Peter Kafka

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Dish Pulls the Plug — For Now — On NimbleTV’s Web TV Service

NimbleTV wants to deliver pay TV, over the Web, to any device, anywhere in the world.

But right now the startup, which launched a trial service last summer, isn’t delivering any TV anywhere. Dish Network, the satellite TV company NimbleTV was using as its initial backbone, has cut off service to NimbleTV’s customers.

NimbleTV says it is working “around the clock” to fix things with Dish and restore service, which has been out for more than a week. In the meantime, it says it has provided refunds to its customers.

The outage, noted last week by FTAblog, underscores the potential downside of NimbleTV’s business model, which is based on piggybacking on top of other pay TV services and redistributing their programming. That may be difficult if the pay TV guys don’t play along.

NimbleTV CEO Anand Subramanian said his company doesn’t have a formal relationship with Dish, and doesn’t plan on having one. He said his company acts as a “concierge” for pay TV customers, by helping them set up pay TV subscriptions with Dish, and then providing technology that distributes Dish’s signal back to NimbleTV customers over the Web.

That’s supposed to appeal to people who want to get pay TV on their Web browser, or on devices like Apple TVs and Roku boxes, without using other equipment. It’s also meant to appeal to people living outside the U.S. who want to watch American TV.

For the past year, NimbleTV has been using Dish to fuel its service, but the company plans to add other providers. Last December the startup, which has raised $6 million from Tribune, Greycroft Partners and Tribeca Venture Partners, started offering service to New York City-area residents in a beta test.

Subramanian said after his customers stopped getting service from Dish, he received a letter from the satellite TV service outlining its concerns. “While we have been upfront with our customers that NimbleTV has no direct relationship with any TV provider, Dish did not want our Web site to mislead others into thinking that we have a direct affiliation with Dish,” he said.

That tracks directionally with a statement Dish provided to me today: “NimbleTV is not an authorized Dish retailer, and is not authorized by Dish to market or promote our services.”

The unknown is whether NimbleTV can market itself in a way that will make Dish, or other pay TV providers, comfortable, without striking a formal relationship them — and what will happen if that doesn’t happen.

Subramanian said he’s confident he’ll be able to offer his service: “NimbleTV is built on a simple premise: That people who pay for their TV service should have the right to watch when and how they want to.”


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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald