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Omniverse CEO: 'I'm Doing Everything Literally by the Book'

Jeff Baumgartner
3/6/2019
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Jason DeMeo, CEO of Omniverse One World Television, insists that he is squarely on the side of TV programmers, studios and other content owners' desires to protect their content and intellectual property. He says he also understands that they are eager to crack down on pirates and others that violate their copyrights.

But with respect to a lawsuit that he and his company are facing from the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) over alleged copyright violations, DeMeo has this message: You've got the wrong guy. (See Big Programmers & Studios Bring Hammer Down on Omniverse .)

"Everyone is framing me as some sort of pirate... when I'm 100% compliant with what I'm supposed to do," DeMeo said in an interview with Light Reading.

Omniverse is under fire by ACE, a legal consortium backed by several major US programmers and studios, over claims that Omniverse's involvement in enabling a variety of relatively inexpensive OTT-delivered pay-TV services, such as SkyStream and TikiLive, is illegal.

The Hovsat connection and the mind-blowing 100-year deal
DeMeo insists that his company, Omniverse, is on solid legal ground, through a joint venture/partnership it has with company called Hovsat Inc. Hovsat is a small private cable operator based in New Jersey that operates headends in Freehold and Tinton Falls, NJ.

Hovsat also has an extremely long-term pay-TV agreement with DirecTV, which dates back to when Hughes ran DirecTV, DeMeo says.

That asserted tie-in would help to explain why DirecTV's logo and other evidence indicating links with the satellite TV company have shown up on OTT-TV services that are distributed by Omniverse's partners. (See Is Omniverse Sourcing Video Feeds From DirecTV? )

DeMeo said Omniverse established its business relationship with Hovsat in 2015 through a third party, whom DeMeo did not name. Omniverse, which brought its consumer direct response experience to the table, has full collocation agreements that allow it to put equipment in Hovsat's facilities and list out the channels that are part of the packages that Omniverse is allowed to grab. He likewise characterizes Omniverse as simply a marketing and technology company, with a particular focus on areas such as conditional access, security and software, that has helped Hovsat and its partners bring pay-TV services to a much wider group of consumers, and that everything is being done legally.

Hovsat, he said, is linked to Hovnanian Enterprises, a Matawan, NJ-based home builder and residential community developer with operations in multiple US states, founded in 1959. Internet searches show that the address for Hovsat -- 1 Dag Hammarskjold Blvd. in Freehold, NJ -- is (or maybe has been) the address of a cable company called Grand View Cable. Hovsat, DeMeo said, is also associated with SpeedUS Corp., a wireless local multipoint distribution service (LMDS) pioneer formerly known as CellularVision USA Inc. that was briefly in the TV game. SpeedUS is also listed at the Freehold address. The home-builder's connection to Grand View Cable was referenced in this 2015 obituary for company founder Vahakn Hovnanian appearing in The Armenian Weekly.

According to DeMeo, Hovsat and Hughes signed the original deal in the early 1990s, and the length of the deal was for the incredible duration of 100 years, and allowed for national distribution rights, given that the home-builder operated in multiple states and wanted to provide video services to those communities. Knowing that their operations cross state lines, Hovnanian Enterprises, he said, decided the best option was to pursue the development of a private cable business.

"They can't live with a short-term contract; they needed a long-term contract," DeMeo said per his understanding of how the deal originated decades ago. "They are potentially on the hook to serve neighborhoods for potentially 100 years... Having a five-year agreement doesn't work if you're going to be a supplier of cable for an entire community."

The contract, he said, "will blow your mind." "It's not a normal agreement, it's extremely unique... 80% of our contract is about protecting intellectual property... We're just distributors and marketers, that's all we are."

He said the main focus of the JV with Hovsat is geared to consumers in the prepaid mobile market, as most of the customers that get service through an Omniverse partner either can't get pay-TV from a traditional pay-TV provider or are restricted due to bad credit or no credit. (See Comcast & Prepaid TV – There's an App for That and Vidgo Soft-Launches National OTT-TV Service .)

Hovnanian Enterprises, which markets and sells homes under the trade names K Hovnanian Homes and Brighton Homes, has yet to respond to multiple inquiries from Light Reading concerning its business relationship with Omniverse.

When presented with the additional details provided by DeMeo, including the existence of a purported 100-year contract, DirecTV would only refer to the company's earlier statement on the Omniverse matter, before Hovsat's involvement entered the picture: "They are not our customer and our content can't be licensed in this manner."

Of course, the idea of Internet-based, over-the-top, nationally available pay-TV services weren't even a consideration almost 30 years ago. But according to how DeMeo, his partners and legal counsel interpret the Hovsat deal, it does not preclude how Omniverse is operating today and how it has teamed up with various distribution partners such as include TikiLive, SkyStream, Clikia, SiliconDust and VivaLiveTV.

DeMeo said this is the first time he has publicly mentioned a specific linkage between Omniverse and Hovsat. However, an Omniverse tweet in January 2018 does appear to provide some evidence of that Hovsat connection in the form of a hashtag:

Next Page: DeMeo 'fed up' with pirate label, calls lawsuit 'reckless'

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macemoneta
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macemoneta,
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/7/2019 | 10:29:04 AM
Goes around, comes around
This reminds me of the deals musicians, TV actors, and movie actors signed in the pre-digital era. Digital distribution was not covered for royalties, so performers weren't (arent) getting any. Now the shoe is on the other foot, and it's hard to feel any sympathy.
mpohlman
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mpohlman,
User Rank: Light Beer
3/7/2019 | 10:16:11 AM
TOP US Cable Companies
If the subscribers are being reported through HovSat?  How is it that HovSat is not listed as one of the top providers in the US in terms of subscriber counts?!?  Or at the very least, being mentioned as a disruptor or game changer in the industry for this record breaking growth and consumer-cost saving offering?!?  
GilSanf
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GilSanf,
User Rank: Light Beer
3/6/2019 | 1:48:08 PM
Good Omniverese reporting, badly needed
Thank you, Jeff, for digging into the Omniverse story. The TV/media industry needs a good journalist to contact the key parties and get their stories.  Well done.
Jeff Baumgartner
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Jeff Baumgartner,
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/6/2019 | 10:26:59 AM
Use of the DMA term
Haven't heard back from Nielsen, but a source from the cable industry says he recalls using the term DMA since at least the mid-1980s, so that certainly contradicts  one of the arguments being made here. OTT, though... i don't recall that really being used much until around 2004 or so. JB

 
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