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Independent service provider Citizens Fiber has struck an agreement to use MobiTV’s Connect platform to offer subscribers an app-based pay TV option without the need for traditional set-top boxes.

Apps powered by MobiTV Connect are supported across a variety of mobile and connected devices, including Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV sticks, Android TV, Chromecast, iPhone and Android handsets, and tablets along with other streaming devices.

The service differs from over-the-top delivery in that it’s delivered to homes over a fiber-optic network using managed IP connections, Zach Cutrell, operations manager at Citizens Fiber, said.

Citizens Fiber, based in southwestern Pennsylvania, is currently beta testing its branded version of the MobiTV Connect platform among its employees and a select number of hand-picked customers that the company felt would likely take to the product naturally, including gigabit internet subscribers and high usage watch TV-everywhere customers. A wider deployment is slated for later this spring. About 65 channels are offered now as part of Citizens Fiber’s “classic” lineup, according to Cutrell.

The platform will support on-demand, live TV, catch-up TV and network DVR services, as well as voice control and recommendations.

Subscription pricing for the offering has not been decided yet, but Cutrell said Citizens Fiber will likely either charge a technology fee as a standalone offering, or include the service for gigabit and other high margin internet subscribers to further promote the company’s broadband product.

While the MobiTV Connect platform may help Citizens Fiber retain some of the cord cutter market, Cutrell thinks it is versatile enough to be adopted by “virtually all” types of users. 

“Also, we hope to enable tech newbies to watch Netflix and TV on the same device, and satisfy customers that want advanced features not available to small cable companies in the past,” Cutrell said.

One of the biggest advantages of the deployment is the Cap-Ex savings it provides, according to Cutrell. He noted that a traditional fiber optic installation with three IPTV set-top boxes can cost well over $1,000 dollars, and if there is customer turnover before year two the company loses money. 

“With customer owned equipment and an app-based delivery, you can make a return on your investment in months rather than years,” he noted.

Citizens Fiber, which serves about 3,500 customers in Westmoreland County, Pa., with planned expansions into Latrobe and Greensburg later this year, competes against two cable operators including Comcast, as well as a growing number of virtual MVPDs. 

While Citizens Fiber entered into an agreement with MobiTV prior to the vendor’s recently announced master agreement with the National Cable Television Cooperative (NCTC), the service provider decided to reach out after hearing about MobiTV’s positive results with C Spire, another NCTC member.

MobiTV previously announced that NCTC members MetroNet and DirectLink also signed agreements with the company to provide IP-based video offerings. Charlie Nooney, CEO of MobiTV, added that more than 20 additional operators have signed on and will be announced as those deals progress. Through the NCTC partnership, MobiTV has received dozens of inquiries and are in talks with several other providers, according to Nooney.

“You’ll see many more independent operators come on board now that the NCTC deal is done,” Nooney said.

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