ACA Summit: Kanojia Offers Aereo Technology to Cable Operators

Washington, D.C. — Aereo Founder and CEO Chet Kanojia says small and mid-sized cable operators could use his company's $10-per-customer DVR cloud technology "to get in front of the consumer," suggesting that alliances with cable operators may be a strategy to expand into "50 to 60 markets using local partners" during the coming year.

Shortly after Kanojia made the offer during an appearance at the American Cable Association policy summit in Washington, Colleen Abdoulah, the chair and CEO of WOW! Internet Cable Phone of Denver (and ACA's current chairman), acknowledged that her company "is talking to Aereo" to see "if there's a strategic participation" opportunity. Abdoulah said she "doesn't know what the structure would look like."  

Kanojia's swaggering proposal came along with his warning to cable operators that, "You will be obsolete." No one under 30 is saying, "I want a cable connection," he warned. "There are no more seats at the table.  You know that better than anyone."

In an on-stage discussion with ACA President Matt Polka, Kanojia also castigated Aereo's opponents for "conflating the idea of copyright royalties with retransmission consent."  He insisted that Congress has not allowed collection of copyright fees for a service such as Aereo, so the arguments of broadcasters and other foes who conflate the issues are "asinine and stupid."

Kanojia's comments about the upcoming April 22 Supreme Court pleading of Aereo's case coincide with the April 2 deadline for filing "friend of the court" amicus briefs. ACA endorsed the Aereo stance in its filing.  Separately, a filing in support of Aereo was submitted by a group led by the Consumer Electronics Association, in conjunction with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Engine Advocacy and Public Knowledge.

"People say this is a copyright case," Kanojia reflected. "This is a business model  case, it’s a bundling case." There is a ludicrous amount of money" at stake in this “collusive, competitive universe," he said.  Noting that the "top few guys" at the largest broadcast companies collectively have "a couple billion dollars income," Kanojia said that their arguments are strictly intended to protect their own status. "At the first sign of lack of control, they run to D.C."

Kanojia said he liked the comments of the previous ACA Summit speaker, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), especially her characterization of media consumers as "screwed and tattooed.”

"I would have used that line in my [legal] briefs," he said.

Kanojia's vision for Aereo and similar services is one that leans toward a la carte, unbundled programming.   

"I am interested in causing lasting change," he said, describing it as "an open online platform that serves Internet providers and gets rid of this stupid packaging which is imbalanced."

"Cable channels are all controlled by what I call 'the five families,'" he added, referring to without naming the conglomerates that own multiple program networks.

"They should be grateful that we are one of the most compliant, law-abiding companies known to humanity."

"My firm belief is an open platform that is more logically packaged," Kanojia concluded. He said Aereo's goal is to provide "low cost technology to the entire industry."

Gary Arlen

Contributor Gary Arlen is known for his insights into the convergence of media, telecom, content and technology. Gary was founder/editor/publisher of Interactivity Report, TeleServices Report and other influential newsletters; he was the longtime “curmudgeon” columnist for Multichannel News as well as a regular contributor to AdMap, Washington Technology and Telecommunications Reports. He writes regularly about trends and media/marketing for the Consumer Technology Association's i3 magazine plus several blogs. Gary has taught media-focused courses on the adjunct faculties at George Mason University and American University and has guest-lectured at MIT, Harvard, UCLA, University of Southern California and Northwestern University and at countless media, marketing and technology industry events. As President of Arlen Communications LLC, he has provided analyses about the development of applications and services for entertainment, marketing and e-commerce.