Live TV, distributed over the web: The very idea is disruptive to the cable and satellite companies that have spent billions laying cable and launching satellites. But it's coming a little closer to reality with a new service from a New York-based startup, RadixTV.
RadixTV on Wednesday morning introduced a package of four cable news networks -- CNBC, CNBC World, Bloomberg and MSNBC -- streaming live on the web for business users. It hopes to expand the service, which now costs $14.99 a month, to 10 channels, including France 24, Fox News, CNN, Al Jazeera and the BBC.
"We are going where the consumer wants it," said CEO Bhupender Kaul. "We are not saying to the consumer, 'you have to adapt to me.'"
There is a minor catch: Viewers have to work at a financial institution, or at least say they are brokers, accountants or the like, in order to get access. "At financial institutions, traders and brokers are sitting at their desks; this is where they ingest information and make decisions," Mr. Kaul said.
The business community presents an interesting foothold for RadixTV and for Internet-delivered TV in general. While the new offering Wednesday is intentionally limited so that it won't compete with consumer cable TV packages, you don't have to squint too hard to see where the world is going.
That's a world where cable TV programming bypasses the cable box and its proprietary systems, showing directly on the web.
"With security around the internet and cloud computing you really don't need a set-top box anymore, and over the next few year there will be more and more services that compete with traditional cable and satellite companies," said Bernard Gershon, former head digital distribution at The Walt Disney Company and now a media consultant.
So far, the industry's approach to providing access to channels without cannibalizing its core pay-TV business are various versions of "TV Everywhere," or authenticated services like Time Warner 's HBO Go or Comcast's Xfinity, where subscribers to cable or satellite packages are given access to that programming on the web to PCs, mobile devices or gaming systems like Xbox.
While RadixTV isn't intended to replace anyone's home cable subscription, it represents an incremental departure from that philosophy. The service is designed to appeal to financial professionals who want to watch the news on PCs during the day but don't need or want to pay for ESPN or MTV . Indeed, NBC Universal, which is licensing three networks for the service, sees RadixTV as an extension of its existing direct sales to financial companies, the biggest of which license channels independently for business use.
"The business customer is not looking for 50 channels or 100 channels," Mr. Kaul said. "They don't want to have entertainment or sports programming, which takes away from the focus of working in an office."
Mr. Kaul would know. He spent nearly 20 years working for Time Warner Cable and its predecessor, Warner Communications, rising from a local office in Queens to running Time Warner 's enterprise business, including a video package for business called Businesslink.tv, now discontinued. He left in 2008 to launch RadixTV, which he is self-funding along with a private investor.
Mr. Kaul sees a future when cable isn't unbundled or a la carte so much as it's re-bundled -- into genre-based groups of channels letting consumers pick and pay for a news package, for example, or sports, unscripted networks or even cooking shows.
Re-bundled networks could still have two revenue streams, one from subscriptions and another from targeted, interactive ads. And the networks themselves could offer internet-based packages.
"We think that 's the future, so we're starting with news," he said. "Today the largest market is for business. In four years' time it might be a totally different world."