“Aereo’s experience in the market has demonstrated that consumers want and will subscribe to a service that provides convenient access to local broadcast television programs via the internet for a reasonable monthly fee,” the company said in a letter to the Federal Communications Commission, which was made public today. “Such services appeal not only to so-called 'cord-cutters' and 'cord-never' consumers who cannot afford high-priced monthly bundled subscription packages, but also to consumers looking to add convenient mobile access to their existing MVPD subscriptions and personal recordings.”
If the FCC grants Aereo's request, the company could well mount a comeback. The Barry Diller-backed online video company, which launched in New York two years ago, expanded to 14 different markets before it ceased operations this summer.
While it was running, Aereo offered an $8 a month service that enabled people to stream television shows to their smartphones and tablets. Aereo also offered DVR functionality, allowing subscribers to record shows and watch them later.
Aereo suspended operations in June, shortly after the Supreme Court sided with broadcasters by ruling that Aereo's real-time streams infringed copyright.
Even though Aereo stopped operating, the company is continuing to fight in court. Among other measures, Aereo has asked a federal judge in New York to rule that it's entitled to a cable license. U.S. District Court Judge Alison Nathan is expected to hold a hearing on the matter on Wednesday morning.
But some experts are skeptical that the company will be able to obtain a cable license without an assist from the FCC or Congress. That's because the only appellate court to consider the question -- the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York -- ruled two years ago that online-only services weren't entitled to mandatory licenses.
Aereo is now telling the FCC that redefining MVPDs to include certain streaming video companies “would create regulatory parity among systems that provide access to the same linear channels to a similar subscriber base, increase investment and competition in the video programming market, and provide consumers with attractive competitive alternatives to existing MVPD services.”
Earlier today, Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia disclosed the company's recent efforts to persuade the FCC to change its definition of multichannel video program distributors. “As a company, we have always worked hard to follow the law,” Kanojia wrote on the company's blog. “Should the FCC move on this issue, it would be a meaningful and important step forward for competition in the video marketplace.”