The court was loud and clear: Aereo’s streaming TV business is illegal. But the decision raises more questions than it answers.
The chief of streaming-TV startup Aereo has said that his mission to bring unbundled broadcast TV to the Internet has greater stakes than just the fate of his company — and that it’s the crusaders, taking on those with power, who fill graveyards.
Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia may end up correct on both counts. A 6-3 Supreme Court decision Wednesday found that Aereo, whose antenna-plus-cloud-storage technology streams over-the-air TV signals, is illegal if it continues to operate without paying broadcasters any fees. The ruling handed a victory to the networks’ owners, some of the biggest media companies in the world, in their fight to shut it down.
The decision kills Aereo as we know it, but it may affect more than just one service operating in just 13 cities for little more than an analyst-estimated 100,000 subscribers. While the Supreme Court answered one question clearly, it raised many others for Aereo, its customers, its foes and its relative peers, services like Dropbox and Apple’s iCloud that might be collateral damage. For consumers, the decision makes little difference to practical matters, but it may mean a lot on matters of principle — would you rather make sure TV keeps the most-watched shows on free networks or see a disrupter like Aereo upend how you can watch TV in the first place?