iCraveTV.biz expects to launch May 1 with an array of content that includes TV programs, movies, news and other entertainment. The service said it intends to give people constant access to free content. It also plans to offer a premium service that would let people watch special events on a pay-per-view basis or access content such as news and sports channels through a monthly subscription.
"It'll be like a cable company on the Internet," said Herbert Becker, president of iCraveTV.biz. "We can now broadcast a variety of stations and variety of television shows without any problem."
The new site comes after a similar service, registered online as iCraveTV.com, was shuttered by legal threats last year. Ian Mccallum, one of the founders of the original iCraveTV, said the new service is unrelated to the old one.
"There is no relationship between the iCraveTV.biz and the original iCraveTV," he said. "There's no corporate relationship; there are no personnel connected, and I'm assuming there's no intended relationship with the content either."
amid controversy in 1999, iCraveTV.com was one of the first Web sites to offer live programming from North American TV stations. In its , iCraveTV.com was hit with a rash of copyright lawsuits from various groups including TV stations, movie studios and the National Football League.
The problem, those groups said, was the Canadian start-up didn't ask permission to use broadcasters' signals online. Under Canadian law, any company is allowed to retransmit public TV signals as long as it is a live stream and the signal is not changed in any way. However, in the United States, copyright provisions have prevented live TV programming from being transmitted over the Net.
Becker said the new iCraveTV.biz is free from legal tangles and has permission from some broadcasters to show certain content that is not public domain. Moreover, in an attempt to thwart any legal problems, iCraveTV.biz and the broadcasters would have control over who watches the content based on the territory a viewer lives in.
"If it's a broadcast that is coming from the United States and for whatever reason (U.S. broadcasters) don't want Americans to watch that broadcast, then we will shut it out so Americans won't get into it," Becker said. "The territorialization is really for blackouts. For example, if you live in New York and the New York Yankees are playing, then there's a blackout in the New York area and New York can't get the game on TV but people outside the viewing area can. We'll be using this in the same manner."
Becker said the upcoming service uses a technology by Entervision to run its broadcasts. The software application does not encode a video stream but rather uses a video capture card that nabs each frame as it travels through a video buffer, allowing iCraveTV.biz to control access to the programs. The technology also lets people watch broadcasts with a browser instead of having to use a plug-in or a player.
Still, some content providers are skeptical about the technology's abilities.
"We have not been approached (by iCraveTV.biz) and would not provide permission," said NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy. "We will be monitoring the situation very closely from the sidelines."
Although iCraveTV.biz is wagering that its new service will provide people with true-TV quality broadcasts, it remains to be seen whether it will take off in the marketplace. Analysts said many companies that once offered similar services have surfaced in the dot-com dead pool.
"A lot of people were scared of the initial shutdown of" iCraveTV.com, said Richard Doherty, director of research for The Envisioneering Group, a New York-based technology testing and market research firm. "Many (competitors) were shut down because of the Internet crash...It was a matter of funding or a matter not having the right idea."