Over The Aereo

News Corp. Threatens to Yank Fox Off the Airwaves and Turn It Into a Cable Channel If Aereo Wins In Court

We’re not going to sit idly by and let people steal our content.”
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Say what? (Mr. Carey via http://www.123people.ca)

What’s the best way to respond when a court ruling doesn’t go in your favor? Public histrionics, judging by statements from News Corp. COO Chase Carey.

Last week, the Second Circuit appeals court upheld a decision denying broadcasters their motion for a preliminary injunction against Aereo, the Barry Diller-backed startup that lets users live-stream broadcast TV. The plaintiffs in the case are a cohort of powerful media companies, including NBC, CBS, Disney and, yes, News Corp, whose COO Chase Carey is not taking the decision lying down.

At an industry conference in Las Vegas today, Mr. Carey told audience members that he’s considering switching Fox from a free, over-the-air broadcast station into a pay cable one if the courts won’t protect his company, reports Variety.

“If we can’t have our rights properly protected through legal and governmental solutions, we will pursue business solution. One solution would be to take the network and make it a subscription service. We’re not going to sit idly by and let people steal our content.”

The rights in question are hefty “retransmission fees” for carrying networking programming. The plaintiffs argue Aereo needs to pay for the right to show their content, Aereo argues the individual antennas assigned to each user means its that its streaming service doesn’t count as a “public broadcast.”

How seriously should “New Girl” obsessives (will they/won’t they, amiright?) take this threat? “You can probably file this under ‘sword-rattling aimed at regulators’ more than ‘things Fox actually intends to do,’” says AllThingsD’s Peter Kafka.

To back up that thesis, News Corp. already had a passionate press release plea to interested overseers drafted. The full text below:

STATEMENT FROM NEWS CORPORATION PRESIDENT AND CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER CHASE CAREY REGARDING BROADCAST TELEVISION AND AEREO

NEW YORK, NY – April 8, 2013 – “News Corporation has a long-standing commitment to the broadcast television business, and to delivering the highest-quality entertainment, sports and news programming to our viewers on a localized basis.  We are committed to broadcasting under a business model where programmers receive fair compensation from parties that want to redistribute our product while continuing to make our product available for free to individual consumers that want to access our signal.

“We believe that Aereo is pirating our broadcast signal.  We will continue to aggressively pursue our rights in the courts, as well as pursue all relevant political avenues, and we believe we will prevail.

“That said, we won’t just sit idle and allow our content to be actively stolen. It is clear that the broadcast business needs a dual revenue stream from both ad and subscription to be viable. We simply cannot provide the type of quality sports, news, and entertainment content that we do from an ad supported only business model.  We have no choice but to develop business solutions that ensure we continue to remain in the driver’s seat of our own destiny.  One option could be converting the FOX broadcast network to a pay channel, which we would do in collaboration with both our content partners and affiliates.”

UPDATE: It looks like News Corp. isn’t the only party given to grand pronouncements. Aereo spokesperson Virginia Lam emailed Betabeat the following statement, declaring that “Having a television antenna is every American’s right.”:

“Aereo has invented a simple, convenient way for consumers to utilize an antenna to access free-to-air broadcast television, bringing television access into the modern era for millions of consumers. It’s disappointing to hear that Fox believes that consumers should not be permitted to use  an antenna to access free-to-air broadcast television. Over 50 million Americans today access television via an antenna. When broadcasters asked Congress for a free license to digitally broadcast on the public’s airwaves, they did so with the promise that they would broadcast in the public interest and convenience, and that they would remain free-to-air. Having a television antenna is every American’s right.”

For more information about Aereo, check out our feature from last May. 

Follow Nitasha Tiku on Twitter or via RSS. ntiku@observer.com