FilmOn, a free TV streaming service highlighted this week by Forbes as one of the 10 companies changing the TV industry, is suing online ad verification service DoubleVerify for blacklisting the site as “copyright infringing” and “adult content.”
FilmOn alleges that these classifications could result in the site losing out on millions of dollars of ad revenue from wary advertisers.
FilmOn provides hundreds of live TV channels and on-demand programming to the web, both for free and with some content behind a subscription. It says its current service is within the realm of the law and that it should not be treated as a copyright infringer. The company is also meeting with US regulators the FTC next week to see if it can become recognised as a cable system, which would enable it to pay retransmission fees to broadcasters and stream hundreds more channels for free.
FilmOn CEO, Greek billionaire and media entrepreneur Alki David, told Business Insider it has been so difficult to redress the issue with DoubleVerify, his company was left with no option but to sue in order to raise awareness of the issue to the wider industry and hopefully remove the tarnish from its name in the eyes of potential advertisers.
“To tell you the truth, the reason we brought the suit is to shed light that they are d—–bags, that they are people who throw legitimate companies under the bus in order to generate a body count,” David said.
David could not confirm how much in damages FilmOn is seeking from DoubleVerify, but the suit, filed in the Superior Court in Los Angeles earlier this week, suggests DoubleVerify’s actions have caused “millions of dollars in damages by improperly disrupting FilmOn’s efforts to market content it owns.”
FilmOn’s argument is that DoubleVerify is “wilfully misclassifying” FilmOn (and potentially other websites) because it is in DoubleVerify’s business interests to do. DoubleVerify makes the majority of its money by running analyses of websites for brands and agencies to ensure those websites don’t house any fraudulent non-human traffic (otherwise known as bots), that they are safe for brands to advertise against (no porn, pirated, or other nefarious material), and that ads are in a prominent enough position that people will see them.
A DoubleVerify spokeswoman sent Business Insider this statement:
“DoubleVerify delivers impartial, industry-accredited information for the world’s largest brands to provide transparency and accountability in online advertising. Transparency threatens those companies whose business models are predicated on practices that some advertisers may naturally want to avoid. We firmly believe that the FilmOn lawsuit is without merit and we will vigorously defend ourselves against frivolous attempts to stifle an advertiser’s ability to make fully-informed marketing decisions.”
The suit also alleges DoubleVerify is producing malware, bad software that can be designed to scrape people’s computers for data and for other malicious purposes. FilmOn says it has reported this to the FBI in the US and Scotland Yard in the UK.
In response to the malware allegation, DoubleVerify says:
“Further, it is irresponsible to suggest that a third party verification service such as ours is directly supporting the same kind of malicious activity that we are focused on eliminating. All of the DoubleVerify verification practices and processes are continuously accredited for their accuracy and integrity by the MRC (Media Rights Council). Since our company started more than 6 years ago this is the first suit like this we have ever received. In the past year, several of the largest movie studios and TV broadcasters have sued FilmOn for the illegal distribution of their copyrighted materials online.
Separately, the Wall Street Journal reported this week that AOL video exchange Adap.tv is one of the more prominent advertising clients that recently stopped working with FilmOn. The report suggests Adapt.tv’s checks found that FilmOn was disseminating “bot” traffic — a practice bad publishers use to inflate their traffic in the hope of hiking up their ad rates.
David dismisses these claims as “absolute rubbish” and says that while FilmOn works with a number of affiliate partners, it would never sell on illegitimate traffic to advertisers — and that the company still has a partnership with Adap.tv. FilmOn also works with a research partner, MDot, which flags up potential bots, and issues can be resolved “within minutes,” FilmOn commercial director Jill Brook told Business Insider.
Alongside FilmOn, David — heir to the Coca Cola Hellenic shipping and bottling company — also owns home shopping website 9021go.com, the BattleCam.com p2p streaming site and modelling agency Independent Models.
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