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TV Could Be Changing

by John on 05/24/2012

Your TV viewing habits could change drastically.

I am watching a court case carefully for you.

What may happen?

  • You may soon start watching TV online by plugging the Internet into your big screen.
  • It could mean the end of cable TV as we have known it since the 1980s.
  • Some local TV stations may close shop which would:
  • Allow major networks to deliver programming directly to you online rather than using an affiliate and;
  • Pave the way for local producers to create local news, information, and entertainment programs.
  • Pave the way for new technologies that will deliver the exact programs and channels you want; not the whole universe of channels of which you only use 5%.

Here’s what the case is all about.

The company starting all this is Aereo.  It’s now transmitting network TV shows over the internet and to cell phones for a monthly fee of $12.

However, Aereo is not sharing any of the $12 fees to the networks or local stations.

The networks are suing Aereo for copyright infringement.  A lot of those stations rely on the transmission fees paid to them by cable companies worth millions of dollars a year.  Those transmission fees keep those stations on the air.

Right now, Aereo is only in New York City.  If Aereo wins this case, they could spread to 100 cities or TV markets. 

The Wall Street Journal reports:

The case is being closely watched because of the precedent it could set. Broadcasters owned by The Walt Disney Co., CBS Corp. and Comcast Corp. have deals to collect hundreds of millions of dollars annually from cable and satellite TV providers for the right to retransmit their signals to subscribers.

Talk about another major disruption.  Already, we are seeing more people (younger viewers) watch TV on their computer or iPad.  And the number of cable subscribers has been dropping over the past 4 years.

Could Aereo win?

On the surface, the TV stations and the networks have a good case.  Aereo is transmitting their content and not paying for it.

But – and this is a big but – Aereo seems to have found a technicality in the FCC laws.  More from the The Wall Street Journal:

The essence of Aereo’s legal defense lies in three arguments: television broadcasts over public airwaves; anyone has the right to stick up an antenna; and there is a long-established right for individuals to record programs off the TV—think videocassette recorders or DVRs.

Aereo points to the 1984 Sony Betamax case that found the making of personal recordings to be legal, as well as a 2008 decision in favor of Cablevision Systems Corp. against the major entertainment companies that allowed for personal recordings on a cloud-based DVR.

It’s a solid argument.  We’ll see what a judge says and if the law has any media bias.  A hearing is scheduled for next Wednesday May 30.

Again, we’ll be watching and getting more expertise.

Give me your thoughts or any expertise you have.

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