by Douglas Hufnagel
The Aereo corporation was dealt a devastating and probably company-ending defeat at the Supreme Court today, Wednesday, as the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in favor of the broadcasters. This could easily be the end of the company and imitators all around the country.
This ruling cements the power of the broadcasting corporations to demand retransmission fees and decided that the Aereo company was providing a public performance, as a pay TV provider does when they offer broadcast television over cable or satellite. This decision is not only surprising because it was 6-3 when all experts were predicting 5-4 one way or another, but because the previous federal court to rule on the case favored Aereo.
While the impact of a Supreme Court case is never known until days, weeks, or in particularly complex and far-reaching cases, years after the verdict is delivered, this seems to clearly show the power of the broadcasters, who were favored by the Obama administration’s Justice Department and assisted by the NFL and the MLB.
I am personally horrified by the verdict as it essentially holds that if you offer a business plan that threatens broadcasters, you can be sued out of existence. Aereo’s business model, which was deliberately planned out so that every subscriber got their own personal antenna and DVR, which was supposed to help them avoid this outcome. As it is, the company itself seems doomed, as does any hope of quickly breaking broadcasters’ dominion over retransmission rights. Additionally, expect it to become impossible to stream TV on a computer, tablet, or phone without a pay-TV provider or a direct attachment to an antenna, which defeats the purpose of streaming it unless you really don’t want to own a television for some reason.
[Photo via CNET]