TV networks sue to stop FilmOn from offering free programming online

November 12, 2010

FilmOn.com, a new TV service provider that wants to offer network programming for free over the Internet, has been sued by four U.S. television networks in federal court.

Founded by British billionaire entrepreneur Alki David, the Berlin-listed company launched the multichannel service in September and claims to be the first all high-definition Internet television network.

FilmOn is streaming broadcasts of several network affiliates in the Los Angeles area, including those of NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox. It is trying to entice users to purchase subscriptions to its service. The basic package costs $9.95 per month, while a premium package that includes movie channels and pay-per-view movies costs $24.95 per month.

“Our platform is designed to be easily customized for broadcasters and advertisers that wish to get into the online broadcast business quickly and with minimal expense,” FilmOn’s David said in a statement. “FilmOn is currently in negotiations with all major cable providers and plans to provide complete syndicated cable television services throughout the U.S. in 2011.”

The network’s lawsuit is the latest against a new generation of media companies seeking to circumvent traditional business models by offering programming to Internet users without paying fees to free-to-air channels. Last September, it sued Ivi, a service that offered TV channels over the Web for free. Some TV networks have also blocked videos on their websites from Google TV.

“It’s against the law to steal a broadcast signal and stream it to wireless devices and over the Internet, without the copyright owner’s permission,” the networks said in a joint statement. “FilmOn.com is the latest in a short line of companies that has robbed our broadcast signals and distributed them illegally for their own commercial gain.”

The plaintiffs in the case are CBS, ABC, NBC Universal and Fox.

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