NEW YORK (AP) — The future of Aereo, an online service that provides over-the-air TV channels, hinges on a battle with broadcasters that goes before the U.S. Supreme Court next week.
For as little as $8 a month, Aereo subscribers in New York and 10 other markets can watch shows live or record them using Aereo's online digital video recorder. Subscribers access programming with computers, smartphones and other devices, as well as with TVs with Roku or Apple TV streaming devices. Aereo resembles a cable or satellite TV service, except it costs less and is limited to over-the-air channels, plus Bloomberg TV.
Cable and satellite TV companies typically pay broadcasters to include TV stations on customers' lineups. Aereo argues it's exempt because it merely relays free signals. When recording or watching a show, subscribers are temporarily assigned one of thousands of small antennas at Aereo's data centers. Aereo likens its antennas to the personal antennas in people's homes that pick up free broadcasts.
Broadcasters argue that Aereo built the individual antennas specifically to skirt copyright law, as there's no technical reason such a service would need them. Millions of dollars are at stake: If people ditch cable service for Aereo, broadcasters would be able to charge cable companies less.
Oral arguments in the copyright challenge are scheduled to go before the court on Tuesday, with a ruling expected by this summer.
Aereo founder and CEO Chet Kanojia recently spoke to The Associated Press about his company and the industry. Questions and answers have been edited for length, and the order of some questions has been changed to improve flow.
Q: Why shouldn't broadcast and cable companies fear Aereo?
A: What they should be afraid of, and I'm sympathetic to this, is the Internet is happening to everybody, whether you like it or not. It happened to books, news people, it happened to music people, it happened to Blockbuster. There is nothing in our Constitution that says there is a sacred set of companies that will never be affected by new technology.
Q: A lot of people who may think about cutting service and going with Aereo may be reluctant because of the one or two cable channels they watch regularly.
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