Startup Takes Aim at Comcast, Time Warner With "Concierge Cable" Service

Courtesy of Layer3TV

Denver-based Layer3 TV has struck deals with Disney, NBCUniversal and others for a 200-plus channel cable package.

Cable startup Layer3 TV is betting that the "skinny bundle" is a trend that won't satisfy most television viewers. 

The Colorado-based company is prepping a nationwide rollout of a full television package that includes more than 200 channels — everything from NBC to CNN to HBO to Pac-12 Network. 

Layer3's plan goes against the current thinking that customers, fed up with hefty cable bills for channels they rarely watch, are more interested in limited, or skinny, bundles and a la carte options. But chief content officer Lindsay Gardner says that Layer3's customers will be people who want a better cable experience than what they're currently receiving. "The people who are turning out to be our subscribers are people who already see the value of spending $100 or more on a pay television subscription, but they want more than their current cable or satellite company can give them," he says, rattling off features like all HD channels and no contract. "We're finding that people are deliriously happy to get something that works better and looks better and costs no more than what they're currently paying for telco, cable or satellite." 

In other words, Gardner says that Layer3 is providing "concierge cable" with white-glove set up provided by technicians who arrive in electric BMWs, a "cancel anytime" policy and upfront pricing. 

None of this would entice customers without a channel offering that rivals other cable providers. Layer3 has spent the last year and a half striking deals with the major programmers, including NBCUniversal, Disney, CBS and Viacom. The experience of Layer3's founding team helped. CEO Jeff Binder is the founder of Broadbus Technologies, CTO Dave Fellows is the former CTO for Comcast and Gardner is a former Cox and Fox executive. "That got my calls returned, it got us our first meetings," says Gardner. "But over time, after that initial meeting, every single programmer we spent time with came to love what we're doing." 

Layer3, which has backing from Evolution Media Partners, also is programmer-friendly, carrying every channel from an NBCU or Viacom and agreeing to offer up full stacks of on-demand content. "Layer3 TV's user interface and packaging options offer a fantastic environment, taking advantage of the latest technology to present our content," said Justin Connolly, executive vp affiliate sales and market at Disney and ESPN Media Networks. "We continue to look for new ways to reach consumers and Layer3 TV offers a great avenue to do that." 

It also is trying to position itself as more customer-friendly, with a user interface that combines live television, on-demand programming and streaming offerings from companies like Netflix. As Gardner puts it, "We've done away with the input button." 

Layer3 is one of a number of companies exploring how to attract customers to live television offerings. Some, like Hulu and Dish's Sling, are focusing on a lower-priced bundle with a smaller selection of channels, while others like PlayStation's Vue are going after cable with more robust packages. 

Layer3 is currently available in Chicago, but expects to roll out soon in other markets. The price ranges from $75 to above $100, depending on the package.

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