As the World Series gets ready to take over more than a few news cycles in the coming week or so, it’s interesting to consider how consumers will watch and track the series. It’s possible that the 2010 World Series will be remembered not just for the games themselves but also as being a milestone in the evolution of broadcast TV and Internet-based delivery of TV programming.
In addition to using MLB’s AtBat app on the iPad, I’m going to be watching how the Series will play out on ivi.TV, from ivi.Inc. (www.ivi.tv). For $4.99/month, a consumer downloads a Mac or Windows software client and is able to get live (retransmitted) TV from a handful of stations – primarily in Seattle, WA, where ivi.TV is headquartered. (The company is working to sign up major market stations in Los Angeles and New York.)
ivi.TV is getting attention for developing a method for distributing linear live broadcasts to Mac and Windows PCs based on their proprietary peering architecture – each client is also a distributor – and content protection. Overshadowing the significance of the technical solution is the charged atmosphere in broadcast television, what with IP-centric solutions for delivering TV content (GoogleTV, Apple TV etc.) and the threat of “cable cutters.” (My colleagues Andrew Frank and Allen Weiner have noted recently in their respective blogs here and here some of the more noteworthy examples of these dust ups.)
Within a few days of launching in September, ivi.TV received cease-and-desist orders from broadcasters, leading the company to file a motion for a federal judge to find that ivi.TV does not infringe copyrights, a move ivi.TV is hoping avoids a bunch of time-consuming time in court. (The case is still pending.) ivi.TV is resting its business on US copyright law (section 111 of the Copyright Act) which enables them to retransmit live TV signals, as long as they pay the statutory rate to the Register of Copyrights which then pays networks and rightsholders. (Company execs have told us that a number of smaller stations were particularly interested in working with ivi.TV so that they would effectively increase their audience size, thereby increasing their appeal to advertisers. However, the stations were instructed by legal counsel that their existing distribution contracts with cable companies and content companies prevented the stations from retransmitting its signal over the Internet.)
Having watched the travails of the music industry as the labels file lawsuits against consumers and pursued legislation to control technological innovation, I have to wonder if the 2010 World Series will be viewed as a watershed or Waterloo for the TV incumbents.