MobiTV Joins the Pay TV Hunt

In a move that will certainly catch the Federal Communications Commission’s attention as it pursues new set-top rules, MobiTV has come out firing with a new pay TV platform that enables providers to deliver services on a new class of streaming platforms while leaving old-style boxes in the dust.

C Spire, the first U.S.-based multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD) to team up with MobiTV, is working on a next-generation TV platform that will focus on applications compatible with several connected platforms, including Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV devices and select smart TVs, as well as iOS and Android smartphones and tablets.

The Mississippi-based wireless operator expects to boot up a beta test in November to get customer feedback before moving ahead with a commercial launch.

C Spire is not new to pay TV. Its legacy “Super HD TV” already supports a mobile app with TV Everywhere support, an interactive program guide and a whole-home DVR that can record up to 400 hours of HD and record six shows at the same time.

C Spire confirmed that its current video platform was developed in partnership with Innovative Systems and its next-generation, app-focused TV product with MobiTV will be delivered into the home via a managed IP connection.

A C Spire official also said the company would use a “cap and grow strategy” for the next-generation TV service. “That said, we will allow legacy customers to upgrade at some point,” he added.

C Spire has deployed fiber to eight cities: Clinton, Flora, Jackson, Madison, Madison County, Quitman, Ridgeland and Starkville.

MobiTV has typically focused on mobile operators, and counts clients such as AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, Sprint, T-Mobile, Telus, US Cellular and Verizon.

As for in-home pay TV services, MobiTV has been centering on international markets, where it has deployments underway in Germany, Japan and India. But it’s again turning its attention to U.S.-based MVPDs as business and programming-distribution rights continue to open up, MobiTV CEO Charlie Nooney said.

MobiTV, which pitched its platform to tier 2 or 3 operators at The Independent Show in Orlando, Fla., last month, isn’t saying the industry should eliminate the set-top box altogether. Rather, MVPDs should expand their options because “the world is moving to OTT devices,” Nooney said.

C Spire hasn’t announced packaging and pricing for its new service, but Nooney said MobiTV’s platform, which handles authentication, billing, content management and client work for the different device endpoints, can support skinny bundles as well as more traditional, full-freight offerings. What matters are the distribution rights that the individual MVPD has with its programming partners.

C Spire is shooting for large and smaller game. Under an in-network model, for larger operators, it can weave its software into the operator’s hardware. MobiTV is also selling a managed/hosted service.

“This market is very attractive to us,” Nooney said. “They [the operators] are facing some really hard decisions.”

MobiTV will also have plenty of company as it pursues deals with U.S. MVPDs that are looking to launch next-generation pay TV products. Also in hot pursuit is Evolution Digital, which is focused on the independent cable market; Espial, which will use its recent acquisition of Arris’s Whole Home Solution software to chase down deals in the U.S. and abroad; and Ericsson, which is trying to make hay with its new MediaFirst platform.

Comcast, meanwhile, has been trying to syndicate and license its X1 platform to other MVPDs. Though it has yet to gain traction in the tier 2/3 sector, it has landed agreements with two larger operators, Cox Communications and Canada’s Shaw Communications.