Aereo’s brush this week with the Supreme Court of the United States is just the latest example of how technology continues to disrupt the status quo. (For background on what happened, read The Associated Press’ news report)
In this case, you have a bunch of broadcasters (led by ABC) who want the justices to shut down Aereo to preserve their business models. Understandable. The start-up charges its subscribers a fee, then provides access to over-the air television programming that is very expensive (for the networks) to produce. Aereo doesn’t pay retransmission fees.
No, what Aereo is doing is probably not right. But it’s innovative, and you can’t fault the company for responding to consumer demands for television that can be viewed on computers and doesn’t cost a fortune every month.
When disruption occurs, it seems regulators are always pressured to crack down on the offenders. This case reminds me of the growing pains being experienced by ride-service companies such as Lyft and uberX. Both claim they simply provide the technology to connect riders and drivers. But as Seattle’s taxi and for-hire drivers are eager to point out, these services are not just apps — they are real transportation networks that have been sidestepping regulations and taking business away from traditional taxicabs.
So Lyft is Aereo. The taxi companies are the broadcasters. Or something like that.
The legal kinks will eventually be worked out, but both sides should aim to reach some kind of licensing deal. The broadcasters have to be aware that younger viewers are shifting from television to the Internet. And Nielsen reported last November that millions of people are now using “second screens” such as smartphones and tablets while watching TV. The point is viewer habits are constantly changing. HBO and Dish get this. That’s why both are moving to make some of their content viewable to non-subscribers on the web, as reported in a April 23 news story by Forbes Tech.
The broadcasters can try to protect their turf, but they can’t stifle technology or the public’s insatiable need to access television programming in the easiest ways possible — and for the lowest prices. On the other hand, consumers should know and value the cost of programming and be willing to pay some price for it.
Right now, Aereo is available in 11 cities, with plans to expand to nearly a dozen more.
Take the poll below and tell Opinion Northwest whether you think Aereo should come to Seattle.