Supreme Court Will Hear Aereo Case, Settling The Broadcaster Battle Once And For All

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Aereo, a streaming TV startup backed by media mogul Barry Diller, has been embroiled in a legal battle with network broadcasters for the better part of this year.

But the case has finally reached the home stretch, as the supreme court today decided to take on the issue and settle the matter once and for all.

Aereo takes OTA signals out of the air through miniature antennas and streams that content over the internet to any device for a low monthly fee. It’s the first major step toward disrupting the current TV/cable subscription model.

Obviously, broadcasters aren’t happy with it, despite the fact that courts have deemed Aereo to be as legal as cloud-based DVR or using rabbit ears.

So far, whenever Aereo wins in one market such as New York or Boston, broadcasters pick up the case in another one.

Tired of losing appellate cases, the broadcasters asked the Supreme Court to intervene and, in a somewhat surprising turn of events, Aereo agreed to have the case heard by the Supreme Court.

Why? Well, if the Supreme Court follows the decision of earlier rulings and deems Aereo’s operations legal, broadcasters can no longer implement the “divide and conquer” strategy of suing Aereo in various districts. Once the Supreme Court makes a ruling, that ruling is final.

By agreeing to hear the case, the Supreme Court will most certainly shape the future of the media industry. Aereo’s long term goal is to create a market place where content creators can sell content directly to those who want to view it, rather than selling bundles of content at higher prices.

By allowing Aereo to operate, offering customers access to what are ultimately free broadcast signals, the Supreme Court is opening us up to a more on-demand future.

Here’s the official statement from Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia:

We said from the beginning that it was our hope that this case would be decided on the merits and not through a wasteful war of attrition. We look forward to presenting our case to the Supreme Court and we have every confidence that the Court will validate and preserve a consumer’s right to access local over-the-air television with an individual antenna, make a personal recording with a DVR, and watch that recording on a device of their choice.

This case is critically important not only to Aereo, but to the entire cloud computing and cloud storage industry. The landmark Second Circuit decision in Cablevision provided much needed clarity for the cloud industry and as a result, helped foster massive investment, growth and innovation in the sector. The challenges outlined in the broadcasters’ filing make clear that they are using Aereo as a proxy to attack Cablevision itself and thus, undermine a critical foundation of the cloud computing and storage industry.

We believe that consumers have a right to use an antenna to access over-the-air television and to make personal recordings of those broadcasts. The broadcasters are asking the Court to deny consumers the ability to use the cloud to access a more modern-day television antenna and DVR. If the broadcasters succeed, the consequences to consumers and the cloud industry are chilling.

We remain unwavering in our confidence that Aereo’s technology falls squarely within the law and our team will continue to work hard to provide our consumers with best-in-class technology that delights and adds meaningful value to their lives.