M+E Daily

A Nimble Competitor for Aereo

By Paul Sweeting

Live TV streaming service Aereo remains locked in a pitched legal battle with broadcasters over the legality of its business but it could soon find itself fending off competition as well. Barring a Mayan apocalypse, startup NimbleTV today will roll out a limited beta version of a new TV streaming service to 250 users in New York City. The company hopes to be ready for commercial rollout in the first half of 2013.

Like Aereo, NimbleTV captures live TV signals and streams them over the Internet to any device. Unlike Aereo, however, Nimble is not relying solely on free over-the-air broadcast signals. Instead, it plans to set up accounts with different pay-TV providers at its own facility and then, for a fee, stream those signals the subscribers.

Since Nimble will, in effect, be reselling pay-TV service to its users, NimbleTV is not a service designed to encourage cord-cutting. That doesn’t mean it won’t be controversial, however.

It’s not clear, for instance, that cable operators would have the rights to resell content they’ve licensed from the networks even if they were inclined to. Streaming rights are typically licensed separately from pay-TV carriage rights, and often to different parties. Nimble also plans to allow subscribers to shop for different pay-TV services beyond their own geographic markets. Thus, a Chicago Bears fan in New York could sign up for a package of content from a pay-TV service in Chicago and watch the local broadcast of the games. That would likely violate the terms of geographically specific rights deals.

Still, NimbleTV’s appearance on the sign is another sign of the pent-up entrepreneurial energy pressing against the established TV distribution system (see for instance this plea from Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia in a blog post yesterday). While rights owners and the incumbent distributors may be able to keep most that energy bottled up in court for now, as they’re trying to do with Aereo, the pressure it’s producing is not likely to go away anytime soon.