NimbleTV Takes Manhattan

CLOUD PLATFORM CLAIMS IT BOLSTERS PAY-TV MODELS
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NimbleTV doesn’t have any direct relationships with pay TV operators, but the startup claims that its cloud-based platform, which essentially provides a virtualized version of a Slingbox and a DVR, is a friend, rather than foe, to cable- and satellite-TV providers.

Following a trial period, NimbleTV formally launched its multiscreen-capable platform in New York last week, debuting a system that allows subscribers to several major New York-area multichannel video programming distributors to access their content online.

NimbleTV offers two types of two types of packages to area residents: an “add-on” package that delivers a mix of local channels to existing, validated cable customers via the cloud, and a fuller set of services for customers that do not already have a video subscription.

‘SUPPORTS’ 4 MVPDS

Area residents who have pre-existing pay TV subscriptions can tap into NimbleTV’s platform to access their local broadcast-TV lineups (up to 24 of them for now, with more planned in the future) from the cloud, starting at $3.99 per month. NimbleTV said it “supports” four local providers: Time Warner Cable, Cablevision Systems, Verizon Communications’s FiOS TV and RCN.

Unlike Aereo, which uses an antenna array and cloud-based system to sell its own subscription packages, NimbleTV’s local-TV packages require an underlying cable subscription that it verifies with the customer’s cable login credentials.

NimbleTV’s broader “concierge” option gives customers online access to three different subscription-TV packages, starting at $29.98 and offering a lineup of more than 130 local, national cable and premium channels. The company did not reveal whose system it’s piggybacking on initially to deliver its fully-fledged TV package, but it used Dish Network during the trial phase.

Under the hosted, concierge model, NimbleTV signs up customers for video services and manages the installation of set-tops at a data center, where it re-encodes the signals and passes them along to customers; users access the service on a variety of devices, including PCs, Roku boxes, iOS devices, select smart TVs and the Apple TV box (via Airplay). NimbleTV plans to add Android devices to the list soon.

All of NimbleTV’s packages include cloud-DVR service plans: $3.99 for 20 hours of storage, $4.99 for 40 hours and $6.99 for 90 hours.

NimbleTV holds that its approach is friendly, not disruptive, to MVPD business models. The company views itself as a middleman of sorts.

“The [billing] relationship is between the operator and the customer,” CEO Anand Subramanian said. “We just sign them up and we host their TV in our data center in the cloud.”

Although NimbleTV customers get access to one primary login and password, they can also create up to three sub-accounts, he noted.

Subramanian said NimbleTV only makes money on its cloud-DVR service and doesn’t profit from the baseline subscription services it is providing access to via its data centers.

New York is just the start. NimbleTV is already taking pre-orders in India, and expects to launch data centers in Germany and Russia in 2014. As for its U.S. expansion, it’s taking a demand-based approach by asking consumers to cast votes. Based on recent results, Chicago is likely to be among the next U.S. destinations for the service, Subramanian said.

NimbleTV won’t say how many customers it has, but Subramanian said it attracted 80,000 users for its original beta trial. For what it’s worth, NimbleTV’s Facebook account had 232,026 “likes” as of last Friday morning (Dec. 13).

STAYING ‘AGNOSTIC’

NimbleTV has no plans to work directly with MVPDs, nor does it believe it has to. “We want to be agnostic,” Subramanian said. “We’re not looking to have any partnerships or relationships with anyone. We represent the consumer and don’t want to be locked into one provider for any reason.”

Dish has previously said NimbleTV is not an authorized Dish reseller and that Dish has not authorized the company to market or promote its services. The satellite provider has not indicated whether it intends to take any formal action against NimbleTV.

Founded in 2010, NimbleTV raised $6 million last fall and has 17 full-time employees. Tribune, Greycroft Partners and Tribeca Venture Partners are among its financial backers.

TAKEAWAY

Launching in the Big Apple, Nimble deftly avoids aggravating pay TV operators like similar service Aereo has.

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