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Netflix For Live, Local TV? It Could Happen

By Jennifer Van Grove
The San Diego Union-Tribune.

A couple of San Diego entrepreneurs, former executives from the wireless and cable TV industries, believe they can accomplish what might seem impossible: deliver live, local broadcast television — not bundled in a cable package — to any device with a web browser at an affordable price.

Call it hubris or intrepidity, but you can’t call it greed.

That’s because the company, Telletopia, is tackling local subscription video on demand as a nonprofit. Telletopia is using its status as a 501(c)(4) entity to legally retransmit live broadcast feeds over the Internet without a license under an exemption expressly provided to nonprofits under copyright law. The distinction means Telletopia has found its way around a legal quagmire of regulatory obstacles sinking anyone other than the cable and satellite providers who try and transmit local broadcast channels to consumers over the Internet.

“We believe consumers want competition for pay TV,” said Gary Koerper, co-founder and CEO of Telletopia. “We know there’s no Facebook IPO here. But we think we can change an industry, and we’re crazy enough to do that.”

There is, however, at least one major barrier to get past.

Founded in 2013 and self-funded by Koerper, a Comcast and Qualcomm alum, along with ecoATM co-founder Michael Librizzi, Telletopia is just now taking the wraps off its master plan to change the face of local television. The San Diego firm hopes to sell its subscription service, which streams local channels such as ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, CW, PBS and Univision, to customers in 14 California markets, starting with San Diego, for less than $20 a month in six months time.

Telletopia is already running a private test of its service here, locally. It could legally roll out the Internet-based service more broadly, but the company doesn’t want to make enemies out of a broadcaster bunch famous for its litigiousness in matters of content copyright.

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