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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

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 5:35:32 PM
re: NimbleTV Takes Video Subscriptions Over the Top

So, is NimbleTV's approach legal?  We're trying to get together with the company to get a better sense on how they are actually doing this and why they think they can pull off what the pay-TV providers have had trouble with on their  own -- that is, negotiate and sell TV Everywhere access rights.

Greenfield thinks it's all on the up-and-up from a legal perspecti ve, writing that the company's approach should qualify as a "private performance" and be under the same kind of protection that so far has allowed a device like the Slingbox avoid any lawsuits.

And he thinks NimbleTV will avoid legal spats because everyone in the chain is getting paid. "With MVPDs, broadcasters and cable networks ALL being paid, it is difficult to  imagine who would actually sue NimbleTV."

Whether anyone will actually use them is another matter.  It's sizing up to become a monthly TV Everywhere tax of sorts since the model suggests that the MSOs and the programmers will end up getting paid a bit more each month for this additional out of home access.  JB


msilbey 12/5/2012 | 5:35:31 PM
re: NimbleTV Takes Video Subscriptions Over the Top

Here's the part that gets me. According to the NY Times article, the NimbleTV exec wouldn't name any providers on board, and "asserted that NimbleTV did not need their blessing." MSOs won't take kindly NimbleTV running a workaround. 

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 5:35:30 PM
re: NimbleTV Takes Video Subscriptions Over the Top

yes, they do leave the door open to going direct, don't they? Which would make them more akin to a virtual MSO? That doesn't appear to be their preference, but it could be their fallback if they can't get alot of  traditional MVPDs to come along for the ride. JB

craigleddy 12/5/2012 | 5:35:30 PM
re: NimbleTV Takes Video Subscriptions Over the Top

I just wish I had a degree in copyright law so I could get a piece of all the legal fees that this is going to generate.

Either that or a degree in economics so I could figure out how they're going to stay in business if they plan to pay everyone in the content distribution chain.   

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 5:35:28 PM
re: NimbleTV Takes Video Subscriptions Over the Top

This is a strange one, though. To take Greenfield's stance on it, who will sue them if NimbleTV is paying the programmers and its pay-TV partners?  Maybe the MSOs and pay-TV partners that don't want to play ball with NimbleTV?

I'm also curious to know which MVPD is working with them. Greenfield notes that there are some lineup similarities between Dish's and the one NimbleTV is testing in NYC... and  Dish, of course, is a big fan of Sling technology. 

BTW, I got the obligatory "no comment' from EchoStar when I asked if this had anything to do with the OTT video/network DVR service they are putting together. JB


craigleddy 12/5/2012 | 5:35:25 PM
re: NimbleTV Takes Video Subscriptions Over the Top

Well, stranger things have happened in cable when it comes to business models. In 1996, Rupert Murdoch launched Fox News by paying cable operators to carry the new channel rather than charging them a license fee. Everyone thought Murdoch was crazy and look at where Fox News is today. Though he had deep pockets so he could absorb the payouts.

Some questions that MPVDs and programmers will ask about NimbleTV are: What is the business deal and is this worth my while? How will we handle any related revenue streams (advertising, merchandising, etc)? Is this a best effort OTT service or can it guarantee quality of service? How will you protect or indemnify me with my rights partners (studios, producers, sports leagues etc)?

In cable, everyone wants to own the customer. So there always are issues of control. 



paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 5:35:24 PM
re: NimbleTV Takes Video Subscriptions Over the Top

You know there has been a broadcast OTT company for some years called Skyangel.  They focus on Christian programming so it is a specialized audience.  So, I think there is a precedent for this whole OTT broadcast thing.

I have brought this up before but because it is specialized content I think nobody pays attention.  Now, if ESPN did it....



craigleddy 12/5/2012 | 5:35:23 PM
re: NimbleTV Takes Video Subscriptions Over the Top

That's an interesting point. Free niche programming, the so-called long tail content, could be easier to launch in an OTT scenario than the big-ticket stuff that has so many business and rights issues attached to it.

That content may not provide a big payoff but it could provide grassroots consumer support for more OTT and TV Everywhere content.         

paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 5:35:22 PM
re: NimbleTV Takes Video Subscriptions Over the Top


Its not free....its a pay for service over broadband.



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