Avail Scales Up for IPTV
Avail closed its Series B financing round last week, bagging $25 million from investors Columbia Capital , Novak Biddle Venture Partners , Pioneer Ventures, and Valhalla Partners . (See Avail Completes B Round and Avail Media Inc.)
The most recent round brings total financing to $30 million. Avail had previously raised $5 million in debt financing from Silicon Valley Bank . (See BroadStream & Auroras 'Avail' Themselves.)
Formed with the merger of Auroras Communications and BroadStream Communications in December 2006, Avail sells packages of content for service providers' IPTV offerings. The company acquires programming and streams it to customers' headends or central offices.
This lets smaller operators -- Tier 2 and Tier 3 telcos, municipalities, co-ops, and utility companies -- get into IPTV without having to negotiate programming deals with hundreds of networks.
Competition includes SES Americom and, more recently, EchoStar Satellite LLC (See EchoStar's IPTV Play.)
Avail currently offers 190 standard definition (SD) channels and 16 channels of high definition (HD) content, but it's in the process of expanding the number of SD channels to 207 and the number of HD channels to 24.
Comparatively, EchoStar and SES Americom each offer about 300 SD channels. EchoStar offers 40 HD channels, and SES Americom offers 29 HD channels through its wholesale services.
What Avail lacks in size and scope, it can make up in flexibility, says Jon Romm, executive vice president of sales and marketing. He claims Avail gives service providers more choices of hardware and middleware platforms.
Avail works with conditional access vendors Verimatrix Inc. and Widevine Technologies Inc. , and with middleware companies such as Espial Group Inc. and Minerva Networks Inc. The company also has sales channel partnerships with IPTV network integrators like Nortel Networks Ltd. . (See Espial, Avail Partner.)
SES's IP Prime offering includes two configuration options, one of which uses a combination of Nokia Networks Myrio middleware and Scientific Atlanta set-top boxes; the other one uses NDS Ltd. middleware and Amino Technologies plc (London: AMO) set-top boxes.
But IP Prime customers can deploy any combination of middleware and set-top boxes, provided they work together, says Walt Davis, IP product management director for SES Americom.
For now, Davis says the main differentiator between SES Americom and Avail is that SES has commercial customers already announced.
That's something Avail is working on, Romm says. Avail claims to have 26 customers in various stages of deployment, five of which were live by Dec. 1.
— Ryan Lawler, Reporter, Light Reading