Cable Operators

A Cable-Friendly Internet-TV Startup?

4/30/2012 12:00 AM Eastern

Meet NimbleTV, another over-the-top
venture that is promising to sling TV content over the
Internet to a slew of devices — without getting permission
from content owners.

The company maintains
its approach is not only
perfectly legal, but actually
beneficial to both operators
and programmers.

The 15-employee New
York-based startup said it
will sign up anyone anywhere
in the world for pay
TV service locally, and then
deliver live and recorded
programming over the Internet
to myriad devices.

Here’s how it works, according
to CEO Anand
Subramanian: NimbleTV
subscribes to satellite- or
cable-TV service on behalf
of its customers, and manages the installation of set-top
boxes at a physical location somewhere in a given market.
The company then re-encodes the signals to deliver live
TV or DVR recordings over the Internet, a la Slingbox, to
wherever the customer may be.

In addition to their monthly cable or satellite-TV bill,
customers would pay an additional monthly fee — of about
$20 — to NimbleTV.

“We effectively are providing
you a local point of presence,”
Subramanian said.
“We have spent enough time
doing the necessary due diligence
that we believe we are
not breaking any laws.”

NimbleTV’s backers include
Tribune Co., which owns or
operates 23 local broadcast TV
stations across the U.S., and
Lou Borrelli, one-time chief
operating officer of Marcus
Cable. In an email message,
Borrelli said he will be joining
the startup’s executive
team and called the approach “TV Anywhere that preserves
the current economic ecosystem.”

BIG APPLE TRIAL

The startup’s initial beta test kicked off last week in New
York. Eventually, NimbleTV expects to have several hundred
testers, who will be able to access 26 channels.

NimbleTV is not disclosing which pay TV providers it
will use for the trial, or for the subsequent commercial
launch targeted for this summer.

Major operators in the New York area include Time Warner
Cable, Cablevision Systems and Verizon Communications’
FiOS TV. Subramanian said the startup would also
offer satellite-TV service, which would be provided by either
DirecTV or Dish Network.

Asked what would happen if a cable or satellite-TV operator
refused to install service in one of NimbleTV’s proxy
locations, Subramanian responded, “We believe we are
bringing in new customers for them … If they don’t [work
with NimbleTV], there will be another [multichannel video-
programming distributor] who will.”

If NimbleTV is successful, it could radically alter the
dynamics of the pay TV industry, BTIG Research senior
analyst Rich Greenfield wrote, because it “enables all
MVPDs, regardless of their geographic footprint, to compete
against each other.”

That should drive down retail subscription-TV pricing
and also reduce the leverage distributors have in disputes
with programmers, Greenfield posited: “It becomes
so easy for consumers to
change MVPDs, we wonder
whether distributors
will rethink letting programming
be ‘dropped’ in
the first place.”

Still operators may
deem NimbleTV’s service
a violation of their terms of
service, and programmers
may object to the out-ofmarket
access the startup
enables.

NO CORD-CUTTERS

The NimbleTV service is
not aimed at cost-conscious
consumers, Subramanian
acknowledged, given that it requires users to pay
for a full TV subscription plus the monthly NimbleTV fee:
“This is not a product for people who want to cut the cord,”
he said.

NimbleTV is the latest startup aiming to shake up the
current TV landscape with a multiscreen Internet-delivered
video offering. However, in contrast to another New
York-area startup, Aereo
— which is being sued by
broadcasters because it
believes it is not obligated
to pay retransmission fees
— NimbleTV’s approach
ensures that everyone in
the TV ecosystem still gets
paid, Subramanian said.

“We wanted to make sure
all the stakeholders in the
industry are not harmed, either
contractually, legally or
economically,” he said.

The initial reaction from
pay TV operators that NimbleTV
has approached “has
been very, very positive,” Subramanian claimed. “They
stand to get more subscribers.”

Subramanian formed NimbleTV in January 2011. Previously,
he was the founder of ContextWeb, an online advertising
exchange that merged with digital marketing
company Datran Media to form PulsePoint.

When it launches commercially, NimbleTV plans to provide
a full lineup of broadcast and cable programming,
depending on the package a customer selects. On its website,
the startup displays logos from networks including
ABC, Fox, NBC, TNT, TBS, USA Network, Bravo, ESPN2,
History, Fox News Channel, CNN, MSNBC, MTV, Nickelodeon,
Disney Channel, ABC Family, Lifetime, Syfy, Discovery
Channel, TLC, Travel Channel, Food Network, FX,
IFC, NFL Network and MLB Network.

In the New York trial, NimbleTV will pay for the service
on behalf of customers. According to Greenfield, the lineup
appears to be provided through Dish.

The DVR component of the service will offer 10,000
hours of DVR storage space — or more, according to Subramanian.
The DVR part of the service will be offered in
tiers, so “you can take 1,000 hours and add more space as
you go,” he said.

AT A GLANCE: NIMBLETV

Description: Startup plans to sign up consumers
for cable- or satellite-TV service, handle set-top
installation, and then deliver live and recorded TV
over the Internet anywhere in the world.

Employees: 15

Investors: Tribune Co., Greycroft Partners, Tribeca
Venture Partners, individual investors

Funding: Not disclosed

SOURCE: Multichannel News research

September