As much as we report on the constant legal struggles of Aereo against the major broadcast networks, I have to admit that I’ve never taken the streaming antenna-rental and DVR service very seriously, except as a curiosity and as a rebellious force in the broadcast television market. I always root for the rebel. But despite that bias, I never really thought of Aereo as a truly disruptive force in the industry. I never honestly saw its service as a genuine threat to “Big Cable.” Until now.
Via CNET comes a little nugget of propaganda on the part of CBS, which follows on the heels of continued legal losses on the part of the broadcast networks:
Aereo is “more wind than reality,” CEO Leslie Moonves said on a conference call to discuss CBS’s second-quarter earnings, also calling it illegal. “We don’t think it’s catching on at all.”
CBS is the parent company of CNET.
And with that, I’m suddenly much more confident in Aereo’s future. And no, I’m not merely being a contrarian. Yes, anytime anyone in a position of such power digs deep into the dirty bag of political tricks and pulls out discrediting tactics of this nature, I tend to read fear into the bravado. But there’s more to it than that in this case. After giving a general overview of the conflict between Aereo and the broadcasters — pointing out, I may add, that Aereo isn’t technically re-transmitting network signals, since every subscriber has his or her own centralized OTA antenna — the CNET story drops this little bomb:
Moonves’s dismissal of Aereo may have something to do with Time Warner Cable using the service as a leveraging tool in fee talks with the broadcaster. With CBS and Time Warner Cable in a standoff over retransmission fees, the cable company has said that if its customers lose access to CBS because of the stalemate, it would recommend they turn to Aereo to continue watching the network’s shows.
You may also have noticed that we have a bit of a Mexican standoff going on here. Moonves has said that if Aereo wins its legal battles in New York (which it seems to be doing), CBS will stop broadcasting over-the-air and move to cable distribution. Time Warner Cable says that if CBS won’t play nice, it will send its subscribers to Aereo to get their CBS fix. Both parties are almost certainly bluffing. But what happens if someone actually pulls the trigger? If CBS shoots first, Aereo wins. If Time Warner Cable shoots first… Aereo wins. Moonves seems to realize that a quick confidence game is CBS’s only option here. If he convinces everyone else that Aereo’s gun is jammed…
Well, if that happens, as is the case with most political squabbles, We the People end up losing.