Monday, June 23, 2014

Like a circle in a spiral

By Carl

So Barry Diller’s latest venture, Aereo, has hit a major legal snag:
A two-year-long legal battle between the country's biggest broadcasters and a startup called Aereo is about to culminate at the U.S. Supreme Court.

The court's decision, expected sometime this summer, could have far-reaching implications for television and technology companies -- and ultimately on how people watch TV programs.

That's because Aereo brings up crucial questions about copyright law and threatens to disrupt lucrative business models.

The case basically pits former Paramount Pictures (now part of CBS) and USA Television (now part of NBC Universal) head Diller versus…well, his entire stock portfolio, I’m sure: CBS, ABC, NBC, and FOX (where Diller also worked), which means CBS Corporate, Universal/Comcast and Disney. And FOX, too. 

Ironic that these cable providers would also be involved in this suit, as the concept of cable’s beginnings is essentially the model behind Aereo’s service: capture broadcast signals and re-transmit them to viewers (in Aereo’s case, using small over-the-air antennae on the roofs of subscribers, then streaming those signals to the Internet for viewing on phones and tablets, and also allowing a DVR-like option to view at a later time).

It seems duplicative, except that Aereo charges $8 a month for 38 channels. To contrast, Time Warner’s basic 20 channel plan in NYC starts at $20 a month. And that’s before rental fees and other “charges”, and won’t allow you to stream your selection over the Internet through their website or app.

Diller has been a strong voice for breaking up media conglomeration and warning about how the consolidation of media outlets can only be a bad thing for the nation.

So he’s putting his money where his mouth is. I only hope his lawyers got enough of the leftovers.

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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