Video services

MobiTV Banks $50M More

MobiTV, a provider of app-based video streaming tech for cable operators and telcos, said a new $50 million round will help the company pursue global growth opportunities and fuel further development in its multi-tenant "Connect" platform.

MobiTV, which has raised about $200 million since its founding about 20 years ago, has signed on about 90 operators in the past 18 months, with much of that momentum coming way of US-based operators. Oak Investment Partners, Ally Financial and Cedar Grove Partners participated in MobiTV's latest round.

"A lot of this [new funding] is for international expansion," said Charlie Nooney, MobiTV's CEO. MobiTV, he added, is already present in Canada, has discussions underway with providers in Mexico, and is also reaching out to potential partners in Europe.

"We think the next 18 to 24 months are really critical in terms of building this company out and making sure we maintain a dominant lead in the marketplace. We wanted to make sure our coffers were pretty full as we were doing that."

A focus on international business, which will include hiring additional staff in targeted regions (MobiTV currently has nearly 200 employees) around the globe, is a return to MobiTV's roots in some respects.

Before the business rules around streaming were ready for MobiTV's offering in the US, the company had worked extensively internationally, including with Germany's Deutsche Telekom and India's Reliance Jio. After getting services up and running in those markets, MobiTV has since transferred operations over to those service providers.

"That was really the testing ground for our platform," Nooney said, noting that MobiTV's revised focus in global markets will more closely follow the model it has established in the US. Instead of building the platform for a future transfer, MobiTV will instead be a longer-term partner using its multi-tenant streaming platform.

MobiTV generally secures the transport rights from various content providers and relies on its partners to lock in the distribution rights to deliver managed IP video services to the consumer via retail streaming devices as well as operator-managed Android TV boxes.

As it embarks on a more ambitious international strategy, MobiTV's primary focus in the US has centered on small- and mid-tier cable operators and telcos, including Windstream and C Spire and via its partnership with the National Cable Telecommunications Cooperative. That has brought MobiTV into competition with companies such as TiVo, Evolution Digital and Espial. The greater global focus and expected engagement with larger Tier 1 service providers also will mean MobiTV is likely to tangle more frequently with vendors such as MediaKind and Synamedia, which acquired Cisco's video software business in the fall of 2018.

"We're starting to bump up against the big boys, and we want to make sure we can compete. We're anxious to compete at that level, Nooney said. "It's a battleground out there. We want to be sure we've got enough dollars in our pockets to go fight, and that's what this round was all about."

Pay-TV still important ... at the proper cost structure
As for MobiTV's ongoing opportunities in the US, Nooney acknowledged that some cable ops and broadband service providers have deemphasized pay-TV while a few have given up on that business, ceding it to OTT providers.

But he believes that new platforms such as MobiTV's can enable those service providers to pivot away from expensive, legacy video delivery systems and set-top boxes, and move toward more cost-effective streaming platforms that can compete with new OTT services and enable them to spin up a vaster array of service packages, including slimmed-down channel bundles.

"If your cost structure is ten- to 15-fold what these OTT operators are doing, which is really your true competitor for video, you can't compete," Nooney said. "It becomes this massive loss leader … It's important that you maintain that [video] customer relationship and don't let someone like AT&T [DirecTV Now] into your customer base."

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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