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Barry Diller reflects on Aereo, the internet, and a cable industry that refuses to innovate

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In an interview with New York Magazine, Barry Diller shared his thoughts on Aereo's streaming TV service along with the cable industry at large.

Barry Diller New York Magazine
Barry Diller New York Magazine

Lately the name Barry Diller has been closely tied to Aereo, the embattled streaming service (still in beta) that utilizes antennas to beam out over-the-air television channels to its customers. That's no surprise considering how much Diller has invested in the startup, but Aereo represents just the latest project for a man who's legacy includes launching the Fox network and pioneering the "Movie of the Week" TV concept. New York Magazine interviewed the outspoken executive as part of its television issue, and Diller had no shortage of things to say about the industry.

"When I first heard of it, I said, 'There has to be something wrong with this.'"

In regards to the questionable legality of Aereo's business model, Diller reveals that he vetted the company thoroughly before becoming a financial backer. "Aereo’s a great idea," he says. "When I first heard of it, I said, 'There has to be something wrong with this,' and we spent a lot of time and a good amount of money trying to find, legally and technically, what was wrong with it. In the end, we not only found there was nothing wrong with it, but that it had the possibility of being disruptive." Yet he doesn't necessarily see that disruption as being bad for broadcasters. "It’s not the beginning of the destruction of anybody. TV wasn’t the destruction of the movie business. Television wasn’t the destruction of radio. Cable wasn’t the destruction of broadcast networks. What happens is new alternatives come, and they live alongside whatever existed."

"Look, the question, to me, at the core, is why the set-top box has had no innovation."

Diller also throws his weight behind à la carte cable subscriptions, a concept that providers have long shied away from. "I’ve believed for a long time that à la carte program offerings are better for some people than 400 channels in a system of you take any, you take all." He, like many, takes issue with the idea that cable customers are subsidizing the cost of channels they might never even tune into.

The entire interview is a worthwhile read, and more importantly acts as a refreshing reminder that not all high-ups are totally out of touch. If you take him at his word, Barry Diller wants to breathe fresh life into an industry that has rested on its laurels for far too long. "Look, the question, to me, at the core, is why the set-top box has had no innovation," he says. "Cable has not needed to innovate." As such, he's not at all surprised by the fierce resistance Aereo is facing from networks. "It’s the nature of man: protect what you have, and annihilate anyone who comes sloping up the castle wall."