Aereo, an internet based, live TV streaming, has expanded its service to the Chicagoland area. The IP alternative to broadcast networks does not use antennas, but is intent on making waves in the abstract sense. Aereo is currently available to stream 28 channels to Chicago, Atlanta, Boston and New York, and plans to expand to nine more cities in the next year, thus flaunting its anti-cable, anti-broadcast bent nationwide. Make no mistake, the implications are a blatant, and courageous affront to the oligopoly that exists in television.
Aereo cuts costs and fees by essentially bypassing broadcast regulations that exist for the major cable providers and network affiliates. In addition, the low price and unobtrusive service make it an easy, if currently limited, substitute for cable.
Fox, ABC, CBS, and NBC have already sent cease and desist letters, threatened lawsuits and properly sued Aereo for “stealing” their signals. The big networks have antennas, local affiliates, and various other tools for distribution and exhibition that represent billions of dollars in sunk costs. In addition, the cable companies, with whom they play nice, consider it a preliminary attack on their business as well. So far, all rulings have been in favor of Aereo.
Any attempt by previously unassociated businesses to stream television through the computers, “smart TVs,” or non-cable box devices like the Roku have been pushed against by the television powers that be. However, if recent developments remain the trend, the will of the future cannot be stopped. Netflix risked life and limb to bring its original series’ to the masses, and, indeed, despite pressure from networks, it streamed House of Cards and Arrested Development and has so far been very successful. Microsoft’s Xbox One’s only source of positive press is its live TV streaming capabilities. YouTube has announced its intent to stream live sporting events via pay-per-view.
In effect, Aereo is getting picked on by the networks because, at $63 million in funding, it is small potatoes. However, to be fair, this new technology is a revenue stream for Aereo that the networks do not have cut of, unless you count additional viewership in ad revenue, which is impossible to quantify. Ad revenue discrepancies notwithstanding, the Aereo’s conflict of interest with the networks is yet another frontline battle against television’s status quo.
Comcast and Time Warner, overcharge for shoddy cable service and slow internet, and face another veritable foe in Google fiber. In response to that, Time Warner has been going door to door offering better services, trying desperately to fight back without a presumably more expensive legal battle than the one against Aereo. Can they not pick on someone their own size?