OTT Services Ready for Set-Top Surge

Streaming ‘channels’ get stitched into traditional linear-TV lineups

Though many new over-the-top channels are initially taking an online-first path to the consumer, a handful of OTT aggregation services are likewise helping traditional pay TV providers use broadband connections to pipe content to the set-top box and vastly expand their programming lineups.

Key players in that group include Wurl TV, Frequency and Zone TV. They continue to create lineups of OTT “channels” that can be stitched into the traditional set-top guide, while also helping the cable operator or telco TV provider to monetize that content.

From among that group, Wurl TV reached the latest milestone when its mix of OTT channels became available on TiVo’s retail devices, as well as on TiVo-powered set-tops from the DVR maker’s various MVPD partners.

Frequency, which counts Liberty Global among its backers, announced a similar OTT partnership with TiVo in January at CES. Zone TV, for its part, has content and apps agreements in place with AT&T, Telus and other pay TV providers that use the Ericsson Mediaroom IPTV platform; it’s been looking to expand beyond that as it secures more content deals. The latest: Zone TV locked in a licensing deal with Studio71 that will provide it with a library of 20,000 videos (or about 1,500 hours of content) to distribute to partners in the U.S. and Canada.

Wurl TV’s content is already featured on TiVo’s retail platform, but it will be up to TiVo’s MVPD partners to determine when to provide access to Wurl TV’s mix of OTT offerings, Sean Doherty, Wurl’s CEO and founder, told Next TV. TiVo’s U.S. pay TV partners include RCN, Grande Communications, Suddenlink (now part of Altice USA), Atlantic Broadband, Armstrong, Midco, Mediacom Communications and Wave Broadband.

Other MVPDs, including WideOpenWest, Fidelity Communications and TDS, are offering Wurl’s OTT channels via boxes powered by what used to be known as the Arris Whole Home Solution. (Espial acquired that part of Arris’s business last year and has rebranded it as Elevate.)

Wurl TV uses its ad-supported streaming platform to manage and deliver an expanding batch of linear-style multigenre OTT channels on set-top boxes.

Wurl TV’s business model is based on advertising. It runs ad-serving systems for its array of OTT channels that enables parties to buy ads against the OTT programming. Wurl TV also gives MVPD partners an opportunity to sell a subset of that ad inventory.