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Aereo Prepares To Battle to the Death

Aereo Prepares To Battle to the Death
By Jennifer LeClaire

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There’s been a lot of rhetoric from Aereo and the broadcasters about the implications of what the U.S. Supreme Court may decide. But the fundamental question in Aereo's fight with broadcasters comes down to control -- whether broadcasters or consumers have the right to determine how consumers receive their programming, said analyst Ross Rubin.
 


Despite broadcaster lawsuits, Aereo just kept pressing on. Now the company, which offers a cloud-based antenna and DVR technologies that is shaking up the television markets in the cities where it’s offered, is expressing dire concerns over its fate in its U.S. Supreme Court battle with broadcasters set for April 22.

“Despite the fact that consumers have long had the right to use an antenna to watch over-the-air television and make recordings for their own personal use, the major broadcasters filed suit against Aereo in New York alleging copyright infringement and sought to prevent Aereo from providing its technology,” Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia said in a blog post. “The broadcasters asked the Court to deny you, the consumer, the ability to use the cloud to access a more modern-day television antenna and DVR.”

Kanojia explained that the injunction has been denied three times in the case against Aereo -- once by a federal district court and twice at the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. With the case headed to the U.S. Supreme Court and oral arguments set for April 22, the company filed its response brief arguing that its innovation is absolutely legal.

Empowering Consumers

“We have every confidence that the Court will validate and preserve a consumer’s right to access local over-the-air television using an individual antenna, make a personal recording with a DVR, and watch that recording on a device of their choice,” Kanojia said. “We think you should be able to decide whether you use home equipment or whether you take advantage of the ease, convenience and lower cost of cloud-based equipment and storage.”

In the blog post, Kanojia described how his company’s technology leverages the power of the Internet to create a “smarter, more sophisticated” over-the-air antenna for the digital world combined with a user-friendly, cloud-based DVR that lets you watch programs from pretty much any Internet-connected device.

Consumers can pause, rewind and fast-forward any program that they are watching live, or save programs for future viewing. Aereo membership starts at $8 a month. That's quite the bargain for what it offers. Right now, Aereo is only available in New York, Boston, Atlanta, Salt Lake City, Miami, Houston and Dallas. But more cities are coming online in the months ahead -- if the company survives the lawsuits against it.

Aereo Alternatives

We caught up with Ross Rubin, a principal analyst at Reticle Research, to get his take on the hubbub. He told us the case comes down to whether the court interprets the Aereo service as an unauthorized retransmission of broadcast signals or as a consumer extending his antenna -- on which he has the right to receive the broadcast -- over the Internet. In some ways it may sound like semantics, but it is important for the legal arguments. (continued...)

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