Icravetv.com, ivi.tv….déjà vu all over again

September 16, 2010

Putting television on the Internet has been an obsession of mine since I was the CEO of Interactive Resources back in 1995. And it’ll happen. Right now the race is on to offer viewers two things: choice and convenience. The Internet opens the door to do both. That said, as compelling as the ivi.tv solution sounds, they’ll face challenges the likes of which they never dreamed of.

Itv.tv is not the first to attempt an end run of copyright owners.Anybody remember icravetv.com? The time was 1999. Streaming media was just starting to surface as a cool application for the Internet and a tiny little Canadian startup gave it go.  Good idea. One problem, though. The Internet is global and broadcasting is local. They blasted a television signal around the world; for awhile, at least. To the dismay of their investors, they were quickly shut down by various legal departments.

Fast forward 8 years and another little start-up gives-it-a- go. As Shawn Fanning of Napster-fame found out, you can’t run off willy-nilly, half-cocked and forget to ask the copyright owners for permission to distribute their wares. Stealing is stealing. Copyright owners have the law on their side. Just because consumers want it for the price of a “click” and you can give it to them for the price of a “click” doesn’t mean it’s legal.

Here we go again.

This time the little start-up is ivi.tv. They’re doing a little peer-to-peer activity ala Napster and using the icravetv.com strategic business plan – “it’s better to ask for forgiveness than to get permission” – to distribute TV content on the Internet.  Copyright owners hate that strategy. Lawyers for copyright owners love it and a few of them are undoubtedly calling on ivi.tv today. What I want to know is how a company who would miss this important detail even gets funding?

Broadcast television is headed towards the Internet in a big way. A couple of years from now you won’t even realize there is any difference between broadcast and broadband. To get there, however, the winner will be the company that works with the copyright owners to create a solution.