Advanced Television

Diller: ‘Aereo court chances 50-50’

April 17, 2014

By Colin Mann

Barry Diller, the main backer of Internet TV streaming service Aereo, has described its chances of a successful outcome in its forthcoming Supreme Court copyright case as “50-50” and suggested that failure would likely see the end of the service.

Interviewed by The Hollywood Reporter, Diller confirmed he would be in attendance at the hearing beginning April 22, saying he had never been involved in anything which turned sharply black-and-white as to whether or not you survived or died – and the answer is definitive. “Now, of course, where I think the merits are is clear: If Aereo survives, it’s incomprehensible that it will have any particular effect on the economics of broadcasting,” he averred

“Will this produce other add-on effects, as any new technology does that are unknown as to what their consequences are? Yes. Do I understand why broadcasters would oppose it? Of course I do, and I did when we decided to invest in it. But my motivation for doing this has nothing to do with hurting broadcasters or anyone else’s economic model – period. I have one interest, which is to have Internet Protocol distribution progress and be part of the ecosystem of distribution,” he explained.

“I think, honestly, at best – at best – we have a 50-50 chance, certainly not on what I think supposedly settled law is, but because it has become so controversial. It’s going to be a tough, tough, battle,” he predicted.

He admitted that he was shocked, not surprised that the Obama administration sided with the broadcasters in its brief to the court. “I was shocked because the Obama administration has been so out front about innovation, about supporting not only technology but also consumers’ rights, that if I had not been cynical before, it would make me utterly and completely cynical. I believe the only reason – the only reason – they have supported this is because of the broadcasting lobby,” he suggested, adding that although he talked to “lots of broadcasters” about their concerns, none shared his enthusiasm for Aereo.

Asked whether Aereo were to lose, would it be the end of Aereo, his response was unequivocal. “Yes. Look, to say it’s a pimple on the hide of an elephant would be metrically true – it’s of no material consequence to the IAC company – but I think it would be unfortunate. With the Betamax case, with hindsight we know how consequential that was. Think of this: If the DVR had been prevented, which is what Betamax was, there would be no such thing as time-shifting. There would be no such thing as all this innovation. It would be awful to shut off what is clearly, without I think argument, technology that might benefit a consumer. But it more than may happen,” he accepted.

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