Detroit’s Ubi Video Offers Smaller Cable Providers a Way to Compete

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hadn’t gotten enough bad feedback in Detroit and if Ubi was going to fail, he wanted to do so quickly. But instead of failing, Ubi attracted the attention of the Bay Area tech community and its investors, who loved the product and saw a market for it—but wanted to see more before investing.

That’s when Norman got serious about pitching Ubi’s platform to cable companies. “We’re focusing more on solving problems for cable providers,” Norman explained. “We have a cloud-based platform that we can license to cable providers.”

The problem, as Norman sees it, is that with a glut of free content available, people are less likely to pay for cable. (That’s why you’re seeing cable companies branching out into the home security realm—they’re frantically seeking new sources of revenue, he said.) What Ubi’s platform does is allow smaller cable providers to compete with giants like Xfinity by seamlessly integrating Netflix, video on demand, and Youtube into a one-stop cable experience, along with a dashboard that allows the provider to see what people are watching on a region-by-region, city-by-city basis. “Today, there’s so much content pouring out, but a lot of it is crap,” Norman said. “This would allow providers to find out what can be dropped.”

Norman envisions a television future where consumers can watch highly personalized cable content across a variety of devices, which is a premium service that only a few big cable providers currently offer. He admits content creators might see this concept as a threat to their profitability, but he said the way to neutralize that fear is to charge by the show. “If people pay up to $2 to watch a show, that’s more money on the back end than [content providers are] getting.”

So, as Silicon Valley investors watch and wait, Norman continues to reach out to cable providers and so far, he said, the reaction has been positive. He’s confident that a year from now, Ubi Video will have at least two cable clients. “We have talked to every U.S. cable company and probably half of them have called us back,” he added. “A lot of them want to compete with Xfinity, but the smaller companies don’t have the staff to pull that kind of platform together for a very reasonable cost.”

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Sarah Schmid Stevenson is the editor of Xconomy Detroit/Ann Arbor. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or Follow @XconomyDET_AA

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