Aereo Founder-CEO Chet Kanojia probably didn't make any new friends within the cable industry when he told Yahoo News' Katie Couric that his company allows consumers "to think outside the cable bundle or the bundled approach" by breaking broadcast signals away from being packaged with cable channels.
"There's a market imbalance," Kanojia said. "Nobody loves their cable company."
While primarily concerned with his company's rocky relationship with broadcasters and Aereo's April 22 date with the Supreme Court to justify an over-the-air-for-a-fee TV service model, Kanojia also said that cable companies are "absolutely" pricing themselves out of the market.
For the most part, he said, this is because cable is caught in a web being spun by broadcasters that link their "crown jewel" over-the-air programming with cable channels.
"If you get these people (Aereo customers) an antenna, you would have half the value proposition in front of them--for a lot less money (than a pay TV service)," he told Couric. Broadcasters, he added, only want "to preserve the old business model."
Kanojia will get one final opportunity to present this case next week when Aereo goes before the Supreme Court. On the other side of the aisle, the broadcasters will be joined by the U.S. Solicitor General and Copyright Offices, who have said that Aereo's business model violates the copyrights of broadcasters that have paid to acquire, develop and transmit content. Kanojia said that he actually welcomed the opportunity to go before the nation's highest court because broadcasters were constantly attacking the company on a market and regional basis.
Broadcasters routinely, and some would say expensively, charge pay TV providers for the rights to retransmit those signals over wires and via satellite. Aereo disrupts that by helping consumers grab those signals over-the-air and then transmit them to online-based devices without paying anything to the broadcasters.
While this cuts into broadcasting's new revenue stream, Kanojia argues that stream isn't supposed to be there in the first place and that broadcasters are supposed to get their revenues from advertising while using spectrum licensed to them for free by the U.S. government.
"If somebody's come out with a smarter antenna, a clever, different antenna, and you don't like that evolution is happening, that suddenly more people might use antennas, well I'm sorry about that," he said.
Aereo, he argued, doesn't have anything to do with content and thus is not liable under copyright law.
"Aereo leases technology to the consumer. We don't sell them content," he said.
The Supreme Court will determine if that's the case or not, with the potential of making the $100 million Kanojia said has been invested into Aereo worth about as much as Confederate dollars.
"We like our facts," he reiterated. "The answer will be what the answer will be. If there's no viable business, then we'll go out of business."
Aereo also took what some might consider a belated step by launching an "educational and advocacy site," ProtectMyAntenna.org with basic information about the company and explaining its Supreme Court stance and offering links to court briefs, amicus briefs and court decisions.
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