As a follow-up to our ZeroTV discussion, I present to your information about Aereo, a website that will stream live television broadcasts that it picks up over the free airwaves. Broadcasters and Cable moguls alike are trying to stop this venture in the courts, but so far to no avail.
I have questions for both sides of the controversy: (1) How are broadcasters harmed if a website shows their over-the-air programming as opposed to that programming being shown on a television set? (2) What is the advantage of watching live broadcasts on a computer screen as opposed to watching it over a television screen? (3) Television stations are howling that their content is being “stolen.” But how can it be stolen if the stations are giving it away for free? (4) Why would viewers pay $10 per month for Aereo when they can get the same programming on a bigger screen for free?
By Cecilia Kang in the Washington Post:
For consumers who want to cut their cable cord and get all of their television from the Internet, there’s been a major obstacle: It’s hard to get live sports and local news.
Now a Web start-up, called Aereo, is offering to remove that last barrier with a simple method. It is using antennas to pick up programming from public airwaves and then deliver shows into homes that have a Web connection — for as little as $10 a month.
With Aereo planning to expand its service to Washington and 21 other markets this summer, CBS, ABC and other big networks have attacked the upstart company with renewed vigor.
In lawsuits, they argued Aereo is little more than a content thief. But their efforts to persuade federal courts to shut it down have failed. On Monday, Fox Television’s parent company fired back, saying it might consider delivering its shows only through cable connections, no longer broadcasting them.“We won’t just sit idle and allow our content to be actively stolen,” said Chase Carey, president of News Corp., which owns Fox Television. . . .
Aereo offers all of the programming that appears on CBS, NBC, Fox, ABC, PBS and about two dozen other channels. Customers could see NCAA tournament games live or the most recent episodes of “American Idol” or “Dancing With the Stars.”
Such shows are also freely available to consumers who use antennas to get their television. About 54 million people still watch over-the-air broadcast television.
But on top of that content, Aereo also allows for pausing live TV or recording shows and saving them for later — features once exclusive to subscribers of cable or satellite services. The company eventually envisions allowing consumers to pay for only what they watch, similar to ordering food items off an a la carte menu. . . .
In court, the networks banded together and argued that Aereo’s service violates copyright laws. Aereo countered that it was not trying to steal content but simply allowing consumers to use its antennas to access shows on public airwaves. A lower federal court sided with Aereo last year. Last week, two out of the three judges in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in New York agreed with the lower court’s decision.
After losing those battles, the television industry is expected to take its case to Capitol Hill, some analysts said. Others predicted the unique and complicated case could reach the Supreme Court.
“If Aereo’s model is ultimately upheld,” Stifel Nicolaus analysts Christopher King and David Kaut wrote in a recent note, it could force “the broadcast/content companies to seek Congressional relief.”