Frequency Raises $11 Million to Bring Internet Video to Cable Boxes (EXCLUSIVE)

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Los Angeles-based internet video startup Frequency has raised a new $11 million round of funding from Liberty Global and others to help pay TV operators to embrace online video. Frequency announced the new funding at the TV of Tomorrow Show in San Francisco Wednesday, where it also revealed that it will start to power web video on Liberty Global’s set-top boxes, web properties and mobile apps across the operator’s European markets.

Customers of Liberty Global-owned Dutch operator Ziggo will be the first to see the results of this cooperation, with first web videos expected to reach their set-top boxes in Q3. The catalog made available will include MCNs, major digital brands and digital content produced by TV networks. “We are bringing hundreds and hundreds of new channels to the TV platform,” said Frequency founder and CEO Blair Harrison in an interview with Variety.

The idea of adding online video sources to set-top boxes is anything but new, but many operators have been cautious to embrace YouTube and other major sources for the fear of helping consumers to ditch premium network bundles, or even pay TV altogether, in favor of online content. “Some of them have been very cautious,” admitted Harrison.

However, others are growing more comfortable with the idea to add premium online content to their services, in part because networks themselves are already producing a lot of high-quality ancillary content. Harrison argued that the AMC’s “Talking Dead” webisodes were a perfect example for content that actually promotes, and not competes with, network fare. Right now, most of these made-for-web shows aren’t available on cable boxes — something that Frequency aims to change. “That should be available on the television as well,” Harrison argued.

Frequency also wants to help cable operators make use of their existing assets, including data gathered by cable boxes, to personalize the curation online videos — and he thinks that there’s a case to be made for operators to embrace MCNs and similar publishers, if only for economic reasons. “It’s by far the cheapest source of content,” he said.

Liberty Global has been one of the more progressive operators with regards to online video integrations. The company has also been using cloud virtualization technology to bring YouTube and other video services to legacy cable boxes.

Frequency’s implementation instead focuses on newer equipment with the abilities to run native apps. After bringing its white-labeled service to Ziggo, Frequency plans to bring it to Virgin in the U.K., followed by Liberty’s other European territories. Together with other operator partnerships, the company aims to be on 50 million pay TV boxes by the end of next year.

Including the new round of funding, Frequency has raised a total of $20 million so far. Investors in the newest round also include Chinese VOD provider YOU On Demand Holdings and Los Angeles-based investment firm Oakmont Corporation.