-Boldly Goes against OTT Grain with Large Internet TV Bundle
By Kendra Chamberlain
While most of the media world have set sights on the future of home entertainment looking more like Netflix than Comcast – including Comcast itself – Layer3 TV is hoping to breathe new life into the dying pay TV package.
The company is launching a streaming TV service that it calls the “next generation of cable.” The service consists of a large bundle of streaming pay TV channels, in either 1080p HD or UHD resolutions, available to watch on a connected TV set. Layer3 TV has built an updated streaming pay TV service, with a wireless set-top box that can be placed in any room in the house, a DVR, and live streaming access to hundreds of pay TV channels in full 1080p HD, and a few UHD channels, too.
“Unlike the current ‘skinny’ bundle fad, which has enjoyed muted success, Layer3 TV is embracing the majority of consumers who demand a full bundle by offering a robust HD programming package with select 4K,” the company said in a statement.
The Anti-OTT Streaming TV Service
The service, called allHD, stands in stark contrast to the prevailing wisdom around consumer preferences for streaming content. The service seems to offer only linear TV channels, and the Website makes no mention of on-demand catalogs – a bold move in an era of personalized, anytime, anywhere, on-demand programming. The bundles are large, too. The entry level package, called allHD Platinum, will offer 200 pay TV channels in 1080p HD, “more HD in an entry level package than any other provider,” the company said.
The degree of flexibility made available to subscribers will be an important selling point for this service. There are numerous studies indicating pay TV subs typically only watch 10-20 TV channels from their pay TV packages, and consumers have expressed frustration over not being able to pick which channels they receive.
It looks like the allHD service will deliver to consumers stables of content from all of pay TV’s usual suspects: Disney and ESPN, Viacom, NBCUniversal, Scripps Networks Interactive, 21st Century Fox, Time Warner, CBS, A&E Networks, Discovery, AMC, Bloomberg and others. “We have partnered with major content companies on new products and services that will completely change the way consumers interact with the cable universe,” said Layer3 TV’s chief content officer Lindsay Gardner.
Layer3 TV promises options for adding individual channels, genre-based channels and “premium add-ons.” It said genre add-ons would include sports and “info” – we assume meaning news – movies and music and Spanish-language content. It said “a number of select networks” would be made available individually, but didn’t name them. We’re guessing some of those individual channels will be in UHD.
Layer3 TV said it will continue to add channels to its core package and premium tiers, and it will expand its a la carte options over the next year. It also plans to integrate some Web-exclusive channels into the packages from “major OTT players,” according to the statement, but again didn’t list any names.
“We are unlocking and enabling the enormous creativity that exists in the content eco-system,” Gardner said. “Our open platform approach will begin to pry open the set top for truly unique and integrated experiences that will forever change the television landscape.”
A Pay TV Service with a Few OTT Features
Layer3 TV has bet it’ll woo subscribers by instilling updated discovery and navigation technology into a traditional pay TV service. The service requires a set-top box – but the STB is wireless and can be placed in any room with an outlet and a TV set, and it will reportedly support other OTT apps such as Netflix, Hulu, YouTube and Amazon. The channels are all linear, but the service offers a huge DVR that can record eight shows at once and store up to 2,000 shows and movies. The service costs $75-$120 per month, but subscribers can change or cancel their subscriptions online, just like Netflix. And though the service can’t be accessed on those popular mobile viewing devices that the younger generations love – tablets, laptops and smartphones – users can have individual profiles through which they can exert some sort of personalization. The company describes the service as “TV that learns you.” It states that “with profiles for everyone in the home, we show you only the things you love, when and where you want them.” It also boasts of integrating live TV, social media, online video and streaming music “all on one simple platform.”
Internet TV Delivered over Managed Networks
An important caveat to the service: it’s not a truly over the top service. The company is leasing access to privately managed networks, in order to ensure the streaming quality is on par with traditional pay TV. The service requires a technician to visit a house and install the service, and there’s no mention of subscribers being able to access any of the content on other devices, inside or outside the home.
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