Do you still use bunny ears?

by Colin McGuire. 0 Comments

So, the National Association of Broadcasters is currently spearheading a conference in Las Vegas. More than 90,000 media types from more than 150 countries are supposed to show up, and, as the website gloats, the shindig features “85+ years of industry leadership,” whatever that means.

Why do we care? Oh, why do we care.

Welp, this year, one of the show’s main talking points centers around … you guessed it … what networks are going to do now that more and more people are leaving them for the more attractive and noticeably younger brunette standing by the door named “Internet Television.” And as it turns out, that rise in divorce rate is finally beginning to cause some trouble for the fat cats atop broadcast TV mountain. From Jeff Bercovici at Forbes …

“How worried are the owners of the major broadcast television networks about Aereo, the Barry Diller-backed digital television service they’ve been trying unsuccessfully to sue out of existence?” he asked earlier today. “Worried enough that at least two of them are actively entertaining the possibility of pulling their free over-the-air signals altogether. That may sound like a doomsday scenario, but it’s happening, says Garth Ancier, a former top-level executive at NBC, Fox and WB.”

Gosh, Aereo. How you continue to impress with your perseverance.

What would it mean if the almighty networks with three letters decided to put the kibosh on their broadcast signals? I’m so glad you asked. No, wait. Actually, Liana B. Baker and Ronald Grover, of Reuters, are so glad you asked.

“A favorable outcome for Aereo … in court would push TV operators to dramatically reshape themselves,” they wrote Sunday. “It could even force them to trade in their broadcast towers and become cable channels alongside networks such as Bravo, AMC and ESPN, says Garth Ancier, who has been the top TV programmer at Fox, NBC and the WB networks. … That would keep the broadcasters’ signals away from Aereo. … The downside? Broadcasters would have to turn their backs on the 11.1 million homes that Nielsen estimates still receives their TV signals from rabbit ears and rooftop antennas and do not have cable subscriptions.”

Wait, wait, wait. There are still more than 11 million houses that use rabbit ears to watch television?! How novel.

As you might imagine, everybody who is anybody refused to actually comment for either of the aforementioned stories. Even so, this would be a major (with a capital M) development for the future of Internet television. Two companies (the other being Dish Network with something called the Hopper that you can learn all about if you actually follow any of the above links) have essentially called the bluff of the Most Important Networks and now those Most Important Networks have been forced to take these tiny factions seriously. If that doesn’t gain Paul From Iowa’s attention, nothing will.

Which brings me to this: If what it all will ultimately amount to is a mere strong-headed blinking contest, it’s just so hard to believe that Aereo would be the first to look away. The thing has nothing to lose. NBC, ABC, CBS and FOX, on the other hand, have nothing to gain, other than a continuation of the highly lucrative business model of which they have been taking advantage now for decades. Besides, it’s not like Paul From Iowa doesn’t know what NBC, ABC, CBS and FOX are. Aereo, on the other hand? Yeah, you know the answer to that: The more ripples it can cause, the bigger chance it has to be recognized by a mass audience.

Or, in other words, the big guys can stomp their feet and whine all they want, but the louder they get, the more popular something such as Aereo will become. Shooting. Foot. You get it.

And so it goes. If all these guys are going to get in a room and hold panel discussions on what the future of television might hold this week, you’d be a dummy to believe that a topic thick with World Wide Internet information won’t be broached. I wouldn’t know members of the National Association of Broadcasters if five of them came to my desk tonight wearing shirts that read “Hi. I am a member of the National Association of Broadcasters,” but the direction of the future of TV might just be lying in their cocktail-stained hands as they gab it up in Vegas this week.

Here’s hoping that somebody with an IP address and a bucket of ideas wanders over to a roulette table and bets the farm on a color — at this point, 50/50 odds might be all he or she will need to take this Internet Television stuff to the next level.

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