Live and on-demand content from Time Warner Cable’s authenticated TWC TV app will feature prominently during the national retail launch of a new IP video streaming platform from Fan TV that will offer content from a set of initial partners via a small device coupled to a fancy interface, touch-based, button-less remote, and an integrated video discovery platform.
Fanhattan Inc., the company behind the Android-based Fan TV device and platform, said it is pre-selling units on its web site now for $99 during a promotional period, and expects to start shipping product in the second quarter. There’s no set date on the end of that promotional period, but the Fan TV device/remote combo will eventually carry a price of $149, according to Fan TV CEO Gilles BianRosa.
In addition to TWC TV, an app that offers in-home access to more than 300 live TV channels and a library of VOD fare, Fan TV will also boot up at retail with apps from Redbox Instant by Verizon, Crackle, Rhapsody, and Target Ticket, the electronic sell-through service launched by the retailer last fall.
Although Fan TV appears to be another player in a growing market of streaming video devices that include Apple TV, the Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast and the Roku platform, BianRosa said the company will lean on linear, live TV services and its integrated video discovery platform to help it stand out from the pack.
“This is not a box of apps,” BianRosa insisted. “It starts with the discovery of content.”
Live TV, he said, is the “anchor tenant” and “the main use case for this device.”
While Fan TV does plan to expand the number of apps available on its platform (Netflix and Hulu Plus are among those that are noticeably absent early on), the focus will be linking users to content from a wide range of sources, while also looking to integrate live TV services from additional multichannel programming video distributors (MVPDs).
“We can release and push new content and features to it on a weekly basis. This is day one,” BianRosa said.
TWC, an MSO with 11 million residential subscribers, is the first MVPD to integrate with the product Fan TV will distribute nationally, but it’s not the first cable operator to work with the the company, which was founded in 2010 and has about 50 employees.
Last year, Cox Communications used an earlier iteration of Fanhattan’s platform for FlareWatch, a live TV and cloud DVR service combo delivered over IP to broadband-only customers in Orange County, Calif. Cox shut down that brief, technical market trial in last fall.
Fan TV is “in discussions” with multiple MVPDs, BianRosa said, noting that his company and TWC have been in discussions for about a year.
“It’s a very limited level of effort” to get an MVPD on board, he claimed, noting that Fan TV handles metadata management and other backend pieces. “MVPDs just need to connect their video feed with our device.”
Fan TV has not announced plans to have MVPDs lease its device, but during Phase I of its plan it will sell the product only via its own Web site. BianRosa said Fan TV intends to distribute products through retailer partners as well.
Fanhattan, which claims to have 2 million users for its Fan TV iPad app, made a big splash last May at the D11 Conference, announcing its box, button-less remote and platform alongside ambitions to be the “input 1 set-top box” that can seamlessly toggle between pay TV and OTT content via an integrated UI.
TWC, which is in the process of being acquired by Comcast, has bought into the concept. Last fall, Matthew Zelesko, TWC's senior vice president, converged technology group, told Multichannel News that "[t]he prospect of a customer buying a box for $99 and using that as their set-top … as an additional outlet in the house or a house full of those is a really exciting proposition for us."
“The Fan TV experience is a leap forward for the cable industry,” said Mike Angus, SVP and GM, video, for TWC, in a statement. “Fan TV is the perfect marriage of the compelling content we at Time Warner Cable bring to customers with the complementary services available to consumers, delivering both in a rich experience for seamless entertainment. The service leans into the multiple ways that consumers are increasingly watching their entertainment across live TV, VOD and streaming, and pulls them together in an intuitive product.”
Although TWC TV is an anchor tenant on Fan TV, with availability limited to TWC subscribers, Time Warner Cable also supports its TV Everywhere app on several other platforms, including PC browsers, iOS- and Android-based smartphones and tablets, Samsung smart TVs, Amazon Kindle tablets, the Xbox 360, and on Roku devices.
TWC has also developed its own cloud-based UI and is investing in a next-gen video platform based on the Reference Design Kit, the software stack for IP-based boxes being managed by Comcast, TWC and Liberty Global. Last week, TWC announced that Humax will make its first RDK-based device.