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NimbleTV Takes Video Subscriptions Over the Top

A startup called NimbleTV is testing in New York City a video streaming and network DVR service that aims to help pay-TV operators extend video subscription packages to just about any broadband-connected device. (See NimbleTV Shoots For TV Everywhere.)

And rather than competing directly with traditional pay-TV operators (what it calls Multichannel Video Programming Distributors, or MVPDs), Nimble TV wants to partner with them. It will act as a go-between for the MVPDs and customers, providing them streaming access to live TV programming that can be obtained from anywhere for an additional monthly fee.

NimbleTV will offer more details about pricing this summer, but The New York Times says it will be in the range of $20 per month. "Customers make payments directly to their providers, with NimbleTV acting as a payment service," NimbleTV explains in Monday's announcement.

NimbleTV says it's paying programmers for those streaming rights, a model that contrasts with that of Aereo Inc. , which is obtaining digital TV broadcast signals over-the-air and then streaming them to customers via broadband. (See Diller's Aereo Under Legal Attack and Aereo Strikes Back.)

The startup is currently in beta in New York City and is hosting 26 channels, including local broadcast channels, according to BTIG Research analyst Richard Greenfield, who's had a chance to test-drive the company's platform. NimbleTV has yet to announce any MVPD partners, but Greenfield notes that the TV lineup he tried out corresponds closely with that of Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH). [Ed. note: Dish's technology spinoff, EchoStar Corp. LLC (Nasdaq: SATS), happens to be developing a virtual MSO service that leans on adaptive bit rate streaming technology it acquired from Move Networks.] (See EchoStar Readies Over-the-Top Video Play.)

NimbleTV is not saying much about its technical approach yet, but Greenfield notes that the company "provisions a set-top box for the consumer in their facilities," inserts its own user interface, and then streams that content directly to the customer. The analyst adds that NimbleTV, akin to a Slingbox, limits users to one stream at a time.

Why this matters
MSOs have been slow to deliver a true TV Everywhere experience as they hammer out new deals with programmers that will let them distribute programming to customers outside the home. NimbleTV will try to lower that barrier for them by securing those rights and backing it up with a cloud-based delivery platform.

But NimbleTV will need pay-TV service providers and programmers to play ball. It hasn't announced any MVPD partners, and it's expected that several major MSOs will try to achieve its primary goals (TV Everywhere rights and a network DVR service) in-house. NimbleTV's beta lineup is also nowhere near the size of a typical pay-TV provider's live TV offering, indicating that the startup still has a ways to go on the negotiation front.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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