The Wall Street Journal has reported that Aereo and Dish Network have held private talks with each other and TV broadcasters would like to know the details of those discussions. Since Dish is also embroiled in a legal battle with broadcast networks over its AutoHop ad-skipping system, they’d like to know Aereo’s potential relationship with Dish—there are commonalities in the two disputes including the ability of both to skip over ads in DVR playback.
They’ve filed a petition this week in Colorado federal court, seeking: “Aereo’s communications with DISH; any ‘actual, contemplated, considered, or proposed’ business arrangements between Aereo and DISH; and ‘offers or expressions of interest’ by Dish in acquiring Aereo’s assets,” notes a Hollywood Reporter story.
Earlier this week Aereo scored a big win at the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in NYC, with the circuit judges affirming a lower court’s denial of an injunction.
The fight now continues at the trial court and both parties are engaged in the discovery process.
The Court found that a lawsuit brought before it by broadcast networks arguing that Aereo’s service is illegal, should be thrown out.
Now, the inquiring broadcasters, including FOX, WPIX-TV, Univision and PBS, are making these demands as part of that discovery process that seeks to know Aereo’s expansion plans and why the company is talking with Dish.
As The Hollywood Reporter explained, Dish’s licensing contract with Disney expires in September and the satellite giant is faced with losing ABC over the AutoHop and Hopper with Sling DVR dispute. The worry is that Dish could decide to stream ABC anyway via Aereo’s “personal subscriber antennas”.
Meanwhile, Dish says that any communications it has had with Aereo is off-limits for broadcasters, saying “its impact on retransmission fees paid to the networks, or contemplated incorporating Aereo technology into DISH products, the documents would be highly confidential and proprietary.”
The company wants a Colorado court to quash the subpoena because it presents an “undue burden” and may be obtainable from Aereo. The company also says that it is improper because it seeks discovery with respect to future development plans for the Hopper, subject to the pending litigation.
RBR-TVBR observation: As the Second Circuit judge Denny Chin said this week, “Today’s decision does not merely deny the broadcasters a licensing fee for Aereo’s activity; it provides a blueprint for others to avoid the Copyright Act’s licensing regime altogether.” Indeed, as we’ve said, get ready: The MVPDs are probably already looking at installing their own antenna arrays across the country to receive local broadcast stations. Can you blame them? What’s the difference between retransmitting local stations over the internet vs. cable? It’s the same pipeline—a white coax cable. Then retransmission fees will be out the door. It is amazing the courts don’t see this is illegal retransmission and copyright infringement. This will certainly go to the Supreme Court. Advertisers need to get on board with the broadcasters at this point as well—it’s their money at stake, too.