FilmOn launches free local TV service
Michelle Clancy | 23-04-2014
Streaming start-up FilmOn has launched Teleport Technology, which will let a person in New York watch local television broadcasts from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Miami and Denver, among other US cities, for free.

The move comes as ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC are fighting the advance of television streaming services from the controversial from Greek billionaire Alki David and its rival Aereo, which allow people to watch broadcast television without paying for retransmission fees. The broadcasters are claiming copyright infringement, but the streamers insist they should be seen as akin to over-the-air antennae service, exempt from retrans.

"For years, broadcasters offered their signals to cable, satellite and telecoms groups for free," the company said. "In the past five years, however, broadcasters started demanding that distributors pay to retransmit their programming, creating a new revenue stream worth more than $2 billion a year that could soar to $12 billion, according to Rich Greenfield, a BTIG Research analyst. Those fees account for as much as a third of some broadcaster's profits."

Broadcasters are concerned that retransmission fees could come under threat as more viewers cut the cord and cancel traditional pay-television subscriptions in favour of cheaper online streaming alternatives.

"The new FilmOn Teleport service allows consumers to watch the television shows they want to watch when and where they want to watch them at the same time that it is broadening the audience for independent broadcasters," said David, "It is not killing the media industry at all. The media industry has ultimately killed itself."

Aereo, the subscription-based television streaming company backed by Barry Diller's IAC, has won a series of court battles and is now arguing its case before the Supreme Court. FilmOn, which offers a similar service for free, has filed a motion to intervene in the case.

Unlike Aereo, court restrictions bar FilmOn from offering major network television through its service in most locations. David said that those restrictions inspired the company to invent its latest offering.
"Desperation is the mother of invention," he said.

FilmOn now offers more than 350 live television channels as well as original programming globally and across devices. Last month, 20 million FilmOn viewers watched more than 1.2 billion video streams.