ivi Launches ‘Highly Disruptive’ Online Streaming TV Service

ivi screen shot 2

ivi TV pro — with controller and guide open

A new online video service was launched to great industry fanfare on Monday. ivi offers a live Web feed of more than three dozen broadcast channels, including ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, The CW, PBS and Telemundo. Ivi claims to have more content then Hulu, with plans to add more channels in the future and also maintain al a carte options.

The service is available via a downloadable application for $4.99/month, with a free 30-day trial. Subscribers can add-on DVR functionality for an additional 99 cents per month.

The ivi TV player currently is available in Windows, Apple and Linux formats, and soon will be available on other platforms, including mobile devices, tablets (such as the iPad) and set-top-boxes.

The Seattle-based start-up describes itself as “highly disruptive,” taking aim at pay-TV providers and specifically cable subscribers. “The cable industry has spent countless millions of dollars on so-called ‘TV Everywhere‘ solutions in a blind effort to prop-up outdated technology and business models” said Todd Weaver, founder and CEO of ivi, Inc. “However, ivi empowers its users to experience ‘TV Anywhere’, offering them major broadcast channels delivered live to their laptop or desktop, anywhere on the planet. Whether eventually integrated into Google TV, Apple TV, or meshed with an existing platform’s digital strategy, ivi makes the set-top-box and any ‘Web to TV’ products obsolete. Instead of attempting to bring the Web to the TV, ivi intuitively brings TV to the Web.”

ivi screen shot

ivi TV offers corner-to-corner television.

Weaver continued, “Recognizing the fate of the landline telephone and the digital debacle experienced by the music industry, ivi offers the broadcast and cable industries innovation they do not have time to build …Forcing consumers to pay for undesired content did not work for the music industry, and it is equally unsustainable for the cable and satellite industries. There is no incentive to fight us, when they should simply join us.”

In its release, ivi quotes statistics from SNL Kagan which reported that cable companies lost a staggering 711,000 subscribers in the second quarter of 2010 alone–the biggest quarterly loss in cable TV’s history.

The company appears to be striving for a collaborative spirit from its cable counterparts but I imagine most cable providers will see it as foe, not friend.

Perhaps most importantly, you might ask, how is ivi acquiring its content? According to media reports, ivi has not negotiated programming contracts with broadcasters. Instead the company claims it doesn’t need to since it’s an “online cable system,” and it’s a legit operation as long as it pays fees to the U.S. Copyright Office. I’d venture to guess the company will be facing legal action in the near future.

Also keep in mind that although ivi offers HD streams, many user’s connections will not support it.

TelcoTV 2011 will feature more on over-the-top content, friend, foe or both?

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