How to get most NYC locals, and a lot more

nimbleTV logoIn my last post, I told you about a way to watch lots of distant local over-the-air TV stations through FilmOn. I’m pleasantly surprised to see that local station page is still available; I doubt that it will be sustainable over the long run. During the last couple of weeks, I’ve been transfixed by another service with a better chance for success, just because it hasn’t been sued by any TV networks yet. That service is nimbleTV, which currently offers most of the New York City OTA channels along with a smattering of other content.

NimbleTV, which I need to capitalize at the beginning of a sentence, was founded on the idea “that people should have the freedom to watch their pay cable/satellite TV subscription from anywhere they are, anytime they want and on any device.” That’s pretty close to the motto of this blog: TV wants to be free. In broad strokes, nimbleTV establishes a paid subscription for you in one of its points of presence, then adds a bit more cost to cover streaming and some virtual DVR space. To the cable system or satellite company, you’re just another local subscriber, but you get all the benefits of that subscription even if you’ve never visited that town.

Barely out of beta, nimbleTV has only one TV source at the moment – Dish Network in New York. It so happens that Dish has an incredibly inexpensive Welcome Pack that it offers to lure new subscribers and sometimes to retain possible deserters. NimbleTV built its Casual Watcher plan on that Welcome Pack, so it can provide the most Dish-delivered New York locals plus TBS, Comedy Central, and a few other channels for less than $30 a month. (Edit: Dish provides one local, Azteca, that isn’t carried by nimbleTV.) That plan also includes 20 hours of virtual DVR, with more space available at $1/month for every extra 10 hours. The Casual Watcher plan presents all of its pay channels in standard definition (they still look great on my iPhone) unlike nimbleTV’s other two plans, which also include 90 hours of DVR space. Those upgraded plans are TV Fan (based on America’s Top 120, about $55/month) and Enthusiast (America’s Top 200, about $80/month). Subscribers can also choose from four premium movie packages including HBO ($18/month), Cinemax, Showtime, and Starz ($13/month each).

For folks who are used to watching TV without paying (OTA and free-to-air satellite), that sounds like a lot of money. But for folks who are used to paying for TV, those are pretty good rates. If I wanted to subscribe to America’s Top 120 and keep a Dish DVR, the base cost would be about $60/month once any promotions wore off. A TV Fan subscription is cheaper than that.

The trick is that I’m comparing grapefruit and oranges. On a big screen, the satellite-delivered picture is always going to be prettier and more reliable than an internet-delivered picture. Also, when I say that nimbleTV’s packages are based on Dish’s, it means just that; they’re not a perfect match. For example, my Casual Watcher plan doesn’t include TV Guide Network, which is in the Welcome Pack. NimbleTV listings for the other two plans don’t include the music channels that are available with the equivalent Dish package. Direct subscribers to Dish also get more preview channels and on-demand perks, and a Sling-enabled Dish receiver can stream to more platforms than nimbleTV, which for now is mostly confined to iOS devices and computer browsers. On the other hand, streaming to my iPhone is a lot cleaner and easier with nimbleTV than with my Dish receiver.

One more drawback is that nimbleTV provides only those New York OTA channels that are delivered via satellite. Dish doesn’t carry the digital sub-channels, which means nimbleTV doesn’t carry Antenna, this, Cozi, Bounce, Live Well, PBS Kids, Qubo, or any other non-primary OTA channel. That’s where the less-expensive Aereo holds an advantage over nimbleTV, but Aereo only adds one pay-TV channel (Bloomberg), and most importantly, Aereo won’t sell to viewers outside the New York City market.

That’s nimbleTV in a nutshell. As I said, I’ve been having great fun recording and streaming NYC-centric programming along with a few other networks that I usually neglect in my regular America’s Top 250 subscription at home. (It’s easier to stand out in a group of 20 interesting channels than in 200.) You ought to go try it out for free to see whether that’s worth the moderate price. And come back tomorrow when I discuss who subscribes to nimbleTV, how it serves up all those streams, and its plans for the future.