Windstream has teamed with MobiTV on the initial roll out a new, app-based, multiscreen pay-TV service under the "Kinetic TV" brand that will supplant a legacy IPTV offering powered by Mediaroom.
Windstream Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: WIN) has launched the new offering, which supports a wide range of TV-connected streaming devices and mobile devices, in select markets in North Georgia, with plans to launch in Lincoln, Neb., next month, and another ten designated market areas (DMAs) that will represent 40% of Windstream's 18-state footprint in April. After that, Windstream expects to launch the new Kinetic TV offering across the rest of its footprint later in 2019.
With the new product coming online, Windstream has ceased selling the legacy Mediaroom version of Kinetic TV, which was introduced in 2015. Windstream, which has between 20,000 to 30,000 customers on that older platform, apparently won't be going with MediaKind's newer MediaFirst platform. (See IBC2018: What MediaKind Did Next, Ericsson Completes Divestment of Majority Stake in MediaKind and Ericsson Wins Telus With MediaFirst TV Platform.)
"We see this as an enhancing to the product itself," Geoff Levy, SVP of marketing and product for Windstream, said of the company's new offering. "It's a better platform."
"This is clearly another blow to MediaFirst," said Alan Breznick, Light Reading’s cable/video practice leader. "Windstream sounds like they can't wait to move away from it."
The new version of Kinetic TV will support more devices, including iOS and Android smartphones and tablets, web browsers, Fire TV devices and Android TV-based smart TVs. Windstream will also sell an Android TV box (using the operator tier version of Android TV) that boots up to the service provider's service for $75, or lease it for $6 per month, and still provide access to other apps and services such as Netflix and Hulu.
The new Kinetic TV service will carry similar pricing to the legacy service, though it will be sold as a bundle with broadband -- Windstream has about 1 million broadband customers.
The new app-based service, delivered to the home via managed IP streams, will also support a cloud DVR with a baseline of 50 hours of storage. Customers can buy more storage -- 100 hours for an additional $5 per month, 200 hours for $10, and 300 hours for $15.
The new, baseline Kinetic TV service will allow for three concurrent streams, with an option for customers to purchase additional streams (up to five) for $5 each.
The deployment with Windstream is the largest so far for MobiTV Inc. 's Connect platform, which supports both on-premises and hosted software-as-a-service architectures. Bill Routt, MobiTV's president and COO, said about 90% of MobiTV's customers are on the SaaS option. MobiTV, he added, has 75 operators signed on so far, with half of them slated to be launched by the end of this month.
"What's really interesting here is that MobiTV expected most of its larger customers to go with on-premises deployments but instead they've largely gone with the SaaS option," Breznick said. "So even larger service providers are now favoring the use of software apps over the deployment of set-top boxes. That seems a sign of things to come."
MobiTV's deployment activity has been aided by its partnership with the NCTC, an organization that represents more than 750 small and midsized cable operators and service providers. MobiTV's been competing in that market with suppliers such as TiVo, Evolution Digital and Espial. (See MobiTV Moves Needle With App-Based IPTV, Why Video Has the Urge to Merge and New Video Options Emerge for Indie Cable Ops .)
The launch with MobiTV shows that Windstream is getting more aggressive with pay-TV even as some providers, such as Cable One Inc. , become more detached from it and instead focus on higher-margin broadband. (See Cable One Gets Credit for Putting Pipes Ahead of Programming and Podcast: Bundle Up, Everyone. Pay-TV Is a Cold, Cold Business.)
"Despite Cable One's success with broadband-only, most operators still see a pay-TV component as critical, even if it's increasingly just a loss leader for other, more profitable services," Breznick said.
Open to other video options
Though Windstream prefers that customers take its Kinetic TV service, the company is also open to providing customers with other video options.
Notably, Windstream has also been reselling DirecTV service -- satellite TV and the OTT-powered DirecTV Now offering -- for about a year.
Levy said Windstream is also working with the National Cable Television Cooperative Inc. (NCTC) to offer additional streaming/OTT products for a "bounty." NCTC currently has agreements with PlayStation Vue, Philo and fuboTV.
Providing such optionality "is the direction of TV viewing in the future," Levy said.
— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading