NAB and CEA back TV over Internet technology

A new technology designed to distribute television stations over the Internet by ensuring that only viewers within the stations’ over-the-air market can receive them has gotten the financial backing of the NAB and Consumer Electronics Association.

The technology has been developed by entrepreneur Jack Perry and his new company Syncbak.

The streaming of live broadcast TV signals on the Internet is a hot topic due to two companies providing such services — and Ivi carries stations in Seattle and New York, while FilmOn transmits major Los Angeles stations. Both charge $5 a month for the service.

Though they have not obtained permission from the television stations, the broadcast networks or other copyright holders, the startup companies maintain that they may legally retransmit broadcast signals under the compulsory copyright license that was created to accommodate cable systems some 35 years ago.

The broadcast networks have challenged that interpretation of the law, suing them in federal court. The broadcasters also object to the fact that the Los Angeles, New York and Seattle signals on ivi and FilmOn are available everywhere with complete disregard for the local broadcast exclusivity that stations in other markets have for their network and syndicated programming.

NAB made an investment in Syncbak in the low six figures earlier this year through its Fastroad program that seeds technology that may be of value to broadcasting, said spokesman Dennis Wharton.

The technology underpinning Syncbak allows viewers to be authorized so they will be able to receive the local station signals only in the area in which they reside, thus allowing Internet distribution of local television signals without violating the spirit of the geographic exclusivity business model, Wharton said.

Jason Oxman, a CEA spokesman, said moving TV stations onto the Internet makes sense for all involved and is good business opportunity for broadcasters. He declined to reveal the amount the CEA had invested in the company.

Jack Perry was a key technology player in the 1990s when small dish satellite TV operators began distributing broadcast signals. Through Decisionmark, Perry developed a system that quickly identified which homes were eligible to receive distant signals. It became the industry standard.

Other strategic investors in Syncbak include Equity Dynamics, a venture capital firm headed by John Pappajohn. Syncbak’s board includes former NBC executives Bill Bolster and Ed Scanlon.