Aereo loses right to stream live TV online in US copyright battle


By John Glenday, Reporter

June 26, 2014 | 2 min read

Subscription TV service Aereo has lost a copyright battle with some of the biggest broadcasters in the business over its right to undercut mainstream satellite and cable services.

Aereo picked up signals from major networks such as ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and PBS using an array of tiny antennas before streaming them to consumers for as little as £5 a month to view on smartphones and other mobile devices.

This put the broadcasters in danger of losing out on the large fees it can demand of providers who relay their signals by satellite or cable.

Aereo had argued that as each antenna could only be used by a single subscriber at any one time it was equivalent to viewing free-to-air broadcasts at home using an aerial.

In his ruling justice Stephen Breyer said: “Aereo is not simply an equipment provider... Aereo sells a service that allows subscribers to watch television programs, many of which are copyrighted, almost as they are being broadcast.”

Aereo chief executive Chet Kanojia said: "Consumer access to free-to-air broadcast television is an essential part of our country's fabric. Free-to-air broadcast television should not be available only to those who can afford to pay for the cable or satellite bundle."

Commenting on the decision, Alan Wolk, global lead analyst at US-based video monetisation software firm Piksel, told The Drum: "Aereo was an direct and immediate threat to the content industry’s revenue. Today’s decision hints at the fact that the justices have understood that Aereo was invented to circumvent the retransmission fees that cable and satellite companies pay the TV networks to distribute their content.

"This may be a setback for Barry Diller and other Aereo investors, but it is certainly a good day for broadcast networks, which will stay assured of their revenue as the TV industrial complex withstands yet another attack on its foundation. It is unlikely, however, that Aereo will be the last initiative to bring broadcast TV to the internet for free, so this remains a fascinating space to continue watching."


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