MobiTV Targets a New Opportunity

Telcos and cable operators must shift to Internet protocol-delivered, multiscreen platforms to stay competitive and ward off a small but growing cord-cutting trend. This critical need has also opened windows of opportunity for vendors and other providers that offer the core technologies that enable them to take that leap.

Among them is MobiTV, a company that cut its teeth on mobile video and is now pushing hard into the in-home pay TV sector, both in the U.S. and abroad.

The company will use a recently landed $21 million round of funding (it has raised about $180 million so far) to accelerate and expand MobiTV Connect, a new IP-based, app-powered platform that enables multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) to deliver services on a wide range of smartphones, tablets and TV-connected streaming devices while also sidestepping the need to use traditional set-top boxes.

MobiTV, which already works with such mobile providers as AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile, has had some early successes in the in-home pay TV services market with Connect, and now works with a growing group of U.S.-based service providers such as C Spire, DirectLink (formerly Canby Telcom) and Citizens Fiber.

Internationally, Indian provider Reliance is working with MobiTV to deliver a live, over-the-top video service with more than 400 channels and a cloud DVR. That offering, called Jio, launched as a subscription mobile-video product but will expand to support an in-home service.

MobiTV said its platform, which includes a customizable cloud-based user interface, complies with Title VI rules for pay TV, including support for ratings, content protection, and closed captioning.

“We have a lot of traction for this solution,” MobiTV CEO Charlie Nooney said. “We’re trying to hit the North American market really hard. The next 18 months will be critical in this space.”

In North America, MobiTV’s sweet spot will be small and midsized operators, Nooney said, noting that his company is engaged with the National Cable Television Cooperative, a group that strikes programming and technology deals for an array of independent service providers.

MobiTV is far from alone in its pursuit of this opportunity. Evolution Digital is also going after small and midsized cable operators with eVUE-TV, a platform that enables a transition to IP video. Comcast is syndicating its X1 platform with large MVPDs such as Cox Communications, Rogers Communications and Shaw Communications.

Nooney is also wary of the competitive threat posed by virtual MVPDs such as Sling TV and DirecTV Now. While those services are direct-to-consumer plays, there’s the potential for them to support reseller business models in partnership with cable operators and telcos that are no longer enamored with operating their own pay TV services and are considering whether to cede part of that business to OTT providers in exchange for a bounty or a revenue share.

But Nooney said that approach is risky. “I think most of these [operators] want to stay in video,” he said. “It’s a very valuable relationship to give to someone else.”

Nooney said MobiTV Connect can help those providers stay in the game and extend a bridge to the IP world by pairing fully-protected apps with a variety of OTT retail devices, while also offering an “Xfinity-type experience” that includes bells and whistles like network DVRs and voice-based navigation and to support slimmed-down bundles, if their distribution rights allow for it.

“This allows [pay TV providers] to compete on a level playing field” while also taping into a brisk product innovation cycle afforded by OTT video and avoiding a heavy investment in set-top boxes, he said.