“TV Everywhere” seems to be a popular phrase nowadays, but while cable companies pretend to embrace the notion, they are doing whatever they can to keep Americans chained down with expensive cable subscriptions no matter where you are watching television. While major networks like NBC, ABC, FOX, and CBS allow full episodes of their major programming to be watched online, none of them offer the ability to watch it live. NBC’s most recent episode of Saturday Night Live starring Will Ferrell was great, but if you were not sitting on a couch watching your television screen at 11:30 Pacific Time, there was no other way you could’ve have seen it.
If you are and avid NBA fan and wanted to catch the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Memphis Grizzles while on the train or in the hospital waiting room, you are out of luck. But what is so scary about giving customers the ability to watch prime-time television from any device over the internet…well money of course. Carriage fees, broadcast rights, syndication deals, are worth billions of dollars a year and these huge networks do not want to cede any of that money to online alternatives.
But one start-up company is trying to fight back, offering live broadcast television over the internet for only 12 dollars a month. The company is called Aereo, and is backed by Barry Diller, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of IAC, Chairman of Expedia, Inc. and the Chairman of Live Nation Entertainment. Aereo takes broadcast television, which is free to anyone with an antenna and allows it to be viewable over the internet. Take a look at the company’s video explaining the product.
Of course, the major networks are very unhappy with the company’s efforts. According to TechCunch the broadcast networks filed two lawsuits and an injunction meant to not only prevent Aereo from launching, but also to require it to pay damages for violating the Copyright Act. This TechCrunch article goes into detail of what exactly the networks are so threatened by. Simply put, they do not want their bottom lines being affected by what they essentially are calling re-transmissions of their content. As noted in the article, TiVo, the original DVR, was sued countless times by these same companies for re-broadcasting rights, until the networks and cable companies decided to create their own DVR systems. In the suit (which can be seen here), the Suits argue that:
No amount of technological gimmickry by Aereo — or claims that it is simply providing a set of sophisticated “rabbit ears” — changes the fundamental principle of Copyright Law that those who wish to retransmit [their] broadcasts may do so only with [their] permission. Simply put, Aereo is an unauthorized Internet delivery service that is receiving, converting and retransmitting broadcast signals to its subscribers for a fee…
Aereo responded by stating:
Today, two groups of broadcasters filed two separate federal lawsuits against Aereo in the Southern District of New York claiming that Aereo will infringe their copyrights by making available technology which enables consumers to access broadcast television via a remote antenna and DVR. Aereo does not believe that the broadcasters’ position has any merit and it very much looks forward to a full and fair airing of the issues.
Consumers are legally entitled to access broadcast television via an antenna and they are entitled to record television content for their personal use. Innovations in technology over time, from digital signals to Digital Video Recorders (“DVRs”), have made access to television easier and better for consumers. Aereo provides technology that enables consumers to use their cloud DVR and their remote antenna to record and watch the broadcast television signal to which they are entitled anywhere they are, whether on a phone, a tablet, a television or a laptop.
I do not have to say which side I am on, and I hope that Aereo will finally be able to break through the firm grasp that big networks have had on television accessibly. While Aereo is currently only available in New York, I am hoping that with a successful defense of their product, it will spread throughout the nation, forcing big networks to rethink their entire cable package and pricing scheme.