Bankrupt Internet TV service Aereo’s curtain call will be a sale of its assets, ending a series of legal setbacks that landed the company in Chapter 11 bankruptcy last year. Aereo filed for bankruptcy Nov. 11 following legal losses that essentially prevented it from operating and thwarted its attempt to reinvent itself as a cable television operator. The bankruptcy court approved a process last month for Aereo to sell its streaming technology, allowing broadcasters who initiated the legal fight to weigh in on the sale. Aereo had operated a subscription service using banks of dime-sized antennas to capture broadcast signals and convert them into streaming video distributed over the Internet.
Internet TV service Aereo’s bid to find a workable business model suffered another legal setback Thursday, with the U.S. Court of Appeals in New York ruling that a federal district court judge will determine whether the company qualifies as a cable operator. After losing a U.S. Supreme Court copyright fight in June to a group of commercial and noncommercial broadcasters, Aereo has tried to recast itself as a cable operator. Doing so would allow it to carry content if it pays networks for programming. Aereo initially launched as a subscription service, using banks of dime-sized antennas to capture broadcast signals and convert them into streaming video distributed over the Internet. Subscribers rented the antennas and could watch TV programs live or on demand via a device similar to a digital video recorder.
PBS and New York’s WNET joined major commercial networks Wednesday in hailing a U.S. Supreme Court decision that found the business model of Internet TV service Aereo in violation of the 1967 Copyright Act. In a 6-3 decision, the high court held that Aereo’s business model of charging subscribers for access to an individual antenna and DVR service for over-the-air broadcasts violates the 1967 Copyright Act. The majority found Aereo’s operations more akin to those of a cable company, regardless of the technology it employs, binding the company to the same rules governing broadcast transmissions. Those rules require cable companies to pay networks for the content they transmit. The majority comprised Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Stephen G. Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
Startup Internet TV service Aereo has launched a website to make its case to the public in advance of a U.S. Supreme Court hearing next week. The court’s ruling after Tuesday’s arguments could make or break the service, which allows subscribers to view and record television broadcast programs online. Broadcasters, including PBS and New York’s WNET, have sued Aereo, claiming the company is violating copyright law by converting broadcast signals to streaming video. Launched Thursday, Aereo’s website, ProtectMyAntenna.org, lays out the company’s case for why it should prevail and provides links to all court filings to date. The case before the Supreme Court, American Broadcasting Companies, Inc., et al., v. Aereo, Inc., stems from a pair of lawsuits brought by noncommercial broadcasters and commercial networks including ABC, CBS and NBC.
• NPR’s monthly listenership hit an eight-year high in 2013 with an average of 27.3 million listeners each month, according to the State of the News Media study from the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, released Wednesday. NPR’s average monthly audience was up from 26 million in 2012. On public television, the weeknight broadcast audience for PBS NewsHour continued to slide, dropping 3 percent from 2012 to an average of 947,000 viewers. The average audience in 2012 was 977,000, down 8 percent from 2011, when the average audience was 1.06 million viewers. The Pew study also found that while legacy media, especially newspapers, continued to provide the bulk of content, audience for online news outlets continued to grow at a brisk pace.
• U.S. Rep. John Dingell, who helped sign the 1967 Public Broadcasting Act into law and remained a staunch supporter of pubcasting, is retiring after a record 58 years in Congress. “I find serving in the House to be obnoxious,” the 88-year-old Michigan Democrat said at a Monday luncheon. “It’s become very hard because of the acrimony and bitterness, both in Congress and in the streets.”
• March Madness is approaching quickly, but this bracket competition has nothing to do with basketball. WHYY in Philadelphia is sponsoring PBS vs. NPR: Public Media Madness, which encourages pubmedia fans to vote for their favorite TV and radio personalities.
• The U.S. Supreme Court has set a date for ABC TV v. Aereo, a challenge to the startup service that allows subscribers to watch TV programs over the Internet via miniature antennae. Oral arguments are scheduled for April 21. Though ABC brought the lawsuit, filed in New York and Boston, PBS and New York’s WNET are also among the parties claiming Aereo violates copyright law. • Ken Burns participated in his first Reddit Ask Me Anything session Tuesday as part of the promotion for his new app. He laid out the planned release schedule for his next decade of films: The Roosevelts in September, A History of Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies and Jackie Robinson in 2015, Vietnam in 2016, Country Music in 2018 and Ernest Hemingway in 2019.