Dish Network and Sony aren’t the only over-thetop pay TV competitors that cable operators could contend with next year.
MSOs will also be facing off against a group of wellheeled wireless carriers that are eager to extend the reach of their mobile video packages and invade cable’s primary turf — the living room.
It’s also expected that MobiTV will play a key role in helping those carriers make the jump from the mobile screen to the big screen.
MobiTV, a provider of mobile video backend platforms to several major wireless carriers, including AT&T, Sprint, US Cellular and Verizon Wireless, has been developing a “white label” streaming stick/dongle that will connect to TVs via the HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) port.
The service will use integrated WiFi links to stream a curated array of live TV channels as well as a library of on-demand video, music and games — all delivered over-the-top. Those sticks will work off of MobiTV’s platform, which handles content acquisition and ingest, management and formatting, and applies the carriers’ business policies.
Like streaming sticks such as the popular Google Chromecast or the recently announced Amazon Fire TV Stick, MobiTV’s version will be controlled from mobile apps. MobiTV’s platform will also feature a new user interface and an integrated search function.
MobiTV has yet to announce its launch partners of offer any details on how these services will be packaged and priced, but has said the products are coming soon, offering a new twist on the so-called “virtual” multichannel video programming distributor.
The approach will give wireless operators a new growth opportunity, enabling them to retain a billing relationship with the customer and deliver a service that can drive up the average revenue per user (ARPU), Rick Herman, MobiTV’s chief strategy officer, said.
“We’re getting ready to roll this out,” Herman said, estimating the product will hit the market sometime during the first half of 2015. “The streaming stick is a super-interesting proposition for wireless operators because it allows them to get into the living room and get those higher ARPUs. It gives them an opportunity to take their mobile experience and extend it across all screens.”
MobiTV is not a hardware company, but it has lined up the partners needed to build the device and get it distributed. Jabil Circuit is on board to make the device, while Amlogic will supply silicon that provides the chipset-layer security integration needed to get HD video to the big screen. Brightstar, a logistics and supply chain company that’s a subsidiary of Sprint parent Softbank, has signed on to help MobiTV get the device into the wireless retail and consumer distribution machine.
Herman said he believes wireless carriers will have an advantage because of their extensive reach, billing relationships with millions of consumers, and the marketing muscle to back it up. “They are pretty well positioned to do a broader play than the regional fiber guy,” he explained.
Time will tell if these new services will perform as advertised and how they will resonate with consumers looking for pay TV alternatives, as well as a small but growing number of “cord-cutters,” but it will mark a significant milestone for MobiTV, which has been pursuing the general mobile video market since its founding in 1999.
“This has always been our vision for the future,” Paul Scanlan, MobiTV’s president and co-founder, said. “But admittedly there were a few points in time where we questioned our vision just because it seemed like the stranglehold was being held for so long. We’re glad we stuck with it because the timing does seem to be right.”
MobiTV also is working with Verizon Communications on the telco’s emerging LTE multicast platform, and has been providing the underpinnings of Deutsche Telekom’s TV Everywhere service and its new network DVR.
On the horizon is MobiTV’s first commercial deployment on a set-top box, which will be offered by an unnamed major operator in Asia.
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