The OTT skinny bundle market is quickly fattening up with players, at least in the major US metros. At last count, there were at least nine large national skinny bundle services in the US, if you include the only-in-footprint entries from CenturyLink, Charter and Comcast.
But the skinny bundle pickings in smaller markets are still rather, um, slim. Aiming to fill this gap, Evolution Digital has come out with a streaming video service crafted to enable small and midsized cable operators to offer skinny packages of local broadcast and cable channels to broadband customers in their territories.
Known as eVUE-NOW!, the new app-based, white-label service is an IPTV entry that delivers both live TV feeds and network DVR functionality. It supports most major mobile devices and streaming media players, including iOS and Android devices and Roku, Apple TV and Android TV boxes. It also offers network DVR functionality, allowing viewers to record and store up to 20 programs a week.
So cable operators can offer the service to customers who have any of these devices, foreclosing the need for subs to lease or buy separate TV set-tops. That sets Evolution Digital apart from rivals like TiVo Inc. (Nasdaq: TIVO), which requires customers to buy or lease set-tops.
But, in case cable operators want a leasable alternative that gives them more control over the user's video device and customer experience, Evolution Digital LLC also intends to make an Android TV set-top available for operators. Plans call for introducing the IP-only box by early next year at the latest.
Brent Smith, president and CTO of Evolution Digital, calls eVUE-NOW! "a starter kit essentially" for small and midsized operators seeking to offer a distinctive and competitive OTT service with programming that they control through rights deals. "This is a starting point, a launch point to get into the IP space" with local channels "and then scale up," he said. He sees operators complementing the local broadcast and channels with their video-on-demand offerings and government, education and public affairs channels.
In addition, Smith sees the new app-based platform as a starter kit for cable operators seeking to upgrade to all-IP delivery of their pay-TV lineups. To that end, Evolution Digital already offers a white-label IP-VOD service used by nearly two dozen operators, including such larger ones as WideOpenWest Holdings LLC (WOW) . Some of these operators will presumably take eVUE-NOW! as well. "This is their path, their opportunity," Smith said. (See Evolution Digital eVUE-TV Customers Grow to 23.)
What's not clear yet is whether cable prospects will view the new service as more of a customer acquisition tool or subscriber retention tool. Will operators see it more as a way to keep disgruntled video customers from cutting the cord entirely or more as a way to sell video packages to broadband-only subscribers?
Smith isn't sure, noting that it's "all early days." However, he insists that, with cord-cutting on the rise and pay-TV penetration rates continuing to drop, the market demand is there. "There's a real need to do something," he said.
Evolution Digital hasn't revealed any cable customers for the new service yet. But Smith said he expects to announce the first ones shortly, possibly later this month.
— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading