Diller: 50/50 Odds On Aereo Win

IAC Chairman Barry Diller said Sunday that he left the Aereo oral argument at the Supreme Court last week more hopeful that Aereo would win, but conceded he really didn't know, had a rooting interest in that outcome, and said he thought it was about 50/50.

In an interview with CNN's Reliable Sources host Brian Stelter, Diller said that as a financial issue for his company, Aereo was "meaningless"--it is a minority investment--but that if Aereo loses "it will have a profound effect on the development of technology."

Diller suggested that not allowing Aereo's technology would be akin to the court two decades ago ruling that viewers couldn't record shows without paying for those copies, or even the telephone.

"The most interesting way to look at Aereo is to look back and say: 'What would have happened if instead if the Supreme Court allowing Betamax to continue to live, what if they had shut it down? Would our life be like without a video recorder...or the DVR. "It's almost like saying, you know, when we think about these things we think, well you know I mean what if there was no telephone?"

Diller said that he didn't think a victory for Aereo would hurt broadcasters, but then seemed to suggest that he was only talking about his particularly company.

"What may happen, though, is that other people will find other methodologies separate from Aereo or using Aereo as a license of something like that."

One theory is that if Aereo wins, over-the-top providers like Netflix will be able to duplicate the technology and add broadcast stations to their bundles, becoming a more direct competitor to cable, though cable could also move to an over-the-top model to bypass increasing retrans fees, as some cable operators have indicated an interest in doing.

"Aereo, if it is successful, together with other services, may change and give competition to the closed system of satellite or cable," said Diller.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the Aereo case by early summer. Aereo provides access to local TV station signals over the air without paying a copyright fee for the underlying programming or a retransmission fee for the signal. Aereo argues that it is simply providing subscribers remote access to free-over-the-air antennas and fair use recording (via remote DVR), while broadcasters say it is a public transmission that violates copyright.

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.