×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Analysis: Broadcasters Need to Embrace Innovation Now That Aereo Fog Has Lifted

Broadcast TV station owners were understandably elated Wednesday by the Supreme Court’s decision in the Aereo case.

The legal questions surrounding the startup venture that gave subscribers over-the-top access to local TV signals (as a live stream and for programs recorded on a cloud-based DVR) has been hanging over the broadcasting biz for more than a year. The fight over Aereo gave the company — tiny in comparison to the operations of the plaintiffs — outsized influence over the broadcasting sector.

SEE ALSO: Supreme Court Rules Against Aereo in Victory for Broadcasters

The biggest broadcasters engaged in a battle of principle to protect the sanctity of copyright protection precedents. Aereo’s actual operations, confined to the New York City area and an undisclosed number of subscribers, hardly presented a real and present danger to the health of the Big Four networks.

But Wall Street in particular was twitchy about the threat that Aereo posed to the viability of the retransmission consent fees that have plumped the bottom lines of broadcasters for the past few years. If the court ruled in favor of Aereo, what was to stop MVPDs and over-the-top players from offering the same type of signal-bouncing service without having to pay the retrains freight? Those concerns were reflected in the dip this year in stock prices for major TV station owners, such as CBS Corp. and Sinclair Broadcast Group.

At a time of immense disruption for TV’s old guard, the uncertainty caused by the Aereo case provided a somewhat convenient excuse to forestall activity on the larger issues broadcasters face. Like every other aspect of media and entertainment, the local station business needs to be reinvented to compete in a fast-changing landscape.

With few exceptions, local broadcasters have been slow to embrace the promise of mobile offerings, of catch-up options and authenticated viewing. Disney’s ABC, which led the charge in court against Aereo as the lead plaintiff, deserves credit for blazing a trail with its authenticated WatchNow service allowing live viewing via broadband of its O&Os and some affils. CBS Corp. last year invested in the Syncbak company that aims to enable Aereo-esque mobile delivery of TV station signals within a dedicated market.

But those moves seem to be the tip of the iceberg at a moment when time-shifted viewing and over-the-top offerings are growing apace. It’s surprising that even five years after the transition to all-digital broadcasting, many of the largest station group have yet to program their multicast channel real estate.

Now that the high court has sided squarely with broadcasters, it’s time for the TV stations that enjoy home-field advantage with viewers to deliver on the promise, using the business they fought so hard to protect as a foundation for innovation. That may well mean getting more comfortable with the idea of partnering with emerging platforms vying for TV content, from Apple to Google to Xbox. Otherwise, another Aereo is sure to pop up to fill the void and once again thumb its nose at established copyright law.

Robin Flynn, SNL Kagan research director who has long studied the broadcasting sector, summed up the impact of the court’s ruling on broadcasters and MVPDs. And she added a touch of optimism.

“Today’s Aereo decision protects not only the tens of billions of dollars broadcast networks and TV station owners have invested in programming content, but also the transmission of that valuable sports and video content over the air for the foreseeable future,” Flynn observed. “It does not stifle multichannel operators’ continued strategic imperative to deliver licensed video content to consumers over multiple devices at the time of consumers’ choosing, with the goal of responding to how their subscribers prefer to watch video today. Innovation will no doubt continue in the video space.”

More TV

  • Contract Placeholder Business WGA ATA Agent

    Signs of Solidarity and Strain Emerge as Week 2 of WGA-Talent Agency Standoff Begins

    Hundreds of WGA members rallied solidly behind their union last week as the industry grappled with uncertainties spurred by the sudden break between writers and their talent agency representatives. But as the standoff heads into its second week, signs of strain among some WGA members are beginning to emerge. Shalom Auslander, author and creator of [...]

  • Jon Snow Arya Stark Game of

    'Game of Thrones' Final Season Vegas Odds Reveal Wild Theories

    With “Game of Thrones” hype at an all-time high, Las Vegas may be raking in as much money as the Iron Bank. HBO’s fantasy masterpiece has seized the gambling world’s attention nearly as much as the Super Bowl or Kentucky Derby. Fans spew countless theories on social media, such as which characters will be axed [...]

  • FX's 'Snowfall' Panel TCA Winter Press

    John Singleton Hospitalized After Suffering Stroke

    UPDATED with statements from John Singleton’s family and FX Networks John Singleton, the Oscar nominated director and writer of “Boyz N’ the Hood,” has suffered a stroke. Sources confirm to Variety that Singleton checked himself into the hospital earlier this week after experiencing pain in his leg. The stroke has been characterized by doctors as [...]

  • Adam Lambert, of Queen, performs at

    Adam Lambert Back to 'Idol' to Mentor Finalists Through Queen's Catalog

    Adam Lambert famously launched his career on “American Idol” a decade ago performing a brilliant audition of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” He wrapped that amazing eighth season performing with the band on the season finale, and years later earned his current spot as the front man touring as Queen + Adam Lambert. On April 28, Lambert comes full circle as he steps [...]

  • Lily Tomlin SAG Lifetime Acheivement Award

    TV News Roundup: Netflix's 'Laugh-In' 50th Anniversary Tribute Sets Premiere Date

    In today’s TV News roundup, Netflix sets the premiere date for its 50th anniversary special of “Laugh-In.” DATES “Laugh-In: The Stars Celebrate,” the 50th anniversary tribute to the original series by Dan Rowan and Dick Martin, will premiere on Netflix on May 14. The special, which was taped at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, pays [...]

  • Texas Tech's Norense Odiase (32) shoots

    Live+3 Ratings for Week of April 8: NCAA Championship Game Dunks on Competition

    The final of the 2019 NCAA basketball tournament, in which Virginia triumphed over a spirited Texas Tech team, unsurprisingly finished way out in front in the Live+3 ratings for the week of April 8. Although the sports broadcast’s scripted competition made some gains, its 5.4 ratings still more than doubled that of “Grey’s Anatomy” in [...]

  • Mueller Report Release Draws 11 Million

    Mueller Report Release Draws 11 Million Total Viewers Across TV News

    Coverage of the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report into whether President Donald Trump committed obstruction of justice unsurprisingly caused a ratings bump across TV news yesterday. In terms of overall viewership, around 11 million people tuned in to see Attorney General William Barr’s news conference regarding the report’s release, and the news coverage surrounding it. According [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content