Imax Corp. has acquired Ssimwave, an Ontario-based AI-driven tech firm whose clients include media giants from Disney and Paramount Global to Warner Bros. Discovery and NBCU parent Comcast. It’s a cash and stock deal worth $21 million.
Imax has also worked with Ssimwave, an expert in enhancing on-demand and live visual imagery for broadcast and streaming across devices, from an Imax big screen to a phone.
The purchase is for $18.5 million in cash and $2.5 million in stock. There’s an additional earnout consideration of $4 million, subject to achieving certain operating performance and financial objectives. Imax said the acquisition is expected to have “minimal financial impact” in 2022 and be accretive in 2023.
Ssimwave was founded at the University of Waterloo (the Toronto-Waterloo tech corridor is the one of the largest in North America after Silicon Valley) and isn’t far from the Imax Canadian headquarters.
“The fact is that we are not a theater exhibitor, but a technology licensing company,” Imax CEO Rich Gelfond tells The Hamden Journal. He had presaged a pivot, noting on a recent earnings call that “Imax 3.0” would be emphasizing the tech side of the business and the brand.
In the near term, Imax said, Ssimwave will drive new recurring revenue, and Imax will help it grow its business and product suite internationally. Longer-term, it’s about “new solutions for delivering Imax-quality video experiences across platforms, around the world” as Imax integrates Ssimwave engineers into many of its development projects.
Video optimization can be complicated and expensive but has never been more crucial as consumption explodes across platforms and in higher resolution — including 4K, 8k and new interactive experiences across gaming, VR, AR and the metaverse. Filmmakers and creators are also looking for solutions to ensure the fidelity and quality of their work on any screen.
Ssimwave’s team “has mapped the human visual system to produce one of the most accurate measures of perceptual quality,” which its AI-driven software applies to enhance video streams and files in real time, today’s announcement explained. Its Video Experience Automation Platform is used by top Hollywood studios to address video issues across all files and streams, assessing video quality at scale. It lowers costs and provides a more consistent experience regardless of playback device or network.
Ssimwave, which launched in 2013, won a Technology & Engineering Emmy Award in 2020 and a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Engineering in 2015. It was Best New Streaming Technology winner in the NAB Show Product of the Year Awards in 2022 and 2021.
The company’s technology is protected with 50 patents, and others pending, globally.
“Ssimwave boasts a brilliant team of engineers, technologists, and academics obsessed with image quality and on the leading edge of Ontario’s thriving tech community. The similarities between this company and Imax when we acquired it nearly 30 years ago are uncanny,” said Gelfond. “We look forward to scaling Ssimwave’s business and taking it in never-before-imagined directions around the world just as we did with Imax’s game-changing projection technology.”
He said the acquisition builds on Imax cross-platform expansion with Imax Enhanced, which brings the Imax experience to streaming entertainment with exclusive expanded aspect ratio, digitally remastered content, and signature sound.
“Viewers and content creators expect more from video experiences. By joining Imax, Ssimwave will be even better positioned to preserve creators’ intent and enable engaging, differentiated viewing experiences to millions of users across platforms,” said Dr. Abdul Rehman, Ssimwave CEO. “We’re excited to join Imax and tap into its global scale and expertise as more streamers turn to Ssimwave to ensure the best viewing experiences while reducing bandwidth costs.”