Samsung Hires Fan TV Founder Gilles BianRosa as Chief Product Officer for TV and Services

Gilles BianRosa
Courtesy of Gilles BianRosa

Samsung has hired Fan TV founder Gilles BianRosa as its new Senior Vice President and Chief Product Officer for Visual Display Content & Services. In its new role, BianRosa will be overseeing heading product for Samsung’s smart TVs and other connected home devices.

“There was no way I was going to pass up on this opportunity to shape the future of living room entertainment, given Samsung’s unparalleled scale and resources in connected platforms in the home,” BianRosa wrote in a blog post Wednesday. “TVs sit at an increasingly unique place in the ecosystem, given that they are the natural hub for all of our entertainment, whether we watch free or pay TV, or OTT apps.”

BianRosa is joining Samsung from TiVo, which acquired his Fan TV startup in late 2014 for $12 million. (This was before the TiVo-Rovi merger and rebranding, when the company was still known as Rovi.)

Fan TV started out with an app that aggregated content from online video services — a kind of TV Guide for the internet, if you will. But the company made an ambitious push to reinvent the TV viewing experience when it introduced a Yves Behar-designed set-top box in early 2013. Fan TV didn’t position its set-top box as a direct competitor to Roku or Apple TV, but instead pitched it to pay TV operators as a way to offer their customers an alternative to the old and tired cable box.

Cox ran a brief test of Fan TV’s hardware in Southern California in 2013, and Time Warner Cable signed on as an official partner in early 2014. But the operator never really promoted the device to its customers, and consumers had few reasons to make the switch, leading to dismal hardware sales. Rovi discontinued sales of the device a year ago, and has since focused Fan TV’s efforts on building apps for pay TV operators, while still maintaining its legacy mobile apps.

At Samsung, BianRosa will get to build products more directly for consumers again, but he’ll have to face other challenges. The company has in the past often struggled with short-term thinking, building ambitious media services and products, only to bail out soon after.

One example: Samsung acquired connected device startup Boxee in 2013, and used the team to build an ambitious next-generation smart TV that used a dedicated tablet as a remote control. But the product never launched, and Samsung ended up laying off much of Boxee’s staff two years later.