Tech Commentary: Battle Between Aero And Broadcast TV Goes To Supreme Court

Commentator Larry Magid
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The U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

LarryMagid01-228 Larry Magid
Larry Magid is a technology journalist and an Internet safe...
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The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear a lawsuit against Aero, a company that uses micro antennas to make broadcast television available over the Internet in several U.S. cities.

Let me explain. This company has tiny, little antennas that are in buildings in I believe eight cities in the United States. The antennas are connected to Internet servers. This service does not, however, cover cable or satellite channels.

You log in to Aero via your computer, smartphone, tablet or whatever mobile device and you pick up their signal and are able to watch the show.

The company likens it to having a pair of rabbit ears on your TV set, but only you are watching the signal as it’s converted and streamed to the Internet.

Broadcasters, including CBS, are trying to get Aero to stop this with the argument that the company is stealing the signal.

At first when I heard that argument I wondered why they’d be upset. If it’s a commercial station, the audience is still watching the advertisements. But the networks have deals with cable and satellite providers where they are paid money for the right to re-transmit the signal. Aero is not paying those fees.

The networks would then argue that Aero is not only stealing their signal, but essentially depriving them of revenue because they’re not paying the re-transmission fees that cable and satellite companies are paying.

The cable companies of course don’t like this either, because it’s a way of getting around cable. Now the Supreme Court has to decide on this issue to see whether Aero is right or if the networks will prevail.

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