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Online regional TV station WaggaWagga.TV embroiled in trademark stoush with HBO

A six month old regional online video operation based in Wagga Wagga has found itself in the midst of a copyright battle with US TV giant HBO.

wagga v hboWaggaWagga.TV, an online live streaming service catering primarily to the people of the southern NSW town, was threatened with a trademark challenge with HBO’s lawyers claiming its tagline “It’s not TV. It’s dot TV” was too similar to HBO’s “It’s not TV. It’s HBO.”

“We run an online TV station with local based content where the target audience is Wagga Wagga which has about 66,000 people in it,” said Adam Drummond who heads the two person WaggaWagga.TV operation.

“I was bit horrified when I got the letter in the post and it was from the Sydney lawyer representing HBO. At first I thought it was a gag.”

The online operation has only just started selling ads, with its clients now including NRMA Insurance as well as the local RSL and Denco Diesel and Turbo, as well as amateur dramatic productions of Legally Blonde and Wild Goose Chase, and Drummond had applied for a trademark for the tagline.

WaggaWagga.TV’s shows include What’s Up Wagga, Unleash the Geek and The 5 o’clock Wave, while HBO has made its names with big budget productions including The Sopranos, Game of Thrones and The Wire.

“We get our revenue from advertising and I didn’t want clients to think we were going to be as expensive as things like television or newspapers and it’s for this reason that we went with the tagline ‘It’s not TV it’s dot TV’,” said Drummond.

“Their letter was basically saying they had found the trademark application and felt our brand was too similar to theirs and people might think it was linked to HBO’s.

They are similar logos. But after I slept on it and I decided to oppose it because there is no way on earth anyone comes across WaggaWagga.TV would associate it with a well known cable TV company – which is geoblocked from Australia anyway.”

Drummond

Drummond

Drummond argued that were HBO to contest the trademark the legal fight would have ruined the regional online venture.

“‘It’s not TV. It’s dot TV’ is now synonymous with our brand,” he said. “It would have been massive to have to change everything.”

The actor, turned real estate agent, traded a series of legal letters with HBO’s lawyers before being able to convince them not to contest the trademark. However HBO’s lawyers are reserving their rights.

“It does feel like a win. We are doing 14 hour days there are only two of us,” he said.

“There is one production person and then there is myself and between us we are scripting everything, producing, shooting, editing and on top of that doing sales as well.”

HBO has been approached for comment.

WaggaWagga.TV claims that in its first six months of operation it had had 110,000 pages views from 25,000 unique browsers. In terms of video consumption Drummond said it had an engaged local audience with 350,000 minutes watched with an average viewing time of 12 minutes.

Nic Christensen 

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