It was pretty clear from the Supreme Court’s ruling in May on Aereo that the justices couldn’t see the difference between online television services and traditional cable providers. Now the FCC has given a very important thumbs up to that view with a proposal to revise the rules to make it clear that Alki David‘s FilmOn Networks and Aereo should indeed be seen as cable providers. Broadcast and Cable’s John Eggerton broke the news.
“The proposal would define an online video provider (OVD) that delivers a linear stream of programming as an MVPD, similar to a cable or satellite operator,” Eggerton writes.
The idea goes back years–but a very clear version of it was laid out in the amicus brief FilmOn filed with SCOTUS on behalf of Aereo in March 2014. In it FilmOn’s attorney Ryan Baker argues that there is no difference, and the providers should be allowed compulsory license. (Read more about the amicus brief here.)
“FilmOn X has advocated for broader consumer access to television programming over the Internet for years,” said Baker. “The FCC’s recent statement is a validation of that argument.”
Much of the mainstream press, having written off the services after the SCOTUS ruling, seemed surprised by the proposal. But many in the industry are not.
“This is a very big deal,” said Richard Greenfield in an interview with the National Journal. The industry analyst for BTIG also once called FilmOn’s business plan ‘Financial Nirvana’ in an interview in June. . “It could pose very significant challenges to the traditional [cable TV] bundle.”
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Since the SCOTUS ruling, FilmOn Networks has continued to build its platform and acquire content for its free service—it has 600 channels, 50,000 VoDs and 40 million monthly users–Aereo shut down its pay subscription service and seemed unsure what to do. In fact its owner Barry Diller has already taken a write down of tens of millions of dollars in a sign that he’s lost faith in Aereo’s business plan.
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TV Mix is owned by FilmOn Networks.