Spanning the Globe With A La Carte Fare

HBO and showtime may be leading the a la carte parade in the U.S., but a budding San Antonio-based service wants to take the model to the global stage by offering a variety of channels that can be purchased individually and delivered over-the-top.

That service, called TVtibi, hit the market in beta form recently. It’s not targeting just the U.S., but developing a platform paired with content rights that will provide it with global reach.

“We’re trying to cherry-pick the best features of certain services and bring them all together,” Matthew Beck, founder of TVtibi, said. “With rare exception, all of our content is available globally.”

Though its content offering is still relatively small (seven live channels at last check, including two that aren’t available yet in the U.S. because Dish Network has the domestic rights), TVtibi has some big ambitions as it combines those offerings with a growing video-on-demand library.

Examples of its early a la carte offering include Classic Cool, offered through a content partner that provides titles to Turner Classic Movies. That service (live-plus-VOD) sells for $3.99 per week or $5.99 per month. Pursuit Channel, an offering focused on hunting, fishing and other outdoor recreational activities, costs $2.99 per month, $1.99 per week, or 99 cents for a day’s access.

Classic Cool “is kind of our test bed,” Beck said. They gave us carte blanche on how we present them.”

Customers can tap into TVtibi via a gift code or credit card (the service supports almost 60 unique currencies, ensuring that users don’t get hit with foreign transaction fees). The next step is to sell prepaid cards through such outlets as Amazon.

Beck said TVtibi (its parent is a company called Ready, Set, Sync!) is also in the process of closing deals with undisclosed traditional cable channels. Among that group, one is working with TVtibi to offer a linear channel with global distribution rights, Beck said, adding that others are looking to take advantage of the programming they have full global digital rights to (original shows, mostly) for virtual streaming channels.

TVtibi believes it is coming to market as digital distribution rights loosen up and content owners become more comfortable with selling services a la carte.

“One thing that has limited our offering at launch is that we’re only taking channels a la carte. That’s the entire basis of our platform,” Beck said. “But there will be a significant shift in who’s going a la carte over the next year to two. There are some significant deals in the works right now that will encourage other providers to take the plunge into a la carte.”

TVtibi isn’t releasing customer figures, but Beck said the most interest in the service is coming from consumers in Southeast Asia and North Africa looking for content developed in the U.S. About 20% of consumers who register for the service are downloading the app.

TVtibi launched exclusively on Windows 8.1 and Windows RT, which together support about 400 million devices worldwide. The service expects to introduce apps for iOS and Android by late summer/early fall.

TiVo has also expressed interest in porting TVtibi to its platform, Beck said, though it remains to be seen if it would come way of a resident app or offered via the Opera TV store.

TVtibi is interested in picking up cancelled shows and possibly partnering with broadcasters to distribute them in the U.S. and abroad, Beck said. He confirmed that he’s had talks with Gaumont International Television about picking up Hannibal, the Silence of the Lambs prequel that NBC ended after three seasons.