The U.S. Supreme Court will hear broadcasters’ challenges to “TV anywhere” startup Aereo.
According to Adweek, at stake is the future of streaming video on the Internet and of network television itself. On Friday afternoon, the Supreme Court issued an order granting review of ABC Inc. v. Aereo.
TV streaming service Aereo is currently operating in 10 markets, and it’s been under attack from all the major broadcasters since it launched. Aereo has been sued for copyright infringement in nearly every major market, but it’s continuing its aggressive rollout.
In 2012, U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan relied on a previous Cablevision case and refused to issue an injunction to halt Aereo. A split panel of the 2nd Circuit affirmed her decision.
Aereo is hoping that the Supreme Court will also take its side, which will put an end to its legal troubles once and for all.
Aereo argues that its technology is not operating illegally. The company assigns its subscribers a remote antenna, which captures and streams local TV signals. After a delay of at least 6 seconds, media streams to the viewer. Aereo claims that its customers are in control, which makes it akin to a private service like time-shifting on a VCR or DVR.
The service is only available to people who live within range of the TV station signals, which means Aereo isn’t doing anything that its subscribers couldn’t feasibly do on their own.
The Barry Diller-backed company just raised an additional round of financing: $34 million.
“We said from the beginning that it was our hope that this case could be decided on the merits and not through a wasteful war of attrition,” Chet Kanojia, the founder and chief executive of Aereo, told reporters at Adweek. “We look forward to presenting our case to the Supreme Court, and we have every confidence that the court will validate and preserve a consumer’s right to access local over-the-air television with an individual antenna, make a personal recording with a DVR, and watch that recording on a device of their choice.
“This case is critically important not only to Aereo but to the entire cloud-computing and cloud-storage industry,” Kanojia added.
Broadcasters believe that if services like Aereo proliferate, they will lose out on a vital source of revenue: retransmission fees. If Aereo succeeds, cable and satellite operators can merely develop their own streaming services.
“We are confident the court will recognize that this has never been about stifling new video distribution technologies but has always been about stopping a copyright violator who redistributores television programming without permission or compensation,” said Fox, Tribune, PBS, Univision, and WNET in a joint statement to the press.
“We believe that Aereo’s business model, and similar offerings that operate on the same principle, are built on stealing the creative content of others. We are pleased that our case will be heard and we look forward to having our day in court,” CBS said in a statement.