What If… Aereo Wins?

By Michael Silbergleid

So, the Supreme Court will hear the Aereo case. What if Aereo wins?

Well, broadcasters and rights owners have made it clear that premium content might move to pay cable. But what happens to over-the-air?

One option is that OTA becomes a secondary service. What do I mean by that? A service that fulfils the requirements of a licensed broadcast station, but acts more like an independent station. This would include O&O stations.

In this view of the world, all premium content (that means sports, first run primetime programming, network news, and anything with the highest value being in its first run) would no longer be available off-air. This could be expanded to include primetime reruns aired during the same season.

Like The Big Bang Theory? You won’t find the current season on OTA, not even current season reruns. CBS has the ability to control this. Just cable, satellite, Amazon, Hulu, and other services (including their own streaming service) that pays for the retransmission rights. That’s where most folks watch TV from anyway (at least the folks in the demographics that really matter to advertisers).

The value of Aereo would take a nosedive. Everything becomes a repeat. Aereo becomes a service that gives you reruns and programs that serve the public interest (whatever that really is).

People buy cable and other distribution services (including Aereo) to get the programming they want to watch. What happens when that programming is no longer available?

Barry Diller can say that Aereo’s business model is valid as broadcasters’ get a free OTA license and each fee paying user has their own antenna and only they can get their programming. But he can’t dictate what programming is available.

Would a move like this by broadcasters force Aereo to become a programming service like Netflix or Amazon with original and purchased programming in order to keep its customers? Or would Aereo just die?

I would love to find out.

UPDATE: CNBC reports that: CBS may cut off broadcast if Aereo prevails: CEO Moonves

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