FilmOn page offers lots of out-of-market TV


Update: As of now, the page that this post describes is gone. Tip of the hat to a commenter for letting us know. If you’re still curious, here’s how that post read:

Preface 1: I’ve been holding out against writing more about FilmOn because I don’t want this to become the FilmOn blog. (Although somebody probably ought to start one, given how often FilmOn changes its channels and gets in the news and stuff.)

Preface 2: Once upon a time, I published a note about how to find some channels that were temporarily in the clear via free-to-air satellite. As always happens, those channels later ceased to be available. Some readers thought there was a cause and effect relationship between those events. I know that isn’t what happened, but it’s no fun when lots of folks despise you for a while.

Preface 3: Is it still legal to view (as opposed to send) streaming out-of-market over-the-air TV broadcasts? I think it is, but I am not a lawyer. If it turns out that I’m wrong, please consider this whole post as “never mind”. As always, consult your attorney to ensure that you are viewing content legally and lawfully.

Preface 4: I’m going to talk about a publicly visible web page URL with no sign of restrictions or other warnings. However, given the recent stories about internet visitors being threatened with decades of prison time for violating a site’s terms of use, I don’t want to take the risk that there might be some commandment that everyone must enter only through the front page or something like that.

So now that I’ve established that I can’t tell you anything, let me tell you what I found. The story starts with PlayOn, a product which “is both browser and media server for your Windows PC which lets you magically stream your favorite shows, movies, even your personal media files from your PC to your TV, smartphone or tablet.” (Always glad to see someone else who agrees with me that any technology you don’t understand is best explained as magic.) Anyway, I’ve been considering purchasing PlayOn to try out on my TV’s dedicated computer. I looked around for more information and found a forum for PlayOn users. I’ll leave the address of that site as an exercise for you, since I’m not sure about the legality of all the streams it discusses.

Anyway, one of the forum’s features is that users can post scripts that PlayOn uses to make virtual channel numbers or buttons or something like that. And some of those scripts pointed back to FilmOn, which has dozens of perfectly legal streams. And when I examined one of those scripts, it mentioned a particular page which had apparently every local channel it carries anywhere on its system. I’m not going to tell you that URL, but all of its pieces are in the previous sentence, or you can retrace my steps and find it.

On this page, FilmOn provides the streaming video for over 45 over-the-air broadcast channels from New York, Washington, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, and Los Angeles. Most of them are the big four network affiliates, except in LA, where FilmOn lost a court fight. There’s also WPIX, WGN, KTLA, a couple of Bounce channels, a couple of Cozi TVs, and some PBSs. But no WWOR, no This, no MeTV or any of the other retro channels. On that same page, you’ll also find over 20 UK over-the-air channels, seven French channels, five Russian channels, over a dozen Arabic channels, and much more. I’ve been checking on it for a few weeks, so even though it might be gone tomorrow, I thought it was time to let you know about it.

It’s not perfect. These channels are only available in their “SD” feeds, which look blocky on a widescreen TV but okay in a computer window. There are streaming preroll ads when you first arrive and every time you change channels. But what do you want for nothing? I see them all without logging in, making me believe that they’re all available without a subscription.

That’s what’s available as I type, but change is inevitable! (Edit: See, I told you.) That page could last for months, or it might be gone by the time you read this. (Let me know in a comment and I’ll update this post.) Channels come and go all the time on FilmOn. Other FilmOn URLs that were visible in the past now just redirect to other, living pages. But until they leave, embrace the FTA viewers’ motto: “Enjoy it while it lasts.”