MLB and NFL Claim Aereo Win Would Lead to Exodus to Cable

Posted by at 12:21 am on November 19, 2013

The National Football League and Major League Baseball have come down firmly on the side of the broadcasters in their ongoing struggle to overcome Aereo in the courts. Filing an amicus brief last week, the two sports leagues said that they could move all of their games to cable television if Aereo is allowed to continue retransmitting content from the major broadcasters. The brief was the latest development in a wide-ranging legal struggle over what the broadcasters deem to be illegal retransmission of their protected content.

“The option for copyright holders will be to move that content to paid cable networks (such as ESPN and TNT) where Aereo-like services cannot hijack and exploit their programming without authorization,” the leagues said.

A spokeswoman for Aereo declined to comment on the filing.

About 400 Major League Baseball games air each year on the traditional broadcast stations, including the World Series, which airs on Fox. Broadcasters also carry all NFL playoff games, as well as the Super Bowl. The two leagues say that Aereo’s operations threaten their sports packages, with out-of-market games to fans introducing potential troubles for important sources of income.

Operating in a number of U.S. cities, Aereo uses an array of microantennas to capture broadcast content from the air. That data is then transmitted through the Internet to Aereo subscribers, who can then watch the content on their mobile devices, desktops, or notebooks. Aereo charges $8 per month for subscribers, with the option to store content in an online DVR for an additional fee.

The traditional broadcast networks see Aereo’s operations as a threat to their business model, an illegal reperformance of their protected content. They have filed multiple suits against Aereo, winning some motions but losing others. In March, the CW, Fox, PBS, Univision, ABC, CBS, and NBC called for an injunction against Aereo’s operations in New York. That motion, though, was declined.

ABC Television president Anne Sweeney described Aereo’s model as “illegal… opportunistic piracy” earlier this year. The company, Sweeney said, is “taking advantage of our content, of our creative community, and using it for their own gain.” The ABC chief promised that legal actions would continue in order to get Aereo to cease operations.

Responding to Sweeney, Aereo CEO Barry Diller said that the broadcasters’ lawsuits have drawn attention to Aereo and, in a manner, have helped it attract customers.

Meanwhile, Aereo has continued to expand, and the service hopes to be up and running in 22 more cities by the end of 2013.

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