Broadcasters will get a U.S. Supreme Court hearing in their fight to stop Aereo, the company that is threatening the industry’s decades-old business model by selling live TV programming over the internet. Aereo can stream live TV to Apple’s iPhone and other devices
The justices today agreed to hear an appeal by media companies including Walt Disney Co.’s ABC, 21st Century Fox, Comcast Corp.’s NBC¬†Universal and CBS Corp. They contend that Aereo, which is backed by Barry Diller, is violating their copyrights by using thousands of dime-sized antennas to obtain broadcast signals without paying fees.
Broadcasters say a federal appeals ruling favoring Aereo created a blueprint that might let cable and satellite providers avoid paying “retransmission” fees to carry programming. With those fees estimated to exceed $4 billion this year, some broadcast companies say they may convert to cable channels if Aereo isn’t shut down.
Aereo had joined the broadcasters in urging Supreme Court review, saying the company needs legal clarity so it can pursue plans for growth. In separate cases, two federal trial judges ruled that another company’s similar system was a copyright violation.
Litigation has “created uncertainty that undermines Aereo’s efforts to expand its footprint and further develop its business,” the New York-based company told the court. Aereo, which offers service in 10 cities, said Jan. 8 that it has raised $34 million to fund expansion.
Under its normal scheduling practices, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in April and rule by early July.