Rest in peace NimbleTV

Tombstone for NimbleTV

© / HitTune

I must pause from my International CES reporting to report the demise of a unique TV streaming service. NimbleTV, which had continued to collect emails for a 2015 relaunch after it “paused” on Monday, was acquired yesterday by another company. Synacor, which helps its clients deliver branded, personalized media, picked up NimbleTV’s patents and personnel, then told re/code’s Peter Kafka that NimbleTV had been “discontinued” and would not return.

On its web site, NimbleTV’s signup links now forward to a thank-you page (still named “signup.php”) which verifies that “we have decided to end our direct-to-consumer service.” That page claims NimbleTV had planned all along to be “a technology enabler for companies interested in boosting their streaming and TV viewing capabilities” as well as a streaming service.

I don’t believe it. Go watch NimbleTV founder/CEO Anand Subramanian’s June 2012 speech where he outlines his plans. What I saw in that video was a guy from India with a great idea to enable internet-based cable TV subscriptions, eventually including subscriptions from India. Subramanian made sure that every cable or (as it turned out) Dish TV subscriber paid full price to that company, plus a little extra for NimbleTV’s video concierge service. That sounded fair to me, but apparently the cable and satellite companies (under pressure from their content providers?) didn’t like it that they weren’t consulted.

I must reiterate here that my only knowledge of the innards of NimbleTV were the glimpses I saw as a paying customer. I know that NimbleTV signed me up to a Dish Network subscription for which I received exactly one paper bill before it presumably switched to some sort of NimbleTV autopay. I know that the pay-TV channels carried Dish ads, and that bad thunderstorms around New York could disrupt my service. The rest is speculation only.

My guess is that the fate of NimbleTV was determined by its Indian service and whatever happened to it. For a while, it offered several channel packages from a few different India-based cable companies, then that vanished without explanation. (Scroll down here to see a screen grab.) Was it pressure from Dish, whose DishWorld subsidiary also sells channel packages from India? Whatever torpedoed the Indian connection must have been devastating to NimbleTV’s founders. Also around that time, NimbleTV apparently started pulling in over-the-air channels (not offered on Dish) to package for verified local cable subscribers, who would have therefore paid any retransmission fees. Perhaps that was the point when NimbleTV began positioning itself more as a potential partner or acquisition candidate?

In my head, it all worked out this way: Back in July 2013, Dish had shut off service to NimbleTV for a few weeks but restored it after NimbleTV made some changes including never again mentioning the word “Dish.” After that, Dish was willing to take NimbleTV’s subscribers’ money rather than cause a public stink about it. Around December 2014, Dish told NimbleTV that it was going to launch Sling TV at CES, and that it was time for NimbleTV to gracefully cease reselling Dish programming. NimbleTV cut off new signups in late December and announced its “pause” during CES. With no income sources, it was time to cash out, so Synacor picked up a well-tested technology and the people who created it. That is the theory that I have, and which is mine.

I’m disappointed to have to add NimbleTV to the internet TV graveyard with ivi, Aereo (I remember when it was Bamboom), FilmOn (oh wait, FilmOn’s not dead), and Flo TV. There will always be demand for TV when and where we want to see it, through the internet. I look forward to the day when someone is allowed to sell us viewers what we want.