Aereo Micro Antenna and the Big Bad Broadcasters

by Ryan Yates on April 17, 2014

Aereo IllustrationAs a person who loves finding ways to save money and get stuff for free (legally of course), I am positively intrigued about an upcoming Supreme Court case which may actually decide the fate of how we consume media.

The Backstory

Aereo is a start-up tech company that has developed a micro antenna for catching the free over-the-air television signals and making that media available to consumers over the internet. They’re catching the same signals you can get on your own with a pair of rabbit ears.

In it’s simplest form, the April 22 Supreme Court case will be a faceoff between Aereo and the 4 major US broadcasting companies to decide the freedom of access to over-the-air television signals. Aereo has developed a micro antenna that captures the free tv signal and puts it on the internet to allow consumers to watch media they choose on their computers, smart tvs, tablets, and smart phones – for $8 a month. Aereo also has a cloud-based DVR storage feature which, if you didn’t want to watch the content live, you could record it for later viewing.

The major US broadcasters don’t want this to happen, being afraid of lost revenue and all.

Cool New Tech

In my opinion, Aereo has developed a hybrid DVR Slingbox Streaming Antenna system to give the consumer more options for watching the content they choose to watch. I think it sounds pretty cool, and not unlike videotaping my Saturday morning cartoons in the early 90s.

Growing up out in the country in Texas, my family got its television from a TV antenna on top of our house that caught the free over-the-air signals from Dallas. So, I’m kinda in favor of this new Aereo technology.

Those same tv signals are still our there, although they’ve been updated to digital and, in some cases, HD quality. All you need is a pair of updated rabbit ears to enjoy free local tv channels. And these are the channels Aereo is catching with their micro antenna. For my non-lawyer mind, it seems that the Aereo antenna is to free over-the-air tv as Slingbox is to cable and satellite.

So What’s the Big Deal, Broadcasters?

What the big broadcasters are most worried about, it seems, is not necessarily losing profits to Aereo, but the precedent that will be set if Aereo wins the Supreme Court case. The broadcasting companies charge that Areo is infringing on their copyrights because, they claim, Aereo is repackaging their content and charging customers access to it.

In one light, that’s true. But Aereo argues that they’re not repackaging and charging for the content; they’re simply charging for the ability to access the signal on the internet. Something that you can’t currently get from the broadcasters.

The bigger problem that the big broadcasters ee down the road is that the current cable and satellite companies (which pay the broadcasters retransmission fees when packaging local channel content to subscribers) will develop similar technology. Losing out on this revenue could cost the broadcasters tens of billions of dollars.

With that much to lose, it’s no surprise that ABC, NBC, ABC, and Fox are willing to stop an upstart tech company dead in it’s tracks. But that’s just my opinion, what do you think?

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