Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

David Talbot

A View from David Talbot

Behind Aereo’s Decision to Throw the Long Ball to the U.S. Supreme Court

Aereo’s loose-cannon competitor says a judge who ruled against him “cannot possibly know what she is talking about.”

  • December 16, 2013
The future of Internet television is tied in part to the future of startup Aereo, which captures free over-the-air broadcasts on tiny antennas in data centers, then sends the shows over the Internet to individual subscribers for as little as $8 a month. That’s potentially a cable-killing business model.
The broadcast industry has characerized Aereo’s model as an illegal rebroadcast that violates copyright. But Aereo says it simply offers a high-tech antenna, one per customer—just smaller than the one on your roof. It has won every court battle so far and, unfettered by court injunctions, has been rapidly expanding around the country (see “Aereo’s on a Roll”).

Yet late last week, Chet Kanojia, the Aereo CEO, declared in a statement that he welcomed the broadcasters’ appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, saying: “We want this resolved on the merits rather than a wasteful war of attrition.”

Part of the worry on Aereo’s side is the behavior of a somewhat unpredictable cousin, FilmOn X, based in Beverly Hills. That company says its technology is similar to Aereo’s. But FilmOn X, unlike Aereo, lost a round before a federal judge in the District of Columbia, who found in September that “FilmOn X is in no meaningful way different from cable television companies.” 

The judge, Rosemary Collyer, ruled that even if subscribers each get their own tiny data center antenna,
the mini-antennas are networked together so that a single tuner server and router, video encoder, and distribution endpoint can communicate with them all. The television signal is captured by FilmOn X and passes through FilmOn X’s single electronic transmission process of aggregating servers and electronic equipment. This system, through which any member of the public who clicks on the link for the video feed, is hardly akin to an individual user stringing up a television antenna on the roof.
 
Ouch.
Aereo distances itself from FilmOn X; Kanojia says he doesn’t know what its technology consists of.  For FilmOn X’s part, CEO Alki David wrote me today to say Collyer was “wrong” and added: “She cannot possibly know what she is talking about, as she is neither an engineer nor took any evidence. She made broad assumptions that benefitted the outcome.”
Maybe. But with entrepreneurs like David out there losing in federal court and then getting in the judge’s face, Kanojia has reason to want to get things over with. Hopefully the U.S. Supreme Court will take the broadcasters’ appeals of their Aereo losses, sort out the technology distinctions, and clarify for all of us what the future of Internet television should look like.

Tech Obsessive?
Become an Insider to get the story behind the story — and before anyone else.

Subscribe today
More from Connectivity

What it means to be constantly connected with each other and vast sources of information.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe and become an Insider.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}* Best Value

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

    See details+

    Print + Digital Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

    Technology Review PDF magazine archive, including articles, images, and covers dating back to 1899

    10% Discount to MIT Technology Review events and MIT Press

    Ad-free website experience

  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning print magazine, unlimited online access plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    Print Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

  • Insider Online Only {! insider.prices.online !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Unlimited online access including articles and video, plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.