Fan TV, the diminutive set-top box with big aspirations of taking over the living room, took a major step toward its goal today by securing its first national cable deal, with Time Warner Cable, and opening up preorders for shipment in June.
Starting today, Time Warner customers can reserve a Fan TV for a special introductory price of $99 (the system will normally retail for $149). There is no additional fee or contract required to use Fan TV, though you do need a Time Warner video and broadband subscription. For now, it will only be sold online from Fan TV’s website.
Fan TV, which debuted about a year ago at D11, is an all-in-one entertainment system that streams live and on-demand TV, cloud-based DVR recordings and Web TV services. It also integrates with the company’s Fan video discovery service, which allows you to search for shows and movies across multiple content providers (cable, streaming services).
The device itself, which was designed with the help of Yves Behar of Jawbone and Ouya fame, consists of a small pod and a buttonless, touch-sensitive remote, and is meant to be a total cable box replacement. But it’s not — well, not yet, anyway.
For one, Fan TV doesn’t offer the full lineup of Time Warner Cable channels, just those that are available from the company’s mobile app. Second, though you can pause live TV, it won’t have DVR capabilities at launch, so you’ll still need your cable box/DVR to record shows.
Also, app support is rather limited at this time. Currently, Fan TV only offers Redbox Instant, Crackle, Target Ticket and Rhapsody, leaving out major streaming services like Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon and HBO Go.
Being just a 45-person company, CEO Gilles BianRosa said, Fan TV’s primary focus for launch was delivering the live TV experience, and now that it has a deal with Time Warner Cable, it can shift some of its energy to bringing more content to the system.
BianRosa did not provide any specifics on when we might see new services or cable providers, but said the company is in talks with all the major companies. He also said that Fan TV will eventually be sold in retail stores.
As my colleague Peter Kafka noted at the time of its introduction, Fan TV would not work without the cooperation of cable providers, so the partnership with Time Warner Cable is certainly a big one. Time Warner Cable is the second largest cable company in the U.S., with 30 million customers.
Of course, Fan TV isn’t the first company to attempt to unite live TV and streaming media into a single experience. Others like Google TV, Microsoft (Xbox) and Nintendo have tried with mixed results. Time Warner Cable also offers a free app that allows you to watch its programming from a Roku box.
But ultimately, BianRosa believes its video discovery service, along with its cable partnerships, will set Fan TV apart from the competition.
“In today’s market, you have devices with all these apps in them, but it’s a very siloed experience. There’s no discovery,” said BianRosa in a video call with Re/code. “But Fan TV’s entire system is built to bring together live TV, VOD and streaming services into one simplified discovery experience.”