Wurl launches streaming cable channel network with 51 operators

Wurl today launched the Wurl Network, an IP-based streaming cable TV network featuring four new channels that will show up on operators' set-top boxes and slot into onscreen guides next to traditional linear channels.

Wurl has agreements in place with 51 operators, with customer rollouts scheduled to begin in August. The current channel line-up for Wurl Network includes The Alt Channel, Streaming News Network, The Sports Feed and Popcornflix.

Sean Doherty, Wurl CEO and co-founder, told FierceCable that interest so far has mostly come from Tier 2 and Tier 3 MSOs. Though the Wurl Network right now sits at four channels, Doherty said it could soon expand to 10 to 12 channels.

"We are excited to be offering Wurl's channels to our subscribers," said Loren King, product manager at Fidelity Communications, in a statement. "We now have a new set of programming and cool viewing features which will go a long way toward helping us acquire and retain viewers."

The advantages for MSOs adding the Wurl Network include: No affiliate fees or upfront costs, no new technology and the Wurl channels won't require any spectrum, RF or QAM since they are delivered via broadband.

"We worked hard with operators to make sure there's no reason to say no," said Doherty.

Doherty said that Wurl Network's unicast technology also opens up functions – like fast-forwarding and rewinding of any show, binge viewing and expansion on-demand options – that aren't often enabled with legacy network channels. He added that the ability to place streaming channels next to legacy linear networks is becoming easier because of the work operators have been doing to transition to IP.

"The other piece of the puzzle is that bigger MSOs have been working toward integrating IP services on their set-tops," Doherty said. "So now the technical hurdles are clear."

Doherty said that Wurl Network features original programming that hasn't been available on television before from brands that have "enormous" audiences online. He said MSOs may view this option as a way to bring some cord cutters, shavers and nevers back to TV. He said he expects more digital brands will follow suit and offer up streaming network options for traditional MSOs.

"I think it's simple for digital brands to adopt this model and get on TV," Doherty said, adding that traditional cable networks, with distribution deals already in place, will find it harder to shift over to this model. "Most of the cable networks will be followers instead of leaders in this space."

Last year, Wurl got its 1Guide streaming media platform for pay-TV set-tops onto WOW! cable systems in Indiana, Ohio, Florida, Illinois and Michigan as part of the MSO's "Streamland" service.

In 2014, Arris announced that it was partnering with Wurl to create a new pay-TV software platform built for mixing traditional broadcast and cable network programming with online video content.

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