What would you say about a company that started streaming television programming over the Internet to subscribers, and chalked up 30 million users in a few weeks? That’s reportedly the score for FilmOn, one of two companies that are streaming locally-broadcast television content over the Internet. Along with iviTV, FilmOn believes that it has the right to rebroadcast the content as a cable company, but the networks are opposing this interpretation. Yesterday, a federal court in New York issued a temporary restraining order against FilmOn, requiring it to stop transmitting content from Fox, CBS, NBC, and ABC affiliate stations over the Internet. This is in advance of a hearing that will be held to determine whether or not there is legal cause for the FilmOn site to be shut down.
FilmOn has agreed to comply with the order, but continues to stream content from other channels. It likely will take weeks before the next set of decisions are handed down, but this is certainly an anxious time for the major networks. If FilmOn and iviTV should prevail in their position that their operations are legal under existing law, it could represent a serious challenge to the existing television broadcast and distribution systems. It could also impact the cable and satellite services by providing broadband subscribers with the equivalent of basic cable service at a much lower price.
We’re witnessing the initial skirmishes of what promises to be an important battle for the television industry as a whole.