Comcast, the leading cable television operator in the United States, has reportedly paid around $80 million to acquire digital media publishing company thePlatform.

Founded in 2000, thePlatform is a venture capital backed start-up with around 70 staff, based in Seattle. It provides a service management platform enabling customers to publish rich media to multiple devices, from personal computers to mobile phones.

Following the acquisition, the terms of which were not announced, thePlatform will remain an independent business unit of the interactive media division of Comcast, the Philadelphia-based cable operator.

Comcast is one of the main customers of thePlatform, which powers its Flash-based online video portal The Fan. The cable operator is understood to be planning to extend its online services with an open portal, which will not be limited to Comcast subscribers.

“There are many synergies between the two companies and we will look to leverage that to expand both our abilities to deliver cross-platform services,” said Ian Blaine, the chief executive of thePlatform. He will report to Sam Schwartz, executive vice president of Comcast Interactive Media.

In acquiring thePlatform, Comcast reduces its reliance on a third-party technology provider by bringing the capability in-house, although $80 million would buy a lot of software development. In comparison, Comcast pays programme providers around $5 billion a year for cable content.

The acquisition indicates the need for traditional media providers such as cable television operators to address new delivery systems, as new online and mobile platforms offer new distribution opportunities to programme producers.

The threat to traditional service providers is that rights owners will be able to reach consumers directly over broadband, reducing the negotiating power of existing cable networks. They also face competition from a raft of online services from both global brands and upstart startups like YouTube.