The notion of cutting the cable cord isn’t necessarily one of not wanting to watch or pay for television — it’s about not wanting to pay for both cable and internet. Cable cutters, of which I consider myself one for the past five years, really just want to have their television viewing experience delivered through the web. That will never be a reality — particularly the vision of what that should be in my head — but I’m intrigued by this new start-up NimbleTV.
To give users access to their cable TV subscriptions on everything with a screen and an internet connection, NimbleTV will sign you up for a new cable account, host your cable hardware, and push your shows into the cloud. Your content is then accessible from any HTML 5-compatible internet-connected device anywhere.
But while most mobile devices have HTML 5-compatible browsers, most TVs do not. NimbleTV is looking into building apps for TVs and set-top boxes. But in the meantime, AirPlay for Apple TV and set-top boxes with HTML 5 browsers will have to do.
Still, the most exciting aspect of the service is that if NimbleTV can get ramped up to a full launch, you’ll be able to subscribe to a pay-TV service from anywhere. International customers and expats could sign up for cable in the United States and stay on top of their favorite shows from anywhere in the world.
Essentially, NimbleTV aims to be a cloud-based cable TV provider. The hitch is you still have to subscribe to cable television and then pay NimbleTV an additional $20 per month for the privilege of place shifting your television.
But, that’s what SlingBox can do for one-time $300 payment. Nilay Patel, however, thinks the service has potential:
I played around with an early beta of NimbleTV for 24 hours and it’s fast and simple — although there are some noticeable beta rough spots, the core functionality of being able to quickly sign in and watch live or recorded TV worked without issue. There are also some nice content-discovery features in the mix: as you search for shows you can click on an actor’s name and find all the other shows and movies they appear in, for example. Streaming quality was solid, although not great; there’s definitely still room to improve during the beta period. But overall the promise and potential are obvious: NimbleTV feels very much like a glimpse into the future of online TV.
The questions, of course, are whether Subramanian and his team can work out how to scale up hundreds or thousands of data centers around the world to provide users with the service they’re promising, and do it without pissing off an already-nervous TV industry.
The problem is that cord cutters don’t really want to pay extra for cable just for the ability to watch television on their iPhone or iPad. That’s ridiculous. But, at the same time why aren’t cable/internet companies innovating with delivering television channels through the cloud? That’s a fantastic option that I would entertain if the value was right.