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Vidgo Soft-Launches National OTT-TV Service

Jeff Baumgartner

Vidgo, the latest OTT-TV service to join an increasingly crowded market, pushed ahead last week with a nationwide "soft launch" of its prepaid service in anticipation of Sunday's El Clásico soccer match between Barcelona and Real Madrid, which was delivered to Vidgo subs via beIN Sports.

The soft launch also revealed the initial channel line-up for Vidgo : Latino, a $19.99-per-month service with 25 channels, including beIN Sports, a suite of channels from Univision El Rey Network, Azteca America and Cine Latino; and Latino Mas, a package with 35 channels for $29.99 per month. (See Vidgo Nears Debut of National OTT-TV Service.)

At launch, Vidgo is supporting web browsers, iOS and Android mobile devices, with plans underway to extend its reach on Roku players and Roku TVs, Apple TV boxes, Fire TV devices and Google Chromecast.
At launch, Vidgo is supporting web browsers, iOS and Android mobile devices, with plans underway to extend its reach on Roku players and Roku TVs, Apple TV boxes, Fire TV devices and Google Chromecast.

Vidgo has an English-focused video package in the works that is expected to debut in the next 30 to 60 days, noted Vidgo CEO Shane Cannon.

Early on, the service streams live channels on three platforms -- web browsers and iOS and Android mobile devices -- with support for Roku players and Roku TVs, Fire TV devices, Google Chromecast and Apple TV boxes expected within the next three to four weeks. Vidgo is also working on service enhancements that include a VoD library and a cloud DVR service.

Cannon said Vidgo plans to extend the service to additional streaming platforms, including smart TVs. To support video on small and big screens, Vidgo is initially set up for six different bit-rate profiles, with 6 Mbit/s on the high end, down to about 400 Kbit/s.

Vidgo won't reveal its early subscriber totals, but Cannon said the first week "went off without a hitch" and that the underlying streaming platform held up fine Sunday when Vidgo dealt with a usage spike during El Clásico (Barcelona thumped Real Madrid 5-1).

Cannon attributed that in part to Vidgo's multi-CDN approach -- it works with both CenturyLink Inc. (NYSE: CTL) and Tulix Systems, with Harmonic Inc. (Nasdaq: HLIT) providing network monitoring services.

Vidgo wasn't alone in seeing a rise in usage this weekend. fuboTV, a competing OTT-TV service focused on sports, announced today that a record 170,000 unique viewers tuned in Sunday during a big sports day that, in addition to coverage of El Clásico, also included the World Series on Fox and a new episode of The Walking Dead on AMC.

Vidgo is selling the service online as well as through a network of prepaid distribution channels.

In the service's early days, customers, following the initial free trial period, are gravitating to a promotion in which they can buy a full year of Vidgo's introductory Latino service plan for $99, a $140 saving versus paying on a month-to-month basis, Cannon said, adding that initial usage has skewed to live sports and soccer, in particular.

Vidgo currently has two other promotions active -- $10 per month for Latino when customers prepay for three months of service upfront, and 30 days of free service when customers purchase one month.

Vidgo is trying to carve out a unique piece of the market amid an influx of other virtual MVPD services. While fuboTV appears to be the most directly competitive, Vidgo is also doing battle with OTT-focused services such as Sling TV , DirecTV Now, Hulu, Philo and YouTube TV. Cable operators are also getting more active in this area of the market with their own skinny bundle streaming services that don't require an operator-supplied set-top box. (See Comcast & Prepaid TV – There's an App for That.)

Among the new crowd of OTT TV players, T-Mobile US Inc. remains a wild card of sorts, as it has not announced pricing and packaging on a national video service expected to launch before the end of the year. Layer3 TV, the Denver-based company that jump-started T-Mobile's move into the pay-TV arena, has previously focused on a localized, big bundle services. T-Mobile could shed more light on its pay-TV plans Tuesday when it discusses its third-quarter results. (See T-Mobile Forming 'Wireless First' TV Strategy and T-Mobile Promises 'A Lot of Firsts' for New OTT TV Service.)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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