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So it looks like Aereo will have to fold up the tent. What else will happen in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision today?

Nothing.

Which is a problem, both for consumers and for the media companies celebrating their victory today.

I’ve always been skeptical that Aereo would succeed, even with the Supreme Court’s blessing: I found it hard to imagine that there was a mass market for a service that only provided access to broadcast TV channels, when the stuff that so many people want to watch isn’t on broadcast TV.

Still, a Supreme Court victory for Aereo might have done a lot to move the TV industry into the future at a rapid clip, instead of its plodding pace.

At a minimum, Aereo could have forced the TV networks and pay-TV providers, who take billions per year from TV subscribers, to let those subscribers watch the shows they pay for, whenever they want to watch them, wherever they want to watch them.

The TV Industrial Complex has signed on to that idea — but only in theory. “TV Everywhere” launched in 2009, but five years later it remains a confusing patchwork of biz dev deals that befuddle most regular people: Depending on which pay-TV provider you use, you may be able to get some shows, from some networks, on some devices, sometimes. Good luck figuring it out.

But the main beef most people have with pay TV isn’t their inability to stream “CSI” on their cell phones. It’s that they have to pay big monthly fees for pay TV, whether they want 5 channels or 50.

And that’s what Aereo’s Chet Kanojia and IAC’s Barry Diller, who backed the company, were most interested in — a service that would essentially offer a very skinny bundle of TV networks, and provoke the other guys into rethinking their bundles.

It wouldn’t have happened overnight, because the networks and the pay-TV guys are locked into long-term deals that prevent anything from happening overnight. And like I said, I don’t think Aereo would get a ton of pickup for its particular bundle.

But Aereo’s legalized presence would certainly give the networks and providers a reason to move much faster to provide their own specialized packages. Not “a la carte” TV, where a TV subscriber can sign up for Disney and Comedy Central, but not ESPN and MTV. But at least a slimmed-down offering with a range of options and prices. A few people are playing at the margins of this idea — but only in a way that protects their core businesses.

Now we’re back to a world where the only incentive the TV guys have to move faster is the nagging fear that their growth has permanently stalled, and that their subscription rolls will decline as new generations of video-watchers enter a world where paying for TV seems ridiculous.

That group of “cord-nevers” hasn’t grown big enough to show up on the TV Industrial Complex’s books yet. But it’s hard to imagine it won’t get there. Any sane TV executive knows that, and is also betting that it won’t show up for years to come, when it will be someone else’s problem.

If Aereo were around to make them move faster, it could be better for them — and their customers — in the long run. But they’ll be sticking with lucrative business as usual for now. Pretty sure we’ve seen this show before.



5 comments
Richard Bennett
Richard Bennett

Aereo tried to scam the FCC and the courts. Their service is clearly just a bargain-basement cable TV service. It's great that the court saw through the subterfuge.

erikschwartz
erikschwartz

Aereo was screwed anyways. In order to scale they would need to both directly peer into, and cache content, in the networks of the major Internet Service Providers located in each DMA they served. In most cases those ISPs are MSOs (cable and telco operators) who also retransmit TV signals and pay a lot of money to content owners (billions nationally) in order to be able to do that.


Aereo would be in the position of needing peering and caching relationships to deliver content they are not paying for, with ISPs who are paying large retransmission fees to distribute exactly the same content over the same pipes (which the ISPs paid millions to build).


From a technology standpoint sticking thousands of antennas in a warehouse is just an ugly hack.

nedly44
nedly44

There are legal solutions that exist today.  Slingbox but yes you have to buy the bundled package from your satellite or cable provider.  Portable terrestrial TVs have always existed to receive over the air signals. RCA now makes a portable digital receiver.  For a while Android devices did have FM receivers in them.  Clearly cell phone manufacturers could legally make a cell phone that picks up the free to access terrestrial TV signals.  That is one avenue that satisfies the consumer, the legality and puts fair competition in the market and beyond that (your argument is a stretch) to push for unbundling.  TV networks understandably want to paid for their content. They could give a rats who-ha want device exists today or in the future to do that.  But bundling is in their interests.  While I want ComedyCentral, who's going to support the 5 people on the planet that want CMT?

invalidname
invalidname

The madness of pay TV is that they're clinging to the technology of the early 1980s and non-addressable cable boxes and its consequent business models, in the IP era. Sure, back then, consumers could take the big bunch of channels as an all-or-nothing deal. But now, consumers are more savvy — they know that while cable offers TV only at the "package of channels" level of granularity, the internet offers them not just channels, not just shows, but individual episodes or events. It's like saying "I want to watch the Soup Nazi episode of Seinfeld", and the reply is "fine, but you have to buy these 4,000 other episodes of shows you would never watch too."


The only thing that's going to keep them straight is rampant piracy. The extremist positions taken by Big Content has taught the kids that they'd be fools to pay for anything. There may come a day of reckoning in the future, when TV comes looking for a new Steve Jobs to get the kids to pay something, anything, for legit content.

bobsulli
bobsulli

I wanted to watch the NBA Finals on one of my tablets. I caught parts of the first 2 games on ABC. Since the NBA Finals were on ABC, I tried the WatchABC app first. That app told me my local ABC affiliate isn't participating. Next, I tried the FiOS Mobile app. I don't see any local channels (not just ABC) and none of the ESPN channels there had the NBA Finals. Finally, I tried the WatchESPN app and found the NBA Finals an an ESPN3 show. 

My experience with the earlier rounds was easier using the WatchTNT app and the WatchESPN app.

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