So this website called Aereo got sued by every major broadcast network. Why? Because this website Aereo let’s you watch broadcast TV channels whenever you want. And unlike Hulu or Netflix, where it’ll be days/weeks/months before new episodes come out, Aereo is actually TV. Right there, whenever you like, right in your browser, or iPhone, or iPad—Yes.
Let’s be real: nobody but Nielson families watch TV on television set anymore. I bet so few people watch TV-TV that only a few of you understood my killer Nielson family joke! But, to be honest, who has time to sit around and watch the tube? It’s not Must See. If so—trust me—some bar in Williamsburg has a theme night for it. Not to mention how totally unhip it is to actually ‘watch TV’ these days. We all know kids these days are watching the Internet just like the rest of us. If you are watching TV, it’s likely that you’re using a DVR to do it. Which is sort of what Aereo is about.
All the way back in 2009 Vishesh Kumar and Sam Schechner reported in the Wall Street Journal that “the Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to a new type of digital-video recorder from Cablevision Systems Corp., [which set] the stage for wider use of the technology.” That, of course, was the good ‘ole Cablevision DVR+; much lauded for not requiring a small object in a room but derided for being unfathomable slow in the beginning. When Cablevision launched their bright idea a slew of networks sued them too. Cablevision hired a lawyer and won their case and, no spoilers, Aereo just hired the same one.
The original defense rested on the fact that each DVR+ member was basically doing the same thing TiVo lets you do: recording content that anybody with an antenna and a TV has free access to, and every recording was saved to an individual’s own/private Virtual DVR Storage. Very much like when Universal and Disney sued Sony because the Betamax was considered an evil piracy device. Aereo’s is likely to use ‘The Cablevision Defense’ because their whole system works by allotting members their own/private pair of micro-antennae located on the company’s own Brooklyn rooftop. In effect, you’re paying Aereo to hold on to your antenna for you.
Like millions and millions of my contemporaries, to me, the Internet equals an Absolutely Everything Machine. If it’s not on the Internet, I don’t know about it. Even if it is on the Internet, but is not in the cheap to free price range, I actually do not want it. Aereo’s $12/month price is not bad at all. If you add in the price of monthly Netflix and Hulu+ accounts, the price tag for your TV diet is still way less than my grandfather pays for cable. Right now Aereo is in Beta so you have to sign up for an invite, but new users get a 90-day free trial. Their website looks nice and the video quality is just fine when you’re watching it live—that’s right: live streaming video.
All this actually-on-the-air-right-now content reminded me of what a huge letdown it was back in the day when there was “just nothing on!” But with Aereo I flipped ahead in the guide a bit, set it to record 30 Rock, did things, and came back at 9 p.m. and was actually giddy! To think, my very own brand new episode of 30 Rock saved away snug within 40 hours of DVR storage space on the Aereo Cloud, and, What?! Under the Recordings tab, I found a friendly, devil-red, line of text which read: “Not recorded: System error”
I felt feelings then that I hadn’t felt since I once forgot to put a new VHS in for the Star Trek: The Next Generation series finale. There’s bound to be issues at first. And an episode of Seinfeld and an airing of The Addams Family movie recorded just fine later on.
Broadcasters need to stop and take stock of their industry. Here is another example, among many, of a business model showing us that the future of television is not allergic to revenue. But still these clunky old brands are so afraid of reality that they’ve become incapable of taking all this money I’ve got sitting around.
Services like Aereo could be a non-candy lifesaver for these guys. All the ingredients are there: TV, Internet, willing consumers and money. Also, think of how much more in touch networks would be with all the data available from a web audience. Instead of spending cash picking on the new kids, legacy media outfits might consider a few smart investments. Don’t be afraid of working together to make life easier for consumers.
How do you get your sitcoms? Think The Plaintiffs are right? Let us know in the comments!
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