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COMMENT: Why It’s No Surprise That Ice TV Has Gone Belly Up


Earlier this week CEO and major shareholder Colin O’Brien was forced to call in the administrators and is now trying to flog a Company whose use by date is well and truly up.

This was a Company that was peddling an Electronic Program Guide, a service that comes free with most TV’s and then when the market was moving away from free to air TV content, to streaming services such as Netflix O’Brien invested in an expensive media centre that skipped advertising but failed to deliver any of the mainstream streaming services. 

O’Brien had big pipe dreams, but despite all his spin he was still not able to deliver a set top box that retailers were prepared to stock or a service that people actually needed. 

ChannelNews became suspicious of Ice TV three years ago when O’Brien said that he had cut a deal with several retailers to launch what is now called the Skippa video recorder. O’Brien told ChannelNews at the time that several retailers were set to stock the new device, the only problem was that not one single retailer we contacted confirmed that they would stock the device which was eventually launched this year in Australia by Ice TV via a direct online sell model.

O’Brien’s claim to fame is his historic copyright fight with the Nine Network. In a landmark decision on Australian copyright law, the High Court overturned a decision of the Full Federal Court and unanimously held that IceTV had not infringed the Nine Network’s copyright in its television schedules.

At the centre of the dispute was the IceGuide, an electronic program guide (“EPG”) first produced by IceTV in 2005, it was installed primarily on media centres and set top boxes which have primarily been replaced by new streaming technology. 

 The IceGuide was a subscription-based service which provided subscribers with a weekly or daily television guide for free-to-air digital television.

 IceTV manually produced the first version of its IceGuide by observing (over a 3-week period) the time and day on which free-to-air television programs were broadcast, and using those observations to predict what a particular week’s television program schedule was likely to be. 

At one stage O’Brien told ChannelNews that he was about to announce several partnerships with European operators for his guide, these contracts also failed to eventuate. 

Now IceTV has called in an administrator following a dispute with the company making its Skippa video recorder. 

Amanda Lott of TPH Insolvency has been appointed voluntary administrator for IceTV. “There is an issue with the supplier where the supplier ceased its Australian operations last week and it has implemented payment terms on IceTV to which the company cannot comply, and which were not originally negotiated,” Lott said.

According to the administrator around 1000 Skippa devices are reportedly held up in a warehouse, despite customers paying for the devices upfront. 

An e-mail sent to pre-order customers this week reportedly said it was highly likely that IceTV would cease trading if a buyer for the company wasn’t found “within the immediate future”. Customers left empty-handed were instructed to register as creditors.

O’Brien who is a keen sailor is now living in the Blue Mountains in NSW after moving out of his Mosman home.  
 O’Brien said the company providing the Skippa boxes had ceased trading at midnight on September 30. “It tried to put a tentative distribution arrangement in place which was unacceptable and impossible for IceTV to abide by,” he said.