Layer3 TV, the Denver-based “next-generation” cable operator, has been conducting service trials under the “Umio” brand in select markets, according to information about the service that has appeared online.
The Umio Web site, first spotted by Variety, sheds much more light on services that will run on Layer3 TV’s platform, which features a souped-up, 4K-capable, IP-connected device and access to an extensive lineup of video packages that include local broadcast networks and dozens of cable channels such as ESPN as well as premium offerings such as HBO, Starz and Showtime.
According to Variety, Umio has been testing the service in Midland and Kingwood, Texas, since December. Suddenlink Communications, now part of Altice Group, is the incumbent cable MSO in those markets. And it's not yet clear if Umio will compete with Suddenlink, or if there a business relationship between Layer3 TV, Suddenlink and the Umio offering that's being trialed.
However, the Umio site lists a business address of 520 Maryville Centre Drive, Suite 300, St. Louis, Mo., the same address that’s listed for Cequel Communications Holdings, which was doing business as Suddenlink prior to the Altice deal. The web site's fine print also notes: "Umio is brought to you exclusively by SL3TV, LLC" which could suggest that providing a new IP-based infrastructure is a key component of Layer3 TV's strategy.
Layer3 TV has not disclosed its go-to-market strategy, but multiple sources not associated with the company who claimed to have knowledge about its plans told Multichannel News last year that one strategy of the Denver-based startup is to deploy its platform in partnership with MVPDs that are seeking a next-gen, IP-based video offering, and that Layer3 TV's platform would leverage its partner’s distribution rights. Notably, the Umio site says the service being beta-trialed is “powered by Layer3 TV.”
Update: “Think of it as direct-to-consumer, but with MSO backing,” a source said last fall, adding that the service could start in an MSO’s footprint, but could conceivably expand under a “co-op” partnership between multiple MVPDs that provide service to multiple footprints, but assembled under a common marketing campaign. If multiple MVPDs were to get on board with that idea, it could drive some needed scale into their collective video business. “I think they [Layer3 TV] believe their opportunity really is to manage the TV business for operators that want to focus on high-speed data. They are really trying to do something positive for the industry,” the source said of the Denver-based firm.
There’s has been some evidence suggesting that Layer3 TV will also operate under direct-to-consumer-looking business models. For example, there’s been evidence of new, energy-efficient fleet vehicles with Layer3 TV branding. Layer3 TV, which has raised more than $80 million, did drop somehints in a recent FCC filing indicating that it will operate as an MVPD. Additionally, cable programming and distribution vet Lindsay Gardner joined Layer3 TV’s as chief content officer last year, heading up a team that’s been looking to strike partnerships with cable networks, broadcasters, and other “compelling content creators and packagers.”
It also was not immediately known what other markets are part of the Umio beta trials.
Layer3 TV didn’t respond for comment Friday. Suddenlink has been asked to comment if it has a business relationship with Layer3 TV or the Umio service being trialed in Texas. But according to sources familiar with the trials, Umio kicked off trials in Q3 2015, and that the trials are currently over-subscribed, meaning there’s a waitlist to get access to the beta. Update: Suddenlink declined to comment.
Per the Umio web site, its service lets customers record seven shows while watching an eighth, and provides enough storage for 400 hours of HD video. The platform is also “4K-ready” (at 60 frames per second), and integrates social media to help users keep tabs on what’s trending.
Among other technical details, the platform features an integrated cable modem that “controls all data and IP video transport,” as well as 802.11ac WiFi, two voice lines, an internal speaker (for spoken interaction with remote service techs), voice control, near field communications (for easy device paring), internal storage (ranging from 1 terabyte to 4 TB), HDMI 2.0, two USB 3.0 ports, Bluetooth, and 1000 Mbps Ethernet (via an RJ45 connector).
Per information about the beta, consumers who receive an invite get 60 days of complimentary service, and can keep their current service during the trial. In turn, beta testers are expected to provide feedback.
The sample lineup shows local broadcast networks, premium channels, and dozens of national cable networks, including A&E, ESPN, ESPN2, FX, AMC, TBS, USA Network, We TV, AXS TV, Turner Classic Movies, and an array of digital music channels from Music Choice.
This is the promotional video posted to the Umio site:
Layer3 TV opened its Denver headquarters in September 2014. It was founded in 2013 by cable industry vets Jeff Binder, the former CEO of Broadbus (sold to Motorola in 2006), and David Fellows, the former CTO at Comcast.