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Cable Tech

MobiTV is in a financial pinch – sources

MobiTV, a key cog in pay-TV streaming services from T-Mobile and from an array of US telcos and cable operators, is in need of a financial lifeline – in the form of more capital or cash from a white knight buyer – to keep the operation afloat beyond the short term, multiple industry sources familiar with the situation said.

T-Mobile, which relaunched its TVision service late last year, is one of MobiTV's marquee customers. MobiTV, which has a deal with the National Cable Television Cooperative (NCTC), has also hooked up with dozens of small and midsized US cable operators and telcos.   
(Image source: T-Mobile/Google Play)
T-Mobile, which relaunched its TVision service late last year, is one of MobiTV's marquee customers. MobiTV, which has a deal with the National Cable Television Cooperative (NCTC), has also hooked up with dozens of small and midsized US cable operators and telcos.
(Image source: T-Mobile/Google Play)

Sources said MobiTV, a company that has raised more than $200 million across about two decades, is flirting with bankruptcy and has been relying on at least one of its customers to help cover its monthly operational costs, at least for the near term.

If MobiTV is unable to find a way out of this financial fix, it could be forced to shut down and possibly explore a liquidation, sources said. Such a move would clearly jeopardize a group of pay-TV service providers that rely on MobiTV's multi-tenant platform and its support for streaming apps that work with a broad set of TV and mobile streaming devices and platforms.

MobiTV has found some success with both a managed, cloud-based product/platform and on-premises options that enable cable operators, telcos and other service providers to offer pay-TV streaming services. Many of MobiTV's partners use the Android TV Operator Tier to supply streaming boxes that boot up to the operator's pay-TV app. They have also used MobiTV's white-label approach to launch customized, branded apps for several retail streaming products from companies such as Roku, Amazon and Apple.

With pay-TV operators, MobiTV has largely focused on a subscription-based, hosted streaming platform enabling partners to deploy branded apps that package and deliver a lineup of national networks alongside local broadcast channels for which the service provider has rights. According to multiple sources familiar with the MobiTV situation, it's been operating under a pay-as-you-go model on a per-subscriber basis, without setting minimum subscriber requirements and commitments.

That model, which requires relatively small upfront costs, has been particularly attractive to small and midsized cable operators that have been eager to launch new IP- and app-based pay-TV service. That, in turn, has put many of them in position to start the migration away from legacy, QAM-based video services. MobiTV's also been able to strike up deals with some relative newcomers to the pay-TV game, namely T-Mobile.

Ties to TVision

T-Mobile is now viewed as MobiTV's marquee customer. As Light Reading reported in May 2020, T-Mobile teamed up with MobiTV to help support a new version of TVision launched last November that effectively replaced TVision Home, a pay-TV platform formed from T-Mobile's 2018 acquisition of Denver-based Layer3 TV. TVision Home was shut down on December 30, 2020.

Other known US MobiTV customers include Cable One, Consolidated Communications, MCTV, Vast Broadband, Windstream, C Spire and EPB. A number of MobiTV's deals with cable operators originate from a partnership that MobiTV formed in 2017 with the National Cable Television Cooperative (NCTC), an organization that carves out product and programming deals on behalf of hundreds of independent cable operators and service providers.

MobiTV has made T-Mobile fully aware of its financial situation, and T-Mobile is already exploring other options, sources said. T-Mobile declined to comment.

It's not clear what message MobiTV has been sending to its other partners in recent weeks.

Cable One announced in January it was teaming with MobiTV on a new IPTV service called Sparklight TV that will debut in select markets in early 2021 and reach all of the operator's markets by year-end. Cable One is continuing its launch of Sparklight TV as planned, a company official said.

It's also not clear how much progress MobiTV has made in its attempts to raise more capital or if it's been able to draw interest from potential buyers. A source said MobiTV laid off a sizable portion of its workforce late last year. Two sources characterized MobiTV as "overwhelmed" under a workload that has only gotten heavier following the recent layoff.

MobiTV has not responded to multiple attempts by Light Reading over the past week to provide comment for this story. The story will be updated if the company does respond.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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