IAC/InterActive Corp chairman Barry Diller testified before the Senate Commerce Committee today about the future of online video. We can’t believe someone thought this was a legitimate question in the era of Netflix and Hulu, but the hearing was actually called “The Emergence of Online Video: Is it the Future?” Then we remembered who was asking.
“Incumbents have the means and incentives to engage in economic and/or technical discrimination against online video distributors,” Mr. Diller told lawmakers, referring to our cable and broadband overlords. To level the playing field, he said, “I think you need to rewrite the [Telecommunications] Act of ’96. It’s overdue given the Internet. And it needs revision.” Congress, he added, should “prevent cable and telecommunications companies from leveraging their dominance in existing markets” to control emerging technologies.
A much-needed call for updating outdated legislation, but Mr. Diller is hardly an unbiased party.
In February, IAC led a $20.5 million round in Aereo, a disruptive new startup that lets users livestream broadcast TV to any mobile device for $12/month. Shortly after that, every broadcast network and their mom sued Aereo for copyright violation for rebroadcasting without licensing or consent.
Aereo argues that since users access one individual antenna a piece, it’s within the consumer’s right to access the content. Broadcasters call that argument “technological gimmickry.” In pitching Aereo, Mr. Diller has pointed out that taxpayers contributed roughly $650 million to ensure that over-the-air households could get digital broadcast signal.
The former IAC CEO, however, isn’t as eager to talk about Aereo in court. He’s currently fighting a subpoena from broadcasters demanding that he explain IAC’s investment in front of a judge. Mr. Diller’s attorneys countered that the subpoena, which mentions him by name, is “patently overbroad,” because broadcasters want to know “confidential investment decisions and analyses that are extremely sensitive and should not be produced to any of the parties in the litigation,” reports Wired.
The next hearing is set for New York federal court in May, so we’ll see if Mr. Diller gets out of testifying soon enough.