There’s no shortage of over-the-top providers vying for attention from the small-but-growing cord-cutting crowd.
On the free, ad-supported front, Comcast is targeting millennials with Watchable, a service that’s currently in beta form, while Verizon Communications is pushing hard with go90, a mobile-first OTT service that is also gaining access to valuable National Basketball Association content, including live games.
But several others are chasing after these young viewers with skinny bundles or a la carte offerings, a group that includes wellheeled services such as Dish Network’s Sling TV and Sony’s PlayStation Vue.
And startups are also taking a stab as wired and mobile broadband speeds are on the increase and programming rights continue to show signs of loosening. One such company is KlowdTV, an OTT service that launched last September with two packages (news and entertainment), and has been expanding ever since.
KlowdTV “at its core, is custom-designed for cord-cutters,” company CEO and cofounder Bill O’Hara said, noting that it’s for consumers who have left the pay TV arena in recent years and for millennials who have thus far avoided traditional multichannel-TV offerings.
He said those groups have some commonalities — they don’t want to pay “outrageous” fees for big packages and want to pick and choose what they do pay for.
“That’s the principal pain point that KlowdTV really wanted to address when we were setting up our model,” he said.
That model focuses on a la carte offerings and genre-specific “micro-packages” (see chart).
O’Hara does not draw comparisons between KlowdTV and Dish Network’s Sling TV, a service that starts at $20 per month for a skinny channel bundle that includes ESPN, ESPN2, AMC, A&E, IFC, HGTV, ABC Family, Bloomberg Television and CNN.
O’Hara doesn’t believe that current approaches on the skinny bundle offer a “sustainable model” because it doesn’t give cord-cutters enough autonomy to choose.
“Consumer choice is significantly greater in our model,” he said. “We’ve gone away from the base package mentality … We strongly believe that cord-cutters aren’t looking for just a replication of the cable model, but streaming. They aren’t looking for a base package with window dressing; they’re looking for the ability to choose their content and select their price point.”
Granted, KlowdTV’s current lineup is not exactly brimming with household-name video services or channels that offer the highest-rated shows.
But O’Hara claims that the Arlington, Va.-based provider has a content pipeline that’s “overflowing” and that the OTT service will issue a “significant release” before the end of the year that will tack on access to content from another 30 networks.
He declined to name them, but said the mix will span content from media conglomerates, broadcasters, and independent, niche video content suppliers.
What’s still not apparent is how KlowdTV will overcome current distribution models that typically require pay TV providers to tie networks together. While traditional license fees are part of KlowdTV’s game plan, O’Hara would only say that the company is addressing that particular challenge “creatively.”
“Some of these restrictions on contracts and carriage agreements are loosening up a little bit and people are looking for way to capture these [consumers] who are leaving the industry,” he said.
And KlowdTV will find it tough to get a good license-fee rate from networks without a big subscriber base. O’Hara wouldn’t provide subcriber numbers, but said the service generated a 200% boost in signups in the current quarter versus the prior two. Most of those customers are 19 to 34 years old, and “returning users” spend close to 40 minutes every time they visit the site, O’Hara said.
As for the platform, KlowdTV is similar to a multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD) in that it uses satellite downlinks to ingest the content and then encodes it into adaptive bit rate feeds (of up to 720p HD resolution) that can be viewed on several platforms, including Web browsers, iOS and Android mobile devices, Roku players, the Amazon Fire TV, TiVo boxes, Hisense TVs, Samsung Blu-ray players, and other connected devices that operate on the Opera TV app system.
KlowdTV, a company founded in June 2014 with about 20 total staffers (full-time and working on a contract basis), is also developing a cloud-based digital video recorder feature that’s currently in beta.
Taking the OTT Angle
KlowdTV’s contract-free offerings span four micropackages and a haul of channels available a la carte:
Sports Package ($3.49 per month): beIN Sports, GolTV, Fight Network, FNTSY Sports Network, Outdoor Sport Channel, FightBox HD, and FastBox & Fun HD.
News Package ($2.99 per month) : Bloomberg Television, Sky News, One America News Network, RT America, Newsmax TV, and France 24 (English).
Entertainment Package ($2.99 per month): A Wealth of Entertainment (AWE), Youtoo America, Vibrant TV Network, RTD, Ducktv, Rev’n, and Tuff TV.
Outdoor Lifestyle Package ($2.99 per month): Ride TV, HRTV, Chukker TV, Docubox, Pursuit Channel, Hunt Channel, eScapes, and The Outdoor Cooking Channel.
A La Carte Channels: Ride TV ($2.49), HRTV ($1.99), Pursuit Channel ($1.25), Hunt Channel and eScapes ($0.99 each).