Denver-based pay TV upstart Layer3 TV has quietly started to test its new cable television service under the brand name Umio in two markets in Texas. Umio promises consumers a modern take on TV, thanks in part to a state-of-the-art set-top box, but still seems to stick to the traditional cable TV bundle.
Layer3 TV, which was founded by cable TV veterans in 2013, hasn’t officially announced the Umio brand yet, and has no mention of it on its website. However, the company quietly launched Umio in the Texas towns of Midland and Kingswood in December, and has since started to market it to local residents, promising them two months of free TV service as part of a beta test.
Here’s a promotional video for Umio’s service:
Layer3 has in the past been very guarded about its technology and business, leading many to believe that the company was going to launch a virtual pay TV operator that streams its programming over the Internet, similar to what Dish has been doing with Sling TV. The company’s new Umio site doesn’t spell out all the details either, but makes it look like the service is much closer to what you’d expect from a traditional cable company. The company’s set-top box features an integrated cable modem, and Umio’s website promises “one powerful package” that includes Internet and TV services.
This traditional approach also extends to Umio’s TV programming. In Kingswood, Umio is offering subscribers a cable package that includes local broadcasters as well as most of the cable nets you’d get with one of its established competitors, including ESPN and a number of other sports nets. Umio also offers a number of add-on packages, like a movie package including Encore, SundanceTV and the FX Movie Channel, a sports package, a Spanish-language package and separate add-ons for HBO, Showtime and Starz. Notably absent from the mix is any Viacom network, so Umio customers won’t be able to watch Comedy Central, MTV or Nickelodeon, at least not during the current test phase.
Umio is using a state of the art set-top box from Pace, which includes a front-facing LCD screen, a Wifi router, voice control, a DVR with eight tuners, support for a variety of wireless technologies to eventually control connected appliances and more, as well as 4K playback support. It’s unclear, however, whether Umio will actually have access to any 4K content at launch.
Umio’s box will also have access to online video content — even though the website doesn’t exactly specify which services it will carry. Instead, it’s promising to integrate “all of your subscription streaming video services and even online viral videos into one, seamless experience so you never have to compromise on content.” Netflix has long looked to strike partnerships with pay TV operators, and Hulu and YouTube have made strides in this space as well, but none of these services are mentioned by name on Umio’s site.
Umio’s main pitch seems to be that it is easier than services from established cable or satellite operators, but it’s unclear whether that’s really enough to get consumers to switch — especially without knowing anything about Umio’s pricing.
Layer3 TV was founded in 2013 by Jeff Binder, who previously founded the VOD technology company Broadbus Technologies, and Dave Fellows, previously CTO at Comcast and AT&T Broadband. The company has also hired former Fox executive Lindsay Gardner for its content deals, and has raised more than $80 million total from Evolution Media Growth Partners and North Bridge Venture Partners. The company didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment for this story.