FilmOn provides reasons not to subscribe

FilmOn viewer screen shotYesterday, I said I’d tell you why I probably won’t renew my FilmOn subscription when it expires later this month. Let me start with some background.

Early in 2012, I took the plunge and paid for a year’s worth of FilmOn. It had an interesting set of channels, it included a USB over-the-air antenna to supplement them, and it wasn’t much more than $100. That’s a pretty good deal, but it got better. A couple of weeks later, as I was poking around to see what other channel packages were offered, FilmOn presented me with the option to add its British set for no added cost. Cool! I jumped on that, and I’ve been enjoying BBC, ITV and the rest ever since. I presume it was some database glitch that let me subscribe from the states, but I certainly didn’t complain.

On top of all that, as I wrote a couple of months ago, FilmOn added some New York over-the-air channels. The availability of those New York channels has been spotty, and I only see them on my internet browser; I can’t see them from my Android phone, iPhone, or Windows standalone player. But hey, I always love out-of-market over-the-air stations. And just within the last week or two, FilmOn also added my local Denver ABC, CBS, and NBC affiliates, though still no Fox.

Quick aside: There’s an old joke that says the moon is more important than the sun because the moon lights our way when it’s dark, but the sun only shines when it’s already bright outside. That’s the way I feel about TV stations; I can get the major networks anywhere, but the little networks on local sub-channels and low-powered stations are often harder to find. always carried every channel from each of its markets, and Aereo apparently carries every New York channel. I wish FilmOn would follow suit.

In addition to the local channels, FilmOn has added a ton of video podcasts. At first, they were all mixed in with the regular 24/7 channels, but now they’re labeled On Demand. Unfortunately, it appears that the podcast feeds don’t always update often; I’ve been seeing the same edition of the Onion News Network, from October 2012, every time I check.

In another change, FilmOn has positioned a great set of channels as free for anyone. The free channels include four from the UK (Yesterday, Challenge, 4 Music, and Sky News), any available local broadcast channels, and the majority of FilmOn’s regular networks. That makes a purchase decision more difficult, because I’d no longer be buying all the channels, I’d only be paying for the subset that I couldn’t otherwise watch for free. (FilmOn also offers a large, hoary set of movies on demand for subscribers only, but that’s not that appealing to this Netflix household.)

So now that renewal time draws near, I don’t see any offer that’s nearly as good as what I chose a year ago. Now the full package of channels is $199 per year. The New York locals are $99 per year, and if I thought I could rely on them, I’d be interested. And if I could somehow be certain that I’d keep my current full set of British channels for another year, I’d be interested. But in general, FilmOn changes so frequently that it’s hard to imagine what it will look like a year from now. Once (if?) FilmOn settles down, it’ll be easier for a prospective subscriber to judge just how much it’s worth.