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Cutting the Cord: Rabbit TV brings free streaming video to Facebook

USA Today

Cutting the Cord: Rabbit TV brings free streaming video to Facebook

Rabbit TV is hopping onto Facebook.

The streaming video service hopes to ride a growing wave of video on the social-networking site with its new, free Rabbit TV Lite app. Look up the app and you’ll get access to more than 400 channels — some live and some on demand — all browsable in an interactive programming grid.

You won’t find the latest and greatest in streaming TV — Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead — but you will find plenty to watch from channels such as The Best of Jon Stewart to Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.  “The TV set is no longer the sole destination for consumers to watch video,” said Bill Mobley, CEO of Rabbit TV parent company FreeCast. “Facebook is just one new place where consumers are going for video, and with this app, we hope to be one of the first major players there.”

And the goal of Rabbit TV, which aggregates video from all around the Web, is to make it easier for viewers to find stuff to watch. “Streaming is becoming universal, but right now it’s also challenging for consumers to manage,” Mobley said. “Unlike cable, which is a single subscription, streaming media comes from hundreds of sources, some free, some subscription-based, and some pay-per-view.”

The Rabbit TV Lite Facebook app is the first free Rabbit TV offering from FreeCast. After marketing a Rabbit TV USB stick that brought the TV service to PCs — still available on CVS.com and Amazon.com — FreeCast made Rabbit TV Plus available online for $10 annually. Beyond the free Facebook app, the Plus service (www.rabbittvplus.com) gains subscribers access online and multiple devices to tens of thousands more TV episodes and movies, as well as radio stations, online games and other content, including additional rental, pay and subscription services.

I took a spin around the Rabbit TV Lite app recently. It just went live Friday, and you can search for Rabbit TV Lite or log into Facebook and go to this link, apps.facebook.com/rabbittvlite/. I gravitated first to the Jon Stewart channel to find a post-Sept. 11 terrorist attack episode playing. Then I found Manfred Mann’s Earth Band performing Blinded by the Light on a ’70s video music channel. There are video music channels devoted exclusively to Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley, as well as nearly every music genre.

Other channels have new and classic shows from ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC. Movie channels run action films, comedies, kung fu flicks and sci-fi. I found TheBirth of a Nation, a Japanese anime version of The Little Mermaid and a Middle-Earth channel showing non-stop clips from  The Lord of the Rings films. And for sports junkies, there are channels devoted to classic broadcasts for all major sports.

Video quality ranges from HD to fuzzy versions from VHS tapes — remember much of the content here is pulled from YouTube and organized by Rabbit TV. So your typical Netflix and Hulu user won’t likely depend only on the new Facebook app.

But Facebook’s audience is trending older. More than half of Internet users (56%) 65 and older use Facebook now, the Pew Research Center found, up from 45% of older Net users in 2013 and 35% in 2012.

And scouring the Web for video may not appeal to those users, so Rabbit TV could be a help. “As Facebook moves to compete more directly with YouTube, we hope that our Rabbit TV Lite App will gain exposure as one of the best video experiences on Facebook,” FreeCast’s Mobley said. “Making a portion of our larger offering both accessible and sharable to over 1 billion Facebook users are also a tremendous opportunity for us to expose our product to new customers.”

And who knows, some of those Facebook regulars might add the app and become Rabbit TV regulars, too.

 

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Kevin Speedy

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