Aereo, touted by some as the future of television and others as it’s downfall, is Netflix’s younger, miscreant cousin that can’t seem to stay out of trouble with the law. The company streams TV channels directly to subscriber’s computers and mobile devices, an article from CNN reports, and unlike Netflix, Aereo allows people to watch the channels live and record shows for later, just like a traditional TV and DVR. But unlike a typical satellite TV setup and much to the networks’ chagrine, Aereo isn’t paying any royalties for the signals it collects using tens of thousands of miniature antennas. Subscribers are happily paying a mere $8 per month (far less than for satellite) to access these local signals wherever and whenever they want. Right now the service is limited to New York City, Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Detroit, and Miami, as their growth had been somewhat inhibited by the extended case pushed against them by the outraged TV networks.
The obvious benefit to Aereo is the mobility it’s service allows. People can watch their favorite shows whenever and wherever they want without the hassle of rushing home or remembering to program their DVRs. While Netflix is good for marathoning shows, new seasons usually don’t come out for months are they’ve finished airing, leaving viewers impatient and wide open to spoilers. Aereo offers a way to take traditional TV out of it’s traditional setting, updating it for the modern world while still allowing for live viewing, a practice which has been on the wane as of late. The networks are actually indebted to Aereo in that it is helping keep their model of TV watching relevant in a world that is increasingly busy and mobile.
Unfortunately for Aereo, ABS, NBC, CBS, and Fox don’t quite see it that way, and they’ve been vocal and virulent in their persecution of the fledgling company. Aereo doesn’t pay for the channels they stream, which means they are essentially pirating the original programming normally jealously protected by copyright laws. Needless to say, media companies aren’t taking this perceived threat lying down, and have kept Aereo tied up in court for around two years. The case actually made it all the way to the Supreme Court, where the networks are claiming that Aereo’s services are “public performances” of copyrighted materials, making them illegal. Aereo counters that their services entail perfectly legal “private showings”. If Aereo were to win, the case would change the way television and copyright works, making streaming content without paying royalties legal. Arguments were heard last Tuesday, and according to CNN, the judges were conflicted. While at first glance the odds of Aereo coming out on top would seem slim, the Supreme Court is taking the case for the future of TV very seriously. The Supreme Court’s decision should be handed down in a couple of months, and who knows? The underdog might just come out on top. If so, expect a movie.