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CBS Takes Stake in Syncbak, Eyeing Aereo Threat

The Eye makes strategic investment in broadcast-backed Internet streaming venture

CBS now owns a piece of Syncbak. The Eye has taken a minority stake in the local TV streaming-video venture backed by broadcasters, one way the industry is responding to over-the-top startup Aereo, which refuses to pay retransmission fees and has won a pair of court victories against nets.

Amount of CBS’ stake was not disclosed. Previous investors in Syncbak, founded in 2009 by media entrepreneur Jack Perry, include the National Assn. of Broadcasters, the Consumer Electronics Assn., broadcast group Northwest Broadcasting and three former NBC execs.

Syncbak’s platform, currently in testing, lets local stations stream their signal to in-market consumers to Apple tablets and smartphones with Android apps in development. It also includes a DVR-in-the-cloud feature.

That’s similar to the service Aereo currently offers in New York. However, with Syncbak the broadcast stations are available only to customers of participating pay-TV partners and must verify their subscription in a TV Everywhere fashion. With Syncbak, stations also are able to track viewing metrics to get credit for ad impressions and control what content and commercials are made available online.

CBS said it expects to work closely with its owned-and-affiliated television stations as well as advertisers, rights holders, cable, satellite and telco partners “in the coming months and years as Syncbak becomes fully activated and deployed.”

The Syncbak technology is currently being tested by more than 100 television stations in 70 markets across 31 broadcast groups representing all major networks, including CBS, ABC, Fox, NBC and the CW.

“We have admired and worked with Syncbak’s CEO Jack Perry since the mid-’90s,” Martin Franks, CBS executive veep planning, policy and government affairs, said in a statement. “Over the last couple years, we have worked with Jack as he developed Syncbak’s very elegant technology platform, which presents several interesting opportunities for broadcast networks, their stations and affiliates.”

Aereo, whose backers include IAC chairman Barry Diller, is being sued for copyright infringement by major broadcasters over its over-the-top live TV and DVR service for local television programming. Aereo has won two decisions in the case so far, as courts have rejected broadcasters’ requests for preliminary injunctions shutting the service down.

Syncbak is free to consumers within a station’s broadcast area. A list of stations testing the system is available here: http://www.syncbak.com/mobile/#LiveMarkets

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