FilmOn hits L.A. for 'virtual HD cable'

Alki David builds on New York office for Internet portal

LONDON -- Billionaire entrepreneur Alki David is opening a Los Angeles outpost as part of an aggressive North American expansion of FilmOn, his patented live-streaming Internet business.

David told The Hollywood Reporter that he will set up shop in Los Angeles to complement the existing New York offices of FilmOn, his Internet portal that allows access to live HDTV streaming via PCs, televisions and cell phones.

He has struck a deal with Edgecast, a California-based content-delivery network provider, to handle bandwidth requirements in conjunction with FilmOn's in-house European technicians in Switzerland. The company also is targeting Scandinavian countries because "they are the most advanced users of computers and Internet content in Europe," David said.

London-based FilmOn is listed on the Frankfurt stock exchange and has a market cap of about €630 million ($893.5 million). It has struck a host of pay-for-content deals across Europe, including ones with Paramount Digital Entertainment International and such indie distributors as CBC, Playboy and Cinetel Films.

FilmOn offers a free downloadable media player that allows PC users to stream live television from such broadcasters as BBC1, ITV, CNN and Bloomberg and gives consumers the option of downloading movies for individual payment. Its biggest marketplace rival is Microsoft's Web-based streaming operations.

The FilmOn business model is under patent, as is its management and content digital services, and can't be mimicked in North America, David said. Founded as a VOD business, David said he is moving away from that model of revenue generation and instead trumpeting HDi Web services tailored for operators and consumers.

The uptake for the HDi -- dubbed virtual HD cable -- has been sizable. At launch in January, the data collection recorded about 200 beta users. Since then, it has recorded compound growth of 10%-15% daily. At its peak, it grabbed 775,000 unique users in one day worldwide; it currently garners about 350,000 a day.

David said the growth means established players and indies will benefit from "furthering their reach and influence" with consumers and users.

"The new service is the culmination of years of technological development and challenges the established cable and satellite providers because it's cheaper and mobile and no set-top box is required," David said. "FilmOn.tv is what the Internet has promised for so long and heralds a new dawn in how the public will access television content."

The FilmOn founder recently was ranked 40th on the Sunday Times Rich List with an estimated fortune of $2.47 billion, mostly derived from his family's Athens-based Leventis-David group, which owns Coca-Cola bottling plants worldwide.

David also runs production shingle 111 Pictures with producer Elliott Kastner and modeling agency Independent Models.
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