New digital video services should be permitted to operate on a level playing field with broadcasters and other traditional programming services, says former TV and movie studio executive Barry Diller.
In speaking to the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation, Diller, the chairman/CEO of IAC and investor in Aereo, a new digital video service, said: “It will take vigilance to make sure that Net neutrality is to be safeguarded." This includes Internet services such as Aereo.
Aereo is a new digital video service delivered over the Internet to individual virtual "antennas" for consumers. Because it uses “antennas,” it is akin to what consumers do with their TV antennas to get a “broadcast” station. In that regard, the company claims, it should not be subject to making retrans deals with TV stations. Broadcasters have filed lawsuits against Aereo.
Diller, a proponent of the Internet service, believes the Communications Act of 1996 needs to be changed -- to now include Internet services that didn’t exist when the act was passed into law.
He says some 15% of U.S. TV homes used over-the-air signals, but the quality is poor. Aereo provides clearer signals. “By making over-the-air signal digitals useful to consumers, Aereo is bringing the very reality Congress sought.”
Diller added that Aereo is just one of many companies/services looking to make progress by using the Internet to send TV/video to consumers.
While he didn’t name others, Diller did say some current TV distributors should have less power. “If intermediaries have less control, creators could reach consumers more directly, and will not have to sign over so many rights to distributors.
In the question-and-answer section, Diller said: “What online can offer is more a la carte programming… The Internet gives the ability to offer the narrowest of narrowcasting. There is no closed pipe.”
That said, he didn’t think video on the Internet would overrun traditional TV systems: “It’s not going to replace pay television.”