Over The Aereo

Broadcasters Want Aereo Gone and They Want It Gone Yesterday

Threatening revenues will not be tolerated.

438px barry diller shankbone metropolitan opera 2009 219x300 Broadcasters Want Aereo Gone and They Want It Gone YesterdayThe Aereo legal saga continues. Not content to wait for a decision regarding their ongoing lawsuit, the Hollywood Reporter reports that broadcasters want a preliminary injunction against Aereo and they want it now. That means they have to prove “a likelihood of success and the prospect of irreparable injury.” The tone of the legal proceedings, therefore, have taken on something of an apocalyptic cast.

Their argument goes that the company’s mere existence is enough to threaten broadcasters’ business model. From the tone of statements earlier this week, they’re about ready to go looking for Aereo’s plug if the judge doesn’t do something, anything, to take care of this. If Aereo gets away with their over-the-air workaround, cable and satellite distributors won’t be so willing to shell out for retransmission rights. And that means television may never be the same again. They do understand that sounds like a good thing, right? 

NBCUniversal executive VP of content distribution Matt Bond told the court:

“It makes little economic sense for cable systems and satellite broadcasters to continue to pay for NBCU content on a per-subscriber basis when, with a relatively modest investment, they can simply modify their operations to mirror Aereo’s ‘individual antenna’ scheme and retransmit, for free, over-the-air local broadcast programming,” Bond says in a declaration. “I know for a fact that cable companies have already considered such a model.”

Don’t think that won’t impact you, either. Mr. Bond pointed to the $10 billion that his company invested in the rights to Saturday Night Football and suggested that couldn’t have happened before the 1992 legislation that allowed broadcast stations to negotiate retransmission deals with cable companies. Mr. Bond, are you threatening to take away our professional football?

It’s partly that Aereo has wandered smack into the middle of an ongoing conflict between broadcasters, who’d like money for their content, and cable distributors, who traditionally didn’t have to pay for networks like ABC and don’t want to start now. Two years ago, a stalemate in negotiations between Cablevision and Disney (which owns ABC) almost blacked out the Oscars for New York-area viewers, and the fighting hasn’t gotten any better.

But it’s also no wonder broadcasters want Aereo off the air ASAP. Just this Wednesday, Betabeat caught the company’s New York Tech Meetup demo and witnessed an audience reaction that could fairly be described as ecstatic.

Follow Kelly Faircloth on Twitter or via RSS. kfaircloth@observer.com