I read today that the US Supreme Court agreed to take the case of ABC vs Aereo.
A long time ago, television consisted of a handful of stations that broadcasted free content which households received via "bunny ear" antennas. Except for PBS, all these stations supported themselves by running commercials. Since there weren't many stations, they had a lot more viewers than today so this business model worked. (PBS didn't run commercials and instead held fundraising drives on the air every X months.) Then cable came along and the number of stations grew. Cable pays the broadcast networks retransmission fees for the right to include their content in the cable content. Which struck me as a bit odd. At first I thought they were paying for the cost in the broadcaster sharing the signal. But this would make sense as a flat fee and not $1 per subscriber.
Fast forwarding to today. Aereo "took advantage" of the antenna provision and hosts tiny antennas rather than one on your property and streams the content to you. The case is whether this is legal or if it is retransmission. The cable companies are saying they will use the same technology if it is deemed legal. Some of the broadcast networks are threatening to go cable only. Which seems silly because part of the day is local broadcasting. And the fact that their prime time benefits from a vast increase in free PR and accessibility by being an over the air station. There's a new comedy on ABC vs ABC Family. Which gets covered in the newspaper?
I have never used Aereo and have no need for it given I get good reception from where I live. I have cable and a bunny ears antenna as a backup - which I used during CBS' dispute with Time Warner last year. My mother has pure bunny ears. She hardly watches any TV so no use for cable.
I do see both sides of this. I do think Aereo is retransmitting since they are receiving the signal on your behalf and propagating it. At the same time, I see how it could be considered "outsourcing" your antenna.
I wonder whether it is time to end the re-transmission fee scheme completely. I also wonder if two of the broadcast networks would like to give up their slots, whether they could be made available to someone else. I bet some cable stations would like to expand their advertising reach by broadcasting over the air.
Well, I have to say that I read that three times and still didn't understand it. Is this Aereo thing something I could subscribe to and they would run a wire into my house from somewhere?
(People in my area haven't used television antennas for about 30 years now, except for the people who point their antennas at satellites to get more Chinese programming than what's on cable, so perhaps that's why I'm not understanding the issues.)
Paul Clapham wrote:Well, I have to say that I read that three times and still didn't understand it. Is this Aereo thing something I could subscribe to and they would run a wire into my house from somewhere?
The key idea is that Aereo has a zillion small antennas to pick up the signal, and then they send the signal out over the Internet. They have one antenna for each customer. This skirts the cable-tv rules on retransmission. Logically, there is one antenna for me, another for Jeanne and still another for Paul. They just use the Internet as a long wire.
This is a critical case for the existing TV network and cable industry. They are hanging on to a very profitable business model that has been technically obsolete for more than a decades. Just like newspapers, the incumbent players have too much money rolling it to enable them to try a new model, yet they have to change.
That, and I'd find their service a lot more compelling if the "DVR" automatically included anything shown within the past <some-to-be-determined-time-period>. There's little advantage over a physical DVR in the house if you have remember ahead of time to record The Blacklist and are unable to watch it simply because you forgot to set your "DVR in the cloud" ahead of time.