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A Friend Request For ivi TV

In an unusual move, public interest groups have
filed a “friend of the court” brief in a federal
district court supporting ivi TV’s streaming of
TV station signals without paying broadcasters
retrans fees. If that model is allowed to stand, it
could turn video distribution on its head.

Major broadcast groups, including the network-
owned stations, have sought an injunction
against ivi TV, but Public Knowledge and Media
Access Project told the court in the brief that ivi
is doing nothing wrong, pointing out that the FCC
has not yet ruled on whether Internet video services
are subject to retrans payments. “Not being
a cable operator in the view of the FCC, at this
time, ivi is under no obligation to comply with the
FCC’s cable rules,” the groups said in their brief.

The FCC will have to make that call if, as it signaled
in the Comcast/NBC Universal deal conditions,
over-the-top video is going to be the next big
thing in delivering multichannel video lineups in
competition to cable and satellite. If the FCC ruled ivi
TV is not subject to retrans, it would tip the scales to
the broadband delivery the FCC has been pushing,
since it would be cheaper than paying for TV station
signals. It would also dry up the second retrans
revenue stream broadcasters have been counting
on to remain competitive in a digital world.