Streaming deals keep flowing

by Scott Denne, Jessica Montgomery, Michael Nocerino

As the media and telecom giant carves out its position in a transforming television landscape, Comcast acquires XUMO, a streaming video services provider. It’s the latest in a cascade of deals as Comcast and its peers adjust to an ongoing shift in consumer viewing habits. While Netflix, Amazon, Disney and other companies that can throw billions into content creation and distribution have largely locked down the subscription-supported streaming video market, ad-supported video remains up for grabs.

Comcast’s reach for XUMO loosely resembles Viacom’s acquisition of Pluto TV. Both targets provide a streaming video service that hosts multiple video channels, supported by advertising. But where Pluto primarily goes to market via a consumer app, XUMO partners with TV OEMs to preinstall the software into their smart TVs in exchange for a share of the ad revenue generated by the service.

XUMO’s existing relationships with LG and other OEMs give Comcast a valuable distribution channel and, eventually, XUMO’s software could offer a replacement for Flex, the streaming video hardware Comcast hands out to its internet customers. Although terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, those considerations likely lifted XUMO’s valuation ahead of the multiple on Viacom’s year-ago pickup of Pluto (subscribers to 451 Research’s M&A KnowledgeBase can view our estimate of terms of that deal here).

Viacom and Comcast aren’t the only ones inking deals for streaming video content and service providers. Last year saw Altice nab Cheddar in a $200m transaction that followed T-Mobile’s $325m purchase of Layer3 TV and AMC Networks’ acquisition of RLJ Entertainment, a deal that valued the target at $517m, or 5.5x trailing revenue. More acquisitions of ad-supported streaming services could be on the way. 451 Research has confirmed media reports that Fox is considering a purchase of Tubi and Comcast’s NBCUniversal has explored buying Walmart’s Vudu.

The addressable market for ad-supported services could expand significantly as ownership of smart TVs surges – and our surveys show that to be the case. According to 451 Research’s VoCUL consumer population representative survey, usage of smart TVs to stream video rose by nearly half in the six months between the second and fourth quarters of 2019, with 22% of people saying they use those devices in the most recent survey. (The fourth-quarter data will be published shortly, the second-quarter data can be found here.) A larger market could lead to buyers for additional services, such as Philo, Plex or sports-focused FuboTV.

Telos Advisors advised XUMO on its sale to Comcast.

Figure 1: Changes in video-streaming devices

Source: 451 Research’s VoCUL: Connected Consumer

A new player in a new game

by Brenon Daly

Twenty years after the IPO of CDN giant Akamai, rival startup Fastly has announced its own plan to go public. We mention that at the open because one of the main selling points of Fastly’s pitch to Wall Street is setting itself apart from the competition. In its just-filed prospectus, Fastly uses the term ‘legacy CDNs’ more than 20 times.

The repetition isn’t meant to flatter. Eight-year-old Fastly discusses Akamai – and, to a lesser extent, Limelight Networks – in connection with the limitations of their offerings, which are meant to speed up and secure internet traffic.

Already having collected a rich, double-digit valuation in the private market, Fastly is making the economically rational effort to put some distance between itself and its discounted public-market comps. (Even with its shares near their highest level since the dot-com collapse, Akamai garners just 4.5x trailing sales, while Limelight lags far behind at not even 2x trailing sales.)

Like most other ‘new generation’ IT providers, Fastly plays up its growth rate while playing down the cost of that growth. Sales at the company rose about 40%, year over year, in 2018 to $145m. In comparison, Akamai is a single-digit percentage grower, although it is roughly 10 times larger than Fastly. Fastly also runs in the red, largely because its gross margins are just 54%, 10 percentage points lower than those at Akamai.

For us, though, the biggest difference between the two companies isn’t their technology or their business models or their target customers. Instead, it’s the IPO itself. It’s hard to imagine, but Akamai went public in 1999 on just $4m in sales and a staggering $58m loss. (It was a time of ‘irrational exuberance’ after all.) In other words, at the time of Akamai’s IPO, its entire business was smaller than the revenue that’s probably generated by a single key customer at Fastly.

