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Fan TV Courts Cable for New Box

Mari Silbey
5/31/2013

Fanhattan, a two-year-old startup known for its TV discovery apps, has announced plans for a new set-top box* that will combine OTT video with traditional pay-TV programming. The company is also promising DVR functionality and a motion-sensitive remote control with no buttons to press. The catch? Fanhattan hasn't released a price point for its proposed service yet. Plus, while the company says it aims to partner directly with pay-TV providers, it won't say which ones, if any, have agreed to become part of the Fan TV experience. Fanhattan plans to distribute its box through pay-TV providers, but also directly to consumers through the company website. There may be a hint of things to come on Fanhattan's partner list. On its website, the company cites Comcast Corp.'s Xfinity service as one of its live TV streaming partners, meaning that authenticated users could at least access Comcast TV listings through the Fan TV interface. It's hard to know, however, whether that's actually a sign of things to come on the living room screen or just Fanhattan's wishful thinking. There's another big cable question too. Using the Fan TV user interface, will consumers be steered to a pay-TV provider's app for cable content? Or will Fanhattan simply be able to stream a cable video feed into its own interface? The MSOs are clearly growing more comfortable with porting their apps to retail devices but that doesn't mean they like the idea of ceding all UI control to a third party. (See TW Cable App Debuts on Roku and Comcast, Verizon Connect with the Xbox 360.) On the retail front, Fanhattan joins a growing parade of IP streaming video set-top suppliers. Apple Inc., Google, Boxee and Roku Inc. are among the leading set-top providers, while Amazon.com Inc. says it will launch a set-top this fall, and Microsoft Corp. is reportedly toying with the idea as well. (See Amazon Set-Top Slated for Fall and Microsoft Eyes OTT Set-Top.) *This story was updated to note that Fanhattan plans to sell its set-top both through the MSO channel and direct to consumers online. — Mari Silbey, Special to Light Reading Cable

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gconnery
gconnery
6/4/2013 | 1:16:55 AM
re: Fan TV Courts Cable for New Box
As has been discussed elsewhere...

The channel guide thing is probably not Comcast's idea, but rather dictated by their agreements with the content companies. At least that's the working assumption.

And since the box doesn't even have a coax input, you have to assume an MSO, even a small MSO, would have to change their distribution network to support this thing. Does it even support MPEG-2? I assume you have to install a gateway unit into the home and then use the protocol agreed to with Boxee for their Live TV dongle for IP distribution inside the home.

Anyway, doesn't seem like its going to be much of a fit for any small cable co's. Only got a chance with somebody bigger.
msilbey
msilbey
6/2/2013 | 3:56:48 PM
re: Fan TV Courts Cable for New Box
I agree it's a long shot, but I never would have bet on Comcast and Verizon putting their apps on the Xbox. They obviously control the UI within their apps, but it was still a big leap to operate within somebody else's ecosystem.
gconnery
gconnery
5/31/2013 | 11:51:45 PM
re: Fan TV Courts Cable for New Box
Yup, hope this happens but very doubtful. Cable co's have a history of stripping OTT services from TiVo units for example when they resell them as of course they compete with the cable co's own VOD offerings they'd prefer you used so they make more money. Fanhattan would seemingly have other failings by the MSO's reconning... even just showing you shows you want to watch rather than an uneditable grid of all the channels you are getting is a sin according to your cable co I assume. They want to a) remind you that you're getting all those channels rather than have you think too hard about the few you actually watch, b) put adds all over the damn thing, even in between the channels in the guide, so they can make more money, etc.

I hope hope hope that something like this can succeed but feel like CableCo's have shown their unwillingness to go this route for some time. But hey, maybe its time now...
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