MobiTV got a $50M increase in their funding this week and the reason that investors are interested in the company is that it is on the forefront of changing how most of us watch TV. What they do is they offer a service to local cable companies that allows them to easily convert using either on-premise or cloud resources to convert their hard-wired experiences to streaming. This allows the providers to approach customers that only want an internet connection with services that make use of that connection and don’t have or want set top boxes.
I had a chance to play with this service this week and it is kind of like TiVo in the cloud but as it existed several years ago and well before the last set of advances TiVo rolled out.
The Problem MobiTV Fixed
The reason for MobiTV is that with the networks moving to streaming services and launching their own branded offerings, Amazon Prime video and Netflix going to customers directly, and more and more customers cutting the cord to their cable company’s wired service, the local cable and telephone companies were getting cut off from content. Yes, they could provide the internet connection service, but their TV services revenue was drying up. Customers increasingly wanted to dump their set-top boxes and just stream from the web.
This streaming didn’t come without problems because getting real-time programing, particularly sports, became problematic and a lot of the services that people got on cable aren’t easily subscribed to. So, this allows a local operator to flip providing a service very similar to what they provided with a set top box, with some extended features like recording and past episode viewing, that they otherwise couldn’t afford to create themselves.
I’ve been a TiVo user since that platform launched decades ago and the MobiTV service is like say a second-generation TiVo with an updated interface. You don’t yet have things like automatic commercial skipping, the ability to select types of programs you want automatically recorded (as opposed to identified programs) and you don’t seem to be able to record by season only by show.
But given this is an over the air service features like this will undoubtedly—well, except for the commercial thing which the cable providers won’t want—show up over time as this service advances. The nice thing is you don’t need a set top box, so you don’t have to replace or update an expensive piece of hardware every several years. That will all be handled for you from a remote location. You’ll just see new features and capabilities show up magically.
Kind of makes me wonder why TiVo hasn’t brought out a streaming service like this but they haven’t and, if they aren’t careful, MobiTV could do to TiVo what Netflix did to Blockbuster. TiVo is about to launch a new set top box rumored to be called the TiVo Edge. We’ll shortly see if it is enough to hold off MobiTV’s efforts.
Wrapping Up: Streaming Revolution
The Streaming Revolution continues and this latest service MobiTV (by the way this will typically come private labeled from your TV or Cable company so don’t get hooked on the name) showcases how rapidly it is embracing cable concepts now.
While the service doesn’t yet provide the level of features you can get from a TiVo Bolt, it is generally better than most get from their existing set top cable or telephone company box and it makes it so you no longer need that box. This service works with an increasing number of Smart TVs and with products like the aggressively priced Amazon Fire TV.
The service is app-based, so getting your programing on your smartphone or tablet should be easy (no support for your PC, though, yet). In short, this is yet another example that the world is moving to streaming and the idea that you can have your programing where and when you want it. I think that is a good thing.