Cloudflare signals new push into mobile 

Contact: Scott Denne

Positioned near the top of one budding corner of the CDN market, Cloudflare is angling to take a share of another with the purchase of Neumob. Its latest deal, a departure from Cloudflare’s mostly infosec M&A in the past, gets the Internet performance-optimization vendor software to bolster the performance of mobile apps.

Offering a service that protects and accelerates websites has made Cloudflare into a business with more than $170m in venture capital and annual revenue in the same neighborhood (subscribers to 451 Research’s M&A KnowledgeBase Premium can access a detailed profile of the company). Its security capabilities have pushed it near the top of the fastest-growing segment of the CDN market, defending against distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks.

According to 451 Research’s VotE: Information Security survey, 38% of respondents planning to implement an anti-DDoS service were considering Cloudflare, second only to Akamai, which scored less than three percentage points higher. 451 Research’s Market Monitor service projects that this portion of the CDN market will expand by 40% this year, so it’s understandable that two of Cloudflare’s three previous acquisitions would fortify its security features.

In Neumob, it’s picking up a company whose software analyzes the signal available to a mobile device and adjusts the API calls to make the most of that signal. Although terms weren’t disclosed, it’s likely a modest-sized deal given that Cloudflare plans to shut down the service and integrate the software with its own. Neumob had about 20 employees and had raised $11m in funding. While such mobile acceleration targets have drawn strategic interest, most, like Neumob, were acquired at an early stage. Last year, privately held Instart Logic purchased Kwicr and Salesforce nabbed Twin Prime, a pair of startups with similar amounts of funding as Neumob.

Still, a decade since the birth of the smartphone, mobile app acceleration remains a pressing problem. In a survey by 451 Research’s VoCUL earlier this year, 47% and 44% of businesses told us it was ‘very important’ to provide their customers with mobile apps for customer service and shopping, respectively. At the same time, consumers’ gluttonous appetite for mobile apps shows no sign of abating. In a separate VoCUL study in the second quarter, 15.6% of consumers said they had downloaded six or more apps on their smartphone in the last month, a slight increase from the same survey done a year earlier.

For more real-time information on tech M&A, follow us on Twitter @451TechMnA.

Verizon set to shake up CDN market with proposed EdgeCast buy

Contact: Scott Denne Jim Davis

Verizon picks up EdgeCast Networks in a move that’s likely to shuffle market share and partnership arrangements in the CDN space. The deal will likely alter Verizon’s current partnership with Akamai, the largest CDN vendor.

We estimate the enterprise value of the transaction at $395m, making it the largest acquisition of a CDN company and valuing EdgeCast at about 2.9x the $135m annual revenue that it expects to have by the close of 2013. The deal values EdgeCast slightly below the 4.8x that Akamai fetches and roughly in line with the 3.1x median for CDN purchases in the past decade, according to The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase.

Akamai gets about one-fifth of its revenue from resellers. While it’s not clear how much of that comes from Verizon, it is clear that it will lose some revenue when that partnership ends. Despite that, this could be an opportunity for Akamai or other CDNs to land additional carrier partnerships as telcos that resell EdgeCast, including Deutsche Telekom and TELUS, may not be comfortable reselling a Verizon service – not to mention the multi-tenant datacenter providers that partner with EdgeCast and also compete with Verizon’s Terremark.

Getting into the CDN business brings Verizon another source of revenue to help offset its declining fixed-line revenue, a need that’s driven most of its M&A spending in the past couple of years as it has bought companies such as Terremark for $1.4bn, CloudSwitch for an estimated $80m and fleet management vendor Hughes Telematics for $612m. And that’s in addition to the $130bn it paid for the 45% of Verizon Wireless that it didn’t already own.

For more real-time information on tech M&A, follow us on Twitter @451TechMnA.

Akamai doubles down on security with $370m acquisition of Prolexic

Contact: Scott Denne

Akamai Technologies reaches for Prolexic Technologies in a $370m all-cash deal that’s a departure from the acquirer’s typical profile. Not only is it Akamai’s largest purchase to date, but Prolexic, a security vendor, doesn’t directly add new capabilities to the company’s core CDN offering.

