FilmOn keeps fighting as fades away

ivi mug and FilmOn USB deviceIn my last post, I mentioned that my current ATSC USB device is a rebranded Hauppage. FilmOn threw it in when I purchased a one-year subscription around the first of the year.

FilmOn is the service that streams over 100 channels of video for less than $15/month. As first a visitor, then a subscriber, I’ve watched FilmOn throw everything they could find into its product, and most of it works.

FilmOn was launched in the US just a few days after began. ivi streamed over-the-air broadcast signals, many of them out-of-market, by citing an obscure clause in US copyright law. The broadcasters sued, saying that clause didn’t apply here. A preliminary injunction effectively shut down ivi in February 2011, and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that injunction last week. Todd Weaver, ivi’s founder, told me that he’s still not sure what his next step will be.

FilmOn also started with streaming OTA channels, and its preliminary injunction came before ivi’s. FilmOn settled the lawsuit with the networks for $1.6 million, according to the Wall Street Journal. Then Alki David, FimOn’s founder, launched, another streaming site using the micro-antenna technology of Barry Diller’s Aereo service. (Since Aereo survived the networks’ first attempt at a preliminary injunction, that technology looked like a winner to FilmOn/BarryDriller.) That prompted a fresh lawsuit from the networks, BarryDriller is off the air, and that’s where we are now.

(While I was in Chicago, which happened to be just before the latest lawsuit, I was able to use my Denver-registered netbook to see the Chicago stations that BarryDriller was streaming. So BarryDriller must have been using an IP-based check to see where its subscriber was during the stream.)

Anyway, FilmOn has an interesting collection of channels, including such lesser networks as American Primetime TV, AMG TV, Free Speech TV, Fashion TV, and many, many more. It shows the major broadcast networks as “Coming Soon”. We’ll see. But meanwhile, the OTA device can be integrated into the FilmOn software, giving viewers with good reception another way to see all of their local channels.

To me, FilmOn and ivi represent two kinds of optimism. Weaver was so sure that his reading of the law was accurate that ivi’s excellent matching technology would create a whole new TV ecosystem. When he encountered dissent or barriers, he continued on, strong in his convictions. On the other hand, David kept weaving, adding and subtracting and tweaking FilmOn. When the networks shut him off, he launched a counterattack on CBS and whipped up the USB antenna for subscribers. David was just as confident in his cause, but looked for ways around obstacles instead of trying to march through them.

And that’s the state of streaming TV today. Ah, if only FilmOn were free to carry the UK OTA channels. I hear that it does if you are in Great Britain. Did you read any stories about how some US viewers used UK proxies to watch TV on the BBC’s streaming site? I’ve read those stories too. Do you suppose that’s legal?