Exclusive: Orby TV brand, hardware sold to Florida satcaster

(Image: Orby TV / Graphic: The Desk)

Defunct pay television service Orby TV has sold its intellectual property and some of its hardware to a Florida-based satellite broadcaster, The Desk has learned.

The sale of assets to Disitron Satellite Group, which also does business under the Upcom Technologies brand, was approved last month by a federal judge overseeing Orby TV’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy process.

The transaction involved Disitron acquiring Orby TV’s brand name, trademark, logo, domain name and website along with satellite broadcast equipment, networking hardware and computers at Orby TV’s Culver City office at a cost of $120,000, documents reviewed by The Desk showed.

Also included in the purchase was 14,000 new Orby TV set-top boxes and digital video recorders, 9,000 returned Orby TV set-top hardware, 3,000 low-noise blockers, 400 satellite meters and 350 satellite dishes.

Public records reviewed by The Desk showed Disitron, through its Upcom subsidiary, assumed control of the Orby TV website late last month. A message directing former subscribers to transfer their service to Dish Network has since been removed, replaced by a giant, yellow “Orby TV” logo.

It was not clear what Disitron Industries, which also operates under the commercial brand Upcom Technologies, intended to do with Orby TV’s intellectual property and satellite equipment. A message sent to Disitron’s chief executive, Ricardo Dias, has not yet been returned, and an attempt to contact the company through its website resulted in a bounce back e-mail message.

Launched in 2019, Orby TV offered a handful of pay television channels from AT&T WarnerMedia, Discovery, ViacomCBS and others, starting at $40 a month. The low price point was offset by a requirement that customers purchase the equipment needed in order to receive the satellite signals, though Orby TV included an over-the-air antenna for free access to local broadcast stations.

Rather than launching its own fleet of satellites, Orby TV rented transponder space from Eutelsat, which helped keep operating costs low and allowed the company to compete against Dish Network,  DirecTV and other pay TV companies with low prices for its programming options.

In an interview with The Desk in 2019, Orby TV’s Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer Michael Thornton said the company’s business model was franchised from the prepaid wireless industry, where customers bought equipment outright in order to receive lower monthly fees for service.

The company was supported early on by a cash investment from the General Electric Pension Fund. As it attempted a path toward profitability, Orby TV forged partnerships with Best Buy and Target to sell satellite receivers in brick-and-mortar stores.

The move was intended to help Orby TV gain customer recognition, but it struggled to attract subscribers. Then the coronavirus pandemic hit, and the satellite startup ran out of cash. In March, Orby TV announced it was shutting down and offered its remaining subscribers the opportunity to join Dish Network. It filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection a short time later.

The following month, attorneys representing Orby TV filed court documents that showed the company held $56 million in liabilities, including a debt of more than $11 million to the pension fund and $16 million to programming partner ViacomCBS.

Correction: An earlier version of this story erroneously said Orby TV’s transfer of certain assets was done at a price of $40,000. The actual sale price was $120,000 — a $40,000 payment for Orby TV’s intellectual property, a second $40,000 for Orby TV’s Culver City assets and a third $40,000 payment for Orby TV’s leftover consumer hardware.

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