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Telletopia Plans Unique Workaround for Streaming Local Channels

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The late Aereo created a complicated workaround to stream local broadcast channels online—using an individual dime-sized antenna for each subscriber—but in the end the courts shot it down. Today, a company emerges to pick up that quixotic quest, and it's workaround is just as unusual. Telletopia, based in San Diego, California, has found a loophole in copyright law that permits nonprofits to retransmit live television broadcasts without a compulsory license. That why the company is a 501(c)(4), listed as the nonprofit Telletopia Foundation.

One other difference between Telletopia and Aereo is that Aereo didn't believe it should have to pay retransmission fees to broadcasters, as cable and satellite companies do. Telletopia plans to do so. It's looking to an upcoming Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decision that could reclassify online video distributors as multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs).

“As an MVPD, our platform will support broadcasters in extending their ad spots to the internet,” says 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.”

If the FCC's decision goes its way, Telletopia plans to begin serving major U.S. cities with browser-based HD in 2016. Service will cost around $15 per month and will work with any device. The price is more than Aereo charged, but Telletopia is planning on paying retransmission fees.

Telletopia will be an interesting one to watch for several reasons: to see if it gets off the ground, offers advanced services like a cloud DVR, interests investors in funding a nonprofit, and avoids legal challenges by the broadcasters. 

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