Just as reading the news, booking travel reservations, and even shopping are completely different experiences today than they were a mere decade or two ago, the way consumers watch TV is in the midst of a similar seismic shift. And as that's become more recognizable, the scramble is on for companies across the media industry and beyond to establish themselves as the next Amazon.com rather than the next travel agency or newspaper publisher.
Veteran Leadership in a New Space
While many of the current players getting into the web TV space have done so after recently recognizing the imminent opportunity (or threat) presented by this change, one man is able to say that he's seen this coming for years. That man is William Mobley, an online video veteran whose previous ventures included MegaMedia Networks, the company behind one of the world's first web video portals.
Having been in the streaming video business almost a decade before YouTube or Netflix, it should come as no surprise to those entering the web TV space that Mobley was there well ahead of them, with his latest company, FreeCast, and its flagship product, Rabbit TV.
A Different Approach
Most people associate web television with companies like Netflix and Hulu, who each offer access to exclusive libraries of content for a monthly fee. FreeCast has taken a completely different approach with Rabbit TV.
Rather than offering a limited selection of content, Rabbit TV attempts to offer all of it: hundreds of thousands of television episodes, movies, live events, streaming channels, music videos, and more.
Dubbed a Media Aggregation Platform, or MAP, Rabbit TV rounds up online media from thousands of sources, including both free and paid content, making the offering something more akin to a cable company than subscribing to an individual channel, as is the case with Netflix and Hulu.
"That's what we're building with Rabbit TV Plus: an open, agnostic Media Aggregation Platform. A MAP. It's a platform where content providers and consumers can have direct transactions."
FreeCast CEO William Mobley
So far, this strategy has paid off for Mobley and his Orlando, Florida company. The $10-a-year Rabbit TV service reached 1 million subscribers in a mere 6 months, or less than one fourth of the time that it took Hulu or Netflix to do the same.
Web TV Rivals Emerge
Today, with over 4 million subscribers, FreeCast represents the 800 lb. gorilla to those entering the web TV arena, from startups like Pluto TV to even tech giants like Google.
Pluto brings the familiar programming grid from your cable box to your web browser, putting a familiar interface on web-based channels, assembled from YouTube playlists, and more recently, Hulu shows as well.
An Industry with Open Arms
To these newcomers to online TV, FreeCast has one message: "Welcome!" While others might see their presence as an intrusion, to FreeCast it is evidence that web TV is finally going mainstream. And that's nothing but good news for the Orlando-based startup that has already enjoyed remarkable success in what was long considered a niche market.
While the press likes to cover disruptive trends as if they were war zones where big companies do battle, FreeCast's strategy specifically keeps it out of that fray, instead positioning the company to benefit from any sort of content arms race.
As content creators push their own libraries via the web and other companies debut new ways to manage and deliver this content, FreeCast's own offering is strengthened. The increasing significance of OTT is good for everyone in the space, as well as consumers, as was noted by another industry leader, Reed Hastings:
"Our growth and our competitors' growth shows just how large the opportunity is for Internet TV, where people get to control their viewing experience."
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, 2013
The arrival of Google and Pluto TV to the party means that web TV is here to stay, and consequently so is FreeCast.