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Most NCTC members stick with MobiTV platform

More than 90% of the National Cable Television Cooperative (NCTC) members that were relying on MobiTV for IP-based streaming TV services have opted to stay with the platform after TiVo swooped in to acquire MobiTV's assets via a bankruptcy auction that was held in May.

TiVo, which snared MobiTV's assets for $18.5 million at that auction, and the NCTC last month announced a new master services agreement that set the stage for NCTC members to continue to receive MobiTV's IPTV service.

The percentage of NCTC members that were using MobiTV prior to the auction that signed the new deal "are in the 90s," according to Nic Wilson, VP and head of customer success at Xperi, TiVo's parent company.

"We're really happy with the volume of the customers we were able to keep," Wilson said. He noted that TiVo has completed negotiations with the full group, but that there are a couple of customers with government ties that are taking longer due to regulatory reasons. "Otherwise, everybody who wanted to stay on the [MobiTV] platform has opted into the agreement at this point."

TiVo and NCTC did not reveal the financial terms of the revised master services agreement, but industry sources told Light Reading that the new agreement includes important minimum subscriber commitments that were not tied into the original MobiTV agreements. A source also said the new services agreement also involves increased fees when compared with the legacy MobiTV deals, but they came in at a level that most NCTC members could stomach. Those fee increases "are not that onerous or as large as some in the industry expected," the source said.

Wilson confirmed that "there are some minimum constructs in the contract" that are manifested in different ways depending on the size of the operator and its subscriber base. "Our goal in putting these agreements together was to find something that was equitable for everybody and gave the business a run-rate to profitability," Wilson explained.

The NCTC had previously told members they might have to accept higher fees to keep the MobiTV platform solvent. The degree of retention under the new TiVo-NCTC deal "says a lot" about how well the updated fee and deal structure is being accepted by operators, an industry source familiar with the situation said.

NCTC told members in April that about 90 members of the co-op were using MobiTV at the time, with another 16 pending launch. Operators that were using MobiTV's platform prior to the asset auction include Cable One, Consolidated Communications, MCTV, Vast Broadband, Windstream, C Spire and EPG, among others. T-Mobile, a former MobiTV tech partner, shut down TVision, its in-house pay-TV service, on April 29.

Stabilizing the MobiTV base

The apparent success of the new TiVo-NCTC agreement seems to indicate that there won't be a sudden, mass exodus of NCTC members to alternative solutions or to vendors that were poised to pursue opportunities that might emerge as MobiTV worked its way through the Chapter 11 process.

Retaining the bulk of NCTC's MobiTV base stabilizes a once-unstable situation for dozens of cable operators.

The deals will also enable TiVo to grow and expand its pay-TV base. That includes a pursuit of cable operators that are ready to upgrade their legacy pay-TV systems or those that are still deciding whether to pivot or migrate to an IP-based video platform.

"I think we're really excited about this acquisition because it shows our commitment to the pay-TV space as Xperi. It's an area that we see growth opportunity for us," Wilson said.

Next steps

Wilson said TiVo is already holding conversations with operators that are not NCTC members or did not previously use the MobiTV platform. "I expect we'll continue to see more sign-ons from customers, whether through the NCTC program or directly," he said.

MobiTV's assets also fill some technology gaps for TiVo as it looks to broaden its technology role in IPTV, and as TiVo's parent company, Xperi, considers a possible separation of its intellectual property/patent business and its products business at some point down the road.

Wilson said TiVo/Xperi will spend more time in the coming months reviewing and analyzing TiVo's own IPTV platform with the one it just acquired via the MobiTV auction. That analysis will help the company determine if the two platforms (including user experiences and elements of their respective backoffice components) should live together, remain somewhat separate, or have one platform borrow and integrate pieces and capabilities from the other. For example, the company might explore ways to stitch TiVo's recommendation and unified discovery capabilities into the existing MobiTV platform.

"But what we want is to provide the best solutions for the addressed markets," Wilson said.

TiVo will also spend some time getting a good fix on whether its own IPTV platform or the MobiTV approach is the best fit for certain operators. It's possible that either one will provide a fit, but TiVo's IPTV platform is generally viewed as an operator-managed offering, while MobiTV's is considered a managed, pay-TV-as-a-service solution.

Almost 60 of MobiTV's 80-plus employees prior to the auction are with the new company, a source said.

Wilson didn't confirm those numbers, but did say that most of the engineering and operations teams from MobiTV are now with TiVo. "Our goal was to keep continuity with that and be able to not just keep the lights on, but be able to continue to invest and develop the product and keep in line with the roadmap that MobiTV had been presenting to those operators," he said.

Under the current structure, Kevin Lenhart is now GM of Xperi's pay-TV business, taking over a role that was formerly held by Michael Hawkey, who left the company earlier this year. Both the MobiTV engineering and technical operations team, along with TiVo's traditional product and engineering organizations, report up to Lenhart.

Examples of former MobiTV execs that have stayed with TiVo/Xperi include Dave Brubeck (former CTO and now vice president of technology at Xperi, according to LinkedIn), Casey Fann (operations/professional services) and Ankur Sharma (former SVP of engineering).

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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