Shortly after News Corp. President/COO Chase Carey raised the possibility of becoming a subscription cable service if Aereo wins in the courts, Haim Saban, Univision Chairman, said that the network was also considering becoming a subscription cable service.
The Hollywood Reporter says Saban commented that his company is also planning for contingencies if Aereo is able to fend off a copyright infringement lawsuit. Univision has local stations in over 50 markets.
“Simply put, we believe that Aereo is pirating broadcasters’ content,” said Saban. “As Chase Carey said, no broadcaster can afford to sit idly by and allow Aereo’s theft to continue unchecked. To serve our community, we need to protect our product and revenue streams and therefore we too are considering all of our options — including converting to pay TV. With Hispanics watching over-the-air news and entertainment at twice the rate of non-Hispanics, being forced to convert to cable would significantly impact this community.”
Aereo was launched in the New York market in March, 2012 after gathering $20.5 million in financial backing from Barry Diller and other investors. The service uses tiny antennas to capture broadcasters’ over-the-air signals which it then streams to local subscribers. It does so without TV stations’ permission, and without paying them anything. Broadcasters say that violates their copyrights.
Last week a U.S. Appeals Court rejected the industry’s plea to shutter Aereo during the trial over that claim.
RBR-TVBR observation: As we’ve noted, these bold statements are at this point an attempt to gain attention from lawmakers and viewers to their predicament while they continue to battle Aereo. Shifting a broadcast network to cable would be a very sticky mess. Broadcasters groups own hundreds of their own TV stations, which rely on the free-to-air model getting ratings and selling ads. Without network programming, that model falls apart. While they certainly want Aereo to close up shop, if the networks and O&O stations from say Fox, Univision and more go to cable, we’d see quite an uproar from the broadcast groups. It’s important that the Congress, courts and the FCC realize what’s at stake here with a fully-legal Aereo in operation.