A STB Solution For Small-Market Cable Companies?


As RBR + TVBR has reported extensively in recent weeks, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has attracted a heap of opposition to his set-top box proposal, which has been seen its sunshine prohibitions removed — giving all interested parties the opportunity to officially chat with FCC staff about the STB plan.

A vote on the STB plan was pulled at the last minute from the FCC’s September Open Meeting agenda, and the fate of cable providers remains up in the air.

Charlie Nooney, Chairman/CEO of MobiTV, sees this as an opportunity, rather than a conundrum. That’s because this former Walt Disney Co. EVP believes cable companies and their subscribers can happily exist in an STB-free environment.

“Yes, we can replace the set-top box completely,” Nooney tells RBR + TVBR.

Regardless of how the FCC votes, Nooney believes cable providers should be proactively moving away from the set-top box on their own.

It’s certainly not a radical idea. Much of Wheeler’s proposal involves the use of apps and more user choice when deciding on a service to select for video consumption.

But it is a much different approach than what companies such as Comcast have brought to the marketplace.

That’s because MobiTV sees itself as the technological intermediary.

“It’s really not about the set-top box,” Nooney says. “It’s more about the operator.”

He explains, “A lot of customers already have devices such as Hulu, Amazon Prime, a Comcast account, or an AT&T account [for U-Verse or DirecTV]. It comes down to a piece of hardware.”

For a small- or middle-sized cable operator, that’s an issue for Nooney, who served as CEO of Premier Retail Networks and President of Broadcast Services and Out-Of-Home Media for Thomson/Technicolor following a 15-year stint at Disney that began in 1985.

“The cost of upgrading a set-top box for a small- or mid-sized operator is excessive,” Nooney says. “Their technology, as a result, is behind that of the bigger companies. What do you do if you are one of these operators? They are saying to themselves, ‘I have a legacy system in place, but what can I do to be consistent with what is available in the market?”

Enter the MobiTV Connect Platform, which came to market in late July. The technology allows a cable television service provider to shift their network’s video delivery from traditional QAM to IP and seamlessly blend on-demand, live TV, catch-up TV, network DVR and recommendations.

“This bridges the gap,” Nooney says, for a small company with a regional footprint.

C Spire, a wireless and cable services operator in Mississippi, is the first company in the U.S. to align itself with MobiTV.

“We are in active conversations with dozens and dozens of operators,” Nooney notes, adding that more announcements regarding cable company partners are forthcoming.

“We are confident that the delivery of video content is moving to IP. Any provider will tell you that,” Nooney adds. “And, we are not competing with Hulu or Amazon Prime. Rather, we are a platform solution for providers. Most importantly, we are allowing cable companies to not lose control of the customer. They will be maintaining their relationship, while we can step in and solve an economic question on the part of the operator.”



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Adam R Jacobson is a veteran radio industry journalist and advertising industry analyst with general, multicultural and Hispanic market expertise. From 1996 to 2006 he served as an editor at Radio & Records.