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Online Television Provider ivi Now Carrying Chicago TV Stations

ivi TV, the self-described online cable system, announced today that it has added a dozen Chicago television stations to its lineup of broadcast channel offerings. The only other cities that it so far offers are Seattle (where ivi is based out of), New York, and Los Angeles. With the addition of the twelve Chicago channels, the online service now offers a total of sixty-five American over-the-air channels, plus a handful of international channels.

The service ivi offers gives consumers yet another way to enjoy their favorite local television stations. It also is a way that those from one city, who may be traveling or have moved away from their hometown, to continue to enjoy the local programming they have come to love. Also, people without any cable or satellite television service can now watch local television through their computers.

The twelve Chicago stations now seen via ivi are:
Chicago NonStop/NBC 5.2
Live Well/ABC 7.2
WCIU-TV/ The U 26
WWME-TV/MeTV 26.3 (Channel location as of 12/15)
WMEU-TV/MeToo 26.4 (Channel location as of 12/15)

The ivi company & service is not without controversy, though. ivi is now streaming live broadcast TV signals online, with no contractual permission from the channels. ivi considers these broadcast signals to be fair game under a collective statutory copyright license. ivi claims it has a legal right to take free, over the air signals and package them for online viewing. Many broadcasters see ivi as nothing more than online video pirates who are hijacking broadcast signals for their own gain. A group of broadcasters have threatened to file suit together in a New York federal court, in an attempt to shut ivi down. In turn, ivi has gone ahead and filed suit first against the broadcasters in U.S. District Court in Seattle, seeking to prove their online signal carriage operation is completely legal.

The website, TV.com referred to ivi as "the Napster of Television" in September.

ivi feels that their current fight with broadcasters is very comparable with the fights that cable companies and satellite companies had with traditional broadcasters when they started out. After first resisting and battling against them, the broadcasters joined up with them for all parties' mutual benefit. They expect traditional broadcasters to see the positives that another delivery outlet has for them.

The basic "ivi Air" package contains all the major broadcast channels from the major cities mentioned above for only $4.99 per month. In the next few weeks, the Philadelphia market will be added to their growing lineup, as well. The first 30 days are free to try and the contract can be canceled at anytime. After downloading an app on to their computer, the subscriber is free to watch as much television from these four markets as they want. ivi's system is compatible with all three major platforms: Windows, Mac, and Linux. They have keyboard controls and hotkey options. For only an additional $0.99 per month, they are offering online DVR-like features including the ability to pause, rewind, and fast-forward. More robust features, such as the ability to record programs, will be coming.

What sets ivi TV apart from other online television content providers, such as Hulu.com, is that ivi's subscribers can watch live television, not just edited video clips. All local shows, including local ads, are streamed. Local sports broadcasts, including local NFL games, are also streamed. (The NFL is extremely over-protective of their property and does not allow their games to be streamed without their consent, but has so far not yet commented on the ivi streaming or brought suit against them.) Anything that can be seen via the standard over-the-air digital signal, will be streamed via ivi's program.

Another feature that sets ivi apart from all other online video watching is that their technology has no buffering at all. There is no waiting for a video to load and no worries of having a video feed hang up. The video is supposedly continuous and flawless, just like traditional TV viewing, but online.

A strong, high-speed Internet connection is needed. According to some consumers who have sampled it, the viewing works best on new or newer computers and occasionally gets "not responding" messages on some computers with Windows operating systems. Subscribers can easily find out if it will work with their own computer setup within the 30 day free trial period.

Todd Weaver, founder and CEO of ivi TV said in today's statement "ivi TV continues to scale and rapidly roll-out new markets and deliver to new devices because we don't have to send a truck out to drill holes in consumers' homes and install clunky set top boxes. Instead, ivi TV is a new sustainable offering that is quickly and easily downloaded, available to instantly start streaming favorite TV programming in seconds."

The company is not releasing subscriber numbers just yet, but claims it has been growing faster than any cable company ever has.

Speaking of cable companies, ivi has been very vocal in its opposition to the proposed Comcast-NBC merger. "If the merger is approved, the FCC must include enforceable measures to prevent Comcast from monopolizing the content marketplace, limiting access to content for its on-line competitors, and further extorting consumers," ivi chief Todd Weaver said today. The company seeks to prevent Comcast from monopolizing Internet video and television -- a fear many have if/when Comcast takes over NBC and becomes a media mega-power.

Further commenting on the Comcast situation, Weaver said, "It's a little poetic that our next market to include is Philadelphia, Comcast's hometown. Despite spending millions of dollars lobbying DC in hopes to merge with NBC Universal, the proposed merger is increasingly being questioned and was just labeled as 'detrimental' for its impact on consumers and competition by Senate Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller, who is singularly the most powerful voice in Congress on telecom policy. Last week, ivi met with Rockefeller's office, and many other lawmakers, in addition to the FCC to voice our concern about Comcast's anti-competitive behavior in the marketplace. If the merger is approved, the FCC must include enforceable measures to prevent Comcast from monopolizing the content marketplace, limiting access to content for its online competitors, and further extorting consumers."

According to the company, ivi is in talks with Nielsen Media Research to have ivi's streams added to the television ratings statistics for the broadcasters. If it comes to pass, ivi's data, combined with Nielsen's will aid the broadcasters by providing valuable analytics to help the broadcasters existing advertising business model.

Those interested in ivi's online television service can check them out and sign up on their website, www.ivi.tv.

Note: The company -- ivi, Inc. -- purposely spells its name with all lower case letters. The lower case letters "ivi" found in the article above are correct.

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