After more than a decade stuck in the tech industry’s equivalent of a late-night time slot, Kanata-based Nuvyyo is hoping its latest product upgrade will springboard it into prime time.
The company just unveiled a completely retooled version of its flagship device, called Tablo, that records over-the-air and internet-based TV broadcasts and streams them to devices such as smartphones.
Nuvyyo’s boss, Grant Hall, calls it the most ambitious project in the firm’s 13-year history, and it likely wouldn’t have been possible without the backing of the E.W. Scripps Company, the Cincinnati-based broadcasting organization that acquired Nuvyyo for just under US$14 million in January 2022.
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“For an engineer, that’s just hugely exciting,” Hall said Thursday of the 18-month effort to create the fourth-generation Tablo device. “You don’t get that opportunity very often.”
The latest iteration of Nuvyyo’s marquee product allows users to watch and record over-the-air programs from networks like ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox for free through an app that runs on Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Google TV and iOS mobile platforms as well as most smart TVs and mobile devices.
The firm has been producing hardware and software for viewers who want to access TV broadcasts via old-school antennas rather than cable or satellite feeds since 2010.
The new-look Tablo features upgraded technology in an all-in-one system. Offerings such as advanced DVR scheduling and a grid-based TV guide that were previously available by paying a monthly subscription fee have been rolled into the upfront purchase price, which has been slashed from US$169 to $99.95.
For the first time, Tablo customers will be able to stream and record broadcasts from internet-based channels. An optional indoor TV antenna is also available for consumers who haven’t yet cut their cable cords – something millions of U.S. households have already done.
“We are really the only product of its type now,” Hall said. “We’ve really upped our game in terms of the user interface.”
Fittingly for a man who wants people to get their TV fix over the air rather than through an underground cable, Nuvyyo’s CEO sees nothing but blue sky on the horizon for his company.
Even factoring in the recent antenna boom, fewer than 50 million of the 131 million households in the U.S. have access to over-the-air TV programming. That means there’s still plenty of room for the market to expand, and much more room for Nuvyyo to grow.
Still, until recently, even Hall couldn’t have imagined the opportunity that now lies ahead.
His 22-person firm had been doing a respectable business selling its hardware and software, mostly to customers south of the border, before Scripps came calling a couple of years ago.
Up to that point, Nuvyyo had secured about $10 million in venture capital and landed a spot on OBJ’s list of Ottawa’s fastest-growing companies in 2017. It also had a decent sales network south of the border, where Tablo could be purchased on Amazon and at Best Buy.
But in global terms, the firm was a minnow. While millions of American cord-cutters were rediscovering the merits of antennas, Nuvyyo was still finding it an uphill climb to build a nationwide audience for Tablo.
“Consumer electronics is not at the sweet spot of VC investing,” Hall said. “It’s a little more challenging to attract capital. We had a great (subscription-based) model … we were developing great recurring revenue, but still hardware is not the most favoured vehicle to deploy (capital) in the VC world. Getting the amount of capital that it would really take to (get to) this next level was challenging.”
Thankfully for Nuvyyo, Scripps saw potential in the scrappy venture from up north.
With cable and satellite subscriptions sliding – and fees paid to broadcasters by cable and satellite providers to carry network signals subsequently declining – Scripps, the second-largest operator of ABC affiliates in the U.S., was looking for ways to attract more eyeballs to over-the-air broadcasts of its channels.
Tablo, with its ability to capture over-the-air programming and allow viewers to record and watch it on the device of their choice at any time, fit the bill.
In the summer of 2021, Scripps executives contacted Hall and his team via LinkedIn to inquire about a potential partnership.
“You always have a list of who your potential acquirers are,” Hall said. “They were not on the list at all. It did come out of the blue to a certain extent.”
But the veteran CEO quickly sensed that the Ohio-based broadcasting giant could be just the right partner to get Nuvyyo over the hump. Six months later, the deal was completed.
“Really for us it was the opportunity to take the product we developed to the next level,” he explained. “We just didn’t really have the resources on the marketing and distribution side to really get this thing to take off.
“As good as we were, we were just scratching the surface of (the U.S.) market. With Scripps’ resources and their (marketing) megaphone, there’s huge opportunity there.”
With the cross-country marketing push for the next-gen Tablo poised to begin, Hall believes it could become the tech world’s breakout hit of the fall season.
“Their marketing budget is something we could only dream about when we were on our own,” he said. “It just makes all the difference in the world.”