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Canby Telcom to Sell Broadcast TV Tier on Roku Boxes

Canby Telcom of Oregon is preparing to launch a streamlined “Pay TV Lite” package comprised of eight local broadcast TV channels that will be offered exclusively on Roku boxes and sell for $14.95 per month.

Canby, a telco based about 25 miles outside of Portland with about 7,000 customers, said its new, authenticated “EZVideo” channel on Roku will augment its current triple play packages using a reduced, lineup of live local broadcast channels, video on demand from its local origination channel, CTV5, that will be delivered through the Roku device.

Phase 1 of EZ Video will deliver the live feeds of KATU (ABC), KOIN (CBS), KGW (NBC), KOPB and OPB Plus (PBS), KPTV (Fox), KRCW, and KPDX (Fox).  Canby  VP of network operations Brandon Zupancic said the telco is also looking to offer “additional compelling content” that is not offered on its traditional IPTV service or by its satellite TV or cable competitors, which include Wave Broadband.

“We definitely  don’t want to cannibalize our existing [IPTV] service,” he said.

The $14.95 price for the “Pay TV Lite” package includes the first Roku box, plus installation and unlimited support, Zupancic said, noting that Canby is “shooting for” a June 3 launch.  He said customers can receive up to three Roku players for every 10 Mbps they get from their high-speed Internet service. Among Canby’s Internet tiers, its speediest maxes out at 60 Mbps downstream by 30 Mbps upstream for $109.95 per month.

On the technical end, Elemental Technologies Live processors will convert and prepare MPEG-2-based broadcast channels into adaptive bitrate Apple HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) signals, which will then be relayed to the Roku boxes over a managed broadband connection. Elemental encoders will create three streaming profiles:  a 720p stream at 2 Mbps, a mid-level 720p stream at 1.2 Mbps, and a standard-definition version that runs at 720 kbps, according to Elemental VP of marketing Keith Wymbs.

Canby’s new tier is likely to appeal to customers who are tightening their belts or considering cutting the cord. Leichtman Research Group just released a study showing that the top U.S. pay TV service providers collectively lost video subs for the first time over a four-quarter period, attributing the decline to an increased focus by MSOs on higher-value subscribers and pressure from over-the-air TV and over-the-top options.

Canby’s skinned-down approach shares some traits with Aereo, which is in a court battle with major broadcasters that are eager to protect the retransmission fees they receive from pay TV operators. Portland is not yet among the expansion cities identified by Aereo, but other operators could try to replicate Canby’s service. Canby is paying broadcasters retransmission rights to deliver their signals to the Roku box.

Elemental plans to show off this budding video distribution model at The Cable Show, set to run June 10-12 in Washington, D.C.  Elemental and will also host a webcast on June 3 to discuss the offer in more detail with Zupancic and KPTV/KPDX VP and GM Patrick McCreery.

While Canby appears to be among the first pay TV providers to deliver a slimmed down package of video services via the Roku, it’s not the first operator to take advantage of the device. Several tier 2 and tier 3 providers are giving away Roku boxes as bolt-ons to add value to their broadband service.

“Several” other operators from around the country have contacted Canby about its EZ Video tier, Zupancic said.

Among tier 1s, Time Warner Cable offers about 300 live TV channels on the Roku via its TWC TV app and has not announced any plans to offer a stripped down TV tier via the streaming device.