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Fox thinks about turning to cable to beat Barry Dillers's cheap TV

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By Noel Young, Correspondent

April 9, 2013 | 3 min read

News Corp might convert its Fox broadcast network into a pay-TV channel in the US as a solution to the dispute over Barry Diller's Aereo firm sending out Fox shows, plucked from the air, over its network of mini TV antennas.

Fox: Over to cable to best Diller?

Fox boss Chase Carey made the suggestion at a conference of broadcasters in Las Vegas, attended by TV station executives.

In a statement released later by News Corp., Carey said, "We won't just sit idle and allow our content to be actively stolen. We have no choice but to develop business solutions that ensure we continue to remain in the driver's seat of our own destiny."

Aereo spokeswoman Virginia Lam said, "It's disappointing to hear that Fox believes that consumers should not be permitted to use an antenna to access free-to-air broadcast television."

Aereo's service lets users rent a tiny antenna and record free over-the-air signals.

Univision Communications , a favourite of the Hispanic community, also said it was weighing a conversion to cable because of Aereo.

Bloomberg said the showdown pitted Murdoch, 82, against his former ally Diller, 71, who helped start the Fox network in the 1980s. It has been a free TV channel for 26 years.

If CBS, NBC and ABC follow Fox in curtailing their free broadcasts, "it would hasten the end of the broadcast TV system as it has existed since Edward R. Murrow ruled the airwaves in the 1950s," said Bloomberg.

As a cable channel, the networks' shows would be carried only by cable operators rather than broadcast over the air through local TV stations to be picked up by Barry Diller's operation.

One analyst estimated that broadcast networks that converted to cable would lose around 10% of their viewers—the homes that rely on over-the-air TV and don't subscribe to pay TV.

Dennis Wharton, a spokesman for the National Association of Broadcasters, said they are confident they will defeat Aereo in court, so that there won't be a reason for broadcast networks to convert into cable networks.

"We think broadcasters will win the court case and Aereo will be found to be a copyright infringer," he said.

Carey said that if Fox converted to a pay channel, it would do so "in collaboration with both our content partners and affiliates."

Aereo spokesperson Virginia Lam added:

“Aereo has invented a simple, convenient way for consumers to utilize an antenna to access free-to-air broadcast television, bringing television access into the modern era for millions of consumers.

"It’s disappointing to hear that Fox believes that consumers should not be permitted to use an antenna to access free-to-air broadcast television. Having a television antenna is every American’s right.”

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