FilmOn revealed in an FCC filing that company executives recently met with regulators, in hopes of convincing them to redefine “multichannel video programming distributor” to include online services like itself and Aereo.
“FilmOn intends to offer TV stations the right to elect must-carry or retransmission consent,” the company wrote in its filing, which was uncovered last week by Politico. “FilmOn will also provide program exclusivity, emergency alerts and information, closed captioning, equal employment opportunity and to otherwise comply in good faith with all of the rules and regulations that govern MVPD service.”
If the FCC redefines MVPDs, companies like Aereo and FilmOn will stand a better chance of qualifying for a compulsory cable license -- which would enable them to transmit television shows online, providing they pay retransmission fees to the broadcast networks.
FilmOn says in its letter to the FCC that a change in rules will “create regulatory parity between similar services, and promote competition to entrenched legacy video providers that will benefit consumers by giving them more choices.”
Both Aereo and FilmOn offered services that allowed people to stream over-the-air television shows in real time to smartphones, tablets, and other devices.
Broadcasters said that both services infringed copyright because they “publicly” performed TV shows.
A legal battle between the broadcasters and Aereo went to the Supreme Court, which ruled in June that Aereo doesn't have the right to stream shows in real time.
Aereo suspended operations soon after that decision. FilmOn still streams some programs, but no longer appears to offer real-time streams from any of the broadcasters that sued the company.
But both companies have indicated that they'd like to stay in business, even if that means paying retransmission fees. It's not clear whether the FCC intends to open the door for online-only companies to obtain cable licenses. But if the agency does so, it wouldn't be surprising for more startups to join Aereo and FilmOn in competing to offer video content online.
For its part, FilmOn told regulators that it is engaging in “good faith negotiations” with broadcasters “to provide fair compensation for the right to provide consumers with its innovative new online video distribution service.”