Aereo might be out of business, but its long-running battle between television broadcasters shows no signs of ending.
This week, the bankrupt online video distributor accused the broadcasters of mounting a “concerted and baseless” legal campaign to discourage other companies from buying Aereo's technology at auction.
When Aereo auctioned its assets last month, they fetched less than $2 million -- nowhere near what Aereo sought, according to Bloomberg. TiVo paid $1 million for Aereo's trademarks, domain names and customer lists, while its patents and some equipment were sold to two separate companies for $545,000 total.
Aereo now says that the broadcasters are to blame for the disappointing auction -- in part, because they continued to lob complaints at Aereo in the bankruptcy court.
“Simply put, there was and is no good faith basis, objective or subjective, legal or factual, for the ... broadcasters’ repeated and relentless use of the legal process to chill the debtor’s sale efforts,” Aereo says in papers filed this week in bankruptcy court in the U.S. Southern District of New York.
For example, Aereo says the broadcasters argued last year that Aereo's technology could only be used for copyright infringement. Not only does Aereo dispute that claim, but the company says that the broadcasters only made the argument “to cast a shadow over” an auction.
Aereo declared bankruptcy last year, several months after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the company's online streaming service infringed the broadcasters' copyrights. Aereo's technology, which relied on thousands of mini-antennas to capture and stream programs, allowed people to watch over-the-air television on their smartphones, tablets and other devices. Subscribers who paid $8 a month could view programs in real-time and on demand.
The broadcasters obviously were afraid that Aereo's service could encourage people to siphon viewers away from cable companies -- which pay broadcasters hefty retransmission fees. A group of major TV broadcasters sued Aereo as soon as it launched in 2012, arguing that the service infringed copyright by transmitting programs without paying licensing fees. Aereo initially prevailed in court, but the Supreme Court ruled against the company last June.
Meanwhile, even without Aereo, the number of cord-cutters seems certain to grow as more and more material becomes available online. Just this week, HBO gave cord-cutters a big boost by announcing that it will soon let people stream its original programming for around $15 a month -- the same amount it costs cable subscribers to add the service to their packages.