Why the Aereo Supreme Court Decision is ultimately good for consumers

You can read the full transcript of the SCOTUS decision here.

Here is my simple interpretation.

Over the air TV – which is strictly local – is free (unless you count your time spent watching Advertising). The local broadcasters make money by selling “local” ads. If a service can redirect the ATSC feed to a TCP/IP stream, then the value of local advertising is lost. In other words the content has been used for profitable purposes that do not benefit the content copyright owner or content license holder.

So what about local TV over cable? Twenty years ago I had cable but I couldn’t watch local TV without an antenna. Then one day, the CableCo said “you can add local TV for $5/month because we cut a deal with the local broadcasters”. That became so popular it was soon part of the baseline package. All their subscribers got local TV and the CableCo paid the local broadcasters. Aereo on the other hand, offers a low monthly fee to capture and broadcast local TV without paying anybody. The CableCo’s and the broadcasters didn’t like that, hence the lawsuit that went all the way to the SCOTUS.

People want to watch television content on their own terms, times and devices. There are solutions and there will be more choices, not fewer, as a result of this decision.

0. If you subscribe to cable this is a non-problem – Xifinity on Demand from Comcast – but that doesn’t count in this context.

1. The Major Networks – ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX have free apps for iOS and Android smartphones and tablets and/or free and paid access through Hulu/Hulu Plus. Free means pre-roll and mid-roll ads but it only takes ~47 minutes to view a “one hour” show. Prime time is pre-recorded so why be a slave to a 10PM slot. Unfortunately many shows are delayed by hours or weeks.

2. Apps for AppleTV / GoogleTV / Roku / SmartTV

These can be ad-free under various subscription models. Google’s new Android L platform will significantly increase smart TV applications, surpassing proprietary approaches like Flingo. Apple is almost certain to provide similar incentives to both national and local broadcasters to create content apps for these devices.

3. Personal DVR and home-casting.
Content that arrives in your home legally can be archived and rebroadcast for you and your family’s personal entertainment. This is “fair use”. Slingbox is a perfect example of a legitimate solution. There are others, e.g. MythTV and XMBC are bring-your-own-hardware solutions. Boxee was a solution but they ran out of money after too many delays and pivots.

Aereo’s defeat in the Supreme Court will increase the solutions along these lines. The bill of materials for a personal DVR that connects to your ATSC antenna and your home router is less than $100. I would not be surprised if the backers of Aereo have hedged their bets in this direction. “But I don’t have an ATSC antenna (or I live in an area with no reception. Aereo was my only choice.” Not true. In the Bay Area, Comcast, DirecTV and ATT U-verse provide local TV. Some provide a local channel only service for about what Aereo charged. IThe difference is that these companies “paid” for the rights. Aereo did not. And It is likely that Google and/or Apple will also license access to affiliate or even national broadcasters to provide yet another alternative.

You can’t put the content behind a firewall and sell access any more than you can walk into a movie theater with a video camera or sell tickets to watch the World Cup on your big screen TV. The latter violation falls into the category of ridiculous to enforce, especially if your charge “beer”.

Read / Update my wiki article on Web to TV