Vizio Sells To Chinese Streaming Company, Spins Off Data-Mining Operation

Image courtesy of Ryan Finnie

Have you ever heard of LeEco? Most people in this country hadn’t until today, when we learned that familiar television brand Vizio announced that it’s been acquired by the brand. The deal may mean more streaming content bundled in smart TV sets, and the spin-off of a separate company dedicated to mining data about what customers watch.

What the deal makes clear is that the business of selling televisions isn’t about the actual sets at all. The company that watches what customers watch is part of Vizio, and called Inscape.

The founder and CEO of Vizio will this spinoff once the deal is complete, and its technology will still be part of Vizio’s products. The feature can be turned off, but first the TV’s owner must understand that it’s there to turn it off.

It anonymously gathers information about what you’re watching and sell it to mysterious “partners,” presumably entertainment companies and data miners. The company says that this information is separated from any personal information about owners or viewers.

LeEco is a popular smart TV brand in the rest of the world, and has sold about a third of its sets in China. It’s a bit like if Netflix sold televisions directly, but also let customers access other companies’ programming and apps through their sets.

In the smart TV business, though, the real money isn’t in the TVs themselves: it’s in the apps that the set runs, which can earn money for the TV manufacturer long after the set was sold.

LeEco already has an office in Silicon Valley, and will now have to look into producing and licensing content for foreign audiences.

Chinese tech firm LeEco agrees to buy Vizio TV maker for $2B [Associated Press]

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