The great cash cow that can make up as much as half the revenue various cable channels rake in is the racket known as bundled cable, where you and I pay for dozens of channels we never watch and even despise. Aereo, a service that streams local channels to your television for a fee much lower than the average cable bill, is an existential threat to that racket, and the major broadcasters are now begging the Supreme Court to strangle this threat in its crib:
Major TV broadcasters petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday over Aereo Inc., a streaming-video startup backed by media mogul Barry Diller.
The broadcasters argue that Aereo, which streams local TV signals over the Web without their permission, violates their copyrights. [They] are appealing a ruling earlier this year by the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which denied their request to shut down the fee-based service.
The circuit court’s decision “is already transforming the industry and threatening the very fundamentals of broadcast television,” the broadcasters wrote in the petition.
The copyright argument against Aereo is, in my opinion, ridiculous. But the idea that the Constitution protects greedy Wall Street billionaires from threats to “the very fundamentals of broadcast television,” says more about the entitled mentality of the gilded entertainment industry than anything I have ever read before.
As for the copyright argument, the local channels Aereo streams to its customers are already provided for free through the airwaves. Aereo is not hijacking cable-only channels like TCM or HBO. The service merely gives customers a DVR and converts into streaming video the same channels these same customers can already access for free with an antennae. It is absurd to argue that providing these same free channels through a different delivery system is a violation of copyright.
The entertainment giants know that their bundled-cable days are numbered if Aereo catches on in a big way. There is just no way that low-rated networks like CNN, MSNBC, and dozens of others can thrive with only advertising dollars. Too few people watch. Big Broadcasting desperately needs people to keep paying for channels they don’t want or watch.
Hopefully, the Supreme Court will make the right decision and finally put this issue to bed.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC