CBS also forbids CNET to review Aereo


AereoSeems the recent decision to disqualify Dish’s AutoHop with Sling DVR from winning “Best of CES” award is now company policy for CBS Corp’s CNet techie news site. This week, live-TV startup Aereo released an update to its Roku app, adding a new visual interface and enabling full control with the Roku remote. It’s a relief to customers of both Roku and Aereo, who previously could only navigate the Aereo channel through an iOS app.

But CNET’s story on Aereo’s update comes with an announcement that it is barred from reviewing Aereo and its products due to CBS’s lawsuit with Aereo.

CBS has also banned Dish from consideration for a CNET award and future reviews coverage as well.

CNET is, allowed, however to cover news on the two companies. CNET’s news story on Aereo, written by managing editor John P. Falcone, includes what might be called review content. Falcone writes that “Aereo is squarely on the bleeding edge of the growing array of cable TV alternatives,” due to its improved Roku app, addition of cable channel Bloomberg TV, and planned expansion to 22 more US cities. He also notes that Aereo’s retransmission of live TV “offers a unique delineation” from Netflix and Hulu, and compares Aereo favorably to its live-TV competitors Boxee TV and Simple.TV. Finally, Falcone notes, linking to a pre-ban CNET review of Aereo, that the update largely addresses concerns CNET raised in that review.

Much of the story, however, consists of background on CBS, ABC, NBC, and Fox’s lawsuits against Aereo. It notes that Aereo streams the networks’ broadcasts without their permission. It explains how the retransmission fees not paid by Aereo are important to the TV networks’ profit margins. But the story does not anywhere explain Aereo’s defense that assigning each customer a unique antenna in its facility puts Aereo’s service within the boundaries of the law. Aereo, from this perspective, is no different from a DVR, reports The Verge.

RBR-TVBR observation: While the new policy seems rather petty, we have to give CBS some credit for sticking to its guns. What’s at stake for the company as a whole (Aereo and Dish’s AutoHop/Hopper) is much bigger than lost readership or advertising with CNet. Why hide it at this point, right? The legal disclaimer is the right way to go, if they’re going to force their editors’ hands.