FilmOn Announces Launch Of Online Pay Service Delivering HD TV Stations

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Add FilmOn to the list of Web sites trying to move into the online cable and broadcasting space.

On the same day that broadcasters filed suit against Ivi TV for streaming TV station signals online without permission, and possibly to draft on some of the attention paid to the issue of online streaming, comes news (thanks to Michael Kilgore of http://www.ftablog.com) that FilmOn Monday (Sept. 27) launched a $9.95-per-month high-definition service that included what it called "premium free to air television channels" including CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, KCAL and KTLA, as well as various international satellite channels.

Actually, the service launched in standard definition, but its founder says it will begin HD service Oct. 1.

"Our platform is designed to be easily customized for broadcasters and advertisers who wish to get into the online broadcast business quickly and with minimal expense. FilmOn is currently in negotiations with all major cable providers and plans to provide complete syndicated cable television services throughout the U.S. in 2011," said Alki David, FilmOn Chairman in the release, which identifies him as a "serial internet entrepreneur."

He is also described as a prankster, having publicly offered $1 million to anyone who streaks in front of President Barack Obama. But FilmOn does not appear to be any prank, and the issue is streaming rather than streaking.

In an interview with Multichannel News, David said that he has not negotiated individual carriage deals with the broadcasters, though for some other content he does have deals.

Ivi argues that it fits the definition of cable system when it comes to the statutory license to retransmit broadcast signals over the air per U.S. Copyright law, but that it is not a cable system when it comes to the Communications Act requirement to obtain express permission from a station before such retranmssion.

David said he sees things the same way, but that his enterprise has been around a lot longer than ivi (FilmOn has been in beta since September 2009). Wanting to respect syndicated rights and copyright, David nevertheless noted that it is "without doubt that cable providers in the coming years will be using IP to deliver IP. The principle of what we are doing is causing a stir."

"We have contacted all of the major broadcasters," David said, "but we are certainly protecting ourselves on the premise of the copyright act. The argument is that in the future, IP is the deliverable platform of choice."

Ivi TV asked a court to rule that it is not infringing on copyright after broadcasters sent them cease and desist letters.

David said he has not gotten any letters yet, but expects them and says that if he does get them he will also ask for a declaratory ruling from the court. "Absolutely. If somebody wants a fight, bring it on," he said.

An executive with NBC had not gotten a response from its lawyers at press time, but a Fox executive said nobody there knew about the service.

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