Fox may no longer operate as a free over-the-air channel if Aereo is allowed to continue operating, warns News Corp COO Chase Carey. In comments recorded by Bloomberg, Carey said that Fox and all its affiliate stations will stop broadcasting and move to cable in the event that Aereo is not shut down by the courts. "We need to be able to be fairly compensated for our content," Carey told other executives. "This is not an ideal path we look to pursue, but we can’t sit idly by and let an entity steal our signal. We will move to a subscription model if that’s our only recourse."
Aereo collects broadcast television and streams it to the web for a monthly subscription fee, something networks have unanimously said infringes their copyright. It's currently embroiled in a series of lawsuits over that business model, but it won a surprising victory last week as an appeals court said it was free to continue operating as the trial proceeded. Now, networks are striking back as a win over the upstart TV company looks less certain.
"We will move to a subscription model if that’s our only recourse."
Fox isn't the only channel that's reportedly in jeopardy. According to a recent Reuters report, executives of at least two major channels are considering moving to a subscription-only model, potentially taking Aereo out with a scorched-earth policy that would destroy free TV in order to save their content. Or, conversely, they're playing a game of chicken, hoping to get support for their cause by threatening the foundation of the broadcast model. So far, these statements seem highly tentative, but we're likely to see more statements as the suits against Aereo continue.
Update: It looks like Murdoch is getting some support from Spanish language TV network Univision. All Things D reports that the network's chairman, Haim Saban, stated that "simply put, we believe that Aereo is pirating broadcasters’ content," adding that management is considering all options," including converting to pay TV." As All Things D also points out, this isn't the first time Saban has aligned himself with Murdoch, telling the media magnate "my money's on you," during a particularly caustic 2011 shareholder meeting. Saban's full statement is below.
“Simply put, we believe that Aereo is pirating broadcasters’ content. As Chase Carey said, no broadcaster can afford to sit idly by and allow Aereo’s theft to continue unchecked. To serve our community, we need to protect our product and revenue streams and therefore we too are considering all of our options — including converting to pay TV. With Hispanics watching over-the-air news and entertainment at twice the rate of non-Hispanics, being forced to convert to cable would significantly impact this community.”