Indian conglomerate nabs VOD service

HONG KONG — The Indian conglomerate behind digital pioneer UFO Moviez has acquired Movie Beam, the video-on-demand service that was founded by Walt Disney Co.

The Valuable Group, headed by Sanjay Gaikwad, announced Thursday that it had acquired all the assets, trademarks, IPR and alliances of the ‘push VoD’ service that was first launched in 2003. Price of the transaction was not disclosed.

Disney and other backers spent over $100 million developing the service, but sold it at a fire-sale price of $10 million in March 2007 to rentailer Movie Gallery. The service was closed down in Dec last year after Movie Gallery filed for bankruptcy and went into Chapter 11 administration.

“This acquisition (will allow) us to deliver ethnic and Hollywood content to homes and the hospitality industry worldwide,” Gaikwad said in a statement. “Films will be delivered in High Definition and viewers will get access to library films as well as the latest releases on a first day first show basis. We have earmarked an investment of $100 million over the next two years for the re-launch of this service in North America, UK and other overseas markets.”

Service was developed by Disney, Intel and Cisco with coin from private equity backers. It worked by piggybacking on PBS digital broadcast signals to offer movie downloads to dedicated set-top boxes. Disney was not able to roll it out beyond three test cities and took a write down of $56 million after shuttering it for the first time in summer 2005.

“We will be rolling out the service by the end of 2008 in 3 markets,” Ameya Hete, Executive Director, Valuable Group and CEO MovieBeam, said. “We have added some cutting edge features to the MovieBeam service that will bring additional and currently unrealized revenues back to the entertainment industry and the deserving constituents.”

Valuable Group operates in three business sectors media, technology and infrastructure. UFO has installed digital film projectors in some 1,200 movie theaters in India and parts of South Asia having developed a simple to use business model that provides exhibitors with current technology, delivers movies by satellite and does away with virtual print fees.

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