Why Broadcasters Are Taking Their Attempts To Block Aereo All The Way To The Supreme Court

Senior Contributor
12.13.13 9 Comments


Broadcasters hate Aereo. They hate Aereo a lot. So much so that they’re trying to bring the startup to the Supreme Court. Yes, of the United States. And depending on what happens, it may have wide-ranging effects on how you watch TV.

Just to review, what’s Aereo?

Aereo is an online service where, for eight bucks a month, you can record broadcast TV in your area on a cloud DVR, or stream it directly to, well, anything with a processor, really. You technically rent an antenna the size of a dime, as well, since just using one antenna would violate the law. Basically it’s a rentable antenna and DVR.

Does it eat ads or something? It sounds like a VCR, except on the Internet.

Nope, it shows the ads. You can skip them, of course, but it’s not automatic.

So why are networks making a federal case out of it, literally?

Basically, if Aereo gets traction, it will speed up the rapid change in the television industry; namely the networks collapsing and becoming Internet providers. Aereo is essentially a clever legal end run around retransmission fees; essentially, cable providers pay to retransmit broadcast networks. It can be up to 10% of their revenue.

Aereo can wipe all that out if it catches on. Not helping matters, at all, is that it enables cord-cutting in a big way.

Essentially they’re throwing a massive hissy fit because technology.

Yeah, basically. Aereo has won every court challenge the broadcast networks have thrown at it, leaving the Supreme Court as the network’s last hope.

Will it work?

Oh hell no. The Supreme Court takes less than 1% of the petitions it receives, and it has to be something of national importance. As seriously as we take our sports, it’s extremely unlikely a decision that’s been upheld in two levels of the judicial system that involves companies throwing lawyers at each other will go in front of the highest court of the land.

I don’t have Aereo in my area. Why should I care?

Because if the Supreme Court rejects the case, or takes it and rules in Aereo’s favor, it will open the floodgates. Essentially there will be a set of similar services fighting it out over who gets to bring you the broadcast TV you want.

It will also make cord-cutting easier if you’re willing to wait for cable shows to become available for sale and rent. That’s nothing to sneeze at in an industry where bills are headed to $200 a month by the end of the decade.

In other words, TV and how you watch it is about to become a much more dynamic and tumultuous industry. And it’ll directly benefit you.

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