How did nimbleTV add OTA sub-channels?

nimblesub2When it comes to online TV viewing, Aereo and FilmOn get all the headlines, partly because they also get all the lawsuits. Our old friend nimbleTV, on the other hand, stays supremely quiet, content for now with its single programming point of presence and its unusual relationship with Dish Network.

So I found it remarkable today when nimbleTV added over-the-air digital subchannels from New York City to my package. (Remember that I only get NYC locals because I have a NYC mailing address.) Normally, I receive the NYC locals exactly as Dish delivers them; for example, when Dish upgraded WNYE from SD to HD, so did nimbleTV’s version.

We still don’t know exactly how nimbleTV retransmits its Dish channels to its subscribers. My best guess is that nimbleTV records every program from every channel it receives, then streams a copy of that to every subscriber who requests it. If that’s true, and if Dish and nimbleTV have an agreement for such virtual Dish subscribers, that all makes sense.

So how can nimbleTV add these extra OTA sub-channels that it can’t get from Dish? Well, I know that nimbleTV’s offices are on a 12th floor in Manhattan, and when I was in a hotel room about that high, I could pick up those same sub-channels with a simple OTA antenna. (What, don’t you pack one?) In the absence of any direct knowledge, my guess would be that nimbleTV has hooked its own OTA antennas into its content retransmitter. For the reason why, I’d guess that after watching Aereo and FilmOn connect their subscribers to NYC OTA antenna banks, nimbleTV figured that it was fair game.

As we teeter on this potentially unstable pile of guesses and theories, let’s try to add just one more. If all that I supposed happened to be true, then local broadcasters would probably pounce on nimbleTV because, according to these guesses, each nimbleTV subscriber probably isn’t directly connected to an OTA antenna Aereo-style. So that means that I’m probably wrong about this logic problem somewhere along the way, but at least I showed my work.

Mind you, I do enjoy these OTA sub-channels, although they might not be available to me for long. A worker there told me that nimbleTV was just “running a test with our platform”. But as I type, those channels are still there. Update: Between the time I posted this and when I tweeted its link, the sub-channels were gone again. Let’s see whether they return.