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Diller Pitching Aereo To Senate

Barry Diller plans to tell Congress that the future of online video is "simply 'more,'" more content, more choice, more control, and more online access to broadcast TV signals via his new service, Aereo.

According to an advance copy of his testimony, his advice to Congress, in written testimony for a Senate Commerce Committee hearing April 24, "The Emergence of Online Video: Is it the Future?," about the migration of video online, is "only to keep a careful watch as the marketplace develops." But he takes for granted that Aereo's delivery of time-shiftable TV station signals over the 'net to tablets, spart phones and computers is a consumer-friendly, government-friendly service. that is something broadcasters dispute in lawsuits alleging copyright infringement.

Diller pitches Aereo in his testimony as outsourcing access to an antenna and DVR, access to over-the-air broadcasts via antenna he argues consumers have a right to.

While Diller does not make a direct comparison between his service and home taping rights, in outlining the history of video distribution in a preamble to his Aereo pitch, he points out that the VCR made possible private, on-demand consumer consumption of content. He says that, "interestingly," content creators sued to block that technology, lost the suit, and the new market for VCRs "proved to be one of the most lucrative for those very same studios," he says. "Innovation can yield extraordinary benefits that are not always readily and immediately apparent."

Diller talks about the future of video as online and on demand, but he also makes the case for the value of the broadcast signals his service is delivering, particularly compared to cable. "While innovation and competition can and should flourish in the online environment," he says, "it is important to protect and preserve the consumer's right to access free over-the-air broadcast television," he says, adding that about 15% of the TV viewing public are over-the-air only. "Even with the rise of cable channels and networks," he says, "the most popular television programming remains that which is distributed by the major broadcast networks. The four largest broadcast networks attract 8 to 12 million viewers each, whereas the most popular cable networks typically attract approximately 2 million viewers each."

Setting up his pitch for Aereo, he points out that there remain "technical challenges" to receiving a broadcast signal due to interference or the difficulty of installing a rooftop antenna. He does not add "Aereo to the rescue," but the point is clear. 

He does add an economic argument for Aereo, saying that taxpayers paid about $650 million to make sure over-the-air households could get a digital broadcast signal.