The Supreme Court ruling on ABC and Broadcasters v. Aereo has been interpreted in some quarters as a defeat of cord cutting and innovation in television but arguably also contained a hidden boon for FilmOn Networks and other streaming TV services. By defining the services as Cable Companies they provide a path to finally change the way consumers get their television and cut the cord without losing out on key programming.
Delivering the Court’s opinion, Justice Breyer defined companies like FilmOn as Cable Companies, meaning they will fall under the Copyright Act of 1976 which states, in section 111, that it is compulsory for the networks to provide their signals to cable carriers for a fee. Congress established, “a program of compulsory copyright licensing that permits cable systems to retransmit distant broadcast signals without securing permission from the copyright owner and, in turn, requires each system to pay royalty fees to a central royalty fund based on a percentage of its gross revenues.”
Breyer said in the opinion, ”Aereo’s activities are substantially similar to those of the CATV companies that Congress amended the law to reach.” The likeness is called “overwhelming” and explained in great detail. In fact, the opinion uses the sameness between the streaming TV services and cable systems as the very anchor of its argument.
According to the Copyright Act, the Networks cannot pick and choose who they like and don’t like because it is a duty to offer their signals — which is part of the privilege of using the public owned airwaves.
Alki David, the CEO of FilmOn, says, “I have always said this was an acceptable alternative path: consumers get the TV they want on their own terms, advertisers get a vast new segment of viewers they have no access to now, and the Networks win too by getting the fees I have always been willing to pay.”
Indeed in an amicus brief filed with the Supreme Court in April by FilmOn on Aereo’s behalf, it was suggested as an alternative route should the court decide against the remote antenna business. “FilmOn is willing and able to comply with all the procedural requirements of the compulsory licensing program,” the brief stated clearly. “Including the payment of royalty fees to the Copyright Office.”
FilmOn is finalizing the certification process and will very soon be able to provide local Network TV service in the 18 cities where it already has the infrastructure in place: Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, North Bergen, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, Tampa and Washington D.C.
In order to become the biggest streaming TV service, with the most to offer its customers, FilmOn Networks has been on an acquisition binge purchasing historic libraries with massive amounts of content. It has also built a state of the art conversion facility in Irvine, CA in order to preserve film and video for future generations.
The broadcast service will supplement the 600 licensed channels FilmOn.com already offers along with its 45,000 VoDs and the biggest offering of podcasts online. FilmOn’s basic service is free, with some channels and bonus DVR service costing a small subscription fee.