Canby Telcom’s Roku TV Tier Aims to Sidestep Aereo, Ivi Pitfalls

Canby Telcom’s slimmer, trimmer TV tier for Roku boxes will pay tribute to the broadcasters in the form of retransmission fees and take other steps to ensure that the telco avoids any legal entanglements with broadcasters.

“We designed the service so it would not duplicate any of those problems that got Aereo and ivi sued,” said Brandon Zupancic, Canby Telcom’s vice president of network operations. “Aereo and ivi were looking to push the barriers of copyright laws, and we’re not looking to do that.”

Aereo is in the middle of its fight with major broadcasters, but continues to expand into new markets even as the courts determine its fate. Ivi died on the vine. In March, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a petition to review an appeals court decision to uphold an injunction against ivi, which had once sold a broadcast TV service via broadband for $4.99 per month in markets such as Seattle, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. While ivi got in trouble in part because it sent broadcast signals out of their designated market areas via broadband, Aereo’s approach is to rent out individual antennas and to limit access to its service to customers who live within given DMAs.

Canby, Zupancic said, was careful to negotiate with broadcasters how their signals are to be delivered to Roku boxes and to adhere to the retrans deals Canby, a telco based about 25 miles outside of Portland with about 7,000 customers, had already cut with broadcasters for the telco's legacy IPTV service. “There’s no reason for us to invite any unnecessary conflict between us and the broadcasters when we already have a model that works very well,” he said, noting that several other pay TV operators are looking at Canby's 'pay TV lite' model.

Canby is shooting for the June 3 launch of EZVideo, a tier comprised of eight local broadcast TV channels offered on Roku boxes that will sell for $14.95 per month. The telco will use servers from Elemental Technologies that convert the broadcast TV feeds into adaptive bit rate streams for the Roku.

Zupancic acknowledged that that EZVideo could appeal to so-called “cord-cutters,” but said it is also priced in a way to attract consumers that don’t subscribe to pay TV now and don’t have access to decent over-the-air reception. Canby can also use EZVideo to target homes that aren’t within reach of Canby’s regular IPTV service, he said.

And Zupancic holds that EZVideo won't be delivered “over-the-top.” Instead, it will come in via Canby’s closed, private IP network, much in the way that its legacy IPTV service is delivered now. “It does not go over the public Internet. It will be a managed, live streaming broadband video product," Zupancic said.