NimbleTV jumps into TV Everywhere Fray

Mari Silbey —  April 23, 2012

NimbleTV

And then there were three. The New York Times is reporting that a new start-up, NimbleTV, will start beta testing a TV Everywhere service today, joining the likes of Skitter and Aereo in trying to bring traditional TV to the web in a direct-to-consumer service model. NimbleTV proposes to stream a subscriber’s entire pay-TV line-up over the Internet. For a likely (though unconfirmed) fee of $20, consumers will theoretically be able to watch all the shows they pay for anywhere, at any time.

Of the three new TV Everywhere companies, NimbleTV sounds the sketchiest of all. The company isn’t attempting to sign retransmission deals isn’t attempting to operate through existing telco franchise agreements the way Skitter has planned, and it’s not sticking to over-the-air content the way Aereo is. (According to MultiChannel News, investor and board member Barry Diller is headed to Congress tomorrow to testify to its legality.) Former Slinger and current adviser to one of NimbleTV’s VC backers Jason Hirschhorn says the company is picking up where Slingbox left off, but although Sling has miraculously managed to skirt around the industry’s legal land mines, I can’t imagine NimbleTV will be able to do the same. Retransmission rights have become a huge deal, and pay-TV providers are creating their own TV Everywhere platforms. They have no interest in turning that distribution channel over to a third party, particularly one that wants to own its own relationship with the consumer.

To top it all off, who wants to pay an extra fee just to stream TV shows you’ve already paid for? I’d say NimbleTV is one for the deadpool. Anybody else care to weigh in?

UPDATE: Turns out NimbleTV is negotiating retransmission rights and paying content licensing fees, contrary to my initial understanding of the service. However, the company believes it doesn’t need the blessing of pay-TV operators to do business. This puts NimbleTV on less shaky legal ground, but still means it’s got a tough fight ahead of it.

16 responses to NimbleTV jumps into TV Everywhere Fray

  1. For context, Jason was the president of the Sling division responsible for Clip & Sling. So I assume he’s well aware of the licensing challenges which ultimately sunk that initiative under EchoStar.

    Mari’s pretty hardcore to suggest the deadpool PRE-launch. We call ‘em as we see ‘em.

  2. “Mari’s pretty hardcore to suggest the deadpool PRE-launch.”

    It’d be hard to form an opinion in the other direction, given the available information.

  3. Yeah, this post might have come out a little harsh. But I gotta say, it doesn’t look good for these guys. I’ve got some hope for Skitter and Aereo, but with what we do know now, the odds appear stacked against NimbleTV.

  4. Morgan Warstler April 23, 2012 at 11:57 am

    sling 480 to cloud DVR with crowdscaling to 1080 FTW

    No meaningful storage costs – just one copy of each file. But how does 480 crowdscale 1080 you ask?

    fits under Betamax (video came over transom)

    That’s my best hack.

  5. Out of deference to Jason Hirschhorn I don’t want to pass judgment too quickly. But I had the same initial reaction as Mari when I read the NYT article. Call `em as you see `em.

  6. Mari updated the post with a Lightreading link and here’s Multichannel’s take on the mechanics:

    http://www.multichannel.com/article/483504-Startup_NimbleTV_To_Build_Set_Top_Farms_For_Internet_TV_Play.php

    NimbleTV signs up for satellite or cable TV service on behalf of its customers, and manages the installation of set-top boxes at a physical location somewhere in a given market. The company then re-encodes the signals to deliver live TV or DVR recordings over the Internet, to wherever the customer may be.

    Good luck with that.

  7. “Good luck with that.”

    Well, it certainly makes a little bit of sense now, in that they’re trying to ape the Aereo model. But I think the OTA space has more of a ‘public service’ model to it that gives Aereo a better shot at legal success than NimbleTV.

  8. The pay-TV providers are going to undercut these guys even if the service gets by on legal grounds.

  9. if by anywhere they mean over my 4G to my android phone, then I may be interested to a point. I have a grandfathered unlimited data plan though I am in the minority on that. However just simply live TV is not worth 20$ extra – if it was on demand type stuff, like the last 4 episodes of some prime time series I could fire up whenever – then they have a chance at my money.

    as it is TWC lets me do live TV on my home wifi, so my hammock is covered and Netflix gives me on demand stuff that interests me for a lot less than 20$ a month.

    I vote Dead Pool

  10. Companies used to do this with Slingbox units. Can’t remember the names but it’s the same model.

  11. This is so much more legal than Aereo it’s not even remotely funny. Whether there’s a business model, I’m not sure. It seems pricey for a remotely-located Slingbox…

    But at least it’s prima facie legal since they have copyrights via the subscription. Aereo still has no clue that >THEY DON’T HAVE COPYRIGHTS<. The existing law on retransmission means Aereo is deadpool.

  12. Jeff, and Sling used to send these hosted Slingbox services C&D letters so it wouldn’t ultimately come back on them. (I seem to recall DirecTV sending one, too.) Most took their operations international so it’d be harder to fight. Also, their small uptake made them less of a target.

  13. “The pay-TV providers are going to undercut these guys even if the service gets by on legal grounds.”

    The legal issues around both this and Aereo are more interesting to me than the particular business models of these two specific services.

    The rules of the game shape the game.

  14. Nimble TV is launching today to 300 people in the NYC area. It’s still looking like the hosted-Slingbox model. Which is somewhat interesting as Jason Hirschorn was part of the team at Sling where our legal guy periodically fired of cease & desist letters to similar services (to proactively intervene before a cable or satellite company did and blamed Sling). Even if they have the legal standing and funding to fend off whatever challenges are coming there way, I’m not sure this model scales well. But Aereo is still looking interesting and, for my sake, I hope it works out.

  15. “Even if they have the legal standing and funding to fend off whatever challenges are coming there way, I’m not sure this model scales well.”

    Maybe or maybe not. But, as always, the question of the legal standing here is more interesting than the question of the particular business model employed.

    “But Aereo is still looking interesting and, for my sake, I hope it works out.”

    As always, I think Aereo has the best chance of a good legal ruling in this sphere, cuz of the publicly owned spectrum aspect…

  16. If you’re looking for OTA, just do what everyone else does:

    Securely attach your antenna to a weather balloon which you tether a couple of hundred of feet above your home.