Goodness, gracious. Who says January is a slow news month?!
So far this week, we have had the “Arrested Development” round table that produced news of the show returning on Netflix in May (we’ll get to that next week). We have the announcement from Jerry Seinfeld that the best thing to ever happen to Internet television, “Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee,” will actually move forward with a second run almost doubling the amount of episodes for season No. 2 (again, we’ll get to that next week). We have Justin Timberlake (sorry, movies!) and Destiny’s Child (sorry, Beyonce’s luke-warm solo career!) both announcing their returns to the music world almost simultaneously (yay!). We have the injustice that surrounds the Academy Awards nominations (click over to the Pop Goes The Culture blog for more on that). We have irony. We have CES. We have the brilliant Tina Fey and Amy Poehler hosting Sunday’s Golden Globe awards ceremony. And, most importantly, we have Ricky Gervais bringing original content to Netflix sometime soon (again, more on that in the future).
So, which one of these juicy stories will we decide to take on today, the disembodied, Internet voice asks? None of them, I tell it. None of them.
Instead, how about we take a look at not one but two (two!) stories The Associated Press wrote this week about … you guessed it … Internet television. Or, maybe more specifically, let’s talk about the news organization’s newfound infatuation with a product we have been discussing on this tiny corner of the Interwebs for months and months and months … Aereo! Hey — thanks for catching up, guys!
“The Barry Diller-backed Internet company that challenged cable and satellite TV services by offering inexpensive live television online plans to expand beyond New York City this spring,” the AP’s Anick Jesdanun wrote this week.“In the wake of a federal court ruling that tentatively endorsed its legality, Aereo will bring its $8-a-month service to Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington and 18 other markets in the U.S., as well as to New York’s suburbs. For the past year, the service had been limited to New York City residents as the company fine-tuned its technology and awaited guidance on whether its unlicensed use of free, over-the-air broadcasts amounted to a copyright violation.”
And to think it even has a local angle!
OK. That’s enough with the exclamation points.
Anyway, the move to expand the product outside of New York City is a major step in Web TV evolution. Almost exactly one year ago to the day, when this blog first touched on Aereo, it could have seemed like just another product aimed at trying to crack the code of Internet television prominence (despite our headline, “Aereo: The most important development in cord-cutting yet.” Hey — I’m not sayin’ but I’m just sayin’). One year later, the company shows up at CES to drop this news bomb on the tech world, and boom: Now, all of a sudden, it’s a no-lose situation.
Or is it?
“A federal judge in New York ruled in July that the service doesn’t appear to violate copyright law because individual subscribers are assigned their own, tiny antenna at Aereo’s Brooklyn data center, making it analogous to the free signal a consumer would get with a regular antenna at home,” Jesdanun reminded everybody. “Aereo spent the subsequent months selecting markets for expansion and renting space for new equipment in those cities. Aereo is one of several startups created to deliver traditional media over the Internet without licensing agreements. Past efforts have typically been rejected by courts as copyright violations. In Aereo’s case, the judge accepted the company’s legal reasoning, but with reluctance. If the ruling stands, Aereo could cause a great deal of upheaval in the broadcast industry.”
What is left out of that above paragraph is this: The original judge’s ruling was merely preliminary. Why does that matter, the disembodied voice asks? Well, it’s simple — the decision holds little weight when considering the long-term. Or, in other words, the judge just said, “Hey guys, keep doing what you want while we figure out what to do with these 4,925,290 lawsuits about your little antenna service. Then, we’ll talk.”
So … this could all blow up, of course. By the time this date comes around next year, Aereo may already be shut down by the federal government because of copyright violations (though it’s also worth noting that if Diller and his friends, for some reason, decide to make this thing entirely free, we might have an awfully intriguing court decision coming our way in the near future).
And oh, where would we be without Buts (that sounds bad, doesn’t it)?
Remember Napster? If you know who Corey Matthews is, of course you remember Napster. That thing came along, illegally revolutionized an entire industry and almost instantly burst into a flaming dumpster fire before anyone even had the chance to punch the drummer for Metallica in the face. Still, it helped bring the art of downloading music into the mainstream. Sure, the whole thing was destined to fail from the moment someone first clicked “save,” but you can’t deny its influence on how we consume music today. Before you knew it, iTunes figured out how to make it profitable, Shawn Fanning was immortalized by Justin Timberlake (see what I did there?), and CDs became about as obsolete as the Bowflex.
Aereo might not be the end-all-be-all to this whole Web TV thing, but it sure could be the symbolic beginning of a much larger revolution among those in the world who somewhat enjoy watching television (which, by my count, is practically every single one of us).
For those still wondering about which markets will be included when the thing expands, anybody in Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Birmingham, Ala., Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Kansas City, Madison, Wis., Miami, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Providence, R.I., Raleigh-Durham, N.C., Salt Lake City, Tampa, Fla., and Washington can come on down.
For those still wondering why Kathryn Bigelow or Ben Affleck didn’t receive Best Director Oscar nominations … I’ve got nothing.