CORRECTION: In the comments below, Viacom tells us “Viacom is not and has never been in talks with Dailymotion.” We were wrong to write up the story as anything but a rumour from one source.
We sincerely apologise for the error.
Update: Dailymotion investor Fred Destin says we’re “wide off the mark” but won’t elaborate.
The biggest deal in today’s news is the acquisition of Dailymotion by Orange. When we spoke with Dailymotion board member Fred Destin, he said one of the reasons why Orange swooped in to buy the company was because it was in talks with a big American media company about a strategic investment, but Destin wouldn’t say who.
We now know from a credible source that it was Viacom, which owns MTV and plenty of other big media properties. This is pretty ironic given that Viacom’s best known in the online video realm for suing the heck out of YouTube over copyright infringement.
Dailymotion had similar problems of its own (Destin said in his interview that Dailymotion won all of its infringement lawsuits, except one still pending from TF1, the biggest TV network in France). Maybe the thinking at Viacom was “if you can’t beat ’em join ’em.”
Dailymotion and Orange had been partners for a long time, with Dailymotion using Orange’s pipes to deliver its content in France. Dailymotion was profitable and growing and wanted to continue as an independent company but Viacom’s overture prompted Orange to make an offer that the board took. They probably regret the last time they received a big acquisition offer and didn’t jump, from News Corp in 2007.
Destin denies that there was any French government involvement in the deal, but we have to keep wondering. Orange and Dailymotion share investors in the FSI, the French government sovereign wealth fund. It’s pretty clear that Dailymotion being swooped up or partnering heavily with a US media company would have made negative headlines in France. In fact, the whole point of the FSI is to prevent French companies that are considered “strategic” from being acquired by foreign investors.
Another source familiar with Dailymotion, who earlier described the deal as a “shotgun wedding”, told us that Dailymotion’s board viewed the FSI as a blessing and a curse: in their view, it basically ensured an eventual exit to a big French company, but precluded a similar deal with a foreign firm. And that’s how the situation turned out. It’s not clear whether there was direct French government involvment or if that’s just how it ended up.
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