with a cash portion increase to $15.4 million that would push the current minimum overbid beyond the $16.5 million threshold. Consultation on TiVo's overbid is underway.

Update (May 12, 2:07 p.m. EST): TiVo's total bid of $16.5 million was accepted. Amino followed with an overbid of $17 million total ($12 million from Amino and $5 million from the Roku/RPX joint venture). TiVo now considering its next move.

Update (May 12, 2:15 p.m. EST): TiVo has bumped the cash part of its bid to $16.4 million, for total of $17.5 million, which was accepted. Amino is deliberating its next move during recess set to end at 3 p.m. EST.

Update (May 12, 3:10 p.m. EST): Amino increased the cash portion of its bid to $11.7 million, making the total bid (with $5 million from the Roku/RPX JV) $18 million. TiVo then countered by increasing the cash portion of its bid to $17.4 million, for total of $18.5 million. Amino was granted a 30 minute recess.

Update (May 12, 3:55 p.m. EST): With no further bids from Amino, TiVo's total bid of $18.5 million is the final and winning bid. The combined bid of Amino with the Roku/RPX joint venture is the backup bid.

MobiTV turned to Chapter 11 in March

MobiTV filed for voluntary Chapter 11 protection in early March. T-Mobile, which used MobiTV's platform to power its now-defunct TVision OTT-TV service, provided $15.5 million in debtor-in-possession financing to keep MobiTV operating through the bankruptcy process.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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