Citizens Fiber Connects With MobiTV for App-Powered TV Option

Citizens Fiber, an independent service provider based in western Pennsylvania, has teamed with MobiTV to introduce a new app-based pay TV option that's supported on a wide range of mobile and TV-connected devices, including Amazon Fire TV streaming sticks.

The rollout, delivered into homes using managed IP connections (not "over-the-top," via the public internet), leans on MobiTV’s Connect platform, eschewing the need for traditional set-top boxes. The deployment also ties into MobiTV’s recently announced commercial agreement with the National Cable Television Cooperative (NCTC).

Citizens Fiber will initially test the platform with a select group of beta users before deploying it more widely this spring. It will support live TV, catch-up TV and network DVR services along with an operator-branded UI that offers recommendations and voice navigation capabilities.

Citizens Fiber, which serves about 3,500 subs in Westmoreland County, Pa. (with expansions into Latrobe and Greensburg underway), is pushing forward with the new app-based pay TV service, using it initially as a supplement to legacy options that include managed IPTV using set-top boxes in partnership with Innovative Systems and an RF-based service built around technology originally from Motorola.

In addition to satellite TV providers and two cable operators – Comcast and Armstrong Cable – Citizens Fiber is now also competing against a new wave of virtual MVPDs that deliver services over broadband to retail streaming devices.

Another aim of the new offering, in addition to getting access to an agile, multiscreen offering, is to cut down on set-top box costs and to get a faster return on pay TV services, said Zachary Cutrell, operations manager at Citizens Fiber, which reached out to MobiTV after learning of the vendor’s earlier work with C Spire.

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“It’s a real game changer for us,” Cutrell said. “We’re ready to jump in because of the cost-savings that this app-based [approach] can offer…We felt the need to jump into this space where we have our own app in the app store.”

Early on the plan is to use the new platform to offer similar pay TV packages that Citizens Fiber offers on its legacy platforms, but is also looking to develop and launch other, slimmed-down offerings that are more targeted to cord-cutters or can be bundled with 1-Gig broadband services. The vast majority of Citizens Fiber’s customers are served on fiber.

Citizens Fiber is still working out all of its subscription models for the new MobiTV-based offering, but in the early going it will charge a technology fee to offset the per-subscriber fee it’s paying to MobiTV.

In addition to enabling the per-subscriber model that sidesteps the upfront equipment costs, Citizens Fiber is also working with Hickory Telephone Company to share in some of the costs to deliver the new TV service.

“We’ve proved that they [MobiTV] have developed a product that can work for small companies,” Cutrell said.

The deployment with Citizens Fiber is an example of early results from MobiTV’s NCTC agreement. In addition to Hickory Telephone, MobiTV has previously said it has also been working with some other NCTC members, including DirectLink and USA Communications.

“This [Citizens Fiber deployment] is one of many that we’re launching right now,” Charlie Nooney, MobiTV’s chair and CEO, said.

He estimates that more than 20 operators have already signed on, and that MobiTV is in contract negotiations with another group that’s at least that size.

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Though MobiTV’s primary focus is on TV apps for retail devices such as smartphones, tablets, Roku players, and Fire TV devices, the company will also support complementary service-provider supplied streaming options.

MobiTV also is not alone in pursuing deals with independent cable operators and service providers, as they are also targets for TiVo, Colorado-based Evolution Digital and Adara Technologies.

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