Tesco is reportedly planning to sell blinkbox.
The supermarket giant has been looking a lot shorter in recent months, as the company undergoes an FCA investigation for exaggerating its quarterly profits to the tune of £250 million. Now, according to The Times, new CEO Dave Lewis has decided that its pay-per-view streaming service is no longer a priority.
blinkbox, which offers movies and TV shows available for rental and download, was bought by Tesco three years ago. The retailer snapped up an 80 per cent stake in the site for an unknown amount, as part of its digital media plans, which have seen the retailer also launch blinkox music and, of course, its popular Hudl tablets (on which blinkbox was a prominent app). Just as the Hudl 2 is about to be unveiled to the world, though, blinkbox is expected to be making a quiet departure.
The news follows an announcement that blinkbox had freshly minted a deal with Channel 4 for a horde of new TV series, taking its streaming library to more than 10,000 titles. The site also enjoyed soaring usage in summer 2013, when it became the first digital video provider to offer Game of Thrones Season 3 to download. With Tesco in financial trouble, though, its new CEO is thought to be more concerned with basic meat and potatoes than digital games and thrones. Indeed, Tesco has also just announced that it will be closing its free Clubcard TV service (powered by blinkbox) at the end of October.
If it cannot find a new buyer for blinkbox, Tesco is expected to simply shut it down. This could leave current customers without a way to watch their purchases – much like a Netflix subscription, which gives you access to content while Netflix has the licence for it, buying a title from a digital VOD platform is buying the right to access the title indefinitely through the service in question, rather than own it outright.
With such a large stake in the pay-per-view market, though, and an established brand presence, the closure of blinkbox is unlikely to happen.
Reuters reports that Paddy Power odds currently place Vodafone as frontrunners to pick up the pixels (10/1), just ahead of John Lewis and BSkyB (12/1). (Sky has recently launched its own streaming service, Sky Store, which offers movies to rent and download, but not TV shows.) Fellow retailers Sainsbury’s, Asda and Argos are further behind in the race, at 16/1, 20/1 and 20/1 respectively.
Neither blinkbox nor Tesco have commented on the reports.