Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

TV Everywhere, for Real, for Now: NimbleTV Starts a New York Trial Run

“TV Everywhere” is supposed to let you watch whatever you want, wherever you want to watch it, on any device you want — as long as you pay for TV.

But the cable guys have been working at this for more than three years, and they still can’t really deliver. Here’s a company that says it can: NimbleTV, a start-up that’s launching a small beta rollout today.

Nimble’s pitch is simple: Pay them a monthly fee, and they’ll deliver TV, over the Web, to any device you want. You’ll still have to pay for cable TV (or satellite TV, or telco TV), but then they’ll get the video to you, wherever you are.

The process behind it is a bit more complicated: Rather than connecting to a set-top box in your home, Nimble plans to set up accounts from different pay-TV providers at its own facility, then move the TV signal from those pipes to the Web.

CEO Anand Subramanian says he plans to offer the service, for free, to at least 250 users in the New York City area this month. He wants to launch for real in the first quarter of 2013, at which point he’ll likely charge about $20 a month.

That fee will be on top of whatever a Nimble user ends up paying for TV — this isn’t a service designed to help cord-cutters. But if it works, it will at least deliver on the mobility and convenience promise that the pay-TV guys have been talking about for a long time.

At least as important: Nimble could encourage competition between pay-TV providers, since users aren’t required to sign up for a pay-TV package that’s offered in their neighborhood. It could also upend lots of geographic-specific programming deals: In theory, if I wanted to watch the Minnesota Vikings in my Brooklyn apartment, I could use Nimble to sign up for a Comcast subscription package for Minneapolis residents.

All of which means the pay-TV industry could end up fighting Nimble, if it gets up and running.

Nimble argues that it’s the equivalent of EchoStar’s Slingbox technology, except they don’t require users to buy a box, and Slingbox has never really been challenged in court.

“We’re simply giving consumers the tools to be able to to take the TV they’ve paid for, anywhere they want to,” Subramanian says.

Still, my hunch is that at least some of pay-TV guys have the cease-and-desist letters drafted, so, we’ll see — I asked a couple of them about Nimble this week, and the phrase “terms of service” came up each time. And even if Nimble clears the legal hurdles, I’m not sure how big the market will be for people who want to pay extra for cable TV.

But Nimble has raised $6 million from Tribune, Greycroft Partners and Tribeca Venture Partners, so they’ll have some time and money to try to prove their case.

Here’s a video BTIG analyst Rich Greenfield produced earlier this year, showing a fairly comprehensive demo of the service:

Latest Video

View all videos »

Search »

There’s a lot of attention and PR around Marissa, but their product lineup just kind of blows.

— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google