Synacor Stokes OTT Flames, Buying NimbleTV

NimbleTV shut down its direct-to-consumer pay TV streaming service earlier this month, but its technology will live on and could someday help traditional multichannel video programming distributors offer over-the-top packages that are similar to Sling TV, Dish Network’s new service targeted to cord-cutters.

That scenario is one possibility that could emerge from Synacor’s acquisition last week of NimbleTV’s assets, which include a video encoding and over-the-top distribution system and some key cloud-video knowhow.

NimbleTV will help to fill a technology gap for Synacor, which is already strong in authentication technologies, with products including its Cloud ID social-login platform as well as some user interface and video searchand- discovery software.

Combined, the companies’ products give Synacor the tools required to build a broader OTT platform that can be used by its MVPD partners to develop live-TV streaming services that use the digital distribution rights the distributors already have with programmers — perhaps even outside of their traditional footprints.

That’s a big shift from the original business model that NimbleTV had employed in New York and Chicago.

Rather than working with MVPDs directly, NimbleTV provided remote access to a subset of live-TV channels for free and had broader paid packages that allowed customers to link their existing pay TV service to the cloud, enabling them to watch on an array of IP-connected devices, including PCs and laptops, iPhones and iPads, the Apple TV (via Airplay) and the Roku platform.

NimbleTV also marketed a “concierge” plan (starting at $29.98 per month) whereby it set up the customer’s pay TV subscription. In New York, NimbleTV supported this by piggybacking on services from Cablevision Systems, Time Warner Cable, Verizon FiOS and RCN, and in Chicago with Comcast, AT&T U-verse and RCN.

Boiled down, NimbleTV’s platform essentially served as a cloud-based Slingbox. NimbleTV also sold a network DVR service that started at $4.99 per month for 10 hours of storage space.

NimbleTV’s consumer service went dark on Jan. 12, just two days before the Synacor deal was announced, a clear indication NimbleTV’s underlying systems will now be used in a way that has the full support of Synacor’s pay TV partners.

Synacor didn’t outline its full plans for NimbleTV, but said it will hire NimbleTV’s 13 employees and will integrate the startup’s encoding and streaming technology with Synacor’s existing platform. That, Synacor said, will help it push forward on the development of authenticated, linear TV service for its customers. Among Synacor’s existing clients are Verizon, Charter Communications, Suddenlink Communications, CenturyLink Communications, WideOpenWest, Armstrong and Mediacom Communications.

“We see a fragmented landscape of vendors and believe our customers are looking to Synacor as a one-stop, trusted partner,” Himesh Bhise, Synacor’s CEO, said in a statement.

The acquisition is the first for Synacor under Bhise, a former AOL, Comcast and Charter exec who was named CEO last August. He joined Synacor as the company was getting pushed by two dissident investors to seek a sale.

Synacor, which let go about 20% of its workforce last fall as part of a reorganization, has said it will pursue a growth strategy that will keep the company independent.