Tablo cutting into cable’s market share

While Canada’s major cable companies were taking heat over their $25 skinny basic TV packages at CRTC hearings this month, an Ottawa company was stepping up its efforts to promote a local product that aims to make “cutting the cord” more attractive to consumers.

Nuvyyo CEO Grant Hall says more and more Canadians are ditching cable because they’re dissatisfied with poor customer service, escalating costs and contracts that force them to receive channels they never watch.

“I think the trend is pretty well-established,” he said in a recent interview with OBJ. “People are voting with their pocketbooks.”

With more people now getting their TV fix via online streaming services such as Netflix and Crave TV, Mr. Hall believes there’s a clear market opportunity for his company, which gives those consumers access to over-the-air content such as local news and sports broadcasts.

The Kanata firm’s Tablo device streams over-the-air broadcasts to TVs and other devices such as smartphones and tablets. It also allows users to record programming and play it back later.

Nuvyyo originally launched the Tablo back in 2014. About 95 per cent of its sales are currently in the United States, where the average household receives 42 over-the-air channels, as opposed to 15 in Ottawa, and streaming services have a bigger market penetration.

“Canada generally follows the trends in the U.S., so we see more over-the-top services coming,” Mr. Hall said. He is hoping to “ride on the coattails” of that trend by boosting Tablo’s marketing efforts in this country.

With year-over-year revenue growth of 270 per cent in 2015 and triple-digit gains expected again this year, Nuvyyo seems to have hit on the right formula for success. Mr. Hall said the firm leads its field right now, but he added it’s probably just a matter of time before competitors emerge.

“I think that’s inevitable,” he said. “They tell you in business school if there are no competitors in your market, you’re probably not in the right market. We think we’ve got a pretty substantial lead in the market, and, really, the challenge here is developing great applications across pretty much every device a consumer may own.”

The other challenge, Mr. Hall said, is convincing consumers that over-the-air signals – which have been broadcast in digital high definition in Canada since 2011 – are just as clear as those on cable or satellite. He said over-the-air HD signals are usually crisper because cable and satellite signals often have to be compressed due to the huge volume of channels.

“You can put a pair of rabbit ears up and get an excellent signal now,” he said. “Our biggest challenge is really educating the market. The real skinny basic is (over-the-air).”

Founded in 2010 with $4 million in funding from Ottawa’s Celtic House Venture Partners, Nuvyyo now has 18 full-time employees, all but one in the capital. The Tablo was designed by another Ottawa firm, Valydate, and is manufactured locally by Lloyd Douglas Solutions.

“It’s truly an Ottawa product,” Mr. Hall said.