Streaming ecosystem FreeCast made waves this week when it introduced a new product that pairs an over-the-air network tuner with its Internet-based platform.
The product, called FreeCast Home, is part of a broader strategy that could reduce the friction when it comes to accessing next-generation broadcast television and the ever-fragmented world of free and subscription-based streaming services.
FreeCast Home bundles a private-label version of SiliconDust's HDHomeRun ATSC 3.0 tuner, which distributes traditional digital and NextGen TV broadcast signals over a private network. Free network programming from ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, PBS and other channels are aggregated through the FreeCast platform, which includes over 700 free, ad-supported streaming channels and links up with subscription-based services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon's Prime Video and Paramount Plus.
The FreeCast platform also allows streamers to pay for subscriptions through a single billing experience, which is powered by MediaPay, and offers a virtual MasterCard that links with a customer's bank account, which the company says helps reduce online fraud and theft.
But FreeCast Home is just one part of the equation. FreeCast also has plans to launch a server-based product that offers many of the same features, but geared toward universities, health care facilities, apartment complexes and other enterprise users.
In a phone interview from Las Vegas this week, FreeCast CEO Bill Mobley said FreeCast Home and the server-based application are being offered at a time when consumers know most of their favorite video programming is mixed between broadcast and streaming, but don't want to spend a whole lot of time bouncing between the two. It also comes as public venues are looking to move away from cable and embrace streaming.
"The broadband infrastructure is already in place," Mobley said. "We can bring server units to apartments and health care facilities and public venues that are moving away from cable deals — because they didn't want the equipment, they didn't want the gear — and we can offer them a solution."
One possible use case is a sports bar that wants to screen live football, baseball and other games. Instead of switching inputs and juggling multiple streaming logins across different devices, the business can install a FreeCast server and distribute live content from broadcast and streaming video across multiple screens at once.
For apartment complexes, universities and other multi-dwelling units (MDUs), FreeCast offers a way to bring residents live broadcast TV, free streaming television and subscription-based services from a centralized platform that runs on top of internal broadband infrastructure already in place. Mobley said FreeCast intends to implement a revenue sharing model with MDUs and businesses, and the benefits will trickle down to broadcasters using ATSC 3.0 and streaming video technologies as they sell more connected TV ad inventory.
Mobley said the consumer and enterprise versions of FreeCast Home are available to pre-order through the FreeCast website, and both are expected to ship in mid-May. Streamers who already have an HDHomeRun tuner don't have to wait until then to use FreeCast: Mobley affirmed the platform integrates with existing HDHomeRun tuners already on the market, and will continue to support the device in the future.