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‘PhoenixBTV’ Streams Batch of Local Broadcast Nets to Mobile Devices

Billing it as “antenna TV for the mobile age,” Didja Inc. is testing a service in the Phoenix area that captures the over-the-air TV signals of select local broadcasters and streams them to Web browsers as well as market-branded apps for Android and iOS smartphones and tablets.

The offering, called PhoenixBTV, is starting as a free, consumer beta that streams in more than 20 channels. Didja, which has a cloud DVR feature on its product roadmap, said it also has plans to offer a paid premium version of the service that will deliver more than 50 channels of local TV.

Users will also be able to watch the service on TVs using a Google Chromecast streaming adapter or via the Apple TV using AirPlay.  PhoenixBTV’s apps for iOS and Android went live over the weekend.

The service is only for Phoenix metro residents and won’t work for people outside that TV market, the company said.

Per the FAQ, PhoenixBTV currently offers a mix of local stations and broadcast diginets such as AZTV, MeTV, TuffTV, This TV, Retro TV, Rev’n, Azteca and Estrella, among others. However, it does not yet offer access to local feeds of majors such as ABC, NBC, CBS or Fox.

The beta launch follows an alpha version of the service that’s been live for a couple of months, according to Jim Long, Didja’s CEO, who said his company is also trying to negotiate for more channels to be part of PhoenixBTV. Also on board for the initiative is TV industry vet and former co-founder of Net2TV Jim Monroe, who is serving as GM of broadcast at Didja.

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Didja’s offering may remind some of Aereo, the now-defunct OTT TV service for cord-cutters that captured and redistributed local broadcast TV channels to broadband-connected devices that lost big in the courts in its battle against several broadcasters, which argued that Aereo violated copyright laws by delivering TV station signals remotely over the Internet without compensating content providers.

RELATED: Supremes Rule Against Aereo

Didja, a company that also developed Clippit, a mobile phone app that lets users create and share digital clips of live TV shows, says PhoenixBTV is different (and legal), as it has obtained approval to offer its channels for the beta offering, and intends to secure similar blessings for any additional channels that are added for the service’s eventual commercial debut.

Though Didja’s technical approach does involve the capturing of local over-the-air TV signals, Long declined to discuss the architecture of PhoenixBTV in much detail. Long also would not get into the business relationship his company has with local broadcasters.

“We have a philosophy that we want a service that is simple, fast and of high quality,” he said, noting that “fast channel-change” is one area of technical focus.

As for the beta trial, Long said it will be available to anyone locally who qualifies to receive it, though the company might decide to pause and un-pause how many people it allows access to the app during the test period.

“We’re prepared to do the test for as long as it takes, Long said, noting that the hope is that PhoenixBTV will offer a commercial product sometime in 2017.

In addition to the technology, PhoenixBTV will also use the trials to help it determine its audience.

But PhoenixBTV will largely target cord-cutters and cord-nevers, people who want broadcast TV while they are on the go in the market, or simply can’t get local broadcast TV with a regular digital antenna. It also views itself differently than a virtual MVPD skinny-bundle service like Sling TV, because Didja’s focus is on local broadcast.

Long said Didja is also hopeful that its product will also be attractive to millennial audiences and perhaps get them to watch more local broadcast TV. 

“We think people are more interested in local TV than some people realize,” Long said.

PhoenixBTV isn’t the only company or service focused on TV station streaming to arise since the fall of Aereo.

For example, Telletopia Foundation, a San Diego-based company, is also looking to offer a legal OTT service that offers local broadcast TV fare and relies on retrans payments and an exemption from the compulsory license for nonprofits, with original aims to go wide with a national service in 2016.

TabletTV, a joint venture of Granite Broadcasting and U.K.-based Motive Television, is taking a different tack by enabling users to capture OTA signals on a small device called the TPod and feed them to nearby connected mobile device.

RELATED: TabletTV Lets Viewers Mix, Match (subscription required)