As the tug of war for subscribers between cable operators and OTT providers continues, and with TV Everywhere still in its infancy in the U.S., startups are continuing to find niches that attempt to meet demand for anywhere, anytime video service. Case in point: 4SeTV, a startup looking directly to its target audience for its next round of funding.
4SeTV's Kickstarter page is being prepped for launch on Aug. 19.
4SeTV will launch a Kickstarter campaign on Aug. 19, with the goal of raising $50,000 to complete and launch its four-screen mosaic device.
Consumers viewing over-the-air broadcast can attach their antenna to 4SeTV's device, which then decodes the digital stream and re-encodes it, enabling viewers to watch up to four channels at once in a mosaic-type screen on their television set, smartphone or tablet.
While $50,000 is a "bare minimum" for the cost of launching the product, 4SeTV founder Hyung Lim explained that he wanted to create a campaign with an achievable goal. "(Kickstarter) has lots of different products out there. To be visible you have to have clear, reachable goals," he told FierceOnlineVideo.
Benefits to Kickstarter donors will range from T-shirts to discounted devices. The largest donations, $2,000 or more, will receive a device plus lunch or dinner with Lim.
The startup's main target audience is sports fans, Lim said. "They are the ones who feel the pain," he said. But the multi-view format could be attractive to anyone trying to catch up to multiple TV shows airing at the same time. For example, he pointed out that while his wife doesn't care about sports, she likes to keep up with shows like The Bachelor in order to chat about it with friends either at work or on social media. "Now she can split the screen on the big screen or the iPad."
Users can shift the mosaic from their mobile device's screen to their supported smart TV's screen, or use Chromecast's cast feature on unsupported TVs.
While mosaics have been available from manufacturers like ActiveVideo for some time, there are no consumer-end devices on the market that offer four-screen capability, Lim said. The cost of the chipset has, in the past, been prohibitive--something Lim said he's worked on resolving with an exclusive development deal.
The device isn't likely to be in danger from broadcasters, since its use falls within the boundaries of copyright law.
The company plans to start shipping units in November, with larger quantities available in December. Multichannel News put the initial price tag at $180. (By contrast, TiVo's Roamio DVR with streaming capability retails at about $199.)
"It's a great way to introduce a brand new product and let people see what we are making," Lim said.
It's not necessarily a pie-in-the-sky vision for Lim. 4SeTV (short for Four Screen enhanced TV) already received an undisclosed amount in seed funding from Digital Multimedia Technology (DMT), a South Korean set-top maker. Lim had already proposed a similar device for DMT to sell to its customers--mostly cable and satellite operators in South Korea. But he sees the U.S. market as ripe for the opportunity as well.
"I convinced them that we could do this thing as a U.S. startup and an independent company by getting additional funding from DMT."
DMT's funding took 4SeTV through its development process for the past several months. The company showed off its initial product at CableLabs last week, getting feedback from cable industry players.
4SeTV's business strategy looks similar to the tack that TiVo took with its DVRs: first retail, then entering channel partnerships and, finally, building strategic relationships with cable operators. "Definitely we will engage in OEM business. Whether it's a standalone box doing exactly what I'm doing, or as part of a bigger box," Lim said.
But for now, the consumer is 4SeTV's target.
"We're taking it one step at a time. (First) Kickstarter, to get it to a successful retail market (position). Then with a successful customer base I can talk to operators like Comcast." Should cable operators sign on, Lim says, his company can add more functionality to the device to add value for their subscribers.
And while both TiVo and Roku could be competitors in some degree to 4SeTV, Lim welcomes the challenge. "I think it's a big market and if there's competition, we'll see who does better."
Lim previews the device's four-screen mosaic and casting features. (Courtesy of 4SeTV)
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