Philo Raises $10M, Considers New Markets

Philo, the TV Everywhere company for the university set, is getting new cash, a new headquarters and just maybe a shot at some new markets.

In an announcement on Monday, Philo said it has closed a Series B funding round for $10 million led by New Enterprise Associates (NEA) . Additional investors in the round included CBC New Media Group of Raleigh, NC; Home Box Office Inc. (HBO) ; Rho Ventures; XFUND; and CEO Andrew McCollum. All of the investors, with the exception of XFUND and Andrew McCollum (who was named CEO last November), also participated in a Series A financing round totaling $6.3 million in 2013. The Series A round included other financial backers as well, including industry veteran and owner of the Dallas Mavericks Mark Cuban.

The latest funding for Philo is tied to a move that takes the company's headquarters from Boston to San Francisco. Philo was born out of a Harvard dorm room where co-founders Tuan Ho and Nicholas Krasney came up with a way to capture over-the-air video signals, transcode them, and then stream the content back out over the Internet -- like Aereo, only legal because everything stayed on the campus's closed network.

Built to deliver TV Everywhere before TV Everywhere existed, Philo (originally known as Tivli) went live at Harvard in 2011. Since then, the company has signed up more than 20 additional college and university customers including Stanford, Wesleyan, Yale and the University of Washington.

Although Philo has always maintained that the university market is its highest priority, the video startup has hinted in the past that it could expand to other sectors including the multi-dwelling unit (MDU) market and the hospitality industry. (See Tales of Tivli: Taking TVE to School.)

Philo said in a press release that it plans to use the new funding to "recognize new market opportunities," and NEA managing general partner Scott Sandell noted that he believes "there is significant growth opportunity for Philo with digital video, and more broadly the video entertainment market."

Asked point blank if Philo plans to expand beyond university campuses, a Philo spokesperson said, "We are building the best TV experience out there, and we'd love to find ways to bring that to the widest audience possible."

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When Philo launched, there were no competitors specifically offering multiscreen TV services to college kids. However, Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) brought its own Xfinity on Campus service out of trial phase last summer, and today has more than a dozen educational institutions on its customer list. The Comcast service has an advantage over Philo in that it lets users stream video off campus (Philo is limited to campus grounds). However, Comcast is also constrained by its geographic footprint, and so far the company hasn't introduced a cloud DVR service for Xfinity on Campus the way that Philo has. (See Comcast Streams Back to School .)

Asked if increased competition from Comcast has affected Philo's business, the Philo spokesperson responded, "No. We enjoy having Comcast be a part of the dialog we have with schools, because it gives us a chance to demonstrate our focus on delivering the best overall experience to our viewers and customers."

— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading

msilbey 6/17/2015 | 10:11:34 AM
Re: How Safe Will Philo's Expansion Plans Be? Very different rules apply when you're talking about a closed university network. Also, in some cases Philo is working directly with service providers or programmers to make content available. The distribution rights are tricky, but Philo seems able to make its approach scale.
kq4ym 6/17/2015 | 10:05:20 AM
How Safe Will Philo's Expansion Plans Be? I would guess that Comcast will certainly at some future time object to Philo's broadcasts at a point if and when Philo becomes a serious contender for taking new customers from traditional providers. I wonder though if a Philo large expansion to many campuses will cause any alarm bells to ring at FCC offices, and new rules may have to be implemented to control the rebroadcasting of programming ala Aero's attempt at widespread digital broadcasting.
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