A group of U.S. venture capital firms, including Disney’s investment arm, was set to announce Wednesday that it had invested $23.5 million in UUSee, a major Chinese site for Web video.
UUSee distributes live and on-demand TV from CCTV, China’s largest TV broadcaster; CSAT, China’s largest satellite TV company; and Beijing TV. The content includes subtitled U.S. shows like “CSI: Miami” and “24.”
The investment round was led by Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Highland Capital Partners. It included Steamboat Ventures, the venture-capital vehicle of The Walt Disney Co. Two other firms, Sequoia Capital and Susquehanna International Group, invested in UUSee in a previous round and joined in this one.
The site has 36 million registered users, making it China’s largest Web TV operator, according to Dan Nova of Highland.
“It really is the country’s and the world’s largest Web TV operator,” Nova said. He will join UUSee’s board along with DFJ’s Barry Schuler, the former chief executive of America Online.
There’s no close equivalent to UUSee in the U.S., where the TV shows and movies that are available online are spread out among several sites owned by TV networks and online titans like Google Inc."
“There’s no one leading Web TV operator here in the United States,” Nova said. “In many ways I think China is a lot more advanced, when it comes to the organization and distribution of video content.”
UUSee distributes the videos from servers, but to reduce long-distance Internet traffic, it also has a feature that uses viewers’ computers to distribute video to other, nearby viewers. It’s the only peer-to-peer network approved by Chinese telecom regulators, Nova said.
“When you look at the government approval, the content relationships, the management team, and the growth and acceptance by the Chinese community, one could conclude that they’re in a pole position to capture the Web TV market,” Nova said.
UUSee makes money from ads and from premium text-messaging services used to vote in contests.
Nova expects UUSee to have revenue of at least $10 million this year, and to become profitable on a quarterly basis by the end of the year.