HBO, Mark Cuban Bank on Tivli

Count Mark Cuban and HBO among the believers in Tivli, a startup whose aim is to help traditional pay TV providers stay connected to college students who are more inclined to get their video fix via tablets, laptops, smartphones and other devices that aren’t televisions.

They’re part of a group that has joined a $6.3 million “Series A” round in Tivli led by led by New Enterprise Associates, with participation from Felicis Ventures, Rho Ventures, WME and CBC New Media Group. Cuban, the founder of AXS TV, is pitching in via his Radical Investments venture arm.

Tivli, in partnership with colleges and pay TV operators such as Dish Network, has developed a transcoding platform that delivers adaptive bit rate video streams via closed, Internet protocol-based campus networks to an array of connected devices.

Tivli takes in the traditional pay TV feeds and turns them into protected IP streams that are shuttled over the university’s private network to devices used by college students, CEO Christopher Thorpe said.

Tivli, founded in 2010, is also rolling out a cloud digital video recorder that will provide at least 20 hours of storage, Thorpe said. The Tivli service is only accessible on the private campus network. Students are required to authenticate themselves by signing in with their university credentials or their Facebook usernames and passwords — the kind of information students typically would be loath to share with others.

Because Tivli uses the school’s campus backbone, its video traffic does not mix with or otherwise impact the university’s public Internet network, Thorpe said.

Tivli, he said, was developed to deliver pay TV services to students who tend to watch video on smaller, more mobile screens. And it gives providers an easy way to deliver IP video on college campus networks and preserve their carriage agreements with programmers.

College students “love television, they just don’t have TVs,” Thorpe said. For students that still go old school and use television sets, Tivli has created a private channel for Roku boxes.

Following its initial launch at Harvard University, Tivli also offers service at Brown University, Yale, Roanoke College, Texas A&M University, Wesleyan University, and the University of Washington. Thorpe said “tens of thousands” of students currently use Tivli, and he expects the company to have its platform deployed in “dozens of schools” by the end of 2013.

Tivli has established multiple distribution models. At Harvard, for example, Tivli transcodes signals from Dish. At Yale, which obtains video service in bulk from Comcast, Tivli works directly with the university. Tivli has also outfitted its system to work with authenticated TV Everywhere services, starting with HBO Go.

Tivli’s business model relies on payments from college partners as well as revenues derived from advertising it places on its interactive program guide.

Thorpe said schools and programmers such as HBO are keen on Tivli because its system has been shown to reduce video piracy rates and Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown notices among college students.


Tivli, which authenticates college students to watch pay TV on the mobile devices they favor, has won some big backers.