Magine aims to be a cloud pay TV service without the box

Magine iPad app

From the land of innovative software design, Stockholm, comes another slick-looking product hoping to package up old-style content in a new way.

Magine is a service offering premium live and time-shifted TV channels through its iPad, iPhone and internet TV apps and its website.

While in its current beta, the outfit is offering 16 premium channels for free in Sweden. Live streams can be rewound over the air and, from Magine’s conventional linear EPG, viewers can scroll right back to call up catch-up shows up to a month old.

“We transcode all the channels in real-time, then put it through DRM and upload it in real-time to our cloud storage, and out through any CDN,” co-founder Mattias Hjelmsted tells paidContent. The system works on top of Amazon’s S3 hosting.

Although channels streamed through Magine can be slung to an Apple TV box through AirPlay, its pitch is that this is pay TV for an era in which the network and handheld devices have become powerful.

“You don’t really need a set-top box,” Hjelmsted said. Instead, broadband, WiFi and users’ existing devices can handle the strain, taking out plenty of box-related capex cost usually associated with a pay-TV provider.

Through its on-the-cloud mix of catch-up and live, the service also blends TV formats. “The user doesn’t really need to think about whether it’s live or VOD,” Hjelmsted said. “It’s a hybrid between the two.”

To its 3,000 beta users, Magine is currently offering free access to its paid TV bouquet. But, from Q1, the “beta” label will come off and the service plans to begin charging, just as a typical pay-TV provider does, though it will retain a free tier for conversion. “We speak with our users and the willingness to pay is very high,” Hjelmsted says. With channels like CNN International, whose owner Turner Broadcasting System stringently licenses only to paid-up licensees, he will need to be right.

The 35-strong company is helmed at CEO by Erik Wikström, an entrepreneur who previously founded part of the company that now comprises the big European digital marketing agency LBi and who later turned to investing in Asia.

The outfit funded itself until March, when it raised angel investment from friends, family and wealthy Nordic families.

While preparing for full launch at home, the outfit is also aiming to strike deals to operate in the UK and Germany, retaining former Channel 4 future media and technology head Jon Gisby to advise on UK opportunities.

If there is an opportunity for Magine to build an own-brand business, it may nevertheless be challenged to front up against big incumbent pay TV operators like BSkyB, Virgin Media and Sky Deutschland, which are each bringing their bouquets’ channels to similar apps and services and enjoy greater scale at consumer level.

But the TV product itself is simple and effortless to use, much like its Stockholm neighbour Spotify has done for music.

Magine recently hired one of Spotify’s first execs, Andreas Liffgarden, who helped broker the outfit’s important Telia Sonera carriage partnership, as its Sweden general manager. And Mattias Hjelmsted reckons Stockholm is still a great place in which to innovate.

“Why is Stockholm such a good base for technology?,” he asks. “It is a very helpful ecosystem where everyone helps each other to get things going. If you fail, there is a safety net to just pick up again.

“Also, we are in a country that’s not big enough only to create business ideas for Sweden, so you have to create products for international right from the start.”

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