BENKELMAN, Neb. — As the television-over-the-Internet service Aereo squared off against broadcasters over copyright claims in the Supreme Court, a similar startup called FilmOn stood on the sidelines.
Like Aereo, FilmOn offers over-the-air TV channels through a website and mobile apps. Also similar to Aereo, FilmOn’s offerings are affected by Wednesday’s Supreme Court decision saying that such a setup is prohibited under U.S. copyright law, at least without paying broadcasters.
While the case was being argued in court, FilmOn founder Alki David told me that broadcast channels represent less than 5 percent of what FilmOn offers, so there’s plenty to watch — regardless of the outcome. In anticipation of the court ruling, I spent part of a recent trip assessing that claim using a laptop, an iPad, an iPhone and a Samsung Android phone.
While Aereo’s monthly service starts at $8, FilmOn is free. But you have to put up with a short video ad before you start watching. You can watch on Windows and Mac computers, iOS, Android and BlackBerry 10 devices and Roku’s streaming player. You can watch channels live or record up to 10 hours of shows for free. You can also buy more space to store the shows you record.
FilmOn offers broadcast stations from nearly 20 markets in the U.S., including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Boston. That’s bound to go away following Wednesday’s ruling, unless FilmOn is able to negotiate licensing deals with some or all of the broadcasters. In fact, a federal judge in Washington had already banned FilmOn’s broadcast offerings in most of the country (though I was able to watch anyway during my trip by deceiving the app about my location).
Beyond broadcast TV
Besides over-the-air channels, FilmOn offers more than 600 on all sorts of topics, including fashion, travel, comedy and news.