Last week, online video service Aereo won a significant courtroom victory over the TV networks when an appeals court refused to order the cord-cutting company to shut down.
Today, News Corp. executive Chase Carey responded by threatening to remove Fox from the airwave and turn it into a cable-only service. “If we can’t have our rights properly protected through legal and governmental solutions, we will pursue business solutions,” Carey reportedly said today at the National Association of Broadcasters conference. “One solution would be to take the network and make it a subscription service. We’re not going to sit idly by and let people steal our content.
He later elaborated by accusing Aereo of “pirating” the free over-the-air broadcasts. “We won't just sit idle and allow our content to be actively stolen,” he added.
Aereo allows paying subscribers to stream over-the-air TV shows from iPhones, iPads and other devices. The company also allows people to “record” shows for later viewing.
Obviously, News Corp. is afraid that Aereo's $8 a month service will encourage cord-cutting, which in turn will eat into retransmission fees paid by cable operators. But even if News Corp follows through with this threat, it seems extremely unlikely that people who are ready to cut the cord will change their minds solely because they want to watch Fox in real time.
Either way, the TV networks will have an uphill battle against Aereo in New York, given that a panel of the 2nd Circuit just ruled that the company's technology doesn't infringe the networks' copyright. (Technically, the court only rejected the networks' request for an injunction and sent the case the lower court for trial. But the ruling left little doubt that a trial will also result in a win for Aereo, given the appeals court's conclusion that the service doesn't infringe copyright.)
But with or without Aereo, the number of cord-cutters is growing -- and appears likely to continue to do so. After all, Aereo's not the only online video service that lets people watch TV shows without a pricey cable subscription. In other words, whether they like it or not, News Corp and other TV networks might not be able to depend forever on their current business model.