Aereo Win Could Be a Turning Point for Online Video
Increasingly, it looks like the television and online video industries are on a collision course, as broadcasters continue to battle with pay TV providers over carriage fees and online TV startups like Aereo make it easier for consumers to cut the cord and still get their content.
The momentum may finally be moving in online video’s favor. On Wednesday, a federal judge rejected a request by broadcasters to halt the operations of Aereo, which uses antennas to pick up broadcasters’ signals in New York and then streams their channels online for a subscription fee.
The broadcasters -- which include Fox, PBS, Tribune, Gannett and WNET -- accused the Barry Diller-backed company of “misappropriating copyrighted material” by essentially stealing broadcast signals without paying for them. The group says it will appeal the decision.
Separately, Viacom on Wednesday decided to curtail U.S. access to some of its television content online in a move that many see as a direct reaction to its dispute with DirecTV over the carriage fee it receives in exchange for distributing its content via the pay-TV service. As of late Tuesday, Viacom channels like MTV, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central were blacked out for about 20 million DirecTV subscribers.
By Wednesday afternoon, the media giant responded by cutting off access to some of its content, including “The Daily Show,” to all U.S. Web users.
“Once again it’s viewers who suffer when media companies stall in their negotiations. But the scale of Viacom’s overreaction is unprecedented,” John Bergmayer, a senior staff attorney for public interest group Public Knowledge, told The Washington Post.
“Viacom has decided to take a service away from all Internet users in its attempt to punish DirecTV,” Bergmayer said. “It is apparent that Viacom puts little stock in the Internet and the online future of video if it is willing to use all Internet users as a pawn in its negotiations.”
Viacom’s dispute with DirecTV is not the only wrangle over carriage fees. Big media companies keep demanding higher fees from pay-TV operators, which in turn, feel they are being held hostage by the content owners. As a result, consumers end up paying higher monthly subscription fees for their pay-TV service. Many consumers are irate with this arrangement, because they only watch a handful of the hundreds of channels they are paying for.
Meanwhile, Web-based services like Aereo are trying to benefit from this disconnect by offering fewer channels and cheaper monthly subscription fees.