At the Wall Street Jourmal D11 conference, ABC Television president Anne Sweeney and online television streaming service Aereo
CEO Barry Diller were interviewed separately, with vastly differing opinions on the recently expanded
startup which has seen its share of lawsuits
both instigated by and delivered unto it. The ABC president called Aereo "wrong," adding that she believes that "it is illegal, and it is opportunistic piracy" despite no court yet agreeing with her sentiment.
Sweeney believes that the service which uses arrays of tens of thousands of miniature HD antennas and streams the content to subscribers is "taking advantage of our content, of our creative community, and using it for their own gain." Regarding the legal battles with the networks and the Aereo, Sweeney called the alleged piracy "why we're prosecuting it, and we will continue to do so."
Aereo has come under legal fire from television broadcasters including ABC, accusing the startup of copyright infringement and illegal rebroadcasting. The networks have asked judges to order an injunction
preventing the service from functioning. The pre-launch injunction failed, largely on the legal weakness on the distinction of forcing each subscriber to have an individual antenna to receive the HD signal, rather than a single antenna receiving the signal with the signal repeated thousands of times to individual subscribers through the Internet.
As an example, In the New York City metro area alone, there are 30 over-the-air broadcast channels available to consumers using Aereo's technology. No cable subscription is required to use the television service, and membership plans begin at $1 per day, $8 per month or $80 per year.
In his own interview, Diller said that the service has "very few" customers, and the very public lawsuits by the broadcast industry has attracted traffic to the company's offerings, making him "happy the broadcasters sued us in such a noisy way."
Where Sweeney says that bundled cable packages offer value to the consumer, Diller believes the opposite. He claims that "cable is, for as long as it lasts, this great closed system where 90 percent of subscribers support ESPN that's only watched by 10 percent." Diller's goal with Aereo is to alter the delivery method of television, providing choice to the user.
The new streaming service is planning to expand to 22 more US cities this year. The full list includes Austin, Miami, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Washington, Baltimore, Detroit, Denver, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Tampa, Cleveland, Kansas City, Raleigh-Durham, Salt Lake City, Birmingham, Providence, and Madison (WI). Service is currently available in New York City, and Boston.