C Spire in Mississippi builds broadband TV service up against Charter

Tiny C Spire, a mostly wireless firm which claims to be the 6th largest MNO in the US, but which only reaches around 1.2 million people, has launched its own fixed line TV streaming service.

It comes on the back of a 1 Gbps fiber broadband service which it’s been selling for two years now in Jackson, Mississippi, in cable terms within Charter’s Spectrum territory. We have no indications of how many homes have taken its fiber so far. Now it is trying out what it feels is a revolutionary video service, with no need for set top boxes, controlled (if you like) by the Amazon Echo voice service, and with full 3-day replay TV from the cloud.

It is fueled by MobiTV’s technology MobiTV Connect – a company that in February took on $21 million in funding, to turn itself from a mobile video company to a generic video specialist.  We can now see that it was very probably this relationship with C Spire, small as the operator is, which gave investors’ confidence to go with another funding round after 9 years without needing one.

MobiTV Connect was launched in July last year and is an IP video delivery system targeted at helping smaller US cable (and telco) companies to offer OTT video on smartphones and other portable devices, but also especially to streaming media adaptors deployed already in many US homes. The plan is to help cable operators upgrade video delivery from traditional QAM to IP and blend on-demand, live TV, catch-up TV, network DVR and recommendations.

MobiTV also offers almost every step in the technology chain for end to end OTT delivery from CMS, DRM, the Media Player, nDVR, content policy, identity management, billing and authentication and aggregates content too.

The core idea behind the C Spire idea is that either a smart TV can run TV as an App or it can use popular streaming devices from Amazon, Apple, and Roku as well as Android and Apple tablets and smartphones. The service is a final beta test now and comes in full HD from the get go.

The company says that its system leverages machine-learning to understand a customer’s habits and keep their favorite content front-and-center, learning preferences and recommending new shows and movies. This reeks of another MobiTV investment Vidora which MobiTV bought in 2015, which claimed to apply artificial intelligence to the process of content personalization. It said at the time that it was working with several leading US and international operators to enhance service on all screens. Sounds like C-Spire was one of them and perhaps another will emerge shortly.

At launch, MobiTV claimed its system continuously adapts in real-time and doesn’t just improve its recommendations, but also the content layout from device to device based on improving consumer engagement.

C Spire TV will cost $65 a month for 104 channels, and $85 for 164 channels, as a virtual MVPD. The company insists that it is not delivered OTT, which suggests that while it probably relies on Adaptive Bit Rate for delivery to phones, it has control of the end to end network, through its own fiber, so the service can rely on traffic prioritization and network control to prevent any buffering. Premium networks and sports channels are bundled as extras and the service can play on Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Android TV and Roku streaming boxes; Android and iOS mobile devices; and personal computers powered by Chrome, Safari or Firefox. While it cannot sweep across the US, if successful, it could point the way for many other cable and IPTV incumbents.