Thin Is in for Platforms With ‘NOW’ Factor

As a subset of consumers tighten their belts, pay TV operators are trying to keep pace with the trend by developing and launching slimmed-down packages that appeal to cord-cutters, and counter new options emerging from a swath of new over-the-top TV providers.

And those options and offerings continue to expand for cable operators large and small.

Hitting on the smaller end of the cable operator spectrum, Evolution Digital has introduced eVUENOW!, an app-based platform that supports live TV feeds along with network DVR capabilities.

Colorado-based Evolution Digital said the app for eVUE-NOW!, to be branded by its cable operator partners, will support iOS and Android mobile devices, as well as a variety of TV-connected retail platforms, including Roku players, Apple TV boxes and Android TV devices.

Evolution, according to company president and chief technology officer Brent Smith, is also developing an Android TV-powered box that will carry the MSO’s brand, be leased by the operator, and auto-connect/default to the operator’s app when the device is turned on.

While cable operator partners are eager to support retail streaming platforms, some also want a leasable option that gives them more control of the device and the user experience, Smith said, adding that Evolution Digital’s Android TV box should be available by early 2018, if not sooner.

Time Is Right for NOW!

Smith said eVUE-NOW!, an offering that complements an IP-VOD service from Evolution Digital that’s being deployed by almost two dozen operators, enters play as operators ask for a way to more easily stand up IP-delivered, multiscreen, slimmed down packages that can counter cord-cutting and compete with virtual multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs).

Smith said packages created with eVUE-NOW! will lean on the operator’s distribution rights with programmers.

“Independent operators now have a way to more rapidly access and enter into the IP video marketplace,” Smith said. “This is our way to help the market find a solution and quickly defend themselves against the virtual MVPD providers.”

Smith said there is some early-stage testing underway with operators that can’t yet be named.

Several cable operators, including GCI, TDS Telecom, and WideOpenWest, are already working with Evolution to deliver IP VOD services.

Evolution isn’t alone in identifying this need. MobiTV, for example, has also built a platform that has helped partners such as C Spire launch and distribute IP-delivered video packages. The National Cable Television Cooperative is giving some tier-2 and tier-3 cable-operator partners a chance to market and sell OTT TV services to their broadband-only subscribers after notching deals with two virtual MVPDs — PlayStation Vue and fuboTV. On the telco side, CenturyLink is using OTT to deliver a smaller pay TV bundle under the CenturyLink Stream brand.

Comcast has also launched a homegrown skinny TV product, called Xfinity Instant TV, that leans on the same cloud infrastructure that it uses for its X1 platform and is being licensed by a mix of major MSOs, including Cox Communications, Rogers Communications, Shaw Communications and Vidéotron.