Aereo Vs. The President: April’s Main Event.

by Colin McGuire. 0 Comments

AereoAmicus curiae: noun. one (as a professional person or organization) that is not a party to a particular litigation but that is permitted by the court to advise it in respect to some matter of law that directly affects the case in question.

That comes from Merriam-Webster, a dictionary (remember those?!). And why on earth would it apply to a blog named TV Without A TV? Glad you asked, disembodied voice. Because it’s now time to formally check in with Aereo, the Internet television service that we’ve been writing about for years (or at least since Feb. 14, 2012), and has been making waves throughout all the land in the last handful of months.

Yet none of those waves has been nearly as tall as the one that’s about to come its way. Deadline’s Dominic Patten, how you doin’?

“This week, the Obama administration asked the court if it could argue its point of view directly before the Justices at the April 22 hearing on the case,” he wrote yesterday. “The Court has not yet responded, but the broadcasters have given the government 10 minutes of their one-hour block of time before the Justices in which to make their case — literally and figuratively.”

Ka. Boom.

It’s one thing to ruffle the feathers of CBS’s Powers That Be, but you’re in a whole new world if you have to try and go head to head with the President of the United States of America. I mean, Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman ain’t walking through that door anytime soon, you know?

This comes after Chet Kanojia, Easy A’s founder, went on down to Austin, Texas, to speak at SXSW (this is my virtual tear for not being there this year) to shout from the mountaintops that Austin will indeed be the 13th city on the map of Cities To Offer Aereo. Though the morning he showed up to do that …

… Customers in Denver and Salt Lake City had their services cut after a District Court injunction was upheld by an appeals court.

You win some. You lose two.

Anyway, this sets the stage for a massively important showdown when Kanojia shows up on the steps of the Supreme Court next month. You have to think that one way or another, an ending to this long, impossibly influential story will be written on or around April 22. Either the road toward Internet television domination will be paved with a fresh batch of concrete, or some big, pointy rocks will ultimately force the trip to be awfully rocky, or a dead-end sign will be erected, ending the momentum for good.

“It’s clear why the broadcast networks hate Aereo,” USA Today‘s Carol Kopp wrote earlier this week. “Up to 10 percent of their revenue now comes from licensing fees that the cable companies pay for the rights to carry their programming. It’s less clear, at least from the consumer viewpoint, how it could be illegal to offer a service that sounds like a souped-up modern version of the old rabbit ears on top of the television.

“After all,” she continued, “about 7 percent of Americans still get broadcast television over an antenna, according to the latest figures from the Consumer Electronics Association. (About 83 percent pay a cable subscription fee.) Nobody’s accusing them of piracy. And, after all, isn’t broadcast television supposed to be ‘free’ TV, as opposed to ‘premium’ TV?”

Not if the Big Old Corporations have their say.

The only real worthwhile question left to ask: Is the mere fact that it had to go all the way up to the Supreme Court already a win for the evolution of web TV and the act of cord-cutting, or would a loss at the highest judicial level this country has prove to be only a stronger, more affecting punch to the nose, perhaps knocking the entire medium out of the game for good?

Either way, Kudos to Barry Diller and Kanojia for sticking to their guns. As I say every time this thing appears on this blog, Napster had to fail first in order for the Internet to ultimately take over the music market. Come April 22, will Aereo be taking its cues from Steve Jobs or will Mr. Chet ultimately become a new generation’s Shawn Fanning? My goodness. Who really needs cable when this type of drama plays itself out in real life anyway?!

That was rhetorical.

So, yeah. Back to where we began. Amicus curiae: Yet another tool for the government to elbow its way into the conversation. For better. Or for worse.

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