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Live, From Your iPad!

FilmOn.com lets you see NBC, Fox, and ABC shows for free from your iPad browser–right now, at least. The networks, who haven’t approved this, have filed suit to shut it down.

old smashed TV set

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The website FilmOn.com is streaming local L.A. television feeds live to your iPad, AllThingsDigital noticed today. ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, as well as BBC News, CNN International and “a couple of porn feeds” are all ripe for the streaming, apparently. (When we tested the site on an iPad, nearly all the international feeds would freeze after a minute or so.)

The networks, which tightly control how their shows wind up on the web–think Hulu, with its lag time on posting new episodes–aren’t happy about this, and are suing FilmOn and its founder, Alki David.

Conflicts like this have a long history, dating back to 2000 when the
Canadian website iCraveTV.com pulled the same stunt, and was ordered to
shut down. But this is the first time such a website has been modified
to work only on your iPad browser.

FilmOn and another site also under fire, ivi.TV (launched in September, and streaming affiliates in Seattle), argue that what they’re doing is legal under FCC rules allowing “secondary transmissions.” But the networks don’t see it that way: In a joint statement, they wrote that ivi.TV “is simply stealing our broadcast signals and copyrighted programming and streaming them on the Internet without permission.”

Why do networks cause such a fuss over how their stuff ends up on the web (or the iPad)? They want precise, controlled metrics, so as not to mess up their revenue model. The ways of the Nielsen box are well understood by broadcasters and advertisers. The ways of the web, somewhat less so. Which is why one of the most intriguing revelations is that FilmOn has announced it is working with ComScore, one of the foremost Internet metrics company, “on a collaborative effort to provide broadcasters with advanced analytics on the viewership habits of their streaming service,” writes TVtechnology.com.

Ultimately, advertisers and broadcasters will find a way to keep their profits on track. But since new metrics will be key, the question becomes: Is the real battle worth watching here the one between ComScore and Nielsen? If so, then Nielsen’s recent online goof–it just confessed to a glitch that caused significant underreporting of web traffic–is exactly the sort of thing the company doesn’t need right now.

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[Image: Flickr user schmilblick]

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About the author

David Zax is a contributing writer for Fast Company. His writing has appeared in many publications, including Smithsonian, Slate, Wired, and The Wall Street Journal

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