Magine cloud TV aims for set-top box kill

Europe’s established pay-TV providers may be confident they can see off the Netflix threat but are more concerned over potential disruption from much lesser-known Swedish cloud TV start-up service Magine, which plans to extend across the rest of Europe over the next two years.

Magine offers live-TV services with a decent content catalogue and full catch up services from cloud based PVR, streamed to Samsung smart TVs or iOS devices without need for a set-top box. Support for other target device platforms, notably Android and leading smart TV brands other than Samsung, will be added later this year.

There are other cloud TV services in Europe offering good linear content, but these require a set top box, which increases deployment and ongoing costs. Spanish Telco Jazztel is one such service, having switched in 2012 from IPTV to cloud based OTT delivery using an IP set top via adaptive bitrate streaming secured by Nagra’s Conditional Access system.

Magine is actually a cable operator so its subscribers will access the cloud based service via its broadband HFC (Hybrid Fiber coaxial) infrastructure, with delivery secured by the Widevine DRM technology acquired by Google in December 2010. Widevine is widely supported by smart TV makers such as Samsung and so is a natural choice for any streaming TV provider seeking to bypass set top boxes.

Magine has been running a trial service for six months in Sweden, accumulating 12,000 beta users in the process, and claims to have 40,000 more names on its waiting list. Having now launched commercially in Sweden with its “First Edition” for 99 Swedish kroner, around $14, a month, Magine says it is preparing to launch in Germany and Spain later this year and plans to hit most of the other major European markets in 2014, starting with the UK early on.

While the attention has focused on avoiding the set top, Magine believes its principle differentiator lies in its content catalogue, with a bouquet comprising national Swedish public broadcaster SVT and private broadcaster TV4, as well international channels CNN International, BBC, Eurosport, National Geographic, Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network, with more agreements said to be on the way.

The big test though will come in the major European markets, especially the UK and Germany, where expensive premium sports and movie content are the drivers of subscribers to the main TV services. In the UK for example rights for English Premier League football were sold for £3 billion ($4.5 billion) for the three seasons 2013/2014 to 2015/2016 to Sky and BT, with a startup such as Magine only likely to be able to scoop up crumbs like recorded highlights.