Could NimbleTV become the next Aereo?
That is the media technology question of the day, with the New York-based, VC-funded startup attracting scrutiny from pay-TV lawyers as it expands its reach from the Big Apple to Chicago.
According to Variety, "at least one" pay-TV operator has begun a legal review of the company to determine its legitimacy. The trade did not name the operator.
That NimbleTV should come under legal crosshairs of the cable business isn't surprising, given that the company is basically bypassing the moribund TV Everywhere initiative by offering authenticated streams of pay-TV programming to subscribers.
The company began last year offering New York-area Cablevision (NYSE: CVC), Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC), Verizon FiOS (NYSE: VZ) and RCN subscribers cloud-based access to their pay-TV programming through the usual assortment of OTT devices, notebook computers, smart phones and tablets. It currently touts around 80,000 subscribers.
On Wednesday, the company announced that it will move into metropolitan Chicago, offering its service to Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) and AT&T U-verse (NYSE: T) customers.
Starting at around $5 a month, NimbleTV subscribers can access varying tiers of their pay-TV programming via cloud on IP devices. Upper tiers allow the use of a virtual digital video recorder.
Speaking to Variety, NimbleTV founder and CEO Anand Subramanian insisted the company has initiated conversations with every major pay-TV operator and programmer. "Everybody knows what we do," he said. Subramanian also said the company is "brutally insistent" that users be able to authenticate a legit pay-TV subscription.
Of course, as the arduous rollout of TV Everywhere has shown, both operators and programmers are concerned about lot more than just authentication, starting with how they'll tally audience sizes when part of the viewership is fragmented to a third-party service.
For its part, NimbleTV is defining itself as viewing displacement service similar to technologies offered by SlingMedia, which have been around for nearly a decade and have survived legal fire.
Broadcasters, however, might just as easily argue that the service is no different than that provided by nearly vanquished Aereo.
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