After a significant legal setback last week in their efforts to shut down Web-based free broadcast TV service Aereo, some broadcasters may be ready to take a once unthinkable course of action. News Corp. has threatened to turn the Fox broadcast network into a pay cable TV network rather than see its signal continue to be tapped by Aereo. Univision also reportedly has threatened similar action.
News Corp. COO Chase Carey raised the possibility of pulling up Fox's broadcast stakes Monday at the National Association of Broadcasters show. "We believe that Aereo is pirating our broadcast signal," he said in a statement later released by News Corp., adding, "One option could be converting the FOX broadcast network to a pay channel, which we would do in collaboration with both our content partners and affiliates."
These comments come a week after an appeals court shot down a broadcaster request to stop Aereo from continuing to broadcast. Carey's comments mostly are being viewed as an idle threat for now, though AllThingsD later reported that TV industry analysts on Wall Street might be supportive of such a move, given the potential for broadcasters to gain enough affiliate fees and advertising revenue through pay TV to replace what they would lose in the retransmission fee revenues they enjoy under the broadcast model.
Within the industry, it is believed that broadcasters will continue to fight Aereo through legal action and Congressional lobbying for the time being. It is unclear whether other major broadcasters have studied the possibility of a proposal such as News Corp.'s, but amid reports that pay TV service providers have been examining Aereo's technology and how it might allow them to set up their own antenna systems for tapping broadcast signals, it would no longer come as a surprise to hear them discuss it.
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