Start-up Orby TV Beams into U.S. Satellite TV Biz with Pre-Pay Play

Co-founded by former Starz CRO Michael Thornton, ex Disney exec Tres Izzard, and former DirecTV operative Carl Crabill, new pay TV service aims for rural consumers with limited broadband access
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Sure, people laughed at Jeff Binder when he launched a cable TV start-up back in 2015 … until he sold it to T-Mobile for $325 million.

Orby TV DVR package

Orby TV DVR package

Certainly, the launch of Orby TV, a new satellite TV startup co-founded by former Starz chief financial officer Michael Thornton and ex Disney executive Tres Izzard, seems counter-intuitive, coming in a year in which the major U.S. satellite TV incumbents, DirecTV and Dish Network, are on pace to shed another 1.5 million customers.

Things have gotten so bad in the U.S. satellite TV business that hedge fund Elliott Management, which controls $3.2 billion worth of AT&T shares, sent a letter to the telecom’s board demanding that they sell off DirecTV.

But into the breach goes Orby TV, which is charging $40 a month for around 44 cable channels, including the crown basic cable jewels from WarnerMedia, Viacom, AMC Networks and Discovery. There’s no ESPN or other sports channels. Orby TV offers an outdoor antenna for customers to receive local channels. (Orby’s marketing page, which includes two programming tiers, is already up.)

Headquartered out of Burbank, Calif., Orby TV lets users configure up to four rooms with CPE they buy themselves. The Orby TV satellite receiver and remote cost $100, or $200 for one with a DVR. The company is offering installation of the the satellite dish, as well as the TV antenna, and wiring and set-up of one receiver/DVR, for $150. Each additional room costs $50.

Perhaps most notable: Orby TV has a pre-paid format, allowing users to “pause” their pay TV subscription when they’re not using it.

Indeed, as start-up virtual MVPD company Vidgo is insisting, there’s a significant untapped market of consumers who face financial barriers into the traditional pay TV ecosystem, which typically requires a credit check. (Editor’s note: Orby TV claims to be the first pre-paid pay TV service in the U.S., but Vidgo has been in business with a pre-paid virtual pay TV package since last year.)

Further, Orby TV believes there is a core of rural consumers, for whom the broadband capabilities necessary to stream video are unavailable. Satellite is their best option for receiving TV signals … but again, DirecTV and Dish are increasingly pricey, as all traditional pay TV services are, and they require a credit check.

“Orby TV is truly looking to make a difference for consumers who enjoy television by providing an alternative that is ‘easy to do business with’ and offer great value, affordability and transparency. Orby TV prides itself on offering a low prices without promotional gimmicks,” Thornton said in a statement. “For the estimated 30 million U.S. households who don’t have or want an expensive high-speed connection, and the millions more who want an affordable TV provider alternative, Orby TV offers quality TV entertainment at a reasonable price.”

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