High Court does what TV Everywhere failed to do: stop Aereo

Daniel Frankel, FierceCableOn Tuesday, executives from ABC Television, digital advertising delivery company FreeWheel and Verizon Media Services gathered on a Los Angeles TV-industry panel to discuss what was being lauded as the successful launch of the Watch ABC TV Everywhere app.

The panel was assembled by publisher NewBay Media, producer of the Next TV Summit & Expo, to demonstrate all the working parts of an effective cloud-based distribution system. It was billed as a model of how live content could be effectively encoded and delivered, complete with targeted advertising, to the places and devices consumers wanted.

"This is something the entire industry can do," said Albert Cheng, executive VP and chief digital media product officer for the Disney/ABC Television Group, speaking to an audience that likely subscribes to one of L.A.'s two dominant pay TV services, Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) and DirecTV (NASDAQ: DTV), and thus doesn't have access to the app.

Later, Raif Jacob, chief revenue officer for Verizon Media Services, which engineers and maintains the Watch ABC infrastructure, noted that he'd started conversations with fellow panelist JR Grant, VP of digital media product and technology, about the app's adaptive bitrate underpinnings "10 years ago."

So 10 years of development to come up with a product hardly anyone in the room can use?

What the panelists didn't discuss was the elephant in the room … the one they were about 15 hours away from dodging.

If the U.S. Supreme Court had upheld Aereo's right to stream ABC's programming to mobile devices using tiny individualized antennas, all the engineering and deal-making Cheng's team has undertaken over the last several years might have been seriously compromised.

Aereo would have arrived in the Los Angeles market within days, seizing the future of mobile broadcast television in America's second biggest TV market while ABC was still haggling out rights deals with carriers. Aereo would have delivered on the consumer promise that Watch ABC, largely due to rights negotiations, is still struggling to fulfill.

So no matter what side of the fence you sit on regard to Wednesday's Aereo ruling, when the claim is made that the consumer lost out, it's hard to argue with, considering where the TV Everywhere initiative stands fully five years after its gestation.

Rights negotiations. Content security. Audience measurement. Monetization. These are all hard problems to solve. And undoubtedly, any one who witnessed the presentation by Cheng and the Watch ABC team came away feeling like they had masterfully overcome most of them. Just not all of them. 

If pay TV subscribers had easily authenticated, ubiquitous mobile access to broadcast TV programming, why would a guy like Diller plunge two nickels into Aereo? Why would any of us be turning SCOTUSblog.com into the next Drudge Report this week?

Legal or not, Aereo was about to deliver something consumers wanted, something the collective will of the indigenous television industry still seems incapable of providing on a ubiquitous level. Broadcast TV. Everywhere.--Daniel