TabletTV Ready to Spring Into Action

Following a small trial in San Francisco, TabletTV is preparing for a more aggressive relaunch as early as this month as it seeks buyers for a new subscription-free TV platform that delivers dozens of broadcast channels to tablets via the digital airwaves.

TabletTV, a joint venture of Motive Television and Granite Broadcasting, began testing its service in the Bay Area in December, billing it as a limited beta offering.

“We’ve spent the last three months debugging the app and having our engineers focus and finalize the product,” Luc Tomasino, TabletTV’s chief marketing officer and launch director, said. “We’re reaching the end of that period.”

TabletTV, in partnership with Graniteowned station KOFY-TV in San Francisco, has been selling a startup kit that includes an $89.95 “T-Pod” unit that works in tandem with an iOS-compatible app. This spring, the company expects to extend support to the Google Chromecast adapter and introduce an app that is compatible with Android-powered tablets.

The T-Pod performs the function of an antenna tuner, able to capture free, over-the-air TV signals for display on tablets that are running the TabletTV app. Depending on signal availability, TabletTV estimates that its customers will have access to as many as 50 digital TV stations, including local ABC, CBS, Fox and PBS affiliates.

The T-Pod also allows users to record programming to an integrated DVR with 7 Gigabytes of storage (with an SD card slot for expanded storage), and weaves in social media from sources such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

The aim of TabletTV’s amplified market launch is to deepen its presence in the Bay Area as it prepares for a wider national rollout in several major markets. The company hasn’t announced which cities are on deck, but candidates include New York, Los Angeles, Dallas and Chicago.

Toward the end of 2015, TabletTV will add a video-on-demand service that will deliver content via an unused portion of the broadcast spectrum using Motive’s datacasting technology. TabletTV is also working on a version of the product that will support broadband connectivity for over-the-top video from sources such as Netflix.

“We think OTA-plus-OTT is a very powerful video solution for the consumer,” Tomasino said.

But the bigger mission, he added, is “bringing eyeballs back to the broadcasters. [TabletTV] offers a compelling opportunity for broadcasters to reconnect with cord-cutters and deepen their engagement with existing viewers,” he said.

Tomasino said it’s too early to get a solid fix on the type of customer TabletTV will attract, as its initial trial was limited to a small batch of consumers. However, local and national news and sports programming have been the most popular types during a beta trial.

Early into the relaunch, TabletTV will continue to sell its product on directly online, though it’s already looking at other sales channels.

In January, TabletTV announced it had joined, a coalition that has been pushing for continued access to free TV while also fighting cable industry efforts to revamp the retransmission regime.

Motive Television also has eyes for Europe. Last week, it released TabletTV Europe following its approval by Apple’s App Store. TabletTV Europe will enable broadcast-TV viewing wherever digital terrestrial television uses the DVB-T broadcast standard in the MPEG-2 format.

TabletTV is just one of several companies that developed products tailored for cord-cutters and cord-nevers that emphasize over-the-air and over-the-top TV, including Mohu, TiVo, Channel Master and Simple TV (See “Threat from the Skies,” April 13, 2015).