November 9, 2015 Last Updated 11:29 am

San Diego start-up wants to launch a browser-based local broadcast TV service in 2016

The big hold-up for Telletopia is the Federal Communications Commission, which must give the start-up the green light to launch its service in select major cities in the US

This is an interesting press release sent out by a San Diego start-up called Telletopia. They bill themselves as a nonprofit online video service, but their release sort of buries the lede. What the company said it wants to do is launch a web-based TV service for local TV stations.

Telletopia-appealIf the rumors of Apple’s efforts to sign up the networks is true, Apple wanted to bring onboard the local TV affiliates. They apparently found that a difficult task. But no company can really compete with cable with the local channels.

If you remember the early days of DirecTV you will remember that when a customer signed up for service it did not come with local TV, you literally needed to have rabbit ears on your TV set to get the local channels. That changed quickly, thank goodness. But the issue of the local channels remains a obstacle for new services such as Roku and Apple TV from getting customers cutting the cord completely. (Also, the fact that apps from CNN or ESPN ask you to sign into your cable account before being able to access the content.)

What Telletopia wants to do, then, is bring these channels online, have you pay a monthly fee to access the local channels, then presumably have viewers use other services to access that national TV content providers.

They have, as the press release admits below, obstacles to overcome, as you can see by the company’s website.

Here is their release:

San Diego – November 9, 2015 – Telletopia Foundation, a nonprofit online video service provider, today introduced its revolutionary over-the-top (OTT) business model that moves the local broadcast TV bundle to the Internet. Founded by former cable and telecommunications executives, the company is developing an Internet television service that will let consumers watch the most popular local channels live 24/7, including all news, sports and primetime programming carried by local TV stations.

“TV viewers are migrating to the Internet, but a simple, accretive way for broadcasters to move their business online hasn’t existed, until now,” said Gary Koerper, co-founder and CEO of Telletopia. “We give consumers the freedom to watch live, local TV anywhere on any device while giving broadcasters the ability to reach them—true television utopia.”

According to Nielsen, the number of broadband-only homes has risen to 13 million as growing legions of “cord cutters” and “cord nevers” opt to watch television only over the Internet. At the same time, national content owners are offering OTT services directly to consumers, cannibalizing local viewership and advertising revenue. As these trends intensify, local broadcasters are finding it challenging to move their programming and advertising to the Internet. Telletopia believes that ubiquitous access to local television programming online is vital to the American way of life and has developed its service to meet the needs of both consumers and local broadcasters.

Delivering an Innovative Platform for the Broadcast Industry

Telletopia, as a California-based, public benefit nonprofit corporation and IRS-approved 501(c)(4) organization, has an exemption from the compulsory license requirements in existing copyright law for retransmitting live broadcast TV. As a result, the company can legally retransmit broadcast TV over the Internet. Telletopia follows the letter and spirit of copyright law that explicitly permits nonprofits to retransmit local broadcast TV without a compulsory license.

“Telletopia believes that broadcasters should be paid for the distribution of their content,” explained Koerper. We’re hopeful that the impending FCC ruling will enable us to work with broadcasters to set the retransmission fees we will pay for their live 24/7 broadcasts over the Internet.”

Telletopia recently filed an ex parte with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regarding the pending ruling designed to spur market competition with traditional cable, satellite and telco TV operators. This ruling will reclassify online video distributors (OVDs) like Telletopia as multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs), empowering the company to negotiate consent with local broadcasters to carry their signals.

“As an MVPD, our platform will support broadcasters in extending their ad spots to the Internet, even must-carry and low-power stations,” said Michael Librizzi, co-founder and CFO of Telletopia. “After dozens of conversations with local broadcasters, affiliate groups and networks, we know that extending the reach of a 30-second spot to online viewers is just as important as retransmission fees.”

Service and Availability

Pending the FCC vote, plans are underway to launch a browser-based local broadcast TV service to major U.S. cities in 2016. With Telletopia, there is no specialized equipment or time-consuming installations. Using a Netflix-like model, subscribers will be able to sign up for service on Telletopia’s website and instantly begin watching HD-quality, live, local broadcasts in their subscription area.

The service roams, so subscribers will be able to watch local TV on any connected device in any Telletopia-launched market. The company uses sophisticated geofencing technology to ensure that retransmitted local broadcasts and advertisements are only viewable within the respective local market.

Supporting Quotes

  • Greg Ireland, research director, Multiscreen Video Program, IDC
    “We are in the midst of great upheaval in the broadcast industry. Consumers want more affordable, flexible online viewing options while broadcasters need to get their content and ads to the Internet and more screens. Telletopia looks well positioned to help both consumers and broadcasters benefit in this new media landscape.”
  • Gary Cocola, chairman and CEO, Cocola Broadcasting Companies
    “Telletopia is poised to help us drive engagements with online viewers while ensuring broadcasters remain a vital source of local news, entertainment and sports. Not only will Telletopia extend our advertising to the Internet, they will provide real-time viewership data down to a level of detail we’ve never had before.”
  • Gus Hurwitz, visiting fellow at American Enterprise Institute’s Center for Internet, Communications and Technology Policy
    “Internet-delivered video has fundamentally disrupted the video marketplace over the past several years. But local content has been largely immune from this change. Most live broadcast television can still only be watched over the air or on cable television. Telletopia has accomplished a Herculean feat in developing a business model that overcomes the many obstacles that have kept this content offline.

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