Aereo Has Online Fans: Survey

According to a study from research firm Peerless Insights, 46% of online respondents want Aereo to win its court battle with broadcasters, while only 15% said they thought the Supreme Court should rule in broadcasters' favor. The rest had no answer.

Actually only a little over a third of the respondents (35%) said they thought Aereo should win in court, though only 20% said broadcasters should win. Again, the balance said they did not know.

That suggests that either side could theoretically claim a majority if they could educate enough "don't knows" and recruit them to their side, though clearly Aereo has the edge.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule by the end of the month whether Aereo's delivery of TV station signals via mini-antenas is a violation of copyright. Aereo does not pay broadcasters, arguing they are simply providing a remote antenna service and DVR functionality.

Although only a third (34%) said they would sign up for Aereo if it is available, 40% of Millenials said they would.

“We designed this study to understand the consumers’ interest in the Aereo service and how they perceive the current copyright laws,” said Peerless Insights co-founder Young Ko (see below) . “We found that the majority of people surveyed want Aereo to prevail, but that doesn’t mean they’re leaving broadcasters out to dry.”

Ko says that Peerless provided the description of Aereo to the respondents (also see below) and asked how likely they would be to sign up at the $8 and $12 price points.

"Following the case background, we asked them their perceptions on the agree/disagree scale and then the forced choice questions about who they would want to win vs. should win."

Ko told Multichannel News that no stakeholders paid for the study, which is based on a survey of 1,231 adults polled May 27-30. It has a margin of error of plus/minus 3 percentage points with 95% confidence (basically how confident the researcher is that the margin is right).

The following is how the study described Aereo and the court case.

Aereo: Watch live TV online. Save shows for later. No cable required.

With Aereo, you can watch real, live TV through a tiny remote antenna you control over the Internet — from home or anywhere in your home.

Until now, watching free, over-the-air television required a giant rooftop antenna or awkward rabbit ears. Aereo changed all that.

Now, your TV antenna is unbelievably small. So small it can fit on the tip of your finger. But it still gets awesome HD reception.

Your antenna is in the cloud. With lots of other antennas, all connected to DVRs and super-fast Internet connections.

It's incredibly easy to use. Simply launch Aereo on any compatible device (computer internet browser, iPad/iPhone, Android Smartphone/Tablets, Roku, AppleTV) and watch from anywhere in your home coverage area.

You control from afar – Access your Aereo antenna with your favorite device. From home or around town.

•         Aereo works on phones, tablets, and computers. There's no new hardware to buy or install. See all compatible devices. And if you have an AppleTV or Roku, you can watch Aereo on the big screen!

•         No more rushing home for kick-off! Tune into the game from your mobile device. Pause and rewind so you don't miss a thing. Then switch to the big screen when you get home.

•         Save your favorite shows for later. Aereo includes a remote DVR. Schedule recordings from your phone and watch later on your computer or TV.

Basic monthly membership is just $8 a month, plus tax. That gets you 20 hours of DVR space to record your shows. Or, for $4 more, you can upgrade to 60 hours of DVR space and the ability to record two shows at once.

This is how Peerless framed the legal debate:

US Supreme Court Case Background

At the heart of the case is the fact that Aereo doesn't pay the broadcast TV companies (e.g., ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, etc.) for storing and delivering their shows to consumers.

Also, while over-the-air TV is free, the Copyright Act of 1976 distinguishes between “public performances” and “private performances.”

•             Private performances, such as watching a TV show in your living room, are allowed.

•             Public performances, such as cable or satellite companies retransmitting channels to its customers en masse, are protected under copyright, and are required to pay a fee.


Aereo’s Side

Aereo argues that its service isn’t “public performances” because the company is simply setting up individual antennas and DVRs on behalf of customers, and allowing them to watch them using the internet. Key Aereo arguments include:

•             Aereo is not retransmitting “public performances” because each antenna is controlled by the individual, and the broadcast that is watched or recorded is a “private one,” controlled by a single customer.

•             Aereo is similar to an equipment provider that sells a consumer an antenna and a recording device to make legal personal copies of free over-the-air programming.

•             Aereo is like 1980s-era video recorders that allowed consumers to record copies of programs to be viewed at home. In 1984, the US Supreme Court ruled that recording programs at home for later viewing did not violate copyright laws.

Broadcast TV Companies’ Side

The broadcast TV companies argue that Aereo's service is clearly the same as a “public performance” like that of a cable or satellite company, and should be required to pay a copyright fee like other cable and satellite companies. Key broadcast TV companies arguments include:

•             Federal law requires that anyone retransmitting what is known as “public performance” must pay copyright fees.

•             Aereo takes the broadcast TV companies’ copyrighted material, profits from it but does not pay the copyright holders.

•             Aereo is no different from cable and satellite companies that are required to pay fees to retransmit the broadcast TV company’s shows.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.