To hear network broadcasters tell it, Aereo is the worst thing to happen to the TV business since the fast-forward button.
In this case, however, viewers aren’t skipping past the commercials that supply the financial lifeblood of over-the-air TV. They’re using technology that lets them bypass the broadcasters themselves.
Aereo is the startup company that charges customers $12 a month for a service that captures over-the-air transmissions so they can be viewed on iPhones, iPads and computers.
Aereo is available only in New York, at least for the time being, so users of New York wireless networks like CLEAR are among the unwitting participants.
If the networks suing Aereo for copyright infringement had their way, Aereo wouldn’t be available anywhere.
When viewers go uncounted
ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and other networks are suing Aereo for copyright infringement. Their case recently suffered a setback when a federal judge turned down their request for a preliminary injunction.
Like fast-forwarding, the Aereo issue involves advertising revenue. The Nielsen ratings don’t measure TV Internet viewing, so viewers watching through Aereo instead of over-the-air could create the impression that the broadcasters’ audience is shrinking. In turn, the amount of money that companies are willing to pay for pitching their products on broadcast TV would also decrease.
For broadcast TV, fewer eyeballs means fewer dollars. The major networks certainly don’t want to see themselves hamstrung by emerging digital technology the way the newspaper industry has been.
Where will we get our TV from?
Technology continues to change the way people watch TV. VCRs and DVR systems helped make television something we could enjoy whenever. Mobile apps and advanced networks developed by wireless providers like CLEAR, creator of America’s first 4G network, made it something we could enjoy wherever.
Broadcast networks are worried that Aereo means changing where we get TV from.
As they say in the television world, stay tuned.