Startup NimbleTV Launches Service That Offers Pay TV Packages Via Cloud

The NimbleTV interface
The NimbleTV interface
 

NEW YORK – Startup NimbleTV is launching a cloud-based service that makes pay TV packages available on various devices to pay TV subscribers. The firm is looking to tap into growing consumer demand for time- and place-shifting of TV content, starting with consumers in the New York City metropolitan area.

The NimbleTV launch comes as pay TV operators have been slow to make TV content available online and on mobile devices to their subscribers as part of so-called TV Everywhere initiatives.

STORY: Start-Up NimbleTV to Move Users' Pay TV Channels Online

The privately held company, which had previously unveiled a service trial, on Tuesday said it has started offering U.S. pay TV packages digitally via two types of services for a monthly fee. The first service focuses on local channels, while the second one offers a full lineup of pay TV channels. Subscribers need an Internet connection, a New York City address and a pay TV subscription -- either a current one or one that NimbleTV sets up for them. Users don't need any boxes or other equipment.

"TV today is everywhere -- it’s all over the place, and it’s a mess,” said Anand Subramanian, NimbleTV founder and CEO. “Our goal is to make TV easy again for consumers, while doing it in a way that supports the industry. Our approach simply improves existing pay TV -- it does not displace it.”

The company calls itself "the cloud-based TV service that finally makes 'TV Everywhere' a reality."

"The best way to describe our service is, it's like Slingbox and TiVo without a box," Subramanian told THR.

While the firm doesn't have official business relationships or support from pay TV firms, it says its service shouldn't come as a surprise for them, since the firm has talked about some of its plans in the past. With some TV startups, such as Aereo, having faced opposition and legal action from established industry players, Subramanian emphasized that NimbleTV's service is based on authenticated cable TV subscriptions. "We are simply enhancing paid TV subscriptions for consumers," he said, adding that pay TV companies get fully paid under NimbleTV's business model.

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Nimble's service allows people to watch TV on various devices. Users can access the service on iOS devices, Roku, Apple TV, Internet-enabled TVs and "all popular browsers," with Android availability to be added soon. The service makes TV content available on the go, including when subscribers travel abroad. NimbleTV puts the content in the cloud following a simple signup at nimbletv.com. Its search feature enables customers to find programming by show title, network and genre.

One of the two services offered by NimbleTV is for current pay TV customers and provides up to 24 local channels, such as news, sports and other channels, as a cloud-based add-on to existing pay TV packages, starting at $3.99 per month. "Activation of this feature requires an underlying cable subscription that NimbleTV verifies with the consumer’s login credentials," the firm said. "Local providers that NimbleTV supports include Time Warner Cable, Cablevision, Verizon FiOS and RCN."

But Subramanian emphasized, "We represent the consumer. We are completely agnostic and not associated with any single provider."

The company's second offer allows anyone to use NimbleTV as a "concierge" service to sign up for a new subscription TV package that the firm manages and puts in the cloud. Three pricing plans offer up to over 130 networks, including local, cable and premium channels.

The pricing here begins at $29.98 per month for casual users, who get 31-plus channels and 20 hours of HD DVR. The "TV fan" package with 42-plus channels and 30-plus HD channels costs $54.98 per month, while the $79.98 a month "enthusiast" package comes with 96-plus channels and 50-plus HD channels. The company doesn't require a long-term commitment.

Such networks as ABC Family, BET, the NFL Network, Bravo, Animal Planet, OWN and Univision are only available with the enthusiast package, while Comedy Central, MSNBC, History and HGTV are available in all packages. ESPN, Discover and Syfy are only available with the TV fan and enthusiast packages, while Bloomberg and TV Guide Network come only with the casual package.

"We set you up with a cable or satellite service in your name, and then you can access it from the cloud," Subramanian explained. "There's an underlying subscription you pay to the provider."

That also means that channels that a pay TV provider drops in a carriage dispute will become unavailable, and if a pay TV operator changes prices, that will also be reflected in future user bills.

"We're not trying to change the rules of the game. We are simply laser-focused on making TV simple again," the CEO told THR. And if there is a special promotion by a pay TV operator, "consumers will be able to take advantage of it," he added.

Both types of services include cloud-based HD DVR service.

Without describing the full financial details of how the firm will make money, Subramanian said NimbleTV passes the cost of a pay TV service on to the consumer to fully compensate the pay TV operator and adds a DVR and hosting fee on top of that to make its own revenue.

He did not provide details about where the company sets up cable and satellite TV services that it puts into the cloud beyond saying that the firm's data center is handling things.

Asked what types of users have expressed interest in the service, Subramanian said they have been predominantly male and interested in all kinds of content, not just sports.

NimbleTV is launching with TV programming content from the U.S., with TV offerings from other countries expected to be added over time. The company's website currently mentions planned channel offerings from India, and Subramanian also mentioned Russian and German channels as likely future offerings.

"TV Everywhere is a buzzword, but we also want to offer TV from everywhere," he said.

He said a U.S. rollout beyond New York City will be primarily driven by interest in local content from other areas of the country: "Our plan is to roll out beyond New York City based on where our community tells us we should go next."

The company, whose investors include venture capital firms Greycroft Partners and Tribeca Venture Partners, as well as media firm Tribune Co., last year was honored with one of the Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards, along with other companies and individuals.

Asked how he came up with the idea for NimbleTV, Subramanian said: "The system of signing up for TV is completely broken." He said he wanted to change that and "make sure that both the content guys and the consumers are kept in mind. The key distinction is, we look at the problem from a consumer's point of view."

Email: Georg.Szalai@THR.com
Twitter: @georgszalai

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