Does Anyone Really Get 'Free TV' Anymore?
Paying for "free TV" has never been more confusing.
Ninety percent of the country has had its behavior changed forever in this regard. You want TV? You really have to pay for it -- any of it.
Aereo believes that $12 a month for essentially over-the-air TV channels doesn't amount to much for consumers, and is thus a decent business. It's about as free as you can get, especially when looking at average monthly cable, satellite or telco bills of $100 to $125 a month.
The U.K. and other countries have a tax or license that everyone pays when buying a TV set. In many countries, this existed before the digital age, even before the cable TV age. In this country, there's no such thing in theory. For a long time, we were told free TV just meant we had to watch some commercials.
How can Aereo sell its service in the future? Maybe with this line: "Get TV nearly free." Maybe these executives could work with Dish Network's Hopper unit marketing guys and their revolutionary thinking: "Watch TV with no commercials!"
Still, not everyone is conditioned to spend more money on TV.
Though 90% of U.S. TV viewers pay for cable, satellite or telco on a monthly basis, Aereo believes only 70% of the U.S. population is actually happy about it. That means 20% is available for picking, and thus makes a nice business. Mind you, Comcast, Time Warner and others have started low-cost TV packages of their own on the order of $15 or $20 a month.
TV/media companies have sway here. They don't like Aereo, a company that believes it shouldn't pay retransmission fees because its service is essentially a "home antenna" like in the true "free TV" days. TV networks like existing distribution via cable, satellite, and telco companies because they get monthly retransmission dollars. Cable networks like it because they get monthly licenses fees.
Legal issues still abound for Aereo. While it seemingly will be moving ahead, the service may get snagged later on. Chet Kanojia, chief executive officer of Aereo, puts a bright profile on it: “Content costs only go up, technology costs only go down.”
But where does this leave TV viewers?