TV-recording device gets on Indiegogo to launch in Singapore

Belgian firm Right Brain Interface is raising funds to acquire more channels for its cloud-based TV-recording platform Bhaalu, which is set to make its Asia debut in Singapore early 2014.
Written by Victoria Ho, Contributor
bhaalu set top box
Bhaalu set-top box

A cloud-based TV-recording device company is crowdsourcing funds to bolster its launch in Singapore, a service which will allow users to catch recorded programs across multiple devices.

The Bhaalu service will be launched in Germany, New York and Singapore in the first quarter of next year by VC-funded Belgian firm Right Brain Interface. It promises to marry free-to-air TV and Internet channels on its devices. The product is already on the shelves in Belgium and in the Netherlands.

Users can access the service in several ways: through a set-top box or an HDMI stick connected to TV sets, or to an online account that allows users to log in and watch recordings through a mobile or PC browser. The latter will allow users to carry their recorded programs with them on the go.

The recorded TV programs are accessible for 60 days. Users will be able to create their own channels as well, and share links to programs and YouTube clips to followers.

Funding needed for more channels

But there's a caveat—right now, Bhaalu doesn't cover the pay TV channels from StarHub cable or SingTel mio just yet. The company has launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to fund its rollout in the island state. According to its FAQ, the number of pay TV channels eventually supported depends on how well the campaign does.

Bhaalu HDMI stick
Bhaalu HDMI stick device

Also, the initial goal was set at S$1 million, but was lowered to just S$150,000 at launch. The company didn't say why, but my guess is that when the money is distributed across all the overheads, there will be far less available to cater for pay TV channels—unless the campaign outdoes its goals significantly, of course.

It's not clear how the channels will be recorded, especially the pay TV channels, but it appears that the company will record them and stream them to subscribers via its data center.

Eventually, the set-top box will cost S$599, the stick S$299, and the mobile service and a year of streaming subscription will cost S$149.

As it stands, the funds raised will be needed for the hardware infrastructure and manpower costs needed to upkeep the service, which include data center storage and bandwidth, as well as the manufacturing overheads for the end-user devices.

The Belgian holding company has already raised US$7.9 million (S$10 million) from LRM, PMV, Capricorn Venture Partners, Diepensteyn and Pamica toward its efforts, on top of an initial round of angel funding from family and friends.

Each country's service will be supported by a local data center, and Right Brain has appointed individual managing directors for each country to oversee the roll-out. In Singapore, the company's managing director for Asia-Pacific is Jeffrey Hock.

Hock told us that the company hasn't started any talks with StarHub or SingTel yet, but that it is "open to it".

He noted that pay TV has a 60 percent penetration rate across Singapore's affluent population. "It means that the Singapore Free-To-Air channel content is strong, and robust enough to satisfy many households. And it may also indicate that a large portion of the public isn't enticed by existing Pay-TV operators," he said.

While Bhaalu claims its service is legal, in Belgium where it's launched, broadcasters VRT and VTM have said they are ready to take legal action, because there are no contracts in place for the independent recording service.

Back in 2007, local free-to-air broadcaster MediaCorp got into a legal tussle with another similar startup. Singaporean firm RecordTV reportedly received two cease and desist letters for allowing users to record MediaCorp's programs through its website. Eventually, after a three-year court battle, the case was awarded in favor of RecordTV. It currently offers a similar service for free-to-air channels for free through an Internet portal, but does not have Bhaalu's hardware options.

The TV-recording device gets on Indiegogo to launch in Singapore.

Hock added that the platform has been under development for almost three years, and is able to set up smart categories automatically by scraping metadata information from the TV feed. This is expected to allow the service to recommend similar content to users as they watch TV or movies, based on this metadata.

The stick runs on Android, and the set-top box is based on Linux. The mobile account is available as an Android app or through HTML5 for iOS device browsers.

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