When their Harvard dorm room lacked cable TV, seniors Nicholas Krasney and Tuan Ho plastered the walls with Reynolds Wrap on the hunch that the makeshift satellite dish could pick up TV signals and deliver them wirelessly to their laptops via a jerry-rigged server. Remarkably, it worked. "Our friends saw what we were doing and said, 'That's cool—can we have access to that too?'" Ho says.
Within a year, the pair moved from foil to Philo, a service that brings live television content to the devices students actually use: smartphones, tablets, and laptops. Philo's aim is to do for TV what Apple did for music: create a service that's simple, seamless, and legal. "It's a complement to the cord," explains Ho, 26. Philo has worked with cable providers to serve more than a dozen campuses. At Harvard, it boasts a 90% adoption rate.
Philo offers the TV industry what it has failed to build on its own: a model that's attractive to both cable providers and customers. Students love it because, with just a college email address and access to campus Internet, they can watch live TV at philo.com. Universities love it because it reduces bandwidth strain from streaming Netflix and illegal torrenting. And the industry loves it because it deters piracy and delivers the coveted 18- to 24-year-old demographic.
Next, Philo plans to integrate social features and targeted ads and bring the service to other community networks including hotels, hospitals, and airplanes.