MLB, NFL team up to battle Aereo

aereo

Live-TV startup Aereo has been taking on television broadcasters and winning but now faces an assault by two of America’s largest sports leagues, the NFL and MLB as they seek to prevent it from showing their broadcasts.

The two leagues are seeking to piggyback with an amicus brief to a petition filed by broadcasters that asks the United States Supreme Court to rule on the legality of Aereo’s broadcasting of local over the air signals.

In case you are unfamiliar with Aereo, it is a startup that makes a combination DVR/antenna that captures over the air broadcasts and allows customers to its $8 a month service to view the programming on Internet connected devices.

It started out in New York City last year and then moved to Boston and Atlanta, surviving legal challenges along the way. It has now accelerated its expansion efforts and recently moved into Utah, Chicago, Miami, Houston and Dallas this year.

Apparently this is terrible news to the sports leagues, as well as with NBC, Fox, ABC and CBS, the broadcasters that filed the initial suit. The broadcasters have claimed that Aereo is violating their copyrights and must pay retransmission fees.

The sports leagues have piled on claiming that if they lose exclusive retransmission licensing rights it will make over the air broadcasting less attractive and that they would be forced to go to paid cable networks. According to a piece in Variety the amount that the league collects is about $100 million for those rights.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out on a number of levels. Cable has been losing viewership as a generation of ‘cable cutters’ has emerged and they use Netflix and other online programs, get over the air antennas or do without.

Also the sports should keep boxing in mind. A once popular over the air sport it moved its premium events to pay per view cable, and helped kill the sport. While basic cable is not the same as PPV the example is one to remember.

The trend to get over the air broadcast, either from a service such as Aereo or by using a proxy, often illegal, appears to have accelerated the movement of quality content to basic cable where it is much more difficult to rebroadcast. Will sports follow this trend?

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