That’s not to say the transaction isn’t complementary. Prolexic brings Akamai a platform it can use to offer security services – something that could help defend against the downward pricing pressure faced by CDN providers. Also, Prolexic focuses on defending datacenters against denial-of-service (DOS) attacks and has enterprise networking clients – an area where Akamai is trying to expand further and was the focus of its pickup of Velocius Networks, its only other acquisition this year.

From another view, the deal is similar to Akamai’s past M&A strategy of snagging competitors before they can do too much damage. This was the case with its $268m acquisition of Cotendo, which it bought during a contentious patent battle. At about $50m in projected revenue this year, Prolexic is about the same size as Akamai’s own security business, which, like Prolexic, focuses on DOS attacks. We’ll have a longer report on this transaction in tomorrow’s 451 Market Insight.

For more real-time information on tech M&A, follow us on Twitter @451TechMnA.

MediaMath strikes twice in Akamai deal

Contact: Ben Kolada, Tejas Venkatesh

Marketing analytics startup MediaMath and CDN giant Akamai have engaged in a two-pronged deal that should help accelerate MediaMath’s already astounding growth rate. MediaMath is acquiring Akamai’s Advertising Decision Solutions assets and data cooperative, and is gaining exclusive access to Akamai’s pixel-free technology, which tracks online user behavior without using tracking pixels.

Adding to its already successful TerminalOne platform, MediaMath is picking up Akamai’s advertising data management platform and opt-in data-sharing cooperative. MediaMath says the assets will help its advertiser clients better profile audiences and predict audience behavior.

Terms of the transaction also provide MediaMath with multiyear, exclusive access to Akamai’s pixel-free technology. The traditional method for advertisers to collect user data has been to install tracking pixels on users’ computers when they access websites. However, Akamai’s pixel-free technology bypasses that strategy. Since Akamai has access to a significant portion of Web traffic through its content delivery and site acceleration services, it can directly observe user behavior. Its pixel-free technology leverages its content delivery roots to track user online behavior without the need to install tracking pixels.

We’d note that even before the addition of Akamai’s assets, MediaMath had done quite well for itself. With primarily organic growth, the company, founded in 2007, grew revenue last year to $180m, more than double the $78m it recorded in 2011.

For more real-time information on tech M&A, follow us on Twitter @MAKnowledgebase.

Fortinet acquires CDN software startup XDN

Contact: Tejas Venkatesh

Unified threat management vendor Fortinet has acquired four-year-old startup XDN, adding software that is used for building and managing CDNs. The deal helps Fortinet closely tie its security and WAN optimization services with content acceleration software from XDN, thereby providing a distributed, cloud-based approach to adapt effectively to disruptive attack traffic.

Fortinet’s move comes as companies like Akamai have fortified their security lineups with cloud-based Web application firewall and other related services. Fortinet did not disclose terms of the deal. In fact, it was XDN that announced the transaction in a blog post, almost a month after my colleague Jim Davis wrote about the deal. XDN raised about $7m in funding from Storm Ventures and Canaan Partners. For a full report on the acquisition, click here.

For more real-time information on tech M&A, follow us on Twitter @MAKnowledgebase.

Shallow pool in mobile optimization becoming shallower

Contact: Ben Kolada

After Allot Communications dipped its toes into the pool of mobile optimization targets by acquiring small Ortiva Wireless, Citrix cannonballed with the acquisition of Bytemobile. These two deals significantly drained the already shallow pool of acquisition targets in this market. Interested buyers should dismiss the ‘don’t run when wet’ precaution, and jump in before there’s no water left.

Consumers are buying data-intensive devices in droves, and data consumption is exploding as a result. Because seamless data use is considered a right rather than a privilege these days, cell carriers unable to provide flawless transmission risk customer desertion. Tackling this concern, mobile operators are employing every option available to relieve their bandwidth bottlenecks, including relying on a new breed of mobile traffic optimization firms.

As these upstarts emerge as viable solutions, they’re becoming increasingly attractive acquisition targets both for the vendors that traditionally have served telcos, and for non-traditional vendors hoping to pull in cash-rich telco customers.

However, interested acquirers need to move fast. In a recent report, we identified 11 remaining vendors, ranging from pre-revenue firms to established midmarket players. But less than half of those vendors target mobile optimization as their core business. Click here to see who we think may be next in the buyout line.

