In a huge victory for the broadcast networks, the Supreme Court in a 6-3 decision has ruled that the internet startup Aereo is illegal and cannot stream ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and Univision onto computers, mobiles and tablets. The court said Aereo was violating the broadcasters’ copyrights by taking their signals.

It’s a huge win for the networks who had argued that Aereo had been illegally streaming their content for free without compensation. It means that if Aereo wants to continue, it has to compensate the networks just like the cable and satellite providers.

However, Aereo backer Barry Diller, a former network TV executive, said the company would be finished if the high court ruled against it. Now with the court’s decision, it appears that Aereo’s days are numbered.

The startup was hoping the court would rule in its favor so it could bring broadcast TV signals to consumers who wanted easier access to content. With the ruling in place, it’s up to the networks to decide how they want to bring their signals to the internet.

Aereo was using thousands of TV antennas to harness broadcasters’ signals and then sent them to paying subscribers who could watch live or record shows to watch later.

Broadcasters sued Aereo two years ago and the case reached the Supreme Court in April.

CBS and Fox had threatened to go all-cable if SCOTUS had ruled in favor of Aereo, but with the win, neither network will have to follow through.  Major sports leagues like the NFL and MLB came out publicly against Aereo and in support of their network partners.

For subscribers who were using Aereo, they liked the convenience of being able to watch broadcast TV whenever they wanted on whatever device they used. Now, Aereo will have to shutter the signals to comply with the court’s decision.

Aereo supporters who wanted the ability to watch sports online will now have to find other methods to watch. CBS and NBC do stream some of their broadcast sports events online for free, but Fox requires cable subscribers to authenticate. As far as the impact on the sports world goes, it’s a victory for the status quo. Aereo won’t be enforcing any big changes any time soon as far as sports rights and potential consequences of its streaming platform go.

It’s a brave new world for online streaming and for now, the broadcasters have control of their signals.


About Ken Fang

Ken has been covering the sports media in earnest at his own site, Fang's Bites since May 2007 and at Awful Announcing since March 2013.

He provides a unique perspective having been an award-winning radio news reporter in Providence and having worked in local television.

Fang celebrates the three Boston Red Sox World Championships in the 21st Century, but continues to be a long-suffering Cleveland Browns fan.