BSkyB-owned transactional movie service Acetrax is to close on June 21st 2013. The service, which was acquired in April 2012, no longer offers download-to-own (digital retail/EST) movies but will continue to provide movie rentals until June 20th, with all rentals expiring on June 21st.
The Switzerland-based service is available on multiple connected TV platforms, including LG, Samsung, Panasonic and Toshiba and had content deals with four of the major studios as well as independent studios and music companies.
The decision by BSkyB to close the service 14 months after acquisition is not completely surprising. Online rental and retail services without a major content or device company backing them often struggle to gain traction, and Sky showed little interest in bolstering Acetrax's content catalogues. When the deal to acquire Acetrax was announced, the pay TV operator signalled that the acquisition was focused on integrating Acetrax's OTT technology and capabilities into the business, specifically mentioning Acetrax's relationships with connected device manufacturers as a key reason for the acquisition. BSkyB suggests that it has now completed this process, and can now focus on expanding its own services (Sky Go and Now TV) in the UK while managing down the Acetrax brand.
However, Sky's OTT services Sky Go and Now TV are not yet available on smart TV platforms, leaving the full rationale for the initial purchase of Acetrax unclear. While BSkyB is looking towards the download-to-own/digital retail sector (an area which Acetrax had some experience in) to supplement its existing rental and subscription services, it has also indicated that smart TV platforms are not a priority, given the existing route to the consumer TV set through the Sky set-top box and via YouView and Roku boxes (Sky recently upped its investment in Roku). The operator also does not appear to be taking advantage of Acetrax's international footprint, although Sky has made moves to invest more heavily in international markets in recent periods, so a future launch of Sky-brand services via smart TVs overseas is still possible. Nonetheless the lack of communication regarding successor services to Acetrax's customer-base indicates that such a move is not imminent.