MobiTV, NCTC Forge Next-Gen Video Deal

Applying a stronger focus on the cable sector, MobiTV has inked an agreement with the National Cable Television Cooperative (NCTC) that will help the co-op’s membership of indie operators migrate to next-gen, IP-based platform that eschews traditional set-top boxes.

The agreement, which focuses on MobiTV Connect, an app-based multiscreen video platform, also represents a fresh approach of sorts for the co-op, which represents more than 800 pay TV providers.

Extending well beyond a traditional “hunting license” that gives a vendor the okay to cut deals with NCTC members based on pre-negotiated terms, the new agreement factors in nuances that forge a deeper business relationship between the co-op and MobiTV.

“We’re very vested in helping Mobi[TV] get to critical mass,” Rich Fickle, president and CEO of NCTC, explained. “We’re not going to be passive about this one. We’ll be very involved and supportive.”

The new deal, which Fickle called “a game-changer in some ways,” also includes an entire section covering collaboration elements between NCTC and MobiTV, such as product roadmap and how support issues are managed – components that typically are not common to the supplier agreements that NCTC has done in the past.

“You have to drive scale,” Fickle said. “And with the shift of the larger MVPDs taking a lot of R&D in-house, you have to find ways to make it worthwhile for supplying companies to invest in the tier 2/tier 3 market. We feel that it’s important that we make commitments to help those companies justify this investment.”

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The NCTC-MobiTV deal is non-exclusive, so other suppliers eventually could join the mix with similar offerings for NCTC members.

NCTC also has a relationship in place with Evolution Digital, a Colorado-based company that’s also focused on helping independent cable operators migrate to next-gen video services. It has also forged deals with two OTT TV providers – Sony’s PlayStation Vue and fuboTV – to outsource a pay TV service that NCTC members can, in turn, offer to their broadband-only customers.

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MobiTV Connect underpins an operator-managed, IP-powered, app-based platform that enables MVPDs to deliver services on a range of connected devices rather than pricier traditional set-top boxes. It also gives those MVPDs a platform that can support their own pay TV app alongside a broad mix of from Netflix, Hulu and other popular OTT-delivered apps and services.

MobiTV’s platform, which leans on the MVPD’s distribution rights with programmers, currently supports iOS and Android smartphones and tables, Amazon Fire TV stick and boxes, Roku players and Roku TVs, Apple TV, certain Android TV smart TVs and players (including the Nvidia Shield), and most web browsers.

And rather than delivering TV into the home, MobiTV’s platform is designed for the video to travel on the cable network as a managed service – a closed transmission – that doesn’t use the open internet.

Fickle said it’s important to tap into that retail ecosystem because it will vastly reduce set-top costs for NCTC members.

A handful of operators that are also NCTC members are already working with MobiTV: DirectLink, Citizens Fiber, USA Communication and Hickory Telephone.

Those operators signed directly with MobiTV before the NCTC deal was consummated, but they all have the ability to opt-in to the new agreement, Fickle said, adding that another 20 or so operators have shown “high interest” in working with MobiTV or have been waiting for the new agreement to be completed.

MobiTV’s customer base also includes C Spire, T-Mobile, Sprint, AT&T, US Cellular and Reliance, among others.

More detail on the MobiTV-NCTC deal and its implications will be featured in the Dec. 11 edition of Broadcasting & Cable.