I’ve been resisting the urge to write more about FilmOn because I don’t want this to become the What the Heck is Going On with FilmOn Blog. But once again, I’ve just got to ask, What the heck is going on with FilmOn?
On the legal front, it’s a little easier to explain what’s going on. Two days ago, a New York federal judge ordered FilmOn to pay CBS and other plantiffs $1.35 million plus interest and attorneys’ fees for failing to pay the full amount it owed under an October 2012 settlement on the old copyright lawsuit. Then yesterday, FilmOn asked Washington DC U.S. District Court Judge Rosemary Collyer to reconsider her injunction preventing it from streaming over-the-air broadcasters, claiming that the order puts it at a competitive disadvantage compared to Aereo, which keeps avoiding these injunctions. I also keep reading reports that the injunction prevents FilmOn from streaming stations from almost all of the US, but in real life, FilmOn continues to stream Denver, Chicago, and probably other cities I can’t easily check.
If FilmOn is ignoring or bypassing the “nationwide” part of the injunction, that would be just the beginning of the weirdness. Yesterday, its online channel list added New York TV and Los Angeles TV as new categories, populated by the names of every OTA channel and subchannel in those markets. Today, it added Washington DC TV, the one place I’d firmly believe is covered by Judge Collyer’s injunction, with a similar set of every possible OTA offering. Yesterday, my attempts to launch a handful of these channels were uniformly unsuccessful; selecting one kicked in the standard preroll ad, then a Loading graphic and that’s all. Today, I see that at least a few of the Washington DC channels are live, including 30.3, the MHz subchannel carrying CCTV News. The picture stutters and sometimes goes blocky, suggesting a marginal signal, but there it is.
As someone who has been following FilmOn for years, I can tell you that I have no idea what this means. It’s uncharacteristic of FilmOn to offer all available OTA channels for a market; for example, in Denver, it only offers the Big Four networks. Is FilmOn deliberately thumbing its nose at the injunction? Is someone in the control room experimenting with what FilmOn might do after they actually win a lawsuit? Is some prankster playing a trick on FilmOn or the rest of us? I suspect we’ll all find out soon enough.
Update: John Eggerton from Broadcasting & Cable followed up by talking with FilmOn founder Alki David. According to Eggerton, David was waiting for a ruling on FilmOn’s request for the judge to reconsider her decision. This afternoon, she denied that request. “We had a motion to stay. As a result of the stay motion, the order is put on ice. The decision is made so now we comply,” David said. There’s a lot more in Eggerton’s article, so go read it!
Update 2: By the time Eggerton’s article appeared, the local TV categories I mentioned had disappeared from FilmOn. As I type this the next morning, the Big Four networks are gone from Denver and Chicago, although WGN is still there. New York, safely in a pocket of District Court approval, looks the same as it did before all this happened. I still wonder what the plan was for those categories. Maybe David will let me know one of these days.