The argument revolves around Aereo, a subscriber-based streaming service that rebroadcasts free signals of local television stations over the Internet for a fee. The problem for broadcasters is that they aren’t seeing a cut from the retransmission fees they would normally receive from cable and satellite providers who pick up their signal – so together they are suing Aereo for theft of original content and the case is now being debated in the highest courtroom in the United States. But broadcasters aren’t waiting to hear the verdict to take action. CBS, Fox, ABC and NBC are each considering how they will continue the fight against Aereo’s service should their case prove unsuccessful in the Supreme Court.
CBS has been the most vocal of all the networks against Aereo from the beginning. Chief Executive Leslie Moonves raised early alarms about the Aereo service and what it would mean for the future of broadcast television. Moonves has suggested that CBS could offer its own streaming service to distribute their content over the web simultaneously with its television broadcast in addition to providing on-demand programming. CBS is also the parent company of Showtime and would add the premium cable channel content to increase subscription fees. CBS says it would rely on technology company Syncbak, who is owned in part by CBS, to create and operate the streaming service. The CBS stream would likely pay for itself through subscription fees of a few dollars per month in addition to online ads.
ABC, Fox, and NBC already have a significant online presence through their distribution of content through Hulu, although content distributed through Hulu is provided through an on-demand basis, rather than a live stream. These networks say the most likely option for recourse is through lobbying Congress to put a stop to the video service through legislation. However, one other option being considered is for broadcasters to stop distributing content over the air and switch to cable networks, but this creates problems for local affiliates, who use morning news and primetime shows to fill out their schedules. A final option would be for networks to press for a change to copyright law that would effectively choke Aereo out of the market.
Whatever the decision, this case will have lasting impact on the television and Internet streaming markets. This case has the ability to impact what programming you are able to view, from what region, and at what time. It could potentially affect the price of your cable bill, and have a lasting effect on broadcast startups and the rules and regulations of online content streaming. The case of Aereo versus the World is definitely a case to watch.