By Rick Howe
This is a terrific time to be in the TV business, isn't it? We're growing, consolidating, innovating and finding new ways to serve the viewers every single day.
But first, a bit of shameless self-promotion: if you are at INTX, you might stop by "Imagine Park" at noon on Tuesday 5/17; the topic is "Project Quantico," as we wrote about recently.
And it would appear we've captured a bit of lightning in a bottle with our panel for the 2016 TVOT Show, June 7-8 at the Presidio in San Francisco: "TV used to be easy. What did you guys DO to it?"
Our panel of experts includes Patrick Donoghue (Next Stop Willoughby), Cameron Johnson (Netflix), Paul Stathacopoulos (Rovi), Bill Mobley (FreeCast) and Adam Lowy (Sling TV & Dish).
If you missed Patrick's guest column for a few weeks ago, I suggest you give it a look. It will help explain the Netflix Recommender System, which we will have the chance to discuss live with Cameron Johnson during our panel. Here's a link to Patrick's column:
But that's not all. Just this past week, Rovi announced the purchase of Tivo! There will certainly be all kinds of fun stuff to talk about with Paul Stathacopoulos during the panel.
And now we see that Bill Mobley's Freecast has launched his Select TV OTT Platform, something the good doctor forecasted during the Virtual MSO panel at TVOT 2014.
In advance of the panel, we chatted with Bill about Select TV, which he teased us about at the 2015 TVOT show.
iTV Doctor: Bill, your timing is great for our upcoming panel, but our readers may be confused. They probably associate FreeCast with Rabbit TV.
Bill Mobley: With over 4 million subscriptions sold, FreeCast's Rabbit TV Plus has firmly put the company on the map, that's true. Select TV will be our new flagship offering. It's the ultimate TV experience, with even more content and features than Rabbit TV, and it will also be able to power set-top boxes and other hardware.
iTV Doctor: Excuse me if I say we've heard words like "ultimate television experience" before. What makes Select TV different?
Bill Mobley: You're right, but Select TV is really the pinnacle of entertainment for the consumer. You may hear that term with Netflix and other VOD libraries, but where they offer just a few thousand titles, with Select TV we're literally able to offer everything. Best of all, you never pay a dime more than you have to. It recreates the cable TV footprint without consumers' number one gripe: high bills because they're forced to pay for hundreds of unwanted channels.
We're bringing a complete à la carte television experience to the Web. That's what consumers have been asking for. They want to pick and pay for channels, and they want them on all of their devices. Sling TV and soon Hulu will offer bundles of linear channels, and that's great, but consumers want to be able to select their channels individually. So while we're working with both Sling and Hulu on bundles, we're the only ones who are also talking to the networks about bringing individual web channels to our service.
iTV Doctor: One of the features I like best about Rabbit TV Plus is that if I'm a fan of, say, "Bates Motel" it's easy to find and watch all four seasons of the show. Bates Motel is produced by NBCUniversal, and gets premier season distribution on A&E TV. But earlier seasons are licensed by NBCUniversal (season 1 to Netflix for example). And it's mind-bendingly hard for the viewer to catch up on the back story of little Norman Bates and his loving mother. Will Select TV have that capability?
Bill Mobley: Absolutely! That's a key value proposition for consumers and content owners alike. Rather than limiting you to some episodes by licensing a season here and there, Select TV helps you find anything and everything you want to watch, even when, as you point out, episodes of the same show can be spread across multiple different sources.
We've built a global aggregation platform, rather than a library, because our vision is that you should be able to watch anything you want, from last night's episode of the Voice, to an episode of the Twilight Zone from 50 years ago, all from one simple interface that's on your TV and all of your devices. To make it simple: we connect the networks and studios with the consumers that want to watch their content. That makes us a powerful force for tune in (for free services) and subscriber acquisition (for pay services).
iTV Doctor: Is Select TV a box, a platform or a service?
Bill Mobley: All consumers and devices will be able to access Select TV via the Web, and the platform will also be able to power media devices from streaming sticks to set-top boxes, even the world's first Internet television, which we're working on with a top 5 global TV manufacturer.
What's really exciting from the business side is that this is the first ever private label TV solution. That's huge, because if you have a cable or satellite TV provider that's losing subscribers, or a rural telco that can't offer traditional pay-TV, or even a startup with a lot of users but not a lot of revenue, we've created a turnkey way for them to make money from the very trends that have otherwise been so disruptive to the media industry.
iTV Doctor: And I assume you'll be demonstrating Select TV at the TVOT 2016 in San Francisco.
Bill Mobley: I'll show a taste during the panel, and we're setting up meetings with content owners, TV Networks, operators, CE partners and more. It's going to be a very busy show.
The iTV Doctor is Rick Howe, who provides interactive video consulting services to programmers, advertisers and technology providers. He is the recipient of a CTAM Tami Award for retention marketing and this year was inducted into The Cable Pioneers. He is also the co-author of a patent for the use of multiscreen mosaics in EPG's. Endorsed by top cable and satellite distributors, "Dr" Howe still makes house calls, and the first visit is always free. His services include product development, distribution strategy and the development of low-cost interactive applications for rapid deployment across all platforms.
Have a question for the iTV Doctor? Email him at TheiTVDoctor@gmail.com