As TV Wars Grow, Azuki Expands Video Delivery Tech to First Screen

6/13/13Follow @gthuang

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the fact that TVs are becoming smart TVs,” Wu says. “Today a set-top box delivers content. Apple TV over time is the ability to embed intelligence into the TV itself. The TV is connected to content in the cloud. Where content and services are being delivered [i.e., to which device] should become irrelevant.” (Manufacturers like Samsung are building Internet connections and content navigation into their new TVs. And companies like Gracenote and Flingo want to provide on-TV software so consumers don’t have to buy a Roku or Apple TV.)

Boston traditionally has had a major cluster of tech companies serving the cable TV and telecom industry. But it’s a very competitive sector, and they’ve had a mixed track record; see companies such as Brightcove (IPO last year), Blackwave (bought by Juniper Networks), SeaChange (still going), Verivue (acquired by Akamai last year), and ZeeVee (still around).

The real question, as Wu sees it, is where TV content and services come from—namely, Azuki’s customers. “We help anybody who either aggregates or owns the content, so we serve the over-the-top aggregator, content publisher, and service provider. In this case, I would say the service provider is in a position that is most intriguing. At the end of the day, nothing is free.”

Azuki isn’t naming its cable and telecom customers yet, but says it has two of the top 10 telecom companies signed up. Now what will it take to sign up the biggest guys like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T, and truly be in almost every home?

The short answer is global partnerships, which Wu wouldn’t say more about, except that “they will give us the footprint.” He adds, “Comcast and AT&T and those guys are interested and engaging Azuki in those discussions. But the go-to-market with them is different.” Namely, the big guys are typically interested in a particular technology or feature set, he says, and Azuki will provide that (but not its full product).

“We penetrate them by technology, and then we bring our partners in to close the deal,” says Wu, who became CEO in April.

After five years, Azuki’s timing could end up being good. And it’s not a moment too soon for its venture investors, led by Sigma Partners and Kepha Partners, who have put in about $35 million to date.

“We may come into a market too early,” Wu says, “but not too late.”

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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