Live-TV Startup Tivli Raises $6.3M To Disrupt Television Online

Students at Harvard have access to live TV, DVR, and even premium cable networks such as HBO. But what makes them the envy of kids at other universities and colleges in the area is that they aren't watching all their TV shows through flat screens or old-school LCDs. Rather, the content is being piped to them live, right through their MacBook Pros.

The service comes courtesy of Tivli, a startup founded by Harvard graduates Tuan Ho and Nicholas Krasney. It provides users with access to all of the capabilities and features you'd expect of traditional TV, fed directly through laptops and other mobile devices—without the need for television tuners or other wonky peripherals. With Tivli, you only need access to your campus' Internet. While Tivli, which has set up shop at Harvard's iLab incubator, had previously raised seed funding, today the startup demonstrated its growth potential by completing a $6.3 million Series A round of financing.

What's most telling about Tivli's round of funding is its eclectic mix of investors. Not only did investors include traditional VC firms such as NEA, which led the round, but also media industry players such as HBO and WME, a sign that Tivli is gaining support in both Silicon Valley and Tinseltown. Traditionally, stagnant industries, especially in the entertainment space, are resistant to change brought on by new technologies (see: Napster versus the "big four" record labels; YouTube versus Viacom). But Tivli is a rare startup that both delivers a new technology and that solves a problem for the industry it's pursuing.

In this case, cord cutting is an important issue. Long have the giants of television worried the Internet would disrupt their business. With services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime constantly popping up, the entrenched players recognized the potential for younger users to no longer need traditional cable hook-ups and subscription services. Instead, users could someday get all their on-demand content through the Internet, thus eliminating the need for traditional cable providers.

But with Tivli, the cord is not so much cut as it is replaced. Traditional television providers still gain access to live TV viewers, and those viewers have a more seamless way to access that content on alternative devices. That's why Tivli has a good relationship with Dish and HBO—it aims to work with them, rather than against them.

During Fast Company's visit to Tivli's Harvard office yesterday, cofounder Tuan Ho and CEO Christopher Thorpe explained that the funding would allow the company to grow its team and expand the service to other universities. Tivli is available at Yale, Texas A&M, and a slew of other universities, but is expected to be rolled out on more campuses in the near future.

[Image: Flickr user Adam Tinworth]

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  • Clang

    how is this technically different from the mobile apps that cable companies like TWC offer their customers which allow them access when they are in their homes

  • Toni Angermeyer

    This means Tivli works like a VPN? I mean, there must be at least one "general tuner" which catches the signal. What happens when users leave the campus? Are they still able to watch via Tivli?

  • acarr

    You are correct, sir. Once you leave the campus network, you cannot access it. But you do have access to it everywhere on campus, from a growing number of devices. And when off-campus or away, you have access to services like HBO Go, just as with traditional television. 

  • danzee

    So how do you scale this up?  Set it up at other campuses?  Or are they hoping to get enough companies to sign on so that they do like Aero is doing?  Right now the industry is legally fighting Aero.  How will Tivli get around the legal challenges?

  • Xayoz306

    Similar services are already offered by the traditional cable companies in Canada, and have been for quite a few years. Good to see that the United States is now catching up to the rest of North America. 

  • Ray

    Canada is not "the rest of North America", it's about 1/3 of North America.  Yes, it's good to see we are catching up with Canada in this area.

  • danzee

    Actually Canada has 35 million people, the US has 314 million and Mexico has 112 million, so Canada represents less than 1/10th the population of North America.