The country's largest TV broadcasters want a final showdown with Aereo, sooner rather than later. Citing anonymous sources, Variety reported this evening that sometime in the next week the programmers will petition the Supreme Court to review lower court rulings regarding the legality of Aereo's web TV service.
The move is not unexpected. The broadcasters have been locked in a series of running court clashes around the country with Aereo and FilmOn X, an Aereo competitor, since filing copyright complaints against both companies last year. The suits have brought mixed results. CBS, NBC, Fox, and ABC among the companies that accuse Aereo and FilmOn of distributing their shows without a license. With the help of the internet, Aereo links subscribers to tiny TV antennas, which pick up over-the-air broadcast signals. Users watch live TV on web-connected devices — that also control which stations their antennas receive. An Aereo spokeswoman declined to comment.
Programmers will petition the Supreme Court sometime in the next week
Aereo does all this without paying a penny to retransmit the broadcasters material. The company argues that over-the-air signals are freely available to people with TV antennas, and Aereo is really just an antenna rental service. A federal district court and appellate panel in New York each sided with Aereo. But the broadcasters also sued FilmOn and prevailed against that company in district courts in Washington DC and California. So, when these types of conflicts occur, the Supreme Court is typically called on to settle the matter.
While there's no guarantee that the Supreme Court will hear the case, a ruling for Aereo would provide the public with an alternative to the high cost of cable TV, according to Chet Kanojia, Aereo's CEO. He has in the past told The Verge that he believes pay TV is a bad deal for consumers. On the other hand, the broadcasters argue that if Aereo is allowed to access shows without paying, then nobody will pay and the whole business collapses. They say that's not good for anyone.