NYC Will Soon Be Able to Watch Live Local TV on the iPad
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By Vincent Trivett, Minyanville
Anyone can just get a television screen and watch local broadcast TV for free. All you need is an antenna.
Aereo hopes to let you do that, but wants to dispense with the television part. Subscribers to Aereo pay $12 per month for local television content streaming live over the Internet. The program simply catches the wireless TV signal, re-broadcasts it in real time and streams it, commercials and all, to your desktop computer, television, or Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) products including the iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV.
The service is only available in New York City.
U.S. District Court Judge Alison Nathan just refused to slap an injunction on Aereo, which is backed by media mogul Barry Diller, saying that though the streaming service could cause "irreparable harm" to broadcasters by luring away cable subscribers, the evidence of such harm is "substantial but not overwhelming."
"Today's decision shows that when you are on the right side of the law, you can stand up, fight the Goliath and win," said Aereo CEO and Founder Chet Kanojia. "This isn't just a win for Aereo, it's also a significant win for consumers who are demanding more choice and flexibility in the way they watch television. We said from the start that we believed that a full and fair airing of the issues would reveal that Aereo's groundbreaking technology falls squarely within the law."
The broadcasters that develop the content don't agree. The fact that commercials play through Aereo doesn't help. Since the stream comes through the Internet, the existing ratings regime won't recognize them as individual viewers. Also broadcasters such as CBS (NYSE: CBS), Disney (NYSE: DIS) (which owns ABC), and NewsCorp (NASDAQ: NWS) (which owns Fox affiliates) can lose out if customers opt to use Aereo instead of subscribe to cable TV.
This also pits this startup against the likes of Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) and Time Warner (NYSE: TWX). Fox was the first to file lawsuits against the company for charging a fee to watch Fox content without any renumeration to Fox or any permission.
If this victory for Aereo sticks, it could spread to other TV markets or lead to copying. As for consumers, they will be able to watch what they wish with the device of their choice, wherever they are.
This is something that digital-spoiled consumers expect. But just as the music industry contends with lower margins on the iTunes store than it used to enjoy with records, it isn't the best situation for broadcasters.
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