For more real-time information on tech M&A, follow us on Twitter @MAKnowledgebase.

Google takes another swing at Office

Contact: Brenon Daly

Google has reached for the popular maker of mobile software suite Quickoffice, the fourth notable acquisition the company has made in its effort to take on Microsoft Office. Each of the purchases has given Google specific pieces of technology that have helped draw users away from Office, which stands as the dominant desktop productivity suite and has generated tens of billions of dollars of sales for Microsoft over the past two decades.

Looking to siphon off some of those incredibly high-margin sales, Google has scooped up startups offering online word processing (Upstartle with its Writely program), spreadsheet programs (iRows), as well as collaboration and sharing of Office documents (DocVerse). As it built on those deals over the past six years, Google has always pitched its offering – first in Google Docs, then in Google Apps and now in Google Drive – as a Web-based alternative to the largely desktop-based Office franchise. (Of course, Microsoft also offers a hosted, or cloud, version of its popular suite in the form of Office 365.)

With Quickoffice, Google is shoring up the technology around a productivity suite for the post-PC era, as Quickoffice is installed on more than 400 million devices. In addition to the broad user base, Google also gets some much-needed technology that should help iron out some of the wrinkles that can pop up when converting Microsoft Office documents to Google formats. Additionally, Quickoffice can run Office apps on the iPad, while Microsoft has yet to release an official version of Office for the rival tablet. (It is rumored to be working on one, however.)

While terms of the acquisition weren’t released, we would note that Quickoffice has a rather compelling business model, with an extremely low cost of customer acquisition. It gets paid by licensing its software suite to device makers and then generates business on top of that by upselling customers to subscription offerings. (We understand that ‘aftermarket’ business was running at about $5m a quarter recently.) Not bad for a business that was founded in 1996 inside the recently disappeared Palm Inc. For the record, Google has now acquired pieces of two wireless pioneers: Palm and Motorola Mobility.

For more real-time information on tech M&A, follow us on Twitter @MAKnowledgebase.

Equinix increasing inorganic growth, nabs ancotel

Contact: Ben Kolada, Thejeswi Venkatesh

In its latest geographic consolidation move, colocation giant Equinix announced on Wednesday the acquisition of Frankfurt-based ancotel. Although previously an atypical acquirer, the ancotel buy is Equinix’s second purchase this month, following the pickup of certain assets from Hong Kong-based Asia Tone for $230m. Equinix recently said its dealmaking isn’t done yet. At the Deutsche Bank Securities Media & Telecommunications Conference in February, the company said it plans to place more emphasis on M&A.

Equinix didn’t disclose the price of the acquisition, but did say the valuation is in line with its projected 2012 adjusted EBITDA trading multiple. With a current enterprise value of $9.7bn, Equinix itself is valued at 11 times this year’s projected adjusted EBITDA. Assuming ancotel’s cost structure is similar to Equinix’s, we’d loosely estimate the deal value at $100-110m. Ancotel generated $21.4m in revenue in 2011, with a three-year CAGR north of 20%. The transaction adds a datacenter with 2,100 meters of capacity, 400 network customers, 200 new networks and 6,000 cross connects. Ancotel also has a presence in both London and Hong Kong.

In a departure from its usual practice of making just one acquisition per year, Equinix recently indicated that it intends to use more M&A to fuel growth. The company already dominates the American colocation market, so future M&A activity will likely continue to be overseas. Equinix has a lofty goal of being in 50 markets in the long term, with immediate priorities being India and China. The company has also expressed interest in growing its presence in South Korea and Australia.

Equinix’s international M&A, past five years

Date announced Target Deal value Target headquarters
May 16, 2012 ancotel Not disclosed Frankfurt
May 1, 2012 Asia Tone (certain assets) $230m Hong Kong
February 15, 2011 ALOG Data Centers* $127m Rio de Janeiro
February 6, 2008 Virtu Secure Webservices $22.9m Enschede, Netherlands
June 28, 2007 IXEurope $555m London
January 10, 2007 VSNL International (Tokyo datacenter) $7.5m Tokyo

Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase *90% stake

For more real-time information on tech M&A, follow us on Twitter @MAKnowledgebase.