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]