Cord cutters and web TV users could be heard issuing a collective groan yesterday as rumors surfaced that popular online video service Hulu may soon begin requiring its users to prove they have cable or satellite subscription. Sure, distribution models have changed, but we’ll still make you pay regardless, the old guard seems to be saying.
Of course, it’s never been cheaper or easier to distribute TV, thanks to the convergence of broadband and broadcast television, and startups like Aereo have rushed to capitalize on the “TV Everywhere” movement, drawing the ire of broadcasters. Though measured compared to mobile devices, connected TV adoption is growing fast, especially with names like Google and Apple in the mix.
Apple TV, for one, is using AirPlay to let users turn their laptops, phones, and tablets into remote controls, wirelessly beaming streaming content to their connected TVs. What’s more, it’s leveraging its smart chip technology to make this experience compatible with high def, hardware that will continue to improve alongside advances in mobile OSes and technologies.
Some believe that Apple may begin licensing AirPlay to connected TV manufacturers, because, as Redux CEO David McIntosh recently pointed out, the Holy Grail for networks, studios, and cable companies is to be able to offer a consistent, global TV experience that isn’t interrupted by regional restrictions and supports hundreds of devices and OSes.
While Apple’s AirPlay offers a terrific, seamless experience, users are still locked into the Apple ecosystem, and to really win the day, one has to be adaptable and multiplatform. Fragmentation is the norm. On the connected TV side, broadcast TV, set top boxes, IPTVs, DVRs and PVRs are going the way of the Dodo, and today’s connected TVs have to be able to take advantage of the same smart processors and dynamic OS tech that powers smart consumer mobile devices today.
This is the thinking being employed by a Silicon Valley-based startup called CrestaTech, which has been quietly designing a portfolio of programmable hardware and software technologies that enable universal TV reception for all manners of smart devices, TVs, tablets, and PCs.
On the hardware side, CrestaTech has developed tuners that reduce the cost and make it easier for manufacturers to develop flat and light TVs that are in tune with global reception standards, and on the software side, it’s created multi-standard demodulation technology and an easy-to-use interface that allows PCs to receive and digitize TV signals anywhere in the world. In short, the startup is on a mission to make TVs not only smart, but global and maybe a little dynamic, too.
And that’s just it: TV manufacturers are challenged with creating an easy to use product that is globally capable; not regionally constrained, and adaptable to supporting the quick-evolving feature sets provided in mobile, connected devices. So, CrestaTech is looking to bridge the gap, allowing OEMs to create products that boast a single, dynamic design, cloud services, and connectivity anywhere — at a price that doesn’t make consumers faint.
The vision is a big one, and today CrestaTech received further financial validation for its endeavor, announcing that it has closed a $13 million Series B round of investment. The round was led by Bechtolsheim Ventures, Benhamou Global Ventures, Sofinnova Ventures and AVM Capital LP, and adds to the $5 million Series A the startup raised back in 2008, as well as early funding from Sun Microsystems founder Andy Bechtolsheim, bringing total funding to just under $20 million.
With its new investment, CrestaTech plans to continue developing its next-gen smart TV platform, and plans a series of product releases later this year, along with expansion into smart devices, like smartphones, tablets and media players. As McIntosh pointed out, margins on TVs have decreased over time, and manufacturers want to integrate connected TVs into an ecosystem of higher-margin tablets and phones.
CrestaTech says that it’s already been having success among manufacturers, and if it can start implementing its technology in mobile devices, we may just CrestaTech become an integral part of smart TV platforms around the world, and an alternative to AirPlay. And Aereo. At the very least, it feels good to imagine region-free TV, radio and GPS on any device.
What do you think?
For more on CrestaTech, check ’em out at home here.